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Midnight Son Of A Biotch greeen goldfish

Summary: What would happen in Midnight Sun if the characters weren't so...Mormon? How
does a vampire break it to his lady love that he wants to eat her? Can vampires get drunk?
Let's find out.

Chapter 01: A Fairly Accurate Appraisal


"Hello. I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to introduce myself." Seeing as all I wanted to do at the
time was rip out your jugular with my teeth. "I'm Edward Cullen. You're Bella?"

She nodded her head hesitantly. Why wouldn't she be hesitant? I'm a fucking vampire. I want
to eat her. And on top of it, I was a total dick last time we met.

"So…you were gone…" Her voice trailed off, indicating that I was supposed to explain my
absence.

"Yeah. I was sick."

"That sucks. Do you need any notes?" she asked. Huh?

"Oh. Uh." No. "Yeah. That would be great. Thanks."

"No problem." She began ripping pages out of her notebook.

"Oh, you don't have to do that. We can take them to the library and I can photocopy them or
something." Jesus Christ. She's ripping up her notebook for notes I don't really need. I am
such an ass.

"Oh, it's no big deal. My notes are always a mess anyway. In fact, you may not want mine."
She laughed nervously. It was really cute. Wait. Maybe she's nervous because I'm a vampire.
And a douchebag. I'm a fucking vampire douchebag.

Then why is she being nice?

"Oh no, I'm sure yours are great. Besides, I don't think anyone else will be lining up to loan me
their notes," I said, in keeping with the charade. She bit her lip then. Fuck. What did I say?

"Yeah, so…not to be….rude….but…." Uh oh. This can't be good.

"What's up?"

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"Why are you such a pariah? Your whole family? Is that by choice?" Oh. I laughed, perhaps a
little too grimly.

"I suppose you could say that. Although I think the feeling is mutual," I muttered. She raised an
eyebrow.

"In other words, you're too good for everyone? And it's shocking that they're not falling all over
themselves to hang out with you?"

Fuck.

"Uh."

"Sorry." Suddenly, she looked flustered. "I don't know where that came from. Obviously, I don't
know anything about you."

"No, it's OK. You were just being honest."

"Presumptuous."

"Accurate, more like," I admitted.

She fell silent than, and stared at me. Before she could respond, Mr. Banner started class.

Jesus. All my undead existence, I'd hated being able to read people's minds. Yeah, it comes in
really fucking handy when someone's trying to kill me or whatever, but ninety percent of the
time, it's just really fucking annoying. Do you know how inane most people's thoughts are? Do
you know how disgusting the thoughts of the average teenage male are? Do you know how
disgusting the average thought of Emmett Cullen can be? Jesus, do you know how much of a
perv Esme is? It's fucking disturbing. She's supposed to be my mom for crying out loud.

So yeah, I've cursed my retched "gift" almost from the moment I was changed. (You know,
after the whole 'holy shit, I'm a god damned vampire' conversation. And I mean 'god damned'
in the most literal sense.) Yet, there I was, cursing my inability to read her mind. Of all of the
minds in all of the world…why did it have to be hers that I couldn't hear?

So there we were—her sitting there with that silent fucking brain of hers and me, wishing I
could get my head to shut the fuck up.

Hey, if she could read people's minds, she'd be too good for everyone, too.

Also, I'm a pariah because I'm a god damned vampire.

And what does it matter what she thinks anyway? She's just a human.

A sweet, gorgeous, clever, sassy…human.

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Wait.

Oh. Shit.

That was when I saw all of the images flashing in Alice's mind. She was across the hall in
English class, but her thoughts were still all up in my head, loud and clear: me and Bella, in a
meadow; me and Bella, riding in my car; me and Bella, in her bed.

Wait.

What?

I must have gasped, because Bella turned and looked at me then like I was insane. I fixed my
eyes on Mr. Banner, trying to convince her I was amazed by the complexities of
photosynthesis.

Wait. If Alice is seeing this shit… It means I made a decision… But…wait…doesn't that
mean… has Bella decided too?

That's when I looked at her. Involuntarily. That time, she was concentrating on Mr. Banner.
Then I smiled. OK, maybe it was a smirk.

She had decided, too.

Then it hit me (for like, the eight hundredth time): I'm a god damned vampire.

And she's a human.

It wasn't going to work.

It couldn't.

That was when the visions in Alice's head started to get murky. Then, unsurprisingly, I heard
Alice's reprimands. She was furious.

Edward! What happened! What did you do? I was freaking beside myself with excitement for
you because you finally found a girl and you managed to screw it up in under five seconds!

One of the nice things about the whole mind-reading thing is that it only works one way. That
was when I shut Alice off.

After class, I was gathering up my stuff when I realized I still had the messy pile of Bella's
notes.

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"So, um…I can have these back to you tomorrow," I stammered. When did I start stammering?

"Oh, no hurry. Keep them as long as you need them," she said.

"Thanks. I'll have them back to you tomorrow," I repeated. As if I even need them.

"OK, then. See you tomorrow…?"

"Yeah. Later, Bella."

With that, I crammed the notes into my bag and shuffled to my next class. Tried to, at least.
Before Alice slammed into me in the hallway.

"What did you do, Edward?" she hissed.

"Nothing, Alice! Geez."

"Bull! You did something that wrecked all those lovely visions! Were you a jerk to her?"

"No, Alice! I told you—I didn't do anything."

"Then what happened?" she pressed.

"Nothing. I guess reality just got in the way," I muttered. Her brow furrowed in a mixture of
confusion and frustration before she started toward her next class.

"We're not done here, Edward!" she called over her shoulder. As if she needed to. As if I hadn't
already seen the interrogation she intended to subject me to in the car ride on the way home
from school.

The rest of the day was boring. Like any other day. High school was boring.

Why can 't we just homeschool, anyway? This shit is stupid. And why do we even bother living
amongst the humans? It's not like any of them want anything to do with us. And we don't really
want much of anything to do with them.

Carlisle was always droning on and on about humanity. And yeah, I had no desire to become
one of those shriveled up nutcase vampires from Italy. But sitting through my 8,000th Calculus
I class was just stupid. If anything, high school juniors were going to drive me to destroy
humanity rather than retain it.

Well, except maybe for Bella.

Bella.

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Just like that, all of Alice's visions returned. The only thing more overwhelming than the
visions, was the cheering I could hear in Alice's mind. I rolled my eyes. Shut it off. I hadn't
decided anything. Clearly, her visions were flawed. Delusional. Unreliable at best.

Plus, it was pretty obvious why Bella was different. I couldn't hear Bella. If I were able to read
her mind, the curiosity would be killed. The intrigue and the mystery would vanish. She would
be just as vapid and inane as every other 17-year-old in Forks.

Mystery solved.

Problem solved.

With that, I pushed Bella Swan out of my thoughts for the rest of the day.

That is, until the car ride home. The moment the last car door slammed shut, Alice started in
on me.

"OK, Edward: spill. What's going on with you?"

"Nothing."

"Edward! We both know that's a lie! And this isn't fair because you know everything that's
going on with every single one of us. You know our innermost thoughts-our most private
thoughts. If you can't tell me what's going on between you and Bella Swan that I'm having
visions of you two getting all nice and cozy in her bed together, than I don't know how you can
even pretend to call me your sister!"

"What?" Jasper choked. The only thing worse than Jasper's shock was the guilt trip Alice was
laying on me. It was her favorite one. And it always worked. She was right. It wasn't fair. I was
just counting myself very lucky that Rosalie was in the other car with Emmett. She'd never let
me hear the end of it.

"She loaned me her notes," I said. What the fuck else was I supposed to say? It's not like she
and I had shared some epic moment. It wasn't my fault Alice could see the future, which
apparently gave her way more juicy details than that day's biology class provided.

"And?"

"And nothing, Alice! What do you want me to say? It's not my fault you can see the future.
Nothing really happened. She asked me why I was gone, I told her I was sick, she offered me
her notes, and then she kind of called me out about being a dick. End of story."

"She what?" Jasper was not being very articulate this particular afternoon.

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"She may have mentioned that I think I'm too good for everyone," I mumbled. Of course, Alice
and Jasper could hear me. Superhuman vampire hearing and all. And they then proceeded to
crack up. A lot.

"Oh, Edward! That's fantastic! I'm so glad you picked a feisty girl," Alice swooned as I
accelerated. The quicker we got home, the quicker I could get away from them.

"I didn't pick anyone, Alice."

"You can tell yourself that all you want, Edward. You and I both know what we both saw."

"So when do we get to meet her?" Jasper asked, nudging me from his seat in the back.

"Yeah fucking right, Jasper. Can't you just envision it? Bringing the human home to meet the
vampire parents?" I asked. I was trying to be sarcastic. Unfortunately, as soon as I said it, my
head was again filled with Alice's visions. This time, they were of Bella…meeting the god
damned vampire Brady bunch. Of course, Alice started cackling. I rolled my eyes. Fortunately,
Jasper didn't catch on that she wasn't just laughing at my witticism.

That night, maybe because I was frustrated and surly, I picked a fight with Carlisle.

"Carlisle, why aren't we just fucking homeschooled?" I asked as I flopped into a chair in his
study.

"Good evening to you, too, Edward," he said. I rolled my eyes.

"Seriously. We waste all day every day sitting with a bunch of dumb teenagers listening to
teachers tell us stuff we already know. And that's on a good day. Most days, they're teaching
us stuff that is just completely inaccurate. It's actually kind of a disservice they're doing for this
community over at Forks High, just so you know."

"Did something happen today?" Carlisle asked.

"I'm not kidding Carlisle. At least you get to be useful during the day. Shouldn't it bother me
that my existence is so meaningless?"

Carlisle sighed and leaned back in his chair-both old human habits.

"How long has this been bothering you?" he asked. I shrugged.

"I don't know. I guess it's always bothered me. I guess it's just now that I'm getting fed up with
it."

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"Why now?" God damn Carlisle and his perceptiveness. Sometimes it seemed like he should
have been the one with my gift. I never considered myself particularly perceptive in life.

Before I could answer, Alice came dancing into the room.

"Oh, don't worry about him, Carlisle. He's just stuck on a girl." It was amazing how juvenile she
could be for someone pushing 100. And she got exactly the reaction out of Carlisle she was
hoping for.

"Excuse me?" he asked, his eyebrows raised.

"Bella Swan," she answered, as if it was obvious who she had been talking about.

"The same girl you went to Alaska over?" he asked, unbelieving.

"The one and only!" Alice sang, only so happy to fill Carlisle in. He turned to me, then,
expectant. I rolled my eyes. Feels like I'm doing a lot of that, lately.

"It's nothing."

"Oh yeah? Tell that to Chief Swan when he catches you in his daughter's bed!" Alice cried, just
before dashing out of the room to escape my clutches. Which left me with a very curious
Carlisle.

"Edward, what's going on?"

"I don't know Carlisle. All I know is that she loaned me some notes today and then all of a
sudden Alice started having visions."

"Of Chief Swan catching you in bed with his daughter?"

"No." Not exactly.

"No?"

"Well…Chief Swan didn't catch us…" I trailed off.

"What?" It was like Jasper in the car all over again.

"Carlisle, it's not my fault! It's what she saw, not what I did!" I cried in protest.

"But something you will intend, apparently." Carlisle's voice was grave. I shrugged. "Do you
have feelings for her?" he asked.

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"How could I? I've only just met her." I wasn't sure who I was trying to convince—Carlisle or
myself. Carlisle stared at me for a long moment. If I had been human, I would have shifted in
my seat uncomfortably. Then, his frown turned into a smirk.

"Good luck with that, Edward."

"What?"

"Did I stutter? I'm wishing you luck in your endeavors with Bella Swan."

"Carlisle! You're supposed to be the reasonable one! The wise one! You're supposed to give
me advice!" I pleaded.

He laughed.

"Edward, this is between you and Bella Swan."

Fuck.

Chapter 02: Hitting The Fan


So, I didn't realize I was staring at Bella Swan until she looked up and totally caught me. And
then I felt like a giant tool. We both looked away immediately. I turned toward Alice, searching
for a distraction. She was grinning, because she definitely saw the non-exchange that had just
occurred between me and Bella.

She totally likes you, Edward.

"You have no way of knowing that, Alice."

It's obvious. And why wouldn't—

And that's when we both saw it. Alice gasped, as the vision of Tyler Crowley's van crushing the
one and only human who had ever captivated me flew through both of our minds.

I didn't even think before I reacted.

It was one of those moments when superhuman speed and strength came in really handy.

I mean, I can say that now. At the time, I wasn't really reflecting on how lucky Isabella Swan
was that there was a misguided vampire hanging around in the parking lot of Forks High
school that morning. She was also pretty damn lucky that, for some reason, I couldn't read her
mind.

Part of me would like to pretend I would've saved any of the Forks High School students who
had been in Bella's position that day. But the truth was, I probably wouldn't have. Something

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we had learned through our vampire pseudo-existences was that we couldn't always be
meddling in human affairs. Sure, Carlisle had found a way to save lives that was
inconspicuous. But, for the most part, death was part of humanity. So we tried not to interfere-
not only because we otherwise risked exposing ourselves, but also because it wasn't really our
place.

Or at least that's what we told ourselves.

Who the fuck knows, really.

And why the fuck did I pick that day to break the rule? Like I said—I'm not sure it was really a
choice. It was more like an involuntary reaction—an instinct. Maybe because it was the first
time I would have had to watch someone I had met and interacted with die right before my
eyes—in a way that was preventable. Yeah, I was over a hundred years old and had seen a lot
of shit. And yeah, we had known people to die in car accidents before. But never right before
our eyes. I'm actually kind of surprised Alice didn't react, too.

Or maybe I just tell myself that.

Because it is entirely possible that Bella Swan was benefiting from the fact that I couldn't read
her mind. And because of that fact, she intrigued me. And because of that fact, I couldn't let
her die before I satisfied my own curiosity.

But shit—maybe I'm just making that one up, too.

All I know is that I streaked across that parking lot faster than I've ever moved before. That's
pretty fucking fast—just so you know. We vampires are not a slow bunch. I was like the fucking
wind. Only faster. Cause, you know…wind's not really all that fast.

So all of a sudden, there I was, crouched on some concrete, clutching Bella Swan in one arm
and blocking Tyler Crowley's stupid fucking van with the other. What kind of dumb shit takes a
turn that fast in a parking lot when there's ice on the ground, anyway? Fucking dumbass
ruining my fucking life. Or unlife. Whatever.

It was only then that I realized that what I did was probably the best fucking move I had ever
made. In the split second I had time to react and change the image in Alice's brain, there
hadn't been time for the inevitable conclusion to what would have happened to form there—I
totally wouldn't have been able to resist the scent of Bella's blood and I totally would have
started lapping it up like a sick fucking dog at a desert oasis. And that probably would've
seemed a bit strange to the nice townsfolk.

I mean, I'm just guessing.

Why did I realize that in that moment? Because you can bet your ass I was holding my breath,
praying to god or whoever the fuck looks out for blood sucking vampires that Bella hadn't
spilled any of her blood. I was pretty sure she had hit her head when I had snatched her

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perhaps a bit overzealously. (I was like the wind, OK? Except faster.) And though I had built up
some tolerance to the scent of her blood, I was pretty sure her spilled blood would be another
matter entirely.

So I used that one breath I had to eke out three little words in one tight exhalation, making sure
not to inhale.

"Are you OK?"

And I mean, what was I expecting her to say? I don't know. She certainly wasn't going to
answer my question. She was probably going to go into shock. She was probably going to
think she was insane.

"What just happened?"

I couldn't answer right away. I had no breath left. I started looking her over for injuries. I felt the
back of her head, where she had hit it. She winced. And I almost apologized, but realized that
would entail inhaling. So instead I just kept probing like…I don't even know—like I was some
monkey picking at her lice or some shit.

Fortunately, it only took a few seconds of my creepy monkey preening to satisfy myself that
she wasn't bleeding. So I took that first breath, only to become aware that the same could not
be said for Tyler Crowley. Thank god Tyler Crowley's blood doesn't sing to me like a fucking
siren song.

Jesus.

"Uh, I think Tyler's van hit some ice."

"But…how did…why…"

She couldn't finish a sentence. Not altogether surprising.

"Are you OK? I think you hit your head." As I said it, I kind of inched away from her, realizing
she might notice that I'm kind of icy. And I don't mean that in the way that conversation with my
sister, Rosalie, is icy. I mean literally icy. Like, don't stick your tongue out and lick me or it
might stick, OK? Just some fun vampire trivia for you.

"I think I'm OK. Are you OK?" she asked.

"Yeah. I'm fine."

"Is Tyler OK?" she asked, looking up at the van.

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"Yeah, he'll be alright," I said, forgetting that I wasn't supposed to have that knowledge. I was
reading Tyler's thoughts. And he was one scared little fuck in that moment, worried he had
killed Bella and trying clumsily to undo his seatbelt to check on her—but he was OK.

"How did you… What just happened?" she repeated. She was probably too scared to ask 'how
in the fuck did you just stop that speeding van from crushing us both?' because she was
worried it would sound stupid. Of course, I could only guess, seeing as I couldn't read her
mind. Which was getting really fucking annoying.

"We're fine. It was close, but we're fine."

"Why are you so calm! We just almost died!" she cried. "Why aren't we dead!"

"Uh. Quick reflexes. I shoved you out of the way."

"No you didn't! You…you-"

I raised my eyebrows at her innocently, then. If I just played stupid and convinced her she had
a head injury, it would be easy breezy. I hope.

"Are you sure you're OK?" I asked. And, thankfully, that's when Tyler poked his head out of the
van and all of the other kids who had come running started shouting at us. Scanning their
thoughts, it was clear that none of them were expecting to find me there, but they all chalked it
up to just not noticing me right before it happened. Then I started checking vampire thoughts.
Alice was scanning the future for indications of trouble, but everything looked alright. Jasper,
Rosalie, and Emmett were devising strategies for covering shit up and explaining it away. Alice
began telling them that everything was going to work out, and that's when they all realized they
needed to run to the van and act concerned, too.

It was really kind of funny.

Idiots.

Fortunately, the other kids pulled Bella away from me, so I didn't have to make up any more
lies. And my siblings finally had the presence of mind to pull me away from the other kids, too,
so no one else got to feel the ice cold touch of their friendly, neighborhood vampire.

It wasn't long before the sirens showed up. Charlie Swan arrived in his police cruiser before
the ambulances even made it. Witnessing his thoughts was interesting.

Fun mindreading vampire fact: when someone is feeling an emotion really intensely, their
thoughts tend to not manifest themselves in words, like normal. Instead, there's kind of just an
intense feeling running through their head. In Charlie Swan's case that day, it was a mixture of
panic and fear.

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And it kind of sucked. When people are thinking emotions like that and I'm reading them, it's
kind of like Jasper's using his wiggy emotion-manipulating ability on me. Except he's not. Chief
Swan's panic and fear were so intense that I started to feel freaked out. I found myself
constantly glancing at Bella to make sure she was indeed OK and I hadn't missed anything.
After a while, I was getting a little irritated that Charlie wouldn't chill the fuck out, even after
inspecting Bella and talking to her and shit.

I was trying to have a coherent conversation with my siblings, while simultaneously absorbing
all of Charlie's stuff. Fortunately, they were relatively calm, as Alice had already given them
assurances. Plus, once I explained to them that if I hadn't acted, I would have blown our cover
anyway, they all seemed to think I had made the right decision. And Emmett had already
dinged up the van a little extra when no one was looking, under the guise of searching for
some family heirloom ring or something I was supposedly wearing and lost in the chaos. That
way, there wasn't a perfect vampire handprint in the side of that stupid fucking van when other
people finally got around to noticing the damage.

Also serendipitous was the fact that the little town of Forks, Washington only has two
ambulances. That meant Tyler Crowley and Bella both got the full paramedic once over on the
way to the hospital while I got to ride in my own car. They insisted I go to the hospital, so
Rosalie gave me a ride. It would be OK, though, since I could just have Carlisle "examine" me.
Shit would have gotten a bit more complicated if one of the paramedics had tried taking my
not-so-existent pulse.

Rosalie and I followed the ambulances. It was kind of funny, because they used their sirens on
the way to the hospital even though there wasn't really an emergency. And it's not like there's
any traffic in Forks, anyway. Emmett, Alice, and Jasper followed us. Because what vampire
isn't going to use any excuse to ditch school? Perhaps one of the things we have in common
with the human teenagers.

One of the few.

On the way there, I was kind of distracted reading the thoughts of the people in the
ambulances. Charlie had chilled out somewhat and the paramedics were pretty mellow. Tyler
Crowley was practically shitting his pants over the whole ordeal. I could hardly blame him. He
had fucked up royally and almost killed someone. And his parents were probably going to kill
him. Or that's what he was convinced of, at least.

And then I started thinking about what it had felt like touching a living, breathing human being
for those few seconds before the shit kind of hit the fan. Because that was not something I did
often. It was a really strange sensation. And that was the point at which I realized I had been
really…stimulated? I don't know if that's the right word. Let's just say it was a bit of a shock to
the system and I was left wanting. Problem was—I suddenly didn't know if that wanting was
just the regular old vampire douchebag bloodlust thing or…something else.

Did I mention that it was getting really fucking annoying that I couldn't read Bella's mind?

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"What's your problem?" Rose asked me. Apparently my aggravation wasn't so subtle.

"It's just getting old not being able to hear her thoughts, is all."

"Bella?"

"Yes, Bella. Who else?"

"You don't have to get pissed at me, Edward."

"Sorry. It's just really fucking annoying, OK?"

"So you're worried she knows something's up?"

"Not really. She seemed confused more than anything. And I think she didn't trust her own
perception. Plus, she hit her head, so it'll be easy to convince her that that's why she doesn't
remember me standing right there."

"Alright, so what's the big deal?"

"Aren't you curious what she's thinking right now?"

Rosalie shrugged.

"Not really. But I don't have the luxury of always having my curiosity about that sort of thing
satisfied. You're kind of spoiled in that way, you know."

"Shut up."

Rosalie didn't know shit about what it was like hearing people's thoughts. If she did, she
wouldn't envy me one bit.

"Whatever, Edward. I think it might actually be good for you to not be able to hear someone's
thoughts for once."

Right.

Fuck.

Chapter 03: A Huge Liability


When we got to the hospital, I located Carlisle and we all kind of swarmed him. Obviously, he
could tell something was up. So he took us to his office and closed the door.

"What happened?"

13
"Bella Swan almost got splattered across the Forks High parking lot and Edward went all
knight-in-shining-armor. So now she's alive and here and people are perhaps a little confused
about the details of what happened," Emmett explained.

"What? How did she almost get 'splattered' across the parking lot?"

"Tyler Crowley's van skidded on some ice and headed straight for Bella, who was standing by
her truck," Alice answered.

"And Edward saved her?"

"Yeah," they all confirmed, nodding. I just kind of stared at the ceiling.

"And people saw?"

I finally jumped in.

"It all happened so fast, no one really saw. I've been in their heads and they all just assume I
was standing there when the van started skidding and I shoved us both out of the way."

"What about Bella?"

"Well, obviously I don't know what she's thinking."

"That's a bit of a problem, isn't it?"

"Alice doesn't seem to think so," I said, nodding toward the overbearing oracle of optimism.

"What do you see, Alice?"

"Same stuff as yesterday, really," she said. "Except Edward plays hard to get for a while, first."

I already knew this, of course. But it wasn't something I particularly wanted to discuss with the
whole Bloodsucking Brady Bunch. It was something I needed to think about.

"Can you tell in the visions if Bella knows what Edward is?" Carlisle asked.

"Not really. But I'm guessing if they're cuddling, she's going to kind of notice that he's not
exactly…warm and cuddly."

"But you don't see her revealing anything?" he pressed.

"Nope."

Carlisle turned to me then and raised his eyebrows.

14
How are you feeling about all of this?

"I don't know," I answered.

"Hey! No brain talking! That's rude!" Rosalie protested.

"Well, then maybe the rest of you should let me and Edward have a minute," Carlisle
responded. The girls narrowed their eyes at Carlisle then, but Jasper and Emmett took it in
stride and began ushering them out. As soon as the door was closed, Carlisle and I began
talking again. Ironically, he didn't speak to me in his head once they were gone. He found that,
then, he would often let things slip that he didn't want me to respond to. I mean, I would hear
them all the same. But at least if he spoke out loud, I would know what he deemed appropriate
for conversation. "So?" How are you feeling? Are you worried? Have you developed feelings
for her already? Is it only because of Alice's vision? You can't possibly have feelings for her
already. Would you have saved anyone that that was about to happen to? Did she lose any
blood? Does her blood still sing to you? My god, you must have will power.

See how much the mindreading can suck?

"I don't have that many answers for you, Carlisle. I don't know what's going on. I'm not sure
why I reacted. I'm not sure why I saved her. I'm not sure you wouldn't have done the same
thing had you been in my position. I'm not sure how much Alice's vision is influencing me. Yes,
her blood still makes me want to fucking eat her. And not in the nice way. She hit her head, so
I think it will be fairly easy to convince her she's imagining me stopping the van with my hand."

"Good. Although perhaps this is the impetus for Alice's visions. Perhaps Bella is going to figure
you out. And perhaps that's what's going to lead to the two of you becoming close."
Considering it would otherwise be pretty difficult for a human and a vampire to develop a
relationship of substance. Although Edward's mindreading ability probably makes it pretty
difficult, as well. It's probably the reason he's been alone all these years. Maybe this is the only
girl in the universe he has a shot with.

"Thanks for that, Carlisle."

"We both know it's true, Edward."

It was true. We had discussed the impact my ability had on my relationships at length. It had
kind of shifted my entire framework for interacting with people. (Though, becoming a vampire
kind of did that, too.) Frankly, it's kind of hard to respect people when you can read their
innermost thoughts. I kind of adjusted, and constantly have to remind myself that I think some
pretty stupid shit, too, sometimes. But let's just say it's kind of like that adage they have about
meeting one's heroes—it shouldn't ever happen because the illusion is shattered.

Carlisle and I were both thinking the same thing—with Bella, the illusion could remain intact. I
could find her interesting. I could project intelligence and kindness and any-other-fucking thing
I wanted. Which was kind of awesome.

15
But it was also kind of a fucked up reason to be attracted to someone.

"Yeah. I know."

"What will you do next?" Will you speak to her? Will you pursue her? Alice said you were going
to play hard-to-get. Why would you do that? Are you worried she will fall for your vampire
charms too easily? Are you concerned she won't love you for you but for all of the gifts those of
our species have that attract humans?

Now you really see how much the mindreading thing sucks, right?

"I don't know, Carlisle. Honestly, I'm still pretty concerned I'm not going to be able to interact
with her without accidentally eating her for lunch."

"But why? Alice doesn't foresee that."

"Yeah, but she wouldn't, would she? Because I wouldn't make the decision to eat her until her
blood suddenly became too much to resist, right? I mean, I'm nowhere near the scent of her
right now, so I'm pretty committed to not killing her. But that's easy, right now. The thought
of…the thought of interacting with her in the ways that Alice is seeing…I can't imagine that
without worrying about… Well, you get the picture."

Carlisle nodded. And then pondered what I had just said. Which raised a whole host of other
questions. There were two thoughts that inevitably rose to the surface: Oh shit, what if the
Volturi find out? And What if she became a vampire?

That's when I stood up and left his office. Because Carlisle was basically just thinking shit that I
had already thought myself. And there were no answers. We couldn't just turn Bella into a
vampire. We didn't even know her, for fuck's sake. Plus, none of us ever had turned someone
before. Turning a human into a vampire is a pretty difficult and complicated thing to do. It
involves an amazing amount of will power. If any one of us had the ability, it would be Carlisle,
seeing as he worked with spilt blood all day. But he had never tried. In part because a newborn
vampire is a huge liability. They have an incredibly strong bloodlust that very few can keep
under control. Alice and Carlisle were the only two I knew who managed it at first—Alice only
because she had the ability to see her future, and she knew she would only feed off of
animals. Carlisle because…I guess because he's just a better fucking person than the rest of
us and his conscience just never allowed it. The dude's amazing like that. And trust me—I
know. Because I'm all up in his head all the time. If anyone can make you feel like you're a
shitty person, it's Carlisle fucking Cullen.

I tried to block the thoughts of my family as I made my way toward the deafening silence that
was Bella Swan. That's what she was—never in my hundred years or so had I understood that
phrase until I met Bella Swan. Amongst the constant barrage of white noise that made up the
thoughts of the people around me, Bella's silence was motherfucking deafening.

16
I could tell where she was because I could hear the thoughts of the people around her. And
more than one person was thinking about her at that moment—Tyler Crowley, Charlie Swan,
the doctor examining her, Mike Newton, Jessica Stanley. (Those last two both seemed
preoccupied with Bella Swan to an unhealthy extent. But, then again, who the fuck am I to
talk? Jesus.) The only person from my family I listened to was Alice. She was busy planning
my fucking wedding, but I needed to stay tuned into her because I was relying on her to
foresee any accidental 'oh-shit-I-just-killed-Bella' moments.

When I walked into the room where Bella and Tyler and Charlie were, they all looked up. It's
kind of hard to be a wallflower when you're a vampire.

"Edward, I'm glad you're here," Chief Swan said gruffly. His thoughts made me cringe. "Thanks
so much for what you did."

"Oh, no thanks needed. It was instinct more than anything."

"All the same. I've heard things would have been a lot worse if you hadn't been there this
morning." But if you exploit this to get into my daughter's pants, I'll kill you all the same.

"Uh. You're welcome, I guess."

It was kind of distracting having to talk to him while Bella stared at us. More troubling was that
the Chief was holding out his hand to shake mine. I cringed again as I took it and shook it
briskly, hoping he wouldn't notice how cold it was.

"Damn, boy. Are you sure you're alright? You're awfully cold. Maybe they need to check you
out, too."

"Oh, my dad did. But thanks. I just washed my hands. No hot water."

"Oh."

I turned my attention to Bella, then.

"So you're alright?"

"Yeah. You?"

"Fit as a fiddle." Then I heard Tyler throwing himself a pity party in his head. "Tyler, you
alright?"

"Yeah. I'm real sorry, man. I feel terrible about all this."

"It's cool, Tyler. You didn't see the ice. Everyone's OK, so it's not a big deal."

"Thanks, Cullen."

17
I nodded and tried to shake him from the conversation. Then I realized it was gonna be a little
difficult having a conversation with Bella with all the other people milling around, regardless. I
wasn't even sure what kind of conversation I wanted to have with her. I just knew that I had
some things I needed to figure out. Top on my list was figuring out how curious Bella was
about me. And more about her in general, really. The less I could project on her, the better.
Then, as if she was reading my mind, she hopped off the bed.

"I'm gonna go look for a soda or something. Wanna come?" she asked. It wasn't subtle. She
glanced at her father, letting him know he wasn't invited, and that he wasn't supposed to offer
to go get it for her. Against all odds, it seemed Charlie was pretty good at reading his daughter.
Which is why that was the moment I decided I perhaps needed to lurk in the Chief's head a
little more often.

"Sure," I said.

She led the way, then, as we shuffled out of the room and down the hallway. We walked in
silence until we made it to a vending machine. Then she stopped and looked at me. I prepared
myself for the worst.

"Thank you."

"Oh. Uh…you're welcome. Like I said, it was kind of just instinct. I didn't really think about it."

"Well, thanks all the same. It sounds really strange to say it out loud, but I'm pretty sure you
saved my life."

"It's cool. You loaned me bio notes yesterday. So, uh-I figure we're even now."

She smiled at me then. I won't lie—I was kinda hoping for a laugh. But I'd take a smile.

"I don't remember…right before the accident… It's so weird. I remember standing next to my
truck, and I remember the squeal of the tires and seeing the van headed toward me. But I don't
remember you."

"Wow, way to wound a guy. I like to think I'm memorable."

See how good I am at deflection? (And fishing for information?)

"What were we talking about?"

Shit.

"Uh. Actually, we weren't. I had just meandered over there. I hadn't had the chance to strike up
conversation yet."

"Oh." She tilted her head then for a second. "What were you going to talk to me about?"

18
"Uh. I don't remember. I was probably returning your notes or something."

"Oh." She seemed satisfied then, because she began digging in her pocket and then turned
toward the vending machine. She pulled out a handful of change and began counting it out.
"Fuck," she muttered under her breath. Then she looked up. "Do you have any change?"

"Uh, yeah," I said, fumbling for my wallet. I pulled out a dollar bill and handed it to her.

"Thanks. I'll get you back. I just don't want Charlie to get all suspicious when I don't come back
with a soda."

"Don't worry about it." Then I watched as she tried twice to get the machine to accept the bill. It
rejected it and spit it back out both times. Which was weird because it was a pretty crisp bill.
"Want me to try?"

"I'll get it," she said. Then, I could see the tip of her tongue protruding from her mouth in
concentration as she gave it another go. On the third attempt, the machine finally accepted the
bill and she pressed her selection. Then, she retrieved the Diet Coke that came tumbling out,
along with her change, which she turned and offered to me. I shook my head.

"Keep it." Better not to risk any more contact for right now.

"So. Uh. Do you think you'll go back to school?" she asked.

"Probably not. Might as well exploit the shit out of the near-death experience, right?"

"Yeah. That's kind of what I was thinking. I'm not exactly looking forward to being a spectacle,"
she said, as she popped open the soda and we began strolling back down the hall.

"Yeah. Me either."

"What are you talking about? You're always a spectacle."

"Sorry?"

"Uh. I mean… I just mean… Sorry. I didn't mean it like that."

"Like what?"

"I just meant that your family doesn't exactly blend."

"Right. Yeah."

"Sorry."

"No, don't apologize. It's the truth."

19
"It doesn't bother you?" she asked.

I shrugged. Only when it threatens to expose us as the undead creatures of the night that we
actually are. When that's something you have to worry about, the rest is kind of just gravy. I
don't think I'll be sobbing myself to sleep if I'm not crowned homecoming king. And not just
because my body can't produce tears.

"So, uh…can I get your notes back to you tomorrow?" I asked.

"Yeah. Of course. Getting those notes back isn't exactly top on my list of concerns right now."

"What is?"

"Huh?"

"Top on your list of concerns?"

"Um. I don't know. Not getting killed by careening vans. Keeping this whole thing a secret from
my mother. Avoiding Charlie's scrutiny."

"Why?"

"Uh. Because he can be a little…overprotective, I suppose."

"No, I mean, why not tell your mother what happened?"

"Oh. Because she would freak out about it even though nothing happened. No reason to get
her all worked up over nothing."

"You call your dad 'Charlie'?"

"What's with the twenty questions?"

"Sorry. I just…I guess I'm nosy. Didn't mean to pry. Sorry."

"No, it's OK. I just…I don't know. Are we like, suddenly bound by our shared near death
experience now or something? You can go back to being aloof if you want."

"Ouch."

"God. Sorry. I didn't…I didn't mean it like that. That came out totally wrong. I just…I don't really
know how to act around someone who saved my life. It's really weird, right?"

"I don't see why you need to act any differently than before. But then again, you're not, really."

"I feel like I kind of owe you. Like…my life."

20
"Like I said—bio notes. Don't sweat it."

"Um. I don't think it works like that."

"Seriously, Bella. You don't owe me anything. You would have done the same for me."

"Uh."

"You know, if you hadn't been too busy staring at the careening van."

"Right."

We slowed down then, as we had reached the doorway of the room we had originally come out
of.

"So, um…I guess I'll see you tomorrow?" I asked, unsure of what I was supposed to say or
why I had even engaged in the conversation with her in the first place. In fact, the only thing I
was sure of in that moment was that I was even more confused about everything.

"Um. Yeah. Tomorrow."

Chapter 04: BAM!


When I got home that day, everyone was, of course, waiting for me.

"Edward, before anyone says anything, I just want you to know that I'm proud of you," Esme
said the moment I found them in the living room.

"Thanks, Esme."

"Yes, Edward. I don't think you should regret what you did for a second. However, I think there
are some things we need to discuss," Carlisle said.

Not gonna lie—sometimes it bugs me when Carlisle does the whole head-of-household shit. I
mean, it's not like we were actually kids.

"I don't regret it," I said, realizing it was true as soon as I said it.

"How do you plan to proceed?" Carlisle asked. As if we were talking about surgery or some
shit.

"I don't. I'm not…there's nothing. Just forget about it."

"Edward, we both know that's not true!" Alice protested.

"Alice! We don't know anything. For all we know, her mind is impervious to your ability, too."

21
That was when the room fell silent. Apparently, I was the only one who had thought of that.

"But Alice sees visions of her future… How would that…even…work?" Emmett asked.

"I don't know. I mean, I have some speculations. Like, maybe Alice is seeing Bella Swan's
future as decided by me," I said.

"Which would mean you are totally lying about your intentions," Rosalie said.

"No! I'm not. Fuck. I don't know why Alice is having those visions!"

"He is going to play hard to get for a while," Alice said.

"Well, obviously, he's not that committed to that idea," Jasper said. Which pissed me the hell
off.

"Shut the fuck up, Jasper! What do you know!"

"Maybe it just means he can't control his feelings," Alice said. "Maybe he fully intends to give
her the cold shoulder, but his feelings run too deep." Her voice was wistful. It made me want to
puke.

"Alice, you sound ridiculous. How could I have developed feelings like that for her already? I
don't even know her."

"But if she's your mate, Edward—maybe it's out of your hands."

"If that's what vampire mating is, I want no fucking part of it. I prefer free will, thank you."

"Oh, stop being so melodramatic," Alice scolded.

"You're the one being melodramatic, Alice!" I snapped.

"Stop!" Carlisle interrupted. "I think we need to return to Edward's theory about Bella and
Alice's ability."

"Yeah, let's talk about that," Emmett concurred.

"What about it?" I asked.

"If Alice were only seeing your intentions, then what's to stop her from seeing, for example,
Mike Newton's intentions for Bella's future as well?" Emmett asked.

"I don't know. Maybe Alice isn't looking for that. Alice tends to only see stuff that is relevant. I
hardly think Mike Newton's fantasies are really our concern."

22
"Alice, can you look for Mike Newton's future right now? Or Bella's?"

"Um. I can try," she said, closing her eyes. The room again fell silent as we waiting and
watched. I closed my own eyes and allowed my head to be filled with Alice's thoughts.
Eventually, the darkness dissipated and I, too, began to see the future of Mike Newton.

Alice's gift was not the equivalent of omniscience. Her visions came in pieces that were not
always clear, and they changed as people's decisions changed. She couldn't always find what
we she looked for.

Unfortunately, Alice's gift was a bit too accurate as we both saw Mike Newton's Friday night.
Suffice to say, Mike would be spending Friday night alone. I opened my eyes and glared at
Alice, who had also opened her eyes—probably in an attempt to make the vision go away.

It's not my fault, Edward! They told me to look for it!

"What is it?" Carlisle asked.

"Nothing. Bella Swan does not make an appearance in Mike Newton's weekend, from what
Alice sees. That's all."

"Not in real life, at least," Alice muttered under her breath.

"Did you look for Bella's future?" Carlisle pressed.

"No! One at a time, Carlisle, OK?"

"Sorry, Alice."

Carlisle was sincerely repentant. I know because I could hear his thoughts about how we all
constantly relied on Alice perhaps a bit too much, and asked for her to use her ability for our
own purposes perhaps a bit too often.

Alice again closed her eyes, and I again followed suit.

And waited.

Again, the darkness receded. Again, images of both myself and Bella flashed through Alice's
mind. First they were of us sitting in biology class—not talking to one another. Then, they were
of exchanged glances in the cafeteria. Then, they were of the two of us in bed together. Again.

"Same," Alice reported to the group as she opened her eyes.

"Of the two of them together?" Rosalie asked.

"Yeah."

23
"Alice, did you try to see anything else? Like Bella's weekend plans? Or any time she intends
to spend with her father perhaps?"

"Nope. I tried. All I see is her and Edward."

"So it doesn't mean anything. We still have no idea if Alice's ability works on Bella," I said.

"But we all know Mike Newton has intentions about Bella Swan," Rosalie said. "I don't think
Bella's mind is impervious."

"I don't think we can assume that, yet," I persisted.

"Perhaps Bella's mind is impervious, but Alice can still see her future through the futures of
other people. Perhaps Alice will only be able to see Bella's future filtered through other
people's. For example, Alice may not be able to see things that only concern Bella. But she
may be able to see Bella's interactions with other people through seeing their futures," Carlisle
offered.

"That doesn't make any sense," I said. "Nothing anyone does doesn't affect anyone else. Mike
Newton can't even fucking beat off without it affecting his mother, who keeps having to stock
their house with tissues. Any time a person purchases something, it affects the global
marketplace. Some businesses go under. Others succeed. Some people keep their jobs,
others lose them. Sweatshop conditions thrive. Unions fail. Third world countries-"

"We get it, Bro," Emmett interrupted.

"I'm just sayin'! If Mike Newton can't beat off without it affecting the global economy, I don't
think Bella Swan can avoid being seen by Alice's gift through not interacting with other people."

"You've given this a lot of thought," Esme observed. I rolled my eyes, because I knew she saw
that as a good sign.

"Yeah. I have."

"So why do you think her mind is impervious? If that's the case, why does Alice see the two of
you together?" Carlisle asked.

"I don't know, Carlisle. Like I said—maybe she's just seeing what she wants to see. Or what
my subconscious wants her to see. Either way, I'm not going to trust Alice's ability to predict
her future accurately or my own ability to restrain myself around her."

"What do you mean?" he pressed.

"I'm dropping out."

"What?" They all asked it in unison.

24
"I'm not going to school anymore. I'm old enough to drop out. I don't care what we tell them.
Carlisle, you can tell them I'm Doogie Howser or some shit and that I'm going to college early,
if that makes you feel better."

"Don't you think that's a bit rash?" Esme asked.

"I think killing her and sucking her blood would be a bit rash, Esme. Unfortunately, that's how
we're fucking wired: to rashly kill human beings. And Alice would never see it in time to stop
me. Because I would make that decision a split second before I decided to follow through with
it. Do you really think my going to school is worth risking her life?"

"But-"

"It's not like sitting through high school for the eight hundredth time or whatever is really adding
that much to existence right now, anyway. In fact, it will be quite a relief to get away from it."

"No fair! If Edward gets to drop out, I want to, too!" Rosalie cried.

"Yeah!" Jasper chimed in. Emmett and Alice seemed to be the only two who didn't mind high
school that much.

"You can't all drop out of high school!" Carlisle interrupted. "It would be too conspicuous!
Especially now!"

"Isn't it going to be a little conspicuous for Edward to drop out now?" Alice asked. We all turned
and looked at her, then. "Oh. Right." She closed her eyes.

Finally, instead of seeing me and Bella in biology class together, she saw an empty seat in the
classroom. And then she saw students in the cafeteria discussing my prolonged absence.
There were rumors that I had run away from home or that I'd returned to my birth parents or
that I'd started a band and was touring across the country with them. There was one rumor that
I had lost my ability to function after the near-death experience and laid in my bed catatonic all
day. But, big surprise, no rumors that I was a vampire secretly hiding from my bloodlust for
Bella Swan. Shocking, I know.

The thing of it was—she still had the image of me and Bella in Bella's bed together.

"What the hell?" I cried.

"What? What is it?" Rosalie asked. She hated it when she wasn't privy to the "brain"
communication.

"Um. It looks like Edward will succeed in dropping out without raising any alarms. But he's still
gonna end up in bed with Bella," Alice answered.

They all looked at me. And then Esme laughed.

25
No, she didn't just laugh.

She fucking cackled.

Then, she turned and walked out of the room.

So, I promised my family I wouldn't run off to Alaska again. I promised I would stay in Forks, or
at least discuss things with them first before moving. But there really wasn't much to keep me
around, other than them.

I often found myself wishing I had Carlisle's willpower around human blood. I wished I could
practice medicine. It seemed like such a meaningful existence. However, my youthful
appearance kind of hindered any medical aspirations nearly as much as the bloodlust. There
isn't a whole lot someone who looks seventeen can do in this world. Because not a lot of
people trust teenagers with real responsibility.

A hundred years of high school and college gave me a lot of time to think. You'd think I would
have come up with something better to do with my time.

But no.

That first day that I stayed home from school, I sat around watching Food Network.

I'm not even kidding.

I think I was feeling sorry for myself. I don't know why. Really, not having to go to school
anymore was pretty awesome. In part because I got away from everyone's thoughts. Carlisle
was at the hospital and Esme was out shopping for some rare plant and everyone else was at
school. So, for the first time in a long time, I was in the house by myself. And it was quiet.

Don't ask me why I chose to fill the silence with Emeril fucking Lagasse. I think maybe
watching cooking shows was a special kind of self flagellation. After all, I would never enjoy
food again. I would never even distinguish between food much, other then maybe the subtle
differences between deer blood and bear blood. And really, neither is that fantastic. I suppose
the only time a vampire really enjoys eating is when it's human blood.

After a while, I flicked the TV off, realizing it was not the best way to fill my time. I wandered
around Esme's garden for a while, trying to figure out how she managed to feel fulfilled. I
mean, I know what the inside of Esme's head is like. She's a pretty happy person. She loves
us, and Carlisle. She loves gardening. She loves sex. That's about it. I don't get how she can
be so fulfilled that way. Maybe because her human life sucked so bad.

See, Esme had a real dick of a husband when she was a human. He didn't physically abuse
her or anything, but it was at a time that husbands controlling their wives was kind of the status

26
quo. So she pretty much always had to do his bidding, and didn't have any friends, and didn't
get out much. She was pretty fucking miserable. In fact, she was way more miserable than she
ever lets on when she tells people about it. I know because I can hear the shit that she
censors.

Then one day she got pregnant. She was ecstatic. I think in part because it was something for
her to channel all her passion into. And that's what she did. She loved that baby, from the
moment she realized it existed.

Then one day some friendly neighborhood Jehovah's witnesses knocked on the door. (Yeah,
they've been doing that shit for over a hundred years.) Except they weren't actually so friendly.
And they weren't actually Jehovah's witnesses.

And they weren't actually human.

It didn't take them long to kill Esme's husband, right in front of her. As much as she didn't like
him, that shit is still pretty traumatizing. Especially when you're not only seeing someone you
know killed, but you're also seeing them killed by vampires. Because…come on…vampires are
pretty fucking terrifying. Particularly when you've never seen them before and tend not to
believe that they exist. Like most people.

I can kind of understand it, but sometimes I wonder at humans being more terrified about
vampires than about their fellow humans killing each other. Seems to me that it's worse when
humans are doing the killing. I mean, they don't have that whole bloodlust excuse. But maybe
that's just me.

Anyway.

So, how did Esme survive? Well, it turns out these particular vampires were extra sadistic.
When they found Esme was pregnant, they decided to perform a little experiment. See,
vampires can't reproduce. The only way to create a new vampire is to turn an existing human
into one. They wanted to see what would happen if they turned a pregnant human.

During what we call "the change," Esme lost her baby. Because a vampire body is not
hospitable for life, human or vampire. Really, I guess we don't know exactly what happened.
Esme wasn't entirely aware of everything that was happening to her when she was undergoing
the change. She just knows that when she had turned, she was no longer pregnant. And there
was no baby.

Imagine for a second what that was like for her. She watched those two vampires kill her
husband. Then, those vampires killed her baby and turned her into one of them. Then, she had
no idea how to go about being a vampire. So the very monsters she hated were the only ones
to whom she could turn for answers.

27
She stayed with those vampires for about a year, hating them, yet depending on them.
Fortunately, it was only a year before she found me and Carlisle. She switched covens faster
than Lindsay Lohan switches teams.

Moral of the story: don't trust Jehovah's witnesses. Especially the pale ones. With fangs.

OK, we don't really have fangs.

That's something I'm still kind of bitter about, actually.

So, Carlisle's theory is that we all retain certain characteristics of our human selves when we
change. I tend not to put too much stock into this theory. In part because this would mean I'm
eternally damned to an existence filled with teen angst. But this would perhaps explain Esme's
contentment with her existence. She has an intense maternal instinct, and she finds a lot of
fulfillment in being a mother figure to us. I've always found it slightly bizarre, seeing as I'm
technically older than her. But she was older in human years than I was when she was turned.
And everyone wants a mommy, right? So whatever. If she wants to be my mommy, I'll let her.

Unfortunately, although reflecting in Esme's garden may have provided some insight into what
makes her tick, it didn't provide me with much in the way of revelations or epiphanies.

As soon as Alice and the others returned from school, I realized I definitely should have used
my solitude more wisely. But, one afternoon is kind of insignificant when you're talking eternity.
Maybe Emeril had won my attention for the afternoon. But Alice was about to win it for…a lot
longer.

Chapter 05: Stalking is Sexy, Right?


"Edwaaaaaaaard!" she cried. "Turn off the mindreading for a second!"

I walked to the living room to join them.

"Sorry. Too late."

I had already seen what she was bursting to tell me. She was really bad at trying not to think
about what she didn't want me to know. She usually ended up thinking about exactly what it
was she was trying to keep from me.

In this case, she was thinking about the fact that she had finally solved the mystery of whether
she could see Bella's future. Apparently, she had taken it upon herself to strike up a
conversation in the lunch line with Bella. And apparently she had gone on and on about how
she had once thrown up cottage cheese after watching a Discovery Channel special about
maggots. Which was, of course, a total lie. But apparently in the time it took her to tell the
story, she saw Bella's future lunch go from tuna salad and cottage cheese to Diet Snapple.

"Damn it, Edward! I wanted to tell you!"

28
"You did."

"You know what I mean!"

"Whatever. Big deal. So you can see her future. Doesn't change anything."

"Did you see her ask about you?"

Whoa.

I had definitely not seen that. But as soon as Alice said it, I could see Alice explaining to Bella
that I was sick and Bella looking concerned. Alice assured her it didn't have anything to do with
the accident—that it was just a cold.

"Why did you tell her that? Carlisle was supposed to make up some lie about me transferring
to a school for gifted musicians or some shit!"

"Yeah. He changed his mind. In case you changed your mind and decide to come back to
school."

"What?"

It wasn't often my family was able to surprise me. Carlisle must have had that bright idea once
he was out of my mindreading radius, as we called it.

"It doesn't hurt anything to give you room to change your mind, Edward. Don't be a drama
queen about it," she retorted.

"I'm not being a drama queen."

"You were about to be."

"Whatever. It still doesn't change anything."

"Maybe you should have a little more faith in yourself, Edward. We all have faith in you, after
all."

"That's great. But it's going to take a little bit more than your all's faith to persuade me to risk a
girl's life. Sorry."

Alice narrowed her beady little eyes at me then before 'harrumphing' and walking out of the
room. The rest of them seemed content to let it lie. Thank god.

A strange thing happened on my second day of not going to school.

29
I discovered that I found it disconcerting not to be able to hear the thoughts of my siblings.

It was strange because it was not as if I hadn't spent time away from them before. Often, I
went hunting alone. Sometimes, I would go on trips alone just to get away from them and their
thoughts. Indeed, I hadn't missed hearing their thoughts when I had temporarily fled to Alaska
in order to escape the temptation of Bella Swan's blood.

So it was strange that I suddenly found myself…searching. It was as if I kept listening, and not
hearing. Maybe because I knew where they were, and I knew that they were probably thinking
the same sorts of things they thought every other day. But I wasn't there to hear it. It was
almost like hearing loss.

And it was doubly strange because I would often tune out of my siblings' heads when I was at
school. But perhaps the white noise of their thoughts had been such a constant in my life, even
when tuned out, that it was jarring not to have it accompanying my own thoughts anymore.

Or maybe it was just jarring to know that they were all going on as usual…without me.

It was also strange that my thoughts were suddenly only accompanied by Esme's, who was
home that day. Although I had heard her thoughts for over a century, it was disconcerting
hearing her thoughts as she went about her day. It was disconcerting to hear how much she
thought about her family, even when they weren't around. But even more interesting was how
focused she would become on the tasks she performed, such as ordering Emmett's birthday
present online, or keeping tabs on the Cullen family stock portfolio, or washing the animal
blood off of the new shirt that Alice had just bought for Jasper.

That day was perhaps the first time I appreciated the day to day things that Esme did that kept
our family in proper working order.

My third day home, even Esme wasn't around. I didn't even bother turning Food Network on,
as I decided I had done enough wallowing in my inability to ever enjoy modern food. (Although
I have to admit, Twinkies and McNuggets and egg rolls don't look all that appetizing to me.) I
decided instead that maybe I could use my time in Forks as a kind of sabbatical.

I had over a hundred years worth of journals. Really boring shit. Lots of musings about eternal
damnation and the meaning of non-life and bullshit like that. So I decided maybe I needed to
try my hand at giving my writing a bit of purpose. Maybe I'd try writing a book, or a dissertation.
And maybe it would suck. But, hey, I had all of eternity to edit, right? Or maybe I would get
really lucky and be the next Danielle Steel.

I was still clicking around the internet trying to decide what I wanted to write about when I
looked up from the computer and realized that I was still the only one home. And it was 4:00.
Which was weird. The others should have been home from school by then.

30
When the doorbell rang, I didn't think much of it.

Until I realized I couldn't hear who it was.

Which is when I realized exactly who it was.

Despite my best intentions, I found myself standing on the other side of the door before I had
even considered whether I was going to answer it. Of course, she didn't know I was there. How
could she? It was not as if she could smell me. Not the way I could smell her.

I wasn't even breathing, yet my throat tingled.

I closed my eyes and leaned my forehead against the door.

Why is she here? What does she want? Why am I the only one home right now? For the love
of god, why can't I hear her thoughts? And why must her blood smell like that?

I actually concentrated on trying to listen to her mind. I don't know why I thought it would work.
Perhaps because there was no one else in my head at that moment, and I could focus entirely
on her. I told myself that perhaps if only I concentrated, I would be able to hear her.

But all I heard was a rapid heartbeat and nervous breathing. In fact, I heard her inhale deeply
just before she rapped on the door.

Please go away. Please forget you ever met me. Please let me forget you

After a moment, I heard her sigh.

Don't open the door. Don't open the door. Don't open the door.

Suddenly, I was trying to will my actions instead of hers.

Then, I was surprised when she didn't leave right away. I heard some rustling and then I heard
some….writing? It sounded like a pen scratching on paper, and I realized she was leaving a
note.

After a moment, she set something down on the porch and then I heard her return to her
decrepit truck. For a second, I thought she was going to be stranded in our fucking driveway,
because it took her three tries before the damn thing started. Thank god it finally did. I knew I
would have opened that door otherwise. When I heard the gravel of our driveway crunching
under her tires, I finally cracked the door and saw what she had left.

It was soup.

And a note.

31
Edward,

Sorry to just show up at your house. I just got a little worried when you didn't show up right
after the accident. I thought maybe there was some internal bleeding or something that the
doctors didn't catch. Your sister told me it was a cold and…I don't know. You saved my life. So
I brought you some soup. I hope you feel better. And hopefully I'll see you on Monday.

-Bella

I smiled, only to remember the depressing reality of the situation. So the smile dissipated pretty
quickly. I crumpled the note in my hand and went to the kitchen, where I flung it in the trash.
Then, I went to the sink, where I opened the container of soup and poured it down the drain.

"Edwaaaard. What did you doooo?" Alice asked, all righteous indignation.

"What do you mean, Alice?"

They had finally all returned from school.

"We all stayed away just so you wouldn't have any warning about Bella coming over and yet
my vision still showed you not answering the door!"

"Why would I answer the door, Alice? That's fucking brilliant, by the way, leaving that poor girl
alone with me like that when I want nothing more than to drink her blood."

"Edward, she brought you soup."

"I know that."

"Are you really just going to go on ignoring this girl? After saving her life?"

"Yes."

"Why are you so stubborn?"

"Look who's talking!"

"Whatever. I have my visions to back me up. You're just being silly."

"No. I'm not. I'm the only one in this fucking family being rational right now."

That was when Jasper finally interrupted.

"Nah. I'm with you. I get it."

32
Maybe he was feeling guilty because he knew I could hear his thoughts and he had yet to
throw in with me every time the argument came up, even though he sympathized. But Jasper
had seen his share of lives senselessly lost, and understood what was at stake. Or maybe it
was that Jasper was the newest to our "vegetarian" lifestyle, meaning he also had issues with
controlling himself around humans.

"Shut up, Jasper!" Alice cried.

"Alice."

I stared at her. But I was tired of the argument. So I just fucking left the room and returned to
my own. And wondered why in the fuck I had ever missed being in their heads.

I must have paced my room for an hour that evening. The fact that my non-love life (or maybe
it's love non-life?) was consuming the thoughts of most of the people in the house was not
helping my frustrations.

So I left.

I have no real explanation for what I did next. I wish that I did. But I don't. I'm not even sure it
was conscious. All I know is that, suddenly, I was standing across the street from Bella Swan's
house, just behind the tree line, where no one would see me.

Like a total fucking stalker.

I may not be able to hear Bella's Swan's thoughts, but I sure as heck can hear her voice. One
of the perks of vampirism is super stalking abilities. Like super hearing, and super
vision…super smell. I could pretty much locate Bella any time I wanted based off her smell
alone. Basically, if you looked up super stalker in the dictionary, you'd find a picture of me.

She and Charlie had just sat down to dinner. Which was fantastic for me, because it was
probably the only time Bella would say things out loud all night. Plus, I could see her through
Charlie's head. I exhaled involuntarily when I saw her, sitting across the kitchen table from her
dad. Which was weird, seeing as breathing for me is kind of…unnecessary.

Was that a sigh? Why am I sighing? Am I relieved? Why would I be relieved? Relieved that I
still haven't killed her? Or that another renegade van hasn't crushed her?

"How was school?" Charlie asked.

"OK."

"Only OK?"

33
"Um. Yeah. School is school, you know?"

"Learn anything?"

"Ummmm…did you know that the brother of John Wilkes Booth saved the life of the son of
Abraham Lincoln?" she offered.

"No kidding?"

"Yep. Robert Todd Lincoln fell from a train platform and Edwin Booth pulled him to safety."

'That's a pretty amazing coincidence. Was that before or after the Lincoln assassination?"

"Before. Lincoln recognized Booth because he was a well known actor, but Booth didn't find
out until later that it was Lincoln."

"Did you learn this in history class?"

"Um. Actually, no. I learned it in a book I'm reading."

"For school?"

"No. Just for fun."

"You always were a reader, I guess."

"What about you? Anything exciting happen at work today?"

"The Lakers lost."

"You watch the games at work!"

"No! I just listen to it on the radio while I'm cruising around."

"So it was a pretty tough day, huh?"

"Well, I did have to help Mrs. Cope with a flat tire. Which reminds me—where were you this
afternoon?"

"Huh?"

"I drove past the house and your truck was gone."

"Oh. I…uh…went to the store to get some tampons."

34
Yeah, you can bet that shut Charlie up real fast. Even I wanted to crawl into a hole after that
one-despite my relief that she didn't reveal to Charlie that she had actually been knocking on
my door.

"Um, er…so how is school going? Are your classes hard?"

Man after my own heart, Charlie changed the fuck out of the subject.

"Um, not too bad. I have a biology quiz on Monday. Which kind of sucks because it means I
have to study over the weekend. But then again, I guess I at least have all weekend to study."

Shit. I still have Bella's biology notes.

As soon as I realized it, I felt like a total jerk. I almost immediately ran to the house to get them
and bring them to her so she could study, but I glanced at my watch. It was 7:00 on a Friday
night. If I were to show up on her doorstep with notes, the Chief might get the wrong idea.

Shit. Is that why she brought the soup? Was she really just trying to get her notes back? Why
am I such an asshole? Why didn't I answer the door? Maybe this is why I can read minds. So
that I'm less of an asshole. Because otherwise I'm entirely oblivious to other people. Jesus
Christ.

"Do you have any plans tonight?"

"No. I might watch a movie or something. But I might study just to get it out of the way."

Shit.

Then, I listened to Charlie's thoughts as he worried that Bella was spending too much time
alone.

That was all I needed to rationalize returning the notes to her immediately.

I ran back to my house and tore into my backpack, which I hadn't touched since I stopped
going to school. There they were, just as I left them. I grabbed them and skimmed, to make
sure there wasn't anything significant I needed to pretend to have read. There wasn't. But
there were some doodles of snails and turtles and spiders. Then, I fled the house before Alice
had one of her spontaneous visions and inflicted it on me. I'm sure she already knew that I was
stalking Bella. And I didn't really feel like having that particular conversation at that moment.

I took the Volvo the second time I went to Bella's. I figured it might be a little suspicious if I
showed up on foot, seeing as my place was like ten miles away from hers.

When I got to her door, though, I found myself staring at it.

35
Why am I having déjà vu? Oh, that's right—because this happened earlier today. Except I was
too much of a douchebag to open the door for her. Hopefully she's not a jerk like me. What am
I saying? Of course she's not a jerk like me. But I deserve to have the door slammed in my
face. I've been holding her notes hostage for four days now. And I didn't fucking open the door
for her when she brought me fucking soup.

Suddenly, the door opened.

And it was Charlie.

Fuck.

Chapter 06: Turns Out I Suck At Normal


"Uh."

"Edward?"

"Yeah. Sorry."

"You just gonna stand out here all night?"

Fuck.

"No. Um. I just…I was returning Bella's notes. I've had her biology notes for a long time now,
because she loaned them to me before I got sick and I haven't been at school to return them to
her the past three days and I just remembered I had them and we have a quiz on Monday and
I didn't want her to not have them to study this weekend and-"

"Belllllla!" he called over his shoulder. Then, he turned and walked away from the door,
absently waving me in. He settled back in front of the television watching ESPN. I was
surprised that his thoughts didn't seem all that concerned about my being there. He seemed
too engrossed in whatever game was on to care much. Thank god.

Bella came tripping down the steps. When she looked up and saw me standing in the foyer,
she looked pretty fucking shocked.

"Edward…"

"Hey. Sorry to just drop in like this. I just…uh…I just realized I still needed to return your notes
to you."

"Oh."

"Sorry I had them so long. I completely forgot. I just realized the quiz is on Monday and you'll
need them to study."

