Chapter no 6 – BLOOD TYPE

Midnight Sun (The Twilight Saga, Book 5)


my own surroundings.

Not Mike Newton’s eyes, because I couldn’t stand any more of his offensive fantasies, and not Jessica Stanley’s, because her resentment toward Bella was irritating. Angela Weber was a good choice when her eyes were available. She was kind—her head was an easy place to be. And then sometimes it was the teachers who provided the best view.

I was surprised, watching Bella stumble through the day—tripping over cracks in the sidewalk, stray books, and, most often, her own feet—that the people I eavesdropped on thought of her as clumsy.

I considered that. It was true that she often had trouble staying upright. I remembered her stumbling into the desk that first day, sliding around on the ice before the accident, staggering against the low lip of the doorframe yesterday. How odd—they were right. She was clumsy.

I didn’t know why this was so funny to me, but I laughed out loud as I walked from American History to English and several people shot me wary glances, then looked away quickly from my exposed teeth. How had I never noticed this before? Perhaps because there was something very graceful about her in stillness, the way she held her head, the arch of her neck…

There was nothing graceful about her now. Mr. Varner watched as she caught the toe of her boot on the carpet and literally fell into her chair.

I laughed again.

The time moved with incredible sluggishness while I waited for my chance to see her with my own eyes. Finally, the bell rang. I strode quickly to the cafeteria to secure my spot. I was one of the first in the room. I chose a table that was usually empty, and was sure to remain that way with me seated here.

When my family entered and saw me sitting alone in a new place, they

were not surprised. Alice must have warned them.

Rosalie stalked past me without a glance.


Rosalie and I had never had an easy relationship—I’d offended her the very first time she’d heard me speak, and it was downhill from that point on

—but it seemed as though she was even more ill-tempered than usual the last few days. I sighed. Rosalie made everything about herself.

Jasper gave me half a smile as he walked by.

Good luck, he thought doubtfully.

Emmett rolled his eyes and shook his head.

Lost his mind, poor kid.

Alice was beaming, her teeth shining too brightly.

Can I talk to Bella now??

“Keep out of it,” I said under my breath. Her face fell, and then brightened again. Fine. Be stubborn. It’s only a matter of time. I sighed again.

Don’t forget about today’s Biology lab, she reminded me.

I nodded. It irked me that Mr. Banner had made these plans. I’d wasted so many hours in Biology, sitting next to her while pretending to ignore her; it was painfully ironic to me that I would miss that hour with her today.

While I waited for Bella to arrive, I followed her in the eyes of the freshman who was walking behind Jessica on his way to the cafeteria. Jessica was babbling about the upcoming dance, but Bella said nothing in response. Not that Jessica gave her much of a chance.

The moment Bella walked through the door, her eyes flashed to the table where my siblings sat. She stared for a moment, and then her forehead crumpled and her eyes dropped to the floor. She hadn’t noticed me here.

She looked so… sad. I felt a powerful urge to get up and go to her side, to comfort her somehow, only I didn’t know what she would find comforting. Jessica continued to jabber about the dance. Was Bella upset that she was going to miss it? That didn’t seem likely.

But if that were true… I wished I could offer her that option. Impossible.

The physical proximity required by a dance would be too dangerous.

She bought a drink for her lunch and nothing else. Was that right? Didn’t she need more nutrition? I’d never paid much attention to a human’s diet


Humans were quite exasperatingly fragile! There were a million different things to worry about.

“Edward Cullen is staring at you again,” I heard Jessica say. “I wonder why he’s sitting alone today.”

I was grateful to Jessica—though she was even more resentful now— because Bella’s head snapped up and her eyes searched until they met mine. There was no trace of sadness in her face now. I let myself hope that she’d felt unhappy because she’d thought I’d left school early, and that hope

made me smile.

I motioned with my finger for her to join me. She looked so startled by this that I wanted to tease her again. So I winked, and her mouth fell open.

“Does he mean you?” Jessica asked rudely.

“Maybe he needs help with his Biology homework,” she said in a low, uncertain voice. “Um, I’d better go see what he wants.”

This was almost another yes.

She stumbled twice on her way to my table, though there was nothing in her way but perfectly even linoleum. Seriously, how had I missed this? I’d been paying more attention to her silent thoughts, I supposed. What else had I not seen?

She was almost to my new table. I tried to prepare myself. Keep it honest, keep it light, I chanted silently.

She stopped behind the chair across from me, hesitating. I inhaled deeply, through my nose this time rather than my mouth.

Feel the burn, I thought dryly.

“Won’t you sit with me today?” I asked her.

She pulled the chair out and sat, staring at me the whole while. She seemed nervous. I waited for her to speak.

It took a moment, but finally she said, “This is different.”

“Well…” I hesitated. “I decided as long as I was going to hell, I might as well do it thoroughly.”

What had made me say that? I supposed it was honest, at least. And perhaps she’d hear the unsubtle warning my words implied. Maybe she would realize that she should get up and walk away as quickly as possible.

She didn’t get up. She stared at me, waiting, as if I’d left my sentence unfinished.

“You know I don’t have any idea what you mean,” she said when I didn’t continue.

That was a relief. I smiled. “I know.”

It was hard to ignore the thoughts screaming at me from behind her back

—and I wanted to change the subject anyway.

