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Midnight Waltz

AU: A year later and Bella is still living in Forks with Charlie, alternating her time between the Newton's store and spending time with her best friend, Jacob. She didn't jump from the cliff. Alice had no vision. Edward never returned. But now, tired of having to endure her family's suffering, Alice schemes to solve the one problem at the center of all the turmoil: the burning question of Bella's mortality; the ultimatum that's divided the entire Cullen household. Edward won't do it. Carlisle won't do it. Alice can't do it. So who does that leave...? But when things start to take a turn for the worst, Bella and Edward come to face a grueling decision. It's not easy to pick your battles when you're intent on winning them all...


6. Run Away

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Midnight Waltz: Chapter 6

Run Away


‘When I saw you...I was afraid to meet you...

When I met you...I was afraid to kiss you...

When I kissed you...I was afraid to love you...

And now that I love you, I'm scared as hell that I'm going to lose you.'

-- Roy Croft

x x x

At that moment, you would have had to cut the tension in the air with a chainsaw.

Even as everyone laughed and smiled along with the polite conversation, I could tell that every single vampire in the room was far from relaxed-jaws strained, glassy eyes and rigid poses told me that a lot more was going unsaid. The unmistakable sense of hostility wasn't directed at anyone in particular, but it flowed off of Edward in waves. I couldn't help but notice how conveniently Alice had placed herself - as far away from Edward as possible. I didn't think it was coincidence that Jasper stood directly in his brother's line of vision, blocking all signs of his wife from view. Carlisle and Esme stood quietly to one side, speaking intensely with Rosalie and Emmett. They both looked up and smiled reassuringly at me when they noticed I was looking, but it didn't touch their eyes.

The familiar feeling of nausea swirled in my gut like a hurricane. This family was having some serious issues and I couldn't help but feel it was all my fault.

I chanced a glance across the room at Edward and I was momentarily surprised to find him surveying the wall he was leaning on - running his strong hands over the ancient brick with a thoughtful expression, lips moving in an inaudible blur as he did quick calculations in his head.


I hadn't even known I'd spoken until his eyes snapped up to meet mine, the strangest look on his face - he seemed almost embarrassed.

He averted his gaze immediately, drawing back against the wall until he stood, completely straight and immobile, making a scene of being a beautiful marble statue in the far corner of the room. He finally looked up to smile at me sheepishly and I couldn't help but wonder what he was hiding. He'd spoken all but two words together since his family had appeared, and that certainly wasn't like him, even if he was fighting with them.

"What do we do now?" Emmett's deep voice echoed loudly in the room, making no attempt to keep it down. The volume of his voice made me hiss in pain, a sharp tremor of electricity shooting through my head, making my nerves sizzle. He mumbled a quick apology under his breath.

Edward finally spoke, voice soft and firm. "You leave."

Rosalie scoffed and Emmett was succinct as always. "Why the hell should we?"

"Because you've already done enough," Edward said darkly, shooting his brother a threatening look. Moonlight streaked the walls; creeping in through the small slits in the brick and illuminating his skin, making him appear even more dream-like and angelic in his rage. I stifled a shudder before it could give me away.

Emmett teeth snapped together loudly and Edward's glare didn't fault in the slightest. I tried desperately to think of something to say, but I kept coming up dry; my mouth opening and closing like some sort of stupid fish. Rosalie stormed off, already bored and Jasper and Alice remained incredibly quiet through the whole ordeal. Edward shifted his weight anxiously, a low growl already rumbling away in his chest. Just went I thought the two were going to pounce on each other, Carlisle stepped in-between them, his calm voice ringing with incredible authority in the confides of the small room. "That's enough. Both of you."

"He started it," Emmett mumbled. Edward ignored him.

