Search

Chapter no 12 – COMPLICATIONS

Midnight Sun (The Twilight Saga, Book 5)

Bella and I walked silently to Biology. We passed Angela Weber,

lingering on the sidewalk, discussing an assignment with a boy from her Trigonometry class. I scanned her thoughts perfunctorily, expecting more disappointment, only to be surprised by their wistful tenor.

Ah, so there was something Angela wanted. Unfortunately, it wasn’t something that could be easily gift wrapped.

I felt strangely comforted for a moment, hearing Angela’s hopeless yearning. A sense of kinship passed through me, and I was, in that second, at one with the kind human girl.

It was oddly consoling to know that I wasn’t the only one living out a tragic love story. Heartbreak was everywhere.

In the next second, I was abruptly and thoroughly irritated. Because Angela’s story didn’t have to be tragic. She was human and he was human and the difference that seemed so insurmountable in her head was truly ridiculous compared to my own situation. There was no reason for her broken heart. What a wasteful sorrow. Why shouldn’t this one story have a happy ending?

I wanted to give her a gift.… Well, I would give her what she wanted. Knowing what I did of human nature, it probably wouldn’t even be very difficult. I sifted through the consciousness of the boy beside her, the object of her affections, and he did not seem unwilling, he was just stymied by the same difficulty she was.

All I would have to do was plant the suggestion.

The plan formed easily; the script wrote itself without effort on my part. I would need Emmett’s help—getting him to go along with this was the only real difficulty. Human nature was so much easier to manipulate than immortal nature.

I was pleased with my solution, with my gift for Angela. It was a nice

diversion from my own problems. Would that mine were as easily fixed.

My mood was slightly improved as Bella and I took our seats. Maybe I should be more positive. Maybe there was some solution out there for us that was escaping me, the way Angela’s obvious solution was so invisible to her. Not likely.… But why waste time with hopelessness? I didn’t have time to waste when it came to Bella. Each second mattered.

Mr. Banner entered pulling an ancient TV and VCR. He was skipping through a section he wasn’t particularly interested in—genetic disorders— by showing a movie for the next three days. Lorenzo’s Oil was not a cheerful piece, but that didn’t stop the excitement in the room. No notes, no testable material. The humans exulted.

It didn’t matter to me, either way. I hadn’t been planning on paying attention to anything but Bella.

I did not pull my chair away from hers today to give myself space to breathe. Instead, I sat close beside her like any normal human would. Closer than we sat inside my car, close enough that the left side of my body felt submerged in the heat from her skin.

It was a strange experience, both enjoyable and nerve-racking, but I preferred this to sitting across the table from her. It was more than I was used to, and yet I quickly realized that it was not enough. I was not satisfied. Being this close to her only made me want to be closer still.

I had accused her of being a magnet for danger. Right now, it felt as though that was the literal truth. I was danger, and with every inch I allowed myself nearer to her, her attraction grew in force.

And then Mr. Banner turned the lights out.

It was odd how much of a difference this made, considering that the lack of light meant little to my eyes. I could still see just as perfectly as before. Every detail of the room was clear.

So why the sudden shock of electricity in the air? Was it because I knew that I was the only one who could see clearly? That both Bella and I were invisible to the others? As though we were alone, just the two of us, hidden in the dark room, sitting so close beside each other.

My hand moved toward her without my permission. Just to touch her hand, to hold it in the darkness. Would that be such a horrific mistake? If my skin bothered her, she only had to pull away.

I yanked my hand back, folded my arms tightly across my chest, and

clenched my hands closed. No mistakes, I’d promised myself. If I held her hand, I would only want more—another insignificant touch, another move closer to her. I could feel that. A new kind of desire was growing in me, working to override my self-control.

No mistakes.

Bella folded her arms securely across her own chest, and her hands balled up into fists, identical to mine.

What are you thinking? I was dying to whisper the words to her, but the room was too quiet to get away with even a whispered conversation.

The movie began, lightening the darkness just a bit. Bella glanced up at me. She noted the rigid way I held my body—just like hers—and smiled. Her lips parted slightly, and her eyes seemed full of warm invitations.

Or perhaps I was seeing what I wanted to see.

