Chapter no 29 – INEVITABILITY

Midnight Sun (The Twilight Saga, Book 5)


There were practical reasons why I needed to have some time alone with her before she spoke to anyone else; Bella knew nothing of our cover actions. Of course, Alice or Carlisle could have handled this, and Bella was bright enough to feign amnesia until she could get her story straight, but Alice knew I needed more than just to clear up the narrative.

Over the hours of waiting, Alice had introduced herself to Renée, and then proceeded to charm her until they were now close confidantes, in Renée’s head, at least. It was Alice who convinced Renée to go have lunch at the perfect time.

This was just after one o’clock in the afternoon. I’d had the blinds closed against the morning sun, but I’d be able to crack them soon. The sun was on the other side of the hospital now.

Once Renée was gone, I pulled my chair close to Bella’s bed, resting my elbows on the edge of the mattress next to her shoulder. I didn’t know if she would have felt the time passing, or if her mind would still be back in that accursed room of mirrors. She would need reassurance, and I knew her well enough to be sure that my face would comfort her. For good or ill, I put her at ease.

She started to fidget right on schedule. She’d moved before, but this was a more concentrated effort. Her forehead creased when her efforts caused her pain, and the little stress appeared between her brows. As I had so often wanted to do, I brushed softly across that with my index finger, trying to erase it. It faded slightly, and her eyes started to flutter. The beeping of her heart rate monitor accelerated slightly.

Her eyes opened, then closed. She tried again, squinting against the brightness of the overhead lights. She looked away, toward the window, while her eyes adjusted. Her heart was beating faster now. Hands struggling

with the monitor lines, she reached for the tubing under her nose, obviously meaning to remove it. I caught her hand.

“No you don’t,” I said quietly.

As soon as she heard my voice, her heart started to slow.

“Edward?” She couldn’t turn her head as far as she wanted. I leaned closer. Our eyes met, and hers, still dotted with red, started filling with tears. “Oh, Edward, I’m so sorry.”

It hurt in a very specific and piercing kind of way when she apologized to me.

“Shhh,” I insisted. “Everything’s all right now.”

“What happened?” she asked, her forehead wrinkling as though she was trying to solve a riddle.

I’d had my answer planned. I’d thought through the gentlest way to explain. Instead, my own fears and remorse came flooding through my lips.

“I was almost too late. I could have been too late.”

She stared at me for a long moment, and I watched as the memories returned. She winced, and her breathing accelerated. “I was so stupid, Edward. I thought he had my mom.”

“He tricked us all.”

Urgency had her brows pulling together. “I need to call Charlie and my mom.”

“Alice called them.” She’d taken over for Carlisle, and now she chatted with Charlie several times a day. Like Renée, he was entirely bewitched. I knew Alice had been planning the post-wakeup call. She was excited it would happen today. “Renée is here—well, here in the hospital. She’s getting something to eat right now.”

Bella shifted her weight as if she was about to lurch out of bed. “She’s here?”

I caught her shoulder and held her in place. She blinked a few times, looking around herself, dizzy.

“She’ll be back soon,” I assured her. “And you need to stay still.”

This didn’t calm her the way I’d intended. Her eyes were panicked. “But what did you tell her? Why did you tell her I’m here?”

I smiled slightly. “You fell down two flights of stairs and through a window.”

Given the way both her parents had accepted our story—not just that it

was possible, but that it was somehow to be expected—I felt justified in adding, “You have to admit, it could happen.”

She sighed, but she seemed calmer now that she knew the alibi. She stared down at her sheet-covered body for a few seconds.

“How bad am I?” she asked.

I listed off the larger injuries. “You have a broken leg, four broken ribs, some cracks in your skull, bruises covering every inch of your skin, and you’ve lost a lot of blood. They gave you a few transfusions. I didn’t like it

—it made you smell all wrong for a while.”

She smiled, and then winced. “That must have been a nice change for you.”

“No, I like how you smell.”

She looked carefully into my eyes then, searching. After a long moment of this, she asked, “How did you do it?”

I didn’t know why this subject was so unpleasant. I had succeeded. I knew Emmett, Jasper, and Alice were awestruck by my accomplishment. But I couldn’t see it the same way. It had been too close. I remembered with such unbearable clarity how badly my body had wanted to stay in that bliss forever.