36
Then, instead of answering, she walked right up to me.

What the fuck?

"We'll be on the porch, Dad."

"Yeah, sure," Charlie said, not really paying attention.

Then, she reached behind me for her coat and opened the front door. Which I took as my cue
to get my ass on the porch. Which I did.

As soon as she closed the door behind us, she looked up at me with these squinty eyes, like I
was a fucking mirage or something. Or a fucking vampire.

"How are you feeling?" she asked.

"Oh. Great. Thanks for the soup, by the way. Shit, I guess I should have led with that."

She laughed. I wasn't sure whether that was good or bad. Thanks to the whole telepathy
cockblock thing.

"You're welcome. Sorry to barge in on you like that. I know it was weird. I just…didn't have
your number and…"

"Was worried I was internally bleeding to death?" I asked, smiling. She blushed. Which is one
of those things. One of those god damned things that is simultaneously cute and…fucking
appetizing.

"Yeah…it was stupid, I know."

"Nah. It was…sweet."

As soon as I said it, I wanted to punch myself in the face. Because I realized we were headed
down that path of impossible; that path where she was a human and I was a vampire. And no
matter how much soup she brought me or how many vans I stopped from crushing her to
death or how many cute little turtles she doodled or what the fuck ever, we couldn't go down
that path. Because it wouldn't fucking work.

No matter how much she blushed.

Which of course she was doing again.

"Um, aren't you cold?" she asked. Probably because I wasn't wearing a jacket. "Do you want to
go back inside? I just…I kind of lied to Charlie about where I was this afternoon, so I didn't
want him to hear."

37
"Would he have cared?"

"I don't know. I was just embarrassed more than anything, I guess."

"How come?"

"You ask a lot of questions, you know that?"

BECAUSE I CAN'T READ YOUR GOD DAMNED MIND, OK?

"Sorry."

"Seriously, aren't you cold?"

"Oh, I'm fine," I answered, hoping to use the cold as an excuse to make a hasty escape. "Oh
shit. I just remembered—I should have brought you back your soup container."

"Oh. You already ate it?"

"Uh, yeah. It was really great. Thanks again."

"No problem. You can just bring the container to school or something."

"Oh. Right."

Shit.

"So…any big plans tonight?"

"Huh?"

I'm so fucking used to being prepared for what's going to come out of a person's
mouth…having a conversation with Bella Swan really put me on edge. And not just because I
had already implied that I would be at school on Monday but also because I found I was having
a hard time keeping up. It's not even that she was changing the subject quickly. I was just…still
processing. Because I was so…unaccustomed to normal conversation.

"I mean…it's Friday night. You seem to be feeling better. I was just kind of wondering what the
Cullen Cult does on the weekend," she said, completely matter-of-factly.

Something about the way she said it-I fucking lost it. Like, I laughed my ass off. I mean, I had
heard my family's nickname among the high school students, of course. I had just never had it
uttered in my presence before.

"Sorry. Maybe I shouldn't have said that out loud. You do know that that's what they call you
all, though, right?" she asked.

38
"Oh, I know. I just…no one's ever said it to my face before."

"Oh. Yeah…leave it to me to be the most tactless person in Forks."

"Nah. Just honest."

"So what do you guys do?"

"Um. Different stuff. The regular stuff. Movies. Camping. Chess."

"Chess?"

"Oh. Yeah. That's kind of…I don't know. I guess that's sort of a family tradition."

"Is that what you're doing tonight?"

"No."

"Oh."

I realized then that I still hadn't answered her question. Which was maybe awkward. But
maybe my seemingly limitless awkwardness would help her understand why I interacted with
others so little.

"So, uh. I'll get out of your hair. Thanks again for the notes and the soup," I said, turning toward
the path down to the driveway.

"Sure. See you on Monday."

Shit.

"Yeah. Sure. Bye, Bella."

When I got back to the house, Alice and Rose were waiting for me on the front steps.

Grinning.

"What are you all grinning at?" I asked.

"As if you don't know," Rose shot back.

"Shut up."

"Edward, you're in loooooove," Alice taunted.

39
"I had her notes, Alice. I had to return them."

"Alriiiiiiiight," she sang. Then, she and Rose scooted away from each other to make room for
me to walk past them. But they giggled as I re-entered the house.

Judging by the others' thoughts, Alice had seen fit to notify everyone of my whereabouts that
evening.

Great.

When Jasper entered my room, I knew he wanted to talk to me. I wasn't entirely resistant to
the idea, but I couldn't be sure if that was because I knew Jasper was somewhat sympathetic
to my plight and I needed to talk over some shit with someone or because he was using his
wiggy emotion-manipulation ability on me. But his thoughts gave no indication that he was
manipulating me. So I just rolled with it.

"Hey, Jazz. What's up?"

"Not much. How's being a drop out?"

"Quiet."

"Is that good or bad?" he asked.

"I'm not sure. I think maybe a little of both."

"I would say if there's one person who shouldn't be left alone to be inside his head for long
periods of time, it's you," he said.

"Thanks a lot."

"Hey, I could say it or I could think it. Either way, you're gonna hear it."

"I know."

"Of course, I'm guessing that's one of the virtues of the quiet."

"Yeah."

"So, are you still resolved not to return to school?" he asked.

"I don't know."

"Oh yeah?" He was surprised, but he didn't pass judgment. Which was a relief. If only Alice
would take a page from the Jasper Whitlock book-of-back-the-fuck-off.

40
"Well, I was resolved. And then I had a conversation with Bella. And she kind of caught me off
guard. And I kind of told her I would be there on Monday."

"Oh." That's hardly a contract signed in blood.

"I know. But now I'm worried it's going to be even more suspicious if I don't show up on
Monday."

"Right. Did you ask Alice about it?"

"No. I'm too indecisive right now for her to see anything reliable."

"Oh."

"Jazz…I don't know what to do."

"I can't tell you what to do."

"I feel like…I feel like I know what the right thing to do is, but I don't know if I have the will
power."

"Do you think she's your mate?"

"I don't know."

"Do you think Alice's visions have influenced your perception of her?"

"I think if anything's influenced my perception of her, it's the fact that I can't read her mind."

"Right. I can see that. She's kind of like a reprieve?"

"Yeah. And I can build her up in my head to be anything I want. And her thoughts won't spoil
that."

"Ohhhh. Yeah. I hadn't thought of that. I guess I should have. I know what a cynical bastard
you are."

"Yeah, but there's also the fact that sometimes getting in people's heads really redeems them
for me."

"No shit?"

"Yeah. Like, you all hate Jessica Stanley. And I'm not one to go around defending humans or
whatever, but she has a mother you wouldn't believe. Jessica's constantly being pressured to
be thin and beautiful and to value all those superficial things in life that you all mock her for.
And every time she starts to wonder if maybe she needs to shift her priorities, there's

41
something to smack her back down into superficial submission. Like the way Mike Newton
made fun of her when she admitted that she writes poetry for fun. Or the way her mom bought
her a dress two sizes too small for her birthday. The poor girl is so consumed by insecurities,
it's a fucking miracle she even functions on a day to day basis. She's actually really fucking
brave."

Jasper stared at me.

"Wow." How is it even possible that that just happened? I've lived with this guy for decades
and never once has he mentioned this whole redemption side of mindreading. Seems like a
pretty significant thing for him to neglect bringing up all these years.

"I know what you're thinking, Jazz."

"Uh, I kind of know you know what I'm thinking, Dude."

"You know what I mean."

"Hahaha. Yeah."

"I've just been thinking about it a lot. I mean, the other day when I was here alone with Esme—
she's got a mind that…we don't appreciate her enough, alright?"

"I believe it. And thanks."

"For what?"

"For…I don't know. It's kind of comforting to know that there's a bright side to the whole
telepathy thing. It's pretty unnerving living with you sometimes. It gives me hope that maybe
you've found something redeeming in my character despite all the time I spend thinking about
sex and video games."

"Of course I have, man. I guess I'm just…too busy trying to convince you guys that all those
thoughts that you all have you're all self conscious about are perfectly normal that I forget to let
you all know that you're all actually pretty…cool."

Jasper laughed. Don't go overboard, Edward. I might get choked up.

"So let's talk about Bella Swan," he said, changing the subject.

"What about her?"

"What does this redemptive shit have to do with her?"

"That just it—nothing. I think I'm thinking more about the redemptive potential of my
mindreading ability to convince myself that it balances out the projection shit. Like, as much as

42
I might be projecting, maybe I'm also not hearing all the things that would make me sympathize
with her. So maybe it's a wash."

"What are you projecting on her? Let's try to separate out the facts from the fiction."

It was one of those moments when I really appreciated Jasper. He didn't have an agenda. He
was really just trying to help. Which is exactly what I needed.

"I think I project intelligence."

"Are there indications she's not intelligent?"

"No. But I'm not sure there are indications that she is."

"None?"

"Well, she actually reads. And not just for school."

"That's good. Although that's true of a lot of people. Do you know what kind of books?"

"The only one I've heard her mention sounded like historical fiction."

"That's better than chick lit."

"Yeah."

"What else?"

"Mr. Banner seems to think of her as one of the more intelligent students."

"OK, but proficiency in 11th grade biology is hardly an indication of a deep and introspective
human being."

I knew Jasper was just trying to help. And he was helping. But a part of me bristled.

"True."

"What else?"

"I think I project kindness."

"Oh, I'll ding you on that one. I'm pretty sure she's actually pretty kind. I mean, she brought you
soup, right?"

"Yeah, but that may have just been to get her notes back from me."

43
"The notes she loaned you out of the kindness of her heart?"

"Yeah."

And with that, my bristling turned to delight. It was crazy. But it felt like every time Jasper-the-
objective-third-party defended Bella, it was a way for me to rationalize looking into this whole
potential-mate thing. Or at least to return to school on Monday.

"And Alice says she and her father have a really good relationship?"

"I guess. I don't really know."

"OK. What else?"

"She's…interesting."

"How so?"

"She just…says things. Like, she referred to us as the Cullen Cult. Right in front of me. And
she was worried I was dying of internal bleeding. And she always blushes and apologizes for
shit."

"You sound smitten."

"Really?"

"Yeah."

"Which means I'm projecting, right?"

"I don't know," he answered, shrugging.

"You're not helping much."

"Look, Edward—maybe you're projecting. Maybe you're not. If you are, it only means that
you're doing what 99% of people do in the early stages of a relationship with someone. The
only difference here is that you usually don't have that luxury. I think maybe you should
embrace this opportunity to feel normal for once. And maybe you should do what the rest of us
have to do in these situations—maybe get to know her better and find out if you're projecting."

"But what will stop me from projecting?"

"The same thing that always puts an end to it—she'll say or do something stupid or obnoxious
or selfish or whatever."

"Then why bother?"

44
"Because maybe she won't. Or maybe she'll be imperfect in a way that you can handle.
Because I doubt she's perfect."

"But even if she is, what does that mean! I can't go down this road, Jasper!"

"Why not?"

"Do you want a list?"

"Yeah."

"I might kill her."

"I doubt it."

"She's human."

"For now."

"We can't turn her!"

"Maybe not."

"Jasper!"

"What?"

"None of these are answers!"

"I Know. But I think you're going to get a lot fewer answers by sitting at home all day
wondering. I think you're just gonna end up with a bunch of 'what ifs' if you do that."

"But what if I kill her?"

"I truly don't think you will, Edward. If your affection doesn't stop you, I'm pretty sure your
curiosity will."

"You're willing to gamble on a girl's life?"

"I think that might be oversimplifying it, Edward."

"It's not!"

"Listen: you all helped me through my dietary transition. We can all help you. We won't let you
hurt her. Just like you didn't let me hurt anyone. If you guys got me through that, we can get
you through this. If it becomes too much, you can always drop out again."

45
I sighed and ran my hands through my hair as I thought it over.

"Jasper, I needed you to be the one to talk me out of it. Everyone else is talking me into it. And
I feel like my curiosity and my desire and everything else are helping me rationalize this, but…I
still feel like it's rationalizing. You were supposed to be the objective third party who kept me in
line."

"I am an objective third party. I don't have a dog in this fight, Edward. As much as I want to see
you happy, I don't pretend to know which path is going to accomplish that. I just think you're
entitled to try to find out without raking yourself over the coals."

I could feel the last of my will power diminishing.

And my cold, dead heart swelling.

"Thank you, Jasper."

Chapter 07: Ok, So Maybe Not My Finest Hour


When I went back to stalking on Saturday, I told myself that it was in order to reacclimatise
myself to Bella's scent before returning to school on Monday. When her car skidded on some
ice, I told myself it was for her own safety. When she talked on the phone with Jessica Stanley
about my family, I told myself it was legitimate reconnaissance. It was actually pretty amazing
how many ways I could tell myself that I wasn't just being a crazy fucking stalker.

The morning was sunny, which somewhat hindered the stalking. I had to be careful to stay in
the shade.

Oh yeah.

I guess I forgot to explain that bit.

You know how we don't have fangs?

Well, turns out the vampires-can't-go-in-the-sunlight thing is actually true. And way lamer than
not having fangs.

Actually, I don't even want to talk about it.

Let's just say I had to stay out of the sun and leave it at that, OK?

So there I was, crouching in the shadows like a true fucking stalker, frustrated as hell by the
fact that Charlie was off fishing and Bella wasn't talking to herself. Eventually, she made a run
to the store, but it was just for milk and completely uneventful. Well, except for the moment
when her truck skidded on the ice. That was when I almost totally blew my cover. Fortunately, I
stopped myself from running out into the middle of the sun-filled street to grab her bumper.

46
She only skidded about a foot past the stop sign. I tried to remind myself that shit like that
happened to humans all the time. I tried to remind myself that not everything that happened to
Bella would be a Tyler-Crowley's-van level emergency.

When she (we) got back to her house, I could hear her banging around in the kitchen some for
a while but, other than that, the girl's pretty fucking quiet.

When the phone rang, it was like Christmas. Even more so when I heard the backdoor slam.
Because it meant Bella was in the backyard, where I could see her. It took some creative
problem solving to find a way to loop around to the back of her house without sparkl-…without
stepping into the sun. And when I managed it, I felt like even more of a stalker. But whatever.

Even though it was freezing out, she had put on a coat and was sitting on Charlie's back patio
as she talked on the phone with Jessica Stanley.

"What's up, Jess?"

"What'd you do last night?"

"Nothing much. I studied for the biology quiz on Monday. Watched To Kill a Mockingbird."

"Oh my gosh! I never even thought to watch the movie instead of reading the book for class! I
didn't know there was a movie."

"Oh. Um. I did both. But yeah. It has Gregory Peck in it."

"Who?"

"Uh. Just this actor. He's dead now."

"Oh. Was it good?"

"Yeah."

"Did you ever get your notes back from Edward Cullen?"

Holy shit.

"Um. Yeah, actually."

"So the soup thing worked?"

Fuck. She really was just using the soup to try to get her notes back.

"Uh, no. I mean, maybe. I went to his house and no one was home. Or, no one answered, at
least. So I left it on the porch."

47
"Then how did you get your notes?"

"He came here and dropped them off."

"What?"

"I think maybe the soup reminded him that he had them or something. I think he felt bad for
hanging onto them for so long."

"Edward Cullen came to your house?"

"Yeah."

"Oh my god. What did he say? What did you say?"

"Uh, I don't know. What you would expect, I guess. He just thanked me for the notes and the
soup."

"That was it?"

"I mean, I tried to make conversation with him. I asked him what he was doing with his
weekend, but he wasn't very forthcoming."

"Figures! That entire family is so cryptic and weird!"

"I guess."

"And then he left?"

"Yeah."

"Wow. I've never heard of any of the Cullens ever going to someone's house before."

"Really?"

"Yeah. Actually, I've never heard of anyone going to their house before, either. What was it
like?"

"Huge. Beautiful. Really hard to find."

"Really?"

"Yeah. I felt like a total trespasser. I don't think I'll be doing that again."

"Whatever. You were perfectly justified. And then he went to your house. So you're even. You
can just play it cool now."

48
"Huh?"

"You can play hard to get."

What?

"What?"

"You are trying to flirt with him, aren't you?"

At that moment, I was on stalker vampire douchebag pins and needles.

"Uh. I don't think so."

"Why not? Bella—Edward is dreamy. Even if his family is weird. And he's interacted with you
more in two weeks or whatever than he has with anyone else in Forks in over a year."

"Really?"

"Probably. Aren't you interested?"

I was cringing so hard I was scared Bella would hear me. Even though cringing is a mostly
silent activity. Especially for vampires, who are pretty silent anyway. Except for Alice.

Anyway.

"Uh. I don't know, Jess."

What? I'm fucking dreamy. Didn't you hear the girl?

"What? You'd be crazy not to make a run at him, Bella."

Damn right! I knew I liked Jessica Stanley for a reason.

"A minute ago you were telling me to play hard to get."

"Yeah, in order to get your claws into him. Obviously."

"Is this why you called, Jess?"

"Oh. No. I was calling to see if you wanted to go to a movie tonight."

Fuck! Go back! Rewind!

"Oh. What movie?"

49
"Um, I think the guys want to go see something called Face Punch."

"Sounds riveting."

"Come on, Bella! You need to get out of the house!"

"Yeah, yeah. You're right. OK."

"We'll pick you up at seven."

"OK. See you then."

She hung up then, and when I saw her pick up the book sitting next to her, I realized why she
had been so quiet inside. She had been reading. I turned my head, trying to read the title of the
book. It was Assassination Vacation-something I hadn't read. And I read a lot.

When Bella went back inside, I decided to head home for a while. I felt like maybe I needed to
have another talk with Jasper. Or maybe Carlisle.

Too bad Rosalie had decided she was going to have a talk with me.

Again, she was waiting for me, on our front steps. However, Alice wasn't with her this time.
And I caught the tenor of her thoughts long before she was even in view. As soon as she saw
me, though, she laid into me.

"Edward, you can't start stalking this girl."

"I'm not stalking her!"

"What do you call it, then? Standing outside her house watching her? Listening to her? Alice
told me what it is you do. And it's stalking." She stood then, as if to emphasize her point. Or
face me down. Or both.

One of the methods of coping Rose developed for living with a mind-reader was just saying
pretty much anything she thought. The only problem with it was that I couldn't choose what to
ignore, like I often did with people's thoughts.

"Rose, this situation is a little bit different than others."

"I understand that, Edward. But Bella Swan deserves her privacy as much as anyone else.
And what you're doing is creepy. You just don't see it because you're so used to not allowing
anyone around you any privacy."

"That's not true!" I interrupted. "I try not to listen when people's thoughts take a personal bent.
In fact, I try not to listen most of the time, period."

50
"Yeah, but you know what I mean, Edward. You're used to having your every curiosity about a
person satisfied almost instantaneously. And now that you can't do that, you're resorting to
lengths that are wildly inappropriate."

"What the hell am I supposed to do, Rose? Standing outside her house and trying to figure shit
out is better than sitting next to her in class fantasizing about killing her."

"And what is it you're fantasizing about outside her house?" she snapped. For a brief second,
her thoughts did not meet her lips. Probably because they were so searing in their
condemnation. And seeing what she was thinking in that moment-it stung.

"Rose! It's not like that! I'm just trying to disabuse myself of all of the preconceived notions I
have about her."

She stared at me, then. It was because she was thinking all of the things she couldn't articulate
in words. She was thinking about the close relationship between stalking and violence against
women. She was thinking about women whose stalkers turned into their murderers. And she
was also thinking about the fact that there was no way to bring up those things without really
offending me.

And although I certainly didn't think of myself as the type of guy to hit a woman, I had to
acknowledge that my bloodlust did create the potential threat of violence to Bella. And if I
ignored that, was I so different from those men?

And was the fact that I was stalking Bella (as much as I tried to deny it) making me even more
like those men? Why was I stalking her? Was it with a legitimate purpose? Wouldn't I flip my
shit if I knew that someone else was watching every little move I made? If someone was
listening in on my conversations?

Jesus.

Then, I heard Rose thinking about Royce King.

Royce King was Rose's fiancé when she was still human. However, he turned out to be an
even bigger asshole than Esme's husband. Not too long before what was supposed to be
Rosalie's wedding day, Royce and his buddies got drunk and…Royce…decided to…share.
They roughed Rose up so bad that she was left for dead.

That was when the scent of her blood attracted a vampire named Laurent. On a normal day,
Laurent would have happily drained Rose of what blood was left in her and been on his merry
way. However, Rose has always been remarkably beautiful, even as a human. So when
Laurent found her, he thought of the potential beauty that existed in the possibility of turning
her. As he was without a mate, he decided he would use Rose to test whether he had the will
power to turn someone.

51
Thus, Rose's transformation story is perhaps the only one as horrific as Esme's, if not more
horrific. After being raped and beaten by her fellow humans, she was then put through the
three days of hellacious pain that occurs during "the change." Then, when she awoke to her
new "life," she found that yet another male intended to make her his own, without her consent.
Indeed, he had already taken her humanity from her without her consent.

Yet, like Esme, she was dependent upon the one who had created her. She had no one but
Laurent to answer her questions about her new existence, her new diet, and her new abilities.
However, Rose made quick work of asking all of her questions. She did not linger with her
creator for a year, like Esme.

It is very difficult to kill a vampire. You gotta know what you're doing. I think those are the only
things that prevented Rose from killing Laurent only two days after her change was complete.
After unsuccessfully attempting to kill him, she fled to the uninhabited areas surrounding
Rochester.

One of the things I've always admired about Rose: she never fed on humans. She didn't want
to become like the monsters who had put her through everything that she had been through.
Even though she was a newborn with an intense and insatiable bloodlust and even though
Laurent never told her there was any other way of surviving, she began living off of the blood
of animals from the very beginning. She did so because she didn't want to eliminate anyone's
choice the way hers had been eliminated.

I couldn't help but feel offended when Rose's thoughts began comparing me to Royce King.

"Rose-"

"I know you're not him."

"But?"

"But you have to stop! You have to let Bella Swan be Bella Swan! You can't force her into
anything! You can't turn her into one of us! I'm not even sure how I feel about you pursuing her
romantically. I'm not sure she has any choice but to fall in love with you. I'm not sure any
human has a choice when it's a vampire. We're built to make them fall for us, Edward."

"I know, Rose."

"You have to stop stalking her!"

"OK, Rose. You're right. I know."

"What are you going to do!" she cried. She was getting kind of hysterical. She was going back
to that place that she goes to sometimes…it's this place that she goes to that's a mixture of the
fear and the anger that she felt all those years ago in Rochester. It was a place she hadn't

52
been to in a long time. I felt terrible that I was the reason she was revisiting it this time. So I
tried to pull her back.

"I don't know, Rose. What do you think I should do?" I asked, sitting down on the steps and
looking up at her, hoping it would induce her to sit as well. She looked down at me, and she
still looked out of sorts. When her brow drew together and she bit her lip, I was pretty sure that
if vampires could cry, she would have been at that moment. She took a deep breath and sat
down next to me. I draped my arm over her shoulder, and that was when her thoughts began
to settle some. For a moment there, they had been quick flashes of images from the night
preceding her change and the days that followed. But when she sat down, she started to find
some clarity, and she thought about my question for a moment.

She knew I was reading her. And she didn't speak. She let her head fall to her hands and she
worried about many of the things I had been worrying about. She worried about Bella's safety
and my will power. She worried about the fact that Bella Swan had suddenly been thrown into
a situation that she had never asked for. However, she also worried about discouraging my
romantic overtures toward Bella. She didn't want to ruin what she, like everyone else, seemed
to believe was perhaps my only shot at finding a mate. It was then that she began to actually
address me in her thoughts.

I'm not telling you to go back to Alaska or to drop out again, Edward. I'm not telling you that
you have to stay away from her entirely. I just think that we all need to proceed with caution. I
think that if you get to know her, you need to take it really slow. But the sooner you can be
honest with her, the better. Because she's not able to make informed decisions for herself if
she's not informed.

"You're absolutely right, Rose."

She looked up at me then.

"Thanks, Edward."

"Thank you, Rose. You know I love you, right?"

"Yeah. And you know…"

"Yeah. I know. It's OK. I was stalking her. And it was fucked up. And you had every right to
make all those connections. And I'm more appalled with myself than you are."

"Don't do that, Edward. Don't be harder on yourself than you need to be. You have a real
knack for that, you know."

"I know, Rose. That's why I'm so lucky to have you guys to keep me in line."

"I do love you, Edward. And I really want this to work out for you somehow."

53
"I know."

"I know you know. But sometimes I feel like I should say it out loud all the same."

"Thanks, Rose."

Chapter 08: My Own Worst Enemy


I spent Sunday hunting. Rose and Jasper and I went out to the mountains together. We figured
it would be best if I were as sated as possible for school on Monday, if I was returning.

Against all odds, it seemed Rose and Jasper had become my support system for Project Don't
Kill Bella. Of the family, I was probably closest to Carlisle and Alice. However, I was suddenly
more comfortable around Jasper and Rose. Maybe because they had doubts similar to my
own. And they were willing to help me address those doubts, rather than just ignoring them, or
trying to plow through the dilemma while pretending they didn't exist.

I think Alice and Esme's perceptions were too colored by their desire for me to have a mate. It
was the type of thing they lived for. (Well, as much as vampires "live" for anything.) And, yeah,
Alice had her visions. But we still needed to be vigilant. It would perhaps be the moment we
slipped in our vigilance that the visions would change.

Carlisle had far too much faith in me. And Emmett just wasn't all that concerned either way.
Although he was supportive, he was less concerned about Bella's life.

Unlike Emmett, Rose and Jasper took Bella's safety very seriously.

Which was comforting. It made me feel like there really were people to keep me from doing
anything I would regret. And not just for my own sake.

So after draining not one, not two, but three elk, Jasper and Rose were finally ready to let me
to call it a day.

We walked back to the house in silence. Even though I could hear Rose and Jasper's
thoughts, I didn't pay much attention to them. They were much like my own, and I was so
wrapped up in my own thoughts that it was easy to ignore theirs. It was strange how the tenor
of our thoughts all matched up that evening as we walked. Because we all felt like we were
walking into a battle. And we all felt like it was going to be a lengthy fight, fraught with potential
hazards.

The only question was: who was the enemy?

And there was only one answer.

Me.

54
I don't know why I was so anxious Monday morning. It wasn't like I hadn't talked to Bella on
Friday. So it hadn't been that long. Maybe it was just the idea of interacting with her, knowing
that every interaction was being closely scrutinized by my siblings. I was relieved none of them
were in the biology class Bella and I had together. But I had four classes and lunch to get
through before then.

As soon as I opened the door to the Volvo, her smell hit me in the face. Her truck was already
in the parking lot, but I didn't see her, and the scent wasn't very strong, so she must have
already gone inside the building.

The others all glanced at me, and I felt a little resentful that they didn't trust me. But I also felt a
little grateful that they didn't trust me. I suppose I knew they were worried for the right reasons.
It just made me self conscious to have everyone watching my every move.

Everyone but Alice, who went skipping into the school building as if it were like any other day.
And for that, I both resented and loved her, too.

My first four classes ticked by slowly. And yet they flew by. Probably because I was both
dreading and eager for lunch, when I would catch my first glimpse of Bella. It was probably
best, as my entire family would be there to keep me in check. I wasn't worried about eating her
so much as I was concerned about hitting on her, honestly. I already knew that I could resist
the scent of her blood, even on a pseudo-empty stomach, as I did the day I returned her notes
to her. However, I didn't seem able to resist talking to her. Or listening to her. Or looking at her.

I was so god damn whipped.

By a fucking human.

Whom I barely knew.

I very purposefully took a seat at our lunch table that faced the windows, so that my back
would be to the room and I wouldn't stare at her. As it was, I got caught turning to look at her
twice. No one said anything to me, but my siblings were all filled with smirky thoughts. So I
spent the rest of lunch staring out the window…

…Looking at her through them. Because you can bet that at any given moment, one of them
was glancing at her. Or, if not them, I would just use Jessica Stanley or Angela Weber, who sat
with her. I tried to avoid the perverted gazes of the other guys at her table.

Jesus Christ. Project Don't Kill Bella Swan might have to take a back seat to Project Don't Kill
Mike Newton.

There were a couple of times that I was pretty sure Bella was looking at me. Or my back, as it
were. Which made me pretty smug. It must have showed.

55
"You're totally listening in on her conversation, aren't you?" Rose asked.

"Maybe. So what? You've never cared before when I listen in to the idle gossip at Forks High
School," I shot back. I mean, she had been right about the stalking. But I could at least
eavesdrop in the cafeteria, right? Fuck, that was all we did in the cafeteria. I mean, it's not like
we ate.

"Shhh!" Alice hushed. "I'm trying to listen, too!"

Rose rolled her eyes at us, then. But, whatever; because even she was listening. Because let's
face it: Bella Swan was the most interesting thing to happen to our family in a while. And by 'a
while,' I mean fucking decades.

So I returned my attention to Bella's table—though my eyes were still glued to the trees outside
the window.

"So have you talked to him today?" Jessica asked her.

"Who?" Bella responded.

"What do you mean 'who'? Edward. Obviously."

Yeah, Bella. Obviously.

"Oh. No."

"How come?"

"We don't have class together. Not until biology, at least."

"When is that?"

I swear I heard her gulp then.

"Next period."

"That's awesome! You'll have to tell me everything in trig."

"Uh. OK."

So it turned out listening to Bella's words was almost as frustrating as trying to listen to Bella's
thoughts. Of course she had to be the least forthcoming person on the face of the planet. I was
so frustrated that I couldn't even roll my eyes at Jessica's frustration with Bella's lack of
information. Because I was feeling that same frustration, tenfold.

56
And so was Alice. Who was fuming at her inability to discern Bella's feelings about me. Which
made me realize that, really, Alice kind of had some things in common with Jessica Stanley,
who went on to discuss the pros and cons of waxing one's eyebrows versus tweezing.

When the bell rang signaling the end of the lunch period, I felt anxious, but only for a second.
Then, I felt waves of calm washing over me, thanks to Jasper. I looked at him and he
shrugged. We all tended to give Jasper a hard time for manipulating our emotions a lot but, at
that moment, I was pretty fucking grateful. And I knew he could tell.

I got to our biology classroom before she did and I sat down at our lab table as Mr. Banner
started handing out quizzes. She arrived just in time and sat down without so much as a
glance in my direction.

"Good luck," I whispered.

She looked up at me, clearly a little surprised that I had spoken to her. But then she smiled.

"You too," she whispered back.

Maybe I couldn't read her mind, but I was pretty sure we were both highly aware of one
another as we took that quiz. I could hear pens scratching on paper and the ticking of the clock
and the squeaking of chairs as people shifted in their seats. I could hear the thoughts of
twenty-one students trying to remember the definition of oncogenes. I could hear Mr. Banner
thinking about what was going to be on TV that evening. But, more than anything, I could hear
the silence next to me.

I tried to take the quiz slowly. I figured I needed to look as if I was struggling with it at least a
little, seeing as I had missed half the unit. I even answered one of the questions incorrectly. I
tapped my pen on the desk a couple of times in quiet contemplation. Even though all I was
really thinking about was that deafening silence.

But it wasn't so deafening anymore. It suddenly pulsed with the clarity of peeling church bells. I
kept my eyes focused on the piece of paper in front of me, but I knew that she was leaned over
her own quiz, pretending to be concentrating. I knew she was only pretending. She had
already finished the quiz. And she could have been reading over her answers. But I knew she
wasn't. I knew she was pretending not to be paying attention to me. Just like I was pretending
not to be paying attention to her. And I knew we both felt it, even though there were no
sideways glances or subtle sighs or accidental knee bumps. Because the silence was
suddenly filled with this pulsing.

It wasn't our hearts beating.

I don't even have a fucking heartbeat.

But it was a rhythm, all the same. And it seemed to be breathing life into the air between us
and around us. And it was warm, like the hot flush of her cheeks. And the longer there was

57
silence, the louder it became. The longer we didn't look at each other, the more clearly I could
see her in my mind's eye as she spun the cap on her pen around and around, pausing only
once to untuck her hair from behind her ear so that it fell between us, hiding her face.

The pulsing finally became so loud and so warm and so enveloping that my hand actually shot
to my chest, to check and make sure my heart wasn't beating. Because it wasn't just the air
around us anymore. It was like the rhythm of it was actually vibrating me.

But the moment my hand shot to my chest, there was a sideways glance. Bella looked at my
hand from the corner of her eye. Probably because it's fucking weird for a seventeen year old
to clutch at his heart in the middle of a biology quiz. Never mind that it was a vampire clutching
at his dead vampire heart.

But when she looked at me, the spell was broken. The pulsing air was still there, but it quieted.

I thanked god that there weren't any other mind-readers in the building at that moment.
Because I didn't even want to admit to myself that a small part of me had hoped that the
pulsing really had been my heartbeat, suddenly revived.

But my skin was still cold.

My heart was still dead.

I was still a fucking vampire.

And that was when I suddenly realized that I was so fucking ridiculous and over the moon
about Bella Swan that I hadn't even noticed my bloodlust.

Of course, as soon as I realized that, I tasted the venom as it filled my mouth.

Fuck.

But then, I again felt the waves of calm washing over me. And I knew it was because Jasper
was in the next room. He must have been paying attention to the emotions I was emitting the
entire time. Which was kind of fucking embarrassing to think about. But no more embarrassing
than my knowledge about his Barbara Walters fantasies. So whatever.

More than embarrassment, I felt gratitude that he was there. And even though I knew Jasper
wouldn't always be around every time I was with Bella, it felt a little bit like a triumph that the
bloodlust hadn't even been on my radar until I had thought about it.

It gave me some hope.

After Mr. Banner collected the quizzes, Bella turned to me.

"How'd you do?" she asked.

58
"It wasn't as bad as I thought. I think I'll pass, at least. You?"

"Same."

"Aw, I'm sure you did better than me. You studied all weekend."

"Huh?"

Oh shit. I'm not supposed to know that, am I?

"I mean, you just…had all weekend to study, right? It took me a while to catch up on the
reading before I could start reviewing."

"Oh. Yeah. I feel bad because I'm just now realizing that I didn't offer you the rest of the notes."

"Oh, don't worry about it. Like I said, it wasn't that bad. I caught up."

Our conversation was interrupted, then, as Mr. Banner resumed with class. Thank god,

But I don't think Bella or I were paying a lick of attention.

And when the crackling silence resumed, I hardly noticed the bloodlust dissipate.

When class ended, Bella started collecting her things when I had a sudden thought.

"Oh shit," I blurted.

"What's wrong?" she asked, turning to me.

"I just realized I totally forgot your thing again. The thing you brought the soup in."

"Oh. That's hardly a crisis. Don't worry about it."

"I'll bring it tomorrow, I swear. In fact, I'll write myself a reminder right now," I said, scribbling it
down in my notebook.

Then, I don't know what the fuck got into me. Maybe it was the fact that I had gone over the
conversation Bella and I had had on her porch in my head over and over all weekend, and I
had agonized about the in she had given me for giving her my phone number. That I had
completely fumbled. Like an idiot. So before I knew it, I was scribbling down my cell number
and ripping it out of my notebook and handing it to her.

"Here," I said. "For next time. So you don't have to come all the way to my house just to get
your notes back."

59
"Oh shit," she breathed, her eyes wide. "Am I that transparent? I mean, I really was worried
when your prolonged absence took place right after a near death experience. I just never
would have dreamed of coming to your-"

"It's cool, Bella." I said, grinning. Because, for once, I felt like I had the upper hand in the
conversation. Never mind that it was thanks to my Saturday morning stalking session. "You're
not that transparent. I just had a suspicion. That you just confirmed. But you were totally within
your rights."

"I feel like such an asshole, now."

"No, no, no. It's fine. I totally appreciated the soup. Despite the fact that it may have served
dual purposes. It was still really sweet."

"Um, does this mean you do want to borrow the other notes?" she asked, folding the piece of
paper with my number and shoving it into her pocket.

"No. I just…wanted to give you my number," I admitted, still grinning a little.

"Oh." And of course she was blushing again. "Thanks."

I pulled my backpack onto my shoulder, then, before winking and heading for the door.

Yeah, I fucking winked.

Cause that was the day I decided I wasn't gonna be awkward anymore. I was a fucking
vampire for fuck's sake-it was practically in my DNA to be suave.

If vampires have DNA.

Or whatever.

So that was the day I decided to be smooth.

Chapter 09: Did I Say Smooth? I Meant Pansy.


OK, so apparently I'm not actually that smooth.

Because the whole rest of the week passed uneventfully. She didn't call me. She didn't give
me her number. Sure, we shared niceties in class and I returned her soup container to her on
Tuesday. And I still caught her glancing at me in the cafeteria thanks to the eyes in the back of
my head. But there were no real conversations of substance.

"Edward, you need to call her," Alice pressed on Friday afternoon in the car on the way home
from school.

60
"I don't have her number."

"You need to man up and ask for it."

"But she has my number. If she wanted to talk to me, she'd call me. If she wanted me to have
her number, she'd give it to me."

"Not if she's shy, Edward. Or maybe she just can't work up the nerve."

"I didn't exactly equivocate when I gave it to her. I made it pretty clear that I was interested."

"I know. But you still put her in the position to have to make the next move. And maybe she
doesn't want to."

"How come I have to make all the moves!" I protested.

"Because you're the vampire, Edward."

"What the fuck does that have to do with anything?"

"You have superhuman good looks! That might be just a bit intimidating."

I sighed. Because I was realizing that not only was I not smooth- I was also a giant fucking
pansy.

"Fine. Whatever."

But then, Alice dropped it. Not because she had suddenly reformed her overbearing ways. But
because we both saw a new vision, and it was of my phone buzzing…while we were in the car.
Thus, we proceeded to sit in silence waiting for it to buzz.

And waited.

Then she had another vision of it going off. But then, it was while we were at our house.

"Edward!"

"What?"

"She's trying to work up the nerve to call you! That's why the vision is changing! She talks
herself into it and then chickens out! You have to call her!"

"No way! If she's going to call me, I'm gonna let her. Then I'll have a reason to have her
number."

"You're such a chicken."

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"Shut up!"

But none of it mattered. All that mattered was that Bella was trying to work up the nerve to call
me. I couldn't help but grin a little as we pulled into the driveway and hopped out of the cars.
The others were all in Rose's car, but as soon as they saw me, Rose demanded to know what
was going on.

"Why is he grinning like that, Alice?"

"Bella's gonna call him today."

"When?" she asked, looping her arm through Alice's as we all walked into the house together.

"It keeps changing," Alice answered. "I think she's trying to work up the nerve."

"That's so cute," Rose purred.

"I know," Alice squealed.

If only vampires could puke.

Jesus.

Emmett and Jasper flopped down in front of the television to play video games, pretending not
to be interested in Rose and Alice's conversation. But they were both listening. Just like I was
continuing to scan Alice's visions. We all sat in the living room then, waiting.

It was really kind of pathetic. I mean, I felt like a loser waiting in such eager anticipation for that
phone call. But the fact that they were all waiting for it, too? Pretty good indication that the
Cullens needed to get lives.

No pun intended.

The worst part was that, unless I fled like two miles from the house, they were going to hear
every bit of any phone call. And they were all planning on eavesdropping. But I couldn't leave,
because then I wouldn't be able to keep an eye on Alice's visions. So I got to sit there and
reflect on what it was going to be like having my family members know every detail of my love
life.

Basically, I got to reflect on what it was like living with me.

The vision must have changed fifteen times. When it started to get dark outside, Alice lost her
shit.

"Edward! Call her!"

62
"Shut up! She'll call! Just be patient! We should wait until she's ready!"

"Ha! You're so full of it, Edward. Pretending like you're waiting for her sake. You're such a
pansy," Emmett shot back.

"Whatever. She's the human, here. I should let her lead."

But even Rose wasn't buying that. She rolled her eyes.

Then, without warning, my phone buzzed in my pocket. It was a text.

"Holy shit. She must have decided and acted fast if I didn't even have time to have a vision!"
Alice cried. "What'd she say!"

I snatched the phone out of my jeans at vampire speed and flipped it open.

Do you want to get together to study for Tuesday's test at some point this weekend?

I grinned, even though I was hoping for something a little less businesslike.

"What'd she say?" Rose asked, snatching the phone out of my hands. The others huddled
around her to read it, like it was the holy fucking grail or something. Alice wrinkled her nose.

"See! This is what happens when you chicken out. You get asked on a study date instead of a
date-date."

"Lay off, Alice," Jasper said. Which was kind of uncharacteristic of him.

"Why! They're never going to get together at this rate!" she cried.

"Alice, if ever there was a couple that needs to take it slow, I'm pretty sure it's this one," he
persisted.

That was when I grabbed my phone from Rose and ran up to my room. Maybe they could
eavesdrop on conversations, but they couldn't eavesdrop on texts. I ignored all of the hollering
that followed me up the stairs. Then, I ignored all the brain browbeating that they tried to do
even after I had shut my door.

I stared at the text and thought about it. Pretending to not know things about 11th grade
biology didn't exactly sound like an ideal way to spend an afternoon. But it did sound like a
good way to spend some time with Bella and maybe get to know her better without too much
pressure or commitment. So I texted her back.

Sounds good. Hopefully I'm not dead weight. When are you free?

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After I hit send, I could hear Alice squealing, and I realized it was because she was having a
vision of me and Bella studying together the next day. Which kind of took all the anticipation
out of waiting for the next text, though I was curious as to what she was going to say, anyway.

Tomorrow? 1:00? Wanna come over here? Or I could stalk you at your house again.

I contemplated what it would be like having her come over to our place for a study session. For
about a millisecond.

Your place is good. Fewer cult members to worry about. See you then.

Then, I slipped my phone in my pocket just before opening my window and hopping out.

To hunt.

I was in Bella's driveway at 12:55. I wasn't sure whether it was nerdy to be early or polite. Of
course, as I sat there and thought about it, I remembered Charlie catching me standing on the
porch like an idiot the last time I was there, so I got out of the car and walked to the porch.
When I got to the door, I knocked immediately, having learned my lesson.

Besides, I could tell from the sound of Bella's accelerated heartbeat inside that she was just on
the other side of it, and just as nervous as me.

When the door flung open, I inhaled in surprise. Which was kind of a mistake, because then
Bella's scent not only smacked me in the face, but the breath went straight down my throat and
burned the shit out of it. I swallowed the venom and grimaced involuntarily.

"Are you OK?"

"Yeah. Sorry. I just…stubbed my toe on the steps a second ago."

"Oh. … That sucks."

Holy shit I hope we get better at this conversation thing.

"I'm fine. It's fine. Anyway, how are you?"

"Good. Come on in," she said, holding the door open and stepping aside.

"Thanks," I said, walking in and taking in the surroundings. Even though I had seen the house
through Charlie's head and I had spent a few second in the foyer before, it was different
actually being there. For one, I could smell it. It didn't just smell like Bella. It also
smelled…lived in. It smelled like books and newspaper and wood and like Charlie and Bella
had had pizza for dinner the night before, and like Charlie probably had some fresh fish in the

64
refrigerator. And focusing on the other smells helped me ignore Bella's scent, so I focused on
the smell of the pizza and the fish and the strawberry shampoo and the dishwashing liquid and
the laundry detergent. I could smell wax, like someone had recently burned a candle. I thought
I also smelled nail polish, but Bella's fingernails were clean. There was also the smell of
garbage coming from the kitchen, but not worse than any other human trashcan. Their stove
was obviously gas instead of electric and I could tell they didn't have any pets, as there were
no animal odours. There was also only enough cigarette smell to indicate second-hand smoke
on clothing, meaning neither Charlie nor Bella smoked, but one of them had been around a
smoker or in a smoke-filled room at some point since the last time they had done laundry. I
was surprised I didn't smell any cologne or perfume or makeup. I could usually especially smell
that flesh-tone crap that teenage girls slather all of their faces, but I didn't smell it on Bella. It's
actually amazing how much you can learn about a person just by smelling their house.

Well, when you have a superhuman sense of smell, that is.

"I figure we can set up shop in the dining room, since that's where there's the most room," she
said, nodding toward it. "Do you want anything to eat or drink? We have soda and water. Have
you had lunch?"

"Oh, yeah I ate right before I came. I'm good. But thanks."

"OK," she said. "Let me just run upstairs and grab my notes."

She turned and darted up the stairs, then. When she opened the door to her bedroom, all of its
smells became more discernable. It smelled like a combination of Bella and vanilla and that
strawberry shampoo and laundry detergent. It smelled like the candle was in there, too. I could
also smell books and wood, and I could tell the floor wasn't carpeted. I could also faintly smell
plastic, coins, and maybe some gum. What was strange, though, was that it smelled like she
had her window open. In February.

OK, so apparently I'm pretty good at stalking with just my nose.

I listened as I heard her shuffling around in her room. I thought I heard her pressing buttons on
her phone, as if she sent a text. Then, I heard what sounded like the window sliding in its pane.

"Fuck," I heard her mutter. I thought about asking her if everything was alright, but I wasn't
sure if she had muttered it loud enough for human ears. Then, I heard the window sliding in its
pane again, a short pause, and then a slam. I realized she had been struggling to shut the
window. Then, I heard her shuffle across the room and close the door behind her just before
tripping down the steps.

"Do you smoke?" I asked as she plopped her stuff down on the table. She tilted her head at
me, a little surprised, probably.

"No, why?"

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"I just…I thought I heard you shut a window."

"Oh. Yeah. I leave it open at night."

"In February?"

"Yeah. I like having my room really cold at night and bundling under the blankets. Don't tell
Charlie. He'll kill me over the heating bill. But I just can't sleep with how warm he keeps it."

"Oh. You call your dad Charlie?" I asked, pulling a chair out and sitting down.

"Not to his face," she said, spreading stuff across the table. I started getting my shit out of my
backpack. The night before, I had had to scribble down a bunch of notes on the unit we were
on. I never took notes in class. I never paid attention in class. So it was kind of a pain in the
ass. But I didn't want Bella to think I had just come over to mooch off of her notes.

Let's face it—I was there to pry. And pry I did.

"Is that, like…a passive aggressive thing?" I asked.

She shrugged.

"No. It's not his fault he wasn't around a lot when I was a kid. He was pretty devastated when
Renee took me away from Forks. If he had had his way, I'm pretty sure they'd still be married."

"Oh yeah?"

"Yeah. It's kind of sad, really."

"How old were you?"

"Two."

"Oh, wow. That's young."

"Yeah. I guess in a lot of ways, I'm kind of lucky, because I don't remember the fighting or the
break up."

"Yeah. I guess that's better than the alternative."

"What about you?" she asked.

"What do you mean?"

"What's your deal?"

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"My deal?"

"Yeah. You're adopted, right?"

"Oh. Yeah. Uh. My parents died when I was young. I don't really remember them. And Carlisle
and Esme adopted me. That's pretty much it."

"I've heard Carlisle and Esme are really young."

"Yeah. They adopted me a couple of years ago."

"So…where were you in the interim?"

"Foster homes," I lied. Most people didn't get so far into that particular line of questioning. Most
people were too scared or intimidated to have a conversation with me for so long, much less to
ask me such personal questions.

"Did it suck?"

"Yeah," I said, knowing enough about the foster care system to know that that was the correct
answer.

"I'm sorry."

"It's cool. I mean, I'm pretty lucky now."

"That's good."

"Yeah."

We stared at each other a minute. I could tell she was probably worrying about whether it was
a sensitive subject for me. After a second, her eyes darted to her book.

"So, uh…should we do this based on the book or based on class notes?" she asked.

"By the book," I answered. Maybe a little too quickly. She laughed.

"Yeah I don't know why I even asked. You don't ever even take any notes."

"That's not true!" I protested, opening my notebook to show her the proof.

"Where did those come from!"

"I may not take class notes. But I take reading notes."

"Oh, for real? That's going to be so handy!"

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"I'm glad you think so."

"So wait. Why did you borrow my class notes then?" she asked.

"Uh."

I saw a smile tugging at her lips. And I knew I was so busted. But at least I was busted in a
way that just looked like I had a crush rather than…you know…me being a hundred and
eleven year old vampire who was trying to fake being concerned about missing a day of 11th
grade biology.

Fortunately, she didn't press it. She just looked back down at her book and started asking me
questions about the Krebs Cycle.

Chapter 10: FML


Dude, when that girl asked me if I wanted to study, she fucking meant it. It was fucking awful.
We did nothing but review for two full hours. No small talk. No flirting. She didn't even take a
break to take a piss. I mean, studying sucked back when it actually meant something. Can you
imagine how much it sucks when it's really just fake studying? I had to pretend not to know
shit. I had to pretend to give a shit. The only good part was being able to answer Bella's
questions. Which was actually kind of awesome because she seemed genuinely appreciative.

Finally, I got up and asked for the bathroom, figuring it could help maintain the whole human
illusion and provide a break from the monotony.

"Oh, it's right across from the bottom of the stairs, next to the kitchen," she said, pointing.

"Thanks."

I stood up and fake stretched before heading to the bathroom to fake pee. As I stood in the
bathroom, I stared in the mirror and resisted the urge to rifle through the medicine cabinet. I
was pretty sure that was the type of thing Rose would castrate me for. So instead I stared at
my own vampire reflection, trying to remember what it was like being human…what I looked
like when I was human. I wondered if Bella would have invited human Edward over to study.

Before I could get too introspective, I flushed the toilet and returned to the hallway.

"Hey, do you mind if I get a glass of water?" I called, praying she wouldn't offer to get it for me.

"Yeah, of course," she answered. When I heard her chair scoot back against the hardwood
floor, I acted fast.

"Oh, don't get up! I can get it. So long as the glasses aren't hidden or anything."

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If she came into the kitchen, I would actually have to drink water. Meaning I would have to
throw it up later—something I had no desire to do. I was hoping to just fake it. Unfortunately,
my protest didn't have the desired effect as I heard her walking toward the kitchen.

"Oh, I think I'm gonna grab a soda anyway. You want one?" she asked, turning the corner into
the kitchen.

Fuck.

"Nah, I'll stick with water. Thanks."

Water's better on the way back up than soda.

I watched then as she pulled a glass down for me and filled it from some filtered water they
had.

"Thanks," I repeated, as she handed it to me.

"No problem," she replied, grabbing a soda out of the fridge. Then, she turned and looked at
me. "So…study break?"

"Yeah. I could use a break," I admitted. I was ecstatic that my bathroom trick had worked. Less
ecstatic about the prospect of drinking the water.

She sat down at the kitchen table then, so I followed suit.

"So, for someone who misses a whole hell of a lot of school, you seem to know your shit," she
said.

See, in addition to missing the week after the accident, there was also the week I spent in
Alaska following Bella's first day, when I was convinced there was no way for me to not kill her
unless I left the state. Add to that the days my family members and I miss when there's so
much sun that we can't avoid being seen in it and, yeah—I missed a fuck-ton of school. We
Cullens were god damned lucky the truancy officer in Forks was an old hippie pothead who
didn't give a shit.

"Uh. Yeah. I mean, I do the reading. And like I said, I do reading notes. I feel like class is kind
of useless. They never test on anything that isn't in the books, anyway," I said, hoping it was
true. I really had no idea.

"Can I ask you something?"

Shit.

"Sure."

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"What's up with your eyes?"

Oh shit.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean they're a weird effing color. Which would be fine. Except that your whole family has
them. Which would maybe be fine. Except that you guys aren't actually related. You can't tell
me that you all just happened to have this weird yellow-ish eye color naturally. It kind of weirds
me out."

"Oh. Right. Yeah, I can see why."

"So?" she asked, expectant.

"Um. They're contacts."

"But why? Why do you all have the same color? Or the same two colors, 'cause sometimes
they're much darker than others."

Fuck. Fuck. FUCK.

"They're kind of a scientific trial. One of Carlisle's friends from medical school is trying to
develop contact lenses that you not only don't have to take out at night, but that you don't have
to take out monthly, either. The idea is that you can keep them in for a year."

"What? Are you kidding?"

Shit.

"No."

"How long have you had them in?"

"Oh, since before we moved to Forks."

"So that's been over a year, hasn't it?"

"Well, we've been breaking them in. The first time, we only kept them in for three months. Then
we did six. Now we're on like month seven of nine. Then we're gonna go for the full year."

"You're telling me you've had those contacts in for seven months straight?" she said, leaning
toward me and peering into my eyes.

"Yeah."

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Honestly, I felt pretty clever for making all that shit up on the fly. Even though I was kind of
shitting my pants. (Metaphorically, of course. Since vampires don't actually shit.)

"I can't even see them," she said, still staring at them. I wanted to lean away. Or lean in. Or
both. Maybe she didn't notice, but I was definitely alert to the fact that our faces were inches
away from one another. I could feel her breath on my face. Which made me even more
anxious about my not really having any breath. So I started doing some fake breathing.

"Yeah, they're subtle," I said.

"Aren't you worried they're, like, melting into your eyes or something?"

"Not really."

She leaned back, then, and I felt a mixture of disappointment and relief.

"So why did you all get the same color?"

"It's the only color they come in. When they get darker, that has something to do with the light
that's hitting them or something. I'm not sure. But they're this color because of the material
they're made out of or something. He's trying to develop different colors but, so far, this is it."

"And your dad's OK with his friend using his kids like guinea pigs?"

"Well, originally Carlisle was the only one who volunteered. But then we all got jealous. We
wanted to do it. It's like having the surgery without actually having the surgery."

"So you all have poor vision?"

"Yep. Well, except for Alice. She just didn't want to be left out. And she's useful for the trial
anyway, as a type of control or something."

I'd like to thank the Academy for the Oscar they surely would give me for this big steaming pile
of bullshit I have going on.

She leaned back and stared at me for a minute, as if in total disbelief.

"That's the weirdest shit I've ever heard."

"Really?"

"Maybe."

"You think we're freaks, huh?" Probably because we are.

71
"Honestly, I feel a lot better knowing that. I seriously thought it was some kind of cult pact or
something. But that at least makes some sense. Even if it is weird."

"Yeah, I guess we don't really make it easy on ourselves in terms of blending in. I kind of can't
believe you're the first one to ask that question, though." Which was true. In a hundred years,
Bella Swan had been the only one with the guts to ask about our eyes. Granted, we hadn't
always had them. When color contacts had first been developed, we had tried those, figuring
they would make us less conspicuous. But vampire vision is so good that human contacts
diminished our eyesight. Which was really fucking annoying. It was like looking through a dirty,
blurry piece of glass or something. So we got lazy and went back to being yellow-eyed freaks.

"So could you take them out right now?" she asked.

"I could, but it would ruin the trial."

Oh, snap. I am so clever.

"Oh," she said. She bit her lip, then, as if she wanted to ask me something else. Which put me
on edge again. "So are you all participating in a medical trial for skin bleach or something,
too?"

Fuck.

That was when I realized that I would have to keep lying. Or else tell her the truth. And the
more I lied, the shittier I felt. But the more I thought about telling the truth, the more the reality
of the situation came crashing down on me.

"No. That's just…sunscreen."

"Really?"

"Yeah. Early in his career, Carlisle lost a patient to skin cancer. He takes it really seriously. We
get grounded if we don't use the stuff. It really pisses off Rose, actually."

"Are you sure Carlisle's not trying to build some super race or something?"

"No," I said, shrugging. "It's entirely possible."

She laughed then. And I wished I could laugh with her. As much as I was relieved that she
seemed to be buying all my lies, all I could think about was the fact that they would run out
eventually. I mean, what would happen if Bella ever tried to kiss me? 'Oh, sorry my lips are like
ice cubes. Oh yeah and be careful about the venom. And my teeth are actually pretty sharp.
Oh and forgive me while I try not to suck your blood.'

"What's wrong?" she asked. I looked up, realizing I probably looked as sullen as I felt.

72
"Nothing. I just…" The truth was, I didn't know what to say.

"I'm sorry," she apologized quickly. "I shouldn't have…I'm sorry if I was insensitive. It must not
be easy for your family. I see now why you all hang out with each other more than anyone
else. I mean, I get it. Forks is a small town. All these people grew up with each other. It's hard
to break in, even if you want to."

I couldn't help but smile a little, that she was trying to make me feel better for not fitting in. If
only she knew she was talking to a vampire. Then, I squinted at her, suddenly realizing
something.

"Are you unhappy here?" I asked.

Her eyes grew wide then, and I realized I had touched on something that maybe she didn't
want to talk about.

"Um. It's not that, exactly," she said, shrugging and looking away.

"Then what is it?"

Her lips puckered out for a second as if she was thinking of a way to phrase whatever she was
going to say next. When she finally answered, her eyes met mine again.

"It's just…different from what I'm used to. It's cold and wet and so small and I kind of miss my
mom and my friends from Phoenix. And Thai food. I love Charlie and it's good that I'm finally
getting to spend some time with him again. I think it's good for both of us. But…you know…it
just takes some adjustment."

I had gotten more insight into Bella Swan in those three or four sentences than all my stalking
combined had accomplished. I felt like a total idiot for not noticing sooner that she was less
than thrilled to be in Forks.

"What brought you here?" I asked, consumed by my all-too-familiar curiosity.

"Well, my mom's husband plays minor league baseball, so he's traveling a lot. I felt like moving
here was a good opportunity to spend some time with Charlie and allow her to follow Phil
around."

"Phil is your stepdad?" I asked, wondering if maybe the real reason she had come to Forks
was something slightly less than enthusiasm for Phil.

"Yeah."

"How long have they been married?"

"Only about a year."

73
"Do you like him?"

"Yeah. He's good for her. He's a nice guy."

"And the two of you get along?"

"Yeah. It's not like what you're thinking. I didn't come here to get away from Phil. He was
hardly ever around, anyway. Which is precisely why it was important that Mom could travel
with him without feeling guilty about leaving me alone or whatever."

"So you abandoned all your friends and your home and warm weather in Phoenix just so your
mom could follow around the new hubby?"

"Yeah. I mean…like I said, there were other reasons. I wanted to spend some time with
Charlie. And I was never particularly close with any of my friends in Phoenix. I thought it might
be a good opportunity for me to get a fresh start."

"Did you forget to read the weather report or something?" I asked. She laughed.

"I did come here on Dad's holidays and vacations, you know. It's not like I'm entirely new to
Forks."

"Yeah. That's why I'm wondering what the fuck you're doing here now," I said, which had her
laughing again.

"So you hate it here?" she asked.

"Nah. I kinda like it, actually. But I'm not one for warm weather and crowds of people."

"Yeah, I think it might be growing on me," she said quietly, smiling shyly.

It was the smile that broke my heart.

"I should go," I said, standing abruptly.

"Oh. OK," she stammered. She stood up as well and followed me to the dining room, where I
began gathering up my stuff.

"Thanks for the study session, though," I said, hoping I wasn't offending her.

"Yeah, you too. I think it really helped me," she said. I zipped my backpack up hastily then and
made my way to the door. She followed me, chewing on her lip the whole time.

"So, um," she began. "Do you maybe want to do it again before the test? We still have half the
unit to cover."

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No. For the love of god, the more I get to know you, the harder this is going to be. But I'm
either going to have to keep lying or tell the truth. I can't keep lying. But I can't tell the truth,
either.

She was looking at me with these brown doe eyes, though. I could tell she was worried she
had done something wrong. I could tell she was confused by my abrupt departure.

Get out now while you still can.

"Sure."

Fuck.

Her face melted into a smile of relief.

"Same time tomorrow?" she asked, hopeful.

Fuck.

"Sounds good."

FUUUUCK.

Then, before I could do anything else I would regret, I opened the door and jogged to my car.

When I got home, Alice was yet again waiting for me on the steps. I could tell she was upset
and anxious, but her thoughts were only about the fact that she didn't know how to tell me what
she had to say. Which made me anxious as hell.

"What is it, Alice?" I asked.

"You can't go to Bella's tomorrow," she blurted.

"Why?"

Then, instead of answering, she closed her eyes and remembered the vision she had had the
moment Bella and I had made our plans, so that I could see it.

And my heart broke all over again.

Chapter 11: Oh Self-Loathing: Back So Soon


In Alice's vision, Bella lay dying in my arms as her blood dripped from my mouth and filled my
eyes.

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Even more horrifying than the fact that I hadn't been able to stop myself from attacking her was
that I had stopped myself from taking all of her blood. But not before taking enough to kill her. I
drank just enough to force her into a slow and painful death, unable to finish, yet unable to
save her. My own wretched body, filled with her demise, couldn't even grant me the tears to
accompany the sobs that racked me, as Bella looked up at her murderer and tried in vain to
speak.

Even though it was just a vision, and even though it had altered the second Alice had decided
to tell me about it, I could still feel it. It was almost as if it had already happened, as I felt
precisely what the version of me in the vision felt—the agony and remorse; the guilt and the
shame; the self-loathing and the devastation. Seeing Bella gasping like that, trying to say
something—there's really no way to describe the effect that it had on me.

I sank down onto the step next to Alice and hung my head in my hands as she wrapped her
arm around me.

"Why?" I whispered.

"Edward, it's OK. I saw it in plenty of time, and it's OK. Actually, I think it's a good sign."

"How could this be a good sign!" I snapped, my head rearing up at her.

"Because it means you were wrong about my inability to see it in time."

"How is that possible!" I asked. Alice's visions and my attempts to understand them were
driving me to the brink of insanity. What use were they if they were going to be so
unpredictable? When we didn't even understand what caused them?

"Edward, I think maybe it means it's something you can't control. You didn't make a decision.
You didn't have a choice but to attack her."

"But why? What changed?" I demanded. Alice fell silent. Of course, her thoughts revealed
what she wouldn't say. "Of course! Why didn't I see this coming? Why didn't I think of it
sooner? How could I be such an idiot!" I cried.

The following day, Bella would start bleeding.

And not because of an injury.

Because of something that I had to look forward to every single month.

Something quintessentially human.

"Edward, it's fine. Don't make this a bigger deal than it is. You'll just skip some more school,"
she said.

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But I had had enough of Alice. I stood up and stalked into the house, determined to lock myself
in my room.

Unfortunately, perhaps the only person who could have stopped me in that moment, did.

Esme.

"Edward, stop. We need to talk about this."

"There's nothing to talk about. This was always a stupid idea. I'm dropping out again."