I smiled back. Her breathing caught with a low gasp and she looked quickly away.

That made it worse. I didn’t know her thoughts, but I was suddenly positive that I had been right before, and that she wanted me to touch her. She felt this dangerous desire just as I did.

Between her body and mine, the electricity hummed.

She didn’t move all through the hour, holding her stiff, controlled pose as I held mine. Occasionally she would peek at me again, and the humming current would jolt through me with a sudden shock.

The hour passed—slowly, and yet not slowly enough. This was so new, I could have sat like this with her for days, just to experience the feeling fully.

I had a dozen different arguments with myself while the minutes passed, rationality struggling with desire.

Finally, Mr. Banner turned the lights on again.

Under the bright fluorescents, the atmosphere of the room returned to normal. Bella sighed and stretched, flexing her fingers in front of her. It must have been uncomfortable for her to hold that position for so long. It was easier for me—stillness came naturally.

I chuckled at the relieved expression on her face. “Well, that was interesting.”

“Umm,” she murmured, clearly understanding what I referred to, but making no comment. What I wouldn’t give to hear what she was thinking

right now.

I sighed. No amount of wishing was going to help with that. “Shall we?” I asked, standing.

She made a face and got unsteadily to her feet, her hands splayed out as if she was afraid she was going to fall.

I could offer her my hand. Or I could place that hand underneath her elbow—just lightly—and steady her. Surely that wouldn’t be such a horrible infraction.

No mistakes.

She was very quiet as we walked toward the gym. The crease was in evidence between her eyes, a sign that she was deep in thought. I, too, was thinking deeply.

One touch of my skin wouldn’t hurt her, my selfish side contended.

I could easily moderate the pressure of my hand. It wasn’t exactly difficult. My tactile sense was better developed than a human’s: I could juggle a dozen crystal goblets without breaking any of them; I could stroke a soap bubble without popping it. As long as I was firmly in control of myself.

Bella was like a soap bubble—fragile and ephemeral. Temporary.

How long would I be able to justify my presence in her life? How much time did I have? Would I have another chance like this chance, like this moment, like this second? She would not always be within my arm’s reach.

Bella turned to face me at the gym door, and her eyes widened at the expression on my face. She didn’t speak. I looked at myself in the reflection of her eyes and saw the conflict raging in my own. I watched my face change as my better side lost the argument.

My hand lifted without a conscious command for it to do so. As gently as if she were made of the thinnest glass, as if she were fragile as the bubble I’d imagined, my fingers stroked the warm skin that covered her cheekbone. It heated under my touch, and I could feel the pulse of blood speed beneath her transparent skin.

Enough, I ordered, though my hand was aching to shape itself to the side of her face. Enough.

It was difficult to pull my hand back, to stop myself from moving closer to her than I already was. A thousand different possibilities ran through my mind in an instant—a thousand different ways to touch her. The tip of my

finger tracing the shape of her lips. My palm cupping her chin. Pulling the clip from her hair and letting it spill out across my hand. My arms winding around her waist, holding her against the length of my body.

Enough.

I forced myself to turn, to step away from her. My body moved stiffly— unwilling.

I let my mind linger behind to watch her as I walked swiftly away, almost running from the temptation. I caught Mike Newton’s thoughts— they were the loudest—while he watched Bella walk past him in oblivion, her eyes unfocused and her cheeks red. He glowered and suddenly my name was mingled with curses in his head. I couldn’t help grinning slightly in response.

My hand was tingling. I flexed it and then curled it into a fist, but it continued to sting painlessly.

No, I hadn’t hurt her—but touching her had still been a mistake.

It felt like simmering coals, as though a dull version of my thirsting burn had spread throughout my entire body.

The next time I was close to her, would I be able to stop myself from touching her again? And if I touched her a second time, would I be able to stop at that?

No more mistakes. That was it. Savor the memory, Edward, I told myself grimly, and keep your hands to yourself. That, or I would have to force myself to leave… somehow. Because I couldn’t allow myself near her if I insisted on making errors.

I took a deep breath and tried to steady my thoughts. Emmett caught up to me outside the English building.

“Hey, Edward.” He’s looking better. Weird, but better. Happy.