I couldn’t meet her gaze any longer. I looked down at her hand, taking it carefully into mine. The wires spilled out on either side.

“I’m not sure,” I whispered.

She didn’t speak, and I could feel her eyes on me, waiting for a better answer. I sighed.

My words were barely louder than a breath. “It was impossible… to stop. Impossible. But I did.”

I tried to smile at her then, to meet her gaze. “I must love you.”

“Don’t I taste as good as I smell?” She grinned at her joke, then flinched, feeling the damage to her cheekbone.

I didn’t try to play along with her lighthearted tone. Obviously, she shouldn’t be smiling.

“Even better,” I answered honestly, if a little bitterly. “Better than I’d imagined.”

“I’m sorry.”

I rolled my eyes. “Of all the things to apologize for.”

She examined my expression, and seemed unsatisfied by what she

found. “What should I apologize for?”

Nothing, I wanted to say, but I could see she was in an apologetic mood, so I gave her something to reflect on. “For very nearly taking yourself away from me forever.”

She nodded absently, accepting that. “I’m sorry.”

I stroked the back of her hand, wondering if she could feel my touch through all the dressings. “I know why you did it. It was still irrational, of course. You should have waited for me, you should have told me.”

This made no sense to her. “You wouldn’t have let me go.” “No,” I said through my teeth. “I wouldn’t.”

Her eyes were far away for a moment, and her heart sped. A shudder rocked through her, and then she hissed at the pain that caused.

“Bella, what’s wrong?”

She whimpered. “What happened to James?”

Well, I could set her at ease about this much. “After I pulled him off you, Emmett and Jasper took care of him.”

She frowned, winced, then smoothed her expression. “I didn’t see Emmett and Jasper there.”

“They had to leave the room… there was a lot of blood.” A river of it.

For a second, it felt as though I were still stained with it. “But you stayed,” she breathed.

“Yes, I stayed.”

“And Alice, and Carlisle…” Her voice was full of wonder. I smiled just a little. “They love you, too, you know.”

Her expression was abruptly anxious again. “Did Alice see the tape?” “Yes.”

It was a subject we were currently avoiding. I knew she was doing her own research, and she knew I wasn’t ready to discuss it with her yet.

“She was always in the dark,” Bella said urgently. “That’s why she didn’t remember.”

It was so very Bella that all her concern would be focused on someone else, even in this moment.

“I know. She understands now.”

I wasn’t sure what my face was doing, but it concerned Bella. She tried to reach up, to touch my cheek, but stopped when the IV pulled at her hand.

“Ugh,” she groaned.

Had she dislodged the IV? Her motion hadn’t been that rough, but it wasn’t as if I could examine it closely.

“What is it?” I demanded.

“Needles,” she said. She was staring up at the ceiling now, concentrating as if there were something more riveting than basic acoustic tiles above her. She took a deep breath, and I was stunned to see some pale green edging her lips.

“Afraid of a needle,” I grumbled. “Oh, a sadistic vampire, intent on torturing her to death, sure, no problem, she runs off to meet him. An IV, on the other hand…”

She rolled her eyes. The green was already fading.

Then her eyes cut to me and she asked in a troubled tone, “Why are you


I’d thought… but that didn’t matter. “Do you want me to leave?”

Maybe what I needed to do would be easier than I’d thought. Pain stabbed through the general region of my obsolete heart.

“No!” she protested; it was almost a shout. She deliberately moderated her volume back to a near whisper. “No, I meant, why does my mother think you’re here? I need to have my story straight before she gets back.”


Of course it wouldn’t be that easy. So many times I’d thought she was done with me, but she never was.

“I came to Phoenix to talk some sense into you,” I explained, using the same sincere and guileless voice I used when I needed the nurses to believe that I was supposed to stay in this room. “To convince you to come back to Forks. You agreed to see me, and you drove out to the hotel where I was staying with Carlisle and Alice.” I opened my eyes wide, made them extra innocent. “Of course I was here with parental supervision.… But you tripped on the stairs on the way to my room and… well, you know the rest. You don’t need to remember any details, though; you have a good excuse to be a little muddled about the finer points.”

She considered this for a second. “There are a few flaws with that story.

Like no broken windows.”