“I think your friends are angry at me for stealing you.” This did not appear to concern her. “They’ll survive.”

“I may not give you back, though.” I didn’t even know if I was trying to tease her again, or just being honest now. Being near her jumbled all my thoughts.

Bella swallowed loudly.

I laughed at her expression. “You look worried.” It really shouldn’t be funny. She should worry.

“No.” I knew this must be a lie; her voice broke, betraying her fraud. “Surprised, actually.… What brought all this on?”

“I told you,” I reminded her. “I got tired of trying to stay away from you. So I’m giving up.” I held my smile in place with a bit of effort. This wasn’t working at all—trying to be honest and casual at the same time.

“Giving up?” she repeated, baffled.

“Yes—giving up trying to be good.” And, apparently, giving up trying to be casual. “I’m just going to do what I want now, and let the chips fall where they may.” That was honest enough. Let her see my selfishness. Let that warn her, too.

“You lost me again.”

I was selfish enough to be glad that this was the case. “I always say too much when I’m talking to you—that’s one of the problems.” A rather insignificant problem, compared to the rest.

“Don’t worry,” she reassured me. “I don’t understand any of it.” Good. Then she’d stay. “I’m counting on that.”

“So, in plain English, are we friends now?”

I pondered that for a second. “Friends…,” I repeated. I didn’t like the sound of that. It wasn’t… enough.

“Or not,” she mumbled, looking embarrassed. Did she think I didn’t like her that much?

I smiled. “Well, we can try, I suppose. But I’m warning you now that I’m not a good friend for you.”

I waited for her response, torn in two—wishing she would finally hear and understand, thinking I might die if she did. How melodramatic.

Her heart beat faster. “You say that a lot.”

“Yes, because you’re not listening to me,” I said, too intense again. “I’m still waiting for you to believe it. If you’re smart, you’ll avoid me.”

I could only guess at the pain I would feel when she understood enough to make the right choice.

Her eyes tightened. “I think you’ve made your opinion on the subject of my intellect clear, too.”

I wasn’t exactly sure what she meant, but I smiled in apology, guessing that I must have accidentally offended her.

“So,” she said slowly. “As long as I’m being… not smart, we’ll try to be friends?”

“That sounds about right.”

She looked down, staring intently at the lemonade bottle in her hands. The old curiosity tormented me.

“What are you thinking?” I asked. It was an immense relief to say the words out loud at last. I couldn’t remember how it felt to need oxygen in my lungs, but I wondered if the relief of inhaling had been a little like this.

She met my gaze, and her breathing sped while her cheeks flushed faint pink. I inhaled, tasting that in the air.

“I’m trying to figure out what you are.”

I held the smile on my face, locking my features, while panic twisted through my body.

Of course she was wondering that. She had a bright mind. I couldn’t hope for her to be oblivious to something so obvious.

“Are you having any luck with that?” I asked as nonchalantly as I could manage.

“Not too much,” she admitted.

I chuckled with sudden relief. “What are your theories?”

They couldn’t be worse than the truth, no matter what she’d come up with.

Her cheeks turned brighter red, and she said nothing. I could feel the warmth of her blush.

I would try my persuasive tone. It worked well on normal humans. I smiled encouragingly. “Won’t you tell me?”

She shook her head. “Too embarrassing.”

Ugh. Not knowing was worse than anything else. Why would her speculations embarrass her?

“That’s really frustrating, you know.”

My complaint sparked something in her. Her eyes flashed and her words flowed more swiftly than usual.

“No, I can’t imagine why that would be frustrating at all—just because someone refuses to tell you what they’re thinking, even if all the while they’re making cryptic little remarks specifically designed to keep you up at night wondering what they could possibly mean… now, why would that be frustrating?”

I frowned at her, upset to realize that she was right. I wasn’t being fair. She couldn’t know the loyalties and limitations that tied my tongue, but that didn’t change the disparity as she saw it.

She went on. “Or better, say that person also did a wide range of bizarre things—from saving your life under impossible circumstances one day to treating you like a pariah the next, and he never explained any of that, either, even after he promised. That, also, would be very non-frustrating.”

It was the longest speech I’d ever heard her make, and it gave me a new quality for my list.

“You’ve got a bit of a temper, don’t you?” “I don’t like double standards.”

She was completely justified in her irritation, of course.

I stared at Bella, wondering how I could possibly do anything right by her, until the silent shouting in Mike Newton’s head distracted me. He was so irate, so immaturely vulgar, that it made me chuckle again.

“What?” she demanded.

“Your boyfriend seems to think I’m being unpleasant to you—he’s debating whether or not to come break up our fight.” I would love to see him try. I laughed again.

“I don’t know who you’re talking about,” she said in an icy voice. “But I’m sure you’re wrong, anyway.”

I very much enjoyed the way she disowned him with one indifferent sentence.

“I’m not. I told you, most people are easy to read.” “Except me, of course.”

“Yes. Except for you.” Did she have to be the exception to everything? “I wonder why that is?”

I stared into her eyes, trying again.

She looked away, then opened her lemonade and took a quick drink, her eyes on the table.

“Aren’t you hungry?” I asked.

“No.” She eyed the empty space between us. “You?” “No, I’m not hungry,” I said. I was definitely not that. She stared down, her lips pursed. I waited.

“Can you do me a favor?” she asked, suddenly meeting my gaze again.