"You can't drop out again, Edward."

"Watch me!" I snapped. But I instantly regretted it, because Esme had never in all of our
decades together uttered a harsh word to any of us. Not once.

"Edward, come sit down in the living room. We've been discussing some options. At least hear
us out." She was just like Carlisle—talking about it like it was fucking surgery or some shit.

Instead of answering, I resigned myself to having to deal with my family and followed her
silently into the living room, where I sank down onto one of the overstuffed chairs. They were
all waiting for me there. Jasper, Emmett and Rose were seated on the couch and Carlisle was
pacing in front of the fireplace.

Jasper was the first to speak.

"Edward, I think Alice is right. I think this is a good sign. I think it means that we will be able to
stop anything from happening. And remember when I was first transitioning and every girl in
the city of Olympia seemed to be ragging simultaneously?" he asked, clearly trying to lighten
the mood. "You'll get through it. I got through it."

"Jasper. It's different."

"I know, man. But remember when Alice had that vision of me killing that one chick? And we
stopped it? And it only happened that one time. I was always able to maintain control after that.
Probably in part because I knew about that vision."

Alice had followed us into the room, and she piped up next.

"And think about it, Edward. If my theory is correct, and I was able to see it because you had
no choice but to attack her, then that means you must have no choice but to fall into bed with
her, too!"

"How the fuck is that a good thing, Alice? And why do you even believe that theory? If I didn't
have a choice, then how was I able to stop myself in the vision?"

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Carlisle spoke next.

"Edward, think about that for a second. Think about the sheer will power it would have taken
you to stop like that. I think Alice is right. I think you must have had no choice but to attack her.
I don't think there was any decision made in your mind when you caught the scent of that
blood. It wouldn't have been something you could control."

"The hell it isn't! I can control it by getting the fuck out of this town!"

"But Edward! Don't you see!" Alice cried. "If I'm right, that means there's no decision for you in
the other vision, either. It means she's your soulmate."

"Don't be stupid, Alice."

"I'm not being stupid, Edward. I'm being perfectly rational. It's the only way to explain how I
was able to have a vision of you killing her before you decided to kill her. Because you don't
decide to kill her. And that would also explain why I haven't been able to shake this vision of
the two of you in bed together, regardless of your determination for it to not lead to that. Which
means you haven't been lying about your intentions."

"Of course I haven't been lying!"

"Right. We see that now, dude. Sorry for not believing you earlier," Emmett said, as they all
nodded their heads in agreement. As if apologizing for wounding my ego was going to make
me accept everything else they were saying.

"It doesn't matter. I'm leaving. I can't kill her."

"You won't kill her, Edward. And you won't leave. You can't," Alice insisted.

I stood up, then.

"How can you call this love, Alice! This is bullshit is what it is! Since when is love about
destroying someone's free will and choice! And I'm not even just talking about Bella's choices,
here! What about me and my choices! Why does some vision of yours get to choose who my
soulmate is! I don't even believe in soulmates! Love should be about actually knowing
someone and choosing them because of that knowledge. Not because of some supernatural
fucking phenomenon!"

"What does supernatural even mean, when you're talking amongst a group of vampires,
Edward?" Carlisle asked.

"Don't go all fucking philosophical, Carlisle! I don't have the patience for that bullshit right now!"

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"Fine. I understand what you're saying. But I don't know if you should dismiss Alice's vision so
readily," he persisted. I was kind of irritated that Carlisle could remain so cool and detached
about the whole thing. Like it wasn't someone's life we were talking about.

"Who are you to talk, Carlisle? This omniscient little harpy wasn't around when you met Esme.
She wasn't telling you that you had no choice but to marry her. And you did choose Esme. And
she chose you. You chose each other. The same goes for Emmett and Rosalie. And who the
fuck knows if Alice and Jasper even count, because Alice saw her and Jasper together before
they even met.

"None of you have actually seen the visions like I have! You all don't understand how they
work! They're muddled and there's competing futures and…some appear clearer than others
and it's like a fucking choose your own adventure! It's fucking ridiculous to let the visions
dictate so much! I think maybe we've all let our notions of fate and destiny and all that bullshit
get a little warped thanks to her," I sneered, pointing at the offending oracle.

"Edward," Esme hissed.

And when I looked at Alice, I knew I had been a bastard. Like, a huge one. I knew she was
only trying to help me. And I knew her ability was as much a burden on her sometimes as mine
was on me, if not more so. It was one of the reasons she and I were so close. When I saw how
sad she looked, I felt like a complete dick.

"Sorry," I muttered, looking at the floor.

"You gotta quit with the fucking superiority, Edward," Jasper growled, getting up off the couch
as if to emphasize his point. I had finally been a big enough douche to get even Captain Chill's
back up. And there were definitely no calming waves emanating from him then, probably
because he was too riled up to worry about messing with the rest of us. "Alice may have seen
me in her visions before we ever met, but don't doubt for a second that I chose to be with Alice.
I know Alice and I have never had to doubt why her visions put us together. I'm not even sure I
doubt that we would've ended up together even without her visions. You need to stop being
such a spoiled brat and realize that her visions are a gift. That so-called harpy just saved you
from killing Bella Swan. And we all know that Overwrought Edward would have thrown himself
a centuries-long pity party over that shit. So why don't you just fucking shut it, unless you're
going to thank her."

"Enough with the name-calling!" Carlisle shouted. "You're all acting like teenagers!"

"We are teenagers," I snapped. Because I was fucking angry and frustrated about everything
that had transpired in one miserable afternoon, and because I was fucking bitter that I would
be a seventeen year old for all of god damned eternity. And just when I thought Carlisle
couldn't possible piss me off more, he did just that.

"Edward! I'm sorry about what happened to you! But I can't change it! None of us are
responsible for it! You can't go on being bitter and cynical for all of eternity! You're going to

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have to let someone in at some point! Maybe it won't be Bella Swan. But it's going to have to
be someone, some day. And frankly, I don't think Bella Swan would be such a terrible choice."

"Well then it's a good thing it's not your choice, Carlisle! Because you don't know how her
blood smells to me! You didn't see what Alice and I have seen! And can we for once, for the
fucking love of god, leave Tanya out of it!"

"I'd leave her out of it if I thought she wasn't affecting your current perception of what's going
on right now," Carlisle shot back. Then he sighed before softening his tone and continuing. "It's
not your fault you trusted her, Edward. You were young. It's not your fault you fell in love with
her. You were human. It's not your fault you asked her to turn you. She led you to believe that
she loved you, too. And it's not your fault she left you."

"Shut up, Carlisle! You don't know what you're talking about!"

"I know enough!"

"Then why don't you see it, Carlisle!"

"See what?"

"In this fucking scenario, Carlisle—I'm Tanya!"

Chapter 12: Peace Out


The worst part about my existence isn't that I don't even know if I have a soul anymore. Or the
fact that it will never end, regardless of how much I want it to. Or the way I will never again
know what it's like to feel normal or to not hear the thoughts of everyone around me. The worst
part of my existence isn't that I can hear all of the awful things people think about me, including
my closest loved ones.

It's not even the fact that I've killed people.

The worst part is that I chose it.

I'm the only one who chose this existence. Carlisle was changed by a vampire who intended to
eat him on the streets of London, only to be interrupted by an angry mob, unwittingly leaving
Carlisle to his new "life."

Jasper was turned by an insane vampire hell-bent on creating an army of the undead and
achieving power over her enemies and all others of our kind.

Alice doesn't even know who changed her. She woke up one morning after days of the
torturous metamorphosis, with no memory of her past and only her ability to guide her.

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Emmett was changed by a sadistic fuck who was trying to obtain revenge when another
attempted change gone awry killed his sister. Little did he know, Emmett wasn't even related to
the vampire he held responsible for his sister's demise.

But me?

I chose it.

Hell, I begged for it.

See, when I was seventeen years old, I met the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. She
was everything a teenage boy could ever want in a woman—the curves, the smile, the laugh.
What I didn't know then that I know now is that Tanya had made an eternity's study out of
seduction.

And that she was a vampire.

At least, I didn't know that at first.

Initially, I think I was just an amusement to her. I think she thrived on the attentions of human
men. I don't know why, seeing as human men didn't really stand a chance resisting her. And
maybe that's why she's so fucked in the head. She gets every affirmation she seeks, for
everything but what she truly wants.

Eventually, her interest in me grew as her interest in others diminished. I felt special.

I felt…chosen.

And I felt motherfucking horny.

So yeah—I didn't exactly know what I was getting into. At first. But when you have sex with a
vampire—you kind of realize something is up.

No pun intended.

I mean, you notice that no amount of lubricant is gonna eliminate the fucking chafing. And that
the parts that are supposed to be warm and squishy are in fact really cold and hard. And you
get the overwhelming sensation that you might get snapped in half at any moment.

Tanya was good about alleviating all of the complications. She had mastered the art of fucking
a human without crushing him or killing him. She even made it so it wasn't entirely
uncomfortable. She even managed to make some men beg for more.

Men like me.

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But she could never really manage to explain away all of it. Most men, she fucked once and
ditched, because they knew something was up, but she couldn't explain it. So she left a trail of
really fucking confused men in her wake, all around the world. A lot of them convinced
themselves they were drunk or high or that they dreamt the sex. Some of them just thought
they were crazy. Others just tried to forget it or never even tried to explain it to themselves.

But not me.

And for some godforsaken reason, when I asked her questions, she answered them.

Maybe Tanya's only redeeming characteristic is her vegetarianism. If she hadn't been a
vegetarian, I'm sure she would have killed all the men she slept with. I'm sure she would have
killed me-if not right after the sex, right after she told me what she was.

So maybe the vegetarianism isn't so redeeming after all. I know I've wished she had killed me
instead, on plenty of occasions.

I have a theory that she's a vegetarian primarily because she can't bear to kill those who adore
her so much. Because, then, who would there be to adore her? To remember what a great lay
she had been? To fancy themselves in love with her?

But because I was fucking stupid and because I believed in true love and all of that bullshit, I
thought she was my angel. I didn't care that she was a vampire. I didn't care, when she warned
me that my bloodlust would be overwhelming when I was first changed. I didn't believe her
when she told me we would tire of one another eventually. I thought she was just trying to talk
me out of it, for my own sake. All I wanted was an eternity with her. I didn't know that what she
meant was that she would tire of me.

If only I had known.

It's possible I demonize her more than I should. She did warn me about the bloodlust. I thought
I would be strong enough to ignore it. And she tried to help me. In fact, I probably would have
killed far more than I did had it not been for her.

But then again, I wouldn't have killed any if it hadn't been for her.

I even used my ability to feed only on those I deemed stains on society. (Because, of course, I
deemed myself able to make such decisions.)

However, every time I felt the blood of a murderer rush through my veins, I realized it was no
metaphor. Because like them, I was a murderer. And any blood that ran through my veins
would always be the blood of a murderer.

Even now, I can't shake that feeling. Every time I feed, even on animals, when the blood
rushes through my body, spreading through my veins in leaps and licks, I am reminded that I

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am a murderer. It's not something that ever goes away. Once you are a murderer, you always
will be.

And so I am a murderer…for all of eternity.

And as yellow as my eyes are now, and for as long as they've been that way, I will never not
see the red eyes staring back at me when I look in a mirror. Except for the times when I see
the eyes of those I killed staring back at me.

How do I forgive myself for that?

And I know what the others think. Carlisle especially thinks I'm too hard on myself. Worse, he
thinks I'm too hard on Tanya. He thinks my bitterness toward her is related to my self-loathing.
He thinks I blame her for the people I killed.

But I don't.

It would be too easy to blame her. She didn't kill those people. I did. I blame myself for
choosing the life I have now. Such as it is. The fact that I made that choice haunts me every
day, and I feel the consequences of it keenly.

I suppose my bitterness toward Tanya has more to do with the fact that I gave up so much—
my life, my humanity…my dignity-in order to be with her. And in the end, I turned out no
different than any of the others. She dispensed with me when she grew bored, just as she
dispensed with the others. Except I would never be able to forget her. Because she hadn't just
changed my life—she had taken it.

So yeah, I took it pretty hard when she kicked me to the curb.

Fucking sue me.

"Edward, you're not Tanya," Carlisle urged.

"How am I any different?"

"For one, you're not trying to seduce Bella."

"Aren't I? I mean, maybe I'm not trying to have sex with her. But what am I trying to do?" I
challenged him.

"You're just getting to know her!" Alice cried, clearly desperate to preserve her vision.

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"But why do we keep pretending not to know where it's going to lead? What's our endgame,
Alice? Either we change her, we kill her, or I leave her the fuck alone. And I refuse to change
her or kill her. So what the fuck are we doing?"

"But Edward, the vision," she insisted.

"Fuck the vision, Alice! It doesn't mean anything! It doesn't even tell us anything! Bella's still a
human in it. I'm still a vampire. That's it. It doesn't show us what happens next. Because
nothing can happen next."

"No, Edward, don't you see? Maybe there's another way. She's still human, Edward. Maybe
that's the difference."

"You're telling me I'm supposed to be with a human? Who stays a human?"

"Why not?"

"'Why not?' 'Why not?' Are you fucking kidding me, Alice? Do you want a fucking list?"

"Yes!"

"Well, how about for starters, I want to kill her. Every breath I take around her fills my mouth
with venom. And what the fuck kind of physical relationship could we ever have? What
happens when she tries to kiss me? What happens when she wants to have sex? 'Hey Bella-
the bad news is, I'm a vampire. The good news is, you never have to worry about whether
you're going to spit or swallow.'

What happens when she wants to visit her family for Christmas? What happens when she
wants to get married and have kids? She can't do any of those things with me, Alice. And what
happens when she grows up and I'm still a god damned teenager? What happens then?"

"I don't know, Edward. Maybe that's what we're here to find out."

"And what happens when the Volturi catch wind that a human is in on our little secret, huh?
What happens when they kill her?"

"They don't ever have to know, Edward! And maybe she'll want to be changed."

"Ah HA! I fucking knew it! That's always been your fucking agenda!"

"I don't have an agenda, Edward!"

"Don't lie to me, Alice! I'm a fucking mind-reader, OK?"

"What does it matter! What would it hurt if she wanted it, Edward?"

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"I wanted it, Alice. That's the problem. Except I didn't know what I wanted. I thought I wanted it.
I didn't understand it. No one understands it until it's too late."

"Tanya didn't properly prepare you, Edward. Don't take that out on Bella!"

"How could you possibly prepare someone for something like that, Alice? We couldn't give her
any guarantees. We couldn't guarantee her she wouldn't kill anyone. We couldn't guarantee
her she wouldn't carry that guilt around for the rest of eternity. We couldn't guarantee her she
wouldn't regret it. We couldn't guarantee her that she wouldn't grow bored of me. Fuck, she
might not even want me once she's one of us and the vampire charms don't work anymore."

"See, that's your real problem! You pretend it's all out of concern for her, but really you're just
scared, Edward. You just don't want to get dumped again!"

"Shut the fuck up, Alice! You don't know what you're talking about!"

"You can tell me to shut up all you want, Edward! We both know it's the truth!"

"You think you know everything, just because of your god damned visions. You think you're so
smart! You don't know anything!"

And with that, I left.

I walked out the front door, across the driveway, and into the trees. Then, I broke into a run. I
ran as fast as I could.

As much as I hate to admit it, another perk of the whole vampire thing is the running.

Because it feels like you're flying.

I must have run like that for twenty minutes, at a full sprint.

Mind you, that's a vampire sprint.

And you can call me juvenile all you want. You try being in a room full of all those people,
listening to them judge you; pity you; condescend to you. I couldn't fucking take it anymore. So
yeah, I ran.

When I finally slowed down and took in my surroundings, I found myself on the edge of a
clearing, in the strangest location. It was halfway up a mountain, where the rest of the
landscape seemed far too vertical for something like the grassy knoll before me. Because
there were no trees, and the clouds had suddenly parted, the meadow was suddenly filled with
sunlight in the unlikeliest of ways.

And even though I knew there were no humans around, because I didn't smell any or hear any,
I glanced around nervously anyway before taking a step forward into that sunlight.

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It was fucking beckoning.

And it felt good.

Is it possible for a vampire to have seasonal affective disorder?

Probably not. But sometimes I think I have it. And maybe I wouldn't be so god damn broody if I
didn't have to constantly hide in the shadows and live in places that never got any god damn
sun.

So I took a deep breath and breathed in all of the scents of the forest that surrounded me—the
trees, the grass, the flowers and the moss, and the smell of rain that all of the other smells
were soaked in. But it wasn't raining in that moment. And it wasn't cloudy.

So I lay down on that grass and breathed…

Inhale.

…and for one fleeting afternoon…

Exhale.

…I felt human.

"Bella?"

"Hey, Edward. What's up?"

"I can't make it today. I'm sorry."

"Oh. Is everything OK?"

"Yeah. I just… Something came up. I'm sorry."

"OK. No problem. Just call me up if you need any notes or anything."

"Yeah, sure. Thanks. I'll…talk to you later."

"OK. Bye, Edward."

"Goodbye, Bella."

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Chapter 13: Bring It
When I didn't return to school on Monday, my family insisted on maintaining the myth that I
was sick—that I had had some sort of relapse. They all still hoped I would change my mind,
and they wanted to give me the opportunity to return to the high school later.

But they didn't try to change my mind anymore.

They mostly left me alone.

On Tuesday afternoon, she called.

I screened.

On Wednesday, Alice told Bella that I was sick again.

On Thursday, the book I had ordered online arrived in the mail.

Assassination Vacation.

I chucked it in the trash.

On Friday, I got a text from her.

She asked if I was OK.

I deleted it.

The following Monday, Carlisle realized he was going to have to tell them that I had transferred
schools.

I got another text asking if it was true.

I deleted it.

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The next three weeks of my life blurred past slowly. Quickly. Pointlessly. I hunted. I avoided my
family members. Occasionally, I would return to the meadow.

It was when I was returning from the meadow one night that it happened.

It was so strange and unlikely that I wasn't sure I was smelling it properly at first. But then I
heard the thoughts that accompanied the smell.

It was another vampire.

And he was hunting.

And not for elk.

It wouldn't be the first time we had bumped into nomadic vampires. It happened occasionally.
And usually, we would politely ask them to hunt elsewhere, as non-vegetarian vampires in
areas in which we had settled had the potential to make our lives a bit difficult.

But I wasn't thinking about any of that.

I was only thinking one thing.

Bella sleeps with her window open.

I couldn't decide whether to go straight to Bella's house or to catch up to the other vampire and
try to engage him.

I guess it's times like that that family comes in handy.

I pulled out my phone and pressed the speed dial.

"Edward?"

"Rosalie. I need you to go to Bella's house. Make sure she's OK. Keep an eye on her. There's
another vampire in town. And she sleeps with her window open. I'm going to track him down
and talk to him."

"What? A nomad?"

"Yeah. I just caught his scent, followed by his thoughts."

"Don't go by yourself, Edward! What if he's hostile?"

"I'll be fine, Rosalie. I can read his mind, remember? Just send some of the others east if
you're worried about it. They'll find me."

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"OK."

"Rosalie—make sure she's OK? Don't leave until I get there, OK?"

"Yeah, Edward. I promise."

I was pretty sure I could trust her, but it was still frustrating that I couldn't check her thoughts to
be certain.

"Thanks, Rose."

As soon as I hung up, I followed the scent. And I listened.

The town can't be too much further. I'm so hungry I could eat an entire cheerleading squad.
Jesus, I can't wait to sink my teeth into something young.

I ran faster. Because we were close to town. He was moving quickly, driven by his hunger. I
was able to begin closing the gap between us, though, as I was running at a dead sprint. And it
didn't take long for him to catch my scent.

What's this? Another?

He paused then, which was a relief, because I continued running in order to catch up.

I'm not sure I want to compete with anyone for dinner this evening. Perhaps I should eat before
I introduce myself.

He began running again, then, much to my dismay. Because we were closing in on the town.
And suddenly, I was cursing how very small Forks was. As the trees raced past, I cursed the
fact that Bella liked her room cold, and that this particular vampire seemed to have a
predilection for young girls. I cursed the fact that Rose had made me stop stalking Bella at
night. I cursed every god damned vampire that fed on humans without so much as a single
guilty pang.

It was just at the perimeter of the town that I closed in on him. When he heard me, he whipped
around to face me, alarmed. I realized chasing him might not have been the least
confrontational way to approach him. But from where we were standing, I could smell Bella.

"Who's there?" he hissed.

"My name's Edward," I said. I tried to make my voice as friendly as possible, mimicking
Carlisle's bedside manner. "I'm a friend, don't worry."

"A friend?" he asked, skeptical. He took a step toward me, and I did likewise, so that we could
get a better look at one another.

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"Yes. And a local, if you need some help getting around the area."

"A local?" Does this mean he's not a nomad? Is he one of the so-called vegetarians? "Are you
a Cullen?" he asked.

"I am."

And that was when I realized my mistake. Because I could hear his thoughts. And he knew I
could hear his thoughts. Because the Cullens were famous among vampires for their strange,
vegetarian ways. And their abilities. Among vampires, Edward Cullen was known as the mind-
reader. Alice Cullen was known as the psychic. And Rosalie—this particular vampire knew
Rosalie even before she was Rosalie Cullen.

This particular vampire was Laurent.

"Where is your beautiful sister?" he asked. Yet, the moment he said it, his head whipped
around, as we both caught Rosalie's scent.

I could hear Laurent consider making social niceties with me in an effort to pretend he wasn't
about to go try to kill my sister, just before realizing I could hear his plan. Which was all the
hesitation it took for him to take off running—right for Rosalie. Who was standing right in front
of Bella's open window.

When Rose came into view, I could see she was poised and ready. She had smelled our
approach. And I knew from her thoughts that she knew it was Laurent, from the scent. And she
was even more bloodthirsty than him. And unlike the first time, Rosalie now knew how to kill
another vampire. The moment they saw one another, they both dove—no hesitation. I wanted
to break them up but, more than anything, I wanted to take Rosalie's place under that open
window. Because Bella was fucking bleeding again. And I could smell it.

And so could Laurent.

I told myself Rosalie could hold her own, at least long enough for the rest of my family to
arrive. I was certain they wouldn't be far behind her, and I watched to make sure Laurent didn't
get a significant advantage. Rosalie's blond hair whipped around them and Laurent's teeth
glistened as they tried to rip one another limb from limb in that moonlit street, at a speed that
would have blurred to a human eye.

There were no words exchanged between them—only growls and hisses. It was more
animalistic than I had ever seen Rosalie—even more so than when she hunted. And when I
read her thoughts, I could see that they were animalistic, as well. She wasn't thinking
rationally. I wasn't sure she would have responded too kindly if I had tried to insert myself into
the fight.

So I watched.

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When the others arrived, Emmett and Carlisle made quick work of restraining Laurent while the
others dove for Rosalie. But then there was another flurry as Emmett lost his shit, and Jasper
had to hold Rosalie while Esme and Alice went to help Carlisle restrain Emmett. And fuck them
all, because in that process, they lost their grip on Laurent. And his thoughts weren't directed
at Rosalie anymore. They were filled with the unadulterated bloodlust caused by Bella's scent
and that open fucking window.

I didn't hesitate. I dove at him with a wrath that I'm pretty sure matched Rosalie's.

Who the fuck does this guy think he is? He thinks he can roll into my town and take a swing at
my sister? And now he's gonna try to kill Bella?

Over my dead undead body, motherfucker.

I don't know if vampires have adrenaline, but I'm pretty sure we must have something
comparable, because Laurent and I had done a real number on each other by the time the
others pulled us apart. Jasper was still restraining Rosalie, and they must have succeeded in
chilling out Emmett, because he helped pull me and Laurent apart. I'm not sure they would
have been able to split us up without the help of Emmett. He may not have an "ability," but
dude's fucking strong. And I'm fucking glad he's on my team.

Once Carlisle and Alice got a firm hold of Laurent again, Emmett and Esme held me. But I was
still struggling against them, because that motherfucker was still baring his teeth and growling-
at that window. He didn't even give a shit about the rest of us. He was so fucking hungry that
he had forgotten about Rosalie and Emmett and me. All he wanted was to dive through that
window and sink his shiny teeth into Bella. And the more I could hear him thinking about it, the
more I wanted to sink my teeth into him. As it was, there were clumps of his hair in my hands
and chunks of skin in my teeth. (Yeah, it's fucking gnarly. But our teeth are pretty much the
only weapon we have against each other.)

Carlisle started talking, but neither me nor Laurent were listening. I'm pretty sure Rose was still
struggling against Jasper, too. I kind of wished they'd just let the two of us go, because I was
pretty sure the two of us could have taken that motherfucker out. Like, with the motherfucking
quickness.

Eventually, Carlisle and Alice started shuffling away from the house with Laurent. My head
finally reached a point of enough clarity that I could listen to what was going on. They were
escorting Laurent away from town. Carlisle was going to snag some blood from the blood bank
and make him drink it to eliminate the bloodlust at least long enough for them to talk to him.
They wanted me to meet them at the house, as they wanted me to read his mind. But they
were giving me some time to chill the fuck out, as I wasn't responding to stimuli at that
moment, other than Laurent.

When I snapped out of it, my muscles relaxed somewhat, and I heard Emmett's voice.

"Whoa. You OK, man?"

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"Yeah. I think...I think I'm OK now."

"So I can let go?" he asked. I glanced to where the other three had disappeared behind the
tree-line.

"Yeah. Yeah. I'm fine.

"Are you sure? Cause…there's a bit of a fire to put out now, I think. And I'm thinking you might
need some help with it," he said, jerking his thumb up toward Bella's window.

"Oh fuck," I whispered.

Because Bella was staring out it.

Chapter 14: So, Turns Out I'm A..Vampire


"We should just run," I whispered to Emmett, so Bella wouldn't hear. "She'll think it was a
dream."

"Are you nuts?" he asked.

"Wouldn't you?" I was pretty sure all my family members had been vampires too long to
remember what it was like to not know they existed.

"I'm pretty sure that girl couldn't be more awake," he whispered.

I glanced up at the window, then. And he was right. Her eyes were wide and round. And
scared.

"Shit," I cursed under my breath.

"Listen, you need to sort this out. Because they're gonna need you back at the house."

"Yeah, yeah. I'll take care of it."

"I'll stay with you."

"No. They probably need you, too."

"Edward… I think you need someone to stay with you."

That was when I took my eyes off of Bella long enough to look at Emmett and listen to his
thoughts. He was thinking about the fact that I couldn't be trusted alone around Bella.
Especially considering the circumstances.

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"Oh." I scanned Alice's thoughts, as she wasn't that far away yet, but she was focused on
Laurent. So there were no reassurances. Then I looked at Rosalie and Jasper. Rosalie had
calmed some, but she still looked distraught as fuck. "Rose," I said.

"Huh?" she asked, looking somewhat disoriented.

"Can you stay with me?"

"What?"

"I need someone to stay with me. To make sure…I don't do anything I'll regret," I explained. I
was speaking low enough that Bella wouldn't have been able to hear, but I didn't want to get
too specific, regardless.

Rose's eyes focused on me for the first time.

"Oh."

"Will you stay with me?" I repeated. "Please?"

She glanced around at the others, then, and her muscles relaxed as Jasper let go of her.
Then, she nodded.

"Yeah. Yeah, of course."

"You sure you two will be OK?" Emmett asked. As I read his thoughts, I realized he was
concerned about Rose trying to hightail it back to the house to get another shot at Laurent,
leaving me to fend for myself with Bella. But I could tell from her thoughts that she had calmed,
and she realized that she and I needed each other.

"Yeah. We'll be fine, Emmett," I said, trying to convey with my eyes the sincerity and
confidence of my conviction.

"Alright. We'll head out, then," he said. Esme and Jasper nodded and, in the blink of an eye,
they were gone, anxious to help Alice and Carlisle with Laurent.

I turned back to the window.

And I'm pretty sure I probably looked as scared as Bella.

I wasn't just scared about having to explain shit to her. I was scared about getting too close to
her. Rose was nearby, but I didn't really want to test my tolerance for Bella's scent. Especially
after I had just tried to rip another guy apart for succumbing to it.

So I just kind of looked up at her and stared. And she stared back.

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I could hear her heart beating, and she sounded like a fucking hummingbird.

"Are you OK?" I whispered, hoping it was loud enough for her to hear.

Her eyes grew impossibly wider. Like I had three heads.

Or like I was a fucking vampire.

A vampire she had just witnessed participating in a fucking vampire street brawl.

I bit my lip, wondering what the fuck I was supposed to do.

"Bella," I whispered, hoping that hearing her name would perhaps help her find a way out of
the terror.

Her hands dropped to the window sill then, as if to support her weight. She kept staring.

"Are you OK?" I repeated.

Finally, she nodded slowly.

"Listen, I can't come up there and explain right now. But I'm going to stay out here, OK? I'm not
going to let anything happen to you."

"What?" she finally sputtered.

"I can't come up there."

"What?"

"I'll explain everything…later."

"Edward, what just happened?"

She wasn't whispering anymore.

"Shhh. You'll wake Charlie."

Though, the fact that he had slept through a fucking vampire street brawl was a pretty good
indication that he was a heavy sleeper.

"Edward. What are you?"

Her voice was getting louder instead of quieter. I glanced at Rose. She was wincing and
shrugging.

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I don't know what to do, Edward. Do you want me to go up there?

I shook my head, because I was pretty sure Bella had just seen Rosalie turn into one of the
fiercest predators on the face of the planet. And I was pretty sure if Rosalie tried to climb in
that window, Bella would fucking flip her shit.

Suddenly, I had an idea. I got my phone out of my pocket and held it up.

"Bella, call my phone."

She stared at me for a second. But then she turned away from the window abruptly. When she
reappeared, she was holding her phone. But she wasn't dialing. And my phone wasn't ringing.

"Bella, call my phone," I repeated.

Her eyes flicked from the phone to me, and then back to the phone. She lifted her finger as if
to dial, and I could see that her hands were shaking. I closed my eyes and cursed everything
holy, everything unholy, and everything in between, because it was precisely the type of thing I
had wanted to avoid all along. The girl was terrified.

When I felt the phone vibrate in my hand, I opened my eyes and answered. Then, I saw Rose
take a few steps back. I think we were both more comfortable, as a method of communicating
with Bella that didn't necessitate my getting any closer had been established. When Rose
disappeared behind the tree-line, I knew she wanted to give us our privacy. But I also knew
she was close, and that she was still watching.

"Bella. It's OK. I know you're scared right now."

"Edward…" she whispered.

"Yeah?"

"You're supposed to be in Switzerland."

I suppressed a smile. The girl had just witnessed vampires fighting in her front yard, and she
was wondering what the fuck I was still doing in Forks when I was supposed to be at some
school for musical prodigies thousands of miles away. I sat down on the grass, then, because I
realized it was going to be a long conversation.

"I'm not in Switzerland."

"What just happened?"

"Would you believe me if I told you, you dreamt it?" I asked.

"Maybe."

95
"Do you think you could go back to sleep?"

"No."

"No chance? Not even with some Nyquil? I could go get something to knock you out."

"No. Tell me what just happened."

"It was a bit of a misunderstanding."

"What are you?"

"I don't know if you'd believe me if I told you."

"I think I'd believe just about anything right now."

"I don't think you'll like it."

"Edward. What are you?"

"I'm a vampire."

Her knees buckled, then. I darted under the window, afraid she was going to fall out. And Rose
was right behind me, afraid I would catch her. But Bella didn't fall. She just sank to the floor.
When Rose and I both backed off again, I could see the top of Bella's head just above the
lower lip of the window. She was sitting on the floor with her back to the wall, then. I could hear
her breathing through the phone, so I knew she hadn't dropped it. But she didn't respond.

"Bella?"

"Yeah."

I nodded to Rose, and she retreated back behind the tree line.

"Are you OK?"

"Are you for real?"

"Not if you don't want me to be. Like I said, I can go get some Nyquil and you can forget this
whole night happened."

"Edward."

"Yeah?"

"What do you mean you're a vampire?"

96
"I mean…I don't kill humans, if that's what you're asking."

"Then what the fuck do you mean? Are you one of those Discovery Channel vampires that just
thinks he's a vampire?"

"Could you believe that after what you saw tonight?"

"No."

"Because I can be one of those if it makes it easier."

"Edward. Tell me what you mean."

"About being a vampire?"

"Yeah. What does that mean?"

"It means I drink blood. But not human blood. Animal blood."

"What else?"

"It means I'm really strong and fast. All of my senses are heightened, like smell and hearing. It
means I don't eat normal food. It means I'm really pale and I have yellow eyes."

"Your whole family…?"

"Yeah."

"So…you're not adopted?"

"Well, that part is kind of true."

"Vampires," she started, clearly uncomfortable with saying the word out loud, "…don't drink
human blood?" she asked.

It was the question I was dreading.

"Not ones with yellow eyes."

"What color eyes do the human eaters have?"

"Red."

"Was that a human eating vampire that Alice and Dr. Cullen took away?"

I sighed.

97
"Yeah."

"And he was going to eat me?"

"No."

"No?"

"I wouldn't ever let him do that, Bella."

"But he wanted to?"

"…Yeah."

She was silent for a moment. Then, I saw her lean forward and scoop herself off the floor until
she was facing me again.

"I'm coming down."

"No!"

But it was too late. She had already hung up. And I could hear her shuffling toward the door to
her room.

So I did what any grown vampire would do.

I fucking ran.

Rose was already standing in my place before Bella had even made it down the stairs. As
soon as Bella opened the front door, she froze, stunned at the sight of Rose.

"Hi, Bella."

Bella squinted.

"Rosalie?"

"Yeah."

"Where's Edward?"

"He's over there," she said, motioning toward me and the trees.

"Why?"

"Um."

98
I could hear Rosalie's thoughts. She was worried it was something I needed to tell Bella.

"Go ahead and tell her," I muttered, loud enough that I knew Rose could hear.

It's not really my place, Edward.

"Do you still have your phone, Bella?" Rose asked.

"Yeah." She looked totally bewildered.

"Call him back. He'll answer your questions."

Still bewildered, Bella redialled. And before I could even answer, she returned to her
questions.

"Where did you go?"

"I'm not far. I'm just not…too close."

"Why?"

"Because I'm scared of hurting you."

"Hurting me?"

"Yes."

Even though I had given up on Bella Swan weeks prior, it still hurt to have to say that to her.

"You're dangerous?"

And that was when whatever was left of any sliver of hope I had ever had was obliterated.

"Yes."

She turned then, toward me. I was pretty sure she couldn't see me, standing in the shadows,
but it sure felt like she was looking right at me.

"Why?"

It was not at all the reaction I was expecting.

"Because of the way you smell."

"What about it?"

99
"You smell….your blood. It smells a lot better than animal blood."

"But…What about Rosalie?" she asked, turning back toward the vampire that was standing no
more than eight feet from her.

"Your blood doesn't smell to Rosalie the way it smells to me."

"What?"

"I don't know why, Bella. I haven't tasted human blood in more than eighty years. I haven't
even been tempted. Until I met you. Something about your blood. It only affects me this way."

"What about the vampire with the red eyes?"

"That's different. He practices no restraint. He's not accustomed to denying his bloodlust."

"It's a choice?"

"Yes."

"Am I on Candid Camera?"

"No."

"Is the smell of my blood the reason you left school?"

"Yes. … No. … Kind of."

"What does that mean?"

"You should go back up to your room. I'll stay on the phone with you. I'll answer all your
questions. I have a lot of stuff I need to tell you, now. For your own safety."

"Am I in danger?"

"I'll explain everything to you when you go back upstairs. I'll go back to where I was. You'll be
able to see me."

"Are you sure I'm not on Candid Camera?"

"Yes."

"OK. I'm going back upstairs now."

Then, I watched as she walked back into her house, and I could still hear her breathing over
the phone. When she was safely back at the window, I traded places with Rosalie again.

100
"Where's Rosalie going?"

"She'll be close by."

"In case…?"

"Yeah."

"Edward, I don't know…I don't know how to process this."

"I know."

"I don't know whether to trust you."

"I don't know whether to trust me, either."

"Edward!" she cried.

"Shhh! Charlie!" I reminded her.

"I want to trust you," she said, as we stared at one another.

"I want to tell you, you can."

"Why can't I?"

"Because I'm a fucking vampire, Bella. I'm like a junkie, and your blood is like the heroin."

"But…you don't want to drink my blood?"

"No!"

"Why not?"

"Because I don't want to be like the vampire with the red eyes."

"What did you mean when you said the scent of my blood was 'kind of' the reason you left
school?"

"It was a combination of that and some other factors. One of which being that I didn't want to
put you in this position."

"What position is that?"

"Knowing about vampires."

101
"Why?"

"Because humans aren't supposed to know about us."

"What happens when they do?" she asked, obviously picking up on how ominous the situation
was.

"OK, I'm going to tell you something, but I want you to understand that there's absolutely no
reason for anyone to find out that you know. And we are going to do everything in our power to
make sure that never happens. And if someone does find out, we're going to protect you from
anyone that has a problem with it."

"What are you talking about?"

"I'm talking about the Volturi."

"The what?"

"The Volturi. They're kind of like the vampire government. They live in Volterra, Italy, which is
kind of like the vampire capital."

"What?"

"They govern our kind. They have laws. One of the laws is that we don't reveal ourselves to
humans."

"And what happens when this law is broken?"

"Don't worry about it, Bella. There's no reason they'll ever find out." But as soon as I said it, I
realized she had a right to know. And if I had any doubts about that, Rose's voice in my head
was enough to quash them. My only concern was giving Bella too much information in one
night.

"Edward. What happens?"

"They kill the humans who know."

I heard her breathing stop for a moment.

But then she continued.

"But they're in Italy?"

"Yeah."

"And they're not so much scarier than the vampire who tried to kill me tonight?"

102
"Not really. No."

It was a total fucking lie. But I didn't give a shit. Bella didn't need to know that the Volturi were
the scariest motherfuckers on the face of the planet.

"I think maybe I should have gone for the Nyquil. Or maybe some Xanax."

"I can totally get you some Xanax, Bella. If you want, I'll get you a fucking roofie. You won't
remember anything and this will all go away."

"You'll go away?"

It was like she had just ripped that cold, dead heart right out of my chest and ripped it in half.

"Yeah, Bella. I'll go away, too."

She stared at me.

I stared at her.

I listened to her breathing. It was steady, but fast. I listened as a breeze shook the tree
branches and a dog barked. Somewhere, a car backfired.

And we stared.

"I don't want you to go away."

Chapter 15: Oh Yeah, and PS.. I'm A Murderer


"How old are you?"

"A hundred and eleven."

"Are you fucking kidding me?"

"No."

"Where were you when Kennedy was shot?"

"In a physics class at Dartmouth. They wheeled in a television and we all watched Walter
Cronkite. The guy sitting next to me started crying."

"So you've been to college?"

"Yeah. A few times, actually."

103
I was still sitting on the grass in Bella's front yard, and she had pulled a chair up to her window.
We were still talking on the phone. She refused to go back to bed.

"Does that mean I'm just some dumb kid to you?"

"No."

"Why not?"

"I don't think the first question out of a dumb kid's mouth when told that the person they're
talking to is a hundred and eleven years old would be 'where were you when Kennedy was
shot.'"

"Did you cry?"

"I can't."

"And you can't eat?"

"I can. But it's not pleasant."

"So when you studied with me…you already knew all that shit?"

"Yeah."

"Why'd you come over, then?"

"Shit, Bella. I'm a fucking vampire and that's what you want to know about?"

"Yeah."

"Because Alice had a vision."

"A vision?"

"Yeah."

"What does that mean?"

"She can kind of see the future."

"What?"

"It's not infallible. And it changes. But she sees stuff that's going to happen sometimes."

"And what does that have to do with you coming over to study?"

104
"Can I decline to answer that one for right now? Can I elaborate later?"

"How come you could sit next to me in biology all those days but now you can't get any closer
to me than this?"

"I don't think you're going to like the answer to that one."

"Try me."

"It's because you're ragging."

Her forehead smacked the windowsill so hard then that I worried she had knocked herself
unconscious.

"No," she mumbled into her arm, like she was trying to disagree with me. Like she could will it
to not be true.

"I told you, you wouldn't like it."

I couldn't see her face, but I was pretty sure it was beet red.

"This is a joke. Seriously. I'm seriously on Candid Camera, right?"

"No. Sorry."

"Do you all have 'visions' like Alice?" she asked, changing the subject.

"No. That's just her."

She lifted her head from the windowsill then, and I could still see a faint blush across her face.

"How come?"

"No one knows. Some of us have abilities; others don't."

"Do you have an ability?"

"Yeah."

"What is it?"

"Um. I…um…read minds."

"What?"

"But not yours," I added quickly, realizing it would probably freak her the fuck out.

105
"What?"

"I can hear people's thoughts. I can hear vampires' thoughts. I never encountered a person
whose mind I couldn't hear until I met you."

"What?"

"I swear."

"Why?"

"I don't know, Bella. But trust me, it drives me nuts."

"You're full of shit."

"No. I'm not. Charlie's dreaming about fishing right now."

"No way."

"Yes. Rose is fucking cracking up at this conversation right now. In her head."

"What is the pope thinking?"

"I can't do someone that far away."

"How far away can you do?"

"It's about a two mile radius."

"I don't believe you."

"OK," I said, shrugging.

"Even if you can read minds, I don't believe that mine is the only one you can't. You're just
saying that so that I'm not uncomfortable around you."

"I wish."

"Prove it."

"How?"

"I don't know. Does Mike Newton like Jessica?"

"Not as much as he likes you."

106
"Bullshit!"

"I swear. Isn't that one obvious, though?"

"Who is he going to ask to the dance?"

"I don't know."

"Why not?"

"I haven't been at school. Mike Newton hasn't been within two miles of me since I dropped
out."

"Oh my god!"

"What?"

"The van! You did stop it with your hand! I didn't imagine that!"

"Yeah."

"Holy shit."

Perhaps my saving grace that night was the fact that Bella had so many questions, she was
easily distracted. She couldn't stay focused on one train of thought before she thought of
another that seemed more pressing.

"Can you turn into a bat?" she continued.

"No."

"Does Dracula exist?"

"No."

"Am I on Candid Camera?"

"No."

"Does garlic affect you?"

"No."

"Holy water?"

"No."

107
"Crucifixes?"

"No."

"Is any of it true?"

"Yeah."

"Like what?"

"We can't go in sunlight."

"Or what?"

"I'll decline to answer that one at the moment as well."

"Does it kill you?"

"No."

"Do you sleep in a coffin?"

"No. We don't sleep."

"At all?"

"No."

"Don't people notice when you don't age?"

"We move around a lot."

"I don't understand."

"Understand what?"

"How long do I have to worry about these Volturi people?"

"You're not going to like the answer to that one, either."

"Forever?"

"Yeah. As long as you're human, at least."

As soon as I said it, I regretted it. I didn't mean for it to come out like that at all.

108
"What do you mean?"

"I just mean that because you're a human, it's illegal for you to know about us."

But she had already picked up on what I was trying to hide.

"You were a human once?"

"Yes."

"And you became a vampire?"

"Yes."

"How?"

"I'm going to decline to answer that one for right now, too."

"I think I have a right to know."

"Yeah. You do. And I'll answer it. Just not tonight, OK?"

"So…are you like my vampire bodyguard now?"

"Yeah, I guess I am."

"My vampire bodyguard who wants to eat me?"

I sighed.

"If you want to say it like that, sure."

"But…you move around. You're not always going to be around to protect me."

"From now on, yeah. I will."

"I don't understand. If there's no reason to believe that they're going to find out, then why
would I need you to be around constantly?"

"You probably don't. It's just a precaution, I suppose. I don't want you to have to worry. I don't
want to have to worry."

"That seems like an awful lot of trouble for a precaution. You can't spend a lifetime following
me around."

"A lifetime isn't so long in the scheme of things."

109
"Jesus Christ."

"What's wrong?"

"Are you telling me you're going to follow me around for the rest of my life?"

"It's not too late for the roofie, Bella."

"Answer the question."

"I'll keep my distance. You won't need to know I'm around. You won't see me if you don't want
to."

"But you'll still be there…watching? Listening?"

"These are all details we can work out later. I don't want you to be uncomfortable."

"Aren't these details we should work out before it's too late for the roofie?"

"Yes. You're right. Seriously, Bella. I think you should take one."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah."

"Do you want me to take one?"

I didn't know how to answer that. I knew that I didn't want her to forget me. And I knew that I
didn't want to disappear from her life. But I knew that it would be better for her if that's what
happened. And I could hear Rosalie agonizing over the same problems in her head. She didn't
want to presume to know what was best for Bella, but she also knew that all of the issues Bella
and I had discussed in the short time that I had been sitting in her front yard that night were still
only the tip of the iceberg. And it was impossible for Bella to make a fully informed decision in
the amount of time we had to inform her before the window we had to erase her memory
closed forever.

But then I realized that, even if we did erase Bella's memory—I probably wasn't going to go
away.

"I don't know what I want, Bella. But I know that even if you do erase me from your memory,
I'm still going to be around."

"What do you mean?"

"After what happened tonight, I don't think I can just disappear. I think I'm going to have to
hang out and make sure you're safe."

110
"What if I don't want you to?"

"I'll respect your wishes. But only after I know you're making a fully informed decision. And I'm
not sure that it's possible for you to do that if you down that roofie tonight and have no memory
of this conversation."

"But if I did that, why would I need you around? When the Italian vampires would have no beef
with me?"

"That vampire tonight wasn't Italian."

"But that was a fluke, right?"

"I don't know, Bella. I'd like to think so, but I don't know. You sleep with your window open. And
this is a small town in a rainy area."

"What does that mean?"

"It means this is the type of place vampires like to flock to. And there's not a whole lot of
humans to choose from. So when there's one with her window open, she might be the target."

"If Forks is such a vampire magnet, how come people don't go missing all the time?"

"Probably because Forks is small enough to not be in the paths of vampires very often. There's
not a whole lot of us."

"Which brings us back to my original point. Why would you need to be here?"

"I just…Bella, if I hadn't been around tonight—"

I didn't finish the sentence, but I knew I had gotten my point across, because I saw her shiver,
despite the sweatshirt she had pulled on over her t-shirt.

"But I can't live my life in fear, Edward."

"You won't have to."

"Yes, I will. Don't you see? Having you play watchdog is precisely that. I don't want to have to
start shutting my window at night. I don't want to start constantly looking over my shoulder. And
I don't want to have to worry about you watching my every move. Just because I'm scared of
some random vampire attack that may or may not happen."

"Are you serious?"

"Yes."

111
"So you want me to fuck off?"

"No."

"But you don't want me around?"

"Not constantly. Maybe just until the creepy dude with the red eyes is gone."

"You wouldn't even have to know I was around."

"I don't care. I don't want it. I can't stand the idea of feeling like I'm constantly being watched."

It sucked, because I totally understood where she was coming from. But my skin crawled at
the thought of leaving her entirely unprotected. Especially when I knew I could totally keep an
eye on her without her ever even realizing I was there. I wanted to promise her that I would
respect her wishes and stay away. But I was scared I would break the promise. I wasn't sure I
had the will power. Especially after there had been such a close call.

"Bella, I would say we could discuss this more after he's been dealt with but, again, I guess we
need to sort everything out tonight."

"I'm scared to erase it all now, Edward. I'm scared that if I do, you'll be out there and I won't
know it. Fuck, have you been out there this whole time? Have you been watching me?"

"No. I was about five miles from here when I caught his scent and I followed it. I actually called
Rose and sent her to look out for you until I had dealt with him. I didn't know that was going to
attract him to your house."

"What?"

"He knew Rose. When he caught her scent, he followed it."

"That's why they fought?"

"Yeah. There's kind of a history there."

"Did Rose used to feed on people, too?"

"No."

"Did you?"

"Yes."

Silence.

112
"Why?"

"Because I was young and the bloodlust was overwhelming then. Because I was weak.
Because I thought I could use my ability to kill only those who killed, and that that would make
it OK. Because I was arrogant."

"What do you mean you used your ability?"

"I read people's minds. I only fed on murderers."

She stared at me a moment, and I waited for her face to twist in disgust.

"How many?"

"Twenty-three."

She gasped.

"Twenty-three people?"

"Yes."

Again, she stared at me a moment before continuing.

"Twenty-three…murderers?"

"Yes."

"Who had killed people or were going to kill people?"

"Both. I didn't kill anyone who hadn't already demonstrated an ability to kill, and I didn't kill
anyone who had reformed or had the potential to reform before killing again."

"So…you saved lives?"

"I took lives."

"And by doing so, you saved lives?"

"But it wasn't my place. I'm not God."

"Do you believe in God?"

"I don't know."

Silence.

113
I wondered if Bella believed in God. I wondered if she believed God had forsaken me. I
wondered if it mattered.

"Have you ever thought about becoming a cop?"

"What?"

"You'd be pretty useful. With the whole mindreading thing. You could catch killers before they
killed. You could prevent murders without having to murder anyone. I'm just…sayin'."

"I just told you that I killed twenty-three people and that I'm a vampire and that's your
reaction?"

"How am I supposed to react?"

"I don't know. You're supposed to be scared. Or disgusted. You're supposed to go into shock.
Or something."

"I think I was close there, for a while. And I was pretty terrified when you all were fighting. But
mostly of the vampire with the red eyes."

"You weren't afraid of me?"

"No. I was afraid for you."

"Are you kidding?"

"I could tell you were the good guy."

"You know, I think most girls would be so terrified of the vampire who had tried to kill them, that
they'd probably take the friendly vampire up on his offer to look out for them."

"But don't you see, Edward?"

"See what? That you're not like most girls?"

"That that's like letting the terrorists win."

"Terrorists?"

"Or vampires. Whatever. I can't just live in fear and ruin my way of life over it."

"I told you: you wouldn't have to know I was around. You wouldn't have to change your lifestyle
at all."

"But I would know you were around."

114
"And that's so bad?"

"Edward, if you're around, I want it to be because you want to be. Not because of some
obligation. And I want it to be us spending time together. Not you watching, like some creeper."

I sighed. And then, Rose was beside me. But she wasn't talking to me in her head anymore.
She had come with a purpose.

"Edward, you need to tell her about Alice's vision. And everything. You need to tell her about
Tanya. And You. And everything. Tonight."

I turned to her, and put my hand over the phone, so that Bella couldn't hear as I whispered to
Rose.

"Rose, we can't do that to her. That's not fair to her. She might feel compelled to make too
many decisions in one night. She might try to make decisions she's not equipped to make."

"It's not your job to decide what decisions she's equipped to make, Edward. Just like it wasn't
your job to decide which of those people were fit to die. You have to tell her everything. And
you have to let her choose. I doubt she'll want to make any choices tonight other than whether
to take the roofie or not, anyway."

It was frustrating as fuck, because Rose was purposefully talking loud enough that Bella could
hear, and I could hear that Bella was trying to interrupt us.

"That's a pretty fucking big decision," I said.

"Let me talk to her. I'll tell her everything. And I'll make sure she knows that if she takes that
roofie, I won't let you watch her without her knowledge. I'll tell her about Tanya. I'll tell her
about Laurent. I'll tell her everything."

"Don't you think that's an awful lot for her to take in, in one night?"

"I don't think we have a choice," she said. "And besides—she's already taken in an awful lot.
And she's taking it pretty well."

"Rose…"

"This is the only way now, Edward. It's not your fault. You have to let me tell her everything."

I hesitated.

One last time.

"OK."

115
Chapter 16: PPS, My Bad.. But I'm Also Your Soulmate
I handed Rose the phone then, and she held it up to her ear.

"Bella?"

"Yeah?"

"Can I come up?"

"Is it safe?"

"Yeah. I just…I'm going to tell you all the things Edward doesn't want to tell you. So you can
decide things for yourself."

"OK. Should I come down?"

Rose laughed.

"No, hon. I'll come up."

Then, Rose turned and handed my phone back to me just before leaping soundlessly into the
tree by Bella's window. Bella's eyes grew wide and she stepped back from the window,
disappearing from my view. I watched as Rose climbed gracefully through it, and then she
disappeared, too.

I fell back behind the tree line, to where Rose had been.

And listened.

"First of all," Rose started, "Edward is over yonder in those trees right now listening, but I can
tell him to fuck off if you want me to."

"He can hear us?"

"Yeah. And I could hear the two of you. We have really good hearing."

"Oh."

"Do you want me to tell him to fuck off, or do you want him to listen? You can change your
mind at any point, by the way."

"I don't mind him listening for now. Since I know he's listening. I guess."

"He can hear my thoughts, too. So he can kind of 'see' you through my head."

116
"But he can't hear my thoughts?"

"No."

"He wasn't lying about that?"

"No. I promise. You've been the most intriguing and frustrating person for him to ever meet.
And we've all had to hear about it."

"Really?"

"Yeah. But we have a lot of ground to cover in not a lot of time, so we should probably stay
focused on the task at hand."

"Can I ask you a question first?"

"Yeah."

"What's your 'ability'?" Bella asked.

"I don't have one."

"Really?"

"Really."

"Oh. OK. I guess proceed, then. With the task. Whatever that is."

"You need to know about how Edward was turned into a vampire. And you need to know about
Alice's vision. And you need to know what it's like being a newborn vampire."

"Why?"

"In case you decide you want to become one."

"What? Seriously?"

"Yeah. It's not something you would need to decide tonight. But it's something that you might
decide tonight that you might want to think about in the future."

"Seriously?"

"Yes."

"Um. OK."

117
I wanted to turn my ears off, then. I wanted to walk away. It was a fucking train wreck.
Everything I had spent all those weeks trying to prevent was happening, right in front of me.

I listened as Rose told Bella about Tanya. About how I regretted becoming a vampire. About
how I struggled with immortality and the people I had killed and Tanya leaving me.

Maybe I had been protecting myself from all of it as much as I had been protecting Bella.

I don't know.

When Bella asked questions, Rose answered them. No equivocation. No hesitation. No


bullshit.

I had to give Rose some credit, because somehow she managed to tell the story of Tanya and
me without making the elephant in the room seem like the elephant in the room.

Namely, that Bella was me and that I was Tanya.

When Bella asked about regrets, Rose told her about how when you become a vampire, you
have to abandon your friends and family, with the knowledge that they will never know what
happened to you, and that you will outlive them. She told her about the fact that vampires can't
have children, and can't live normal lives. She told her that abilities are unpredictable, and that
mine and Alice's can be a curse as much as they can be a gift. She told her that sometimes
eternity can feel like a long time. She told her that, despite immortality, being a vampire can
sometimes be dangerous, and that it is possible to kill one. She explained that the chances of
the Volturi finding out about her were slim, but she explained the Volturi all the same. She told
Bella how the leader of the Volturi could see every memory a person or vampire had had
throughout their entire existence just by touching them. And she explained how this meant that
if he ever touched one of us, he would know about her. But she also explained that none of us
had ever even met the Volturi, other than Carlisle, and that that had been hundreds of years
ago. She explained that becoming a vampire can seem sexy at first, but that there's all of
eternity for that sexiness to wear off. She explained that we don't age, but that we also don't
know for sure whether we have souls.

"But I don't know if I have a soul, either," Bella interrupted.

Rose smiled.

"Yes. But some believe that humans have souls that are lost when they become vampires."

"Do you believe that?" Bella asked.

"No."

"Does Edward believe that?"

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"Yes. …Or, he believe it's possible."

When she asked Rose if she regretted becoming a vampire, Rosalie told the story of Royce
King, and then she told Bella about Laurent. She told Bella about how she and Emmett and
Esme especially had always struggled with their inability to have children of their own. But then
she told Bella about finding me and Carlisle and Esme. And then she told Bella about Emmett.

Eventually, Rosalie had told Bella the stories of every member of our family.

After a while, I realized that Rose was stalling. She didn't want to tell Bella about Alice's vision
either.

But she didn't have to.

"Alice saw me as a vampire, didn't she?"

"No."

"But she had a vision about me?"

"Yes."

"And Edward?"

"Yes."

"What was it?" she asked, point blank.

"It was the two of you…together."

"Is that code for us having sex?"

"No. You were still human. And I don't think it's advisable for the two of you to have sex if he's
a vampire and you're a human."

I expected Bella to blush. But she didn't.

"Because he might kill me?"

"Yes."

"Because he might lose control?"

"Yes."

"And suck my blood?"

119
"Yes. Or he may just…we're so strong, Bella. I could accidentally break your arms if I hugged
you without being careful."

"Really?"

"Yes."

"So what exactly was Alice's vision?"

"The two of you were in bed together. In this bed," she said, nodding at the bed they were both
sitting in, cross-legged, at that moment.

"But we weren't having sex?"

"No."

"Oh."

"But sometimes Alice's visions are wrong."

"What do you mean? How do they work?"

And then Rosalie explained Alice's visions and the way they shifted based on people's
decisions. I cringed when she told Bella that Alice's vision of us in bed together had been the
most fixed vision Alice had ever had, and that it didn't make sense because neither of us had
made any decisions yet. Then, she explained our initial theory about how maybe Alice's ability
didn't work on Bella, and how we had debunked it.

"I thought it was fucking weird when Alice was randomly talking to me about barf in the
cafeteria!"

Then, I wanted to die when Rose went on to explain Alice's theory about how maybe the vision
was so fixed because there was never any decision or choice in the matter for us. Because
then she told Bella about Alice's vision of my killing Bella.

But I thanked god that Rosalie was the one having the conversation with Bella and not Alice,
because she was quick to tell Bella that she did have a choice in the matter, and that I would
never be in her bed unless she wanted me there.

"But Alice thinks we're soulmates?"

Fuck.

"Yes."

"Do you think Edward and I are soulmates?"

120
"I don't know."

"Does Edward think that he and I are soulmates?"

"You'd have to ask him. And I'm not sure he would give you a straight answer."

Then, for the first time in hours, a silence fell between them.

No questions.

No answers.

Nothing.

Eventually, Rose's phone buzzed in her pocket. When she looked at the caller ID, she was
surprised when it was Alice. So was I.

"Alice?"

"Tell Bella to take a shower. She's not ragging anymore."

"You're sure?"

"Yeah. It'll be fine."

Then, I heard Rose consider asking Alice about Laurent. She wanted to know what had
happened to him and where he was. But she didn't. She hung up on Alice and returned her
attention to Bella.

"Alice says if you take a shower, Edward would be fine to come up here and talk to you if you
want."

"But, umm…"

"Don't worry. Aunt Flo's gone."

"This is kind of humiliating. …and by 'kind of' I mean the most humiliating thing that has ever
happened to me in my life, to the power of ten."

"I know. I'm sorry. I should have told Edward to fuck off before I told you that. Sorry."

"It's not your fault."

"It's not yours, either."

"Do you think you could wait here while I take a shower?"

121
"Of course, Bella."

"Rose?"

"Yeah?"

"Are you OK?"

"Huh?"

"I just…I understand now. It's been a long night for you, too."

Then, it was one of those moments when Rose's thoughts were so fraught with emotions so
raw and so intense that they weren't articulated in words in her mind. She was overwhelmed.
She was overwhelmed to suddenly recollect what it had been like to see Laurent, but she was
also overwhelmed that the seventeen year old girl sitting before her, who had just learned not
only that vampires existed, but that one had tried to kill her and that another was worried she
might be his soulmate, had asked about whether she was OK.

She reached out to Bella then and embraced her. It was truly uncharacteristic of Rose, not only
because Rose is not a very touchy-feely person, but also because Rose would never presume
to invade someone else's space like that without permission. And that permission is definitely a
little more significant when you're talking about a person being hugged by a vampire for the
first time.

And even though Bella must have felt like she had just had an ice sculpture wrapped around
her, and Bella was probably shocked and maybe even a little scared, I saw in Rose's head that
Bella's arms wrapped around Rose, too.

And then they just sat there holding each other.

I actually wandered a little further from Bella's house, then, to give the girls some privacy, and
not just because Bella was about to take a shower. I stayed close enough and walked in a
pattern that ensured that I would know if any other wayward vampires got too close. And I sent
Rose a text telling her to call if she needed me. But it felt like Rose and Bella needed some
time without my "eyes" on them.

I also needed some time to chill out.

I was kind of freaking about the fact that the cat was out of the bag. And that I was going to be
in close proximity to Bella after weeks away from her. I wished that Jasper was around. I
thought about asking Jasper if he could swap duties with Rose, but I was pretty sure it was
more important for Rose to not be near Laurent.

122
I called the house anyway, to make sure everything had gone according to plan. It seemed
they had Laurent, and he had fed, so he was less of a threat. Initially, they were worried he
was still harboring animosity toward Rose, but Esme had explained to him what Rose had
been through just before he had turned her, and how that had colored her perception of him.

I wanted to go to the house to get a read on Laurent, because I didn't trust him, and I didn't
think they should trust him, either. I wanted to hear his thoughts to see if Esme's story had
actually been enough to assuage the animosity, or if he was just making polite niceties like the
ones he had been planning to use on me before he realized I could read his mind. But the
others seemed to have faith in Alice's ability to foresee anything. And Alice was insisting that I
stay with Bella—that Bella needed me around more than they did.

Which kind of suited me fine, because I was in no hurry to let her out of my sight.

And with each passing minute that I knew that Bella knew everything there was to know about
me, I felt lighter and lighter.

Sure, I was still worried as fuck about what she was going to decide, because I couldn't see
any way that would end happily. And I hated that she had been put into such a tough spot.

But it felt like at least someone was sharing the burden of it all with me.

And even aside from the whole issue of our future, it was a relief that she knew about my past.
And she hadn't freaked.

She knew everything.

It was…kind of...amazing.

So when Rosalie finally called, I was under that window before we had even hung up.

Then, Rosalie crawled back out of it and, before she disappeared behind the tree line again,
she hugged me.

"Thank you, Rose. For everything."

"You're welcome, Edward. Don't fuck this up, OK? Because I think I might love that girl, now."
Then, she paused for a second before adding, "No pressure."

I laughed.

"Thanks."

Then, she was gone. And I looked up at that window that suddenly felt like the portal to my
future, whatever it was. Because standing in that window was Bella.