I couldn’t help grinning. “Not really. Alice had a little bit too much fun fabricating evidence. It’s all been taken care of very convincingly—you could probably sue the hotel if you wanted to.”

This idea obviously scandalized her.

I stroked her unbruised cheek softly. “You have nothing to worry about.

Your only job now is to heal.”

And then her heart started racing. I looked for signs of pain, I thought through my words for something upsetting, but then I noticed the dilation of her pupils and realized. She was responding to my touch.

Her eyes focused on the machine beeping out her heart’s excesses, and narrowed. “That’s going to be embarrassing.”

I laughed quietly at her expression. A light blush was coloring her good cheek.

“Hmm, I wonder.…”

I was already only inches from her face. Slowly, I erased that distance. Her heart raced faster. When I kissed her, my lips barely brushing against hers, that rhythm stuttered. Her heart literally skipped a beat.

I jerked away from her, anxious until her heart resumed a healthy cadence.

“It seems that I’m going to have to be even more careful with you than usual.”

She frowned, winced, then said, “I was not finished kissing you. Don’t make me come over there.”

I smiled at the threat, then gently kissed her again, quitting as soon as her heart started acting up. It was a very short kiss.

She looked about to complain, but this experiment had to be put on hold regardless.

I scooted my chair a foot from her bed. “I think I hear your mother.”

Renée was climbing the stairs now, on her way to get some quarters from her bag, worrying about the junk food she’d been consuming over the past few days. She wished she had time for a gym visit, but for now the stairs would have to do.

Bella’s face contorted. I assumed it was pain. I leaned close again, desperate for something to do.

“Don’t leave me,” Bella said, a sob close to the surface of her voice. Her eyes were tight with fear.

I didn’t want to think about this reaction.

In my head, Alice’s vision tormented me. Bella, curled in on herself in agony, gasping for air.…

I gathered myself for a moment, then tried to answer casually. “I won’t.

I’ll… take a nap.”

I grinned at her and then dashed to the turquoise easy chair and reclined it all the way back. After all, Renée had told me to use it whenever I needed a break. I closed my eyes.

“Don’t forget to breathe,” she whispered. I remembered her playing asleep for her father’s benefit, and fought a smile. I took an exaggerated breath.

Renée was walking by the nurses’ station now.

“Any change?” she asked the nurse’s assistant on duty, a solid younger woman named Bea. It was clear from Renée’s absentminded tone that she expected a negative response. She kept walking.

“Actually, there’s been some fluctuation on her monitors. I was about to go in.”

Oh no, I shouldn’t have left.

Renée was taking longer strides now, worried. “I’ll check on her and let you know.…”

The aide, rising out of her chair, sat back down again, bowing to Renée’s desires.

Bella twitched and the bed squeaked. It was obvious how much her mother’s distress upset her.

Renée opened the door quietly. Of course she wanted Bella to wake up, but it still felt rude to be noisy.

“Mom!” Bella whispered joyously.

I couldn’t see Renée’s expression while pretending to sleep, but her thoughts were overwhelmed. I heard her footsteps falter. And then she noticed my sleeping form.

“He never leaves, does he?” she mumbled quietly, and shouted mentally

—I’d gotten used to the volume, though; it wasn’t as startling as it used to be. But she was a little appeased. She’d begun to wonder if I ever slept.

“Mom, I’m so glad to see you!” Bella enthused.

Renée was startled for a second by Bella’s bloodstained eyes. Her own started to well with tears at this fresh proof of Bella’s suffering.

I peeked through my lids to watch Renée gingerly embrace her daughter.

The tears had overflowed onto Renée’s cheeks. “Bella, I was so upset!”

“I’m sorry, Mom. But everything’s fine now, it’s okay.”

It was uncomfortable to listen to Bella, in her condition, soothe her healthy mother, but I supposed this had always been their relationship. Perhaps the way Renée’s unique mind interacted with others had made her into a something of a narcissist. It would be hard to avoid, when everyone catered to your unspoken needs.

“I’m just glad to finally see your eyes open.” Though she winced internally again at their gruesome condition.

There was a moment of silence, and then Bella asked doubtfully, “How long have they been closed?”

I realized this was something we’d not yet discussed.

“It’s Friday, hon,” Renée told her. “You’ve been out for a while.” Bella was shocked. “Friday?”