I continued to watch Emmett and it was pretty clear that he was upset about fighting with his brother like this, especially considering how close they were. He turned away from Edward's back, dejected and slouched over to stand at Rosalie's side. "We were only trying to help," he grumbled bitterly under his breath, keeping his eyes locked on the hard cement floor. "You were so upset. We just thought that if Bella -"

"You didn't think about anything!" Edward sneered, abruptly cutting him off. I felt my eyebrows narrow in anger. He was being pretty unreasonable...but underneath it all, I could see he was incredibly nervous about something...afraid, even. "Edward...it's not their fault," I insisted, but he held up his hand, refusing to look at me. My face fell considerably.

"What are you going to do? Nothing stupid I hope," Alice said, speaking up for the first time since she'd appeared with the rest of her family. Everyone was so surprised when she walked out from behind Jasper, Emmett and Edward's argument was momentarily forgotten, along with the accompanying suffocating atmosphere. I looked over at Edward, and he looked like he was about ready to charge her. Alice would be the red flag in that little scenario, and I cringed at the thought.

He said nothing in response and a small, smug smile crept onto Alice's lips. Edward snarled.

"That's enough, Alice," Carlisle said in a tone that sounded unnaturally harsh. He turned to Esme - who hadn't spoken at all throughout the standoff - and brushed his fingers against hers with the slightest of touches. She immediately began to follow when he turned to the door, and Edward relaxed into a more natural pose, watching as the rest of his family followed silently behind. I could see that they didn't quite agree with the decision, but obeyed nonetheless. I saw that Alice still hadn't moved and I used the opportunity to flit over and wrap my arms around her quickly, pecking her on the cheek. When I drew back to look at her face, she seemed startled.

"I could never blame you for what you did. In fact, I want to thank you so much, Alice..." Edward grumbled something unintelligible underneath his breath. I ignored him. "...You gave me what I've always wanted."

She smiled at me but it didn't touch her eyes. I couldn't help it; I was a little irritated. It seemed masochism ran in the family. She stepped out of my arms and skipped to Jaspers side, shooting me a reassuring glance over her shoulder just as the door closed. I was surprised when it didn't make a sound...

The atmosphere in the room shifted.

I suddenly felt like I couldn't breathe and I knew that if my heart was still beating, it probably would have jumped out of my chest by now. I could feel Edward's scorching eyes on me, but I couldn't bear to meet his gaze. Instead, I kept my eyes firmly on the floor. This was going to be difficult. He'd come just like I'd asked and now he was free to leave. I didn't quite see how I could stand to watch him go this time. In fact, I was pretty sure that I wouldn't survive. I had reassured Alice, but this life meant nothing to me if I couldn't have him with me...and now that I'd left Forks, I could never go back. I'd lost Jacob, Charlie, Renee...everyone.

I had no where else to go now. I was trapped here with the Volturi forever. This gamble had been for nothing. I tried to comfort myself with the knowledge that at least I knew. It would have been much worse wondering for the rest of my life...or would it? I had Jacob and Charlie then, and now...I had nothing.

I stopped breathing altogether, trying to stop myself from falling completely to pieces in front of him.

"Bella?" Edward asked, his perfect voice cutting through me like a hot knife through butter.

"Hmmm?" I still didn't look at him. Instead, I closed my eyes, hoping that would make it easier to talk to him. I heard the disturbance in the air as he moved, the slight rustling of his hair...and when I opened my eyes, he was standing enticingly, impossibly close; only a few inches away from my face. My eyes widened as I jumped back in shock, but his iron arms locked themselves securely around my waist, preventing me from getting very far. He drew me in tightly against his chest, the feeling of him being so close sending my hypersensitive body into complete overdrive. All I could hear was his loud, harsh breathing ringing in my ears; his cold, strong fingers scorching my skin...and the wonderfully potent perfume that seemed to ooze from his very being was achingly beautiful as it made my head whirl.

I knew I should have pushed away...he was going to leave at any moment and I knew the second he let me go it was going to feel as if someone had ripped my heart clean from my chest. I could feel the fault-line in my chest rippling, ready to tear me to shreds.