123
For better or worse.

Chapter 17: The Usual Friday Night Vampire Angst


"You're sure you want me up there?" I whispered, just loud enough that she could hear.

"Yes."

"Bella…"

"If you don't come up, I'm coming down."

"OK. I'm coming up."

I hopped up into the tree, trying to do it as gracefully as Rose did. I didn't particularly want to
look like some creepy-crawly animal in front of Bella. Then, she backed out of the window, as
she had done for Rose, and I reached over and pulled myself through at human speed, in part
to avoid scaring Bella and in part to acclimate myself to the smell.

I could tell she and Rose had done some cleaning before I got there, to try to dull the scent
somewhat. But it still hit me in the face, quickly cocooning me the second I crawled through
that window. I exhaled before inhaling slowly. Because I was going to have to get used to
inhaling if I was going to talk to Bella. And that was why I was there: to talk.

"Are you OK?" I asked.

"Yeah."

"Are you sure? I know it's all…overwhelming."

"Yeah. I guess I won't be complaining about Forks being dull anymore."

I smiled, despite myself.

"I'm worried you're going to have some sort of delayed reaction," I admitted.

"Maybe," she said. "Are you OK?"

"Huh?"

"You and Laurent—I… It looked pretty brutal."

"Oh. Yeah, I'm fine. I might have a few new scars, but everything's already healed up nicely."

"Scars?"

124
"Yeah. You can't see them. Only vampire eyes can see them."

"Oh." She looked at me for a second as if trying to see them anyway. "It all still sounds a bit
ludicrous, you know."

"I know. It will for a while."

Then, we were staring at each other like idiots again, because neither one of us really knew
what the fuck to say.

"You can sit down if you want," she stammered, finally.

"Sure. Thanks," I said, opting for the rocking chair in the corner. She sat down on her bed.

"So…uh…soulmates, huh?"

"I don't put much stock in Alice's visions. Or her theories."

"Rose told me you wouldn't give me a straight answer."

"I don't know if I'm even capable of giving a straight answer. I don't think I have an answer for
myself. I don't really believe in soulmates, Bella. I don't want either of us to be forced into
something that we'll regret later."

"You think you'd regret it?"

"Regret what?"

"Us."

"No."

"How can you be so sure?"

"I'm not. I just… We're kind of putting the cart before the horse a little here, right? But… When I
envision what it would be like being in a relationship with you, regret isn't the first word that
comes to mind. But my perception might be colored by the vision I've seen. And I'm more
worried about you."

"You think I would regret it?"

"Yes."

"How could you know?"

"Because I've been through it."

125
"But it's different."

"Are you telling me you want to become a vampire?"

"No."

"You don't want to become a vampire?"

"I think it's too early for me to know how I feel about any of this. But my initial reaction is that I
can't abandon my family like that. I can't do that to my parents."

"Of course."

"But…"

"But?"

"But I want to get to know you better. I want to know why Alice is having this vision. I want to
know why you can't read my mind. And if I'm attracted to you just because you're a vampire."

"I take it back. You're right. It is different. You're far more intelligent at seventeen than I was."

"Don't say that."

"It's true."

"But I don't want to get cocky about my ability to make decisions and then do something I'll
regret."

"I know. That's exactly what makes you smarter than I was."

"Edward…"

"Yeah?"

"I…I don't know how I feel about all of this."

"You don't have to. Not right away."

"I'm…"

"Overwhelmed?"

"Yeah."

"Scared?"

126
"Yeah."

"Lonely?"

Even though someone had been at her side since the moment Laurent had left, I knew what it
was like to be in that position. I knew what it was like to be the only human among vampires.
To have the secret and to not be able to tell anyone else. To not be able to confer with anyone
else, other than vampires. To feel like you had been transported to an alternate universe in
which nothing you thought you knew is actually what is. And you know that your life is forever
altered, and you can never get that old life back. And that old life was much simpler. And you
long for it.

Bella bit her lip before answering that time, and she could barely choke out the word, as her
eyes filled with the tears that I had been waiting for all night.

"Yeah."

I moved to the floor at her feet then and looked up at her.

"I'm sorry." I tried to avoid this. I know how you feel. I won't leave you alone as long as you
want me here. "I…"

But I didn't know what to say. And as the tears spilled over and began streaming down her
face, I wanted to hug her. But I was scared.

I was scared it would be too much for me to handle, and that it would be more than she wanted
from me.

"Can I get you anything? Some water?" I asked.

She shook her head, but she still didn't speak.

"Maybe you should lie down," I suggested.

She continued to cry, and I felt so god damned useless. But eventually she did pull her legs up
onto the bed and she lay down, and the tears collected on her pillow, creating a stain that
bloomed across the cotton as she continued to cry quietly.

When she shifted away from me, I thought it was because she was finally having the reaction
she should have had from the beginning. I thought she was repulsed by me, and terrified of
me. I thought she wanted to put as much distance between us as she could muster in that
moment.

But when I made a move for the window, determined to get Rose to come back in, she
reached out and grabbed my wrist.

127
And it burned.

And I realized she had scooted over not to get away from me, but to make room for me.

So I sat down next to her, on the edge of the bed, still hesitant. Because I was scared that at
any moment she would come to her senses and begin screaming.

But she didn't let go of my wrist. Her fingers loosened some, and she began running her thumb
across the point where my wrist met my palm. And I knew what she was doing.

"I don't have one," I whispered.

"What?" she asked, her gaze darting from my wrist to my eyes. And for that brief second, she
wasn't crying.

"A pulse. I don't have one."

Her eyes returned to my wrist then, and her thumb paused, just over my veins.

It was only then that I realized Bella Swan was touching me.

I had touched Bella Swan before. Hell, I had held Bella Swan in my arms before. But this was
different.

She was touching me.

And maybe it was just morbid curiosity and maybe it was just her desperate attempt to prevent
me from leaving her by herself. But I didn't care.

So I lay down next to her and we stared at one another for a long time. We didn't talk. And she
didn't cry. She just held on to my wrist. And even though I'm sure it felt cold and dead to her,
her skin felt warm and alive to me…and I could feel the pulse of her heartbeat, and the blood
that swept through her veins. And it was almost like she was transferring that heartbeat
through her touch—like she was giving me her pulse. And when I closed my eyes, I could
pretend her hand wasn't there. I could pretend that that warmth and that pulse that I felt was
my wrist.

I don't know how long we laid like that. But when I opened my eyes, she was asleep. And the
sun was beginning to come up.

Fortunately, it was a Saturday, and Charlie was content to let Bella sleep in. I heard him as he
woke up and began moving around the house, but his thoughts indicated that he wasn't going
to bother Bella. He was just going to eat a bowl of cereal and leave to go fishing. Which was
kind of a huge relief. Because Bella was still holding onto my wrist and I didn't want to wake
her up, nor did I want to leave her by herself.

128
I worried she was going to wake up at just that moment when the sunlight streaming through
her window was going to hit me in the face, or on my wrist and exposed hand. I watched her
face anxiously as soon as I felt the rays of light on my skin, and calmed only when the sun
rose high enough in the sky that there was no more risk of exposure.

Then, I worried about the fact that, at some point, she was going to open her eyes and find a
vampire in her bed. And she was probably already having nightmares about vampires…though
she looked peaceful enough. Which was weird, considering everything we had put her through.

So when she finally did open her eyes, I braced myself for the scream.

But it never came.

Instead, she blinked.

I winced.

She released my wrist suddenly, and it felt like the entire room snapped in half.

"Sorry," she muttered. Then, she sat up.

"Don't apologize."

"How long did I sleep?"

"About six hours. It's about 11:00."

"Sorry."

"Don't apologize, Bella," I repeated.

"You were here that whole time?"

"Yeah."

"God. I'm-"

"Bella, it's fine."

"Did Charlie leave?"

"Yeah. He's fishing."

Then, she suddenly jumped out of bed and ran to the bathroom.

"Do you want me to leave?" I called.

129
"No! Sorry. I just…I need to get myself in order."

"I can leave and come back. You can call me when you want me to come back."

"Where's Laurent?" she called.

"I'm assuming he's still at my house, with my family. I haven't spoken to them since before I
crawled in your window."

"Where's Rose?"

"She's downstairs watching TV. She didn't think you would mind."

"Oh. Good. Should you call your family?"

"Yeah. I'll…I'll be downstairs, OK?"

"Yeah. I'll be out in a minute."

I showed myself down the stairs, then, to join Rose in the living room and to give Bella some
privacy.

"How is she?" she asked.

I shrugged.

"Better than I would be in her position."

"Yeah, she's tough. Or a little off. I'm not sure which."

"I'm going to call the house," I said.

Rose shrugged.

She had been avoiding it all night. She didn't want to know what was going on with Laurent.
She was too scared that her emotions would take over again. So even though I knew she'd still
be able to hear me, I walked into the kitchen to make the call. And though she didn't move
from in front of the television, I knew from Rose's thoughts that she and I were both listening as
the phone rang.

"Carlisle?"

"Good morning, Edward."

"How are things there?"

130
"We're fine. We sent Laurent on his way this morning. He promised not to come back to the
area. And Alice didn't foresee him returning."

"What! Why didn't you wait for me! I could have read his mind!"

"Don't worry, Edward. Emmett, Jasper, and Alice all followed him from a distance to make sure
he really was leaving and didn't change his mind. But we're confident Alice will foresee it if he
does."

"You should have waited," I hissed quietly.

"We couldn't hold him hostage, Edward. And you had your own issues to sort out."

"Then you should have killed the bastard!"

"You don't mean that."

"The hell I don't!" I shouted. Because I had had enough of Carlisle's condescension. And they
should have waited. Because I would have known within seconds how Laurent felt about
Rosalie and our family, and whether he still harboured animosity.

"How's Bella?" he asked.

I couldn't read Carlisle's mind over the phone, but I knew the smug bastard well enough to
know that he was changing the subject, and he knew it would work. He could be such a
manipulative prick sometimes.

"She's…OK."

"How much have you told her?"

"We told her everything. In shifts."

"Everything?"

"Yeah. The bloodsucking. The murdering. The vegetarianism. The Volturi. Tanya. Laurent.
Alice's vision. My mindreading. Everything."

There was a low whistle from Carlisle, then, before he spoke.

"Did she sleep?"

"Yeah. Not until like five in the morning. But yeah."

"Is she awake now?"

131
"Yeah."

"And how is she?"

"She's handling it, Carlisle. With a lot of fucking grace, frankly."

"No signs of shock?"

"No. She cried some."

"Is she very upset?"

"I don't know, Carlisle. I can't fucking read her mind, remember?"

"I know, Edward. It must be frustrating for you. What's your plan for the rest of the day?"

"I don't know. I was going to look into coming home and checking on you all, but now that
Laurent is gone, I'll probably just do whatever Bella wants me to do. Although I'm still not
comfortable straying too far from her for right now."

"I understand. That's probably wise."

"I'm going to need to charge my phone soon. Do you think you or Esme could bring by my
charger?"

Funny how we have all of these superhuman abilities and yet, at the end of the day, we still
relied a lot on human technology.

"Of course. I'll leave with it now. I might bring Esme. I'm not sure I want any of us traveling
alone for a few days."

"Sure. Just don't fucking knock on the front door or something, alright? I think maybe two
undead monsters in this house might be enough for one morning. For Bella's sake. Or her
sanity. Or both."

"Of course. I'll see you in a little while."

"Thanks, Carlisle."

After I hung up, I rejoined Rose in the living room. She had turned the TV off and looked up at
me with hooded eyes.

"You alright?" I asked.

"They should have just fucking killed him. He tried to kill us. It would have been self defense."

132
"I don't disagree, Rose. But I think we're fine."

"I don't like him knowing where we live."

"Alice will foresee anything. Plus, it's not like we can just desert the people of Forks now that
we know there might be vampires around, hunting."

"You mean we can't desert Bella," she sneered.

"I don't know. Maybe that's what I mean. Do you want to desert her? Are you really worried
about our ability to defend ourselves?"

Her face softened some.

"You're right. I'm sorry. I just get…"

"I know, Rose. It's OK. That fucker better hope he never comes across the two of us in a dark
alley one night."

She smiled then. But before she could respond, Bella came bouncing down the steps.

Again, fucking weird. Considering she had a couple of vampires hanging out in her living room.

"You guys want some breakfast?" she called from the kitchen.

"Uh. No thanks," I answered, making my way in to check on her. Because I was beginning to
worry she was exhibiting signs of shock.

When I turned the corner and peeked in at her, she looked at me.

"Oh. Right." She placed her hand on her hip and looked out the window, then, before looking
back at me. "There's a bunny that lives in our backyard. Though I think I would prefer if you
didn't eat him. Because he's really cute."

I stifled a laugh, which was fucking pointless, because Rose started cackling from the living
room. Then, she joined us in the kitchen.

"Don't worry, Bella. We won't eat your bunny. It doesn't really work like that," she explained.

"How does it work?"

"Well, for starters, we go for bigger kills than bunnies."

"So like…deer?"

"Yeah. And bears and elk and mountain lion."

133
"Wow. So…like…when?"

"We only feed about once a week. Though Edward's been feeding a little more frequently since
meeting you. Thank god he fed yesterday," she said, as I elbowed her in the side. It wasn't
exactly the most pleasant breakfast conversation. But Bella laughed and reached for the cereal
atop the fridge. Then, we watched as she poured herself a bowl.

"I'm going to feel really weird if you all just watch me eat," she said.

"Do you want us to leave?" I asked.

"I'm going to take off anyway," Rose interrupted. There's really no reason for me to be around
anymore. And no reason for me to be avoiding the house anymore, either. So I'll see you guys
later. It was really nice getting to know you, Bella. I wish it could have been under better
circumstances. And you can call me any time if you have more questions or you want to talk or
something, OK?" She strode forward and picked Bella's phone up off the kitchen table, then,
and punched her number into it.

"Thanks for everything, Rose," Bella said, as Rose returned the phone to the table. And before
Rose could make her exit, Bella stood and walked toward her. It was pretty funny because
Rose wasn't expecting it and I thought for a minute that she was going to cringe out of her skin,
but she didn't. When they hugged, Rose didn't even mind it.

In fact, I think she was even a little…touched.

After Rose left, Bella sat back down, just in time for my phone to buzz.

"Oh, hey. Good timing. I'm going to go talk to Carlisle and Esme, so I won't be hovering and
watching you eat."

"Are they here?"

"They're in the neighborhood. They brought me my phone charger. Hang on, let me answer
this so I can tell them to catch Rosalie," I said, hoping it wasn't super rude when I flipped my
phone open. "Carlisle?"

"Yeah. We're here."

"Catch Rose. She's on her way out. That way you can all go back to the house together."

"Right, I see her."

"Can you hang on just a second?"

"Of course."

134
I covered the phone with my hand then and redirected my attention to Bella.

"I'll be right back, OK?"

"Sure."

Carlisle met me in the driveway, and I could hear Esme and Rose talking nearby in the trees.

"Thanks, Carlisle."

"Do you have a plan yet?"

"Nah. She's just eating breakfast. I'm a little worried that she's too calm. She was making jokes
about us eating the rabbit in her backyard."

"Do you want me to examine her?"

"I don't know. I think it might be a little…weird," I said. Carlisle nodded toward the house, then,
and I turned to see Bella standing in the living room window, watching me and Carlisle. It was
kind of funny because she was still holding that bowl of cereal, spooning Cheerios into her
mouth absently as she gawked at the vampires in her driveway.

"You could ask her."

"Alright. But I'm not gonna push it."

"OK. Whatever you think best."

I walked back to her porch then and poked my head through the door, just enough to talk to
her.

"Do you want to talk to Carlisle?"

"Does he want to talk to me?"

"I think he wants to examine you."

"I'm fine."

"OK. No worries, then."

I turned back to Carlisle and shook my head. He nodded.

Call me if anything changes.

I nodded.

135
And then they were gone.

I went back inside the house.

"Bella, I can leave if you want me to," I offered, closing the front door behind me.

"I don't think I want to be alone right now."

"OK. I'm happy to stay."

"Are you sure? What's going on with Laurent?"

"He's gone. He left this morning. Alice and Emmett and Jasper followed to make sure he left.
And Alice should foresee him returning before he does."

"I thought Alice's visions didn't always come true."

"They don't. But she's never missed anything major. We've never been caught off guard with
something."

"Then why didn't she see Laurent coming the first time?"

I didn't have an answer for that.

At all.

"I don't know, Bella. Maybe he would have passed through without disturbing anyone in Forks
if I hadn't interfered."

"But that doesn't make sense. She still would have seen it, once you made the decision to call
the others, wouldn't she? If what you say is true?"

"I don't-"

And then it hit me.

Alice had seen it.

Chapter 18: Yeah, I Sparkle. FML.


"What is it?" Bella asked.

"I…"

"Edward?"

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"I think she did see it."

"What?"

"I think she saw it all. I think she knew Laurent would come. I wasn't close enough to her to
see it myself. But I think she knew and she didn't tell us because she knew it would result in
you finding out about us. I think she did it on purpose. She's been wanting to force us together
from the beginning."

"What?" Bella repeated. She looked how I felt. "How could she do that! Who does she think
she is!"

"She's…I'm so sorry, Bella. I'm gonna kill her. She's always meddled. I never thought she
would ever take it this far. I'm so sorry."

The rage bubbling up inside of me was rivaled only by the sympathy I felt for Bella…which, of
course, only fed the rage. Alice had absolutely no right to manipulate us all in the way that she
had. She should have warned us. It all could have been avoided.

"No offense, Edward. You're a great guy and everything but what the fuck! I've been spending
all day and all night trying to wake up from this dream where vampires exist and I suddenly
have to be worried about getting killed by one, or several. And I'm trying not to stress out about
it too much but…fuck! I don't know! Maybe it's better that I know everything now. But my life
just got a million times more complicated. And confusing. And…scary."

And the tears started to well up in her eyes again. Which I was rapidly beginning to realize was
like my Achilles heel. Seeing Bella cry was the most heartbreaking thing in the world. But
seeing Bella cry and knowing it was because of me?

Fuck.

"I know, Bella. I'm sorry. Can I use your phone?" I asked. Because as much as I wanted to try
to comfort Bella in that moment…I wanted to ream Alice more.

"Yeah," Bella mumbled as she flopped down onto the couch in the living room, her head in her
hands.

I darted into the kitchen, where I plugged in my cell and then called Alice on the landline.

"Edward," she started, before I even had a chance to speak. The dread in her voice indicated
that she knew what was coming.

"Alice!" I shouted. "Why didn't you warn us? How could you do this? What the fuck is wrong
with you?"

"Edward!"

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"You saw Laurent coming, didn't you? And you let it happen! Just so you could fucking play
matchmaker!"

"Edward, it's not like that!"

"Then what the fuck is it like, Alice?"

"First of all, I didn't see anything until just before you called Rose. It must have been the
moment you decided to leave the meadow and you caught his scent."

"Why didn't you tell me it was Laurent? Why didn't you tell me not to send Rose?"

"Because in every scenario in which I warned you or Rose, Laurent ended up dead."

"So? Instead you let us fight him on Bella's front yard? You risk everyone's lives?"

"No, Edward. I knew no one would be killed if I kept my mouth shut."

"But you also knew what would happen to Bella?"

"Yes. But I figured maybe this was how it was meant to happen. I was put in a position where I
had to choose between a scenario in which Bella would find out about us or a scenario in
which someone ended up dead. So yeah, I chose the former," she snapped.

I wanted to shout at her. I wanted to point out that we now had to worry about the Volturi. I
wanted to point out that now we had destroyed Bella's life as she knew it. But I figured none of
those would be particularly good things for Bella to hear from the other room.

"And what am I supposed to tell Bella?" I hissed.

"I'll talk to her."

"No. Forget it, Alice. I'll tell her."

And then I hung up. I wanted to slam the phone back into the cradle, but I knew it would
destroy the phone, and possibly the wall. So I placed it gingerly back where it belonged, and
tried to swallow the rage that was climbing up my throat, threatening to release itself in a
scream.

Once I collected myself, I joined Bella in the living room. Without thinking about it, I sat down
next to her. She lifted her head and looked at me.

"What did she say?" she asked.

"When she had the vision, there wasn't much time. And every scenario she ran through when
she warned one of us ended with the death of Laurent. She made a judgment call."

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"She decided not to warn anyone?"

"Yes."

"Because then Laurent would have been killed?"

"Yes."

"So she traded my blissful ignorance for his life?"

"Yes. I'm sorry."

"Oh."

"Bella, it's OK to be angry. I can call her back up and you can scream at her if you want—if it
would make you feel better. I keep waiting for you to release some of the emotions you must
be feeling. And…and if you really feel like you want to go back to the way things were, I can
still look into getting you a roofie or something." Because she was seriously giving some mixed
signals on that.

"I…" she started. Then, she bit her lip for a second and sighed before continuing. "It's OK. I
understand why she did it. I'm sure it was a shitty situation for her to be in."

"Huh?"

This girl seriously has a screw loose.

"I don't want a roofie. In part because that would be making a decision. And I guess not taking
one is a decision, too. But I can't…I don't want to just go back to the way things were with you
in Switzerland and me being in the dark. As much as it might be the wrong decision, not
erasing it all seems more like the non-decision. Or maybe I'm telling myself that to rationalize
not erasing you from my life. So in the end, maybe I should be thanking Alice, because she
kind of brought you back to me and now I know what the fuck is going on. And even though
she did it for Laurent instead of for me and even though shit is kind of complicated right now
and I'm still trying to process it all… I completely understand how shitty it must have been for
Alice to have to make a decision like that."

"Bella, you're…" Incredible. Amazing. Mature. Full of an inhuman amount of grace. "You're
way too understanding. Much more than I would be in your position."

"You don't know that."

"I'm pretty sure. Because you're more understanding than I feel right now. And you're the one
who got the raw deal, here."

"I don't know," she said, shrugging. "You kind of did, too."

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"How do you figure?"

"You're kind of stuck with me now."

"No way."

"Yes way. You feel all obligated to protect me. And you feel like you have to figure out this
vision of Alice's now. You feel responsible for the position I'm in."

"How come you're so worried about everyone else? Shouldn't you be worried about you?"

"Maybe it's easier to worry about everyone else. Or maybe I'm still trying to wrap my head
around everything."

"Fair enough," I conceded.

"Don't think I didn't notice that you totally changed the subject. Because you have been
trapped into being around me."

"No, no! Don't feel that way. Bella, I've always wanted to spend time with you. I've just…I
guess I'm still trying to get over all the reservations I had that are kind of moot now that you
know everything. I mean, you must see why I tried to steer us both clear of this? None of it had
anything to do with you."

"Edward, you're only intrigued by me because you can't read my mind."

"That's not true. I mean, I think that may have been what got my attention initially. Well, I
suppose your smell got my attention initially. And then it was definitely the Bermuda Triangle
Brain."

"I'm not sure this is how to start a healthy relationship."

"Oh, it is definitely not that."

"I know. I was being facetious," she said, the corner of her mouth curving up as she tried not to
smile.

"Fuck!" I cursed, as she laughed. "You gotta cut me some slack. I'm used to not having to
guess when people are being facetious. Hell, I'm not even used to carrying on a normal
conversation with anyone. I usually know what people are going to say before they say it."

"Really?"

"Yeah. Why do you think I'm so awkward around you?"

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"Oh, I thought it was because I'm so awesome and you were so nervous and intimidated," she
said.

I laughed.

"That, too."

She smiled.

"Edward."

"Yeah?"

"This is fucking weird."

"I know."

"Are you going to come back to school now?"

"Do you want me to?"

"Yeah."

"Then I will."

The rest of the afternoon was spent talking, mostly about vampire shit. I answered more
questions. The one that she kept coming back to was the sunlight thing, so I realized I was
finally going to have to fucking own up to it.

"Is it so awful?" she asked.

"Yes."

"Is it painful?"

"In a manner of speaking."

"Oh. Then you don't have to show me. You can just tell me."

"Fine."

"So?"

I sighed.

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"We fucking sparkle."

"What?"

"Like fucking disco balls, alright? When our skin is in the sunlight, we fucking sparkle."

Her face scrunched up for a second, as if in abject horror. Which was exactly what I was afraid
of. Except, actually, it was second on the list of reactions I was most afraid of-the first being
what she did next.

Because next she fucking burst out laughing.

"No!" she cried, in total disbelief.

"Yes."

"You're fucking lying to me."

"I swear."

"I have to see this."

"Really?"

"Yes. Show me."

I rolled my eyes. Then, I stood up off the couch and found a stray stream of light that had
found its way into the room through the cloud cover and the curtains. When I splayed my hand
in its path, Bella gasped and her eyes grew wide. And for the four hundredth time that day, I
worried that it was the straw that broke the camel's back-that she was finally going to scream.
Or go into shock. Or whatever.

But then she burst out laughing again.

"Shut up!" I protested, shoving my hand back into my pocket.

"No, no! Wait! Do it again," she cried, jumping up off the couch and coming toward me.

"No! You're fucking laughing at me!"

"Only because you're so self conscious about it! You have to admit, it's pretty funny: the big,
bad vampire…embarrassed of his sparkles."

"Shut up!"

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"Do it again. Please?" she begged. She was inching closer to me. Like she was going to push
me into the light.

"No."

"Pleeeeease?"

"Nope."

And that's when she made her move. Which is when I got to laugh at her. Because a human
trying to shove a vampire—she might as well have tried pushing a mountain over.

"Holy shit. You're like a friggin' boulder," she said, pressing all of her weight into my shoulders
with her hands.

"Yeah. And you know, I'd think you'd be a little more concerned about trying to shove vampires
around."

"Should I be scared?"

"I'm a little worried about your fearlessness."

"Oh shit, is this…does that make it worse for you?" she asked, suddenly removing her hands
from where they had been pressed against me. I smiled, but I couldn't laugh. Because it
fucking sucked that we both had to worry about shit like that.

"No. Not really. But I don't know that I'll be pressing my nose into your neck any time soon," I
said. Because I had to be honest.

"Really?"

"Yeah. Is that bad?" I asked.

"Well. I don't think it's…good. But…not…bad, I guess."

"I'm sorry."

And I really was. Because we were reaching a point where I was pretty sure it was too late for
a roofie.

"Sorry enough to show me again?" she asked, smiling deviously.

I laughed.

"You're pretty fucking manipulative, huh?"

143
"It's really cool, Edward. I want to see it again."

"OK, but I'm going to have to go after that. I hear your dad coming."

"Holy shit, you really can read minds."

"You didn't believe me?"

"I did. I just…I don't know. I guess that's the first time I've seen it in action. Does that mean
he's two miles away still?"

"Approximately. He's turning onto Bogachiel right now."

"Wow. That's pretty cool. You're like…perfect Dad radar, huh?"

"Yeah."

"That could come in handy."

"It does."

"OK, hurry up and show me again before he gets here."

I pulled my hand back out of my pocket and again dipped it into the ray of light, throwing
rainbows all around the room.

"Wow," she breathed. And I could tell that she really did think it was really cool. "Can I…touch
it?" she asked, reluctant. I laughed at her reticence.

"Yeah."

Then, she took my hand in both of her warm little hands and began running her thumbs over
my palm, as if she was expecting it to feel like sparkles.

"I guess…this looks more like what you feel like," she said.

"I've never thought of that, but yeah…I guess it does."

"Because you kind of feel like granite."

"Yeah."

I was looking at her, but she was still examining my hand. It felt weird. And it felt good. But
then her thumbs stopped moving against my palm and, suddenly, she was just holding my
hand. She didn't look at me, but the pulsing returned. It wasn't like what I had felt in her bed

144
the night before. It felt like that pulsing from the biology room. And it only took seconds for it to
swallow us up, like everything else in the world fell away; everything but that rhythm.

But then she looked up at me and blushed, releasing my hand.

"Sorry."

"It's OK."

"I didn't mean to…I guess I'm just making you feel like a freak."

"I am a freak, Bella."

"No you're not!"

"OK. I'm a vampire. Does that sound better?"

"But…you're still Edward."

I didn't know how to respond to that. If there had ever been any doubt in my mind that I was in
love with Bella Swan, she had obliterated it that afternoon.

And for the first time, I knew it wasn't just because I couldn't read her mind.

I knew it wasn't just because of Alice's vision.

I knew it wasn't just because she made me feel human.

It was because she was Bella.

"Charlie's almost here. Where do you want me?" I asked, trying to focus.

"What do you mean?"

"I still plan to hang around. Like, within two miles. Just in case. At least for a little while. And
honestly, I'd prefer to be within sight of your house. But not if that makes you uncomfortable.
Or I can stay even closer, if you prefer."

"Closer?"

"Yeah. I mean, I'm super stealth and super fast. So I could stay in the house and Charlie would
never even know I'm here."

"Oh Jesus," she whispered, eyes round.

"Sorry. I-"

145
"I mean, part of me is kind of relieved that's possible. But another part of me is kind of freaked
out that that's possible."

"I know. I'm sorry. I realized as soon as I said it how fucking creepy it was. I just meant that I
can stay close if you want me to without Charlie needing to know. I mean…fuck. I don't know
what I meant. Something less creepy than that, OK?"

"What are you going to do while you're hanging around?"

"I don't know. Think. Listen in on people's dinner conversations. Shit, I can watch TV through
other people's heads if I get bored. Don't worry about me."

"OK."

"So you don't mind me hanging around the neighborhood?"

"That's fine. For right now. Just…call me or something before you leave."

"OK."

"And…thanks."

"For what?"

"For…everything, I guess. For saving my life…again."

"Any time. Just call me if you need anything, alright?" I said, walking toward the foyer.

"Yeah. Sure."

She opened the door then, and it felt weird. Like we were supposed to hug or something. But I
wasn't going to risk that. And just as I was about to turn to leave, she raised her hand and
placed her palm on my chest. Right over my heart.

"Bye, Edward."

And for one brief second…

"Bye, Bella."

…it was like my heart was beating.

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Chapter 19: Optimism? WTF Is That?
The rest of the day was pretty uneventful. I listened to Bella talking to Charlie about his fishing
trip when he got back, and then again when they had dinner together. He seemed worried that
she didn't seem to have plans, but he didn't say anything to her about it.

If only he knew she had a vampire stalker hanging out outside his house.

After dinner, Bella texted me.

So you can hear everything me and Charlie say to each other?

I knew she was sitting alone in her room, so I decided just to call her instead of texting back.

"Yeah," I said, as soon as she picked up. "And when he's looking at you, I can see you through
his eyes. And I can hear his thoughts, too."

"Jesus."

"Yeah. Sorry. I thought Rose already explained all this to you."

"She did. It just…takes some getting used to, I think."

"I understand. And I'll probably chill out with the over-protectiveness after a few days.
Especially now that I know Alice actually did see Laurent coming."

"OK. So I just need to make a mental note not to jerk off for a few days, then?"

I swear I almost dropped the fucking phone before realizing that I was supposed to be
laughing. But my silence was met with her laughter. And it took me a second to respond.

"Sorry. I just…like I said—I'm used to knowing what people are going to say before they say it.
I definitely didn't anticipate that one," I explained, which only made her laugh harder. But when
she finally caught her breath, her tone was more serious.

"I think I am going to have to rearrange my life a little now that I know I'm being watched."

"I'm sorry. If it makes you feel better, at least I'm not all up in your head like other people. I
mean, I know every fetish of every person in Forks. Every sick fantasy, every infidelity, every
lie."

"Oh my god. I hadn't even thought of that."

"I try not to pay too much attention to that stuff."

"Jesus. You'd be like…a gossip Jedi. Jessica Stanley would explode with jealousy."

147
"Does that mean you want me to tell you those things?"

"God no!" she cried. I laughed, until she continued. "Anyway. I'll leave you alone now."

"It's OK. It's not like I have plans tonight."

"Yeah, but I need to call my mom."

"OK."

"One more question."

"Sure."

"Where are you?" she asked.

"Look out your window."

Then, when she appeared in the window, I took a few steps forward so that she could see me.

"Oh. Hi," she said.

"Hi."

"Edward?"

"Yeah?"

"Thanks for sticking around."

When she talked to her mom that night, it was a lot more interesting than her conversations
with Charlie. She was clearly closer to her mom. And her mom asked more pointed questions
than Charlie. About everything.

After a while, Renee picked up on the fact that there was something Bella wasn't telling her.
Fortunately, Renee deduced that it had something to do with a boy, and Bella confessed so
convincingly that Renee didn't press any further on any other sorts of issues. Apparently, most
moms don't think 'vampire' when their daughters are a little reluctant to discuss something with
them. Go figure.

Of course, Bella had to be pretty cagey about it, anyway. And not just because she knew I was
listening. And Renee seemed satisfied to chalk that up to Bella not wanting to tell her mother
the intimate details of her love life. Bella assured her it was because the "flirtation" was still
new, and she wasn't certain of anything.

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Flirtation. Eternal soulmates.

Potato. Potauto.

After she hung up with her mom, I guess Bella was reading again or some shit, because
everything was quiet.

Eventually, Emmett came by to visit me.

"Hey man. How's it going?"

"Actually, really well. All things considered."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah," I confirmed. "How's Rose?"

"Fucking pissed. But OK. I think she'll be OK."

"Good."

"Yeah."

"So…"

"What's up?" I asked, even though I knew what he was there to talk about. It was always
interesting to hear how Emmett decided to articulate his thoughts with spoken words.

"I think Alice is a little afraid to talk to you right now."

"Really?"

"Yeah. And I think Jasper's pretty pissed at you. And I dunno…it sounds like maybe you were
a little hard on her. Based on what I've overheard. But I know I haven't heard all sides of it."

Typical Emmett. Constant diplomat.

I sighed.

"I know I was a bastard. I was just so…"

"It's OK, dude. Just as long as the two of you work it out."

"Hasn't she already seen us working it out?"

149
"Well, I'm guessing you haven't been thinking about it too much until I brought it up just now,
seeing as you've gone back to being an obsessed stalker."

"That's not what this is!"

"I know, dude. I'm just messing with you. But I'm just saying, your mind's probably been on
other things. But now that you've thought about it, she can probably see whatever's gonna
happen. And she's probably much less upset now."

"Right. Thanks, Em."

"No problem, bro."

"Have I missed anything else?" I asked, realizing I had been completely MIA.

"Not really. Rose really likes your girlfriend, though."

"She's not my girlfriend."

"No?"

"Well…I don't think so. I'm not sure."

Emmett laughed so loud then I was worried the humans would hear.

"That's fucking priceless, dude. You sound like a chick."

"Shut the fuck up, man. This shit is a little more complicated than the average relationship,
alright?"

"Yeah, yeah. So when do I get to meet her?"

"What?"

"Rose just has such glowing things to say about her. And our family's pretty much fucking
revolved around this girl for months now. I'm wondering when I get to meet her. Is that so
much to ask?"

"Lay off, Emmett. I'm not gonna pressure her into any more vampire bullshit."

"Does that mean I can't introduce myself at school on Monday?"

"That's exactly what that means, douche face."

"Alright, alright. No reason to get nasty." I guess that means he hasn't gotten any action yet.

150
"Shut up, Emmett!"

"Dude!"

But before I could argue with him anymore, my phone buzzed. It was Alice. And she started
talking before I could even utter a greeting.

"You don't hate me anymore?"

"I never hated you, Alice."

"It sure sounded like it."

"I know. I'm sorry. I overreacted. It's…been a long day, you know?"

"Yeah. I know. But it's…I think it's good, Edward."

"Does that mean you've had more visions?"

"No. Nothing significant. Still the same one."

"But there's been others?"

"I don't want to fucking jinx anything, Edward!" she cried. I laughed. Because, for the first time
in a really long time, I was feeling pretty fucking optimistic.

"OK, Alice. Thanks for all your help. I'm sorry I was such a bastard. I know you were in a tough
spot earlier and it wasn't fair that you were forced to make that call all by yourself."

"Thanks, Edward. And I'm sorry the way I called it created such a shitty situation for you."

"You did the right thing, Alice."

"I know. And I knew you knew. Even when you were yelling at me."

"I'm glad you have that much faith in me."

"Faith implies belief in something without reason. I have reason, Edward."

"If you say so, Alice."

"I do. But I'm not going to argue with you and your self loathing anymore. Go back to stalking."

"I love you, Al."

"I love you, too."

151
We hung up then, and I had to bear the shit eating grin on Emmett's face.

"Go home, asshole."

"Alright. Just give us a ring when you get bored."

And I was finally left to myself, again.

Except my phone buzzed mere seconds after Emmett left. I groaned. Until I checked the caller
ID.

Because it was Bella.

"Hey, what's up?"

"Are you still out there?"

"Yeah. I told you I wouldn't leave."

"OK."

I looked up at her window then and could see her looking out it, squinting as if she was trying
to see me. So I took a few steps forward again, and I could hear her sigh.

"Are you OK?"

"Yeah. Just…I guess residual nerves, from last night."

"Sure. Totally understandable."

"Really? Because I kinda feel like a weenie."

"Bella, you watched eight vampires trying to kill each other. Outside your window. I think you're
entitled to some nerves."

Then I heard her sigh again.

"Yeah."

"Are you sure you're OK?"

"Would it be…really over the top and pathetic if I asked you to stay the night again?"

I grinned.

"Not at all. You want me to come up now?"

152
"Charlie's still awake."

"He won't know. Open your window."

I watched as she put down the phone only long enough to slide the pane up. But I was in the
tree before she even had a chance to pick her cell back up. Her eyes widened as she watched
me swing myself inside.

"I'm not sure I'm going to ever get used to that," she whispered, hanging up her phone. I
couldn't help grinning again, because she was making it sound like she was anticipating
watching me swing into her bedroom window for many nights to come. Which was fine by me.
"I'm sorry I'm such a coward."

"You're no coward, Bella. I'd say you're actually pretty fucking brave."

She smiled, but she looked really self conscious. I noticed that she had on sweats instead of
the shorts she had slept in the night before.

"So, um. I was just, um…gonna…go to bed."

"OK. Just…tell me where you want me."

"Um…hypothetically…"

"Yeah?"

"If Charlie were to decide to check on me…?"

"I'd be back outside in those trees before he even took his first step. I'd see it in his head first."

"What is he thinking right now?"

"He's pissed about someone calling in sick tomorrow already. He's going to have to go in."

"Wow."

"Handy, right?"

"Yeah."

She smiled again, but she was still shifting her weight nervously from one foot to the other. I
could tell it was because we still hadn't addressed where I would be in proximity to her while
she slept.

"I can hang out in the rocking chair."

153
"Was it…uncomfortable…for you? Last night? Was that…too close?"

"No. It wasn't any closer than we are in biology, really."

"Even with the touching?"

"Yeah. You were fine. It was really nice, actually," I admitted, against my better judgment.
Emmett wasn't around, but I could almost hear him making fun of me in my head anyway

"Really?"

"Yeah. I…don't come in contact with humans very often. On account of the…well, you know."

"Right."

I could tell she didn't want to ask me, so I started toward the bed, and sat on the edge of it,
much like I had started out the night before. She followed suit, on the other side of the bed.
And then we were kind of eyeing each other, and it was awkward as fuck.

"Do you think you could maybe talk to me for a while?" she asked. "I'm not sure I'm gonna be
able to sleep."

"Yeah, sure. What do you want to talk about?"

"Is there anything about being a vampire that you really like?" she asked.

As soon as she asked it, I felt like shit, because I realized we had been doing nothing but
throwing all the negative shit about vampires at her, and that it was bound to get her down. Not
that she had decided to become a vampire or anything. But having a bunch of broody fucking
vampires hanging around was probably kind of a downer.

"Sure there is."

"Like what?" she asked, as she stretched out on her side of the bed and propped her head up
on the pillow.

"Like the running."

"The running?"

"Yeah. We can run really fast. And it feels like flying."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah. I can take you sometime if you want."

154
"Really? How?"

"Piggy back."

"For real?"

"Yeah. As long as you don't get motion sick."

"Really?" she repeated. She seemed really excited at the prospect of it, so I couldn't help but
laugh a little.

"Yeah. Whenever you want."

"What else?"

"Well, if you ever lose your cat, I'll totally be able to find it for you."

"I don't have a cat."

"Well, your hypothetical cat."

"What else?"

"No speeding tickets," I said, tapping my head with my index finger for emphasis. "And we
have excellent reflexes, so we're great drivers."

"That's cool."

"And I'm pretty strong. So, like, if you ever need a jar of pickles opened… Or maybe a beached
whale moved."

"Have you actually done that?"

"The pickles? Not often. Seeing as we don't eat."

"Edward!"

"Oh, you meant the whale thing? Once. When Alice foresaw it and went all bleeding heart for
the thing and we managed to get there before any humans."

"How many of you did it take?"

"Emmett."

"What?"

155
"Just Emmett. The rest of us supervised."

"Are you kidding me?"

"No. We still call him Captain Ahab sometimes."

"That's priceless."

"Yep."

"What else?"

"Uhhh. Don't really have to worry about bar fights or anything. And gambling with me and Alice
is pretty fucking fantastic. Until we get thrown out, of course."

"Keep going," she said. But she was struggling to keep her eyes open. And as I continued my
Litany of Awesome and she began blinking her eyes slowly, she reached out for my wrist
again.

I don't know why she chose my wrist. Maybe holding my hand felt too intimate. I think maybe
she just wanted some reassurance that I was still there, as she slept.

And by the time I got to the story about Alice saving an entire village from burning, she had
already drifted off to sleep.

Chapter 20: Chief Swan? More Like Chief Terrifying..


So I'll just fast forward through the part where I totally watched Bella sleep for nine hours like a
total fucking creeper, (hey, she wanted me there, alright?) and skip to the point where she
woke up.

Again, as soon as she opened her eyes, they widened involuntarily, and she blinked a couple
of times before sitting up quickly.

"Good morning," I whispered.

"What time is it?" she asked.

I held my index finger up to my lips, then, and motioned toward the door with my other hand to
indicate that Charlie wasn't far.

"It's nearly nine," I whispered.

"Oh." She spoke in a hushed voice, then. "Were you…here…all night?"

"Is that not what you wanted?"

156
"No. I mean, yes. It was. I just… It looks like you haven't moved. At all."

I realized then that it must have been weird to her that I was still sitting upright, exactly as I had
been nine hours earlier.

"Um. Yeah. I haven't."

"Oh god. And you were awake that whole time?" she whispered.

"Um. Yeah."

"I'm so sorry. I never should have asked you to stay with me."

"Bella, it's OK. We don't really need to move. When we do, it's usually just an old human habit.
And I'm kind of used to spending all night awake."

"Yeah, but…here? Doing nothing?"

"Um. That's not entirely true. Your neighbor, Mrs. Beck, was up half the night reading some
bodice ripper. So I kind of read that with her."

"Oh god. That's even worse," she whispered. "I'm so sorry."

I had to laugh. Quietly, of course.

"You gotta stop worrying about this shit, Bella. Being with you isn't boring. OK? I've heard
every thought of everyone person I've talked to and spent time with for almost a hundred years
now. Being with you is like…like an oasis. I mean-yeah, I can still hear other people around.
But being here at night…most people are asleep. It's not like when I'm at home or with my
family at night and I'm having to listen to all of their thoughts. It's…it's like being in a room with
someone, but…it's like…peaceful."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah. It's pretty awesome, actually. It was pretty easy to ignore Mrs. Beck."

"Wait. I thought you were reading along with her?"

"Yeah, no. I was just trying to make you feel better."

"But you weren't bored?"

"No. I promise. I'd come here every fucking night, probably, if it wasn't creepy."

"Yeah?"

157
"Yeah. But I'll leave you alone now," I whispered, standing up.

"Are you…leaving leaving?" she asked.

"Not right away. I'll be outside. But I do need to go hunting at some point."

"Oh."

"But I'll have someone here. Is there anyone in particular you want to request? You have six
other vampires to choose from, at your disposal."

"I don't want…to be a bother."

"Bella, stop. It's fine. None of us really has a fixed schedule other than Carlisle, and we all
want to make sure you're safe."

"But…I don't really know any of them…"

"Oh. Well, you kind of know Rosalie. And you've met Alice, yeah?"

"Yeah, but… I would still feel like I was imposing and it would still be strange having someone I
don't really know, like…watching."

I pondered it for a second. Because I really didn't want to make her uncomfortable. But I did
need to hunt. Just to be safe. I thought about staying and just snatching up random rabbits and
squirrels and stuff, but it did not sound appealing. I thought about calling Rose to see what she
thought.

But then my phone buzzed.

Alice.

"I'll be right back," I whispered to Bella. Then, I leapt out the window and darted across the
street back amongst the trees, where I answered the phone. "Alice?"

"Yeah. Tell Bella to call Rose. She and Rose will work something out. Rose will go hang out
with her for a little while. Emmett's going to go hunting with you. It won't take long."

"OK. Thanks, Alice."

"No problem. Rose is excited about it. I'll talk to you later."

"Bye."

Then, I dialed Bella.

158
"Hello?"

"Hey. I think Rose wants to hang out. Does that work for you?"

"You can pretend she wants to all you want. We still both know it's babysitting," she said.

"No. I think she genuinely wants to spend time with you. And I can't tell because I'm not near
her, but I'm pretty sure Alice is really fucking jealous."

"What? Why?"

"Everyone wants to meet you, I think. But don't worry, I'm telling them to back off."

"Oh."

"Just give Rose a ring. She's expecting your call."

"OK. Thanks."

Then, I waited and listened as Bella and Rose made breakfast plans. And in the time it took
them to hang up, Emmett was at my side. And Rosalie wasn't far behind, so he and I took off
for the mountains.

Alice was right. It didn't take long to hunt. Just long enough to fill Emmett in on all the non-
embarrassing portions of the previous 36 hours or so. And when I returned to my post outside
her house, I texted her. She and Rose were still bumming around town, so I waited.

When she did get back, she texted and mentioned that she planned on studying, so I stayed
away.

But that night, once it got dark, she called again.

"Hey," she said, a little shyly.

"Hey. Want me to come up?"

"Umm. I feel weird about this. But I tried going to sleep alone already. I'm really sorry. I just…I
get freaked out thinking someone with red eyes is out there."

"It's OK, Bella."

"I even tried Nyquil!"

"Bella, it's OK. I'll be right up."

159
And when I crawled through her window that night, she was already in her bed. She sat up
when she saw me, but I didn't hesitate about sitting down opposite her, that time.

"Did you and Rose have fun?" I asked.

"Yeah. She's really…awesome."

"Yeah. I know."

"Edward, she and I talked and…"

"Yeah?"

"She thinks it's OK for me to not have a bodyguard anymore."

Damn it.

"Oh."

"She thinks there's no reason to worry about Laurent. Or any others."

"Right. Yeah. I know she's right. I was just…I would have liked to keep an eye out for another
day or two."

"But you're really just being paranoid, right?"

"Probably. I'll…I'll back off. If that's what you want. I totally understand that it's less than ideal
knowing I'm always out there."

"It's…it's kind of a double edged sword, is all. I mean, it's comforting. But…yeah. It makes me
self conscious. And I don't want to have to change my whole lifestyle because of fear."

"I understand."

"Yeah? It's not like…?"

"An insult?" I prompted.

"Yeah."

"No. It's cool. I promise," I assured her.

"Thank you. For doing it. And for…stopping."

"Don't thank me for stopping. I'd kind of be a prick if I didn't, right?"

160
"Uh. I guess. Yeah."

"Are you sure you want me here tonight?" I asked, a little confused about where we stood.

"No. But yes. I mean, I want you here because I know it will make it easier for me to sleep. But
I don't want you here not only because it makes me incredibly embarrassed, but also because
I feel like it's so needy and dependent and…pathetic. But I want you here because… Well, I
worry how much of my wanting you here has to do with all the normal human reasons a
teenage girl would want…someone like you…in her bed."

"Oh." I knew I should have tried reassuring her, but all I could think was… "Someone like me?"

"Yeah," she said, looking at the floor. Of course, her face flushed faster than I could hide my
smile. She was quiet, then, and I tried to think of something that would make her feel less
embarrassed. I thought about telling her not to be self conscious about the fact that she was
attracted to me, considering it was kind of a superhuman ability I had. But I couldn't find a way
to phrase it in my head that didn't make me sound like a total dumbass.

So I tried something else. Equally honest.

"I know the feeling."

She looked up, then, surprised.

"Huh?"

"I know what you're talking about, Bella. I don't know where the line is between my wanting to
make sure you're safe and my wanting to be around you; my wanting to get into this bed with
you every night, not just for the peace of the silent mind thing, but also for…you. I like
spending time with you." I like watching you sleep. I like listening to you breathe. I like hearing
your heartbeat. Too stalker? Yeah, I'll omit those ones. "I like being near you. I like that you
hold onto my wrist when you sleep."

Those big brown eyes stared at me in total disbelief.

"Really?"

"Yeah."

"How do you know it's not just…Alice's vision? The power of persuasion? Or the silent brain?"

"How do you know it's not just the fact that I'm a vampire? That I have supernaturally good
looks? Or the fact that saving your life a couple of times is pretty fucking hunky?"

"I don't."

161
"Oh." I wasn't expecting that answer. But I guess I should have been. Because she was crazy
level headed. "Well. I guess we just have to take it one day at a time and see what happens. I
mean, if you think about it, our starting point is about as fucked up as it gets. Things can only
get…less crazy, right?" I asked, hoping for a laugh. But I hadn't fooled her.

"You didn't expect me to answer that way."

"Uhhh."

"You don't think the external factors are affecting you, do you?"

"That's not exactly accurate."

"What is it, then?"

"Well, let's just say I'm hyper paranoid about those external factors. To the point of obsession.
To the point that I dropped out of school and tried to forget I had ever met you. I've always
assumed there's no way around them."

"So what's changed?"

"I…I don't know. I spent more time with you."

"What?"

"I mean, I've always been attracted to you. In a very human way. Before Alice ever even had a
vision. Before I realized your brain was silent. It took me a minute to figure that shit out, I
assure you. I was fucking baffled. I thought maybe you were brain-dead." That finally elicited a
laugh. "And then when Alice saw that van crushing you to death…it was like… I don't know.
And then… I spent weeks trying to…" But I didn't know how to explain it. She started smiling.
And I knew it was because I was being an inarticulate fuck up who couldn't manage to finish a
sentence. "Just fucking trust me, alright!" I cried.

And then we both realized I had really fucked up.

Because Charlie had heard me.

And he was coming up the stairs.

I bolted out that window and into the trees before he had taken his second step, and I felt a
little bad for deserting Bella. But I figured that shit was better than him walking in on his
daughter in bed with a fucking vampire.

"Bella?" he called.

"Yeah, Dad?" she answered innocently.

162
He opened her door then and peered in.

"What was that?"

"What was what?"

"I thought I heard someone."

"Huh? Are you sure it wasn't the TV?"

I could tell from Charlie's thoughts that he was skeptical, but he also thought it would have
been really strange for Bella to have a dude in her room, since she was new in town and didn't
socialize that much, generally.

"Huh. I must have been…hearing things," he said. "You going to bed?"

"Yeah. Good night, Dad!"

"Good night, Bells," he said. And then, he began to close her door.

But then…

Then he noticed the window.

It was still open.

Fuck.

Motherfucking fuck.

He stalked into her room, straight to the window. And when Charlie Swan leaned out that
window and peered into the trees…I took a few steps back. Rationally, I knew he couldn't see
me. But I stepped back all the same.

And maybe shivered a little.

"Bella," he said, even though he was still leaning out that window, scanning the street. "Why is
your window open?"

"I leave it open at night. The air helps me sleep," she said.

The irony of it all was that that was actually true.

"Isabella," he said, righting himself and turning to face her.

"Yes, Dad?"

163
"Are you lying to me?"

"No, Dad. I swear. I have it open every night."

But he ignored her. He started searching her room. He looked under her bed, in her closet,
behind the door. Even then, he wasn't satisfied. He stalked out of her room, down the stairs,
and straight out the front door.

And I did what any teenager would do.

I fucking ran.

Run off by Charlie fucking Swan. It didn't matter that I could read his mind. It didn't matter that
he was a human, and that I knew he couldn't see me. That man scared the living shit out of
me.

Maybe because I could see in his head.

Dude was not happy.

I stayed close enough that I could still hear his thoughts. He actually fucking walked the
perimeter of the house, checking the bushes and shit. It was crazy. Then, when he finally
decided that either no one had been around or that they were already long gone, he returned
to Bella's room.

"Dad. I swear. You're totally overreacting," she assured him. But the man was on a mission.
He snatched up her phone and began scanning through it. "What are you doing?" she cried.

Fuck.

"Who was it?" he demanded. But I was focused on the call log he was scrolling through.

"Dad! I told you! No one was in here! You're being ridiculous!"

But then he saw it.

"Who's Edward!"

"What?"

Fucking cops, man.

"You called Edward twenty minutes ago."

"Edward Cullen, Dad."

164
And because I'm that much of a pansy, I cringed. Because Charlie was on to me.

"I thought he was in Switzerland." Where he belongs.

"He's back."

"What? Why?"

"The school…it was underfunded. It folded. So…he's back. Just now. That's why I was talking
to him."

'Atta girl.

She had managed to come up with a story on the spot that not only appeased Charlie, but also
could explain my sudden reappearance to the other good people of Forks.

"Are you dating him?" Charlie asked.

Excellent question, Chief. Suddenly, I didn't mind the line of questioning so much.

"Um. I…uh…"

"Yes or no, Bella."

"Yes."

Fuck yeah.

"Was he here tonight?" Charlie barked.

"No, Dad! I swear!" Still, Charlie marched to the window and slammed it shut. Then, he took
her phone. "Dad!"

"There's no reason for that window to be open, Isabella Marie! You're wasting heat!"

"My phone?"

"It's just for tonight, Bella. You'll live."

"Why don't you trust me!"

"I'm a cop, Bella. I don't trust anyone."

"But I'm your daughter! I'm not a criminal!"

"I'm more worried about him, Bella."

165
I couldn't really argue with him on that point. Considering part of me wanted to drink his
daughter's blood.

But then again, he probably woulda lightened up some had he known I couldn't really
impregnate her.

Before she could protest any more, he snatched her laptop and stomped out of the room. He
was figuring that if he closed all lines of communication, he could prevent Bella from warning
me that he was onto me. And he was hoping that I would try calling her. Because he figured
that's what a dumbass teenage boy would do after fleeing from her window.

And maybe that's what I would have done.

If I wasn't so fucking stealth and telepathic.

Bring it, Charlie.

I waited a few minutes for Charlie's thoughts to settle. But I didn't wait too long, because I was
worried Bella thought he had chased me off. And I knew she was still nervous about being
alone at night. So when she came to the window, I stepped forward to that spot where I knew
she could see me.

She smiled, but it was a sad smile. A pretty good indication that she thought I considered
myself banished for the rest of the night.

But fuck that.

I took a running leap into the tree and steadied myself in the branches right outside her
window. Her eyes widened and her head whipped around to look at her door, as if she was still
worried about Charlie walking in. When she turned back to me, I tapped my head with my
index finger and nodded toward the ground floor to remind her that I could read Charlie's
thoughts. I could see that she relaxed some, then, but I still signaled with a finger to my lips
that it was important she remain quiet. Because even though I knew I could be silent, there
were no guarantees with a human. She nodded, and then I reached for her window again.
Again, her eyes widened, but I smiled in reassurance.

Silly Bella.

Once the window was opened noiselessly, I turned on my heel so that my back was to the
window. I was in a crouching position, and I looked over my shoulder and mouthed the words
'hop on' to her. She looked at me like I was crazy. I saw her eyes dart from me to the tree
branches, to the door, and finally to the ground one story down. I smiled again, in a way that I
think let on how much she was amusing me, because she scrunched up her face in defiance
then and crawled on my back.

166
She was so bloody warm.

No pun intended.

I crawled down the tree at human speed so as not to scare her, but then I kind of darted back
amongst the trees, to avoid being seen. When I stopped, she was gripping me pretty tightly.

"Bella?"

"Yeah?"

"You can let go now."

"Oh," she said, her hands reluctantly releasing their stranglehold around my neck as she slid
off my back. "Right," she breathed. I couldn't help but chuckle a little. "You weren't kidding
about the motion sickness thing, huh?"

"Sorry."

"No. It was cool. Just…sudden."

"Sorry. I was just trying to avoid being seen."

"Right. Yeah."

Then I noticed she was hugging herself with her arms. I wasn't sure if it was because she felt
sick or because she was cold. Probably the latter, seeing as it was a pretty cool March evening
and she didn't have anything on but a t-shirt and sweats. So, because I'm so awesome and
chivalrous and stuff, I took off my jacket and offered it to her. She looked like she might try to
resist for a second.

"Bella. I don't fucking need it. It's just for show. Take it."

"Oh. Thanks," she said, taking it and shoving her arms into the sleeves that suddenly looked
huge as they swallowed her up. "So…"

"I just thought maybe we should sort out the plan somewhere where Charlie can't hear us."

"Oh. Right."

"So, uh…it's not a problem for me to sneak back in. I can do it in a way that he won't know I'm
there. As long as we don't' start shouting at each other again."

"Hey, that was you, not me."

"I know. My bad."

167
"I'm still a little scared of Charlie."

"Not gonna lie—I'm a little terrified of Charlie," I admitted. She laughed then, thank god. "But
seriously, he won't hear me. And I'll know if he's coming. And it's not like I sleep, so…"

"I think maybe it's a sign."

"What is?"

"Charlie."

"Of what?"

"That I need grow a pair and go back to sleeping without a bodyguard."

Fuck.

"Oh."

"So…"

"OK. I'll…leave you alone." It was so fucking awkward. But then I realized something. "Um, you
don't have your phone."

"Oh shit. You're right."

I think we both felt a little safer with that as a lifeline.

Or we liked using the absence of it as an excuse to spend another night together.

"I can hang-out out here tonight if you want, like I do during the day."

"No, no, no. That's just silly. I hate to think of you out here all by yourself. One more night
together wouldn't be awful…right?"

"No, it definitely wouldn't be that. I just…don't want you to feel…smothered."

"I wouldn't. I mean…I guess I could be fine by myself regardless. I just…"

She seemed really conflicted.

"Um. I hesitate to…." I started.

"What?"

168
"I can just give you my phone. And you can dial anyone in my family if you want to get in touch
with me. If you need anything."

"Oh."

I pulled it out of my pocket then and held it out to her. But she just stared at it, like it was a
snake or something.

"Everyone's on speed dial. Carlisle's 1. Alice is 2. Rosalie's 5."

She took it from my hand hesitantly. And I tried to ignore the disappointment of not knowing
whether I was ever going to be admitted to Bella's bedroom again. To say nothing of the
immediate disappointment of having the hope of spending that night in Bella's bed dashed.

"So, um…how come Alice didn't warn us about Charlie?" she asked.

"She probably didn't see it. It wasn't significant enough."

"She only sees significant events?"

"Well, she can look for the less significant stuff, and she can see it most of the time. But she
only gets spontaneous visions of the major stuff."

"Oh."

"If you think about it, she'd practically live in the future, if she was constantly seeing everything
that was gonna happen to everybody."

"Yeah. I guess that makes sense."

"So, um. Do you want me to hang-out out here tonight?"

"No, no. I'll be fine. I need to stop being such a sissy. But, uh...I think I'm gonna need some
help sneaking back in," she said, glancing back at the house.

"Yeah, of course," I laughed. "Can I ask you a question first?"

"Yeah."

"What you told Charlie…about us…"

"Oh," she blushed. "I just…uhh…I figured that was better than telling him you were my new
potential vampire soulmate, I guess."

"Right. So….we're… ...not?" I asked.

169
"Dating?"

"Yeah."

"Uh. I don't know… are we?"

"Do you want to?"

"Do you want to?"

Jesus fucking Christ.

"Yes."

"Oh." Then, her mouth was as round as her eyes.

"You don't?" I asked, suddenly panicking.

"I…kind of thought we already were. Sort of. Like maybe the vampire version of it."

"Oh." Shit. "Bella, I don't…I don't want you to think that dating me is always going to be like…"

"Vampire brawls outside my window and stories about murder?"

"Yeah. I mean…" Fuck. "I mean I guess…I can't pretend that it doesn't include those things
sometimes. Well, not really the vampire brawl thing. That was like… Those are pretty rare," I
stammered. And she was giggling. But I kept talking anyway. "But I mean… We can do normal
stuff, too."

"Like what?"

"I don't know. Like go to dinner."

"You don't eat."

"Oh. Right."

"Movies?" she offered.

"Yes! Exactly! Like movies."

"What about at school?" she asked.

"What about it?"

"You're coming tomorrow, right?"

170
"Yeah. Are you saying you want me to give you my letter jacket or something?"

"You have a letter jacket?"

"No. Oh shit, wait. I might. Buried somewhere. And it might actually be from like 1954."

"Really?"

"Yeah. You want it?"

"That wasn't exactly what I meant."

"What did you mean?"

"Are we like…Facebook official?"

"You have Facebook?" I asked.

"No."

"You wanna know if we're public?"

"Or how we're supposed to act at school."

"Um, I guess…whatever comes natural?"

"I'm pretty sure nothing about this relationship comes natural."

"Yeah. I guess you're right. Listen, how about I give you a ride to school tomorrow. You wanna
start there?"

"Yeah," she said, smiling shyly. "Sounds good."

"Alright. I'll be by after Charlie's gone."

"Because you think he'd mind? I don't think he would."

"No. Because I'm fucking terrified of him."

She fucking laughed so loud that time that I clapped my hand over her mouth, scared the man
in question would hear. When she stopped, I raised an eyebrow. She grinned, so I removed
my hand.

"I'll be ready by 7:30."

"Alright. I'll be here."

171
Chapter 21: Yeah that's Right. We're Dating.
We managed to get her back into her room without incident.

Or a goodnight kiss.

Not that I was thinking about that.

Not that we could.

Of course, Alice fucking tackled me when I got home that night, and not just because we hadn't
seen each other for days.

"This is so exciting! You two are official!"

"Shut up, Alice. Don't make a big deal out of this, OK?"

"But it's a huge deal!" she cried.