“They had to keep you sedated for a while, honey—you’ve got a lot of injuries.”

“I know,” Bella agreed with emphasis. I wondered how much pain she was in now.

“You’re lucky Dr. Cullen was there. He’s such a nice man.… Very young, though. And he looks more like a model than a doctor.…”

“You met Carlisle?”

“And Edward’s sister Alice. She’s a lovely girl.” “She is!”

Renée’s piercing thoughts turned to me again. “You didn’t tell me you had such good friends in Forks.”

Very, very good friends.

Suddenly, Bella moaned.

My eyes opened of their own accord. They didn’t give me away; Renée’s gaze was trained on Bella, too.

“What hurts?” she demanded.

“It’s fine,” Bella assured Renée, though I could tell the assurance was for me, too. Our eyes locked for a second before I closed mine again. “I just have to remember not to move.”

Renée fluttered uselessly over her daughter’s inert form. When Bella spoke again, her voice was bright. “Where’s Phil?”

Renée was totally distracted, which I thought was rather the point.

I haven’t told her the good news. Oh, she’ll be so happy.

“Florida—oh, Bella! You’ll never guess! Just when we were about to leave, the best news!”

“Phil got signed?” Bella asked. I could hear the smile in her voice, sure of the answer.

“Yes! How did you guess? The Suns, can you believe it?”

“That’s great, Mom,” Bella said, but there was a little blankness in her tone that told me she had no idea who the Suns were.

“And you’ll like Jacksonville so much.” Renée was nearly bursting with enthusiasm. Her thoughts shouted along with her words, and I was sure those thoughts would work on Bella the way they worked on everyone else. She began to gush about the weather, the ocean, the adorable yellow house with the white trim, never doubting that Bella would be just as thrilled as she was.

I knew every aspect of Renée’s plan for Bella’s future. Renée had mentally enthused about her happy news a hundred times while we waited for Bella to wake. In many ways, her plan was exactly the answer I’d been looking for.

“Wait, Mom!” Bella said, confused. I imagined Renée’s enthusiasm smothering her like a heavy down comforter. “What are you talking about? I’m not going to Florida. I live in Forks.”

“But you don’t have to anymore, silly.” Renée laughed. “Phil will be able to be around so much more now.… We’ve talked about it a lot, and what I’m going to do is trade off on the away games, half the time with you, half the time with him.”

Renée waited for Bella’s delight to dawn.

“Mom,” Bella said slowly, “I want to live in Forks. I’m already settled in at school, and I have a couple of girlfriends.…”

Renée’s eyes shifted to glare at me again.

“And Charlie needs me,” Bella continued. “He’s just all alone up there, and he can’t cook at all.”

“You want to stay in Forks?” Renée asked as though the words made no sense in that order. “Why?”

That boy is the real reason.

“I told you—school, Charlie—ouch!”

Again, I had to look. Renée hovered over Bella, her hands reaching out hesitantly, not sure where to touch. She ended up putting one hand on

Bella’s forehead.

“Bella, honey, you hate Forks.” Renée sounded concerned that Bella had forgotten.

Bella’s voice took on a defensive edge. “It’s not so bad.” Renée decided to cut to the heart of it.

“Is it this boy?” she whispered. It was more an accusation than a question.

Bella hesitated, then admitted, “He’s part of it.… So, have you had a chance to talk with Edward?”

“Yes, and I want to talk to you about that.” “What about?” Bella responded innocently.

“I think that boy is in love with you,” Renée whispered. “I think so, too.”

Is Bella in love? How much have I missed? How could she not tell me?

What am I supposed to do?

“And… how do you feel about him?”

Bella sighed, and then her tone was nonchalant. “I’m pretty crazy about him.”

“Well, he seems very nice, and my goodness, he’s incredibly good- looking, but you’re so young, Bella.…”

And you’re too much like Charlie. It’s too soon.

“I know that, Mom,” Bella agreed easily. “Don’t worry about it. It’s just a crush.”

“That’s right,” Renée said.

Good. So she’s not getting all intense and Charlie-ish about this. Oh, is that the time? I’m late.

Bella picked up on Renée’s sudden distraction. “Do you need to go?” “Phil’s supposed to call in a little while.… I didn’t know you were going

to wake up.…”

The phone is probably ringing at the house right now. I should have found the number here.