What would she want from me? Would she ask for the truth that I wasn’t allowed to tell her—the truth I didn’t want her to ever, ever know?

“That depends on what you want.” “It’s not much,” she promised.

I waited, curiosity flaring excruciatingly, as usual.

“I just wondered…,” she said slowly, staring at the lemonade bottle, tracing its lip with her littlest finger, “if you could warn me beforehand the next time you decide to ignore me for my own good? Just so I’m prepared.”

She wanted a warning? Then being ignored by me must be a bad thing. I smiled.

“That sounds fair,” I agreed.

“Thanks,” she said, looking up. Her face was so relieved that I wanted to laugh with my own relief.

“Then can I have one in return?” I asked hopefully. “One,” she allowed.

“Tell me one theory.”

She flushed. “Not that one.”

“You didn’t qualify, you just promised one answer,” I argued. “And you’ve broken promises yourself,” she argued back.

She had me there.

“Just one theory—I won’t laugh.”

“Yes, you will.” She seemed very sure of that, though I couldn’t imagine anything that would be funny about it.

I gave persuasion another try. I stared deep into her eyes—an easy thing to do with eyes so deep—and whispered, “Please?”

She blinked, and her face went totally blank.

Well, that wasn’t exactly the reaction I’d been going for.

“Er, what?” she asked a second later. She looked disoriented. Was something wrong with her?

I tried again.

“Please tell me just one little theory,” I pleaded in my soft, non-scary voice, holding her gaze in mine.

To my surprise and satisfaction, it finally worked. “Um, well, bitten by a radioactive spider?”

Comic books? No wonder she thought I would laugh.

“That’s not very creative,” I chided her, trying to hide my fresh relief. “I’m sorry, that’s all I’ve got,” she said, offended.

This relieved me even more. I was able to tease her again. “You’re not even close.”

“No spiders?” “Nope.”

“And no radioactivity?” “None.”

“Dang,” she sighed.

“Kryptonite doesn’t bother me, either,” I said quickly—before she could ask about bites—and then I had to chuckle, because she thought I was a superhero.

“You’re not supposed to laugh, remember?” I pressed my lips together.

“I’ll figure it out eventually,” she promised. And when she did, she would run.

“I wish you wouldn’t try,” I said, all teasing gone. “Because…?”

I owed her honesty. Still, I tried to smile, to make my words sound less threatening. “What if I’m not a superhero? What if I’m the bad guy?”

Her eyes widened by a fraction and her lips fell slightly apart. “Oh,” she said. And then, after another second, “I see.”

She’d finally heard me.

“Do you?” I asked, working to conceal my agony.

“You’re dangerous?” she guessed. Her breathing hiked, and her heart raced.

I couldn’t answer her. Was this my last moment with her? Would she run

now? Could I be allowed to tell her that I loved her before she left? Or would that frighten her more?

“But not bad,” she whispered, shaking her head, no fear evident in her clear eyes. “No, I don’t believe that you’re bad.”

“You’re wrong,” I breathed.

Of course I was bad. Wasn’t I rejoicing now, finding she thought better of me than I deserved? If I were a good person, I would have stayed away from her.

I stretched my hand across the table, reaching for the lid to her lemonade bottle as an excuse. She did not flinch away from my suddenly closer hand. She really was not afraid of me. Not yet.

I spun the lid like a top, watching it instead of her. My thoughts were in a snarl.

Run, Bella, run. I couldn’t make myself say the words out loud.

She jumped to her feet. Just as I started to worry that she’d somehow heard my silent warning, she said, “We’re going to be late.”

“I’m not going to class today.” “Why not?”

Because I don’t want to kill you. “It’s healthy to ditch class now and then.”

To be precise, it was healthier for the humans if the vampires ditched on days when human blood would be spilled. Mr. Banner was blood typing today. Alice had already ditched her morning class.

“Well, I’m going,” she said. This didn’t surprise me. She was responsible—she always did the right thing.

She was my opposite.

“I’ll see you later, then,” I said, trying for casual again, staring down at the whirling lid. Please save yourself. Please never leave me.

She hesitated, and I hoped for a moment that she would stay with me after all. But the bell rang and she hurried away.

I waited until she was gone, and then I put the lid in my pocket—a souvenir of this most consequential conversation—and walked through the rain to my car.

I put on my favorite calming CD—the same one I’d listened to that first day—but I wasn’t hearing Debussy’s notes for long. Other notes were running through my head, a fragment of a tune that pleased and intrigued

me. I turned down the stereo and listened to the music in my head, playing with the fragment until it evolved into a fuller harmony. Automatically, my fingers moved in the air over imaginary piano keys.

The new composition was really coming along when my attention was caught by a wave of mental anguish.

Is she going to pass out? What do I do? Mike panicked.

A hundred yards away, Mike Newton was lowering Bella’s limp body to the sidewalk. She slumped unresponsively against the wet concrete, her eyes closed, her skin chalky as a corpse.

I nearly took the door off the car. “Bella?” I shouted.

There was no change in her lifeless face when I yelled her name.

My whole body went colder than ice. This was like a confirmation of every ludicrous scenario I’d imagined. The very moment she was out of my sight…

I was aware of Mike’s aggravated surprise as I sifted furiously through his thoughts. He was only thinking of his anger toward me, so I didn’t know what was wrong with Bella. If he’d done something to harm her, I would annihilate him. Not even the tiniest fragment of his body would ever be recovered.