"If you make it one, you're gonna fucking freak her out. You're freaking me out. Maybe 'official'
was a mistake."

"No, no, no! I'll stop. I'm sorry. Obviously, the two of you are better at figuring out your stuff
than I am."

I couldn't believe she admitted it. It was like the greatest victory in the history of the harpy.

But I didn't get a chance to revel in it, because we had to have a family "meeting" about me
going back to school and how it was going to be handled yadda yadda yadda. I didn't give a
shit about any of it. I wasn't really paying attention to any of it. All I could really think about was
Bella, alone in her house.

"No one's gotten any calls?" I asked, interrupting some crazy hunting schedule Jasper had
worked out in an effort to adjust me to Bella's cycle. Which was just fucking weird.

They all shook their heads. So I went back to thinking about Bella, trying not to listen to Rose,
who knew what was going on and who was telling me to back off in her head.

"Alice. Have you looked for Laurent's future recently?"

"Yes. It's fine. He's long gone. He's in North Dakota trying to get laid."

"What about the Volturi?"

"The Volturi?" she asked, like it was crazy for me to even be worried about them.

172
"Yeah. Fuck."

"What's wrong?" she asked.

"I just realized! I didn't get a read on whether Laurent realized that Bella had witnessed the
whole thing! What if he goes to Volterra! ?"

"No way, man," Emmett assured me. "He was not in his right mind when he got dragged off.
He wasn't thinking about anything but killing people."

"Killing Bella! He must have seen her in the window! If he lets Aro see everything-"

"Edward, don't worry," Carlisle interrupted. "When Aro looks into people's minds, he doesn't
fixate on minor details like that. Laurent is an old vampire. He'll be receiving so much
information from him, that one human girl in one human window who may or may not know
about vampires and may or may not still be alive won't even be on his radar."

"How can you be so sure?"

"I lived with him for decades. Please, Edward. You have to stop worrying. If there's a
significant change, Alice will see it," he said, placing a hand on my shoulder. I calmed then, but
it was only because of Jasper. Which would have pissed me the hell off if he wasn't already
fucking with my emotions.

"It's my fault. All of this. She didn't ask for any of it."

"We're all going to be working to do whatever is in Bella's best interests," Carlisle said.

"Edward," Esme interrupted, taking my hand. "Let's go find that letter jacket. I think I know
where it is."

It's possible I got to her house early.

By like…an hour.

And then went home and got my car and arrived on time.

I just… I had to check on her. The night was fucking brutal. She never called. Which I suppose
was a good sign. But I got so anxious about it by 6:30 that I went to her house, telling myself
that it was fair game…since I was picking her up for school.

I'm really good at rationalizing shit to myself, OK?

Anyway, she came bouncing out of the house at 7:30.

173
And yeah…when she got into the car and shut the door, the scent was a little intense. She
must have noticed.

"Are you OK?" she asked, looking at me quizzically.

"Uh. Do you mind if… we maybe roll down the windows?"

"Oh. Of course. Sorry," she said, her hand darting to the button on her door.

"Don't apologize. It's not your fault I'm a vampire."

"Are you sure this is a good idea?" she asked, looking a little tense.

"Yeah. It's fine. I just…being away from your smell all night…the tolerance kind of dissipated.
And this is a small enclosed space, is all. The second I rolled my window down, it was fine.
And it was never so bad I couldn't handle it. Just…uncomfortable."

"OK," she said, her brow furrowed.

"I'm sorry. I realize this is all-"

"Edward," she interrupted me. "It's OK." She placed her hand on mine, then, and I sighed.
Because I realized I was probably making everything more complicated than it needed to be. I
exhaled slowly and met her gaze.

"Ready?"

"Ready."

So, I may have kind of underestimated the stir it was going to cause when Bella and I showed
up at Forks High together. At first, everyone was shocked just to see my car. Because they all
still thought I was in Switzerland.

But then when Bella stepped out of it…

Is that…Bella?

Did Bella just…are Bella and Edward Cullen together! ?

Fuck Cullen! This is bullshit!

Oh. My. God.

Jessica Stanley is gonna be so fucking pissed.

174
Poor Mike Newton. Hahahaha.

Oh. So that's who she's going to the dance with.

Oh…oh no!

Holy shit. Is that…someone from the Cullen Cult….dating…Bella?

I should ask her if the rumors are true.

Oh god. Does this mean Dr. Cullen's going to adopt Bella Swan now?

Isn't he supposed to be in Switzerland? Isn't she supposed to be normal?

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Oh. I guess that's why she wouldn't go to the dance with me.

Holy shit. I can't wait to tell Amanda.

That girl is such a slut. It figures.

"Um," I started, as she rounded the car. "Is there a dance coming up?"

"Yeah. Why?"

Then, I casually threw my arm over her shoulder as we walked in together. Just for the hell of
it. Because then they all really went apeshit. Plus, it allowed me to lean over and whisper in
her ear.

"Exactly how many guys asked you?"

"Huh?"

"So far I count Tyler and Eric. Anybody else I should know about?"

"You know that just from what they're thinking right now?" she asked, completely shocked.

"Yeah."

"Oh. Well…just…three."

"Three?"

"Yeah."

175
"Who was the third?"

"Mike," she mumbled.

"Newton?"

"Yeah."

"Fucking figures."

"Edward, this is so embarrassing. Everyone is staring."

"Yeah. You'll get used to that."

"It's like my first day, all over again," she moaned.

"Be glad you can't hear what I can."

"I am. Trust me."

"So, like…want me to carry your books or walk you to class?" I teased, as we reached the
entrance to the school and stopped, just outside the doors.

"Shut up!" she cried, shoving me playfully. And then she scrunched her face up again,
because I didn't budge.

"Wait! Wait! I'm ready now. Do it again!" I said, rolling my head from side to side and bouncing
on the balls of my feet like a boxer.

"What?"

"I'm ready now. Shove me again."

She narrowed her eyes at me, but then she totally shoved me again. And that time, I let my
weight fall in the direction she pushed, taking a step back in exaggeration. She rolled her eyes.

"You're such a dick."

But she was fighting a smile. And I was grinning. And so was the rest of the Cult, who were all
gathered around Rose's car, watching the entire exchange.

Bella turned on her heel then and walked away.

"See you at lunch?" I called after her.

"Whatever!"

176
Suddenly, high school was a lot more interesting. I got to watch Bella go through interrogation
after interrogation, through other's thoughts. I've never seen someone blush so much.

It was fantastic.

I met her outside of her fourth period Spanish class, just in time to watch a wide-eyed Lauren
Mallory peel off, as she had been the most recent interrogator.

"Hey," Bella greeted me, with just a hint of a smile.

"Hey. I figured maybe we should discuss the logistics of lunch," I explained, as we headed
down the hallway.

"Oh. Right."

"You're more than welcome to sit with us. But we would all understand if you didn't want to sit
at the pariah table."

"Um. I kind of don't want to just ditch the others, you know?"

"Sure."

"But I'm sure you're welcome to sit with us!"

"Yeah right," I laughed.

"No! Seriously."

"I am being serious, Bella. I don't think me sitting at your table would create… I think it might
be a little awkward is all. Maybe once I integrate a little more with your friends."

"You're going to integrate?" she asked.

"Um. Shouldn't I?"

"I just assumed…"

"That I would still be an aloof bastard?"

"Yeah."

I laughed.

"Nah. It'll be easier…with you."

177
"Huh?"

"I'll explain it later," I mumbled, as we pushed open the cafeteria doors.

And I swear to fucking god…

A hush fell over the room.

A fucking hush fell over the fucking room.

And everyone was staring.

We froze in our tracks. I'm sure we looked like deer in headlights. I know that's what I felt like. I
mean, it had been amusing at first. But it was getting a little over the top. I was beginning to
feel bad for Bella, who, sure enough, was redder than a tomato.

"Just head for the lunch line," I whispered, nudging her forward. She stumbled forward a few
steps before she snapped out of it. Then, she booked it to the lunch counter and silently
grabbed a tray and some silverware. I followed suit.

"This is awful," she whispered, as she grabbed an apple.

"I'm sorry. I didn't think it was going to be this bad. It'll pass. I promise."

We were silent then as we loaded up our trays. After we finished and paid, we just looked at
each other for a second. Then, we both turned to our respective tables and walked away from
each other.

When I sat down at mine, they all burst out laughing at me.

When she sat down at hers, the interrogations continued. I felt awful. She felt awful. I could tell.
She looked like she wanted to crawl under the table. I began to think maybe I should have sat
over there; that that would have lessened the questions…through intimidation, if nothing else.

"Edward," Alice said, forcing me out of my thoughts.

"Huh?"

"When do we get to spend some time with her? Why isn't she sitting with us?"

"She didn't want to ditch her friends. Can you chill out about it, already? I think this is all a little
overwhelming enough without you guys pressuring us."

Alice released an exaggerated sigh.

"How's it going so far?" Rose asked.

178
"She's getting interrogated by everyone in the school. I feel terrible for her."

"It's fine," Rose said. "She'll be fine."

Then, I heard Alice in my head.

Edward, I saw your little stunt this morning. And I just want you to know: when I decided to tell
Rose about it, I saw that she'd about rip your balls off. So I held my tongue. But I won't next
time.

My eyes darted to hers and she raised an eyebrow. I looked down at my food, then, and I think
she knew I was sufficiently scolded, because she went on to change the subject to the
upcoming dance.

"Are you guys gonna go?" she asked. It took me a second to realize she was talking to me.

"Huh?"

"Edward, if you're going to date a human, you're going to have to do human stuff."

"Oh, fuck. Do you think she wants to go?"

"Well, you could always ask her," Rose muttered, rolling her eyes.

"She's already turned down three dudes."

"What?" Rose and Alice asked, in unison.

"Shit, I figured you guys knew that already. I'm the one that hasn't been to school in like a
month."

"No! Who asked her?" Alice pressed.

"Eric, Tyler, and Mike."

"When?"

"I don't know, Alice! I wasn't here!"

"Oh my god, Edward. It's a Lady's Choice dance!"

"Huh?"

"The girls are supposed to ask the guys," she explained.

"No shit?"

179
"Yeah. I can't believe three guys had the nuts to ask her when she didn't ask them. That's
crazy."

"Geez. Chick must not have a gag reflex or something," Emmett muttered.

"Shut up, asshole," I snapped. Which of course made them all laugh at me again.

But I wasn't paying attention to them.

I was wondering why Bella had turned down three invitations to the dance. And as much as I
wanted to chalk it up to her holding out for…me…I was pretty sure I couldn't. Because I hadn't
been around. I was supposed to be in Switzerland.

Just before the bell was about to ring signaling the end of lunch, I dumped my tray and walked
over to Bella's table.

Of course, they all stared again. And a hush fell over the table.

"Hey, guys," I said, glancing around at them.

"Hi, Edward!" Jessica piped up, finally. Then, the others mumbled acknowledgement. "You
know, you're more than welcome to sit with us, if you want," she added. And seeing the
daggers in the eyes of Mike Newton in that moment was matched only be hearing what he was
thinking.

"Thanks, Jess. I might take you up on that at some point," I said. Then, I turned my attention to
Bella. "Walk you to bio?" I asked.

"Sure," she said. Then, I grabbed her tray as she stood and picked up her backpack. I walked
briskly to dump her tray for her as she trailed behind me. "What's wrong?" she whispered.

I threw my arm over her shoulder again as we walked out of the cafeteria. Maybe it made us
more of a spectacle. But it also felt like I was telling the others to fucking get used to it and
back the fuck off already. And it felt normal. And it made it easier to whisper to her as we
walked out together.

"Why'd you turn down all those guys?"

"Who said I did?"

And then I stopped dead in my tracks. Again.

I had just assumed she had rejected them all. It never even dawned on me that maybe she
was going to the dance. With…Jesus! Maybe with Mike fucking Newton!

"You…didn't?"

180
"What if I didn't?"

"Uh. Nothing, I guess. I just assumed…"

"You were in Switzerland."

"I know. I'm not….Sorry. I just… So who are you going with?"

"I'm not."

"Huh?"

"I did turn them all down."

"Christ, Bella!" I threw up my arms in frustration. She was the only person on the face of the
planet who could pull that shit with me. And it was actually…kinda nice. But she had begun
walking away, so I jogged to catch up with her. "So, why?"

She shrugged.

"I didn't want to go with any of them."

"But you want to go?" I asked.

She shrugged again.

"I don't know. I'm not sure dances are really my thing. They seem kind of cheesy. And
potentially awkward."

"You've never been to one?"

"Once. My freshman year. In Phoenix. It was pretty lame. And I didn't even get past first base."

Whoa.

That was when I realized that I had spent so much time telling Bella about me and other blood
sucking vampires that I knew almost nothing about her. And I suddenly had a lot of questions.

But I tried to stay focused.

"So wait. You don't want to go?"

"Are you asking me?"

"I was told it's girl's choice. I was told the guys aren't supposed to ask," I said.

181
"Wait. Do you want to go or are you just worried I want to go?"

"I'm not sure. I'm not sure dances are really my thing, either. But I'm betting you and I would
have fun together."

By then, we were standing outside of the biology room.

"I don't think I can go now," she said.

"Why not?"

"Because I'd look like a jerk! I told Eric and Tyler and Mike that I didn't like dances."

"Oh."

She looked at me expectantly, then, like I was supposed to say something else. When I
hesitated, she opened the door to the classroom.

"Shall we?"

Biology was by far the best part of school that day. We sat down at our lab table like everything
was normal. I took out my book and opened it. Bella took out her notebook. She even paid
attention. She even took notes. It was kind of hilarious. And even more awesome because I
didn't even give a shit if she caught me looking at her anymore. Because we were fucking
dating.

I don't know how it happened, but somewhere, in the span of time from picking her up at her
house that morning to the moment in biology where she subtly shifted her leg so that her knee
was resting against my thigh, it was like we found our rhythm. Despite all the stares and the
whispers and us being a little (ok, a lot) awkward about knowing what exactly to do with
ourselves, it was like we were suddenly a couple. We felt like a couple. Like, almost even a
normal one.

Maybe it was the banter. Or maybe it was the way it felt like we were united against all the
stares and the whispers and the gossip. Or maybe it was that we had gone public.

I don't know.

But it felt kind of awesome.

She didn't hide behind her hair anymore. She didn't even blush when she caught me looking.
She would just try to suppress a smile. Which she usually failed at.

And yeah, maybe it was the honeymoon phase.

182
But what the fuck ever.

Because the touch of her knee on my leg…it was fucking amazing. Because it was like when
she held onto my wrist those nights…it was Bella, voluntarily touching me. Not cringing away
from me. Not even fucking hesitating about it.

And yeah, we still had a lot of issues to work out regarding what exactly was possible
physically. But at that moment, her knee was heaven. Her knee was everything. Her knee was
enough.

For an eternity.

When the bell rang, I wasn't ready to let her go. After she finished packing up her stuff, I
grabbed her hand and pulled her toward me. She looked a little surprised, but rolled with it.

"I forgot to ask you about how last night went," I said. I had been so fucking relieved when she
came out of her house and so intent on not talking about it, as I was afraid I would spill my guts
about stopping by earlier in the morning, that asking her hadn't even crossed my mind.

"Oh. It was…fine."

"You slept OK?"

"Um. Yeah."

"Are you fucking lying?"

"I fell asleep OK. But I did wake up in the middle of the night. And then I struggled to fall asleep
again. But that's not so abnormal."

"You could have called."

"Nah. It wasn't worth bugging you."

"You wouldn't have been bugging me," I said.

"It was good for me."

"Are you sure?"

"Oh! I can't believe I forgot to give you your phone back," she said, rooting through her
backpack for a second before handing it to me. "You must not be very popular, because you
didn't get a single call."

183
"My family members are the only ones who call me. And they all knew I had your phone.
Which usually isn't the fastest method of communicating with me for them anyway," I said,
tapping my temple again.

"You're going to make me late for gym."

"Ohhh...Newton's in that class, right?"

"Yeah, why?"

"I just… Try to pair up with someone else, alright? I would rather watch through someone
else."

"Edward!"

"What?"

"You've been watching! ?"

"Of course."

"Christ!" she cried, blushing. Probably because of all the gushing she had done about me to
Jessica in Trig. And by gushing I mean she admitted to liking me enough to date me.

"Sorry, I figured you knew."

"I'm going to gym!"

"Can I walk you?"

"You're gonna be late."

"I don't give a shit," I said, pushing myself off of the lab table and picking up my bag. She
shrugged then and led the way.

When we reached the gym, we had another one of those moments, where two normal
seventeen year olds probably would have given one another a quick kiss without even thinking
about it. But Bella and I were left staring at each other.

Again.

I squinted at her, and I chewed the inside of my cheek for a second. And I cursed the god
damn bloodlust that was even more frustrating in that it was dulling, tempting me to push those
limits…which scared the shit out of me.

184
But then, when a breeze blew a ribbon of her hair out from behind her ear, my hand had
reached for it before I even knew what I was doing. And when I tucked it behind her ear, she
smiled.

And it was more than enough.

Chapter 22: Can Vampires Catch Foot In Mouth? Yes.


I was standing outside the gym waiting for her before she had even finished changing.

And I know what you're thinking.

No, I didn't watch her change.

But then when she didn't come out, I started to get worried. I started scanning the thoughts of
the students who were trickling out of the gym, at that point. But they were all thinking about
football or food or sex or homework. And just when I started to get really worried, I saw the
door of the gym being pushed open by a particular silent brain.

"Hey. Everything alright?" I asked.

"Yeah. Why?" she asked.

"You just… P.E. ended fifteen minutes ago."

"Yeah, but I can't exactly change with other people around now, can I?" she whispered, a little
angry.

"Oh shit, Bella. I'm sorry. It's not like that. I wasn't watching. I'm not that bad."

"How do I know?"

"I don't know…I guess you'd have to trust me. But I swear-I've never watched the girls' locker
room. I'm not some sick peeping tom. I get enough of that shit unintentionally through being in
the heads of other people around this town."

"Really?"

"Yeah."

"So…you've never seen me changing?"

"Not the real you."

"Huh?"

185
"I've seen people's fantasy versions of you taking clothes off."

"What?"

"And I try to avoid paying attention to that shit, too," I explained.

"Shut up. Stop. I don't want to hear anymore."

"How come you just didn't go into a stall and change?" I asked, as we began meandering
toward the parking lot.

"I didn't want to be Weird Stall Girl."

"Huh?"

"If I had gone into a stall to change, everyone would assume I have body issues or that I'm a
cutter or something."

"Oh," I said, feeling dumb for not realizing that. Seeing as I was well aware that girls were
constantly thinking those things about each other. "Oh shit. I just realized…"

"What?" she asked.

"OK, promise not to freak? And change your whole lifestyle?"

"Oh god. What?"

"I have seen your tits. Amanda Billings is really jealous of them and was thinking about them in
the cafeteria one day," I admitted. I felt like I needed to be up front with her about it. Bella
stopped walking. And turned six shades of red. So I rushed to continue. "I'm sorry. I wasn't
trying to see them. It was just…Amanda happened to be near me, so even though I tend not to
pay attention to people's thoughts that much in the caf, hers were hard to miss, especially
when they turned to the titty variety. And… Don't be embarrassed, Bella. You have really nice
tits."

Then, she turned even redder, and smacked her forehead with her palm, using her fingers to
cover her eyes.

"This is…"

"I'm really sorry. I would totally understand if…"

She parted her fingers just enough to peek through them at me.

"If what?"

186
"If it all got to be too much and you never wanted to see me again," I said.

She dropped her hand then.

"It's not that, Edward."

"Not this time. But… I can see where it would get to be."

"It's fine. I'll just… I'll get used to it. I'm sure you're more desensitized to it all than I realize."

Pretty sure I will never be desensitized to your tits.

"Exactly."

We resumed walking then.

"So how was your day?" she asked.

"Huh?"

"Your classes? Anything interesting happen?"

"Uh." I had been paying attention to Bella's day so much that I hardly noticed my own. "I had it
a lot easier than you. People were too scared to ask me about us."

"How come people are scared of you?" she asked, as I unlocked the Volvo doors.

"I don't know. Could have something to do with…" I paused, then, as we both slid into the car
and slammed the doors. "…the whole vampire thing," I finished.

"But they don't know you're a vampire."

"Yeah, but humans are instinctively a little put off by us."

"Really?"

"Yeah."

She didn't say anything about it when I backed out of the parking place without so much as a
glance behind me. There was stuff like that that I think she just took in stride. I don't know how.

"I guess I always just chalked it up to you all being so insular. But, like… when you talked to
me for the first time…it was weird, sure. But I wasn't…cringing on the inside or anything."

"Really?"

187
"Well maybe that first day. But I guess I know why now."

"Yeah. Sorry about that."

"It's OK. I'm glad I know what it was about now. For a while, the mixed signals were kind of
driving me crazy."

"Me too. And I was the one sending them," I said. She smiled then. So I decided to ask
something that had been bugging me since before biology. "So, if I had still been around, and I
had asked you to the dance, would you have turned me down, too?"

Alright, I'm fucking pathetic. I know.

"Probably."

Ouch.

"Oh?"

"Yeah. I mean, I would've looked like a jerk, remember? I already turned down three other
guys. It would be different if I were honest with all of them and told them I wasn't interested.
But that felt a little too dramatic, so I just told them all that I wasn't into dancing. So if I showed
up dancing…that'd be…"

"Oh. I get it."

"Oh shit!" she cursed, as if suddenly remembering something. Then, she began rolling down
her window.

"I'm fine. You don't need to worry about it."

"Really?" she asked.

"Yeah. This morning…I just…like I said: the tolerance had gone away."

"Oh."

"So…wait," I said, thinking out loud.

"What?" She froze, as she had been rolling the window back up.

"No, no. Not the window. You're fine."

"Oh." She proceeded then, before turning back toward me. "So, what, then?"

"What if I had been the first to ask you?"

188
"Oh." She stared at me for a second. Then, I saw the blush started to creep in again, and I
fought a grin. "Um. I don't know."

"You don't know? I mean. I didn't mean to put you on the spot. You already told me dances
weren't really your thing. You won't hurt my feelings or anything. But I'd also understand if you
would have rejected the aloof bastard who sent you mixed signals," I stammered. She smiled.

"I would have said yes."

"Really?"

"Yeah."

"Why? I'm an aloof bastard who sends mixed signals!"

"I know. But you're really fucking hot."

Not gonna lie-even after hearing it in other girls' heads for nearly a century, it still felt fucking
awesome hearing Bella say it. Because she was the only one who really mattered. And the
only one I couldn't hear.

"Oh, so I'm just arm candy, huh?"

"I'm just saying I wouldn't have said no!"

"That's…good to know."

"I can't imagine you at a dance, though," she said.

"Really? Because I've been to dozens."

"Really?"

"Yeah. I mean, especially earlier in the 20th century, they were kind of important in terms of
teenage socializing. It would have been strange if I hadn't gone. And, besides, I'm an excellent
dancer."

"So wait…would you…take human girls or vampire girls?"

"I usually just showed up stag with Rose and Em. And then later, Jasper and Alice, too."

"But you danced?"

"Sure."

"With humans?"

189
"Yeah."

"And vampires?"

"No."

I suddenly realized that she was getting to the subject that I had been wanting to return to ever
since she mentioned her last dance.

"How come?"

"I…" I thought about it for a second and then just decided to bite the bullet and tell her what
she wanted to know. "It was just Tanya for me, Bella. There aren't a whole ton of vampires
around, and even less who are vegetarian. I can count on one hand how many female
vegetarians there are of our kind in the entire world."

"Really?"

"Yeah."

"And… you have no interest in the non-vegetarian ones?"

"None."

"Have you met the other vegetarians?"

"Sure," I said, shrugging. "They all live with Tanya."

"What?"

"Kate, Carmen, and Irina. Tanya, Kate, and Irina are kind of sisters. The way Alice and Rose
are my sisters. And actually, I guess I haven't met Carmen. But the others have. She joined the
coven later, so I don't know if they consider her a sister now or not, but she also brought a
mate with her."

"Oh."

I could tell she was still processing.

"But I haven't seen any of them since…" I trailed off.

"Since you guys broke up?"

It was so weird to hear it referred to like that. It was so…human.

"Yeah. It was…kind of a messy breakup."

190
"I'm sorry," she said.

"It's fine. It's…been a long time."

"What about humans?" she asked, clearly changing the subject.

"Huh?"

"Have you ever dated a human?"

"God no." The words hadn't even left my lips before I realized what a fucking idiot I was. So, in
true awkward vampire douchebag form, I backpedalled. "I mean—I don't mean… I just… After
what happened with me and Tanya, I always felt it was wrong for vampires to prey on humans
like that."

"Prey on?"

"Well…I just… How could I date a human?"

"Isn't that what you're doing now?"

"Yes. But…extenuating circumstances."

"You mean…you were forced into dating me because of the circumstances?"

"No! I just meant… I never really found myself particularly attracted to any human girls.
Certainly not enough to deal with all of the complications. Until I met you. And even then, I
didn't want to put you through it all. And even then I found it hard to stay away from you," I
explained, praying I hadn't massively offended or scared her.

"Not even casually?"

"Huh?"

"You never thought about dating a human girl just casually?"

"I don't think…" I wanted to say 'I don't think it's possible for me to date a human girl casually.'
But then I realized that would make it sound like there was no way for me and Bella to date
casually. And maybe that's what she wanted. Maybe that's what we were doing. Maybe she
was trying to keep it as casual as possible, despite all the vampire bullshit. "No."

"Oh."

I decided to change the subject then, because we were about to pull into her driveway, and I
still hadn't asked about the subject that was driving me insane with curiosity. Fortunately, Bella
had provided me a good segue way.

191
"What about you?" I asked.

"Have I ever considered dating a vampire casually before?"

"No. What about…" I didn't know how to phrase it so that I wasn't demanding to know her
entire dating history.

"My exes?"

Fuck. 'Exes?' As in, fucking plural?

"Yeah," I said, putting the car into park and turning toward her.

"There's not much to know, really. I went on dates my freshman year…things like that dance I
mentioned. None of those really took. Then I dated a guy named Will my sophomore year. He
was really sweet. I lost my virginity to him. But then I moved."

What!

"What?"

She shrugged. Like it was no big deal. Never mind that my brain was exploding.

"We just didn't want to do the long distance thing."

"Wait. So… if you were in Phoenix right now, you'd probably still be dating him?"

She shrugged again.

"I don't know. Maybe."

"But… But weren't you the one who decided to move to Forks?"

"Yeah. I guess that kind of says a lot about the relationship."

"It does?"

"Yeah. I mean, I guess if it had been meant to be, I wouldn't have been so willing to move
away. And end it."

"Jesus Christ," I muttered under my breath.

"Oh god. Does that make me sound really brutal?" she asked. But I was still processing. I was
trying to imagine some guy back in Phoenix holding Bella's hand and calling her on the phone
and then getting dumped. Then I imagined him alone in Phoenix with a broken heart. Because
it would have to be broken, right? "Edward?" she asked.

192
"Yeah," I said, shaking myself from the thoughts. "Sorry. I was just… How did he take it?"

"He was fine, I think. I think he had grown bored with me."

"What?"

She laughed.

"Give it time. You will, too."

I could feel my face wrinkling in…confusion and disbelief. None of it seemed to make any
sense.

"I…"

"Are you OK?" she asked.

"Yeah. I just…am having a hard time imagining it is all. I'm used to being able to pluck the
images out of someone's head when they're recalling something like that."

"Oh."

"But it's probably better, because I'm pretty sure I could live without seeing your memories of
the sex."

"Yeah, I think I could live without you seeing that, too," she said. I smiled.

"So, uh. Charlie gave you your phone back?" I asked.

"Yeah."

"So you can call if you-"

"Need anything?" she interrupted.

"Yeah," I said, a little guiltily. Because it was obvious I was beating a dead horse. She was
already opening the door and getting out of the car. And I felt like such a tool. But just before
she slammed the door shut, she leaned over and popped her head back in.

"Yes. But I might just call because I want to. Suck on that."

But she didn't call. And I didn't sneak into her window that night. Finally, when it got to be
pretty late, I texted her to ask if she wanted a ride again the following day. She confirmed in a
text, but that was it.

193
And that was pretty much how the week went. We would drive to school together, sit in biology
together, drive back to her place, and then part ways.

It was completely uneventful, other than when Mike Newton passed out in biology while we
were blood-typing on Wednesday…even though we were using synthetic blood. Man, when his
eyes rolled back in his head and his knees buckled, Bella and I looked at each other and
couldn't help but burst out laughing. I mean, the blood was synthetic, for fuck's sake. We
couldn't make eye contact for the rest of the god damn class without laughing, which made it
kind of difficult, seeing as we were lab partners.

But, for the most part, everything was normal, I guess. Other than the fact that I was still a
vampire, and she still had a lot of questions; which I answered during our drives to and from
school.

I had a lot of my questions answered, too. I learned more about her family and her life in
Phoenix. We talked about books and movies and politics. Basically, we got to know each
other.

She wanted to be a doctor.

I tried not to think about the fact that vampires couldn't really be doctors. Unless they were
Carlisle.

I tried not to think about the future too much, generally. It made it all so impossible. So we just
took it one day at a time.

And it wasn't until we were driving back from school on Thursday that she finally brought up
maybe breaking with the routine.

"So do you wanna do something this weekend?" she asked.

"Yes."

"Try not to hesitate next time," she teased.

"Sorry. Too eager?"

"On the contrary. I've been waiting for you to ask me."

"Oh. I took the… When you never called, I thought it was a signal."

"Not that I don't ever want to hang out! I've just been trying… Well, having a new boyfriend can
be a little distracting. I didn't want my school work and my other relationships to get lost in the
shuffle. Add to that the distraction that the new boyfriend is a vampire. And that, uh...vampires
exist. I've been a little…distracted."

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"Oh."

"So I've been studying and trying to pretend everything is normal. I don't want everything to… I
guess I'm worried my life is going to change so much that I don't recognize it. I mean, more so
than it has already."

"I'm sorry."

"You have to quit apologizing so much!"

"I can't help it. It all feels like my fault," I said.

"No. Fuck this. It's not your fault and I'm tired of the guilt and all the negative stuff. I'm ready to
get to the fun stuff."

"The fun stuff?"

"Yeah. Let's have some fun this weekend. Vampire fun. Human fun. Whatever."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah. But I'm supposed to go to Port Angeles on Sunday with Angela and Jess so they can
go dress shopping."

"So you wanna do something Saturday?" I asked.

"Yes."

"Got anything in mind?"

"Can we… Is it rude if I ask if we can go somewhere and you can show me all the cool vampire
stuff?"

"Cool vampire stuff?"

"Yeah. Like the running and the sparkling and stuff."

"You've already seen it."

"Sort of. Not really. Come on," she urged. "It'll be fun."

"Yeah, sure. If you don't think it will freak you out."

"Well, you don't have to show me the actual bloodsucking part."

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"Oh, I won't. Trust me. It probably wouldn't be safe for you to be around me when I'm hunting,
anyway."

"Really?"

"Yeah. We kind of just run on instinct then. Plus, it's kind of gross and animalistic. It would
definitely not be… a turn on."

"I'll take your word for it," she said.

"By the way—I'm not going to be able to give you a ride Monday."

"Oh."

"It's going to be really sunny, so we're all gonna skip."

"Oh. OK. How come you didn't have to skip yesterday? Yesterday was pretty sunny."

"We've perfected the ability to dodge it. Between my ability and Alice's, we know exactly when
to arrive and leave school so that either the sun won't hit us or no one will see. And you
probably haven't noticed, but we've all placed ourselves very strategically in class so that we
don't sit near windows."

"Oh," she said, looking contemplative. "So, can I ask you something?"

"Yeah."

It was weird that she asked permission first, considering we had been asking each other every
question under the sun for the past week.

"You've seen Alice's vision of us in bed together, right? In her head?"

And then I knew exactly what she was getting at.

"Yeah," I answered quietly.

"So, uh… it hasn't already come to pass?"

"No."

"How do you know?"

"Because we weren't two feet apart with you touching nothing but my wrist in the vision," I said.
My eyes were fixed on the road, but I could still tell she was blushing. And yet, she pressed on.

"What were we doing?"

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"Uh." Is there a manly way to say this? "I was…you were… Uh."

"Rose told me we weren't having sex."

"We weren't!"

"Then use your words, Edward!"

"Alright, I was on my back, and you were kind of…your head was on my chest and I had my
arms around you."

"Wait. What?"

"You want me to repeat it?"

"That's possible?"

"See, this is precisely the problem with Alice's visions! We shouldn't just take it for granted that
that's possible just because she's seen it. The second we do, we might get ourselves into
trouble," I said, completely exasperated.

"Oh."

I looked over at her for the first time. And she looked like I had just killed her puppy.

"Sorry. I just…I get frustrated with the visions sometimes. It's…It has nothing to do with you."

"I know. It's OK."

"Ready to call it all off yet?"

"If that happens, I'll tell you, Edward. You don't have to keep asking me."

"Promise?"

"Yeah. But I don't think you're gonna run me off so easy."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah."

Chapter 23: Laugh It Up Swan, I Can Still Eat You


I spent Friday night hunting with Esme. I was expecting to get the third degree from her about
Bella, but she was mostly quiet. Even though there were tons of questions in her head that she
was dying to ask. But that was kind of how they had all been acting-they were all walking on

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eggshells around me. They were terrified to jinx everything. And they all drove themselves
crazy trying to not think about all of the shit that could potentially go wrong between me and
Bella, because they didn't want me to see all that shit in their heads. As if I didn't already think
about it all the time. And it was kind of cute that they all thought they would freak me out with
that stuff and I would give up on it all again.

They didn't realize there was kind of no turning back for me at that point.

We were walking at a pretty leisurely pace after feeding when I decided to ask Esme about
what was going on in her life. A lot of the time, asking was kind of pointless, because I knew
how everyone was feeling or what they were up to at any given moment. And sometimes that
meant that I would forget to ask. Which was kind of douchey.

"How's the organization?" I asked.

Esme looked up at me, totally surprised.

"It's…good," she said.

Esme ran the Cullen Foundation. It was a philanthropic organization we had decided to create
not long after Alice joined the family, since we kind of had limitless wealth from that point on.
We tried not to take that for granted, and we tried not to live lives of pointless excess. Though
sometimes I worried the Foundation just existed mostly to assuage our guilt over the fact that
we really didn't contribute that much to society other than not eating people. Well, except for
St. Carlisle.

It was a pretty self-sufficient little organization that Esme only managed remotely occasionally
when they needed her, which wasn't often. But I had seen in her thoughts earlier that day that
there had been a flurry of activity and some changes to procedures thanks to some new
research about the spread of some diseases in other countries.

"So, they sorted out those new statistics?"

"Yeah. We're going to trust the older report for right now, until there's more peer reviewed
articles on the new findings. But it's made us all a little apprehensive about where the money's
going."

"Did you have Alice look for the direction the research is going?"

"Yes. But she couldn't tell. Which is unsurprising, since so many people and decisions are
involved."

"Right," I nodded.

"How are you?" How's Bella?

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It seemed Esme was finally going to broach the subject she really wanted to discuss, though
somewhat unintentionally.

"Good. Things are complicated. But…better than I ever expected. We're trying to take it day to
day."

"That's good." That's perfect. I'm so happy he's found a way to do this.

"Yeah. We're kind of even going on a date tomorrow." I volunteered the information despite my
better judgment because I had a feeling it would make Esme happy.

And, boy, did it ever. Like, she was having one of those moments where her thoughts weren't
even articulated in words. Instead, they were just bursting with rainbows and sunshine and
unicorns and all that bullshit. But of course she tried to play it cool. As if I couldn't read her
mind.

"That's great, Edward. Where are you taking her?"

"Um, we're probably gonna go hiking. She wants to…see…some of the vampire stuff. So I
figured we'd go somewhere secluded."

"That's such a good idea." I hope he checks with Alice first. I hope it's safe for them to do
something like that. God damn it, I wish he couldn't hear my thoughts. Edward, don't listen to
me! Of course you'll be fine.

"Don't worry, Esme. I've checked with Alice. And don't think you're not thinking things I've
thought myself. It's fine."

"I know! It just must be awful to be hearing those things from all of us right now when you're
the one going through it all." Not to make it sound like an ordeal. It's not an ordeal. It's a
challenge, maybe. But I think it's really great And I think it will be worth all of the challenges.

I smiled, then, and she grinned. Because we both knew she needed to just give up censoring
herself. She stuck her arm through mine, then, and we walked back to the house together
wordlessly, as Esme thought about all of the potentially good things that my relationship with
Bella could lead to. Really simple things, like the two of us watching movies together or
laughing together or me taking her to her first prom. And I knew it was Esme's way of loving
me, and cheering for me, and removing me from all of the things that could go wrong.

Sometimes I swore she and the Overbearing Oracle of Optimism were related.

On the phone Friday night, Bella and I decided Saturday morning would be a good time to get
the official Edward/Charlie introduction out of the way. The morning would be cold and cloudy,
so no danger of any fucking sparkles and I could wear gloves to shake his hand without

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arousing suspicions about the temperature of my skin. Plus, we could make an escape shortly
after, if it got too awkward.

Or scary.

So I was a little nervous when I rolled up to their driveway that morning. But Bella spotted me
out her window the second I showed up, and I could tell from Charlie's thoughts that she had
prepped him for it. So I bit the bullet and walked up to the front door and knocked.

"Edward," Charlie said, as he opened the door. "Good morning."

"Good morning, Chief Swan. It's good to see you again," I said, offering him my hand. As he
shook it, he thought about how I suddenly looked older than he remembered.

If only.

"Bella says the two of you are going hiking."

"That's the plan. Just up a path near Deadman's Hill."

"You got a map?"

"Yep. And plenty of water."

"Good," he mumbled. Bella was at his side then.

"Anything else, Dad?" she asked, rolling her eyes. "Would you like to ask him his intentions
with your daughter, maybe? Or remind him that you have a shotgun?"

Charlie looked at Bella then and tried not to smile. But I could hear what he was thinking. And
he fucking adored Bella and all of her snark, even when he was the target of it. But then he
turned to me.

"You do know I have a shotgun?" he asked, his lips curling up just a little. Sometimes I think he
rocked that seventies porn 'stache just 'cause it was so good at hiding his half-smiles. When
you're in Charlie's head, though, you realize that the rough exterior really just hides a pretty
happy guy with a great sense of humor. Which made me realize that maybe he was where
Bella got her sense of humor. Because Charlie Swan spent a lot of time quietly laughing at the
world around him.

"Yep. I assure you I am legitimately and sufficiently terrified of you, sir," I answered.

He finally broke down and laughed then.

"Good. Now, go be good."

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"Bye, Dad!" Bella called as she grabbed my wrist and dragged me out the front door.

Frankly, when we got in the car, I felt pretty smug.

"Well, I think that went well," I announced.

"Yeah. He's actually a pretty chill guy. I think he realized there was no one in my room the
other night," she said.

"But there was someone in your room the other night," I whispered, as we got into the Volvo.

"Well, I think he decided that there was no one in my room the other night."

"Yeah. He did."

"Oh. Yeah, I guess you knew that."

"He decided there was no way I could climb up into that tree. And he may appear chill, but he's
freaking out that we're going to be alone on a mountain together all day."

"Really?"

"Yeah. He's convinced we're going to have sex, but he didn't know how to stop it. He actually
called your mom about it, and she told him to back off."

"Are you serious?"

"Yeah."

"I'm surprised she didn't tell me about that," Bella said.

"It was only this morning, when he really started freaking out."

"Oh."

"So maybe you'll hear about it later."

"So, how am I supposed to make fun of your sparkles if the sun isn't out?" she asked, looking
up skeptically at the overcast sky as we pulled onto the highway.

"It'll be out by the time we get there."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah. I had Alice check," I explained.

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"She is really handy."

"Yeah. We probably take her for granted far too much."

"When do I get to actually meet her?"

"Oh. You want to meet her?"

"Kind of. But I mean…not if that's weird."

"I just…thought it would be weird for you."

"Oh. I mean, I've talked to her a couple of times in the cafeteria. When you were sick. Or
whatever."

"Yeah. But my family can be a little overwhelming. Especially Alice," I said.

"It just feels weird that you guys all sit at your table at lunch and I sit at my table, and we all
glance at each other across the cafeteria at and…I don't know. I've never breathed a word to
either of your brothers. But like…I know they're vampires. And they know that I know that
they're vampires. And…it's a little weird."

"Shit. I guess I never thought about it like that."

"I mean, it doesn't have to be some big thing. Maybe just a 'hey, what's up Dracula?' You
know?"

I laughed. Because she was so freaking unbelievably… There's really no word for how chill
she was about the whole vampire thing. I couldn't believe she was making jokes about it. And
that was when I realized that Emmett was going to fucking love Bella.

Like, I was almost worried about it.

"We can do whatever you want. We can head to the house after the hike today, if you want."

"Unannounced?"

"Oh, it just got announced."

"Huh?"

"Alice."

"Oh."

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"Besides, it might be more low key if we don't make a big 'Bella's coming over to meet
everyone' thing. If we just show up, all sweaty and gross."

"Do you sweat?"

"No."

"Edward! That means I'll be all sweaty and gross! And you'll still be all sparkly and clean!"

"Nah. I may not sweat, but I can still get dirty. Want me to roll around in some mud or
something?"

"Yes!"

"Alright. I'll see what I can do."

"So where are we going?"

"It's a place I found…really kind of weird."

"How?"

"It's this flat clearing in the middle of the mountains. It's great because there's no paths
anywhere near it, so no one's around. But there's no trees, so there's lots of sunlight."

"How am I supposed to get there if there's no paths?" she asked. "I'm not a monkey like you."

"Easy. Piggyback."

"Oh," she said. Her eyes were round, and I realized maybe I should have cleared it with her
first.

"Is that OK?"

"Yeah. Just maybe start slow and work your way up this time."

"Sure. Whatever you want."

"Were you lying to Charlie or are we really going to Deadman's Hill?" she asked.

"Why would I lie?"

"I don't know. I just thought…"

Then she fell silent. I glanced over at her, but she was staring at her hands.

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"Everything alright?" I asked.

Silence. Still.

Then, I heard her inhale sharply. When I looked at her again, she was holding her breath. But
as soon as she glanced up at me and saw me staring at her, she burst out laughing.

"What's so funny?"

I was not used to not being in on the joke. But she couldn't stop laughing long enough to get
the words out. I was starting to get really impatient when she finally caught her breath and
looked at me.

"I'm sorry."

"For what?"

"It's…really…wrong."

"What are you talking about?"

"It's just…I thought it was an inside joke because… You're taking me to Deadman's Hill."

"Wha-?" I started. But then I got it. It took me that long to figure out what the fuck she had been
laughing at. And in the time it took me to figure it out, she was looking at me like she was
terrified I was gonna get angry. And then I started laughing. But not too much to not give her a
hard time. "You're… That's fucking low, Bella!"

"I know! I'm sorry!" she cried. But she wasn't that sorry, because she burst out laughing again.
And then we were both laughing. And I couldn't fucking believe I was laughing over the fact
that a human was making fun of me for not having a pulse. It was something I had spent ninety
plus years being really fucking bitter about.

But, suddenly, it was funny.

Chapter 24: Whoa


By the time I pulled off to the side of the road to park, Bella was wiping tears from her eyes
from laughing so hard.

"How in the fuck are you so well adjusted?" I asked, as we hopped out and slammed the
Volvo's doors. I had parked in the shade, but I had to step carefully, as the sun was out, just as
Alice had predicted.

"Wait-you call the fact that I can make jokes about my undead boyfriend well adjusted? I think
most people would consider that maladjusted."

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"Maybe you're right," I said, reaching into the trunk for the backpack I had packed.

"What's that?" she asked.

"Food. Water. All that human shit you need."

"I would thank you for being so thoughtful, but I think I detect a trace of snark in your voice."

"Me? Never!"

She put her hand on her hip and narrowed her eyes at me, but she was smirking a little, too.

"You're just jealous," she taunted.

"That's true. But guess what."

"What?"

"The good news is that you get to wear the backpack," I said, holding it out for her to put her
arms through.

"Is that so?" she asked, still defiant.

"Yes. And don't complain, because I'll be wearing you."

"The whole way?" she asked.

"That was the plan. No path, remember?"

"Won't that be…a bit much?"

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"I'm…"

"What? Heavier than a beached whale?"

"Point taken."

"Good. Now," I said, jiggling the backpack a little to get her to focus, "let's strap you in." She
rolled her eyes, but turned and slipped her arms through the straps.

"Jesus Christ, Edward. How much crap did you bring?" she asked.

"Sorry. I may have overestimated. It's been a while since I actually had any use for this stuff
myself."

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Then, I led the way to a spot just far enough from the road that she could hop on my back
without being seen.

"Ready?" I asked.

"Yeah. You're sure you're gonna be OK?"

"Yes. Hop on," I said, turning and crouching to make it easier for her. She put her arms around
my neck first and then wrapped her legs around my waist. I tried not to think pervy thoughts as
I swept my arms under her knees to secure her. "Ready?" I repeated, because we had
reached the point where she kind of needed to brace herself.

"Starting slow, right?"

"How slow?"

"Like…human fast?"

I rolled my eyes, but complied. And even though I started at what felt like a snail's pace, I could
see when I glanced over my shoulder that she had her eyes squeezed shut. But that was
probably actually better in terms of avoiding nausea, so I didn't bother making fun of her. And
then I gradually sped up. Her grip tightened some, but she didn't protest, so I continued
increasing my speed, until I reached that point that I loved where everything flew by so fast
that it was like nothing existed but my own stream of motion, and the rest of the world was just
waiting to be passed.

It didn't take long to get to the clearing. I tried not to stop too abruptly, but Bella was still
clinging to me when I stopped, anyway.

"Is it over?" she whispered.

"Yeah, Bella. It's over."

She opened her eyes then and looked around some, but she was still clutching my neck.

"Wow."

"You can let go now."

"Oh. Right."

Her grip finally loosened and she slid off my back.

"Was it awful?" I asked. Because she still looked a little…dazed.

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"No…" And then she finally looked at me and her eyes focused for the first time, growing round
with wonder. "It was….amazing," she breathed. "Edward, it felt like flying."

"Told ya."

I was actually pretty excited that she had enjoyed it.

"That was so great! I mean, it was kind of terrifying. But…in a good way. Kind of like a roller
coaster, except not bumpy. So, even better."

"I'm glad you liked it," I said. "And really glad you didn't hurl."

But she was distracted then, as she took in her surroundings.

"Wow, this place is really cool."

"Probably more so for me than for you."

"Why do you say that?" she asked.

"Its primary draw is the fact that it's miles from anyone with any thoughts. Its secondary draw is
that it's miles away from anyone who can see."

"Huh?"

"Anyone who can see the…"

"Super shiny sparkles?"

"Yeah," I sighed.

"So what are you waiting for?" she asked, motioning toward the sunlight that spilled out into
the clearing before us.

"Uh. Nothing, I guess. It just…feels weird. When there's someone with me. I've actually never
been here with anyone else before."

"Not even your family?"

"No. It's kind of where I come to get away from them and all their thoughts."

"Oh."

Then, I felt really strange, because it was like there was all this build-up to me walking into the
sunlight. Even though she had seen it before, I was… It was kind of like when everyone in the
room is singing 'happy birthday' to you and you just wish they would all shut up and stop

207
looking at you. So I decided to just pretend like there was no difference between the shade
and the light.

"There's a blanket in the backpack," I said, pulling it from her shoulders and using it as a
diversion, as I strode into the clearing like it was the most natural thing in the world to do.

I couldn't exactly pull it off, since the second I did it, her hand flew to her eyes to shade them,
even though she was already wearing sunglasses.

"That bad?" I asked.

"Not bad," she said. "Just bright." She lowered her hand then. "Just took a second for my eyes
to adjust."

And her eyes must have adjusted even more, because after we picked a spot to spread the
blanket, she took off the sunglasses. And just kind of stared. I pretended not to notice and lay
down on the blanket to soak up the sun. Because I fucking missed the sun during the week.

"I'm sorry I'm staring."

"It's fine," I mumbled. Because my eyes were closed and I was going to my happy place.

"It's really…beautiful," she whispered. And then I could feel her finger lightly ghosting up my
arm. And I wanted to make some joke about my masculinity, but I wasn't gonna spoil the
moment.

There was absolutely no one around. I knew it because I couldn't hear a soul. And it was so
rare that I got to experience that. But add to that the fact that I was sharing it with Bella? It was
like…I was normal. Because she and I were lying on that blanket and I couldn't hear anything
but her. And even then, I only heard what she said. So it was like we were like any other
couple.

You know…aside from the fucking sparkles.

She was on her side, propped up on one elbow, staring at me. And running those warm little
fingers over my skin. And it left this trail of warmth and life and…god…everything good in the
world.

When I opened my eyes, I grabbed her hand, and she stopped. But before she could
apologize, I pulled her hand to my chest and placed it there—right where she had placed it that
day we were standing at her front door. It had only been a week, but it felt like a lifetime ago
that I had stood there, soaking up her warmth and her pulse.

I don't know if she could tell what I was doing, but she didn't pull away. She turned onto her
stomach and rested her head on her arm, while the other lay stretched across my chest. And I
closed my eyes again and let the heat and the thumping of her pulse envelop me and my cold,

208
dead heart. And I knew that it was the closest to feeling human I would ever get, in that
silence, with Bella, listening to nothing but that beautiful pulse.

I don't know how long we laid like that. Probably a long time. And it was probably entirely
selfish of me. But she never uttered a word, until I finally did.

"Bored?" I asked, glancing over at her.

"Mmmm?" she mumbled. And I realized she was on the verge of sleep. So I shut up. But her
eyes flicked open suddenly and she looked at me. And then she grinned.

"What?" I asked.

"You're still sparkling."

I smiled. I wasn't even really self conscious about it anymore. And she seemed like she was
getting a big kick out of it. So whatever.

"Well, at least there's that to entertain you, right?"

"I'm not bored, Edward. It's really peaceful here."

"You have no idea."

"Tell me, then."

"I mean…it's not just the silence," I said, turning on my side so that I was facing her. "It's you,
too. You make me feel…human."

"And that's good?"

"Yeah, Bella. That's…good."

"Do you really hate being a vampire so much?" she asked.

I thought about it for a second before answering.

"I…I thought I hated it more than it was possible to hate anything, back in the beginning. And
then sometimes I felt like I was growing to hate it more and more with each passing year. But
then other times I felt like maybe it was getting easier with each passing year."

"And now?"

209
"And now I can sincerely say without a shadow of a doubt that I hate it more than I even
thought about hating it before."

"What? Why?"

I wasn't expecting that question. I thought it was obvious.

"Because of…you."

She sat up.

"What?"

It was a little disconcerting that she was so shocked.

"Bella… Don't you see? I've never wanted to be human more than I do now."

"Because…"

"Of you."

She was looking at me with the biggest eyes I had ever seen, and I worried that things had just
taken a turn that was a little too intense…maybe for both of us. But, in true Bella fashion, she
came out swinging—like she refused to believe that we had been thrown into a shitty situation.

"I don't want you to feel that way."

"I don't know how to not feel that way. Haven't you thought about it? How much easier this
would all be if I were human?"

"Yes. But maybe only because for the first month I knew you, you were human. To me, at
least."

"Then you have to know where I'm coming from."

"I don't think it's anything worth dwelling on."

"I don't know if I would call-"

"I'm going to kiss you now."

"Huh! ?"

I shot upright and scooted away from her.

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"Wow, that's exactly what every girl likes to see when she tells a guy she wants a kiss—him
shrinking in horror."

"Bella-"

"Calm down," she said, inching toward me. I didn't bolt, because I knew I could move much
quicker than her if I needed to. And she didn't exactly go in for the kill. She just picked up my
hand and examined it. Then, while looking straight at me, she lifted it to her mouth, and began
running her lips over each of my fingertips.

"This is OK, right?" she asked, between kisses.

"Y—y-yeah."

Then, she turned my hand over in hers and began kissing my knuckles. And the anxiety began
to dissipate.

And the warmth took over.

When she finished with my knuckles, she flipped my hand back over. But she tilted her head
down and laid her lips on the inside of my wrist; the same wrist she had held while she slept
those first two nights. And then it was like she was breathing life into me again.

But it wasn't just about that anymore.

And I wanted to take her hand and let my lips find those same spots on her. But I was scared.
Because her wrist held those veins so full of that beautiful blood.

But then she scooted closer. And suddenly, she wasn't sitting knee to knee with me anymore.
She was still sitting cross-legged, but she had scooted so that her knees were resting in my
lap. And she was staring at me.

"Bella-"

"Edward, remember that first day you came back to school?" she asked, as she lifted my other
hand and began kissing it.

"Yeah…"

"Do you remember when we walked into school and you asked me how many guys had asked
me to the dance?"

"Yeah…"

"Do you remember where your lips were when you asked me that?"

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Holy shit.

She was right. I had whispered in her ear. Without even thinking about it. My mouth must have
been no more than a couple of inches from her. Which meant my nose had been no more than
a couple of inches from her. And I hadn't even thought twice about it. I hadn't even
remembered it until she brought it up.

"Because I remember where they were," she whispered.

"Bella…"

"I'll stop if you want me to."

"It's not a matter of what I want, Bella. Trust me."

"We can take it slow if-"

"I love you."

I just totally fucking blurted it. Like a total fucking dumbass.

"What?"

Fuck.

"Uh."

Fuck!

"If that's your reaction to a little wrist action, I'd hate to see what happens after a blowjob."

"I'm sorry."

"For loving me?"

"For saying it. I…I didn't… I'm a fuck up. I'm sorry. I never wanted to put that much pressure on
you. I know you think it's the silent brain thing or Alice's vision or whatever. And I know you're
afraid I'm just a dumbass who falls in love recklessly. But you're not Tanya. And I'm not that
Edward anymore. And I don't expect you to feel the same way. And I don't want you to feel like
this in any way obligates you and I never, ever should have said it, because we've only been
dating for a week, for fuck's sake and-"

"Edward?"

"-I'm a god damned vampire and-"

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"I think I love you, too."

Oh shit.

"Don't say that, Bella. God, don't say that."

"Why not?"

"Because I'm a god damned vampire, and you're… You have such a beautiful life ahead of you
and it's just the fucking vampire charms and the vision and-"

"No."

"You don't even know me well enough, because if you did-"

"If you can insist it's not the brain silence or the vision, then I can insist it's not the vampire
charms or the heroics. Or the god damn vision or whatever the fuck else makes you feel
undeserving of love."

"Bella, I'm a murderer."

"I know."

Again, it wasn't the answer I was expecting. I was expecting her to deny it, or to pretend it
wasn't true. But she didn't.

"You can't love a murderer!"

"Why not?"

"Because you just can't!"

"That's tautological."

"God damn it, Bella. Capital crimes aside, I'm also one self-absorbed, broody motherfucker. I
can recite for you the entire litany of things that are wrong with me, courtesy of the thoughts of
my family members, if you want."

"That's fucked up, Edward."

"Exactly. I'm fucked up."

"No. You just think you are. You gotta stop. I'm only seventeen and I can see all the self
loathing and all the reasons for it and they all… It's stupid, Edward. You have to start forgiving
yourself. And you have to stop taking people's thoughts to heart."

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"People's thoughts are the only honest thing about them. People's thoughts are the only thing I
can take to heart."

"People think all kinds of things. And you know what? For every awful thought Emmett or Alice
or anyone else has had about you, I'm sure you've had an equally awful thought about them.
You just have the great fortune of not having your thoughts broadcast. And, more importantly,
your family still loves you. You can't just keep plucking out all the negative shit and forgetting
all the good stuff. I mean, think about how awesome it is to be loved by those people despite
all those flaws you hear them thinking about. That's a really beautiful thing, Edward. And it just
goes to show that you are deserving of love. Not everyone has loved ones who know all of
their deepest, darkest secrets like you all do. A lot of people go through life thinking that if
people knew those types of secrets, no one would love them. But your family sees all the great
things about you. Just like I do. So just…nut up and let me love you already, OK?"

Whoa.

Chapter 25: Bella Swan: Vampire Douchebag Whisperer


I didn't know what to say to her. Maybe the irony of it all was that, in trying to make me feel
better about myself, she made me feel completely inadequate. Because she was right. About
all of it. She was only seventeen and yet still had a seeming infinite wisdom. She was so much
smarter than me. And not only was she able to put me in my place—she also seemed to have
this uncanny ability to see straight into my soul.

Or…you know…whatever the vampire equivalent of a soul would be. I guess.

"Uh," I stammered.

But Bella didn't skip a beat.

"Good. I'm glad we got that cleared up."

"Uh."

"Now, chill out. Because we're in your silent place, dude."

She stretched back out on the blanket again, then, and motioned for me to do likewise. So I
did. Because, apparently, she was calling the fucking shots.

"If you could pick one thing as your favorite about being a vampire, what would it be?" she
asked, rubbing a blade of grass between her fingers absently.

Never mind that she had just blown my mind. And my world view. She was changing the
subject.

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And I knew then that she was pulling an Esme. She was gonna fucking force me out of my
broodiness. I thought about apologizing for being such a sullen jerk, but then realized that that
would be a pretty fucking sullen thing to do. So instead, I thought about her question a minute.
But it didn't take me long to realize the answer, thanks to the conversation I had had with
Jasper not long after Alice's initial visions of Bella.

"I understand people," I said.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, for all the fucked up shit I can see in people's heads—for all the vanity and self-
centeredness and cruelty and stupidity and everything else, I also see what motivates them.
So, like, when Jasper's a total dick to me because of a fight he had with Alice or something, I
know it doesn't have anything to do with me."

"That must be nice."

"Yeah. And I was telling him the other day—your friend Jessica?"

"Yeah?"

"Her mom is a monster. She's bred all kinds of insecurities into Jessica, and Jessica doesn't
always cope with them gracefully, but she usually does. But even when she doesn't, I get it. I
get why she is the way she is."

"That's…really beautiful."

"And her mom isn't really a monster. She just wants Jessica to be happy. And she blames
herself for why Jessica's dad left. And she doesn't want the same thing to happen to Jessica.
So that's why she puts so much emphasis on all the silly things that she thinks are important
because she thinks they're all the reasons Jessica's dad abandoned them."

"That's kinda…sad."

"Yeah. But…it's nice to know it's not actually coming from a terrible place when she puts so
much pressure on Jessica. Even though it's all kinds of fucked up in practice."

"Why did Jessica's dad leave?"

"I don't know. It was before I got here. I've never encountered him. But I know Jessica blames
herself. And I'm pretty sure none of the reasons she and her mom have come up with are
actually the reasons."

"You think he was probably just an asshole?"

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"Well, sure. But then I know that if I was in his head, I would probably find massive amounts of
insecurity or something, caused by someone or something else," I explained.

"Wow. So it's kind of…never-ending?"

"I guess you could say that. It's just…everyone's a product of their circumstances, really."

"Entirely?"

"No. Some people are more introspective and think about the things that have affected them
through life and have found ways to rise above them. People like reformed substance abusers,
especially."

"You must have an amazing amount of insight into the human psyche."

"Kind of. Yeah."

"Tell me another one?"

"Another what?"

"Redeem another person for me. If you could redeem Mike Newton for me, it might go a long
way in terms of improving my patience when I'm dealing with him."

"Are you fucking kidding me? You've always had endless amounts of patience around that
douche."

"Oh no!" she cried, half sitting up in dismay. "Are you telling me he can't be redeemed?"

"It's hard redeeming most teenage boys, Bella."

"Please?" she begged.

I sighed. Because I really wasn't Mike Newton's biggest fan.

"Alright. His primary goal in life, other than getting laid-which is really only his primary goal right
now because of his raging hormones-is pleasing his father. He idolizes his dad and almost
everything he does is in furtherance of gaining his approval. It's why he's on the football team.
It's why he feels compelled to make so many friends. It's why he's so attention-seeking,
generally. His father was quarterback of the football team and prom king and all of that shit.
But he's always been kind of aloof in his relationship with Mike. So Mike seeks to emulate him
in an effort to be close to him, because Mike doesn't know how else to win his love."

"That's kind of sad, too."

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She was propped on her elbows and her forehead wrinkled in what looked like either concern
or sadness. Maybe both. I suck at reading facial expressions, since I normally don't have to.
She sighed then and dropped back down to the blanket.

"Sorry. Didn't mean to be a downer. But if it makes you feel better, Mike's dad is actually really
proud of him. He just doesn't know how to express it. I think his parents must have been pretty
hands off emotionally with him. And Mike would probably be better at picking up on the subtle
signs of his dad's love except that his mom is really emotionally hands on. So he's getting all
kinds of affirmation from her, which makes him think something's wrong when he doesn't get it
the same way from his dad."

Bella smiled again. Which was way better than the wrinkles.

"I really love that you can do this. I really love that you can see into people's souls. I've always
believed that everyone's motivations are really good at their core, even if misguided."

I chuckled a little to myself, then, because it was only moments before that I had thought of
Bella as the soul seer. But she didn't seem to notice my amusement.

"Yeah. That's really true," I said. "I mean, it's a little different when you're talking about insane
people. But even there, it's not really their fault."

"Can you tell me another? A happier one?"

"Yes."

And I knew exactly who to tell her about, because Angela Weber was the most genuine and
kind teenage girl I had ever encountered. "Angela Weber doesn't have a selfish or hateful bone
in her body."

"You don't have to tell me. I love Angela," Bella said, grinning.

"I'm probably in her brain far too much. Just because she's the best option for keeping tabs on
you."

"Do you watch my every move at school?"

Pretty much.

"No. Just when I'm bored."

Which is all the time.

"Seriously, though—Angela's has to have some flaw. Right?"

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"Nope. She loves her family. She loves her friends. She wants everyone to be happy. She's
content with her own life, even though she stresses about school sometimes. She doesn't have
the self confidence that she should, but that's true of just about every teenage girl."

"See? You should be dating Angela. You like here even after being in her head. I'm pretty sure
my head would make you run for the hills."