“No problem, Mom.” Bella couldn’t entirely hide her relief. “I won’t be alone.”

“I’ll be back soon. I’ve been sleeping here, you know,” Renée added, flaunting her Good Mother behavior.

“Oh, Mom, you don’t have to do that!” Bella was upset by the idea of

her mother sacrificing for her. That wasn’t the direction their relationship went. “You can sleep at home—I’ll never notice.”

“I was too nervous,” Renée admitted, self-aware enough to sound sheepish after her brag. “There’s been some crime in the neighborhood, and I don’t like being there alone.”

“Crime?” Bella was instantly on high alert.

“Someone broke into that dance studio around the corner from the house and burned it to the ground—there’s nothing left at all! And they left a stolen car right out front. Do you remember when you used to dance there, honey?”

We weren’t the only ones who had stolen cars. The tracker’s had actually been parked around the south side of the dance studio. We hadn’t known to clean up his crimes as well as our own. And it was helpful to our alibis, as that car had been boosted a day before we’d arrived in Phoenix.

“I remember,” Bella said with a quaver in her voice.

I had a difficult time holding my position. Renée, too, was moved. “I can stay, baby, if you need me.”

“No, Mom, I’ll be fine. Edward will be with me.”

Of course he will. Oh well, I really have to do some laundry and I should probably clean out the fridge. That milk is months old.

“I’ll be back tonight.” “I love you, Mom.”

“I love you, too, Bella. Try to be more careful when you walk, honey, I don’t want to lose you.”

I worked to control the grin that burst through my façade.

Bea came in to make her rounds, weaving around Renée in a practiced way to get to Bella’s monitors.

Renée kissed Bella on the forehead, patted her hand, and then made her getaway, eager to tell Phil the news that Bella was better.

“Are you feeling anxious, honey?” Bea inquired. “Your heart rate got a little high there.”

“I’m fine,” Bella assured her.

“I’ll tell your RN that you’re awake. She’ll be in to see you in a minute.” Before the door was closed behind Bea, I was at Bella’s side.

Her eyebrows were raised high, either worried or impressed. “You stole a car?”

I knew she meant the car in the parking lot, but she wasn’t wrong.

Except that it was two cars. “It was a good car, very fast,” I told her. “How was your nap?” she asked.

All the playfulness of our interaction faded. “Interesting.” The change in mood confused her. “What?”

I stared at the tall mound that was her mangled leg, not sure what she would see in my eyes. “I’m surprised,” I said slowly. “I thought Florida… and your mother… well, I thought that’s what you would want.”

“But you’d be stuck inside all day in Florida,” she pointed out, not following. “You’d only be able to come out at night, just like a real vampire.”

The way she phrased it made me want to smile, but I also wanted very much not to smile.

“I would stay in Forks, Bella. Or somewhere like it. Someplace where I couldn’t hurt you anymore.”

She stared at me with a blank expression, as though I’d answered her in Latin. I waited for her to process my meaning. Then her heart started to beat faster and her breathing shifted into hyperventilation. She flinched with every breath, her expanding lungs pushing against her broken ribs.

An echo of the grieving future Bella flashed across her face.

It was hard to watch. I wanted to say something to ease her pain, her terror, but this was supposed to be the right thing. It did not feel right, but I couldn’t trust my own selfish emotions.

Gloria walked into the room, just in for her afternoon shift. She appraised Bella with an expert eye.

I’d say she’s about at a six. It’s good to see her poor eyes open, though.

“Time for more pain meds, sweetheart?” she asked kindly, tapping the IV feed.

“No, no,” Bella objected, breathless. “I don’t need anything.”

“No need to be brave, honey. It’s better if you don’t get too stressed out; you need to rest.”

Gloria waited for Bella to change her mind. Bella carefully shook her head, her expression a mixture of pain and defiance.

Gloria sighed. “Okay. Hit the call button when you’re ready.”

She glanced at me, not sure how she felt about my constant vigil, and then looked at Bella’s monitors once more before leaving.

Bella’s eyes were still wild. I put my hands on either side of her face, barely touching the broken left cheek. “Shh, Bella, calm down.”

“Don’t leave me,” she begged, her voice breaking.