His lips brushed my forehead, making my skin tingle. I can't afford to hope. He's going to leave. I know he is...

I still didn't move.

One minute past, and then another; two, three, four...until I stopped counting altogether.

"I'm sorry," he mumbled quietly against my ear, chuckling humorlessly to himself. "I'm so stupid."

I wanted to ask him what he meant by that and now that we were alone, I was also pretty desperate to find out what he had been up to all this time, and everyone else for that matter. I wanted to say anything that might distract him from ending this conversation too quickly and leaving, inevitably taking my heart with him in the process.

But I suddenly felt like someone had jammed a packet full of cotton balls down my throat and so when Edward saw that I wasn't going to speak, he continued.

"I shouldn't have left. I see that now. But you need to understand..." - the words came rapidly now, the way I remembered he spoke whenever he was agitated. His voice was low and urgent, but I was surprised how crisp it sounded in my ears - "...That I had no idea that you'd just get yourself into even more danger in Forks. I thought you would be safe there - really safe. I couldn't believe that Victoria..." - he snarled her name - "...would ever actually dare to show her face again. Or that you were forced to put your safety in the hands of werewolves, the most volatile, stupid, mangy creatures out there besides Victoria herself..." he trailed off then, tensing as his arms instinctively tightening around my waist even further.

I chose to remain silent, leaning my head carefully against his chest and listening to the hollow sound of breath echo in his lungs. "But what astounds me even more," he said after a brief pause, starting to get angry again, "Is what Alice has done. I can't believe it...I can't believe that any of them would do this. I can't believe that you went along with this!" he said incredulously, suddenly yanking me back a few inches to look me straight in the eye. "Honestly, did mortality really mean nothing to you at all?"

"Of course it did," I said, my sincerity marred by the lump in my throat. I swallowed hard.

"Then why throw it all away?"

I looked at him; my face full of hopeless disbelief. "Can you really not know the answer to that question?"

He threw his head into his hands, rubbing his temples in a familiar sign of frustration. His eyes had saddened considerably when he looked up again, reaching for my hand to fold neatly in his. The contact made me shiver. Edward didn't say anything more after that. I watched him as he pulled my hand up and pressed it firmly against his cheek and sighed, kissing the base of my wrist.

The silence of his thoughts unnerved me. "Are you mad?" I couldn't help but ask.

He didn't look at me when he answered. "Not at you," he replied stiffly.

"Please don't blame Alice and Jasper," I begged. "Or Rosalie and Emmett for that matter. I made them do it. I wanted this. You knew that." My voice was sharper than I'd intended and it made me chew on the inside of my cheek with the tiniest hint of regret for what I'd said.

Edward's butterscotch-tinged eyes flashed. He dropped my hand. "Yes, I knew...and you have no idea how hard your life is going to be from now on. If you could even call how we live a life.

"And as for Jasper, Alice and the rest of my family," he continued, sensing rightly that I was about to protest, "They interfered in matters that didn't concern them. Now they can deal with the consequences of their actions. Frankly, it was none of their business."

"But they only did what they thought was right," I insisted, stung by his critical tone. "They just wanted to make you happy."

"Yes well, they've succeeded wonderfully there, haven't they?" he said, his voice bitingly sarcastic. He stared at me for a moment, his expression unreadable. "It doesn't matter anyway..." - he waved a hand dismissively, sounding rather impatient - "...I don't want to talk about it anymore."

I couldn't help but be agitated with him, even though I knew I should probably have been patient. Why he was being so flippant about the rest of his family was beyond me - especially when it was painfully obvious not a moment ago how much they cared about him. I still remembered the look on Emmett's face. I would've thought Edward would see past all of their "indiscretions" and seen the real trigger that prompted their actions - especially considering that he shared such a close connection with all of his siblings, especially Alice. For someone who could read people's thoughts, Edward was being particularly narrow-minded. Couldn't he see how upset everyone was over this whole thing? Didn't he care at all? Was I really that bad?