"No way. I'm pretty sure Angela wouldn't be cracking Dracula jokes mere days after being
introduced to Days of Our Undead Lives: Reality Edition."

"You don't know that. She might."

"No way. Angela's great. But…she doesn't have your sense of humor. She's not as…fun.
And… I don't know. You're an old soul. Which is a definite benefit for an old man like me."

"I wish she and Ben Cheney would get together already. Neither of them will admit it, but I'm
pretty sure they both like each other. But I guess you know that."

"Oh yeah. Me and Emmett already took care of that."

"Huh?"

"On Friday. In Spanish class."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, I felt bad that I'm always all up in Angela's head, and I really appreciate her for being
such a pleasant head to be in. I kind of wanted to find a way to thank her. And actually, it took
me a while to find something she wanted, because she's so content. It's so great how she
doesn't take anything for granted and she's not greedy—she doesn't want what she doesn't
have."

"Except for Ben."

"Exactly."

"So what did you do?"

"Actually, I probably should have told you about this sooner. Because I actually come off a little
skeezy, since I'm supposed to be dating you."

"Huh?"

"Well, Ben sits behind me and Emmett in Spanish. And we pretended like we weren't aware of
that, and I struck up a conversation with Emmett about Angela. I started talking about how hot

218
she was and how I totally would have gone for her, if you hadn't moved here. And then Emmett
said something like 'I heard she was into that guy, Cheney, anyway.'"

"Oh my god! You didn't!"

"We did. And then we even cleared up the mess about the upcoming dance." "How?"

"We talked about how Angela was too shy to ask anyone, so she got pressured into going with
Eric Yorkie as part of the group."

"Oh my gosh!"

"Yeah. And Ben totally took the bait. He's gonna ask her out after the dance."

"That's… That's the cutest thing I've ever heard!" she cried. Then, she propped herself up on
her elbows again as she threw her head back and laughed. I kind of sat up, too, just to watch
her laugh. Because it was so fucking cute. "I… I don't even know where to begin," she
continued, when she finally stopped laughing.

"What do you mean?"

"First, I can't fucking wait to meet Emmett. Second, I love that the two of them are going to get
together because I really like both of them and I was worried they were both too shy to ever
get their shit together. Third, I can't fucking stand how cute it is that the two of you did that for
them."

I shrugged, but I grinned a little, too. Because I was clearly scoring all kinds of points.

"You'll get to meet Emmett this afternoon," I reminded her.

"Oh god, I had completely forgotten. I'm excited about it, but kinda nervous, too."

"We don't have to do it."

"No, no. I want to. I just… I'll be fine."

"I think you're entitled to a little anxiety over meeting a bunch of vampires."

"Honestly, I think I'm way less concerned with the vampire aspect, and way more concerned
with the whole meet-the-boyfriend's-family aspect."

It sounded so fucking weird to be referred to as the boyfriend.

But kinda cool, too.

"Well, like I said: we can put it off however long you want."

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"No way. I'm not sharing any more awkward glances across the cafeteria with Jasper."

"Jasper, specifically?"

"It's him the most, I think."

"It's probably because I've talked to him about you more than anyone else."

"I'm just going to pretend not to know that."

"Sorry."

"On another note—I have to pee," she said, totally matter-of-factly.

"Oh shit. I didn't think about that."

"Uh. Good. I'm gonna go hide behind that tree over there. You don't have like x-ray vampire
vision, do you?" she asked.

"No. You're good," I answered, laughing. "You sure you don't want me to take you somewhere
a little less…earthy?"

"Yeah. I'm fine."

Then, she hopped up and walked to a tree behind me. I lay back down on my back and closed
my eyes again, reflecting on how fucking chill it was of Bella that she was gonna pop a squat
behind that tree without being all prissy or self conscious or anything.

It felt entirely different lying there without the little ball of heat emanating next to me, but it was
still quiet. It kind of made me wonder if I would be capable of sleep if only I tried a little bit
harder, and if I wasn't always so inundated with other people's thoughts all the time.

I opened my eyes when I heard Bella come bouncing back from the trees. She sat back down.

"Are you hungry?" I asked, realizing I needed to get in the habit of remembering that type of
human shit.

"I'm OK. Big breakfast," she said, patting her tummy. "I thought I was gonna be burning tons of
calories hiking, but you kind of took the wind out of those sails."

"My bad. Do you want to go exploring some? Human style?" I asked.

"Nope. I'm entirely content to lay here and be super lazy."

Then, she settled back into the blanket next to me. But, instead of just grabbing my wrist or
putting her palm on my chest, she went balls to the walls. She did it slowly, and she watched

220
me the whole time, to make sure it was OK. But she scooted up next to me, until our entire
bodies were touching. Then, she threw an arm across my stomach and, when I didn't protest,
she just kind of nestled her head on my chest.

And suddenly, I realized it was one of the moments-one of the visions Alice had seen, that day
in biology when she had first started having them. It was one of the visions that had been
blurred when I started freaking out; not the ever-present one of me and Bella in Bella's bed. It
was one that I had nearly forgotten, and certainly hadn't thought would occur.

And because I knew that Alice had been right and that I needed to stop being such a coward, I
put my arms around Bella.

And I felt her smile against my chest.

And I didn't even taste any venom.

Chapter 26: Meet The Bloodsucking Brady Bunch


Bella grew quiet on the way to the house. I could tell it was from ever-increasing nerves.

"Music?" I suggested.

"Huh?" she asked, snapping to attention. "Oh, yeah. Sure."

But as soon as I turned on the stereo, she went back to staring out the window. I decided not
to press her, since I couldn't read her mind. Which was making me increasingly anxious.

After a second, though, she started grinning and turned to me.

"What?" I asked. It was seriously driving me nuts that I never knew what was going to come
out of her mouth.

"I love this song," she said.

Again, something I never would have predicted. But something that instantly put me at ease.

"Oh yeah?"

"Yeah. I didn't peg you for liking this type of music at all."

"Why not?"

"Because you're old!"

"Fuck that! I'm not some crusty old geezer! You think we don't adapt with the times? It's kind of
an essential part of our existence."

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"Good to know," she said, returning her attention to the trees flying past her window.

But as much as she didn't look at me and I didn't look at her, and even though she didn't
elaborate on why it was good to know, I think we were both thinking about whether she had
said it because it was good to know for future reference regarding me, or…herself.

And then I wanted to fucking burn shit down because it had been such a good day and we had
been doing such a good job of taking everything one day at a time, but it felt like suddenly the
elephant in the room was going to become the elephant in the relationship—namely, that we
weren't discussing whether Bella was considering the whole vampire thing.

For my part, I knew I was never going to bring it up. I didn't know how I could in a way that she
wouldn't feel pressure…and that wasn't right. Unless I only brought it up to discourage it.
Which I could totally see myself doing.

But if I was completely honest with myself, the only thing I wanted in the world more than her
becoming a vampire was my becoming a human. And seeing as the latter wasn't an option, I
doubted my ability to make a convincing argument against her becoming a vampire.

Actually, that's a lie. I'm probably more qualified than anyone to make a convincing argument
against becoming a vampire. Because despite what I wanted, I'm still one broody
motherfucker, and it wouldn't be that hard to tap into all of my own remorse and bitterness to
argue why she shouldn't become one of us.

Plus, I really didn't want Bella to do anything she would regret. I didn't want her to become one
of us, only to change her mind later. And even thinking about it made me uncomfortable.
Because, for all her wisdom and all of her grace and all of her intelligence, she was still only
seventeen.

But it was probably presumptuous of me to think that she was even considering it. She had
said, that very first night, that she was disinclined—that she loved her family too much. And
who could blame her?

So yeah…I was content to ignore the elephant.

As we pulled up to the house, I could hear that they were all taking their "places." It was so god
damned ridiculous. Alice had arranged for everyone to act "naturally," so that Bella wouldn't be
too intimidated or weirded out. She put Emmett and Jasper in front of the TV, where they
played video games. (Which is probably what they would have been doing anyway.) Carlisle
and Esme were supposed to be talking to each other in the kitchen about their days, and Alice
and Rose were pretending to do homework in the same room as the boys.

"Ready?" I asked, as I walked Bella up to the front door.

She nodded.

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When I opened the door, they were all talking and carrying on and, because he's apparently
the "teddy bear," Emmett was elected the greeter. So he dropped his console and hopped over
the back of the couch to meet us in the foyer.

"Hey guys!" he bellowed. And I cringed, because I was pretty sure Emmett would have been
my last choice.

"Hey, Emmett," I mumbled.

And then Bella…. I don't know why it even surprised me even more. But she stuck out her
hand and introduced herself.

"Hi, Emmett. I'm Bella: Potential Vampire Soulmate."

And it was the most priceless moment ever, because Emmett was speechless. He just fucking
gaped at her like she was growing a third head or something. But only for a second, until he
burst out laughing. Then, instead of shaking her hand, he picked her up and hugged her and
spun her around. And I wanted to fucking die.

"I can tell already that you're too good for that sad sack!" he cried, jerking his thumb toward me
after setting her back down.

"Emmett! Personal space! Fuck!" I said. Then, everyone burst out laughing. Fortunately, Bella
was laughing, too. Unfortunately, they were laughing at me. And I realized the whole thing was
gonna be much worse for me than for Bella.

"Sorry, Bella. Alice gave me a big ol' lecture about that shit before you got here and I already
fucked it up," Emmett apologized. But his tone was far from repentant.

Bella grinned.

"It's OK. No bones crushed."

"Do you play chess?" he asked. And I narrowed my eyes at him, because I could hear what he
was thinking.

"Um. I know how. But I don't play it regularly or anything."

"Eeeexcellent. We will return to this subject later," he purred, steepling his hands and
drumming his fingertips together. "But right now, Esme's creaming her pants over the fact that
you're here, so I should probably quit hogging you."

He wasn't lying. Esme was peeking out of the kitchen at us, grinning like an idiot.

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Bella waved at her a little nervously, as if to grant Esme permission to accost her. Considering
Esme's thoughts, it was amazing she used as much restraint as she did, because she didn't
hug Bella. She walked right up to her, but she stopped when she got within three feet of her.

"Hi, Bella. I'm so happy to meet you. I'm so glad you decided to stop by."

"Thanks. Me too," Bella said.

Carlisle had followed Esme out of the kitchen and was standing behind her, so he reached
around and offered his hand to Bella.

"Good to see you again, Bella."

Bella took his hand and shook it.

"Thanks, Dr. Cullen. You too."

And I thought Esme was going to fucking explode. I thought about whispering in Bella's ear,
but I knew that anything I whispered loud enough for Bella, would also be loud enough for
Esme. So I just said it.

"Esme really wants to hug you. Like, I think she's going to spontaneously combust in a
second."

"Oh," Bella said, glancing from me to Esme. And it was awkward as fuck. "O…kay."

And that's all it took for Esme to fling herself at Bella, who looked even more surprised than
she had when Emmett hugged her, even though she had had less warning then. And Esme
hadn't even let go before Alice came flying into the room.

"Fuck this! It's my turn!"

And then we were all laughing at Alice, because she wasn't one to drop the eff bomb. But
apparently Emmett had established precedent for the afternoon, and Alice wasn't going to miss
out.

And as soon as Esme released Bella, Alice was hugging her, and talking a mile a minute.

"Bellllllla! I'm sorry. I'm overbearing and annoying and I'm just going to apologize now because
I'm going to try really hard to dial it down, but I'm pretty sure I'm going to fail miserably."

"It's OK, Alice," Bella assured her, as Alice finally backed off. "I really appreciate everything
you've done."

"Really?" Alice squealed. Her face lit up like Bella had just returned her long lost puppy.

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"Yeah," Bella replied. And I bit back a groan, praying Alice wouldn't take that as license to be
as overbearing and obnoxious as her little heart desired. Which was really overbearing and
obnoxious.

"Living room?" Carlisle suggested, interrupting. Bella nodded and he then proceeded to usher
us into the adjoining room, where Rose and Jasper were still seated.

"Hey, Bella," Rose said, completely casually. She was trying to show Bella that she already
thought of the two of them as friends. She didn't bother even getting off of the couch.

"Hi, Rosalie."

But before the two of them could talk, Jasper stood up. Like Esme, he was completely
awkward.

"Hi, Bella. I'm Jasper."

"I know," Bella said, smiling. "You are incredibly good at fake eating."

He laughed, then.

"You know, I'm glad someone finally noticed. No one around here appreciates that."

"I had a friend with an eating disorder in Phoenix. I'm actually kind of surprised more people
don't notice that about you guys, considering."

"Actually, Kelly Starling does notice. For precisely that reason. She's anorexic and she notices
everyone's eating habits. Fortunately for us, she never discusses them with anyone else," I
said.

"Oh god. That's… That sucks. My friend Caroline was hospitalized because of it. She's OK
now. But… It was really scary for a while."

"Kelly's mom has started noticing, so hopefully things will improve soon," I told her, realizing
my previous statement probably sounded a little callous. And before she could get subjected to
questions and Emmett's bad jokes and whatever else, I changed the subject. "Hey, do you
want the tour?" I asked.

"Um. Sure. Yeah."

And then she waved to the others as I grabbed her hand and pulled her out of the room. And
even though I knew all the others could hear, I whispered an apology to her.

"It's fine, Edward. You need to stop worrying so much. They're really nice."

"Yeah, but if they ever get to be too much and you don't tell me, I have no way of knowing."

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"Gosh, you really are used to knowing everything immediately, aren't you?"

"Yeah. I kind of can't help it," I said, leading her up the stairs.

For some reason, I was kind of apprehensive about showing her my room. But there was kind
of no going back at that point.

As soon as she walked in, she started examining shit…my books, my music, the shit on my
walls. I felt kind of naked, as she just kinda walked around, tilting her head and peering at stuff.

"So, if you don't sleep…is the bed just for show?" she asked.

"Mostly. In case anyone comes over. But sometimes I read there."

Then, she spotted the letter jacket Esme had pulled out of storage the previous weekend,
thrown over the back of one of the chairs.

Fuck.

"Is this the…?" she asked, picking it up.

"Yeah. I guess…Alice had a vision of our conversation and she heard us talking about it. I was
totally kidding, but she must have told Esme, because Esme insisted on pulling it out of
storage."

"It's…so…authentic," she said, fingering the blue stitching. Then, she turned it over and looked
at the back. "Masen?"

"Yeah. That's kind of my name."

"Huh?"

"I was born Edward Masen. I kind of took the Cullen name later."

"When is this jacket from?"

"Mid 1950s. But the name on the jacket is just… We rotate names. We're the Cullens of Forks
right now, but back then we were the Masens of Bangor. Sometimes we're the Whitlocks, or
the Hales, or the McCartys. We generally always use one of our actual names. Though we're
known among our kind as the Cullens. I suppose because Carlisle is the oldest, and sort of our
patriarch."

"But Masen is you?"

"Yeah."

226
"Is that why you saved it?"

"I don't know. Esme's probably the one who saved it." Then, she slipped it on. And I'd be lying
if I said I didn't get some satisfaction in seeing her in it. Like it was this intersection of my past
and…my future. "It suits you," I said. "You should keep it."

"I couldn't. You've had it for over fifty years! It's like…a family heirloom."

"Bella…seriously. I mean, I know it's dorky and you wouldn't want to actually wear it. But I think
you should have it, all the same. I feel like it's probably been sitting around in storage waiting
for you."

"You think it's dorky?" she asked, looking at herself in the mirror.

"I think it's pretty sexy, actually."

Of course, as soon as I said it, I realized every vampire in the house heard me. And I tried not
to care. I told myself they had lived with knowing I heard that shit from them all the time. I told
myself they weren't reveling in their opportunity to finally get back at me. But Emmett totally
was. I could hear it in his head.

Bella was smiling all shy, though. So fuck it. They could snicker at me and tease me all they
wanted.

"If you wanted to wear it, you could totally just tell people that you got it in a thrift store. It's not
like they know my name is Masen."

"I can't believe I didn't know."

"I guess I think of myself more as a Cullen, now."

She slipped out of the jacket, then, and placed it back where she found it. I tried not to infer too
much from that. And I was beginning to think Bella's brain silence was really just karma.

"So…what were your parents like?" she asked. "The human ones."

She sat down on the bed, then.

"I… My memories of them are kind of fuzzy. That happens…when you change."

"Oh."

"But I was named after my dad. He wasn't around a lot. He worked long hours and traveled for
work a lot. My mom was really attentive…really loving."

"And…when you…changed?"

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"They were already dead."

"Oh," she breathed. I could tell she was surprised by that answer. And I couldn't blame her—I
was trying to figure out how that particular detail had been omitted from the story of my turning
up to then. "I'm sorry."

And it was just like that day I had told her my human story of being orphaned.

Except it was true

"It's OK. It was a long time ago."

"Were you… How old were you when they died?" she asked. I sat down next to her. And
suddenly, the house was empty. I couldn't hear the thoughts of my family members anymore.
They had left.

"Seventeen."

"Oh…" she repeated, looking at me with those big doe eyes again. And I pondered whether to
just spill the entire story to her so that she wouldn't have to keep asking, or whether I should
just let her keep going. Because I didn't want to give her more information than she was
comfortable with. And, if I was being honest with myself, I didn't really want to go into it if I
didn't have to. But I was pretty determined not to let the broody motherfucker win. So I tried to
convey openness. "Oh god, Edward. That must have been hard. I can't even imagine… If
something happened to Charlie or Renee right now…" she trailed off.

"It… Yeah, it kind of sucked."

"What happened?"

"Spanish Influenza. They died within weeks of each other. I survived it."

"Did you have other family?"

"No. I mean, it's possible I had distant relatives that I don't remember now. But I was an adult
by the standards of the time. So it wasn't like I was a helpless orphan or anything."

"But… Did you feel like an adult?"

"I don't think anyone feels like an adult when a parent dies. That's probably a moment in life
when everyone, regardless of age or life experience, feels like a little kid. So…"

"I… I'm really sorry, Edward."

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"Like I said—it's been a long time, now. And the memories are fuzzy. So it's not a big deal. But
we should seriously take advantage of the fact that the emo topic chased off all the others to
finish the tour."

"Huh?"

"Everyone left. To give us privacy."

"Wait… Oh shit, they could hear everything we were saying before that, couldn't they?"

"Yeah. But don't worry-I don't think they'll come back until I give the all clear, now. So we've
got the place to ourselves and we can go snooping around wherever you want."

And, with that, I stood up and we began walking around the rest of the house. It was kind of
interesting seeing it through a human's eyes. She was pretty amazed by the library and
amused by the kitchen. The kitchen was stocked with pots and pans and silverware and all
that bullshit, but when she opened the fridge, it was completely empty.

I cringed when we got to the backyard and she saw the rabbits. Because then I had to explain
that Emmett was planning to conduct an experiment whereby he would inject the rabbits with
alcohol before sucking their blood. To see if he could get vampire drunk. Fortunately, Bella
laughed her ass off, instead of thinking too hard about how cute the bunnies were.

At one point, she asked me if we didn't show up in photographs, because there weren't any of
us around the house. So I had to dig out a photo of one of Emmett and Rosalie's weddings.

I guess photos aren't something that feel as important when you have all of eternity to take
them.

Charlie called Bella as it started to get late, to see if she would be home for dinner, so we
wrapped up the tour. The rest of the Cult had returned by then, but they didn't make a big
scene of seeing Bella off, thank god. But just as I was about to pull out of the driveway, Alice
came running out of the house…with the letter jacket.

I groaned, but it didn't deter Alice from tapping on Bella's window. Bella rolled it down.

"You forgot this!" Alice sang, handing it to Bella, who didn't really have a choice but to take it
from her.

"Oh. Um. Thanks, Alice."

"You're welcome! See you on Monday!"

Then, Alice skipped away like the devious little harpy that she was.

229
And of course I began apologizing as we began winding down the long road that eventually
spilled back out onto one with actual traffic.

"I'm sorry she forced that on you. You don't have to wear it."

"I know. But you don't mind me having it?"

"No. Not at all."

"I can't help but think this has something to do with one of Alice's visions."

"Uhhhh."

"Edward!"

"Nothing's for certain right now! It's kind of blur—Oh. Nope. Never mind. Crystal clear now."

"What is it!"

"I'm not telling you! Then it might change!"

"That's not fair!"

"Fuck that! You and Emmett are scheming against me! Let me and Alice have some fun!"

"Huh?"

"Oh. You don't know it, yet. But Emmett's fucking scheming. You'll see."

She made that sour fucking face at me, then, but didn't press it. I was actually kind of surprised
at how she never really pumped me for information, regarding either other people's thoughts or
Alice's visions. I couldn't tell if it was because she just wasn't a very nosy person, or if she was
making a conscious effort not to exploit our abilities. I'm pretty sure most humans would have
been so intrigued and curious that they wouldn't have been able to restrain themselves from
asking about that shit.

But, as usual, Bella was anything but usual.

That night, at around midnight, I got a text from Bella.

It was that I slept in the jacket, wasn't it?

I grinned.

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Yeah.

Chapter 27: I DO Have Interests Outside Of Brooding


n Sunday, Carlisle and I went to go see a movie. He was endlessly amused every time my
phone lit up with a text from Bella. But apparently shopping for dresses with Jessica and
Angela in Port Angeles wasn't all that exciting. Who could blame her?

It's possible I was a little sullen on Monday when we didn't get to go to school. Which was
fucking crazy considering how many years I had spent hating school.

But then Emmett came and got me out of my room and we all went to play football.

Tuesday morning, I was in such a good mood that I didn't even mind that moment when Bella
got into my car and I wanted nothing more than to kiss the shit out of her, but instead ended up
just staring at her.

As always.

My morning classes flew by; probably in part because Bella had managed to find a way to get
me back for eavesdropping on her conversations. Like when Jessica Stanley was grilling her
for details about how far our relationship had gone physically. At first, my heart plummeted
when the topic came up, because I was pretty sure I was the most disappointing boyfriend on
the face of the planet on that particular front. But when Jessica asked her about me and my
expectations, Bella totally started fucking with me.

"He has a very healthy appetite," she answered dryly.

"Oh, really?" Jessica whispered excitedly, leaning in closer to Bella. "So, what have you
done?" You dirty whore.

"Well, I don't want to kiss and tell. But, god, Jess—you should feel how rock hard he is."

"Does he have a six pack? I've always wanted to see his abs. I bet he has a six pack." She's
probably not referring to his abs, though. Filthy slut. But who am I kidding? I'd put out for
Edward Cullen in a hot minute.

"He's very shy about taking his shirt off. I can't imagine why," Bella said, grinning.

"That's so adorable. I can't even understand him being shy about anything," Jessica sighed. I
bet he just pretends to be modest.

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"I know. Especially considering he has such a sparkling personality," Bella added.

At that point, I had to tune out for fear of laughing out loud at a truly inappropriate moment,
considering we were discussing the Grapes of Wrath and Depression era shit in English class.
I don't know if it was her intent all along, but she definitely succeeded in getting me out of
Jessica's head.

I met her at her locker just before lunch.

"Having fun?" I asked, leaning against the locker next to hers as she put away her books.

"I do not know to what you could possibly be referring," she said with mock innocence.

"Of course not."

But then she slammed her locker shut and looked at me with an excited expression on her
face.

"Hey, do you think… I was thinking maybe it would be nice to thaw out the unofficial détente,"
she said.

"Huh?"

"I was thinking I could see if Angela wants to sit at your all's table with me today. That way, it's
not just me ditching the others. It's more like…foreign exchange tabling. Maybe we can shake
things up some every once in a while."

"Yeah, sure. If you think Angela will be game."

"OK. Good."

We walked to the cafeteria together, then, but she abandoned me as soon as she found
Angela and began pitching the idea to her. It was really strange to think that I felt like I knew
Angela Weber really well, but I couldn't recall if I had ever actually exchanged a single word
with her. Which probably meant I hadn't. Which probably made me an enormous asshole.

In eavesdropping on their conversation, it was clear that Angela was somewhat apprehensive
about the plan, but willing to go along with it. I prayed it wouldn't be too awkward, as I headed
for our table and began distributing food that I had picked up in the lunch line for the others, as
Rosalie and Alice especially had gotten lazy about fake eating.

"It won't work, Emmett," Jasper insisted.

"I think we need to use stronger alcohol. Pure alcohol? What's the strongest there is? And can
it be made stronger? Moonshine, maybe? Instead of getting a few rabbits really drunk on
something wussy, we could get a whole bunch just a little tipsy on something stronger."

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Emmett's rabbit experiment hadn't work as he had hoped, but he and Jasper were still trying to
puzzle out how to get vampires drunk.

"I'm somewhat certain that, considering the fact that we're pretty much invincible, alcohol is not
going to have any effect on us, since drunkenness is basically just alcohol negatively impacting
human senses. But it's not even strong enough to hurt humans unless consumed in huge
amounts. I think you'd have to use something that's the equivalent of human poison to even
have a shot of fucking with our brain functions. Like fucking anthrax or something."

"That's brilliant! We can inject the rabbits with anthrax!"

"Emmett…I'm pretty sure anthrax will kill the rabbits…and sorta be a major human health
hazard."

"Oh. … Right."

Thank god Rosalie interrupted Dumb and Dumber at that point.

"What's with the food?" she asked, eyeing the apple I had placed in front of her suspiciously.

"Angela and Bella are gonna sit with us today," I explained.

"Aw, man. You mean I have to eat this?" she whined.

"Maybe if you were better at faking it, you wouldn't have to eat it, Rose."

She glared at me, then.

"I don't believe in faking it, Edward."

I rolled my eyes, but before we could argue any more, Bella and Angela walked up to the table.

"Hey, guys," Bella said. "Do you all know Angela?"

"Sure! Hi, Angela!" Alice chirped. I grabbed an empty chair from the table next to us so that
there'd be enough for everyone.

"Thanks," Angela whispered shyly. I grinned at her. It's possible I turned on the vampire dazzle
a bit, and she returned my smile before taking the seat I held out for her.

"No problem. We don't bite. I promise," I whispered back.

Bella smirked, but Angela was reflecting on what a dream boat I was.

'Cause nobody can resist my dazzle face.

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As soon as they sat down, Alice began trying to make Angela her new best

friend. In part to avoid eating the food I had placed in front of her. But also because that's just
Alice.

"So, Angela: I heard that you all went dress shopping on Sunday. Did you find something for
the dance this weekend?"

"Yeah. Bella helped me pick it out. So if I look awful, I can blame her," she said. "Are you all
going?"

Alice raised her eyebrows before looking at Jasper.

"I don't know. Are we going, Jazz?"

Jasper had very carefully been separating peas and carrots on his tray and pretended not to
have been listening. Even though he had heard every word.

"Huh?"

"The dance, Jasper. Are we going this weekend?"

"Um, does that mean you want to go?" he asked.

"Why not? It could be fun!"

"Uh... OK."

Then, Alice turned to Rose and Em.

"What about you guys? Are you in?"

They answered simultaneously. Only Emmett said 'no' and Rose said 'yes.' And we all laughed
as Emmett rolled his eyes.

"I guess that means we're going," he mumbled. I looked at Angela, who was laughing with the
rest of us, thank god.

Gosh, they really are pretty normal. I guess it won't be hard for girls like Rose and Alice to find
dresses at the last minute.

Unfortunately, Alice then turned to us.

"What about you two?"

Then, Angela and I were thinking the same thing.

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Uh oh. Bella told me it would be awkward for her to go now that she's already said 'no' to all
the guys. But I bet she would want to go with Edward if she could. I wonder if they've talked
about it. Gosh, I hope so. Otherwise, this conversation might be really uncomfortable for them..

"Um. I think we're gonna pass," Bella said.

"How come? Come on, Bella! Everyone else is going! It would so fun if you two came!" Alice
urged.

"Alice," I hissed.

She turned to me and narrowed her eyes. But when she saw the look on my face, she knew to
drop it.

Huh. I wonder if that means they have talked about it, Angela thought to herself. I wonder… I
wonder how long all of the Cullens have been Cullens. They seem really close, but Dr. and
Mrs. Cullen are so young. They couldn't have all been a family for too long.

"So what does your dress look like, Angela?" Alice asked.

And then they were off, talking about all that girly bullshit. Angela relaxed. So did we. Crisis
averted. All in all, a pretty major success, I would say. Especially since, when I glanced over at
Bella, she looked really happy.

Plus, I got to listen to Jasper and Emmett grumbling in their heads about the dance.

On the way home from school, Bella was in a really good mood.

"Thanks for letting us eat lunch with you guys! I think that went really well!" she said.

"Yeah, I think so, too. It was a good idea."

"Angela seemed to warm up to you guys quite a bit."

"She did," I confirmed.

"Oh. Right. Damn it. I keep forgetting you already know shit like that. So she didn't pick up on
anything weird?" she asked.

"Nope. We all did a really good job of making it look like we had actually eaten some of the
stuff on our plates. Except for Rosalie. She actually did eat. Cause you can't really fake having
eaten an apple. She's probably hurling as we speak."

"Are you serious?"

235
"Yeah. That's why I gave her the apple. I had to get her back for cheating in football
yesterday."

"Ugh! That's so awful!" Bella cried.

"Whatever."

"So what did Angela think of you all?"

"She thinks it's cool how we're all so close, even though we've supposedly only been a family
for a few years. Of the three of us guys, she thinks Jasper's the hottest. But I guess I can let
that slide, since she's into nerdy Ben Cheney types. Also, she was surprised by how normal
we were. And she really likes Alice. Actually, she likes everybody. But I don't think that that girl
knows how to dislike people, so that's not saying much."

"I kind of wish we were going to the dance, now," she said wistfully.

I'd be lying if I said it didn't catch me a little off guard.

"Uh. We still can, if you really want. We can pretend I twisted your arm."

"Nah. I don't want to go that bad. I'm just curious about whether there'll be any vampire/human
interaction, now. And I want to see if Ben and Angela dance together."

"Well, this means you're free Saturday night, right?"

"Yeah…"

"Wanna go eavesdrop on the dance?"

"Huh?"

"We could hang out on the roof of the gym and I can tell you what's going on inside. I'll be able
to tell you not only what's being awkwardly said, but what's being thought, as people are trying
to navigate the tumultuous waters of high school dating."

"That sounds both very condescending and very intriguing," she said.

"Does that mean you wanna do it?" I asked.

"Yeah. Let's do it. Sounds fun."

"Awesome. Emmett and Jazz are going to be so miserable."

"You guys live for each other's misery, huh?"

236
"A little."

When I pulled into her driveway, she did something I wasn't expecting.

"You wanna come in?"

"Huh?"

"Charlie's working. I don't have any pressing homework. I kind of missed you these past two
days. Wanna hang out?"

"Yes."

She grinned, and then we hopped out of the car. When we went inside, she dropped her stuff
in the dining room.

"Um, I would offer you something to drink or something, but…"

"It's cool. I'm actually really glad I don't have to fake that shit anymore."

"OK. Then feel free to not drink anything while I get some water."

"My pleasure."

When she disappeared into the kitchen, I did some more stalker sniffing. Because it was the
first time I had been in Bella's house in a while. It smelled much the same, but I could tell some
other people had been there recently. I decided not to pry—figuring it was Charlie's friends or
something.

"Make yourself comfortable!" she called as I listened to her turn on the faucet.

"Thanks."

Then, I glanced around the living room, trying to figure out where to place myself. The couch
seemed like the logical option, so I plopped down on one end of it. And when she came back
in, she plopped down next to me. Didn't even hesitate. Which would never cease to amaze me.

"So…I have to ask you something, I think," she said. It was uncharacteristically reticent. Which
made me nervous as fuck.

"What's up?" I asked, trying to conceal my anxiety.

"Um. I'm not saying this is… I don't… I'm not sure…"

"Spit it out, Bella."

237
"What…would happen…if I decided…to stay human?"

Oh.

"What…do you mean? You mean…with us?"

"Yeah…"

"Whatever you want to happen," I answered. Because I had prepared myself for that question.

"I don't understand. Would we just…break up?"

Fuck.

"If that's what you wanted."

"But… wouldn't we have to?"

"Why?"

"Because…I'd still be human. And… I would get old. And you…wouldn't."

And I realized what she was afraid of.

"It wouldn't matter to me," I said. "I'd stay."

"But-"

"I'd stay."

"Edward! We can't—First of all, people will notice when you don't age."

"Not if they don't see me. I'd find a way to make it work."

"But I'll get old and wrinkly! And you'll still be seventeen!"

"Doesn't matter, Bella. In the scheme of things, an eternity is a long fucking time. I'm going to
spend as much of it with you as possible. I don't care if you're old and wrinkly."

"But…"

"Listen, Bella—you don't need to… I'll understand if you decide you want a normal human life. I
mean… I can't… It's nothing anyone could blame you for. I think it's actually the correct choice.
I'm just saying, if you do choose to stay human, you can choose whether you want me around
or not, as well. Either way."

238
"That… That feels like having my cake and eating it, too. And it feels unfair to you."

"Hardly! If you keep me around… Well, you'd really get shafted in terms of a lot of normal
relationship stuff, unless you also dated humans."

"Huh? OK, I think maybe… Maybe let's go back to…"

"Ignoring the elephant in the room?" I offered.

"Yeah. Just for now. I guess I have some new stuff to ponder."

"I don't expect you to make a decision any time soon. You can spend your entire life deciding
what exactly you want."

But Bella was already switching gears.

"How come high school?"

"Huh?"

"Why repeat high school over and over? You all seem to not like it. Why subject yourselves to
it?"

"Um. I guess because we look like teenagers and we don't want to live completely outside of
the world of humans, so it's the easiest way."

"Why not homeschooling?"

"Thank you. That's what I keep telling Carlisle."

She laughed.

"So what does he say? And why does it stop you? He's not actually your father, right?"

"Well, he has some bullshit line about needing to integrate with humans and how we would
look even more like a cult if we homeschooled, and he needs people to not think he's the next
Charles Manson at his job and blah blah blah."

"But you've been to college?"

"Yeah. We try to stay in each place as long as possible, which is why we start out in high
school. And it's unusual for us to be in a place like Forks, since there's not a built-in college.
Meaning that when Rose and Emmett and Jasper graduate this year, they'll just either bum
around or they'll go to Seattle. Which I'm sure Jasper won't do without Alice."

"So wait… you all like college?"

239
"Yeah. College is way better than high school. We actually learn stuff there, aside from some
of the freshman level pre-reqs. And college age people aren't as difficult for us to relate to as
high school kids. I mean, there's always people who are hard to relate to in any demographic.
But college kids actually want to discuss things of substance more. Stuff that we haven't
already discussed a hundred times before."

"How many degrees do you have?"

"Eight."

"Only Eight?"

"Yeah. I mean, a hundred and eleven years is actually not that long, if you think about it.
Especially considering the fact that I have to do between one and four years of high school
before going to college, each time. And then I may stick around and work or pursue a graduate
level degree before starting all over again."

"So what are they in?"

"Biology, Music Theory, Economics, Law, Philosophy, and Theology."

"That was only six."

"Yeah, I have both undergraduate and graduate degrees in Philosophy and Music Theory."

"Jesus. So…you're like…a lawyer?"

I laughed.

"Not really. Never practiced. Just wanted to see what it was like. Since I couldn't really do
medical school, on account of the bloodlust."

"Oh."

And then it probably hit her that she would have to give up her dreams of being a doctor if she
ever decided to be a vampire. Or give up actually being a doctor, if she became a doctor
before she became a vampire. And it made me cringe a little, but it was better that she thought
about it than if she didn't.

"Have you started applying to schools yet?" I asked, suddenly realizing it was about that time
for her.

"Yeah. I did already."

"Oh."

240
I don't know why it hadn't crossed my mind sooner.

I mean…it was good that Bella had given so much thought to college and her future. And as
we talked about it, it was fantastic that she was interested in so many schools, and some really
good schools. I was just…trying not to think about the fact that so many of them were…in
really sunny locales. Like Stanford. Which was apparently her number one choice.

And, again, the elephant in the room reared its ugly head. But we didn't talk about it. I began
considering what it would be like reverting back to a life in which I only went out after the sun
went down. It was something I had done before, but not something I particularly enjoyed.

Then again, thinking about that was better than thinking about what it would be like if Bella
didn't want me to go with her.

And I'd like to be appalled with myself for how wrapped around her finger I was after only
knowing her a couple months. But it was no mystery. And it wasn't just the brain silence. She
was fucking awesome.

She made me laugh. She was wise beyond her years. She was really thoughtful and not at all
self-centered or teen angsty or melodramatic. She was fun to be around. She took shit in
stride. She didn't dwell. She wasn't rash. She actually seemed to love life, despite everything
that had been thrown at her.

Basically, she was nothing like me.

So… yeah. We didn't talk about the implications of her going to college in terms of our
relationship. Instead, she began asking me about our college experiences, and I told her about
Dartmouth and the University of Washington and the other handful of schools we had
attended. I told her about how Jasper enjoyed history and political science the most, and how
Emmett was always studying biology and chemistry in his efforts to develop mind-altering
substances for the undead. I told her about Rosalie's love of Sylvia Plath and literature
generally, and how she preferred majoring in English, but dabbled in other liberal arts. I told
her about how no matter how many times we went to college, Alice always majored in art.

"Wait. Does Alice paint?"

"Yeah. Some of the stuff in the house is hers. I guess I should have pointed it out."

"Yeah! I would love to see it."

"Rose writes poetry. She doesn't let anyone read it, but I hear it in her head, and it's really
amazing."

"That's…so cool," she said. "And meanwhile, Emmett is injecting rabbits with vodka?"

I laughed.

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"Yeah. Although, the fascination started with weed, because none of us had encountered it
during our human lives. He used to feed animals pot brownies and stuff. One time he reasoned
that, because catnip gets cats high, maybe he could try getting a bunch of cats high on catnip
before sucking their blood."

"No!"

"Don't worry. Esme put the kibosh on that one really quick. Cats are a no go, as far as she's
concerned. Unless it's a big cat, like a mountain lion. And it was kind of a pain in the ass when
Emmett was trying to corral a stoned mountain lion in our backyard that time."

"Did it work?"

"Nope. He's tried LSD, too."

Then, Bella burst out laughing.

"Oh my god! Don't tell Charlie!"

"Yeah, I can just envision explaining to Charlie why we had mountain lions in our backyard
trippin' balls."

"He's… That's just…hilarious."

"I know. I don't know why he keeps studying that shit, when it's all research based on humans.
It's not like anyone knows anything about the physiology of vampires. Carlisle probably knows
as much about that as anyone else. And that's not sayin' much."

"So you have... Was it three graduate degrees?"

"Yeah. Law, Philosophy and Music Theory. But I don't have any doctorates because we don't
think I'd be able to pull off being that old."

"Are you musical?"

"I play. And compose. When I'm bored or whatever."

"Really?"

"Yeah."

"How am I just finding this out?"

"I don't know," I shrugged.

"What instruments?"

242
"Uh. Piano. Guitar. Violin."

"Oh, is that all?"

"Well, I haven't played the violin in a long time."

"When do I get to hear something you've composed?"

"Uhhhh. I'm sort of like Rosalie when it comes to that stuff. I mean, my family can hear me
when I'm dicking around on the piano or whatever. But no one else has really heard any of it."

"I want to hear it."

"Um. Sure. Next time you're at the house or something," I said, hoping she would forget.
Because playing my music for her would really make me feel naked.

Fortunately, I was saved by Charlie, who was headed home.

"Charlie's on his way."

"Oh."

We stood up, then, and she walked me to the front door.

Bet you can guess what we did there.

We fucking stared.

"This is fucking bullshit!" I cried. But she didn't respond. She just looked at me like I had just
lost my shit. Maybe because I had. So I squeezed my eyes shut and clenched my fists and
tried to go to my Zen place before I attempted speaking again. When I opened my eyes, she
looked even more alarmed than before. "Sorry," I apologized.

"Are you OK?"

"Yeah. I just can't…"

"Kiss me?"

"Yeah…"

"Aren't you from, like, 1918? Shouldn't you be all chaste anyway?"

Jesus fucking Christ. She will never not say the most inappropriate slash perfect thing at these
moments.

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I smiled. But I couldn't laugh. Because she wasn't from 1918.

"It doesn't bother you?"

"Sometimes. But… I would rather not kiss you than kiss all the Mike Newtons in the world."

And you know the real bitch of it? I had never wanted to kiss her more than I did in that
moment.

And before I could reach for her hand, she had already placed it on my chest. And she smiled.

And then so did I.

Chapter 28: One Thing Newton And I Have In Common


On Wednesday, hell froze over and pigs flew and, at any moment, I expected the world to shift
on its axis.

Because I ate lunch with Mike Newton.

Granted, Bella and Angela and the others were there, too. But Bella thought that having me as
the first vampire to eat at their table would be a way to break them in.

You know-to eating with someone who wanted to eat them.

No. That's a lie.

I have absolutely no desire to eat Mike Newton.

Squeeze his skull between my index finger and thumb until his brains spill out of his ears and
onto the cafeteria floor?

Maybe.

Drink his blood?

No.

I mean—I guess, objectively, Mike isn't that bad of a guy. He's just got the same hormones all
teenage guys do. But fuck. Who the fuck wants to listen to another guy fantasizing about his
girlfriend? Picturing her naked? At the god damn lunch table?

It's possible I let it get to me a little too much. Angela probably did a way better job integrating
at the vampire table than I did at the human table. I kept having to ask people to repeat shit
because I couldn't stop listening to Mike's thoughts. It was fucking distracting. At one point, he
caught me glaring at him and, for a second, he actually worried that I knew what he was

244
thinking—that it was written all over his face. When I cocked an eyebrow at him in subtle
confirmation of his fears, he almost pissed his pants.

So overall, not an altogether terrible lunch.

When I drove Bella home that day, I was kind of hoping she would invite me in again, but she
didn't.

Emmett was also AWOL. He hadn't been at home when I had returned from Bella's the day
before, and he had skipped school that day. When I asked the others where he was, none of
them knew. And it was pretty clear it was because he was hiding something from me. And I
was pretty sure I knew what it was.

Then, when I got home after dropping Bella off on Wednesday, they were all AWOL. Except for
Carlisle and Esme. So apparently Jasper, Alice, and Rose were in on whatever the fuck
Emmett was planning, too. Which confused the shit out of me. I thought about tracking them
down, but then remembered how lazy I am.

It's what they did sometimes…coming up with something when I wasn't around and then
vanishing in order to keep it from me. They did it every year around my birthday. And I tried to
respect that it was the only way they could keep things from me, even though, nine times out
of ten, they were just being dicks. And I had a sneaking suspicion that that day was one of
those times.

They all skipped school on Thursday, even though it was overcast and rainy. So I was, like, the
lonely vampire loser at school that day. And you know the real bitch of it? It was so fucking
high school, because when Bella and I walked into the cafeteria, I realized I was either going to
have to sit through more of Mike Newton's fantasies or sit by myself. And...come on. Who
wants to sit by themselves like a loser? Not even aloof vampire douchebags, really.

Fortunately, Mike managed to curb his lewd thoughts that day.

He was pretty terrified of me.

Heh.

The really suspicious thing about the fact that my brothers and sisters were all gone, though,
was that Bella never asked me about it. Why wasn't she curious? It was a pretty good
indication that she was in on whatever it was, too.

Stupid assholes were gonna exploit the shit out of the fact that I couldn't read Bella's mind.

I confronted her about it as we drove back to her house on Thursday, just to see if I could get
any information out of her.

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"So, where is everybody?" I asked, as we pulled out of the parking lot. Our drive had become
such a routine by that point that it was second nature. We had this rhythm where I would meet
her outside of the gym every day and we'd walk to the car without so much as a glance at any
of the people who still stared.

"Huh?" she asked. I would say she was acting innocent. But I think I honestly just caught her
off guard. Which was exactly what I was going for.

"My siblings. Where are they?"

"Why would I know that?" she asked.

"Because you're obviously in on whatever the fuck is going on. Otherwise, you'd be asking me
this question."

"Ohhh. I guess I messed that one up, huh?"

"Yeah. You did. So where are they?"

"I'm not telling!" she cried.

"What the hell? How have they already turned you against me! ?"

"Don't be such a drama queen. I'm not against you. I'm just not a snitch."

"At least tell me when I'm going to find out what's going on."

"No!"

"Please?"

"Rose warned me that you're too used to getting your way about these things. She said you'd
be shameless in trying to get it out of me."

"Of course she said that," I sneered. "God damn it."

"Drives you nuts, huh?"

"Yes! Wouldn't it drive you nuts?"

"I'm not used to knowing everyone's plans as they plan them. I think Rose is right. I think this is
good for you."

"Jesus Christ," I muttered. Because Bella was beginning to sound exactly like Rose.

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When I pulled into her driveway, I did some sniffing, but I didn't smell any of my brothers and
sisters around. But what Bella had said indicated that she had been in touch with them. Maybe
by phone?

I tried not to obsess about it.

And I completely forgot about it when Bella kissed her hand, just before quickly pressing it to
my chest and hopping out of the car…as if it was the most natural thing in the world for her to
do.

There was still no sign of any of them when I got home that day. And they skipped school
again on Friday. Bella still refused to tell me anything. She wouldn't even give me a clue. And
the silent brain was driving me fucking crazy.

And I had to sit with the humans at lunch again.

Which wouldn't have been so bad, except that apparently they were getting comfortable
enough with me to start asking me shit. Like where the fuck the rest of my family members
were.

I'll give you one guess which human asked me that.

I shrugged and told Newton I didn't really keep tabs on them. I was so annoyed with him that I
didn't even make up an excuse. And then I listened as all the wild speculations started up in
the heads of the others around the table. The best one was Eric Yorkie, who imagined the
others had run off to Vegas to get married and then literally joined the circus as the Amazing
Albino Acrobats.

But he was high. Which may have been a factor.

After school, Bella and I rode in silence in the car for a while.

So of course Bella started to tease me.

"Is Eddie Weddie lonely wonely?"

"No! Fuck, it's been blissful not having those assholes in my head all the time. Trust me."

"Are you suuuure?"

"Just tell me if I need to be worried. Do I need to be worried? I feel like I'm about to get an
atomic vampire wedgie at any moment or something."

"An atomic vampire wedgie?" she asked, raising an eyebrow.

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"I don't know, OK! ?"

"Is that different from an atomic human wedgie?"

"I don't know!"

"You're really cute when you're frustrated."

"Jesus, you're as bad as them. You're really enjoying this, aren't you?"

"A little," she said, grinning.

I decided to change the subject then.

"What time do you want me to pick you up tomorrow?" I asked. Because Saturday was our
date to go roof stalk the dance.

"You know, I am capable of driving myself."

"Yeah… I know, but…"

"But what?"

"It's just…safer….if I drive."

"Huh?"

"I have superhuman reflexes and vision, Bella. And nearly 43,000 people are killed in car
accidents in the United States every year. And another three million injured."

"You're kidding with this, right?"

"No! I don't think you understand—I can't get injured in a car accident. Not seriously, anyway.
I've been walking around for ninety years now not really having to worry about that shit—on my
own behalf or for my family. So when I think about you driving around, all human…"

"Edward."

"You almost got crushed to death already, Bella! You're so fucking fragile!"

"Hey!" she cried, indignant.

"It's true!"

"Edward!"

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"What?" I asked, frustrated.

She sighed before responding.

"That's… That's life!"

"Huh?"

"Quite literally, I suppose. That's just life. You're going to have to get over it. If you want to date
a human, I think you're just going to have to get used to all the very human uncertainties that
go along with it."

"But why? When… I mean, it's not like I'm hanging out outside your window anymore. Would it
kill you to let me give you a ride?"

"You can't be my constant chauffer. You're just going to have to chill out."

Fuck.

I knew I was being a paranoid freak. And I realized I should have just kept my mouth shut and
continued being overprotective surreptitiously. But I had ruined it.

"But I can still drive you to school every day, right?" I asked.

"Yeah, sure. That's just logical from an environmental perspective," she said.

"Exactly. I love the earth," I said, as I swung the steering wheel around to pull into her
driveway. She didn't laugh, though. So after I parked, I turned to her. "In all seriousness, I'll try
to lighten up. But seeing as the dance as at the school and you're on the way to school for me,
it just makes sense for me to pick you up before the dance, too."

"Fine," she muttered.

I grinned.

I wanted to kiss her. I wanted to kiss her so bad. But how could I, knowing how dangerous it
was? When it killed me inside to think about her even driving? When you've been invincible for
almost a hundred years, it's terrifying to think that someone you love could be hurt or killed at
any moment.

But it's far worse imagining being the one to cause it.

When I saw her reach for the door handle, though, I grabbed her hand. She looked at me,
startled. Then, she smiled. Because she knew exactly what I was doing as I placed that hot
little hand over the cold black hole in my chest. It was the only time I ever got to feel like that

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black hole stopped sucking in and destroying everything it loved. It was like her pulse seared
right through all the darkness and restored everything to what was good and right in the world.

And I maybe almost blurted something about loving her again. But I checked myself. Because
neither of us had said it since that day in the meadow. And it hadn't escaped my attention that
when she had said it then, she had said that she thought that she loved me. Like it was
something she wasn't sure about. Which was fine. Because she hardly knew me. How could
she be sure?

Never mind that I was.

Unsurprisingly, no one was at the house when I got there. Even Esme and Carlisle had
vanished.

I called Alice, and was actually a little surprised when she answered. But I can't read minds
over the phone, so I guess there was no danger for her in talking to me that way.

"Where is everyone?" I asked, before she even said 'hello.'

"We're around," she chirped.

"What does that mean? Around Forks? Around Washington? Around the Pacific Northwest?"

"It means we're around. Just not close enough for you to be all up in our business."

"What's going on?"

"You'll see," she said slyly.

"Alice, this is getting fucking old."

"No way. What's getting old is you always knowing what we're thinking. This is something new.
Enjoy the peace and quiet."

And then she hung up, before I could ask her any more questions.

So I decided to take her advice.

Because, yeah-after two weeks of not kissing Bella, I needed to motherfuckin' rub one out.

I may not be alive.

But I'm not dead.

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Chapter 29: I Am A Thing Of Beauty
I realized on Saturday morning that my family wasn't going to be able to hide from me much
longer, unless they planned on skipping the dance that they promised Angela Weber they
would attend.

I called Bella that afternoon to see what time she wanted to be picked up.

Then I counted cracks in the ceiling until it was time to go get her.

Well, not really. But that's what it felt like.

I had just walked out the front door to finally head to her house when my phone buzzed.

It was Alice.

"What's up, Harpy?"

"You're not wearing that."

It was fucking annoying that my ability didn't work on her when she wasn't around, but hers still
worked on me.

"Huh?"

"Go change."

"Why! ? It's not like we're actually going to the dance! We're just chillin' on the roof and
mocking people."

I was in jeans and a t-shirt.

"It's still a date, Edward. Go put on your navy suit."

"What? You want me to wear a suit? You've got to be fucking kidding me."

"Edward. Do you want to make Bella feel overdressed?"

"Huh?"

Then I realized Alice knew what Bella was going to be wearing, probably.

Fuck.

"Are you sure I can't just put on some slacks and a sweater or something?"

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"Trust me, Edward. You'll want to be in your suit. And it looks really good on you. OK?"

"Fuck. Fine."

I hung up, then, and ran up to my room to change quickly. I probably wouldn't have signed up
for the god damn roof stalking if I had known it would entail dressing up. How was I supposed
to laugh at Emmett and Jasper if I was getting roped into that bullshit, too?

But when I arrived at her house, fuck me if Bella wasn't in a dress. And, suddenly, I felt way
less surly about the suit. Because Bella looked fucking hot.

I realized it was the first time I had seen Bella's legs since the night she was wearing shorts to
sleep in. So I suppose it was the first time she was showing me her legs, intentionally. And,
god, did I want to crawl up them. And as if that wasn't enough, there was cleavage. I had never
seen that. And I just wanted to dive into it.

Thank god Charlie wasn't around to see me perving out over his daughter.

"Hey," she said, after she had opened the door and I had stood staring at her like a dumbass
for a right minute.

"Hey." And then I could hear Alice's voice in my head, even though she wasn't around, telling
me to tell Bella how fantastic she looked. "You look fantastic."

"I just want you to know that the dress was not my idea. I was planning to wear jeans. But Alice
made me wear this. Although, it looks like I would have been underdressed in jeans," she said,
eyeing my suit.

Motherfucker.

"Fucking Alice, man!"

"Huh?"

"She did the same shit to me! I was leaving the house in jeans and she called me and made
me change! That sneaky little bitch!"

Bella laughed.

"It's OK. You look really hot. I'm actually pretty glad she made you change. Although I guess
you always look hot."

"Yeah, well—she's buying me a new suit if I get this one dirty crawling up the side of the damn
gym."

"Oh shit! Is that what we're doing? Am I gonna have to get on your back again?"

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"Is that bad?"

"It just doesn't seem very…ladylike. In a dress. Is all."

"Oh. Don't worry. No one will see. In fact, we should probably leave now to get there before
others start arriving."

"Sure. Just let me grab my jacket."

And I wanted to fucking kick shit when she pulled on her parka and I realized we were going to
be outside all night, because that meant I had probably had my last glimpse of Bella's tits that
night.

I pulled around to the back of the gym and parked, hoping no one would notice my car there.

"Ready?" I asked her, as I grabbed some blankets for us to sit on out of the back.

"Um. Yeah."

So I turned and crouched, and she crawled onto my back.

I tried to scale the gym slowly enough that she wouldn't freak, but quickly enough that she
wouldn't have time to notice how high up we were when we got to the top.

Little did I know, there was plenty to distract her awaiting us on the roof of that gym.

And that's when it all came together.

There were tiny lights strewn around everywhere and Billie Holiday was crooning softly from a
stereo that had been plugged in to one of the many extension cords lying about.

Bella's eyes grew wide when she slipped off of my back.

"Edward," she breathed.

"It wasn't me," I said quickly. Because, seriously—what kind of dude would do something like
that? Make fun of me all you want. But if you had a dick that sparkled like Tinkerbell sneezed
fairy dust all over it, you'd be insecure in your masculinity, too.

"Yeah, I sort of figured," she said, laughing.

"I hope I wasn't supposed to take credit for it. That may have been Alice's plan," I said, rubbing
the back of my neck a little nervously. I knew it was Alice's doing. "So, you didn't know about
any of this? I thought you were in on all of it."

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"Oh, I was in on some of it. But not this. I just knew that Alice was going to make you put on a
suit. And she made me buy the dress. She and Rose helped me pick it out yesterday."

"No shit?"

"Yeah."

"I'm sorry Alice is so pushy."

"Haha. It's fine. This is… It's really touching how she wanted to make this special for us."

And she was right. For how overbearing and pushy and annoying Alice could be, it usually was
always in furtherance of her family's happiness.

"Yeah. We should call her," I admitted.

"Good idea."

And then Bella whipped her phone out…out of her tits.

"Whoa."

She laughed.

"I didn't really have a bag that went with the dress," she said. "You should see where I have
my key."

Then she winked.

And that's when I began reciting baseball statistics in my head and tried not to think about the
location of that key while she talked to Alice.

"Aliiiiice," she cooed. "This is amazing. You're the best!"

"Aw! I'm so glad you like it! How's Edward taking it? Let me talk to him."

And then she handed me the phone.

"Hey, Alice."

"Even if you hate it, Edward, you have to be good for Bella, OK?"

"Alice, I don't hate it. It was really sweet. Thanks."

"Yayy! OK, we're heading to the dance soon, so we might stop by and say 'hi.'"

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"Sure thing."

"'Bye Edward!"

I hung up then and turned to Bella.

"You sure you're gonna be warm enough?" I asked.

"Yep. It's not really that cold out, tonight. Though I guess the parka defeats the point of the
dress, huh?"

"I dig it."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah. I mean, I dig your tits more. But I think the parka gives it a little something extra."

She laughed.

"OK, good. Because I think I'm keeping it on. Especially since I'm hangin' with the human
popsicle. And I use the word 'human' loosely."

"So…wait. This doesn't explain… Why was Emmett the first to disappear?" I asked, sudden
realizing that not everything added up yet.

"Oh. Well…you know what he's up to, don't you?" she asked, as we moved toward the blanket
that had already been laid out for us, making the ones I brought obsolete.

"I know it has something to do with chess."

I had caught wind of it the moment the idea hatched in Emmett's brain, when he first met Bella.

"Yeah," she said, sitting down. I sat down next to her and resisted the urge to skim my hand up
her leg. "He booked a room at this hotel out on the highway and called me on Tuesday
afternoon."

"Jesus Christ."

For most people, that would have had fucked up and traitorous implications about their family
members. But not with me and Emmett. Unless you count him trying to coach my silent brain
girlfriend into beating me at chess as traitorous.

"So, I met him out there after some creative lying to Charlie, and we played chess that
evening. Then, I guess Alice or one of the others called Emmett, and he let them in on it. So
then they had to avoid you, too. On Wednesday, all five of us were hanging out at the hotel,
playing chess and stuff. And at first, it started out with just me helping Rose and Alice pick out

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the dresses they were going to wear tonight. But then I guess Alice got this idea into her head,"
she said, motioning around us, "because instead of playing chess, she and Rose and I went to
Port Angeles yesterday to buy this dress."

"I am so sorry, Bella."

"What? Why?"

"Because you've had to put up with my obnoxious family making you play chess and buy
dresses and shit!"

"Edward, it was actually really fun hanging out with them. And I got to know them. They are
hilarious. It's actually kind of a shame you missed it. I was actually pretty sad when it would be
time for me to go home at the end of the night."

"Are you just saying that to make me feel better?"

"No. Not at all. Seriously, Edward—I think it was really good for me. I hadn't just hung out with
a group of people like that since I moved here. I mean, I went to a movie with the kids from
school, but…it just wasn't the same. Your siblings are all really comfortable around each other
and...I don't know. They made me feel like one of them."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah."

"I guess I'm glad then. Even if you do beat me at chess now."

She laughed.

"Yeah, Emmett seems pretty determined."

"He's convinced he could beat me if I couldn't read his mind."

"Yeah. So I've been told."

"So, uh…" I stammered.

"What's up?"

"Do you want to dance?"

Now, allow me to explain something, here.

Something happened somewhere around the 1970s that really kind of pissed me off. See, it
was sometime around then that dancing apparently became this passé thing for dudes to do.

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Or effeminate. Or something. And no, I wasn't burning with desire to disco. But I felt like one of
my tools of seduction was getting taken away from me. Not that I was seducing anyone. But,
what the fuck? I mean, back in the 50s and 60s, girls' panties melted when they danced with
me. So much so that they hardly even noticed how cold I was to the touch. Probably because
they were getting so hot and bothered.

Yet there I was, sitting on top of that gym roof, feeling like a giant tool for asking Bella to
dance.

At least she was more self conscious about it than me.

"I suck at dancing, Edward. I've only done it like twice in my life."

"You don't want all of Alice's hard work to go to waste, do you?"

"Wait. You mean, you want to dance?"

See that right there? What the fuck is up with that? So what if I want to dance? Jesus.

"Nah. I mean. Yeah. I mean…only if you want to."

"Are you just asking me because you think I want to?"

"No! Alright? I'm asking you because I really want to fucking dance with you, OK? I don't even
give a shit if that makes me a bitch! Sue me!"

Bella bit her lip then and I realized my outburst might have been a little over the top. And then
she turned red. But not because she was blushing. Because she was trying not to laugh. I
know that because she then proceeded to burst out laughing at me.

Again.

I rolled my eyes impatiently, waiting for her to get it all out. But I didn't give a shit. Then, I stood
up and held out my hand. Because she was gonna motherfucking dance with me and she was
gonna motherfucking like it.

"OK, but you have to lead," she said, slipping her hand in mine hesitantly.

"No shit, Bella. That's how it works," I said, pulling her to her feet.

Then, I walked over to the speakers, plucking Alice's iPod from its dock to scroll through the
playlist. I was relieved to see that Alice had chosen mostly the classics—the timeless stuff.
There was some newer stuff, too, but nothing cheesy.

So I put on some motherfucking Sinatra.

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And then I swept Bella Swan off her motherfucking feet.

The others showed up not too long after we started dancing. They even had Esme and Carlisle
in tow, who took pictures as if we were actually a bunch of teenagers at a dance or something.
But I guess that's kind of what we were. And I didn't mind so much because Bella took her
parka off for the photos, which meant I got to check out her tits again.

And really, it was…kinda cool. I could see that Bella had really gotten to know them all. She
didn't seem nervous around them anymore. And the girls were all chatting each other up while
Emmett and Jasper and I all fought over who was the most whipped. Then, Emmett grabbed
Bella's hand and pulled her over to our group and started talking smack about what he referred
to as the battle of the century.

"Are you ready for the Bella Swan smackdown, E?" he asked. He was standing behind Bella
and rubbing her shoulders like she was his prize boxer or something.

"You know, Emmett, if you wanted to prove that you could beat me, shouldn't you be coaching
her only just enough to not beat you?" I asked.

"Huh?"

"Emmett, if she beats you and then beats me, that only proves that she's better than both of
us. But if she loses to you and beats me, that would prove that you're better than me."

"God damn it!" he cursed.

"Does that mean she beat you already?" I asked, smirking.

Bella grinned. And it was all the answer I needed.

"Only the very last time I played him, though," she said.

"It doesn't matter!" Emmett insisted. "I still get to see you choke! It will all be worth it to see
Edward the Cheating Mindfucker go down in flames!"

Everyone was laughing at him, then. He and Alice had spent years trying to perfect Alice's
game so that she could beat me. But the problem was that Alice could only see what I was
planning before she made her next move, and I would change my mind and consider so many
different plays, that her visions were all blurry and convoluted. So it didn't work as well as when
I could hear her planning her next three moves, loud and clear.

So actually, the thought of playing Bella was a little…unsettling. Because there was a good
chance I would go down in flames.

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"So when is this little showdown supposed to happen?" I asked.

"Name it!" he yelled. And I gave him a look, because humans were beginning to trickle into the
gym, and they weren't exactly supposed to know about the vampires chilling on the roof. Then
I turned to Bella, and she grinned.