“Hey, Em.” Did I look happy? I supposed, despite the chaos in my head, I felt something close to it.

Way to keep your mouth shut, kid. Rosalie’s going to rip your tongue out. I sighed. “Sorry I left you to deal with that. Are you angry with me?” “Naw. Rose’ll get over it. It was bound to happen anyway.” With what

Alice sees coming…

Alice’s visions were not what I wanted to think about right now. I stared forward, my teeth locking together.

As I searched for a distraction, I caught sight of Ben Cheney entering

the Spanish room ahead of us. Ah—here was my chance to give Angela Weber her gift.

I stopped walking and caught Emmett’s arm. “Hold on a second.”

What’s up?

“I know I don’t deserve it, but would you do me a favor anyway?” “What favor?” he asked, curious.

Under my breath—and at a speed that would have made the words incomprehensible to a human—I explained to him what I wanted.

He stared at me when I was done, his thoughts as blank as his face. “So?” I prompted. “Will you help me do it?”

It took him a minute to respond. “But, why?” “C’mon, Emmett. Why not?”

Who are you and what have you done with my brother?

“Aren’t you the one who complains that school is always the same? This is something a little different, isn’t it? Consider it an experiment—an experiment in human nature.”

He stared at me for another moment before he caved. “Well, it is different, I’ll give you that. Okay, fine.” Emmett snorted and then shrugged. “I’ll help you.”

I grinned at him, feeling more enthusiastic about my plan now that he was on board. Rosalie was a pain, but I would always owe her one for choosing Emmett; no one had a better brother than mine.

Emmett didn’t need to practice. I whispered his lines to him once under my breath as we walked into the classroom.

Ben was already in his seat behind mine, assembling his homework to hand in. Emmett and I both sat and did the same thing. The classroom was not quiet yet; the murmur of subdued conversation would continue until Mrs. Goff called for attention. She was in no hurry, appraising the quizzes from the last class.

“So,” Emmett said, his voice louder than necessary. “Did you ask Angela Weber out yet?”

The sound of papers rustling behind me came to an abrupt stop as Ben froze, his attention suddenly riveted on our conversation.

Angela? They’re talking about Angela?

Good. I had his interest.

“No,” I said, shaking my head slowly to appear regretful.

“Why not?” Emmett improvised. “Are we lacking in courage?”

I frowned at him. “No. I heard that she was interested in someone else.”

Edward Cullen was going to ask Angela out? But… no. I don’t like that.

I don’t want him near her. He’s… not right for her. Not… safe.

I hadn’t anticipated the chivalry, the protective instinct. I’d been aiming for jealousy. But whatever worked.

“You’re going to let that stop you?” Emmett asked scornfully, improvising again. “Not up for the competition?”

I glared at him, but made use of what he gave me. “Look, I guess she really likes this Ben person. I’m not going to try to convince her otherwise. There are other girls.”

The reaction in the chair behind me was electric. “Who?” Emmett asked, back to the script.

“My lab partner said it was some kid named Cheney. I’m not sure I know who he is.”

I bit back my smile. Only the haughty Cullens could get away with pretending not to know every student at this tiny school.

Ben’s head was whirling with shock. Me? Over Edward Cullen? But why would she like me?

“Edward,” Emmett muttered in a lower tone, rolling his eyes toward the boy. “He’s right behind you,” he mouthed, so obviously that the human could easily read the words.

“Oh,” I muttered back.

I turned in my seat and glanced once at the boy behind me. For a second, the black eyes behind the glasses were frightened, but then he stiffened and squared his shoulders, affronted by my clearly disparaging evaluation. His chin shot out and an angry flush darkened his golden-brown skin.

“Huh,” I said arrogantly as I turned back to Emmett.

He thinks he’s better than me. But Angela doesn’t. I’ll show him.…

Perfect.

“Didn’t you say she was taking Yorkie to the dance, though?” Emmett asked, snorting as he said the name of the boy whom many scorned for his awkwardness.

“That was a group decision, apparently.” I wanted to be sure that Ben was clear on this. “Angela’s shy. If B—well, if a guy doesn’t have the nerve to ask her out, she’d never ask him.”