And this was why I was not strong enough by myself. How could I cause her more agony? She lay here now in taped-together pieces, struggling with pain, and her one plea was that I stay.

“I won’t,” I told her, while I mentally qualified my answer. Not until you’re whole again. Not until you’re ready. Not until I find the strength. “Now relax before I call the nurse back to sedate you.”

It was as though she could hear my mental caveats. Before—before the hunt and the horror—I’d promised her many times that I would stay. I’d always meant it, and she’d always believed. But now she saw through me. The rhythm of her heart wouldn’t settle.

I stroked my fingers along her whole cheek. “Bella, I’m not going anywhere. I’ll be right here as long as you need me.”

“Do you swear you won’t leave me?” she whispered. Her hand twitched toward her ribs. They must be aching.

She was too fragile for this now. I should have known, and waited. Even if Renée had just offered her the perfect option for a vampire-free life.

I took her face in my hands again, let the consuming love I felt for her fill my eyes, and lied with all the experience of a hundred years of daily deception.

“I swear.”

The tension in her limbs relaxed. Her eyes did not release mine, but after a few seconds her heart eased into its normal rhythm.


Her eyes were wary, her voice unsure when she answered. “Yes?” She must have sensed that I was still holding something back.

I needed her to believe me, just long enough to let her safely heal. I couldn’t be responsible for complicating her recovery.

So I tried to act as I would if I were hiding nothing. As if I were exasperated by her agitated response. I made an annoyed face and muttered the words, “Overreacting just a little bit, don’t you think?”

I said them too fast; she probably couldn’t understand.

“Why did you say that?” she whispered, a tremor in her voice. “Are you tired of having to save me all the time? Do you want me to go away?”

I wanted to laugh for a hundred years at the idea of me tiring of her. Or cry for a thousand.

But the time would come, I was sure now, when I would have to convince her otherwise. So I tempered my response, made it lukewarm, moderate.

“No, I don’t want to be without you, Bella, of course not. Be rational. And I have no problem with saving you, either—if it weren’t for the fact that I was the one putting you in danger… that I’m the reason that you’re here.”

The truth had found its way into the end of my speech.

Bella scowled at me. “Yes, you are the reason—the reason I’m here


I couldn’t hold on to the lukewarm. I whispered to hide the pain. “Barely. Covered in gauze and plaster and hardly able to move.”

“I wasn’t referring to my most recent near-death experience,” she snapped at me. “I was thinking of the others—you can take your pick. If it weren’t for you, I would be rotting away in the Forks cemetery.”

I recoiled from the image, but then returned to my point, not letting her sidetrack my remorse.

“That’s not the worst part, though. Not seeing you there on the floor… crumpled and broken.” I fought to regain control over my voice. “Not thinking I was too late. Not even hearing you scream in pain—all those unbearable memories that I’ll carry with me for the rest of eternity. No, the very worst was feeling… knowing that I couldn’t stop. Believing that I was going to kill you myself.”

She frowned. “But you didn’t.” “I could have. So easily.”

Again, her heart started to pound. “Promise me,” she hissed. “What?”

She was glaring at me now. “You know what.”

Bella had heard the direction of my words. She could hear me talking myself up to the strength I needed. I had to remember that she read my mind a thousand times better than I could read hers. I had to put my need to confess aside. The most important thing now was her recovery.

I tried to only say true things so she wouldn’t see through me as easily

as before. “I don’t seem to be strong enough to stay away from you, so I suppose that you’ll get your way… whether it kills you or not.”

“Good.” But I could hear she was not convinced. “You told me how you stopped.… Now I want to know why.”

“Why?” I echoed blankly.

Why you did it. Why didn’t you just let the venom spread? By now I would be just like you.”

I’d never explained this to her. I’d danced around her questions with such care. I knew that she hadn’t uncovered this truth in any internet research. I saw red for a moment, and in the center of that red, Alice’s face.

“I’ll be the first to admit that I have no experience with relationships.” Bella’s words flowed quickly—worried about what she’d given away and trying to distract me. “But it just seems logical… a man and woman have to be somewhat equal… as in, one of them can’t always be swooping in and saving the other one. They have to save each other equally.”

There was truth to what she was saying, but she was missing the central point. I could never be her equal. There was no way back for me. And that was the only equality that left her unscathed.