“What’s wrong—is she hurt?” I demanded, trying to focus his thoughts. It was maddening to have to walk at a human pace. I should not have called attention to my approach.

Then I could hear her heart beating and her even breath. As I watched, she squeezed her eyes more tightly shut. That eased some of my panic.

I saw a flicker of memories in Mike’s head, a splash of images from the Biology room. Bella’s head on our table, her fair skin turning green. Drops of red against the white cards.

Blood typing.

I stopped where I was, holding my breath. Her scent was one thing, her flowing blood was another altogether.

“I think she’s fainted,” Mike said, anxious and resentful at the same time. “I don’t know what happened. She didn’t even stick her finger.”

Relief washed through me, and I breathed again, tasting the air. Ah, I could smell the tiny bleed of Mike Newton’s puncture wound. Once, that might have appealed to me.

I knelt beside her while Mike hovered next to me, furious at my intervention.

“Bella. Can you hear me?” “No,” she moaned. “Go away.”

The relief was so exquisite that I laughed. She wasn’t in danger.

“I was taking her to the nurse,” Mike said. “But she wouldn’t go any farther.”

“I’ll take her. You can go back to class,” I said dismissively. Mike’s teeth clenched together. “No. I’m supposed to do it.” I wasn’t going to stand around arguing with the moron.

Thrilled and terrified, half-grateful to and half-aggrieved by the predicament that made touching her a necessity, I gently lifted Bella from the sidewalk and held her in my arms, touching only her rain jacket and jeans, keeping as much distance between our bodies as possible. I was striding forward in the same movement, in a hurry to have her safe—farther away from me, in other words.

Her eyes popped open, astonished.

“Put me down,” she ordered in a weak voice—embarrassed again, I guessed from her expression. She didn’t like to show weakness. But her body was so limp I doubted she would be able to stand on her own, let alone walk.

I ignored Mike’s shouted protest behind us.

“You look awful,” I told her, unable to stop grinning, because there was nothing wrong with her but a light head and a weak stomach.

“Put me back on the sidewalk,” she said. Her lips were white. “So you faint at the sight of blood?” A twisted kind of irony. She closed her eyes and pressed her lips together.

“And not even your own blood,” I added, my grin widening.

We arrived at the front office. The door was propped open an inch, and I kicked it out of my way.

Ms. Cope jumped, startled. “Oh my,” she gasped as she examined the ashen girl in my arms.

“She fainted in Biology,” I explained, before her imagination could get too out of hand.

Ms. Cope hurried to get the door to the nurse’s office. Bella’s eyes were open again, watching her. I heard the elderly nurse’s internal astonishment

as I laid the girl carefully on the one shabby bed. As soon as Bella was out of my arms, I put the width of the room between us. My body was too excited, too eager, my muscles tense and the venom flowing. She was so warm and fragrant.

“She’s just a little faint,” I reassured Mrs. Hammond. “They’re blood typing in Biology.”

She nodded, understanding now. “There’s always one.” I stifled a laugh. Trust Bella to be that one.

“Just lie down for a minute, honey,” Mrs. Hammond said. “It’ll pass.” “I know,” Bella said.

“Does this happen a lot?” the nurse asked. “Sometimes,” Bella admitted.

I tried to disguise my laughter as coughing.

This brought me to the nurse’s attention. “You can go back to class now,” she said.

I looked her straight in the eye and lied with perfect confidence. “I’m supposed to stay with her.”

Hmm. I wonder.… Oh well. Mrs. Hammond nodded.

It worked just fine on the nurse. Why did Bella have to be so difficult? “I’ll go get you some ice for your forehead, dear,” the nurse said,

slightly uncomfortable from looking into my eyes—the way a human

should be—and left the room.

“You were right,” Bella moaned, closing her eyes.

What did she mean? I jumped to the worst conclusion: She’d accepted my warnings.

“I usually am,” I said, trying to keep the amusement in my voice; it sounded sour now. “But about what in particular this time?”

“Ditching is healthy,” she sighed. Ah, relief again.

She was silent then. She just breathed slowly in and out. Her lips were beginning to turn pink. Her mouth was slightly out of balance, her upper lip just a little too full to match the lower. Staring at her mouth made me feel strange. Made me want to move closer to her, which was not a good idea.

“You scared me for a minute there,” I said, trying to restart the conversation. The quiet was painful in an odd way, leaving me alone without her voice. “I thought Newton was dragging your dead body off to

bury it in the woods.”

“Ha ha,” she responded.

“Honestly—I’ve seen corpses with better color.” This was actually true. “I was concerned that I might have to avenge your murder.” And I would have.

“Poor Mike,” she sighed. “I’ll bet he’s mad.”

Fury pulsed through me, but I contained it quickly. Her concern was surely just pity. She was kind. That was all.

“He absolutely loathes me,” I told her, cheered by that idea. “You can’t know that.”

“I saw his face—I could tell.” It was probably true that reading his face would have given me enough information to make that particular deduction. All this practice with Bella was sharpening my skill.

“How did you see me? I thought you were ditching.” Her face looked better—the green undertone had vanished from her translucent skin.

“I was in my car, listening to a CD.”