“You like shy girls,” Emmett said, back to improvisation. Quiet girls.

Girls like… hmm, I don’t know. Maybe Bella Swan?

I grinned at him. “Exactly.” Then I returned to the performance. “Maybe Angela will get tired of waiting. Maybe I’ll ask her to the prom.”

No, you won’t, Ben thought, straightening up in his chair. So what if she’s taller than me? If she doesn’t care, then neither do I. She’s the nicest, smartest, prettiest girl in this school… and she wants me.

I liked this Ben. He seemed bright and well-meaning. Maybe even worthy of a girl like Angela.

I gave Emmett a thumbs up under the desk as Mrs. Goff stood and greeted the class.

Okay, I’ll admit it—that was sort of fun, Emmett thought.

I smiled to myself, pleased that I’d been able to shape one love story’s forward progress. I was positive that Ben would follow through, and Angela would receive my anonymous gift. My debt was repaid.

How silly humans were, to let a six-inch height difference confound their happiness.

My success put me in a good mood. I smiled again as I settled into my chair and prepared to be entertained. After all, as Bella had pointed out at lunch, I’d never seen her in action in Gym class before.

Mike’s thoughts were the easiest to pinpoint in the babble of voices that swarmed through the gym. His mind had gotten far too familiar over the last few weeks. With a sigh, I resigned myself to listening through him. At least I could be sure that he would be paying attention to Bella.

I was just in time to hear him offer to be her badminton partner; as he made the suggestion, other partnerings with Bella ran through his mind. My smile faded, my teeth clenched together, and I had to remind myself that murdering Mike Newton was still not permitted.

“Thanks, Mike—you don’t have to do this, you know.” “Don’t worry, I’ll keep out of your way.”

She grinned at him, and flashes of numerous accidents—always in some way connected to Bella—flashed through Mike’s head.

Mike played alone at first, while Bella hesitated on the back half of the court, holding her racket gingerly, as though it might explode if moved too roughly. Then Coach Clapp ambled by and ordered Mike to let Bella play.

Uh oh, Mike thought as Bella moved forward with a sigh, holding her

racket at an awkward angle.

Jennifer Ford served the birdie directly toward Bella with a smug twist to her thoughts. Mike saw Bella lurch toward it, swinging the racket yards wide of her target, and he rushed in to try to save the volley.

I watched the path of Bella’s racket with alarm. Sure enough, it hit the taut net and sprung back at her, clipping her forehead before it spun out to strike Mike’s arm with a resounding thwack.

Ow. Ow. Ungh. That’s going to leave a bruise.

Bella was kneading her forehead. It was hard to stay in my seat where I belonged, knowing she was hurt. But what could I do, even if I were there? And it didn’t seem to be serious. I hesitated, watching.

The coach laughed. “Sorry, Newton.” That girl’s the worst jinx I’ve ever seen. Shouldn’t inflict her on the others.

He turned his back deliberately and moved to watch another game so that Bella could return to her former spectator’s role.

Ow, Mike thought again, massaging his arm. He turned to Bella. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, are you?” she asked sheepishly.

“I think I’ll make it.” Don’t want to sound like a crybaby. But, man, that hurts!

Mike swung his arm in a circle, wincing.

I’ll just stay back here,” Bella said, embarrassment rather than pain on her face. Maybe Mike had gotten the worst of it. I certainly hoped that was the case. At least she wasn’t playing anymore. She held her racket so carefully behind her back, her expression full of remorse.… I had to disguise my laugh as coughing.

What’s funny? Emmett wanted to know. “Tell you later,” I muttered.

Bella didn’t venture into the game again. The coach ignored her and let Mike play alone.

I breezed through the quiz at the end of the hour, and Mrs. Goff let me go early. I was listening intently to Mike as I walked across the campus. He’d decided to confront Bella about me.

Jessica swears they’re dating. Why? Why did he have to pick her? He didn’t recognize the real phenomenon—that she’d picked me“So.”

“So what?” she wondered.

“You and Cullen, huh?” You and the freak. I guess, if a rich guy is that important to you…

I gritted my teeth at his degrading assumption. “That’s none of your business, Mike.” Defensive. So it’s true. Crap. “I don’t like it.” You don’t have to,” she snapped.