"I'll take you down right now, motherfuckahhhh!"

Then we were all cracking up. Well, except for Alice, who was having none of it.

"No one's playing chess right now. People are supposed to be dancing," she said, as she
began dragging the others away.

Suddenly, there was a chorus of goodbyes and some hugs and well wishes before they all
started hopping down off the roof. Esme was the last one to go. She turned and looked at me
with the biggest fucking grin.

She's the one, Edward.

And then she was gone.

Finally.

Christ.

And because Frank was still crooning, I held out my hand and we resumed dancing, like they
had never been there. And Bella didn't even hesitate.

Because I'm that good.

"Angela and the others just showed up," I whispered. Because it seemed wrong to talk over
Frank.

"Oh yeah? Is Ben with them?"

"Yeah. But he's stag."

"Oh, poor Ben."

"He's too busy…" eye fucking Angela "…admiring Angela's dress to really care."

"He's staring at her boobs, isn't he?" she asked. And I laughed, because he was so busted,
even though I had tried covering for him. "Her boobs looked amazing in that dress."

"Yeah," I agreed, before quickly adding, "almost as amazing as yours," so that I didn't sound
like a total cad. She laughed, and when I spun her around, and her hair whirled behind her and

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Sinatra crooned in that way only he can and the stars came out and her dress clung to her,
'cause she hadn't put her parka back on after the pictures—I was pretty fucking blissed out.

"Is Angela having fun?" she asked, as I pulled her back to me.

"She's nervous, and she's hoping Eric doesn't make it seem too much like a date in front of
Ben. But I think she's excited."

"And Jess?"

"Jess is ecstatic."

"That's great."

And then we just kept dancing. I got pissed when the beat emanating from the gym dared to
thump in defiance of Frank. So I turned him up, and I kept whispering to Bella, as Alice and
Jasper twirled around the dance floor and Emmett spiked the punch (modestly) and Jessica
Stanley's heel broke, but Mike very chivalrously took off his shoes so that they were both
dancing barefoot. And then, when Ben Cheney finally worked up the nerve to ask Angela to
dance, even I had to admit it was a pretty great moment.

"Bella, she's so excited. They're both really self conscious because she's so much taller than
him in her heels, but neither of them cares. And he told himself he was going to wait until after
the dance to ask her out because he didn't want to step on Eric's toes, but he doesn't think Eric
is being attentive enough and he's so caught up in the moment that he's considering asking
her now."

"No!"

"Yeah. Oh man, he's so… The kid's got some chutzpah, that's for sure."

"This is adorable. Do you think he's going to do it?"

"I… He keeps thinking about that conversation me and Emmett had and he's… Oh—oh!"

"Is he doing it! ?"

"Yeah! He's doing this big monologue about how he's not sure if there's anything going on
between her and Eric and he doesn't want to interfere or anything, but-"

"Tell me what he's saying exactly."

"'I really like you, Angela…and I wish I had asked you to this dance before you had already
made plans. And… I guess, what I'm saying is… Do you want to go out?'"

"Oh my god! What is she saying?"

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"She said yes."

"That's it?"

"Yeah. And now they're both grinning like idiots and they're really embarrassed."

"Oh my god. This is fantastic. I'm so glad you had this idea."

"Suddenly, someone doesn't have so many scruples about the stalking, huh?" I teased.

"Shut up! This is… Whatever! Angela's going to tell me everything on Monday anyway!"

"I wouldn't be so sure..."

"What! ? Why?"

"Because the song just ended and… Wait… for… it…"

And then Bella's tits buzzed. Because Angela had texted her. And I burst out laughing as she
dug into her cleavage to retrieve the phone and read the text.

"This is the cutest. Thing. Ever."

I released my hands from her hips then as she texted Angela back. But I didn't mind. Emmett
was thinking at me anyway.

"Oh, hey, Emmett wants to know if you want any of the spiked punch. He says he'll bring it up."

"He doesn't have to do that," she said, her head still bowed over her phone as her fingers
deftly tapped out a response to Angela.

"He's trying to come up with an excuse to ditch the dance for a minute."

"Oh. OK. Sure."

So then I was texting Emmett. When we were both finished on our phones, we sat back down
on the blanket and waited for Emmett to appear, which didn't take long.

"Hey guys," he greeted us, as he managed fling himself up over the edge of the roof without
spilling a drop of the punch in the glass he was carrying. "How are things going up here?"

"Pretty awesome," Bella answered, before I even had a chance. "Thanks for the punch."

"No problem," he said, handing it to her. "I put a little something extra in yours," he winked.

"Shit, Em. Now I'm afraid to drink it."

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"Nah. It's not too strong. Just packs a bit more of a punch than what I gave the chuckleheads
downstairs. See, you gotta be careful when spikin'. 'Cause you don't want the bible beaters or
the chaperones or anyone to catch on. So you gotta put in just enough to mellow everyone
out."

"Emmett! What if there's a recovering alcoholic or something! ?" she scolded.

"Eh. Alice and Edward've got my back. They never let me do anything really stupid."

Bella's head whipped around to face me, and I nodded solemnly.

"It's true. We're on Stupid Patrol 24/7. And Emmett has decades of experience spiking punch."

She laughed then. But Emmett was already making his exit.

"Alright. I'll leave you two kids alone. I just needed some air. There's way too much necking
going on in there."

"Probably thanks to your punch!" Bella cried.

"See? Exactly. The students of Forks High School should be thanking me for helping them
loosen up and get some action. Even that girl with the dandruff and the uni-brow is getting felt
up down there."

"Emmett!"

"Bye!" he hollered, just before taking a running leap off the roof.

Bella was shaking her head, but she was smiling, too.

"He's a trip and a half," she said.

"Don't I know it."

She took a hesitant sip of the punch before coughing, laughing, and shaking her head again.
Then, she put her parka back on and lay down on her back. So I dropped down to the blanket,
as well.

"We got lucky it's a clear night, huh?" she sighed. And she was right. For once, there wasn't a
cloud in the sky. And the stars were out. And it was awesome.

"Yeah."

And we were silent for a long time after that. I was wishing I could hear her thoughts at that
moment. Then I was thinking about how, even if it all went to shit—which seemed highly likely,

262
at least we had had one hell of a date that night. And there were even going to be pictures to
prove it.

And it really made me think about how I needed to focus on appreciating each day that I did
have with Bella, instead of worrying about how they were probably gonna run out.

And then I felt her eyes on me. So I turned to look at her. And fuck if she didn't just make the
whole god damn night even better.

"I definitely love you."

And I was probably supposed to say it back.

But instead I just fucking kissed her.

I didn't even realize it at first. I just knew I needed my lips on hers that second, because she
was so god damned beautiful and perfect in that moment, and she fucking loved me.

When it suddenly hit me what I was doing, my eyes flew open, but hers were closed. Because
she fucking trusted me that much. So I closed mine again, and concentrated on making it the
best damn tongueless kiss in the history of mankind. And vampirekind. And I worked her
bottom lip between mine carefully and sucked gently before releasing and going for more.
Because I was motherfucking determined. Then, I leaned into her and rested my hand on her
hip, because I wasn't fucking finished with those lips yet, and holding that hip made me feel
bound to the earth, like maybe I did belong there. Because I knew my hand belonged on that
hip.

Even though she didn't act like it, Bella must have known that it was a somewhat fraught
moment, because she never pushed for more, even though I knew we both wanted more. And
when our lips stopped moving, I leaned my forehead against hers and released the breath I
was holding. Then, I inhaled her scent. Slowly. And it was…OK. It wasn't the easiest thing I
had ever done, but I didn't taste any venom.

And that was kind of a huge motherfucking victory.

And because God hates me, that was the exact moment Alice had another one of her god
damned visions.

And she was screaming.

Chapter 30: I Was Trying To Get My Woo On, Man


There wasn't time to explain it to Bella. There wasn't even time to wait for the others to come
with me. There was only time to react.

So I ran.

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I ran as fast as I could because, even though Alice's vision showed me what was going to
happen and where, it didn't show me how much time I had to get there to stop it.

Charlie Swan hadn't been at home when I picked up Bella earlier that evening because he was
sitting in his cruiser off the 101, pulling people over for speeding. He was hoping to catch any
drunk teenagers who tried driving following the dance. But in Alice's vision, it wasn't a drunk
teenager that he was about to pull over. It was a meth head who was delighting in the open
roads and had just made the decision to accelerate well over the speed limit. And he was
hopped up out of his mind.

And hidden under a newspaper on his passenger seat lay a 9mm handgun.

Alice's visions are usually muddled. Because, for example, even though Doyle Spencer had
made the decision to speed through the town of Forks, Charlie hadn't yet decided to pull him
over. And Spencer hadn't yet decided to pick up that gun. He hadn't decided to shoot Charlie
Swan…yet.

And so there were alternative visions flying through her mind, in which Spencer would decide
not to shoot Charlie Swan, and Charlie would arrest him. Or maybe even only ticket him. But if
history was any indication, the clarity with which the worst of the options came to the fore
indicated that it was probably the most likely scenario.

I began running down the 101, practically burning a path in the ground under my feet, until I
could hear Spencer's thoughts. I didn't even give a shit if people could see me. Somewhere, in
the back of my mind, I could hear my brothers and sisters, so I knew they weren't far behind.
But as I closed in on Spencer's car, I could also hear Charlie. Which meant he wasn't far,
either.

Thus, I didn't put too much thought into it before I broadsided the speeding sedan. I came at
his passenger side and just threw myself at it until the car and I were toppling over and down
the side of the highway, only coming to rest when we struck several massive trees. It was
when both the car and I rolled to a stop did the rest of my siblings arrive.

"Edward!" Alice whispered frantically. "Is he OK?"

We could all smell the blood coming from the interior of what was left of the car, which had
landed on its driver side. And it was only then that I realized Alice hadn't had a vision based on
my decision to stop the car before Charlie detected it. Perhaps because I had acted so quickly.

And then I panicked.

"Where's Carlisle! ?"

"He's not here, Edward!" she answered.

"Fuck!"

264
Because none of us were sure we could handle being around spilt human blood the way
Carlisle could. I saw Jasper dialing, but I knew I needed to check on Spencer quickly. I peered
into the cracked windshield and saw, to my relief, that he had been wearing a seatbelt, which
seemed uncharacteristic of someone high on meth. But what did I know.

"Doyle!" I called, peeling away a piece of the windshield and hoping he was conscious. But he
didn't respond. I could hear that his heart was still beating, so I knew I hadn't killed him, but he
looked to have quite a few broken bones and he was bleeding a lot. One bone was actually
protruding from his arm, making me cringe not only with the thought of the pain, but also with
the knowledge that I had done it to him. And his thoughts—they weren't entirely blank, but they
were close. Like a dreamless sleep. The thought that he had been about to murder Charlie
Swan was of little comfort when I saw him in such a helpless heap, broken and bleeding.

"He's bleeding an awful lot!" Alice said anxiously.

But then I heard Charlie. He had heard the accident and was pulling his cruiser onto the
highway to investigate.

"Fuck! Charlie is on his way!" I whispered. I was terrified.

"Edward, we have to run! He can't find us here!" Alice urged. I turned to the others.

Without a word, Emmett punched through what was left of the passenger side window and
reached in, retrieving the handgun from where it had fallen.

"We can't just leave him!" I protested.

But then, Alice's visions finally seemed to get unstuck. And she and I could see that Carlisle
would arrive moments after we disappeared into the forest. Even though Jasper was still on
the phone with him and explaining what had happened, Carlisle would make it there in record
time. And he would pretend that he had just been passing through when he encountered the
wreck.

And Doyle would survive.

Thus, Alice and I grabbed the others and pulled them quickly into the cover provided by the
nearby trees as Charlie's siren approached, but we stayed nearby to watch and make sure
everything happened according to Alice's vision. She explained what she had seen to the
others as I kept an ear to Spencer's heartbeat. Then, we all watched as Charlie called for an
ambulance and leapt from the cruiser to help the man who had been moments away from
murdering him.

"Bella!" I whispered, suddenly remembering. I had abandoned her on the roof of a building,
with no explanation.

"What happened?" Alice asked.

265
Instead of answering Alice, I pulled out my phone and called Bella as we all watched Charlie
frantically trying to help Doyle Spencer. He thought for sure the man was a goner, and
because of the way the car was resting on its side, it was difficult for Charlie to get to him.
Bella answered her phone just as Carlisle pulled up and ran to Charlie.

"Edward! What happened!"

"Bella, I'm so sorry," I whispered. "Alice had a vision. There was an emergency."

"Is it Laurent?"

"No. Nothing like that. Don't worry. We took care of it. I'll be right there."

"Do I need to be scared?"

"No. Everything's OK now. I'm on my way. It'll be just a few minutes, OK?"

"OK."

After hanging up, I turned to my siblings and told them I was going back, and reminded them
that they needed to return, too, before their absence from the dance became even more
conspicuous. Then, I began running again, giving the accident a wide berth so as not to be
noticed.

As the dense forest that surrounded Forks hurdled past, I glanced down and realized my suit
was hopelessly wrinkled. Fortunately, there were no blood or oil stains on it. I mean, not that it
would have mattered all that much in the scheme of things, but the blood might have alarmed
Bella a bit. As if dating a vampire wasn't traumatic enough.

I had to slow down some when I neared the high school, as there were people around. Jogging
at a human pace seemed impossibly slow when I knew Bella was waiting for me on the roof of
the gym, alone, wondering what the fuck had happened. Then I reflected on what she must
have thought when I fled our first kiss with such urgency. And then I literally smacked my
forehead, even though I knew it was something that couldn't have been helped.

So I probably wasn't as careful as I should have been when I neared the gym. I moved too fast
and paid attention too little. And when I got to the gym, I jumped up to the roof full of dread.

She was huddled in her parka, on the blanket. She had pulled her knees to her chest and the
parka over her legs, like a little kid. She looked cold and alone. And I felt like an enormous
douche.

"I'm so sorry, Bella," I said, as I walked toward her.

She stood up.

266
"Is everything OK?"

"Yeah, yeah. It was just…" I didn't really want to tell her that someone had almost murdered
her father on the job. "Alice had a vision. It's fine, now."

"Why do… You look like you've been in a fight!" she said, touching my lapel with her hand. I
looked down to see her fingers tracing a hole.

"Damn it," I cursed under my breath. Then, before we could discuss it further, Rose, Emmett
and Alice appeared, and I turned to them. "Where's Jasper?" I asked.

"He stayed behind to keep everyone calm," Alice explained.

"Oh. Good. You guys really should go back inside before people notice you're missing."

"The dance is winding down anyway, Edward. Everyone will just think we left early," Rose said.

"Keep who calm? What happened?" Bella asked. And then we all turned to her.

"It was…just… a meth head," I said, unsure of how to continue.

"In Forks?" Bella asked.

"We're gonna head out. We'll see you soon, OK, Bella?" Alice sang. She didn't think they
needed to all be around when I explained it to Bella.

"Uh. OK. Bye, guys," Bella said, still confused. They all took turns hugging Bella then before
disappearing to the parking lot. Which was when the questions resumed. "So, um…are you
going to tell me what happened? Is this meth head someone I know? Did they overdose or
something?"

"No. It wasn't that," I answered. I sat down on the blanket again and tugged on her hand so
that she would sit down, too. She positioned herself across from me, and we both had our legs
crossed, so that our knees were touching. I took a deep breath. "He was…just passing
through. And he was…speeding."

"Oh. So you prevented a car wreck?"

And that was when I decided there really wasn't any reason to let her know what would've
happened had we not interfered. Because it didn't happen. And it would probably just upset
her, and make her worry about Charlie's safety.

"Yeah."

'Wait. Do you all… When do you choose to get involved and when not to?"

267
Damn it.

"Um. This one was…close enough. And we had enough warning. And…it just…"

"I thought Alice's visions were only of things that significantly affected you all."

Shit.

"Uh. Most of the time."

"Why are you lying to me, Edward?"

"I'm sorry. It was…" And then I realized I needed to stop lying to her. She was too smart for it
and I was too much of a dumbass, so it clearly wasn't going to work. "It was Charlie."

"What?"

"He's on duty tonight."

"Oh…" she breathed, and the syllable whooshed out of her, as the full meaning of my words hit
her. And then she just stared at me for a second, with wide eyes.

"Are you OK?" I asked, again cursing the brain silence.

"He was going to hit Charlie?"

"Not exactly."

"What then?"

"Charlie was going to pull him over."

"…and?"

I tried to think of the least alarming way to describe it to her. Because, yeah, we all watch
people get shot on TV all the time. But it's a little bit different when you're talking about real life.
And someone you love. And something that almost actually happened.

"He…had a gun."

"Wait…" she said, taking a deep breath and look around like she was trying to get her
bearings. "Are you telling me… Someone was going to shoot my dad tonight?"

"Yeah."

268
Then she was silent. But her eyes communicated all of the shock and the horror she was
feeling, loud and clear. I waited a second for her to speak again, but she didn't. So I took her
hand.

"It's OK. He's OK now. We took care of it."

"Where is he now?"

"He's probably at the hospital."

"What! ?"

"Not because he's hurt! But because…the other guy…he was injured."

"You hurt him?"

"I… It wasn't intentional, exactly. I forced his car off the road. It flipped a couple times and he
has some broken bones, but Carlisle came and took care of him. He's gonna be hurting for a
while, and Charlie's probably going to arrest him for the drugs in the car as soon as he's
conscious. But he'll survive."

"Oh my god."

"Charlie's OK. He didn't even see the accident. He just showed up at the scene after."

"I… I want to go home."

Bella was quiet for the entire car ride home, which made me really uneasy. When we pulled
into the driveway, she got out of the car and walked toward the house without so much as a
word. But not because she was ignoring me. I think it was more like I just didn't exist in her
reality at that moment. So I got out of the car and followed her. She didn't protest when I
followed her into the house. In fact, she had left the front door hanging open. I closed it behind
us.

"Dad?" she called.

"Bella," I said gently, walking toward her. "He's not here."

"Oh." But it was like she still wasn't registering my presence. Until an idea suddenly hit her.
"Can we go to the hospital?"

"Why don't you try calling him? Let him know you made it home from the dance OK?"

"Oh. OK."

269
Then, she looked totally at a loss. She ran up to her room and I again followed her. She began
searching. It took me a second to realize she was searching for her phone.

"Bella. It's in your…dress."

"What?"

"Your phone. It's in your dress."

"Oh. Right." Then, she retrieved it, only to stare at it. And she looked back up at me. "What's
Charlie's number?"

Something was really wrong. And it was freaking me the fuck out. I was worried Bella was
finally having the mental breakdown she should have had that first night, when Laurent and I
had fought in her front yard.

"I don't know, Bella. Let me see if I can find it for you," I offered. Then, she didn't hand me the
phone, but she didn't resist when I reached for it and slipped it from her hand. I scrolled
through her phone book until I found Charlie's name listed. Under 'Charlie.' I dialed it before
handing it back to her. "It's ringing, Bella."

I could hear Charlie through the phone when he answered, and he sounded surprised that
Bella was calling.

"Hello?"

"Hello? Daddy?"

"Bella? Is everything OK?"

"Where are you?" she asked.

"I'm at the hospital, Bells. What's going on?"

"Why are you at the hospital?"

"I was assisting the victim of a car accident tonight."

"But you're OK?"

"Yeah, Bella. What's wrong?"

"Nothing's wrong. I just…I wanted to…" And then she blinked a few times, and it was like she
suddenly remembered where she was. "I'm just calling to let you know I made it home alright."

"Oh. OK. Did you have fun on your date?"

270
"Yeah, Daddy."

"Good. I'll be home soon, kid. OK?"

"OK. Bye, Daddy."

"Bye, Bells."

When she hung up, she handed the phone back to me. Which was still weird, because it
wasn't mine. But I just put it on her nightstand and watched her apprehensively. She was
looking around the room and chewing on her lip. Then, she looked down at her clothes. She
unzipped her parka and took it off before dropping it on the floor, absently. Then, she slipped
the straps of her dress off of her shoulders and it fell to the floor as well. And then Bella was
rooting through her dresser, standing in just her underwear.

"Bella?" I asked.

"Hm?" she mumbled, completely distracted. She didn't even look at me.

"Are you OK?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. Why?"

"You just… You know I'm right here, right?"

"Sure. But… It's not like you're real or anything. Right?"

Chapter 31: I Better Not Be Tyler effing Durden


"Bella?"

"Yeah?"

"I think maybe… Do you want some water or something?" I offered.

I don't know why water was my answer for everything.

"I'm fine, Edward," she insisted, as she pulled a t-shirt out of the dresser. "Charlie's fine. We're
all fine."

"But… What do you mean when you say I'm not real?"

"I mean… Obviously, I'm just imagining you. Right? I mean, vampires don't exist. Vampires
don't sparkle. They certainly don't rescue humans from being shot. And if you did exist, you
wouldn't be dancing on rooftops with me."

271
Oh shit.

"Bella… I…"

I had no fucking clue what to say to her. It was fucking code red.

Meanwhile, she grabbed her pajama shorts and walked to the bathroom. So I called Carlisle.

"Edward?"

"Yeah. Are you busy?"

"No. I'm just leaving the hospital. Dr. Hendricks took over. What's going on?"

"I think… Bella—she's having some sort of breakdown."

"What do you mean?"

"She… She doesn't think I'm real. I think she thinks that she's crazy. She thinks we're all
figments of her imagination."

"Oh Jesus. What caused this? Do you know?"

"I'm not sure. I just… When I explained to her why I left in such a hurry tonight, she got…quiet.
And now it's like… She's interacting with me, but it's like she doesn't really believe I'm here."

"Have you spoken to Alice?"

"No. I guess my first instinct was to call the doctor."

"Sure. OK. Do you want me to stop by?"

"Charlie's gonna be home soon."

"OK. I suggest calling Alice. I'm going to go home and see if I can read up on this before I tell
you what to do, because this isn't my area. But call me back if anything happens."

"OK."

I hung up then and took off my jacket, dropping it on the back of Bella's chair before calling
Alice, because Bella was still in the bathroom, showering. Then, I untucked my shirt and ran
my fingers through my hair, sighing nervously as I waited for Alice to answer.

"What's up?" she asked, the moment she answered.

272
"Alice. Bella's… I think she's having a bit of a meltdown. Do you see anything different? Do you
see us having a conversation? What do I say to her?"

"Oh no! Is she OK?"

"Just tell me what you see, Alice," I begged. "Please."

She fell silent for a moment before she spoke again.

"It's the same, Edward. The same thing as always—the two of you in bed."

"You don't see anything about tonight? God, I have no idea what to say to her, Alice."

"That's probably why I don't see anything, Edward."

"What should I do?"

"I don't know. What's going on?"

"She thinks she imagined me. She thinks I'm not real—that none of it's real."

"Oh! Do you want me to come over? Or Rose?"

"I don't know! I don't want to overwhelm her! She's just taking a shower now, like everything is
normal. Except for the imaginary vampire friend chillin' in her bedroom."

"Have you talked to Carlisle?"

"Yes! He told me to call you!"

"Oh. OK. Well, stay calm. Just… I don't know. You're not supposed to tell someone crazy that
they're crazy, right? Doesn't that make it worse?"

"Because I was going to offer up as proof that she was crazy the fact that vampires do in fact
exist and do in fact sparkle? I mean…fuck. Maybe she is crazy! Why did she even believe any
of it to begin with! ?"

"Whoa. Do you want me to send Jasper?"

"No!"

"OK. Maybe just…act normal. Let her sleep. Maybe she'll be OK in the morning."

"Really? Sleep? Is that the best you can do?"

"Don't worry, Edward! I'm not having any bad visions. I think it will be OK."

273
Then I heard the water in the bathroom turn off.

"I gotta go."

"OK. Good luck!"

When Bella re-entered the room, she was wearing a towel, so I turned around and stared at
the wall.

"Um, do you want me to leave?" I asked.

"No. You're fine," she said.

And when I heard the towel hit the floor, I was so freaked out about what was going on that I
didn't even have to start reciting baseball statistics in my head.

"Um, I'm gonna go get you some water. I'll be back," I said. And then I opened the window and
jumped out of it, because otherwise I would've had to turn around toward her to use the door.

In her kitchen, I pondered what the fuck I was supposed to do as I filled a glass of water for
her. I wondered if it would be better or worse for me to stay with her that night. I wondered if it
was OK to leave her alone with Charlie. I wondered if there was danger that she would tell
Charlie about the "delusions" she thought she was having.

After stalling for a good five minutes, I finally returned to her bedroom with the water, rapping
lightly on her door when I got there.

"Come in!"

I poked my head in hesitantly.

"Hey."

"Hey. What's up?" she asked. As if I had just arrived. Like I hadn't just talked to her.

"I brought some water."

"Um. Thanks," she said, as I entered and handed her the glass. She was sitting in her bed,
cross legged.

Then we just stared at one another.

I had no fucking clue what to do.

Thank god I heard Charlie headed home.

274
"Bella, Charlie's almost here. I have to go move my car."

"Sure thing."

"I'm gonna come back, though, if that's OK."

"Sure," she shrugged.

And so I found myself sneaking out her window, yet again.

As I moved my car to a more secluded area about a block away, I cursed, remembering that I
had left my jacket in her room. Thus, after Charlie pulled in and let himself into the house, I
didn't hesitate in jumping back into her window. However, Bella barely seemed to notice when I
swung in over the windowsill. Which only made me more anxious.

"Charlie's home," I whispered, retrieving my jacket from the chair and shoving it under Bella's
bed, just in case there was a surprise inspection.

But Bella perked up at my words. She leapt out of bed and went flying out of the room.

"Dad!" she cried, thundering down the stairs.

"Hey, Bells," Charlie answered. Again, I could hear the surprise in his voice. He wasn't
accustomed to Bella greeting him so enthusiastically.

"How was your night?" she asked.

"It was… Let's just say everyone survived, at least," he said, sighing heavily.

"What happened?"

"There was an accident on the 101. The guy messed himself up pretty bad. We think he was
high. We found drugs in the wreckage."

"What kind of drugs?"

"Crystal meth."

"What? Was it…"

"He wasn't from here. Nobody we knew. He was real lucky I happened to be nearby patrolling,
and Dr. Cullen came across us not long after that."

"That is lucky," she said. I was kind of amazed at how well she was doing at pretending it was
the first time she had heard all of the information. Charlie was still kind of hopped up on the
adrenaline of the whole ordeal, so he seemed eager to talk about it with Bella.

275
"It was the weirdest thing, Bella. I was sitting in my cruiser, listening to the radio when I heard
the crash. Guy musta been right outside my radar. But I never heard any tires squealing or
anything. And then after they took him to the hospital, I was inspecting the road, and there
weren't even any tread marks. And from the damage, it looked like he flew off that road fast.
But he didn't hit the trees head on. He flipped the car. But the way he landed—it's like he
woulda had to have done a complete 360, too. I don't know how he managed to do it."

"Did he… Was he conscious when you left the hospital?" she asked, suddenly sounding much
more somber.

"Yeah, but he was still high. He wasn't making any sense. He said something struck the side of
his car and rammed him into the trees. I think maybe a deer hit him and he panicked and cut
the wheel real hard."

"Was there a deer? Did you find a deer or anything by the road?"

"Nah. But sometimes they survive initially and then wander off somewhere nearby to die."

"Was there any blood? Or anything? On the road? Do you think maybe he just imagined the
deer?" she asked. Her voice was getting progressively higher in pitch, and uneasy.

"I don't know, Bella. Maybe. What's wrong?"

"Did you find anything else in the car?"

"What's going on Bella?"

"Nothing!" she screeched. Then, her pitch lowered and her tone calmed. "I just… Nothing. It
just…sounds so strange, like you said."

"Are you sure you're OK?"

"Yeah."

"You haven't been drinking, have you? That Cullen kid didn't get you drunk, did he?"

"What? No, Dad! I'm fine!"

"Then what did you do tonight?"

"We… We just went and got some pizza. Nothing major."

"Let me smell your breath."

"Dad!" she protested. But I could tell from Charlie's thoughts and the silence that followed that
she complied. "Can I go to bed now?"

276
"Yeah, I suppose. Good night, Bells."

"Night, Dad."

When she finally came back into the room, she was looking at me like…like I was a vampire.
She closed the door behind her slowly, watching me the whole time. As if I might disappear. I
motioned with a finger to my lips that we needed to whisper if she wanted to talk.

"You…" she started, but her voice trailed off.

"Are you OK?"

She sank down onto the bed, still staring.

"What happened to the gun?" she whispered.

I walked toward the bed slowly and sat across from her.

"Emmett took it," I whispered. "I don't know what he did with it."

"You… Is my family cursed? Why do you keep having to save us?"

"I don't think you're cursed, Bella. If anyone's cursed, it's probably me. I'll leave if you want me
to."

"No. Don't leave," she whispered.

"You… You know you're not crazy or imagining things, right?" I asked.

"I…"

And then she burst out crying.

I didn't know what to do, because I didn't know why she was crying. I didn't know if it was
because her father had almost been killed, or if all of the vampire shit was getting to be too
much, or all of the above. I was trying so hard to read her mind in that moment that I swear my
head almost exploded.

I reached over and cupped her face with my hands to catch the tears, because it just seemed
cruel to let them fall unattended. And that was all it took for her to throw herself in my arms,
sobbing against my chest. And it fucking sucked. But at least I was able to hold her that night,
unlike that first night she cried.

When she eventually cried herself out, I lay down, pulling her down with me. I wrapped a
blanket around her, to protect her from my chill, and I waited. I wasn't sure if I was waiting for
her to speak or fall asleep or start crying again.

277
And it was as I was lying there waiting that I saw it.

The blanket.

The clothes I was wearing.

The clothes Bella was wearing.

The way her hair fell across my arm.

The way her cheek rested on my chest, her forehead tucked under my chin.

It was Alice's vision.

The vision.

That night, as Bella slept in my arms, I got to ponder what it meant that we had reached the
vision. Did that mean we had reached the end? Did that mean that my saving Charlie was the
point of it all? Was that why we had been thrown in each other's paths? Was I supposed to
disappear, allowing Bella to believe that she had imagined it all? Was that the most significant
event that fate had in store for Bella Swan and Edward Cullen?

I had to remind myself that I didn't believe in fate. It seemed like I was always believing in that
shit only when it was convenient for feeding my self-loathing or my pessimism or any of
another hundred traits that made me such a fucking emo prick.

I told myself I would call Alice once Bella woke up and ask her to look for my future. And
Bella's.

And pray that they still intersected.

Chapter 32: There's 184 Cracks In Bella's Ceiling


When Bella did wake up, I almost jumped out of my skin. Not so much because it was a
surprise, but because I was so fucking nervous about what was gonna come out of her mouth.
It fucking sucked because it was like we had hit the rewind button on our relationship. It was
like that morning after she first found out about us, all over again. Except that the reality of it all
had actually hit her. The other shoe had finally dropped. And there weren't any visions to guide
me anymore.

"Good morning," I said softly as I reluctantly loosened my arms from around her. She sat up,
and she was the picture of morning confusion. Her hair was tangled and standing up taller than
I would have thought possible, and her eyes were hooded with sleep. She was wrinkled and
disoriented and disheveled and…fucking beautiful.

278
"Hi," she finally said, blinking at me as she tried to focus her eyes. Then she turned and I could
see her surveying the room. She glanced at the spot where she had thrown her parka, and the
dress that still lay in a wrinkled heap on the floor, and at the phone on her nightstand. Then,
she turned back to me. "Where's Charlie?"

"He went into the station today to fill out some paperwork about the accident last night."

"Oh."

"How are you feeling?" I asked.

"I… I think I'm confused."

"About what?"

"I think I need some coffee."

"Oh. OK."

Then, she kind of slid out of the bed and shuffled out the door. I wasn't sure whether to follow
her or not. So I listened.

I heard her feet pad into the kitchen, where she started a pot of coffee before padding back up
to the bathroom and peeing. Then, she returned to her room and climbed back into bed.

"Wake me up when it's ready, OK?"

Then, she buried her head into my chest and went back to sleep.

The five minutes that it took for that pot of coffee to finish dripping were the longest five
minutes of my life. Because I still didn't know what the fuck was going on. With every drip, I
had another misgiving. With every misgiving, another vision of an eternity of regret. And yet,
even as I drove myself mad, Bella breathed quietly against my chest, inhaling and exhaling
slowly, as if nothing mattered enough to disturb her sleep before the slowest coffee in the
world brewed.

Ironically, when I heard the coffee finally stop dripping, I couldn't bring myself to wake her. How
could I, when she seemed so tranquil? So trusting of the vampire who wrecked her life? I didn't
want to face the turmoil that awakening Bella would surely bring. What if I had, quite literally,
driven her insane?

I tilted my head forward and kissed the top of hers in a half-hearted attempt to wake her. When
she didn't move, I began skimming the length of her right arm with my fingertip lightly. She
began to stir, then, but not to wake entirely.

"Bella," I whispered, grimacing.

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"Mmm?"

"The coffee's ready. Do you want me to go get some for you?"

She opened her eyes then.

"No," she mumbled. Then, she turned and started to roll out of the bed, again. But I caught her
hand. She look at me, confused. And I probably shouldn't have, but I pulled her back to me
and I kissed her.

I think I was desperate. I wanted to remind her of the night before. Before everything had
happened. Before Alice had had her vision. Before everything had gone to shit. And before she
started thinking I wasn't real. I wanted to show her that I was real. That even though I wasn't
exactly a living, breathing seventeen year old guy, I still existed.

She was clearly surprised, but her lips began moving against mine. I didn't know whether it
was a victory or if it was just…a kiss.

And when I felt her tongue push against my lips, it felt like neither.

I pulled away.

"Bella…"

She opened her eyes.

"What's wrong?"

"We can't," I said softly.

"Can't what?"

"The…venom."

"You're telling me that if you gave me a real kiss, it would have the potential to kill me?"

I swallowed the broken glass of despair when she used the word 'real' before answering.

"I… I don't know. I think it would at least have the potential to turn you. I don't think it's
something we can risk."

"Oh."

"I'm sorry."

280
"Yeah…" she said, leaning back and looking at me. I didn't know whether it was better or
worse that she wasn't trying to hide her disappointment. I almost resented the fact that the one
person who could hide such things to protect me wasn't. Before I realized what an asshole that
made me.

Suddenly, I wanted to leave. I didn't want to be anywhere near her. I didn't want to be
anywhere near anyone. I wanted to scream and break shit and cry and, more than anything, I
wanted to kill that motherfucking junkie that had ruined everything.

Instead, I swallowed another mouthful of glass.

"I… How are you feeling?" I asked.

"I'm… I'm sorry I lost my head last night. I just…"

"It's OK, Bella. Jesus. I'm just glad you're alright now. I've been having fucking panic attacks
that I'd driven you mad."

"No, no… Of course not. I just… I'm going to go get some coffee. I'll be right back, OK?"

"Yeah."

We both sounded really motherfucking forlorn. So even though I was ecstatic that Bella
seemed to no longer doubt her own sanity, there was a real sense of foreboding as I listened
to her shuffle back downstairs and pour herself a cup of coffee. More foreboding was the time
it took her to come back upstairs. And the sigh that I heard come from the kitchen.

I was so freaked out from a morning of being on pins and needles, on the heels of a night
spent on pins and needles, that I just kind of launched into some verbal diarrhea as soon as
she re-entered the bedroom.

"Bella, I'm sorry I can't be normal for you. I'm sorry I can't kiss you properly or promise you a
normal human life. I'm sorry I don't have a heartbeat and I can't go out in the sunlight. I'm sorry
I've made your life a hundred times more complicated than it was before you met me and I'm
sorry-"

"Edward!" she interrupted, sitting down on the bed next to me.

"Bella-"

"Stop apologizing. None of it's your fault. I'd be lying if I said I didn't wish that I could kiss you
properly, but I've already told you-I would rather kiss you our way than kiss anyone else."

"Really?"

"Yeah. And thank you."

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"Huh?"

"I don't know why you're so worried about making my life complicated, when I wouldn't even be
alive if it weren't for you. What's a little sparkling and bloodlust when I could be dead right
now? But more importantly, thank you for saving Charlie."

"Oh."

"Have you even thought about what my life would be like without you right now? I mean, if I
hypothetically survived being squashed by a van and attacked by a vampire? My dad would
have been murdered last night. I…" her voice trailed off, and the forlornness suddenly
returned.

"Are you OK?" I asked, pulling her closer to me. She put her head on my shoulder and handed
me the cup of coffee, so that I could put it on the nightstand. After I set it down, I returned my
eyes to hers and she sighed.

"Edward?"

"Yeah?"

"I don't think…I could ever become a vampire."

Oh.

"Oh."

"I'm sorry. I feel like telling you that is like telling you I don't love you! Or that I don't love you
enough. And I do love you! I just… I can't do that to my parents! I love them, too. And-"

"You don't have to explain," I said. Even though I had swallowed some more burning shards
before being able to interrupt her. "I understand."

"No! I do have to explain. Because it's not you at all! I don't want you to think it's about you!"

"Listen, Bella—I think I understand better than anyone could. I never should have given up
being a human for Tanya. And you have so much more to be human for than I did. And I don't
want you to regret things the way I do. I could never forgive myself if you became one of us
only to wish you hadn't."

"But this doesn't feel fair to you! How can I ask you to stick around when I'm just…a flash in the
pan."

"Bella, you will never be a flash in the pan. And asking me to stick around for a lifetime is a lot
more fair than me asking you to stick around for eternity."

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"But… I don't want you to think that I think of you the way you thought of Tanya. I mean,
obviously I'm not you and I don't know what it was like for you then. And I know I'm the same
age you were then and you probably think I'm silly and-"

"Shhh. It's OK. I know that what I feel about you is nothing like what I felt for Tanya. And as
much as I will never admit this to anyone, I know that I was pretty fucking damaged after my
parents died and I didn't give a fuck about anything and…I think I…I let her seduce me. And,
yes, I realize I just admitted something that I swore in the same sentence I would never admit.
But I guess I just have to be fucking honest with you about everything. And that means being
honest about my regrets. I mean, it was losing my parents that led to my becoming a vampire.
I was so wrecked over that. How could I ask you to give yours up voluntarily in order to
become one?"

"I hate this."

"What?"

"You want me to change, don't you?"

"I don't want you to do anything that you'll regret. If you regretted it, I would regret it, too."

"But assuming I wouldn't: in an ideal situation—wouldn't you want me to change?"

I sighed.

And it was all the answer she needed.

"Edward."

"Yeah?"

"Has Alice ever seen me as a vampire?"

"… No."

"You're fucking lying."

I sighed again and looked out the window for a second, as if the outside world could help me
with my inability to lie to Bella. When I decided it couldn't, I returned my eyes to hers.

"Only once. And only for a split second," I admitted.

"When?"

"Bella," I protested.

283
"Edward."

I hesitated, just long enough to realize it was useless.

"Last night."

"What?"

"It was just a split second. When she had the vision of Charlie dying. And it was in the
background, and it was fuzzy. So it was just one remote possibility based on the outcome of
something that didn't happen. So, it's not significant."

"Wait…" her voice trailed off.

"Don't worry about it."

"But… That means there was a possibility I would have abandoned Renee? After Charlie
died?"

"Bella, don't read too much into it. I mean, maybe you would have been so traumatized by
Charlie's death that you would have done something crazy, like I did after my parents' deaths.
And maybe you devised some way to keep Renee in your life. There's no way of knowing,
because the vision was only a split second, and unclear."

"What do you mean 'devised a way to keep Renee in my life?'"

Fuck.

"Nothing. I don't know."

"Is that possible?"

"No. Probably not. Not without putting Renee in danger."

"But like…she wouldn't have to know I was a vampire, would she? I mean, we're just talking
hypothetically."

"There's no way she wouldn't know, Bella. You wouldn't age. You'd look different. You wouldn't
be able to go out in the sunlight. Think about it."

"What did the others do?"

"Huh?"

"When they turned. Did their families just think they all disappeared?"

284
"Oh." I let my head fall back against the headboard, then, and I stared at the ceiling as I tried to
think of a way to tell Bella everything she wanted and needed to know without giving her any
false hope or unwarranted despair. Because, sometimes, it's a fine fucking line.
"Well…Carlisle, Esme, and Emmett were like me. They didn't really have family left. Alice, as
you already know, doesn't remember her human life. Jasper is pretty sure his family assumed
he was killed in the war. So it may have been something they were at least somewhat
prepared for, but Jasper never got over leaving his little sister behind. And yeah-Rose's family
thought she was murdered. She never got to see them again, except from a distance. And it
fucking broke her heart, Bella. You don't want to go through that. You don't want to put your
family through that."

"I know. I just… I don't want to feel like I'm holding you hostage, but…" her voice trailed off.

"Don't worry. I'm staying either way. As long as you'll let me."

"But-"

"Bella. I'm a hundred and eleven. That means I've waited a hundred and eleven years to find
you. I'm certainly not going to waste any of the time I can have with you when I've got the rest
of eternity to miss you."

"Jesus. That's so…"

"Romantic?"

"Morbid."

"Yeah, but it's not exactly something we should pussyfoot around, is it?" I asked.

"No. You're right."

"Look on the bright side—you'll have someone to clean your dentures and change your adult
diapers and make sure you take all your pills on time. It'll be cool. I'll sneak beer into the
nursing home for you."

"Edward!"

"It's no different than any other couple that grows old together, Bella. I just…won't grow old, is
all."

"That makes it kind of different!"

"We'll make it work."

"Edward."

285
"Yeah?"

"Last night…when you saw what Alice saw…"

"Yeah?"

"You didn't even hesitate."

"Huh?"

"When you saw that Charlie's death would lead to my becoming a vampire. It didn't make you
hesitate? In saving him?"

"Fuck, Bella. No! What kind of person do you think I am?"

"A human one."

I smiled, because it was another one of those times when she said something that was
just…perfect. Completely inaccurate, but perfect. And I could feel the embers in my black hole
of a heart beginning to burn a little brighter.

"You know I'm not actually human, though, right?"

"Whatever. I don't know why you say that. I think you guys are human. You're just like…a
different kind of human. Like a subspecies or something."

"That like…makes us cannibals."

"Yeah. So?"

"That's sick!"

"You're really gonna take issue with 'cannibal'? Like 'vampire' is so much better?"

"Alright. Fair enough," I conceded.

"Edward?"

"Yeah?"

"Thank you. Seriously. For saving my dad."

"Oh. No problem."

"I… I don't think I thanked you last night and it was really awful and… You were really great."

286
"Don't worry about it. You can always make me some more soup or loan me some more notes
or something."

She smacked her forehead, then.

"I didn't even think about that! Both of my gestures were completely meaningless! Jesus!" she
cried. I couldn't help laughing at her.

"Don't worry about it. It was still really sweet."

"Um. I still think I would like to make a gesture that would really count for something."

"It's really not necessary, Bella."

"Are you sure? Because…I can think of one that would be pretty fun."

"Huh?"

And then she kissed me. And it was different than before, because it was a Bella kiss. It was
soft and sweet and filled with morning optimism and playfulness. And after a minute, she was
smiling into it, and then I was smiling into it. And then when she tried to pull away, I snatched
her back and kissed her some more and she giggled. Fucking giggled. And it was like a
fucking morning miracle, because we were kissing.

And nobody died.

When she finally leaned back, she was still grinning.

"I think I like waking up to you."

"Yeah?" I asked, feeling the hope creep in.

"Yeah. Heck, you're so cold I won't even have to leave the window open anymore," she
teased.

The way she talked, like there would be many more mornings of waking up together—it was
like all the crushing weight of the anxiety and fear of the night before was just…melting.

Even if Bella never became a vampire—having a lifetime with her would be pretty fucking
awesome, too.

"Well, I'm glad I come in handy for something. … You know, other than saving lives."

"What's going to happen to the guy from last night?" she asked, turning somber.

"I don't know."

287
"Alice didn't see?"

"I didn't see anything beyond his recovering in the hospital and getting arrested."

"But what if… What if he does something like that again?"

"I don't know. What did you want us to do?" I asked, trying not to get defensive.

"I'm sorry. I'm not criticizing. I just…worry. Couldn't you have scared the shit out of him or
something? Broken out the scary vampire stuff?"

"He was unconscious after the accident. And he was high. He probably would have just
thought it was hallucinations anyway."

"Oh."

"Do you want to go get some breakfast?" I offered, changing the subject.

"You don't eat breakfast."

"So? Let's go get you some waffles. Sunday mornings are awesome for listening in on people's
thoughts about the sins of Saturday night."

"Can we go to your house after?"

"Uh. Sure. Any reason in particular?"

"I want to thank the others."

"Oh. OK."

"And I want to kick your ass in chess."

Chapter 33: Aaaand Emmett Just Creamed His Pants


"I wouldn't do that if I were you," she said quietly.

I looked up from the board and narrowed my eyes at her.

Everyone else laughed.

Because they were all watching. They were all having far too much fun at my expense.

"Did Emmett's lessons include how to talk smack?" I asked.

"Of course they did, bro!" Emmett answered, from the peanut gallery.

288
The game was moving slowly. Much more slowly than any other I had ever played. So
everyone was lounging around the living room pretending not to be paying much attention to it.
And Rose and Jasper would return their attention to Halo, and Carlisle would resume reading
the paper, as Alice continued painting and Esme went back to the spreadsheets she was
working on for the Foundation. But Emmett was hovering. And they all looked up from
whatever they were doing every time a word was uttered or a move was made. And I could
hear their thoughts. And they were all way too amused.

When I finally settled my knight where my initial instinct had been, Bella cocked an eyebrow at
me…and Emmett burst out laughing. For a second, I panicked, thinking I had already
guaranteed my own demise. But Bella continued staring at the board, which was a pretty good
indication she was all talk.

"Emmett, how did it go with the rabbits?" she asked casually.

"Oh, it didn't work. Obviously," he answered, eyes still fixed on the board.

"Surely you're not the only one who's tried this. Have you tried conferring with those Volturi
people?" she asked. And that was when everyone's heads really snapped to attention. She
sort of noticed that everyone was staring at her when she looked up from the chess board.
"What?" she asked, innocently.

"Uhhh. We don't really interact with them so much," Emmett said.

"How come? Didn't Carlisle live with them for a while? Edward told me they've been around
thousands of years."

"Well, for starters, they wouldn't be too keen on you," Emmett explained.

"Yeah, I know. But couldn't you ring them up or something? It's not like that Aro dude could
find out about me over the phone, right?"

I had already explained to Bella that the leader of the Volturi knew every memory and thought
a person had had in their lifetime with a single touch. I had also explained that they tended not
to concern themselves with anything as minor as one human. It's possible that in my efforts to
reassure Bella that she didn't need to be scared of them, I hadn't instilled enough fear.

"Yes. That's true, Bella. But we prefer to stay off of their radar as much as possible," Carlisle
said.

"Oh. So… Wait. Did you like, friend break up with them or something?" she asked.

Carlisle smiled.

"You could say that. I suppose it's more that I could no longer tolerate their lifestyle. We parted
amicably enough. But…"

289
When he didn't finish the sentence, Rose finished it for him.

"Carlisle's worried they're threatened by us."

And then the whole room cringed.

"Huh?"

"Initially, it was just Carlisle. Which wasn't a big deal for them. They thought he was crazy for
his vegetarian ways. They didn't mind when he went on his merry way. But then Edward joined
him. That alone piqued Aro's interest, because of Edward's ability. Aro has a real hard on for
vampire abilities. And Edward's is probably one of the most amazing out there. And Edward
wasn't on Aro's radar until he joined Carlisle. But even then, it was still just the two of them.
Then Esme and I joined them. Which wasn't a big deal, really, since we don't really have
abilities. But then add Emmett, and our little posse's getting kind of big, right? Because
vampires usually hang out in pairs. Other than the Volturi, we're the biggest coven out there.
So when Alice and Jasper joined and Aro caught wind of Alice's ability, we started getting
invitations to Volterra. Aro really wants to meet Edward and Alice. But we're all a little wary of
his intentions. So we just try to lay low."

Bella squinted at Rose for a second before responding.

"Wait… What?"

Rose didn't skip a beat.

"We're always very polite about it. And a century to the Volturi is kind of like the blink of an eye,
so they haven't seemed to think too much of our turning down their invitations so far. Like,
when we say, 'We'll catch you next century,' it's kind of like saying, 'See you next weekend.'
But, like…right now, the fact that we're having this conversation—we have to take into account
the fact that Aro will know about it if he ever comes into contact with any of us. So this is the
part where I say 'Dear Aro: we have no desire to overthrow the Volturi. We kind of just like
chilling in our vegetarian little bubble. And sorry about Bella. We didn't mean for her to find out
about us. But she won't tell anyone, I swear. Love, me.'"

As casual as Rose was about it all, you could have heard a pin drop when she finished.

"Rose!" Carlisle finally choked out.

"What?" she asked, shrugging. "It's not like Aro wasn't going to know all that anyway if he ever
came into contact with us."

Carlisle bit his lip, but she had a point, and he knew it. Because Aro saw both people's
memories and their thoughts. He would hear all of our concerns about the Volturi the moment
he shook our hands.

290
Bella's eyes were wide, though, and I worried Rose had just scared the shit out of her. Right on
the heels of a night spent worrying that we had scared the sanity out of her.

"Whoa," she breathed.

"Yeah, it's kind of unnerving, right? Kind of like having this asshole around," Rose said, jerking
her thumb toward me.

"So… Not only did I stumble across a bunch of vampires, but I stumbled across the second
most powerful group of vampires in the world?" Bella asked.

"I wouldn't say 'powerful,'" Carlisle answered. "We're just large in our numbers. And the
number and types of abilities present in our group are pretty exceptional."

"And you just plan to avoid the Volturi until I'm dead?" she asked.

"Yes," he answered.

I glared at several of them in the room who were also thinking 'or until you're a vampire.'
Because Bella had made her decision. And we weren't going to question it.

"I feel like I have more questions, but now I'm scared to ask them because I'm beginning to
feel like the less I know about this Aro guy, the better."

"You won't ever meet Aro, Bella. Don't worry," I assured her.

"OK, but…even if I don't, aren't you guys gonna get in trouble with him next time you see him?"
she asked. When her words were met with silence, she gasped. "Oh no! Why didn't anyone tell
me this! ? Are you guys risking your lives by keeping me human! ?"

"No," Carlisle answered quickly. "Don't worry, Bella. We won't be seeing Aro at all if we can
help it. But if we do, it will be long after you're gone. It will be ancient history by then and it's
unlikely he'll care. And even if he does, we can…"

"Hold our own in a fight," Rose finished.

"Rose!" Carlisle again scolded.

"What, Carlisle? We're all thinking it! And he's going to know we're thinking it!"

"Jesus. It's like he's a fly on the wall and he's not even here!" Bella cried.

"Exactly," Emmett mumbled.

"Don't worry, Bella," Alice chimed in. It was the third time someone had said that to her in
almost as many seconds. "I'll see anything before it happens. My ability will make it easy to

291
avoid any confrontation. Edward's will make it easy to make anyone else think twice before
messing with us. And Jasper's like the ultimate peacemaker. He can make anyone mellow."

"So…wait. If Jasper can mellow people out… Jasper," she said, turning to him suddenly.
"Rose told me that you kind of absorb the way people feel, as well. Right?" she asked.

I had no idea where she was going.

"Yeah…" he replied, confused. He was as clueless as me.

"So…if I were to get high, couldn't you absorb that and project it back out onto everyone else?"

"What?" I asked. Because how the fuck had she gone from worrying about a Volturi/Cullen
bloodbath to that?

"Holy shit! Bella! You're a fucking genius!" Emmett cried. He was so excited, he leapt across
the room, picking her up and spinning her around before she even had a chance to react.

Jasper's mouth was hanging open and his head was cocked to one side, as if his mind had just
been blown.

Probably because it had.

"Jasper! Do it! Do it!" Emmett cried, dropping Bella.

"I can't, Emmett. I've never been high!"

"Haven't you ever been around a high person before?" Emmett pleaded.

"God damn," Jasper mumbled, thinking about it. "Yeah. Yeah, I have. I guess I do know what
it's like to be high!"

"Stop!" I cried, because I could hear Jasper's thoughts. "I can't play chess stoned!"

"Wait. Are you doing it?" Emmett asked, still far too excited.

Bella grabbed her head.

"Jasper! No! That's drunk! Not high!"

Because the room was spinning.

"YESSSSSSS!" Emmett bellowed, just before tipping into the floor lamp next to him, knocking
it to pieces.

"Jasper!" Esme called out, in alarm.

292
"Sorry!" Jasper said, just before the room righted itself.

"No! No! Why'd you stop? Jesus fucking Christ, how did we not think of this before! ?" Emmett
cried.

"That's an excellent question," Rose said, blinking her eyes back into focus. "Bella's been
around a month and she's figured out what you've been working on for decades."

"Hey! None of you thought of it, either!" he protested. But we were all laughing. A lot.

"Emmett, I love you. But you're kind of a dumbass," she replied.

"I love you, too, baby," he said, plopping down on the couch next to her. Then, lightning fast,
he turned and licked the side of her face, before she had a chance to do anything but squeal in
protest.

"How come it took so long for self adhesive stamps?" Esme asked. "Bella, you know I had to
use a damp sponge on stamps for decades, because our venom melts them?"

"Really?" Bella asked. "Would your venom melt like…wax paper?"

"I don't know. Let's try," she suggested, standing up. The two of them then wandered into the
kitchen together. Bella had obviously completely forgotten about the chess game, as I heard
her asking Esme why we even had wax paper.

"Oh! Let's try aluminum foil, too!" Alice cried, jumping up to follow them.

"Why do we have wax paper?" Carlisle asked no one in particular.

"I bet Esme wraps herself in it to surprise you when you get home from work, am I right?"
Emmett teased, waggling his eyebrows.

"Emmett, you're thinking of cellophane," I said.

"No, no," Rose interrupted. "Saran wrap. Not cellophane."

"Oh," Emmett said.

Jasper was giggling like a little bitch while Rosalie and Carlisle were both scrunching up their
faces, trying to visualize a wax paper-wrapped Esme.

"Ew! Stop that, guys!" I yelled. "And Jasper, fucking quit it before we get the munchies while
there's a human in the house!"

"Wait. What! ?" Rose cried.

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"We're high, Rose! He's making us high!"

"Oh shit! I didn't even realize!" Emmett said. "This is fucking awesome! Don't stop, Jasper!"

"You know the best part? We'll never have hangovers!" Jasper replied. Then he and Emmett
both leapt from their seats and high fived while Rose rolled her eyes.

"This is exactly what we needed. As if this chucklehead isn't idiotic enough," she muttered.

"Dang, Rosiecakes, stop harshin' my mellow!" Emmett protested, plunking back down next to
her. She leaned away, scared she was gonna get licked again.

"We both know it is impossible to harsh your mellow, Emmett. Ever. I'm pretty sure that's why
you're my mate."

"Aw, you're so sweet," he said. He leaned over toward her, completely disregarding her desire
to not be near him and his tongue, and laid his head on her shoulder. But then he sat back up,
suddenly. "Dudes!"

"What?" Jasper asked. Jasper wasn't high, but he was enjoying inflicting it on everyone else.

"We can, like, smoke a peace pipe with the Quileutes now!"

Carlisle actually snorted he laughed so hard.

But I wasn't laughing.

"Emmett! Shut up!" I hissed.

"Huh? Why?" he asked.

"I haven't exactly… I never got around to telling Bella about…the wolves."

Rose's eyes grew wide.

"Edward!"

"It's never come up! And I didn't want to overwhelm her! She's had to process a lot, already! I
mean, look at what happened last night! I thought I was going to have to commit her!"

Rose frowned, but I could tell from her thoughts that she kind of understood my reasoning.
Plus, she was high.

Thank god.

294
Carlisle was the only other one in the room pondering the implications of the fact that I hadn't
exactly explained to Bella that we had a decades-old treaty with the Quileutes about entering
their reservation. The Quileutes kind of frowned on us being around humans, seeing as they
kind of knew that we were…vampires. Normally, we wouldn't be too threatened by a bunch of
humans, but some of the Quileutes were kind of…werewolves. And werewolves pretty much
exist to kill vampires. So it was a little strange that we even settled so close to them, but
Carlisle was quite the vegetarian vampire ambassador, and convinced them the first time we
had lived in the area that we were harmless enough to coexist with them. So, things between
us were cool. It was just that… Well… Charlie Swan's best friend, Billy Black, was a Quileute
elder and he looked less than kindly on my dating Bella, once he caught wind of it. So things
were slightly more tense than normal.

"Dude. I want to go surfing at First Beach. I hear it's got great surfing. We gotta make this
happen," Emmett persisted, completely ignoring me.

"Emmett! We can talk about it later!" I whispered.

"Huh?" He wasn't looking at me, though. His head was tilted to the side and he was squinting
at the television, because he had already been distracted by a commercial for a food chopper.
"Holy shit. We should totally get one of those! Look at it go!"

"Emmett, we don't eat," Rose said.

"That doesn't mean we can't chop! I can use it to feed the bunnies!"

"You need to get rid of those things if you're not going to eat them. They're stinking up the back
yard," she replied.

"Aw, but they're so cuuuute," Emmett cooed.

"Not so cute that you didn't kill a bunch of them in an effort to get drunk," she shot back.

"Yeah, but… I got full. I couldn't drink anymore, and it clearly wasn't working. And… I can't just
release them into the wild, Goldiecrotch! They're domestic! They won't survive!"

"I will never understand how someone who feeds on animals can have such a soft spot for
animals. This is why you're Captain Ahab," she muttered.

"Well, that's not all that different than humans, really," Carlisle pointed out. A lot of humans eat
animals but own pets and contribute to the ASPCA. I think we're hardwired to find certain
animals cute."

"But we're not human, Carlittle," Emmett said. It appeared he had a penchant for nicknaming
people while stoned.

"Bella says we're a subspecies," I said.

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"We can't be a subspecies. We're not even mammals," Rose said.

"What are you talking about, Sparkle Tits? It's not like you're lacking mammary glands."

"Yeah, but I don't nurse. We don't even reproduce. There's no lactating. Isn't that what defines
mammals? That they nurse?"

"Oh, I thought they just needed boobs," Emmett said.

"Rosalie's right. Mammals nurse their young," Carlittle interjected.

"So, are there other animals with boobs that don't nurse?"

"Like men?" I asked.

"But men are mammals! See, Rosie? We're still mammals! We're just like…non-lactating
mammals."

"No, no, no. The female of the species has to nurse. The male is irrelevant in determining
whether the species mammalian," Carlisle said.

"OK, so are there any species in which the females have tits but don't nurse?" Emmett
repeated. He was fixated. But he had us all scratching our heads on that one. Even Carlisle.

"I don't think so," Carlisle answered. "For that matter, not all mammals have what you call
'tits,'" he added, making air quotes around the word 'tits.' Which set us all off into another fit of
laughter. But he didn't even seem to notice. He just continued puzzling it aloud. "Cows, for
example, have udders."

"Whales! What about whales? Are they mammals or fish?" Emmett asked.

"Mammals," Rose answered.

"But where are their udders? Aren't they just really freaking big fish?"

"Mammals. They nurse. You can google it."

"Jasper! Get thee to a google!" Emmett called across the room.

"Hell no. I'm having too much fun listening to you guys ponder this one out."

Then Carlisle, who looked spaced out as hell, began babbling-to himself, apparently.

"God damn," he mumbled quietly, staring at the chess board, eyes glazed over. "I cannot wait
for Bella to kick Edward's ass in chess."

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"Fuck yeah!" Emmett bellowed.

For my part, I was just glad everyone had forgotten about the subject of werewolves.

"You know, I almost feel like I need to let Bella win. Otherwise, your disappointment will be just
too epic," I taunted, right as Alice, Bella, and Esme re-entered the room.

"Shut up! You're just trying to cover your ass for when you lose!" Emmett shouted.

Bella plopped back down across from me. And I was about to shout at Emmett some more, but
Alice's cackle suddenly peeled through the room in the most hideous and ear-splitting way
possible.

"Checkmate."

Fuck.

Chapter 34: Beam Me Up, Mikey


So I'm pretty sure Emmett's existence reached its pinnacle the evening Bella both beat me at
chess and figured out how to get him high. He must have spent a good hour crowing over me.
And from that day forward, he referred to Bella as 'Champ.' I'm pretty sure it's a damn good
thing he loved Rosalie as much as he did, otherwise he probably would have given me a run
for my money with Bella, human or not.

Bella had driven herself that night, so I was kinda bummed when I walked her to the driveway
knowing I wasn't even gonna get to drive her home.

"So, what do I win, anyway?" she asked as we strolled to the monstrosity she called a truck.

"What do you win?"

"Yeah. I feel like beating you at chess was pretty epic. I think I should win something out of it."

"Other than Emmett's undying affection and eternal bragging rights?"

"Yeah."

"What did you have in mind?" I asked, leaning against the driver side door, just as she reached
for the handle.

"Um. I don't know. A cash prize? Sexual favors? A car? Those all seem fair," she said,
releasing the handle in defeat.

"Sexual favors?" I asked, raising an eyebrow.

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"Yeah. I think that's a valid form of payment."

"Did you have something in particular in mind?"

"Do you think Emmett would give me a vampire lap dance?"

"What?"

"I'm just kidding. Well, about the Emmett part, anyway."

"Get the fuck out of here," I said, pushing myself off the truck so she could leave.

"Awwww. Sensitive, aren't we?"

"You've already brutalized my pride once tonight, Bella. You don't have to kick me while I'm
down."

"Seriously, though. It's not like all of you is covered in venom, right?"

What?

"I'm sorry?"

"I'm just…optimistic about our ability to…get creative," she said.

What?

"What?"

"You haven't thought about it?"

Holy shit. Is she really asking me that?

"Bella, I spend every second of every day trying not to think about it."

"Well, that's dumb."

"No. It's kind of essential. Trust me."

"You're the vampire, here! I don't know how vampire stuff works! You're gonna have to help
me."

"Oh Jesus."

"You've also got almost a hundred years on me."

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"Yeah. Most of which has been spent entirely celibate."