Her mouth twitched, like my very ordinary answer had surprised her somehow.

She opened her eyes again when Mrs. Hammond returned with an ice pack.

“Here you go, dear,” the nurse said as she laid it across Bella’s forehead. “You’re looking better.”

“I think I’m fine,” Bella said, and she sat up while pulling the ice pack away. Of course. She didn’t like to be taken care of.

Mrs. Hammond’s wrinkled hands fluttered toward the girl, as if she were going to push her back down, but just then Ms. Cope opened the door to the office and leaned in. With her appearance came the smell of fresh blood, just a whiff.

Invisible in the office behind her, Mike Newton was still very angry, wishing the heavy boy he dragged now was the girl who was in here with me.

“We’ve got another one,” Ms. Cope said.

Bella quickly jumped down from the cot, eager to be out of the spotlight. “Here,” she said, handing the compress back to Mrs. Hammond. “I don’t

need this.”

Mike grunted as he half-shoved Lee Stephens through the door. Blood

was still dripping down the hand Lee held to his face, trickling toward his wrist.

“Oh no.” This was my cue to leave—and Bella’s, too, it seemed. “Go out to the office, Bella.”

She stared up at me, surprised. “Trust me—go.”

She whirled and caught the door before it swung shut, rushing through to the office. I followed a few inches behind her. Her swinging hair brushed my hand.

She turned to look at me, still unsure.

“You actually listened to me.” That was a first. Her small nose wrinkled. “I smelled the blood.”

I stared at her in blank surprise. “People can’t smell blood.”

“Well, I can—that’s what makes me sick. It smells like rust… and salt.” My face froze, still staring.

Was she really even human? She looked human. She felt soft as a human. She smelled human—well, better actually. She acted human… sort of. But she didn’t think like a human, or respond like one.

What other option was there, though? “What?” she demanded.

“It’s nothing.”

Mike Newton interrupted us then, entering the room with resentful, violent thoughts.

You look better,” he said to her rudely.

My hand twitched, wanting to teach him some manners. I would have to watch myself, or I would end up actually killing this obnoxious boy.

“Just keep your hand in your pocket,” she said. For one wild second, I thought she was talking to me.

“It’s not bleeding anymore,” he answered sullenly. “Are you going back to class?”

“Are you kidding? I’d just have to turn around and come back.”

That was very good. I’d thought I was going to have to miss this whole hour with her, and now I got extra time instead. A gift I obviously did not deserve.

“Yeah, I guess…,” Mike mumbled. “So are you going this weekend? To the beach?”

What was this? They had plans. Anger froze me in place. It was a group trip, though. Mike was sorting through the other invitees in his head, counting places. It wasn’t just the two of them. That didn’t help my fury. I leaned motionlessly against the counter, controlling my response.

“Sure, I said I was in,” she promised him.

So she’d said yes to him, too. The jealousy burned, more painful than thirst.

“We’re meeting at my dad’s store, at ten.” And Cullen’s NOT invited.

“I’ll be there,” she said. “I’ll see you in Gym, then.” “See you,” she replied.

He shuffled off to his class, his thoughts full of ire. What does she see in that freak? Sure, he’s rich, I guess. Girls think he’s hot, but I don’t see that. Too… too perfect. I bet his dad experiments with plastic surgery on all of them. That’s why they’re all so white and pretty. It’s not natural. And he’s sort of… scary-looking. Sometimes, when he stares at me, I’d swear he’s thinking about killing me. Freak.

Mike wasn’t entirely unperceptive. “Gym,” Bella repeated quietly. A groan.

I looked at her and saw that she was unhappy about something again. I wasn’t sure why, but it was clear that she didn’t want to go to her next class with Mike, and I was all for that plan.

I went to her side and bent close to her face, feeling the warmth of her skin radiating out to my lips. I didn’t dare breathe.

“I can take care of that,” I murmured. “Go sit down and look pale.”

She did as I asked, sitting in one of the folding chairs and leaning her head back against the wall, while behind me, Ms. Cope came out of the back room and went to her desk. With her eyes closed, Bella looked as if she’d passed out again. Her full color hadn’t come back yet.

I turned to the receptionist. Hopefully, Bella was paying attention to this, I thought sardonically. This was how a human was supposed to respond.

“Ms. Cope?” I asked, using my persuasive voice again.

Her eyelashes fluttered, and her heart sped up. Get ahold of yourself!


That was interesting. When Shelly Cope’s pulse quickened, it was because she found me physically attractive, not because she was frightened.

I was used to that around human females, those who’d grown somewhat acclimatized to my kind through continued exposure… yet I hadn’t considered that explanation for Bella’s racing heart.

I liked that thought, perhaps too much. I smiled my careful, human- soothing smile, and Ms. Cope’s breathing got louder.

“Bella has Gym next hour, and I don’t think she feels well enough. Actually, I was thinking I should take her home now. Do you think you could excuse her from class?” I stared into her depthless eyes, enjoying the havoc that this wreaked on her thought processes. Was it possible that Bella…?

Ms. Cope had to swallow loudly before she answered. “Do you need to be excused, too, Edward?”

“No, I have Mrs. Goff. She won’t mind.”

I wasn’t paying much attention to her now. I was exploring this new possibility.

Hmm. I would have liked to believe that Bella found me attractive like other humans did, but when did Bella ever have the same reactions as other humans? I shouldn’t get my hopes up.