Why can’t she see what a circus sideshow he is? Like they all are. The way he stares at her. It gives me chills to watch. “He looks at you like… like you’re something to eat.”

I cringed, waiting for her response.

Her face turned bright red, and her lips pressed together as though she was holding her breath. Then, suddenly, a giggle burst through her lips.

Now she’s laughing at me. Great.

Mike turned, thoughts sullen, and wandered off to change. I leaned against the gym wall and tried to compose myself.

How could she have laughed at Mike’s accusation—so entirely on target that I began to worry that Forks was becoming too aware. Why would she laugh at the suggestion that I could kill her, when she knew that it was entirely true?

What was wrong with her?

Did she have a morbid sense of humor? That didn’t fit with my idea of her character, but how could I be sure? Or maybe my notion of the foolish angel was true in one respect: She had no sense of fear at all. Brave—that was one word for it. Others might say stupid, but I knew how bright she was. No matter what the reason, was it this strange lack of fear that put her in danger so constantly? Maybe she would always need me here.

Just like that, my mood was soaring.

If I could discipline myself, make myself safe, then perhaps it would be right for me to stay close to her.

When she walked through the gym doors, her shoulders were stiff and her lower lip was between her teeth again—a sure sign of anxiety. But as soon as her eyes met mine, her posture relaxed and a wide smile spread across her face. It was an oddly peaceful expression. She walked right to my side without hesitation, only stopping when she was so close that her body heat crashed over me like a breaking wave.

“Hi,” she whispered.

The happiness I felt in this moment was, again, without precedent. “Hello,” I said, and then—because with my mood suddenly so light, I

couldn’t resist teasing her—I added, “How was Gym?” Her smile wavered. “Fine.”

She was a poor liar.

“Really?” I asked, about to press the issue—I was still concerned about her head; was she in pain?—but then Mike Newton’s thoughts were so loud, they broke my concentration.

hate him. I wish he would die. I hope he drives that shiny car right off a cliff. Why couldn’t he just leave her alone? Stick to his own kind—to the freaks.

“What?” Bella demanded.

My eyes refocused on her face. She looked at Mike’s retreating back, and then at me again.

“Newton’s getting on my nerves,” I admitted.

Her mouth fell open, and her smile disappeared. She must have forgotten that I’d had the power to watch through her calamitous last hour, or hoped that I hadn’t used it. “You weren’t listening again?”

“How’s your head?”

“You’re unbelievable!” she said through her teeth, and then she turned away from me and stalked furiously toward the parking lot. Her skin flushed dark red—she was embarrassed.

I kept pace with her, hoping that her anger would pass soon. She was usually quick to forgive me.

“You were the one who mentioned how I’d never seen you in Gym,” I explained. “It made me curious.”

She didn’t answer. Her eyebrows pulled together.

She came to a sudden halt in the parking lot when she realized that the way to my car was blocked by a crowd of mostly male students.

I wonder how fast they’ve gone in this thing.

Look at the SMG shift paddles. I’ve never seen those outside of a magazine.

Nice side grilles!

Sure wish I had sixty thousand dollars lying around.…

This was exactly why it was better for Rosalie to only use her car out of

town.

I wound through the throng of lustful boys to my own car. After a second of hesitation, Bella followed suit.

“Ostentatious,” I muttered as she climbed in. “What kind of car is that?” she wondered. “An M3.”

She frowned. “I don’t speak Car and Driver.”

“It’s a BMW.” I rolled my eyes and then focused on backing out without running anyone down. I had to lock eyes with a few boys who didn’t seem willing to move out of my way. A half second meeting my gaze seemed to be enough to convince them.

“Are you still angry?” I asked her. Her frown had relaxed. “Definitely,” she answered curtly.

I sighed. Maybe I shouldn’t have brought it up. Oh well. I could try to make amends, I supposed. “Will you forgive me if I apologize?”

She thought about that for a moment. “Maybe… if you mean it,” she decided. “And if you promise not to do it again.”

I wasn’t going to lie to her, and there was no way I was agreeing to that.