I crossed my arms on the edge of her mattress and let my chin rest on them. It was time to calm the fervor of this discussion.

“You have saved me,” I told her calmly. This was true.

“I can’t always be Lois Lane,” she warned me. “I want to be Superman, too.”

I kept my voice soft, soothing, but I had to avert my eyes. “You don’t know what you’re asking.”

“I think I do.”

“Bella, you don’t know,” I murmured, my voice still gentle. “I’ve had almost ninety years to think about this, and I’m still not sure.”

“Do you wish that Carlisle hadn’t saved you?”

“No, I don’t wish that.” I never would have met her if he hadn’t. “But my life was over. I wasn’t giving anything up.” Except a soul.

“You are my life. You’re the only thing it would hurt me to lose.” She was describing my side of our relationship exactly.

And what will you do when she begs? the memory of Rosalie whispered in my head.

“I can’t do it, Bella. I won’t do that to you.”

“Why not?” Her voice was rough, louder with anger. “Don’t tell me it’s too hard! After today, or I guess it was a few days ago… anyway, after that, it should be nothing.”

I struggled to hold on to my calm.

“And the pain?” I reminded her. I didn’t want to think about it. I hoped she didn’t want to, either.

Her face went white. It was hard to watch. She struggled with the memory for a long moment, and then her chin came up.

“That’s my problem. I can handle it.”

“It’s possible to take bravery to the point where it becomes insanity,” I murmured.

“It’s not an issue. Three days. Big deal.”

Alice! It was probably good I had no idea where she was right now. I realized this was on purpose. She was going to avoid me until I’d calmed down, I was sure. I wanted to call her, to tell her what I thought of this cowardly evasion, but I would bet she wouldn’t answer.

I refocused. If Bella wanted to continue this discussion, I was going to continue to point out the things she hadn’t considered.

“Charlie?” I said succinctly. “Renée?”

This was harder for her to make light of. Long minutes passed while she worked to find an answer. Once she opened her mouth, and then closed it again. She never looked away, but the defiance in her eyes slowly turned to defeat.

Finally she lied. It was obvious, like it usually was.

“Look, that’s not an issue either. Renée has always made the choices that work for her—she’d want me to do the same. And Charlie’s resilient, he’s used to being on his own. I can’t take care of them forever. I have my own life to live.”

“Exactly,” I said, my voice heavy. “And I won’t end it for you.”

“If you’re waiting for me to be on my deathbed, I’ve got news for you! I was just there!”

I waited till I was sure my voice would be even. “You’re going to recover.”

She took a deep breath, winced, and then spoke slowly in a low voice. “No, I’m not.”

Did she think I was lying about her condition? “Of course you are,” I

said earnestly. “You may have a scar or two.…” “You’re wrong. I’m going to die.”

I couldn’t maintain my composure. I heard the stress in my voice. “Really, Bella. You’ll be out of here in a few days. Two weeks at most.”

She stared back at me dejectedly. “I may not die now… but I’m going to die sometime. Every minute of the day, I get closer. And I’m going to get old.”

Anxiety shifted to despair as I grasped her meaning. Did she think this was something I had not considered? That I’d somehow missed this glaring fact, that I’d not noticed the tiny changes in her face, highlighted by my rigid sameness? That, lacking Alice’s gift, I couldn’t see the obvious future? My face fell into my hands. “That’s how it’s supposed to happen. How it should happen. How it would have happened if I didn’t exist—and I

shouldn’t exist.” Bella snorted.

I looked up, startled by the shift in her mood.

“That’s stupid,” she said. “That’s like going to someone who’s just won the lottery, taking their money, and saying, ‘Look, let’s just go back to how things should be. It’s better that way.’ And I’m not buying it.”

“I’m hardly a lottery prize,” I growled. “That’s right. You’re much better.”

I rolled my eyes, but then tried to regain a portion of composure. This wasn’t good for her, as her monitors could attest.

“Bella, we’re not having this discussion anymore. I refuse to damn you to an eternity of night and that’s the end of it.”

I realized as soon as my words were out how dismissive they sounded. I knew how she would respond before her eyes narrowed.

“If you think that’s the end, then you don’t know me very well. You’re not the only vampire I know,” she reminded me.

Again, I saw red. “Alice wouldn’t dare.”