“Okay, it’s all taken care of. You feel better, Bella.” Bella nodded weakly—overacting a bit.

“Can you walk, or do you want me to carry you again?” I asked, amused by her poor theatrics. I knew she would want to walk—she wouldn’t want to be weak.

“I’ll walk,” she said. Right again.

She got up, hesitating for a moment as if to check her balance. I held the door for her, and we walked out into the rain.

I watched her as she lifted her face to the light rain with her eyes closed, a slight smile on her lips. What was she thinking? Something about this action seemed off, and I quickly realized why the posture looked unfamiliar to me. Normal human girls wouldn’t raise their faces to the drizzle that way; normal human girls usually wore makeup, even here in this wet place.

Bella never wore makeup, nor should she. The cosmetics industry made billions of dollars a year from women who were trying to attain skin like hers.

“Thanks,” she said, smiling at me now. “It’s almost worth getting sick to

miss Gym.”

I stared across the campus, wondering how to prolong my time with her. “Anytime,” I said.

“So are you going? This Saturday, I mean?” She sounded hopeful.

Ah, her hope eased the sting of my jealousy. She wanted me with her, not Mike Newton. And I wanted to say yes. But there were many things to consider. For one, the sun would be shining this Saturday.

“Where are you all going, exactly?” I tried to keep my voice nonchalant, as if the answer didn’t matter much. Mike had said beach, though. Not much chance of avoiding sunlight there. Emmett would be irritated if I canceled our plans, but that wouldn’t stop me if there was any way to spend the time with her.

“Down to La Push, to First Beach.” It was impossible, then.

I managed my disappointment, then glanced down at her, smiling wryly. “I really don’t think I was invited.”

She sighed, already resigned. “I just invited you.”

“Let’s you and I not push poor Mike any further this week. We don’t want him to snap.” I thought about snapping poor Mike myself, and enjoyed the mental picture intensely.

“Mike-schmike,” she said, dismissive again. I smiled. And then she started to walk away from me.

Without thinking about my action, I automatically reached out and caught her by the back of her rain jacket. She jerked to a stop.

“Where do you think you’re going?” I was upset—almost angry that she was leaving. I hadn’t had enough time with her.

“I’m going home,” she said, clearly baffled as to why this should upset me.

“Didn’t you hear me promise to take you safely home? Do you think I’m going to let you drive in your condition?” I knew she wouldn’t like that— my implication of weakness on her part. But I needed to practice for the Seattle trip—to see if I could handle her proximity in an enclosed space. This was a much shorter journey.

“What condition?” she demanded. “And what about my truck?”

“I’ll have Alice drop it off after school.” I pulled her back toward my car carefully. Apparently, walking forward was challenging enough for her.

“Let go!” she said, twisting sideways and nearly tripping. I held one hand out to catch her, but she righted herself before it was necessary. I shouldn’t be looking for excuses to touch her. That started me thinking again about Ms. Cope’s reaction to me, but I filed it away for later. There was much to be considered on that front.

I let her go as she asked, and then regretted it—she immediately tripped and stumbled into the passenger door of my car. I would have to be even more careful, to take into account her poor balance.

“You are so pushy!”

She was right. My behavior was odd, and that was the kindest description. Would she tell me no now?

“It’s open.”

I got in on my side and started the car. She held her body rigidly, still outside, though the rain had picked up and I knew she didn’t like the cold and wet. Water was soaking through her thick hair, darkening it to near- black.

“I am perfectly capable of driving myself home!”

Of course she was. But I craved her time in a way that I’d never really wanted anything else before. Not immediate and demanding like thirst, this was something different, a different kind of want, and different kind of pain.

She shivered.

I rolled the passenger-side window down and leaned toward her. “Please get in, Bella.”

Her eyes narrowed, and I guessed that she was debating whether or not to make a run for it.

“I could drag you back…,” I joked, wondering if my guess was correct.

The consternation on her face told me it was.

Her chin held stiffly in the air, she opened her door and climbed in. Her hair dripped on the leather, and her boots squeaked against each other.

“This is completely unnecessary,” she said.

I thought she looked more embarrassed than really angry. Was my behavior entirely offside? I thought I was teasing, that I was acting like the average besotted teenage boy, but what if I’d gotten it wrong? Did she feel coerced? I realized she had every reason to.

I didn’t know how to do this. How to court her as a normal, human, modern man in the year two thousand and five. As a human, I’d only

learned the customs of my time. Thanks to my strange gift, I knew quite well how people thought now, what they did, how they acted, but when I tried to act casual and modern it seemed all wrong. Probably because I wasn’t normal or modern or human. And it wasn’t as if I’d learned anything usable from my family. None of them had had anything near a normal courtship, even excepting the two other qualifications.

Rosalie and Emmett had been the cliché, the classic love-at-first-sight story. There had never been a moment when either one had questioned what they were to each other. In the first second Rosalie saw Emmett, she’d been drawn to the innocence and honesty that had evaded her in life, and she wanted him. In the first second that Emmett saw Rosalie, he saw a goddess whom he had worshiped without cease ever since. There had never been an awkward first conversation full of doubt, never a fingernail-biting moment of waiting for a yes or no.