Perhaps if I offered her a different exchange.

“How about if I mean it, and I agree to let you drive this Saturday?” I shuddered internally at the thought.

The furrow popped into existence between her eyes as she considered the new bargain. “Deal,” she said after a moment of thought.

Now for my apology.… I’d never tried to dazzle Bella on purpose before, but this seemed like a good moment. I stared deep into her eyes as I drove away from the school, wondering whether I was doing it right. I used my most persuasive tone.

“Then I’m very sorry I upset you.”

Her heartbeat thudded louder than before, and the rhythm was abruptly staccato. Her eyes were huge. She looked stunned.

I half smiled. It seemed as though I’d succeeded. Of course, I was having a bit of difficulty looking away from her eyes, too. Equally dazzled. It was a good thing I had this road memorized.

“And I’ll be on your doorstep bright and early Saturday morning,” I added, finishing the agreement.

She blinked swiftly, shaking her head as if to clear it. “Um,” she said, “it

doesn’t help with the Charlie situation if an unexplained Volvo is left in the driveway.”

Ah, how little she still knew about me. “I wasn’t intending to bring a car.”

“How—?” she started to ask.

I interrupted her. The answer would only bring on another round of questions. “Don’t worry about it. I’ll be there, no car.”

She put her head to one side, and looked for a second as though she was going to press for more, but then seemed to change her mind.

“Is it later yet?” she asked, reminding me of our unfinished conversation in the cafeteria today.

I should have just answered her other question. This one was much more unappealing. “I suppose it is later,” I agreed unwillingly.

I parked in front of her house, tensing as I tried to think of how to explain… without making my monstrous nature too evident, without frightening her again. Or was it wrong to minimize my darkness?

She waited with the same politely interested mask she’d worn at lunch. If I’d been less anxious, her preposterous calm would have made me laugh.

“And you still want to know why you can’t see me hunt?” I asked. “Well, mostly I was wondering about your reaction,” she said. “Did I frighten you?” I asked, positive that she would deny it. “No.” It was such an obvious lie.

I tried not to smile, and failed. “I apologize for scaring you.” And then my smile vanished with the momentary humor. “It was just the very thought of you being there… while we hunted.”

“That would be bad?”

The mental picture was too much—Bella, so vulnerable in the empty darkness; myself, out of control.… I tried to banish it from my head. “Extremely.”

“Because…?”

I took a deep breath, concentrating for one moment on the burning thirst. Feeling it, managing it, proving my dominion over it. It would never control me again—I willed that to be true. I would be safe for her. I stared toward the welcome clouds without really seeing them, wishing I could believe that my determination would make any difference if I were hunting when I crossed her scent.

“When we hunt… we give ourselves over to our senses,” I told her, thinking through each word before I spoke it. “Govern less with our minds. Especially our sense of smell. If you were anywhere near me when I lost control that way…”

I shook my head in agony at the thought of what would—not what

might, but what would—surely happen then.

I listened to the spike in her heartbeat, and then turned, restless, to read her eyes.

Bella’s face was composed, her eyes grave. Her mouth was pursed just slightly in what I guessed was concern. But concern for what? Her own safety? Was there any hope that I’d finally made the realities clear? I continued to stare at her, trying to translate her ambiguous expression into sure fact.

She gazed back. Her eyes grew round after a moment, and her pupils dilated, though the light had not changed.

My breathing accelerated, and suddenly the quiet in the car seemed to be humming, just as in the darkened Biology room this afternoon. The electric current raced between us again, and my desire to touch her was, briefly, stronger even than the demands of my thirst.

The throbbing electricity made it feel as if I had a pulse again. My body sang with it. As though I were human. More than anything in the world, I wanted to feel the heat of her lips against mine. For one second, I struggled desperately to find the strength, the control, to be able to put my mouth so close to her skin.

She sucked in a ragged breath, and only then did I realize that when I had started breathing faster, she had stopped breathing altogether.

I closed my eyes, trying to break the connection between us. No more mistakes.