“Alice already saw it, didn’t she?” Bella said, confident, though it appeared Alice had kept some things to herself. “That’s why the things she says upset you. She knows I’m going to be like you… someday.”

“She’s wrong.” I was confident, now, too. I’d circumvented Alice before. “She also saw you dead, but that didn’t happen, either.”

“You’ll never catch me betting against Alice.”

She stared at me, defiant again. I felt the stern lines of my own face, and worked to relax them. This was a waste of time, and there was so little of that left.

“So where does that leave us?” she asked hesitantly.

I sighed, and then laughed once without much humor. “I believe it’s called an impasse.”

An impasse that led to an inevitability. Her heavy sigh echoed mine. “Ouch.”

I looked at her face, and then the call button. “How are you feeling?”

“I’m fine,” she said unconvincingly. I smiled at her. “I don’t believe you.”

Her lip pushed out. “I’m not going back to sleep.”

“You need rest. All this arguing isn’t good for you.” My fault, of course, always my fault.

“So give in,” she suggested.

I pressed the button. “Nice try.” “No!” she complained.

“Yes?” Bea’s voice sounded tinny through the little speaker.

“I think we’re ready for more pain medication,” I told her. Bella scowled at me, and then winced.

“I’ll send in the nurse.”

“I won’t take it,” Bella threatened.

I looked pointedly at her IV bag. “I don’t think they’re going to ask you to swallow anything.”

Her heart took off again.

“Bella, you’re in pain. You need to relax so you can heal. Why are you being so difficult? They’re not going to put any more needles in you now.”

Her face had lost all its stubbornness; she was only troubled now. “I’m not afraid of the needles. I’m afraid to close my eyes.”

I reached out to hold her face, and smiled at her with perfect sincerity. This wasn’t difficult. All I wanted—all I would ever want—was to look into her eyes forever. “I told you I’m not going anywhere. Don’t be afraid. As long as it makes you happy, I’ll be here.”

Until you’re healthy, until you’re ready. Until I find the strength I need.

She smiled despite the pain. “You’re talking about forever, you know.”

A mortal kind of forever.

“Oh, you’ll get over it,” I teased. “It’s just a crush.”

She tried to shake her head, but gave up with a wince. “I was shocked when Renée swallowed that one. I know you know better.”

“That’s the beautiful thing about being human,” I said quietly. “Things change.”

“Don’t hold your breath.”

I had to laugh at her sour expression. She knew how long I could hold my breath.

Gloria bustled in with syringe already in hand.

He needs to give her some peace and quiet, poor thing.

I moved out of her way before her “Excuse me” was half out of her mouth. I leaned against the wall at the other end of the room, giving Gloria space. I didn’t want to irritate her enough that she would try to kick me out again. I wasn’t sure where Carlisle was.

Bella stared at me anxiously, worried I was going to walk right out and keep going. I tried to make my expression reassuring. I would be here when she woke up. As long as she needed me.

Gloria injected the painkiller into the port. “Here you go, honey. You’ll feel better now.”

Bella’s “Thanks” was less than grateful.

It took only seconds for Bella’s eyelids to close. “That ought to do it,” Gloria murmured.

She gave me a pointed glance, but I stared toward the window, pretending I didn’t see. She shut the door quietly behind herself.

I flitted back to Bella, cradling the good side of her face in my hand. “Stay.” The word was slurred.

“I will,” I promised her. She was drifting now, and I felt able to speak the truth. “Like I said, as long as it makes you happy… as long as it’s what’s best for you.”

She sighed, only partly conscious. “’S not the same thing.”

“Don’t worry about that now, Bella. You can argue with me when you wake up.”

The corners of her lips curled into a faint smile. “’Kay.”

I leaned down and kissed her temple, then whispered “I love you” into her ear.

“Me too,” she breathed.

I laughed halfheartedly. “I know.” That was the problem.

She fought against the sedation, turning her head toward me… searching.

I kissed her bruised lips softly. “Thanks.”


“Edward?” She could barely shape my name. “Yes?”

“I’m betting on Alice,” she mumbled.

Her face went slack as she sank fully into unconsciousness.

I buried my face in the hollow of her neck and breathed in her searing essence, wishing again, as I had in the beginning, that I could dream with her.

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