Alice and Jasper’s union had been even less normal. For all the twenty- eight years up to their first meeting, Alice had known she would love Jasper. She’d seen years, decades, centuries, of their future lives together. And Jasper, feeling all her emotions in that long-awaited moment, the purity and certainty and depth of her love, couldn’t help but be overwhelmed. It must have felt like a tsunami to him.

Carlisle and Esme had been slightly more typical than the others, I supposed. Esme had already been in love with Carlisle—much to his shock

—but not through any mystical, magical means. She’d met Carlisle as a girl and, drawn to his gentleness, wit, and otherworldly beauty, formed an attachment that had haunted her for the rest of her human years. Life had not been kind to Esme, and so it was not surprising that this golden memory of a good man had never been supplanted in her heart. After the burning torment of transformation, when she’d awakened to the face of her long- cherished dream, her affections were entirely his.

I’d been on hand to caution Carlisle about her unforeseen reaction. He’d expected that she would be shocked by her transformation, traumatized by the pain, horrified by what she’d become, much as I had been. He’d expected to have to explain and apologize, to soothe and to atone. He knew there was a good chance that she would have preferred death, that she would despise him for the choice made without her knowledge or consent. So the fact that she had been immediately prepared to join this life—not

really the life, but to join him—was not something he was ready for.

He’d never seen himself as a possible object of romantic love before that moment. It seemed contrary to what he was—a vampire, a monster. The knowledge I gave him changed the way he looked at Esme, the way he looked at himself.

More than that, it was very a powerful thing, choosing to save someone. It was not a decision any sane individual made lightly. When Carlisle chose me, he’d already felt a dozen binding emotions toward me before I’d even awakened to what was happening. Responsibility, anxiety, tenderness, pity, hope, compassion… there was a natural ownership to the act that I’d never experienced, only heard about through his thoughts and Rosalie’s. He already felt like my father before I knew his name. For me, it was effortless and instinctive to fall into my role as son. Love came easily—though I’d always attributed that more to who he was as a person than to his initiating my conversion.

So whether for these reasons, or whether it was because Carlisle and Esme were simply meant to be… even with my gift to hear it all as it happened, I would never know. She loved him, and he quickly found he could return that love. It was a very short period of time before his surprise changed to wonder, to discovery, and to romance. So much happiness.

Just a few moments of easily overcome awkwardness, all smoothed out with the help of a little mind reading. Nothing so awkward as this. None of them had been clueless and floundering like me.

Not a full second had passed while these less complicated pairings passed through my mind; Bella was just closing her door. I quickly turned up the heater so she wouldn’t be uncomfortable, and lowered the music to a background volume. I drove toward the exit, watching her from the corner of my eye. Her lower lip was jutting out stubbornly.

Suddenly she looked at the stereo with interest, her sulky expression disappearing. “Clair de Lune?” she asked.

A fan of the classics? “You know Debussy?”

“Not well,” she said. “My mother plays a lot of classical music around the house—I only know my favorites.”

“It’s one of my favorites, too.” I stared at the rain, considering that. I actually had something in common with the girl. I’d begun to think that we were opposites in every way.

She seemed more relaxed now, staring at the rain like me, with unseeing eyes. I used her momentary distraction to experiment with breathing.

I inhaled carefully through my nose. Potent.

I clutched the steering wheel tightly. The rain made her smell better. I wouldn’t have thought that was possible. My tongue tingled in anticipation of the taste.

The monster wasn’t dead, I realized with disgust. Just biding his time.

I tried to swallow against the burn in my throat. It didn’t help. This made me angry. I had so little time with the girl. Look at the lengths I’d already had to go to in order to secure an extra fifteen minutes. I took another breath and fought with my reaction. I had to be stronger than this.

What would I be doing if I weren’t the villain of this story? I asked myself. How would I be using this valuable time?

I would be learning more about her. “What is your mother like?” I asked.

Bella smiled. “She looks a lot like me, but she’s prettier.” I eyed her skeptically.

“I have too much Charlie in me,” she went on. “She’s more outgoing than I am, and braver.”

Outgoing, I believed. Braver? I wasn’t sure.

“She’s irresponsible and slightly eccentric, and she’s a very unpredictable cook. She’s my best friend.” Her voice had turned melancholy. Her forehead creased.

As I had noticed before, her tone sounded more like parent than child.

I stopped in front of her house, wondering too late if I was supposed to know where she lived. No, this wouldn’t be suspicious in such a small town, with her father a public figure.

“How old are you, Bella?” She must be older than her peers. Perhaps she’d been late to start school, or been held back. That didn’t seem likely, though, bright as she was.

“I’m seventeen,” she answered. “You don’t seem seventeen.” She laughed.


“My mom always says I was born thirty-five years old and that I get

more middle-aged every year.” She laughed again, and then sighed. “Well, someone has to be the adult.”

This clarified things for me. It was easy to understand how the irresponsibility of the mother would result in the maturity of the daughter. She’d had to grow up early, to become the caretaker. That’s why she didn’t like being cared for—she felt it was her job.

“You don’t seem much like a junior in high school yourself,” she said, pulling me from my reverie.

I frowned. For everything I perceived about her, she perceived too much in return. I changed the subject.

“So why did your mother marry Phil?”

She hesitated a minute before answering. “My mother… she’s very young for her age. I think Phil makes her feel even younger. At any rate, she’s crazy about him.” She shook her head indulgently.