Bella’s existence was tied to a thousand delicately balanced chemical processes, all so easily disrupted: The rhythmic expansion of her lungs, that flow of oxygen was life or death to her. The fluttering cadence of her fragile heart could be stopped by so many stupid accidents or illnesses or… by me. I did not believe that any member of my family—except possibly Emmett—would hesitate if he or she were offered a chance back, if he or she could trade immortality for mortality again. Rosalie and I, Carlisle, too, would stand in fire for it. Burn for as many days or centuries as were

necessary.

Most of our kind prized immortality above all else. There were even humans who craved this, who searched in dark places for those who could give them the blackest of gifts.

Not us. Not my family. We would trade anything to be human.

But none of us, not even Rosalie, had ever been as desperate for a way back as I was now.

I opened my eyes and stared at the microscopic pits and flaws in the windshield, as though there was some solution hidden in the imperfect glass. The electricity had not faded, and I had to concentrate to keep my hands on the wheel.

My right hand began to sting without pain again, from when I’d touched her before.

“Bella, I think you should go inside now.”

She obeyed at once, without comment, getting out of the car and shutting the door behind herself. Did she feel the potential for disaster as clearly as I did?

Did it hurt her to leave, as it hurt me to see her go? The only solace was that I would see her soon. Sooner than she would see me. I smiled at that, then rolled the window down and leaned across to speak to her one more time. It was safer now, with the heat of her body outside the car.

She turned to see what I wanted, curious.

Always so curious, though I’d answered almost all of her many questions. My own curiosity was entirely unsatisfied. That wasn’t fair.

“Oh, Bella?”

“Yes?”

“Tomorrow it’s my turn.”

Her forehead puckered. “Your turn to what?”

“Ask the questions.” Tomorrow, when we were in a safer place, surrounded by witnesses, I would get my own answers. I grinned at the thought, and then turned away because she made no move to leave. Even with her outside the car, the echo of the electricity zinged in the air. I wanted to get out, too, to walk her to her door as an excuse to stay beside her.

No more mistakes. I hit the gas, and then sighed as she disappeared behind me. It seemed as though I was always running toward Bella or away

from her, never staying in place. I would have to find some way to hold my ground if we were ever going to have any peace.

My house appeared calm and silent from the outside as I drove past, heading for the garage. But I could hear the turmoil—both spoken aloud and silently thought—inside. I threw one wistful glance in the direction of my favorite car—still pristine, for now—before I headed out to face the beautiful ogre under the bridge. I couldn’t even make the short walk from the garage to the house before being accosted.

Rosalie shot out the front door as soon as my footsteps were audible. She planted herself at the base of the stairs, her lips pulled back over her teeth.

I stopped twenty yards away, and there was no aggression in my stance.

I knew I deserved this.

“I’m so sorry, Rose,” I told her before she had even gathered her thoughts to attack. I probably wouldn’t get to say much more.

Her shoulders squared, her chin jerked up.

How could you have been so stupid?

Emmett came slowly down the stairs behind her. I knew that if Rosalie attacked me, Emmett would come between us. Not to protect me. To keep her from provoking me enough that I would fight back.

“I’m sorry,” I told her again.

I could see that she was surprised by the lack of sarcasm in my voice, my quick capitulation. But she was too angry to accept apologies yet.

Are you happy now?

“No,” I said, the ache in my voice giving proof to the denial.

Why did you do it, then? Why would you tell her? Just because she asked? The words themselves weren’t so harsh—it was her mental tone that was edged with needle-sharp points. Also in her mind was Bella’s face— just a caricature of the face I loved. As much as Rosalie hated me in this moment, it was nothing to the hate she felt for Bella. She wanted to believe this hate was justified, founded solely on my bad behavior—that Bella was only a problem because she was now a danger to us. A broken rule. Bella knew too much.

But I could see how much her judgment was clouded by her jealousy of

the girl. It was more now than the fact that I found Bella so much more compelling than I had Rosalie. Her jealousy had twisted and shifted focus. Bella had everything Rosalie wanted. She was human. She had choices. Rose was outraged that Bella would put this in jeopardy, that she would flirt with the darkness when she had other options.

Rose thought she might even trade faces with the girl she thought of as homely, if she could have her humanity in the bargain.

Though Rosalie was trying not to think all these things while she waited for my answer, she couldn’t keep them entirely out of her head.