"Entirely celibate?"

"What do you mean?"

"What do you mean?"

"Oh Jesus, Bella."

"Awwww. Is the vampire shy now, too?"

"You're…"

"Awesome?" she offered, grinning.

"Yeah. But also…."

"Intelligent? Witty? Beautiful?"

"Never mind."

"Slutty?"

"No! I wasn't going to say that."

"Good. Because I intend to collect," she said. Then, she winked before pulling the colossal
door open and hopping in the truck. "Are you picking me up tomorrow?"

"Yeah. I mean, unless you'd prefer Emmett."

You know what's fucking strange?

I mean, other than being a vampire.

What's really fucking strange is being a vampire and dating a human. Because shit would be
so fucking normal. And then it would be so fucking batshit insane. You know? Like, one minute
you're dancing to some Frank Sinatra with your girlfriend and the next minute your psychic
vegetarian vampire pseudo-sister foresees some really inconveniently-timed death, so you're
tackling cars driven by drug dealers. Or you're picking your girlfriend up for school and she
gives you a peck on the cheek, like you're any other guy. Except that that peck on the cheek is
kind of still a huge deal because it's not inciting any bloodlust. And actually, dancing to Sinatra
wasn't that normal either, since you were doing it on the roof of the high school gym while
eavesdropping telepathically on your pseudo-peers.

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And now you're speaking to yourself in the third person about it.

Fuck my life.

Or unlife.

Or whatever.

Jesus.

So yeah. The weekend of epic kisses followed by near misses and chess humiliations and
stoned vampires was followed up by a pretty normal week at Forks High. Other than the fact
that Emmett was pretty much high through every class, every day, all week long. Jasper was
happy to do it because it made high school a little more entertaining for all of us. In fact, I
imagine Jasper would have been baked the entire time, too, except that that wasn't how his
ability worked. He could affect other people's moods, but he was only affected by those he
absorbed. Thus, Jasper was only high when he was absorbing it from Eric Yorkie. And when
that happened… Well…

"Oh hey. Cool," he said as he sat down at the lunch table.

"What's up?" Alice asked.

"Yorkie's high again. Check this out, Em."

There was a moment of silence as Jasper absorbed the high and then projected it back onto
Emmett.

"Oh man. This is like…a totally different high," Emmett said.

"Yeah, man."

And they weren't fucking kidding. I could see into their heads and they were stoned out of their
minds.

"Wow, this is some good shit!" Jasper said.

"I know! We should ask him where he gets it."

"Why? So you can telepathically smoke it?" I asked, as Rose and Bella sat down and joined
us.

"No!" Emmett shot back. And then I saw what he was thinking.

"Oh, hell no!" I said.

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"What! ? Why not! ?" Emmett cried.

"That's just—you can't expect that shit from people! You can't use her like that just because
she's a human!"

"What's going on?" Bella asked. Probably because it was obvious we were talking about her.

"Nothing! Don't worry about it," I said, giving Emmett one hairy ass eyeball.

"Why don't you let her decide for herself, man? You're not her father!"

"She might feel obligated!" I protested. "You already coerced her into the chess thing."

"What's going on?" Bella demanded.

I glared at Emmett.

"You wanna get high this weekend, Champ?"

"Sure," she said, shrugging.

"Right on!" Emmett cried, completely psyched.

"Tell her why, Emmett," I insisted.

"Hey, just because having her around is useful doesn't mean we don't also want her there."

"I don't understand. Why do you need me around?" Bella asked.

"Jasper can't get high unless he's absorbing someone," Emmett explained.

"Ohhhhhh. He wasn't high with the rest of us the other night?" she asked.

"Nope."

"Gotcha," she said, nodding in understanding. "Yeah, sure. No problem."

"Sweet!"

"Bella, you don't have to-" I started.

"Edward! Chill out! If I didn't want to do it, I wouldn't agree to it. I can take care of myself."

And that was when I shut the fuck up, because I could hear what they were all thinking at me.
Rose in particular was smug as fuck about the fact that Bella had put me in my place.

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"What about you all? Are you in?" Jazz asked Rose and Alice.

"I am," Rose nodded.

"Me too!" Alice chirped.

Then, they all turned toward me.

"Fuck it. Yeah, I'm in."

"Yesssss," Emmett hissed. "Now, Bella: how well do you know Yorkie?"

Bella and I started a new routine that week. She called me every night to say goodnight. It was
pretty awesome.

But I'd be lying if I said I didn't spend a lot of time wishing she'd invite me to stay over again.

It wasn't as if Charlie was ever gonna catch me up there. And it also wasn't as if I hadn't spent
the night with her before.

Part of me wanted to assure her that it wasn't like I was gonna try to get into her pants.

But then again….I had spent an unhealthy amount of time obsessing about those 'sexual
favours' she had mentioned 'collecting.'

Fuck, for all the time I'd spent thinking about it, I probably could have written the vampire's
guide to pleasing humans.

Thursday, I sat at the human table for lunch again. It was kind of boring as shit because
Cheney and Weber were busy gazing into each other's eyes and Newton and Stanley were
apparently "off" again and not talking. Bella was freaking about the biology quiz we were about
to take, looking over her notes. So I did what any bored, telepathic vampire would do.

I started to fuck with the humans.

"Hey, Newton…"

His head snapped up from his tray, then, where he had been mindlessly pushing some green
beans around his plate in an effort to ignore the frequent glares coming from Jessica.

"Yeah?"

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What the hell does Cullen want?

"Did you catch that marathon last night?"

Mike was a closet Trekkie. He had spent all evening the night before watching a Star Trek
marathon on cable.

Huh? Is he… Does Cullen watch Star Trek? How does he know… Wait, surely he's talking
about…something else.

"What marathon?"

"On TNT."

"Uh. I don't know…what you're talking about. Law and Order?"

"Nah. I… You don't watch Star Trek?" I asked, like it was the most innocuous thing in the
world. Because a Cullen could get away with just about anything.

Why is he asking me this? Oh my god.

"Uh. No. I mean, I've seen it I guess," he stammered. "I… I wouldn't say I'm a fan or anything."

"Oh really? I love that shit."

"Me too!" Jessica cried. "That Vulcan guy is hot!"

It was so perfect. Mike's head was about to explode because: a) Jessica was pretending to like
Star Trek just because of me; b) Jessica was talking about the new Star Trek movie, which
bugged the shit out of diehards like Mike, but he couldn't correct her without exposing himself;
c) he had been hiding his love of all things Kirk and Spock and Picard and Wesley Crusher for
years, but suddenly it was OK to be open about it just because I had mentioned it; and d) he
couldn't sort out whether he hated Jessica or adored her, but he was pretty sure he wanted to
kill me.

"Leonard Nimoy?" I asked Jessica, totally egging her on.

"Ew! No. I meant the new one. Zachary Quinto."

"Oh. Yeah. The new movie was excellent," I said. Because I knew that would really get Newton
goin'. I could hear it bubbling up inside of him. So I decided to tip him over the edge. "I think
what J.J. Abrams did was genius. He stayed true to the canon, but he kept it fresh."

And then he snapped.

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"J.J Abrams did not stay true to the canon!" he cried. "Are you kidding? I mean, I don't care
that a new guy is playing Kirk or Spock. You can't have 75-year-old actors playing 22 year-old-
characters. A new look is not a bad thing, although the re-boot Enterprise is even more
ridiculous looking than the NX-01, a feat I didn't even know was possible. And plot-holes?
Spock would have nightmares over the lack of logical thinking that happened in the course of
that film. I mean, seeing Leonard Nimoy reprise his role was great, but seriously: he's stranded
on Delta Vega, seven miles from a Federation outpost and we're supposed to believe he was
just hanging out in that cave! ? For what? Fun? This is why alternate timelines are a weak
story idea unless you plan on throwing Joan Collins under a bus. That's why Star Trek:
Enterprise nearly killed the franchise. That and talking ten minutes each episode about how
good pie tastes or whatever. If filmmakers want to make great sci-fi, why can't they just do
what Joss Whedon did and write their own story, instead of screwing with something sacred! ?
Star Trek has a mountain of history that should be adhered to and if a filmmaker doesn't have
the stones to do the work justice, he's pissing on Roddenberry's grave. Not to mention telling
the fans that he doesn't give a crap about us, either. 'No Trekkies allowed on his set'? Is that a
joke? God, the only acceptable explanation for that debacle of a film is that Abrams himself
was suffering the effects of the Psi-2000 Virus."

He was positively seething.

It was awesome.

Even Bella had looked up from her notes. Eric Yorkie's fork was poised, hovering just shy of
his gaping mouth. In fact, everyone's mouths were gaping. And the only motion that come from
the table was that of Eric Yorkie's peas quietly falling from the fork to his tray, as if in slow
motion. Of course, only the smug vampire could hear the peas plunking into the mashed
potatoes. Which is quieter than hearing a pin drop. But had someone dropped a pin at that
table, I'm pretty sure even the humans would have heard it.

Ben Cheney was the first to speak.

"Mike! I had no idea! All those times I brought up Star Trek…"

"Huh?" Mike asked, suddenly panicking. "I was…I was just kidding. I don't watch Star Trek."

"Clearly," Bella said, her mouth turning up at one corner. And that was all it took for me to lose
it. It was kind of a dick move, but I couldn't not laugh. And seriously, I didn't feel that bad,
because I could tell from Ben's thoughts that Newton had made fun of him about Star Trek
countless times.

And then the whole table burst out laughing.

I had to hand it to Mike, though, because he started laughing, too. When he shrugged and
went back to eating his burrito, the others weren't quite finished ribbing him. But he took it in
stride. It wasn't long before Bella went back to her notes and Jessica went back to giving Mike

304
the silent treatment and Yorkie went back to pondering why donut holes are called donut holes
instead of donut middles.

"Hey, what time are people coming over tomorrow?" Crowley asked. And Mike looked up from
his burrito.

"Whenever. I'm picking up the keg with Eric at 4:00. Hell, maybe we'll start drinking then," he
said, grinning. Because if anything can distract your peers from your recent Trekkie outing, it's
the keg party you're throwing Friday night.

"Sweeeeeeeet," Tyler responded.

"What kind of keg did you get?" I asked. Because it seemed like a normal question to ask. But
everyone looked at me. It seemed I sucked at blending. Even Bella looked up from her notes
again.

"Uh. Natty Light," Mike answered.

"You comin'?" Crowley asked me.

I shrugged.

"I don't know. Should I?" I asked. Because I wasn't sure if Newton wanted me around. But I
figured I could talk Emmett and Jasper into it pretty easy, with Jasper's newfound talent. And I
felt like making an effort to be a little more human wouldn't be a bad thing, if I was going to
date one of them.

Holy shit. If Edward Cullen came to a party I threw… If all the Cullens came to one of my
parties…I'd be like…king of the school.

"Yeah, man. It'll probably be the last party before spring break," Mike answered casually.
Which was when I realized that I had no idea what Bella's spring break plans were. Nor did I
have any clue whether she had any interest in going to a keg party in some field behind Mike
Newton's house.

"I don't know. Maybe," I said, turning toward her to try to gauge her interest. Of course, she just
raised her eyebrows before returning her attention to the notes on her lap.

I swear it was like sometimes she knew when it drove me nuts that I couldn't read her mind
and she just made it worse on purpose.

"What are you doing for spring break?" I asked, as we got into the Volvo that day after school.

"I'm going to Jacksonville to visit Mom. Why?"

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"Oh. I was just wondering. I completely forgot about it and realized maybe you were going to
Miami to try to get on Girls Gone Wild or something."

"Gross," she mumbled, as we slammed the doors shut.

"This sucks," I blurted.

"What?"

"I gotta ditch next Monday to Thursday and then I'm guessing you leave Friday for
Jacksonville?"

"You're ditching all next week! ? It's going to be that sunny?"

"No."

"Then why are you-" and then understanding crossed her face. "Oh." She sighed and then
muttered, "Fuck my life."

"I'm sorry."

"It's OK. It's not your fault. And I've taken care of it."

"Huh?"

"Well, sort of. I went to the doctor and got switched to that pill that's the equivalent of skipping
placebos. So I'll only be on four times a year. But it won't kick in until after this cycle."

"Oh," I said. "You, uh…didn't have to do that."

"It was for the sake of my own sanity as much as yours. Trust me."

"I know. I feel bad."

"This does suck! Man! I'm not going to see you at all for like two weeks!"

"Well, there's this weekend, at least," I offered.

"Oh, right. And apparently we're going to Mike Newton's keg party?"

"We don't have to at all. I thought maybe you would want to."

"Really?"

"Yeah. I mean…your friends will be there, right?"

306
"I guess."

"It seems like a normal, human thing to do. Plus, I bet Emmett and Jasper will be there in a
heartbeat, now that they know they can get drunk with everyone else."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah."

"Hm. Maybe it would be fun," she said.

"Yeah?"

"Yeah. But…"

"But?"

"Will you spend the night after?"

"Yes."

Chapter 35: TRY Calling Me Eddie, Mike, I DARE You


Friday.

Am I really going to a motherfucking keg party?

You know, in over a hundred years of high school, I had somehow managed to avoid keg
parties entirely. In fact, I think Emmett was the only one who had ever gone to one. And I think
that was mostly to mess with the humans for his own entertainment. Or maybe for research.
Who the fucks knows? All I know is that the idea seemed less and less appealing as the day
wore on, on Friday.

Maybe I have a social anxiety disorder.

But if you could hear the thoughts of everyone around you, you'd get anxious about social
situations, too.

Before Bella, I had been known around Forks as the Eunuch, since I didn't appear to have any
interest in either sex. I'm pretty sure it was Newton who came up that little gem.

But worse than all the speculations about my sexuality or lack thereof were all of the thoughts
about me being an arrogant asshole. Everyone thought of me as aloof, rich, and entitled.
Some also added dark and moody to the mix. From there, I became self-absorbed and whiny.

307
In a way, I guess it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Because when you hear everyone
assuming those things about you, it's kind of easier to just let them.

Emmett could see that I was beginning to dread the party and got worried I was going to back
out. He had talked everyone else into going and was looking forward to it almost as much as
he had looked forward to my chess defeat. So when I sat down next to Bella at the human
table, it was surprising to everyone but me when he plunked himself down on my other side,
completely unceremoniously. As if it was the most natural thing in the world for him to be
eating with the humans.

"Hey guys!" he said, cheerfully.

"Hey, man," Eric Yorkie answered, as the rest of them mumbled greetings. Yorkie imagined he
and Emmett as best buds ever since they'd discovered their mutual affection for weed and
were arranging buys together.

"You guys amped about the party tonight?" Emmett asked.

And it was actually kind of nice because, for once, I wasn't the one with three heads at the
table.

"Yeah," Yorkie nodded. Then, he elbowed Mike, who was gaping.

"Uh. Yeah. Cool, man. That's cool that you're coming. Are you all coming?" Newton asked.

"Yep. Right, Eddie?" Emmett said, slapping me on the back. He knew 'Eddie' annoyed the shit
out of me. He was hoping it would catch on among the humans.

"Um. Yeah," I muttered. And then I heard them all thinking how much more amiable Emmett
seemed than me. So I tried to work up some enthusiasm. "Should be fun."

Bella smirked at me.

I was getting better at reading her.

She knew I was dreading it, but she was taking delight in my misery, because I had done it to
myself. She and Emmett were a lot alike in that they seemed to enjoy my pain.

"Did you guys hear Bella beat Edward at chess?" Emmett asked.

"No," Jessica said, cocking her head quizzically. Because it was kind of a random thing for him
to say. Almost as random as Emmett being at their table.

"Yeah. It's kind of a big deal. Edward's always been the chess champ of our family," he said,
ruffling my hair like I was six years old or some shit.

308
"Yeah?" Jessica asked, sensing she was supposed to be egging Emmett on.

"Yeah. Did you hear what she won?"

Fuck.

"What?"

"A lap dance."

The entire table burst out laughing, then. It seemed Emmett was determined to do to me what I
had done to Mike Newton the day before.

"Shut up, Emmett!" Bella cried.

"What's wrong, Champ? Don't you think it would be epic if you collected on that lap dance
tonight at the party? I mean, I'm sure even the emo Cullen can loosen up some with a few
drinks in him. And why deprive what I'm sure would be a captive audience of such
entertainment?"

And then the entire table was hooting and hollering about it. Other than Angela Weber, who
was biting back a smile, because she felt bad for Bella. But not bad enough to not be amused
at the visual Emmett was providing.

"No way," I said.

"Never say never, brother."

Then, before Bella or I could protest any more, he stood up and disappeared.

In biology, I finally got Bella to pass notes with me for once. Usually, she was too busy being a
good student to pay me a bit of attention, other than maybe a little under the desk knee action.
But I think the whole class was kind of buzzing with that end-of-the-week energy, which was
enhanced by the prospect of the keg party. Even Mr. Banner was kind of resigned to it not
being a very productive class.

Usually, I would scribble something down in my notebook and slide it over to Bella in an effort
to distract her and she would shove it away without even looking. But that day, she was the
one to initiate contact.

That lap dance is not happening.

I smiled, before writing my response.

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Why so shy, sunshine?

When I slid the notebook back under her nose, she glared at it. Then, she scribbled furiously
before sliding it back toward me.

Fine. You're the one who's going to look like an idiot. Consider your bluff called.

I winced. Because I had definitely been bluffing.

Uncle. Are you planning on drinking tonight?

Um, maybe a couple of beers just to ease the awkward. Why?

It's just gonna be weird if after the party you're drunk and I'm sober, right?

Oh. Yeah. Can Jasper just even us out?

Huh?

The notebook was flying between us so unabashedly at that point that I noticed Bella glance
up at Banner. I grinned, because she was again forgetting that I could read his mind. When
she apparently satisfied her teacher-induced anxiety, she wrote for a while before passing the
notebook back.

Instead of me actually drinking, can Jasper just do to me what he does to you? That
way, when you stop being drunk, I'll stop being drunk. And then I'm not the loser who's
drunk by herself?

Sure. That's probably a good idea. Excited for the party?

Nervous.

How come?

IDK. Big crowd. Drunk people.

We can bail.

No way. I promised Angela. She's more nervous than me.

OK. We can hang with her and Ben if you want.

And you're still staying over?

For shizzle. Unless you changed your mind.

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Which was when I realized that maybe Bella was feeling nervous about more than just the
party.

No! Just…maybe I should have a beer or two while we're there.

I had to think for a second before I could write a response to that one.

You're calling the shots tonight. Anything you want.

I looked over at her to read her reaction that time, and she smiled down at the paper.

Thanks. I'll be sure to exploit that.

I'm sure you will.

OK, leave me alone now. Some of us have to actually learn this stuff.

No. I'm bored. And even Banner doesn't give a shit today. Entertain me.

Even though I wasn't looking directly at her, I could see her roll her eyes.

You're telling me that in two miles, no one is having thoughts interesting enough to
entertain you?

Nope.

I find that hard to believe.

I swear. Humor me.

After scribbling her response, she placed the notebook between us in a way that we could stop
sliding it back and forth. Which was a pretty good indication that I had hooked her and she was
gonna indulge my adolescent note passing despite her protests.

You should be entertaining me. Tell me something someone's thinking right now.

Pick someone.

Mike.

He's conflicted about the Cullen cult.

Why?

He thinks he'll seem cooler because we're attending his party. But he's worried that if
we integrate, he'll become irrelevant.

311
Boring.

Told you.

Principal Greene?

He's thinking about golf.

Boring.

Exactly.

Do an interesting one.

Does that mean you want one about sex?

No!

Then I got nothing.

OK, fine. Give me a sex one. Don't tell me who, though.

OK. One of the guys in this room is thinking about how he needs to jerk off before the
party tonight because he's going to try to get laid, but he's scared he'll be a two pump
chump.

Seriously?

Yeah. Now you want to know who it is, don't you?

She turned and glared at me then. And I grinned. Because we both knew she was dying to
know who it was.

No.

Liar.

Shut up.

Hey, let's ditch.

What?

After this class. You've only got gym left. Coach Clapp never takes roll. I'm bored as
fuck. Let's ditch.

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You're a bad influence.

You hate gym.

You're right.

Is that a yes?

Yes.

It was really cute how after we went to her locker, she glanced around furtively before we
made a break for my car. As if we were in danger of getting caught.

As I peeled out of the parking lot, she threw her head back and laughed.

"Be a little more conspicuous. I mean, I know you ditch all the time, but I actually have a parent
to worry about."

"Aw, don't worry so much. I bet Charlie'd be way more pissed if he knew you were planning on
getting high with a bunch of vampires this weekend."

"Yeah, thanks for reminding me," she said, rolling her eyes. "Where are we going, by the
way?"

"Where do you want to go?" I asked.

"Let's go get ice cream. You can watch me eat it and be jealous."

"Hardly."

"You would be if only you knew."

"I doubt it."

"Edward, one of the greatest travesties of your life is that you've never gotten to enjoy ice
cream. You just don't realize it."

"If you say so."

Ditching was one of the best ideas I ever had. Other than the fact that it's really hard to fake
eat ice cream, 'cause that shit melts all over you. But we spent the afternoon laughing together
and I fucking loved watching Bella laugh. It was good for the soul.

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Probably because I spent so much time worrying I had fucked up her life. The fact that she
could still laugh about shit made me feel a lot better.

Plus…it was really kind of getting easier to believe she actually loved me.

That evening, she let me hang out while she got ready for the party. We were even on the up
and up about it with Charlie. He was totally cool with me chilling in her room so long as we left
the door open. I think saving his daughter's life had done wonders in terms of earning his good
will. Just imagine if he knew I had saved his, too.

What the fuck is up with the Swans being so accident-prone, anyway?

"Red or black?" she asked, holding up two t-shirts.

"Are you seriously asking me?"

"Yes. Don't be a dick. I suck at decisions."

"Blue."

"That's not one of the options!"

"Yeah, but you look fantastic in blue."

She smiled then, completely helpless to my wiles. In fact, she came and joined me on the bed,
where I was sprawled.

"You're actually pretty sweet when you're not being a dick," she said, just before planting a kiss
on my cheek.

"I know," I said, pulling her back to me when she started to get off the bed. And then I kissed
her some more. Half of it was just fucking bravado, because I could kiss her. I kissed her
mouth. Then I kissed her forehead. And just below her ear. I kissed her all over. I was like the
fucking Jackson Pollack of kissing.

"What brought that on?" she asked.

"I don't know. I just love you, OK? I don't think I tell you that enough. I'm scared of freaking you
out. But I really do."

She grinned.

"It does kinda freak me out. But not because you love me. It just freaks me out how much I
love you, sometimes."

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"Shut up. You're just trying to outdo me, now."

She laughed.

"I'm not! It really does. I don't… I don't really have the doubts I used to, Edward. And it freaks
me out sometimes because it makes me consider..."

"Aw, Bella. I don't want you to feel that way. I don't want you to be conflicted about it."

"Aren't you?"

And I hesitated just long enough that trying to lie was pointless.

"I'm sorry. If I'm conflicted, it's entirely out of selfishness. I like what we're doing now. I think it's
working. I don't think we need to mess with it."

"We might both feel different when I'm sixty."

"Well, we got a lot of time before then. And I know I'm a hundred and eleven and you think like
a sixty year old, but how about tonight we concentrate on being seventeen?"

"Deal," she said, grinning.

"Now, put on the red one if you must, but I'm really pulling for that blue one you wore on
Monday."

When we rolled up to the party, it was already in full swing. We'd made a point of arriving late,
so that we weren't awkwardly among the first to arrive, and we had picked up Ben and Angela
along the way. Bella had squealed with delight when she realized having me around was like
having a built-in designated driver for life. And every time she had one of those 'fuck yeah,
vampire boyfriend' moments, I had a 'fuck yeah, I'm a vampire' moment. Which was a nice
fucking change of pace. Fortunately, we had shared our 'fuck yeah, vampires' moment before
Angela and Ben got into the car. And then Angela and Bella made predictions about Mike and
Jessica's relationship for the rest of the drive.

Of course, my brothers and sisters had already arrived, and were drunk when we got there.
Jasper was absorbing and projecting Tyler Crowley, who he deemed the person at the most
optimal level of drunkenness, though they would probably have to switch to someone else after
he had a couple more, or else they'd all be falling over.

Angela immediately grabbed Bella's hand when they slipped out of the car and the two of them
hesitantly approached the bonfire. Fuck knows why Newton had the keg so close to the
bonfire, where it was sure to get the beer warm.

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Idiot.

"Edward!" Emmett hollered, the second I stepped out of the car. "Over here!"

I glanced at Ben, who was a little lost, seeing as the girls had paired off. He was looking from
me to them, because he didn't know who to follow. I raised an eyebrow and nodded my head
toward Emmett and the others in an attempt to invite him to come with me. His eyes widened,
and I could hear from his thoughts that he was one nervous little fuck, but he really appreciated
the invite.

Edward must be a pretty nice guy, if he's Designated Driving for us, and he's dating Bella. And
Angela seems to like him. And she seems to think we all need to make more of an effort to be
friends with the Cullens.

Then he steeled himself before nodding and falling in step behind me as we walked over to the
others. Not completely unsurprising, Yorkie was hanging with them. There was some loud
music blaring from a car parked near the bonfire and I glanced over to realize it was Rose's.

"Oh Jesus. Are they letting you DJ?" I asked, as Emmett and Jasper greeted me with high
fives.

"Hey! I'm an excellent DJ! Look at all those kids dancing!" he cried.

And he was right. There were a bunch of kids bumping and grinding near the car, but they
were also all hammered.

"You guys know Ben?" I asked.

And there was a chorus of greetings as they all either confirmed or introduced themselves.

"You guys want some beer?" Emmett asked. They were all holding plastic cups with varying
amounts of beer. They had developed a system whereby they would pour beer into each
other's cups surreptitiously so that it looked both like they were all drinking and refilling their
drinks.

"Nah. I'm DDing," I said. I looked to Ben, who was still being a nervous little fuck. "But I think
Ben here could use a drink," I said, slapping his back. His eyes were wide, and it was obvious
that he had never had a drink before in his life. Even to the non-mind-readers.

"I got it!" Emmett called, as he turned and headed to the keg.

"Where are the girls?" Alice asked.

"I think they're probably getting drinks as well," I said, nodding toward where Emmett had
gone.

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Then Jasper and I exchanged a glance.

You want in on this? he asked silently.

I nodded slightly to indicate the affirmative, hoping he realized that it was pretty important that
Ben and Angela's DD didn't appear drunk. Fortunately, it was more of a pleasant buzz than the
sloppy spinning drunkenness he had briefly introduced us to the weekend prior.

I grinned. Because it brought back some vague human memories. Which probably hadn't
happened in at least a decade.

"Have we missed anything exciting?" I asked.

"Mike and Jessica danced. Jessica's pretty hammered," Rose answered. "So is Kelly Starling."

"Oh yeah?"

"Yeah. I'm actually glad you're here," she added. And I could see from her thoughts that Rose
was worried about some of the girls at the party. And that she was glad I could read the minds
of any ill-intentioned, drunk, hormonal teenage boys. I hadn't exactly planned on spending my
evening chaperoning, but it was becoming increasingly clear that that was what I was probably
going to end up doing, as I began paying closer attention to the thoughts of the other humans.

"So, Ben: are you applying to colleges?" Alice asked, because she was hyper-aware of Ben's
discomfort and wanted to put him at ease.

Fortunately, by the time Ben had finished rattling off the list of schools he was looking at,
Emmett had returned with a beer for him, and also had Bella and Angela in tow. Alice greeted
them both with hugs. She had had the foresight to wear a bulky jacket so that Angela didn't
notice the vampire touch. But, you know—foresight is kind of Alice's thing.

"How are you all?" she asked.

"Oh, we were just pondering whether we should try to rein in Jessica's drinking or not. That
would be kind of a buzz kill, right?" Bella asked.

"I don't know. It might not be a bad idea," Rose answered, shrugging.

"But Edward already makes fun of me for being sixty!"

"That's just because he's a hundred and eleven!" Jasper cried. And we all laughed. The
vampires may have laughed a little harder than the humans.

"Hey, Champ! You ready for that lap dance?" Emmett bellowed. It appeared he only had one
volume drunk.

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"No!" Bella cried.

"What's wrong? Don't you wanna humiliate Edward?"

"I don't want to humiliate myself!"

"Huh? It's not like girls can pop a boner during a lap dance or anything. I mean, that's
embarrassing," he said. Ben and Angela tried to stifle their laughter, but Eric Yorkie didn't. He
just busted out. Bella shook her head and smiled.

"Stop being such a jackass, Emmett," I said.

"Rose! What do you say we show 'em how it's done?"

Rose smirked and rolled her eyes, but she didn't resist when Emmett grabbed her hand and
began dragging her toward the kids dancing. We all turned to watch and, to the delight of
onlookers, Emmett actually managed to find a lawn chair and, after he found some music to
blast that he decided was lapdance appropriate, he proceeded to perform what was the most
lewd act many of those kids had ever seen in real life. I thought Ben Cheney's jaw was going
to come unhinged. Angela Weber was actually blushing. Thank god Bella was cracking up, as
were most of the others. But I was pretty fucking mortified.

Probably because I could hear Rosalie's thoughts as Emmett grinded against her.

Ugh.

The evening went downhill from there.

Chapter 36: I Got This


Watching Emmett become the life of the party was no shock. Fortunately, the buzz Jasper was
projecting allowed me to take a lot of shit in stride. But not to the point that I could just ignore it
when several kids tried to get into their cars and drive away completely hammered. So I
became like, the douchey parental-type guy who was collecting keys. And it was just as I was
pulling Juan Castillo out of his car that I caught wind of the fact that Greg Malone and Kelly
Starling were stumbling to a more secluded spot among the trees. And the only thing Greg
Malone was focused on was losing his virginity. Meanwhile, the only thing Kelly Starling was
focused on was trying not to puke.

As I snatched Juan's keys out of his hand and pocketed them despite his protests, I realized
Rose was already following Greg and Kelly. And her thoughts were full of a rage that was not
so dissimilar to that that she had experienced the night of Laurent's appearance. So I looked
around until I spotted her and then jogged to catch up.

"Rose, I can take care of this."

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"No. I'm going to kill that little shit," she hissed.

"Rose, let me take care of it. You know I won't let anything happen. And you don't have to get
upset and have your night ruined."

"What the fuck are you talking about, Edward! ? You think my night's not already ruined! ? You
think I'm not already upset! ? What the fuck is wrong with people! ?" she cried. She had
paused only briefly to glare at me as she said it, but then she continued her quick strides to
catch up to the drunk duo.

"I know, Rose. I'm sorry," I said, following her. "Listen, if I promise to let you handle it, do you
promise not to actually kill him or anything? I mean, I could really use your help, here. If you
could handle this one, I could focus on listening to anybody else that might be coming up with
more really bad ideas right now."

She didn't look at me, and we were catching up to Kelly and Greg then. Greg whirled around.
And Rose whispered to me.

"Don't worry. I won't do any permanent damage."

"Hey, can we get a little privacy, here?" Greg hollered. Rosalie's eyes narrowed, and I stayed
close by to watch and make sure she didn't break her promise. Or his neck.

I guess she didn't do any permanent damage to him physically. She may have scarred him for
life emotionally. Seeing as she made him piss himself, and he'd probably have nightmares for
the rest of his life, despite chalking up what he thought he saw to the alcohol. Rose was
bending the rules some. But not any more than Tanya did when she seduced humans.

I mean, he literally pissed himself. I had never even seen that before in real life.

Thank god Kelly was too out of it to realize what the fuck was even going on.

Once Greg was left trembling in the fetal position in a puddle of his own urine, Rose put her
arm around Kelly and helped her walk back toward the other people.

"I'm going to drive her home," she said.

"Yeah, OK. Good idea. I might start shuttling some people home, too."

Thing was, when Rose got into her car with Kelly and drove off, it killed the music. Of course,
she didn't give a fuck, but everyone else was left staring after the cloud of dust she left behind,
in near-complete silence. Emmett looked at me and I shrugged, because I would explain it to
him later. I was more concerned about talking to Bella.

When I found her, she was with Jessica and Angela. Jessica was crying.

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"Hey. Are you guys alright?" I asked.

Bella grabbed my arm and led me away before answering.

"Where have you been?" she asked. She didn't seem mad. Just…tired.

"Sorry. I've been keeping an eye on some people and trying to prevent…just…"

"Oh. God. I'm so sorry. This must be sucking for you even more than me."

Yeah. I'm kind of remembering why we don't hang out with human teenagers all that much.
Once we get involved, it's kind of hard not to be over-involved. I shudder to think about all the
shit that goes down when we're not around. Bunch of fucking dumbasses.

"Nah. Are you having a bad time? Do you want me to take you home?"

"Are you ready to leave?"

"I can drop you off and then come by later. I kind of just want to make sure everyone gets
home OK, now. In for a dime, in for a dollar, right?"

"Oh. I can stay with you while you're giving people rides, if you want."

"You don't want to do that. I'm pretty sure from Alice's visions that there's going to be puke
involved."

"Ew!"

"Exactly."

"Well, let me at least ride with you when you take Ben and Angela home. And do you think we
could squeeze in Jess? I think maybe she needs to call it a night, too."

"Yeah, sure."

Then, as Bella collected the others, I put Alice on key-collecting duty. And I could see in her
head that she was also about to prevent the escalation of an argument between two football
players that was about to lead to a fight and a broken nose. Personally, I probably wouldn't
have bothered with that one. Let them beat the living hell out of each other, for all I care.

God, I'm such a crotchety old man.

When we got into the car, everyone was quiet, but for Jessica's sniffling. She wasn't crying
anymore, and Angela had her arm around her, but she was still really embarrassed. I kind of
felt bad for the girl. Apparently Mike had blown her off and was kind of being a dick, and she
had had too much to drink. And it was only making it worse that we were giving her a ride

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home, because she was especially embarrassed to be crying in front of me and Bella, since
she put the two of us up on some sort of pedestal.

"Hey did you guys hear that Tyler snuck into Mike's room and found his collection of Trekkie
stuff?" I asked, interrupting the silence. I only knew about it because I had seen it in Tyler's
head.

"No!" Ben cried, in disbelief.

"Yeah. He stole some Kirk figurine or something and left a ransom note."

And for the first time, Jessica cracked a smile.

"Are you serious?" Bella asked.

"Yep. He's asking for twenty latinum bars in exchange for the Captain's safe return," I
answered, grinning.

They all burst out laughing.

Even Jessica.

After we finished dropping everyone off, I turned to Bella. It was almost one in the morning.

"Let me take you home. It's late."

"This is bullshit!" she cried. "I got gypped last weekend, too! I mean, you stayed over, but only
because I was an emo mess."

"Whoa. Hey, don't worry. I won't be long. And there's always tomorrow night, right?"

"Yeah, I guess," she said, as she slumped down in her seat, totally dejected.

I laughed.

"Let me call Alice. Maybe she can make sure everyone gets home OK. She's kind of enjoying
having something productive to do at night with the humans, for once."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah."

And then I slid my phone out of my pocket and dialed Alice. Of course, she knew why I was
calling before she answered.

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"Don't worry. We'll take care of it. We're all sober now. Even Emmett. He's just kind of messing
with the drunk stragglers now. But it looks like everything's pretty much under control."

"Is Rose there?"

"No. But Emmett talked to her on the phone. She's out hunting with Esme and taking her anger
out on some poor, defenseless animals."

"OK. Cool. Then I'll see you guys tomorrow?"

"Yep. Have fun tonight!"

"Yeah. You, too, Harpy."

"Bye!"

Then, I hung up and turned to Bella.

"So? Your house?" I asked.

"Yeah. I mean… Wait. My dad can't see your car there."

"I'll drop you off and then ditch my car at my house. It'll take me like five minutes. I'll be back to
your place in no time."

"OK."

Then, I pulled away from Ben's house and headed toward Bella's.

"Hey, aren't you breaking curfew?" I asked.

"Nah. I told Charlie I was sleeping over at Angela's. I'm just going to tell him I came home early
because I wasn't feeling well if he's awake when we get there."

"Oh. OK. Cool."

"So…" she started.

"What's up?"

"Did you have any fun? Or were you completely miserable the entire time?" she asked.

"It wasn't so bad. I mean, parts of it were funny. And I got to feel somewhat useful."

"Yeah. Maybe the highlight of my night was holding Jessica's hair as she barfed."

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"Aw, I'm sorry."

"No, no-I wasn't being facetious. It seriously wasn't a bad moment. I think maybe it went a long
way in terms of my relationship with Jess. I'm sure she's embarrassed and hopefully she won't
push me away when she sobers up. Because even though she was drunk, I feel like I was
seeing the real Jessica for the first time, at one point. It was kind of cool."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah. What about you?"

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Highlights?"

"Oh. Probably seeing Rose make Greg Malone piss his pants."

"What? How did I miss that?"

"It's probably better that you did. But it was pretty awesome. Trust me."

"So cryptic," she mused, squinting at me.

"Yeah," I said, shrugging. Because what was I supposed to do? Tell her a guy she had class
with was a potential rapist?

"I saw you taking away keys. That was…really sweet of you."

"Really? Because it kind of made me feel a hundred and eleven."

"I'm sorry. It sucks you had to play chaperone. I was really kind of hoping you were actually
going to get to be seventeen tonight."

"Aw, it's cool. There's tomorrow, right?"

"Tomorrow?"

"Yeah. Emmett's planning on holding you to that whole getting high thing tomorrow."

"Ohhhhh."

"But you can back out."

"No, no. It'll be fun. It seems like you guys are better at acting like teenagers when you don't
have other actual teenagers to contend with," she said.

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I smiled, because she was so right.

"Yeah. I guess we are."

"What about Carlisle and Esme? Oh my gosh! I just now thought of that. Are they like…going
to get high with us? That seems so weird. But they're really not that much older than you all,
right?"

"Well, in vampire years, I'm actually older than Esme. But Carlisle has hundreds of years on all
of us."

"So what does that mean? Because they don't really…seem as…adolescent as the rest of
you."

"Ouch!"

"I'm sorry! But you know what I mean, right?"

"Yeah. I know what you mean. I don't know how much of it has to do with when they turned.
Sometimes I think Esme is just…a mom. Like, I bet when she was twelve, she was still acting
like a mom."

"Really?"

"Yeah. She had a bunch of younger siblings. I think that played a role."

"Oh. That makes sense I guess," she said. "So, um…are they getting high with us tomorrow?"

"That's actually an excellent question. I don't know. As far as I know from Emmett's thoughts,
he hasn't mentioned it to them."

"Oh."

I pulled up into her driveway then and, because it had become a habit of hers, Bella pressed
her hand to her lips just before placing it over my heart and jumping out of the car.

I'm not sure if she realized it, but I think maybe I loved that even more than the kissing.

When I climbed into Bella's window that night, she was in the shower. I hoped that it wasn't
going to scare the shit out of her when she returned to the room and I was in it. I tried to make
myself conspicuous, sprawling out on the bed where I had been earlier instead of creeping in a
corner or something.

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Fortunately, she seemed to be expecting me when she opened the door and entered, running
a towel over her hair. She smiled and sat down next to me on the bed. I was glad to see a
return to the shorts, rather than the sweats.

"Hey," she whispered.

"Hey. Miss me?"

She grinned. Probably because I had only been gone about five minutes. It took her longer to
shower than it took me to ditch the car at my house and return.

"You're a real gem, you know that?" she asked. Then, she tossed the towel on the floor and
wrapped her arms around my neck, pulling herself into my lap so that she was straddling me.

"Bella…" I started. But it was hard to finish the sentence, because she was covering my face in
kisses.

"Yes?" she asked, innocently.

"Sometimes I worry that you overestimate my restraint," I mumbled. I closed my eyes and
debated between reciting baseball statistics in my head or just rolling with it and trying to enjoy
myself.

"Which kind of restraint?" she whispered.

My mouth fell open and I released a breath before I could answer.

"Both."

She stopped kissing me then, but her lips were still at my ear.

"Edward," she whispered. "Just….let go."

Whoa.

"Holy shit, Bella," I breathed.

"Edward-"

"We can't have sex," I blurted, desperate to establish that fact quickly.

"I know," she whispered, without hesitation. She didn't seem at all discouraged by my words. In
fact, she seemed calm, which calmed me some. And her breath was hot on my neck. She had
wrapped herself around me and was pressed to my chest in such a way that it wasn't just my
heart that was brought to life with her warmth and her pulse. Suddenly, she had breathed life
into all of me.

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"Fuck, Bella."

"Edward," she whispered. "Be seventeen with me."

The fucking irony of it was that, yeah, I may have had nearly a century on her and, yeah, I kind
of felt like a perv for macking on a seventeen year old. But I was kind of out of fucking practice.

Literally.

Plus, I had only ever done it with a vampire. Plus, there was a chance I could get a little too
worked up and accidentally snap Bella in half or some shit. Or the bloodlust might become too
much and I could kill her that way. Or maybe I would just suck generally and fuck everything
up like a normal seventeen year old prick.

No fucking pressure or anything.

"Bella…"

"I'm nervous, too. I need you to help me," she pleaded.

And that was when I released another breath and steeled myself. When I opened my eyes,
she smiled up at me, and I could see from her eyes that she was nervous. But that if I didn't
nut up and put some fucking effort into what was going on, it would be bad for both of us. So I
grabbed her hips and rolled us over so that she was on her back.

"You gotta tell me if-"

"Yeah," she whispered, nodding. "It's OK."

I smiled. Because, all of a sudden, Bella was the fucking mind-reader.

For being nervous, Bella was one sexy little vixen. That was for damn sure. You would think
the whole granite skin thing would discourage her, but she ran those hot little hands of hers all
over me. And it felt so good, just being touched by her. And we had this amazing rhythm.
Hardly any words passed between us. Which was convenient, seeing as our lips were busy
with more important things. And when she took my hand and guided it up her thigh and into
her shorts, I thought my brain was going to explode.

And you know what? I think all that obsessing paid off. Because...

Did I get Bella off that night?

Fuck yeah I did.

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Best part about that Friday night?

Sleeping naked with Bella.

Best part about sleeping naked with Bella?

I was totally awake for it.

Although, that was perhaps not Bella's favorite part, seeing as she turned beet red when she
woke up.

"Holy fuck," she whispered, bolting upright and pulling the sheets around her.

"Charlie's gone to the store. Don't worry."

"You've been awake this whole time!"

"Yeah," I said, grinning.

"Edward!"

"What?"

"I've been naked this whole time!"

"So have I!"

"Yeah, but I slept through it! That means…it's like being the only one naked!"

"Wait, are you upset because you're embarrassed or are you creeped out? Because…I don't
want you to be creeped out. I'll feel like a total perv."

She scrunched up her nose at me and her forehead wrinkled. Like she was stressed out.
Which stressed me the fuck out, for sure. But then she narrowed her eyes at me and grinned.

"You are a perv, dude," she said, leaning in closer.

And even though I was pretty sure the fact that she was teasing me meant she wasn't creeped
out, I still kinda wanted some confirmation of that, so I leaned away.

"No, seriously. Should I have, like…left or something?" I asked. She stopped, then.

"No! No! I was just… It was really just embarrassment, I guess. And I guess I'm still a little
embarrassed at the thought of it."

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"Don't be embarrassed. You have nothing to be embarrassed about. I have seriously found my
new favorite way to spend those long, waking vampire nights."

"Hush," she said, blushing again.

I grinned and pulled her back onto my lap and kissed her some more.

And it was officially the best morning in the history of inter-species dating.

Because once I assured Bella that Charlie was gonna be gone for a good while, she totally
returned the favor I had performed for her the night before. And it turned out not having spunk
actually was really good news. Because when I explained that to Bella, she had another one of
those 'fuck yeah, vampire boyfriend' moments.

It was all really kind of mind-blowing. I never thought I'd be able to have any sort of substantive
physical relationship with Bella. I certainly never thought we'd be able to mess around and
laugh about it, too. Or that there was a silver lining to it. It was like…

I don't even know.

Basically, Bella had changed everything. She had destroyed my ability to be a chronic
pessimist. She made me realize that maybe the human/vampire thing wasn't like a fish and a
bicycle. How could it be? When we worked so well. I mean, yeah—we had our awkward
moments and we had to take shit slow and maybe be a bit more careful. And yeah, we would
never be able to actually have sex. But then again, Bella was kind of making me feel like I
should never say never.

And that's what was so mind-blowing.

It was like…

It was like I was fucking happy.

Chapter 37: Remind Me to Punch Emmett In The 'Nads


"So wait. James Joyce wrote the Odyssey?" Emmett asked.

"No. He wrote Ulysses," Rose answered.

"Which means the same thing?" he asked.

"No. Ulysses is the name of the protagonist in the Odyssey."

"Then who's Odysseus?"

"Odysseus is his Greek name. Ulysses is his Latin name."

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"The guy from the James Joyce book?"

"No. The protagonist of the Odyssey."

"Which was written by who?"

"Homer."

"Then…wait. What the fuck is the Iliad?"

"The first half of the story."

"Of the Odyssey?"

"No. The Odyssey is the second half."

"What?"

"Emmett," she said. With that tone she gets when she's getting fed up.

"What? I'm just trying to educate myself," he protested.

"No. You're just fucking high."

The rest of us were laughing at the entire exchange. We were sitting in a circle in the field we
used for football on the edge of town, passing around a joint. And, yeah, we didn't really need
to pass around the joint. But, unlike with drinking alcohol, we could actually inhale and exhale
smoke no problem. And while it wasn't what was getting us high, we could still breath it in and
experience it while Jasper absorbed and projected Bella's high. And it was kind of cool
because, other than the whole Jasper-mindfuck thing, we were really just your typical group of
teenagers smoking pot.

Plus, I think passing around the joint made Bella a little less self conscious about being the
only one actually smoking.

"I hated James Joyce," Bella mused. "I had to read him for school back in Phoenix and I just
found it mind numbing. But it was Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, so maybe that's why."

"Yeah. I think Ulysses is his best. The characterizations and the humor are fantastic," Rose
said.

"Look at my girl, bein' all brilliant about literature and shit even when she's stoned," Emmett
said, pulling Rose closer to him. She rolled her eyes. Which was really more of a sign of
affection for Emmett than anything. Which is a good thing, seeing as she rolled her eyes at him
constantly.

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"It's not really what I thought it would be," said Alice.

"What?" Jasper asked.

"Being high. I was expecting more… I don't know. I guess I was expecting…to be…less
coherent," she explained.

"Aw, see, that's what I like about weed," Bella said, much to everyone's surprise. "It's not like
alcohol, which will get you falling down drunk. And sure, you'll say some stupid shit
occasionally when you're high, but not like drunk stupid. Plus, you don't wake up with as many
regrets."

"Damn, girl. You sound pretty seasoned in the ways of mind altering substances," Emmett
said.

"Not really. Just enough to know what I like and dislike about each."

"So you prefer weed?" he asked.

"No. I think maybe I prefer alcohol, as long as it's in moderation. Weed is so smoky and it gives
you the munchies and it's more illegal and harder to obtain and it makes me sleepy and it
hardly seems like it's worth the trouble, half the time."

Emmett's brow furrowed and he nodded slowly as if he was pondering everything she said
very deeply.

"That makes sense," he said.

"This is great!" Bella cried. "I actually know more about something than the vampires!"

Then we all laughed.

"Having a 'fuck yeah, humans' moment?" I asked.

"Yeah, I think I am," she said, grinning.

"Ooooh, who's winning?" Alice asked. "Vampires or humans?"

"That's not exactly what it's about," I said.

"Then what is it?" Emmett asked. "Are you guys weighing the pros and cons of Bella becoming
a vamp?"

"No!" I cried. "Nothing like that!"

"Then what?" Alice asked.

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"Uh," I stammered. Then I looked at Bella, who shrugged. She was definitely high. But no more
high than me, for fuck's sake. I'm absorbing her high! Why is she so chill about this? "It's more
like…we're noting the advantages of Bella having a vampire boyfriend. And I guess just now
we were noting an advantage of her being human."

"Cool," Jasper said. "That's…cool." He was nodding his head in approval.

"Wait. Champ, have you decided?"

"Emmett! Leave her alone!" I cried.

"Shut up, Edward. You don't have to police him for me," Bella said, slowly exhaling a smooth
cloud of smoke, just before handing me the joint and smiling. "Chill out, dude."

They all laughed and I rolled my eyes.

"So?" Emmett prodded.

"Emmett, I don't think anything is off the table for all time. I just…I can't really envision a
situation in which I would ever feel OK about peacing out on my parents. I mean, can you
imagine the devastation?" she asked.

"Yeah," Jasper said, nodding. Because he could. He had. With his own parents.

"Sorry," Bella said, realizing her mistake. "Of course you can. I just—I couldn't ever inflict that
on them knowingly, you know?"

"Sure, sure," he said. "But what about after they're gone?"

"Oh man. That's, hopefully, a long way off," she said, glancing at Alice nervously. As if she was
worried Alice knew precisely when and how her parents were going to die and would tell her.

"Don't worry. It must be a long way off, because I haven't had any visions of it," Alice assured
her.

"Right. OK. So what about then?" Emmett asked, yet again. I kind of wanted to punch him in
the nuts. Thank god I was high or I probably would have.

"My parents had me young, Em. If they live to old age, I'm gonna be pretty elderly by then,
too."

"So?"

"Jesus Christ, Emmett," I muttered.

"What? Aren't these things that should be discussed?" he asked, indignant.

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All heads turned back in my direction.

"I'm pretty sure they're things Bella's probably already considered," I said.

"Alright, then. So what's the harm in asking her what she thinks?"

Then, all heads turned toward Bella, and she shrugged.

"No harm, no foul. I mean, it's probably not a bad idea to air this shit out. Lord knows me and
Edward avoid talking about it like the plague."

I winced. Because I realized maybe my method of avoidance wasn't the best. But also
because I wasn't sure Emmett's method was the best, either.

"So, let's say you're sixty when your parents bite the big one," he said. "What about then?"

"Then I'd be sixty!"

"So?" Emmett asked.

"Who wants to be sixty for all of eternity! ?"

Emmett shrugged.

"It's not like you'd be human sixty. You'd be vampire sixty. You wouldn't feel old. And you'd still
be hot."

"Huh?"

"Edward, back me up on this. I haven't met any of those old vamps, but you've seen 'em in
Carlisle's head, right?"

"I don't think any of them are that old," I said.

"Oh. How old does that Aro dude look?" he asked.

"I don't know. Maybe like thirty. But I'm pretty sure he was closer to forty when he was
changed."

"For real?" he asked. Then, he returned his attention to Bella. "See! ? There you go. You'd
totally lose like ten years off your age or whatever. You'd just be like a hot cougar vamp."

Bella scrunched up her face in skepticism.

"That…sounds…creepy," she said.

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"Creepier than the hundred and eleven year old macking on the seventeen year old?" he
asked.

"Shut up, Emmett! How old are you?" she countered.

"I'm twenty," he answered, grinning mischievously.

"Right," she said, rolling her eyes.

"No, but seriously—you wouldn't change for us? Even then?" he asked.

"For you?" Bella asked.

"Sure. I mean…I think we'd all like to have you around. Right?" he asked, looking at the others,
who nodded in confirmation.

"Emmett, you've only just met me. Plus…ugh. I'm not sure I would want to be in Edward's
position in that scenario, so I'm certainly not going to inflict that on him," she said.

"What are you talking about, Champ?" Emmett asked. "You're Edward's mate."

My head fell to my hands, then, as I tried to shut it all out.

"Huh?" Bella asked.

"I mean… Obviously you're not a vampire, so things are a little different. But I'm pretty sure
you're Edward's mate. So I'm pretty sure he's in it for the long haul."

"What… What are you talking about, Emmett?" she asked.

I could see from their heads that everyone was staring at Emmett and shouting at him
internally to shut the fuck up. But it was too late.

"Oh shit. No one told you about that?" he asked, looking around the circle.

"Told me what! ?" she cried. She looked to Rose. "Rose! I thought you told me everything!"

"Bella, I'm sorry! I had no idea… I mean, I told you that Alice thought you two were soulmates.
I guess I forgot to talk about vampire mating."

"What the fuck is vampire mating?" she asked, eyes wide.

I put my hand on her shoulder, and passed the joint back to her. I think we were all a little on
edge all of a sudden. Probably because Bella's other emotions were getting projected along
with the high.

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Her face creased with worry as she took the joint from my hand, and I could tell it was because
we were freaking her out, so I waited for her to take a drag and then I started explaining.

"It's not a big deal, Bella. It's just-some people believe that vampires actually do have
soulmates. I told you I didn't believe in soulmates that first night, and I wasn't lying. But…when
vampires pair off…they…tend to do so for, like…eternity."

"Huh? What about you and Tanya?"

"Shit like that happens occasionally. I mean, people don't find their 'mates' immediately," I said,
using air-quotes to try to emphasize that I didn't necessarily buy into it. "But, like…there are
vampire couples that have been together for millennia. And evidence indicates that like, these
guys," I said, motioning toward the others, "are probably mated for life. Or eternity, or
whatever."

"I don't…understand," she said.

"It's not anything to worry about," I said. "It's just…vampires are more monogamous than
humans. Basically."

"So wait. You don't believe in it?" she asked.

Fuck.

"Uh. I, uhh…"

"Edward!"

"I didn't believe in it before! I get it now, alright! ?"

And as soon as I blurted it, I smacked myself in the forehead, squeezing my eyes shut. The
only problem was that, even though I couldn't see their reactions, I could hear them. Rose and
Alice were smug as fuck, and Emmett and Jasper's eyes were bugging out of their heads. And
then they were both heartily amused.

Of course, the one person's reaction I wanted to know was the one I couldn't hear.

So I opened my eyes and I looked at her. And her eyes were round.

"Does that mean… Would I be… Could you…?" she trailed off.

"Sorry. I… It shouldn't affect any decision you make."

"But would that mean that this is it for you? Would you be damned to an eternity alone? Once
I'm gone? If that's true?"

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The others were looking everywhere but at us, shifting uncomfortably.

"No. I mean… I don't know. No one knows. We're kind of…setting precedent, you know?" I
said softly.

I wanted to tell her that I had been fine alone for over ninety years. I wanted to tell her that I
would be fine for the rest of eternity alone. But the truth was, I wasn't so sure anymore. She
had made me realize what a fucked up head-case I had been. She had made me realize how
much my ability and my past had influenced my day to day life. She had made me realize that I
hadn't been happy. And even aside from all that, she had made me fall head over fucking
heels in love with her. I couldn't even imagine life without her anymore. In fact, I avoided
thinking about it at all costs.

She was still staring at me, and I cringed, hoping she hadn't been too blindsided by it all.

Then, she stuck the joint back between her lips, but not to inhale. She put it there just to keep
a hold of it as she leaned forward and crawled into my lap. Once she plopped down and got
comfortable, she turned to the others.

"Just so you all know, I'm bogarting the rest of this joint."

Chapter 38: Penny Or A Car For Your Thoughts


I spent Saturday night at Bella's again. I tried not to appear too disappointed when she just
curled up next to me to go to sleep. And honestly, that was still a pretty fantastic place to be. I
mean, compared to ninety plus years of spending nights alone reading or watching
infomercials or listening to my family members having sex.

Though I had brought a book with me that night. Because, yeah: watching Bella sleep is great
and all that shit but—come the fuck on, after a couple of hours, it tends to get boring.

So I was just about to crack some Hemingway when I stopped, suddenly.

I found myself trying to remember what it was like to sleep. I concentrated on Bella's heartbeat,
which slowed when she slept. Then, I slid down so that I wasn't sitting upright anymore, and
lay next to her. She shifted some, but she didn't wake up. Instead, she sighed and rested her
head on my chest. She was so fucking peaceful, that it made me long for sleep in a way I
never had before. So I put the book down and I kissed the top of her head before resting mine
on the pillow just above hers. Then I closed my eyes and I just…listened.

I blocked out all the shit coming from other people's houses. I blocked out Charlie's dreams. I
blocked out the noises and my own thoughts and my own stress. I didn't pay attention to one
god damn thing, except for Bella's heartbeat. And I let it lull me into some of that peace that
she had found. I briefly wished that I could hear Bella's dreams, but then I cleared that out of
my head, too.

335
And then there was nothing but the rhythm.

Sunday, Bella again seemed happy to keep me around. I think she was feeling clingy since
she was about to get rid of me for almost two weeks straight, between Aunt Flo's visit and
spring break. The clinginess was fine by me because, after the conversation we had had in the
field with the others, it increasingly felt like the time I had with Bella was fleeting.

She even let me hang out while she was doing homework. She sat on one side of the bed with
her books and her laptop while I sat on the other with my Hemingway, trying not to distract her.

Which isn't to say we didn't get some quality making out in occasionally as well.

And it was during one of our little study breaks that she asked me to stay over again.

"I can't. I'm sorry."

"Oh. Because…?"

"Yeah."

"Fuck."

"Sorry. I'd like to."

"What time do you have to leave?"

"Looks like not until 11:23 tonight."

She closed her eyes, then, as she spoke.

"I'm going to try not to think about the fact that my boyfriend knows the exact minute I'm going
to start my period. And I'm going to try to feel good about the fact that I no longer have to keep
track of it myself. And the fact that I will probably be asleep by then anyway." It was like she
was reciting the steps of a recipe or something. I was pretty sure she was talking to herself
more than she was talking to me.

I smiled, but made sure to regain my composure by the time she opened her eyes and looked
at me.

"Sorry," I repeated.

"I heard you grinning, jackass."

Then, I laughed. I couldn't fucking help it.

336
"You're great, you know that?" I asked, pulling her toward me.

"Yes, I do. And you're going to be devastated the entire time I'm in Florida, right?" she asked,
settling into my side.

"Yes."

"You're going to cry yourself to sleep every night that I'm gone, right?"

"Well, I can't actually cry, but yes. Of course," I assured her.

She narrowed her eyes.

"You're mocking me."

"Were you being serious?" I asked.

"No. But I am going to miss you. Even though it's just a week."

"Oh, trust me-I'll miss you, too. But there's always phone sex, right?"

She squinted and puckered her mouth in thought for a moment. And I realized she was taking
me seriously.

"I suppose."

"I was kidding," I said.

"Oh. Why?"

"Oh. Never mind. I wasn't kidding."

"If you intend to keep me around until I'm sixty, we're gonna have to get creative. Especially
since I'll be all saggy and gross then and you won't want to have anything to do with me for
real."

"Oh my god. Shut up. That's… Stop worrying about that shit, OK?"

"Why? Shouldn't I worry about it?"

"No."

"Why not?"

"You just… It's not worth worrying about now. If ever. I love you and we'll work shit out and,
right now-let's just enjoy shit."

337
"You're awfully Zen today. Aren't I the one that's supposed to be chilling you out?" she teased.

"No. I feel bad that I've already made you feel that way. I swear, I'm gonna be less of a head-
case, Bella. From here on out."

"You're not a head-case," she said.

I raised an eyebrow at her.

"OK, maybe a little," she laughed. And I laughed with her.

Because that's what we did.

We laughed.

After I snuck out of her room that night while she was sleeping, I didn't see Bella again for four
days. But instead of counting cracks in the ceiling for days or watching Food Network or feeling
sorry for myself, I started playing music again. Which was fucking nice. I even wrote some shit.
It felt good, because it had been a dick year, and I always worried I would forget how to do it.
Writing music always came back to me, like I had never put it down.

But it was still awesome when Friday morning finally rolled around and I got to go pick up Bella
for school. I was going to get out of the car and actually knock on the door, but before I had
even taken my first step toward the house that morning, she came flying out of it and threw
herself at me.

You know how nice it is to have someone that excited to see you?

And sure, Esme and Alice are both really affectionate and bubbly people. But Bella was
different. Because Bella was…mine. Not like, my property or anything. But like…my mate. All
the others had had each other for so many years and I had heard them feeling sorry for me for
decades. And I guess sometimes I felt sorry for myself when I heard how much they loved
each other in their thoughts. But I was a part of the family. They had always made me feel like
a part of the family, and after my experience with Tanya, I was pretty convinced that that was
better than being in a relationship—that it was more…substantial.

But since I had Bella, I realized that sharing a life with someone is a whole other animal.
Because we weren't just dating. We were sharing a life. I mean, it's pretty difficult to not jump
into the deep end of the pool in terms of a relationship when you're dealing with, uh…undead
stuff. And because of all of that, it kind of felt like we were a team, figuring shit out together;
facing shit together. And I don't really know how to explain the fact that I knew she was my
mate other than the fact that…she just was. She was Bella. And I was Edward. And we were
us.

338
I still didn't necessarily believe in fate.

But I believed in us.

When we got to school, Forks High was again filled with the buzz of the anticipation of the end
of the week. However, the anticipation was even greater that day because it was the Friday
before spring break. I'm pretty sure Bella was the only one feeling melancholy that day. Which
was endearing as hell. I just hoped she would enjoy her time with her mom while she was
gone. She sat at the vamp table at lunch, but she didn't talk a whole lot. When I reached for
her hand under the table to see if she had checked out completely, she smiled at me, but it
was unconvincing. Which made me worry there was more going on than just the impending
separation despondence.

In biology, it was much of the same. She didn't pass notes my way, but she wasn't really
paying attention to Banner either. She was sort of just staring off into space. When I leaned my
knee against hers, she smiled as she stared straight ahead, and it was slightly more genuine
than the one she had given me in the lunch room. So at least there was that. But something
was definitely wrong.

I kept an eye on her when she was in gym class, and she hardly moved the entire time. Mike
Newton would have been really irritated at his stationary badminton partner but for the fact that
he was too excited about vacation. People were mostly goofing off anyway.

At one point, Mike actually asked her what was wrong. She told him she was just tired, and he
didn't think much of it.

But I wasn't going to make it so easy for her.

"What is wrong?" I asked, as we walked to my car together.

"Huh?"

"You've been emo all day."

"Oh. I just…didn't sleep well last night. And…I don't know."

"Why didn't you sleep?" I asked, as we got into the Volvo.

"It was just one of those nights where I couldn't shut off my head," she said, pulling her door
closed.