“Do you approve?” I wondered.

“Does it matter?” she asked. “I want her to be happy… and he is who she wants.”

The unselfishness of her comment would have shocked me except that it fit in all too well with what I’d learned of her character.

“That’s very generous.… I wonder.” “What?”

“Would she extend the same courtesy to you, do you think? No matter who your choice was?”

It was a foolish question, and I could not keep my voice casual while I asked it. How stupid to even consider someone approving of me for her daughter. How stupid to even think of Bella choosing me.

“I—I think so,” she stuttered, reacting in some way to my gaze. Was it fear? I thought of Ms. Cope again. What were the other tells? Wide eyes could designate both emotions. The fluttering lashes, though, seemed to point away from fright. Bella’s lips were parted.…

She recovered. “But she’s the parent, after all. It’s a little bit different.” I smiled wryly. “No one too scary, then.”

“What do you mean by scary? Multiple facial piercings and extensive tattoos?” She grinned at me.

“That’s one definition, I suppose.” A very nonthreatening definition, to my mind.

“What’s your definition?”

She always asked the wrong questions. Or exactly the right ones, maybe.

The ones I didn’t want to answer, at any rate.

“Do you think that could be scary?” I asked her, trying to smile a little. She thought it through before answering me in a serious voice. “Hmm…

I think you could be, if you wanted to.”

I was serious, too. “Are you frightened of me now?”

She answered at once, not thinking this one through. “No.”

I smiled more easily. I did not think she was entirely telling the truth, but neither was she truly lying. She wasn’t frightened enough to want to leave, at least. I wondered how she would feel if I told her she was having this discussion with a vampire, and then cringed internally at her imagined reaction.

“So, now are you going to tell me about your family? It’s got to be a much more interesting story than mine.”

A more frightening one, at least.

“What do you want to know?” I asked cautiously. “The Cullens adopted you?”


She hesitated, then spoke in a small voice. “What happened to your parents?”

This wasn’t so hard. I wasn’t even having to lie to her. “They died a very long time ago.”

“I’m sorry,” she mumbled, clearly worried about having hurt me.

She was worried about me. Such a strange feeling, to see her care, even in this common way.

“I don’t really remember them that clearly,” I assured her. “Carlisle and Esme have been my parents for a long time now.”

“And you love them,” she deduced.

I smiled. “Yes. I couldn’t imagine two better people.” “You’re very lucky.”

“I know I am.” In that one circumstance, the matter of parents, my luck could not be denied.

“And your brother and sister?”

If I let her push for too many details, I would have to lie. I glanced at the clock, disheartened that my time with her was up, but also relieved. The

pain was severe, and I worried that the burn in my throat might suddenly flare up hot enough to control me.

“My brother and sister, and Jasper and Rosalie for that matter, are going to be quite upset if they have to stand in the rain waiting for me.”

“Oh, sorry, I guess you have to go.”

She didn’t move. She didn’t want our time to be up, either.

The pain was not so bad, really, I thought. But I should be responsible. “And you probably want your truck back before Chief Swan gets home,

so you don’t have to tell him about the Biology incident.” I grinned at the memory of her embarrassment in my arms.

“I’m sure he’s already heard. There are no secrets in Forks.” She said the name of the town with distinct distaste.

I laughed at her words. No secrets, indeed. “Have fun at the beach.” I glanced at the pouring rain, knowing it would not last, and wishing more strongly than usual that it could. “Good weather for sunbathing.” Well, it would be by Saturday. She would enjoy that. And her happiness had become the most important thing. More important than my own.

“Won’t I see you tomorrow?”

The worry in her tone pleased me, but also made me yearn to not have to disappoint her.

“No. Emmett and I are starting the weekend early.” I was angry at myself now for having made the plans. I could break them… but there was no such thing as too much hunting at this point, and my family was going to be concerned enough about my behavior without me revealing how obsessive I was turning. I still wasn’t sure exactly what madness had possessed me last night. I really needed to find a way to control my impulses. Perhaps a little distance would help with that.

“What are you going to do?” she asked, sounding not at all happy with my revelation.

More pleasure, more pain.

“We’re going to be hiking in the Goat Rocks Wilderness, just south of Rainier.” Emmett was eager for bear season.

“Oh, well, have fun,” she said halfheartedly. Her lack of enthusiasm pleased me again.

As I stared at her, I began to feel almost agonized at the thought of saying even a temporary goodbye. She was so soft, so vulnerable. It seemed

foolhardy to let her out of my sight, where anything could happen to her. And yet, the worst things that could happen to her would result from being with me.

“Will you do something for me this weekend?” I asked seriously. She nodded, though clearly mystified by my intensity.

Keep it light.

“Don’t be offended, but you seem to be one of those people who just attract accidents like a magnet. So… try not to fall into the ocean or get run over or anything, all right?”

I smiled ruefully at her, hoping she couldn’t see the real sorrow in my eyes. How much I wished that she wasn’t so much better off away from me, no matter what might happen to her there.

Run, Bella, run. I love you too much, for your good or mine.

She was offended by my teasing; I must have done it wrong again. She glared at me. “I’ll see what I can do,” she snapped, jumping out into the rain and slamming the door as hard as she could behind her.

I curled my hand around the key I’d just picked from her jacket pocket and inhaled her scent deeply as I drove away.

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