“Why?” she demanded out loud when I still said nothing. She didn’t want me to keep reading. “Why did you tell her?”

“I’m actually surprised you were able to,” Emmett said before I could respond. “You rarely say the word, even with us. It’s not your favorite.”

He was thinking how much Rose and I were alike in this, how we both avoided the title to the nonlife we hated. Emmett had no such reservations.

What would it be like to feel the way Emmett did? To be so practical, so free from regret? To be able to so easily accept and move forward?

Rose and I would both be happier people if we could follow his example.

Seeing this—our similarities—so clearly made it even easier to excuse the venom-tipped needles that Rose was still thinking my way.

“You’re not wrong,” I said to Emmett. “I doubt I would ever have been able to say it myself.”

Emmett cocked his head to the side. Behind him, inside the house, I could feel the shock from the rest of our audience. Only Alice was unsurprised.

“Then how?” Rosalie hissed.

“Don’t overreact,” I said, without much hope. Her eyebrows shot up. “It wasn’t an intentional breach. It’s probably something we should have foreseen.”

“What are you talking about?” she demanded.

“Bella is friends with the great-grandson of Ephraim Black.”

Rosalie froze with surprise. Emmett, too, was taken off guard. They were no more prepared for this direction than I had been.

Carlisle appeared in the doorway. This was more than just a fight between Rosalie and me now.

“Edward?” he asked.

“We should have known, Carlisle. Of course the elders would warn the next generation when we came back. And of course the next generation wouldn’t credit any of it. It’s just a silly story to them. The boy who answered Bella’s questions didn’t believe anything he was telling her.”

I wasn’t anxious about Carlisle’s reaction. I knew how he would respond. But I was listening very intently to Alice’s room now, to hear what Jasper would think.

“You’re right,” Carlisle said. “Naturally, it would play out that way.” He sighed. “It’s bad luck Ephraim’s progeny had such a knowledgeable audience.”

Jasper listened to Carlisle’s response, and he was concerned. But his thoughts were more about leaving with Alice than silencing the Quileutes. Alice was already watching his ideas for the future, and preparing to refute them. She had no intention of going anywhere.

“Hardly bad luck,” Rosalie said through her teeth. “It’s Edward’s fault that the girl knows anything.”

“True,” I agreed quickly. “This is my fault. I am sorry.”

Please, Rosalie thought directly at me. Enough with the roll-over routine. Stop playing so penitent.

“I’m not playing,” I said to her. “I know I’m to blame for all of this. I’ve made an enormous mess of everything.”

“Alice told you I was thinking of burning your car, didn’t she?”

I smiled—sort of. “She did. But I deserve that. If it makes you feel better, have at it.”

She looked at me for a long moment, thinking about going ahead with the destruction. Testing me, to see if I was bluffing.

I shrugged at her. “It’s just a toy, Rose.”

“You’ve changed,” she said from between her teeth again. I nodded. “I know.”

She whirled and stalked off toward the garage. But she was the one bluffing. If it wouldn’t hurt me, there was no point to the exercise. Of all my family, she was the only one who loved cars the way I did. Mine was too beautiful to vandalize for no reason.

Emmett looked after her. “I don’t suppose you’d give me the full story now.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said innocently. He rolled his eyes, then followed Rosalie.

I looked at Carlisle and mouthed Jasper’s name. He nodded. Yes, I can imagine. I’ll speak with him.

Alice appeared in the doorway. “He’s waiting for you,” she said to Carlisle. Carlisle smiled at her—a little wryly. Though we were as used to Alice as it was possible to be, she was often uncanny. Carlisle patted her short black hair as he passed her.

I sat at the top of the stairs and Alice sat beside me, both of us listening to the conversation upstairs. There was no tension in Alice—she knew how it would end. She showed me, and my tension vanished as well. The conflict was over before it started. Jasper admired Carlisle as much as any of us did, and he was happy to follow his lead… until he thought Alice might be in danger. I found that I understood Jasper’s perspective more easily now. It was strange how much I hadn’t understood before Bella. She had changed me more than I’d known it was possible for me to change and still remain myself.

You'll Also Like