He was quiet then, moving forward to brush his hand against my cheek. I purposefully stepped back, narrowly missing his fingers. He looked at me a confused expression and I felt my eyebrows knit together in anger.

"What's wrong?"

"You," I said, staring at him accusingly. "Why are you doing this?"

"Doing what?"

"Pretending that your family doesn't exist."

"I'm not pretending they don't exist," he said softly, eyes hardening.

"Could've fooled me," I scoffed.

He watched me carefully for a moment, scrutinizing my expression. His dark eyes watched me intently as he took a step toward me. "What is it that's really bothering you?"

My answer was teetering on the end of my tongue - a question that I did desperately want an answer to...and didn't want at the same time. He'd been back not even an hour and already I was second guessing my every move. I couldn't deny that I enjoyed his touch. I never wanted to pull away, but every time he brushed my cheek with the back of his hand or kissed my forehead, a little seed of hope would sprout and start to grow. I couldn't allow myself to hope. It would just make everything that much harder when he left. I knew that; but it seemed to be happening whether I wanted it to or not.

This had nothing to do with his family, I had decided. The only reason he could resent them for what they'd done is because of what had happened to me. He didn't want me when I was human, and now that I'd become the "monster" he never wanted me to be, I was even more undesirable. It was the only possible explanation. It was a good thing that I'd gotten much better at hiding how I really felt - two years of concealing my emotions from Charlie had almost made me an expert.


Edward cleared his throat impatiently, snapping me out of my reverie. He sighed, annoyed, and the smell of his breath completely derailed my train of thought. I blinked at him, bewildered. He rolled his eyes, groaning. "Bella..."


"Tell me," he pleaded in a persuasive, angelic voice. "Please...I don't even have your heartbeat to go on, anymore." He stepped up to me again and this time I didn't pull away. He was so close our noses were touching, his eyes intense. "What are you thinking?"

And just like that, my resolve melted away, his eyes doing that unfair smoldering thing. I felt something inside me snap open - like a floodgate gate-and the worlds tumbled out of my mouth in nothing but mess of indistinguishable syllables. "Did you really not want me that badly? Do I repulse you that much?" My voice broke on the last word. I was on the verge of losing it. My throat started burning. I tried to take a deep breath without much success...

A pained look flitted across Edward's face and I quickly averted my eyes. I heard him swallow hard. "Bella," he started and I felt his cool fingers slide underneath my chin, coaxing it upwards and forcing me to meet his gaze. "I think you've misunderstood."

Edward's eyes clouded in anger when he read the obvious surprise in mine. "Did you honestly believe that after all of those times I told you I loved you that I didn't mean it?" he asked incredulously.

"Not that you didn't mean it," I whispered, trying hard to focus while the intensity of his gaze - however unintentionally - scattered my thoughts. "I'm sure you did...back then. It's just that I-you-it...it never made sense for you to -"

Edward saw how much I was struggling and cut me of with a finger gently pressed to my lips. He leaned in then, resting his forehead against mine, his arms wrapping themselves securely around my waist. "Do you have any idea of much I love you? Any concept at all?"

"But you said -"

"No," he interjected firmly. The breath of his words made my sensitive skin tingle like mad. "I lied."

His arms tightened around my hips, rightly sensing that my knees were about to give way. I didn't realize until he gave me a pointed look that I'd stopped breathing altogether. His words swirled around in my head for a few moments, never truly sinking in. Edward waited patiently for me to find my voice again. When I spoke, it was shaky and breathless. "Why?"

"I had to do something to protect you from me and my family. I saw how we were endangering your life everyday, making it impossible for you to have a normal life. I didn't want to - I thought it would kill me to do it - but the only solution I saw was leaving." He chocked on the last word, tilting his head slightly so he could kiss the tip of my nose. "I was so convinced that you would put up a fight; that you would know I was lying. I was definitely surprised at how easy it was. I couldn't understand how you would believe me so easily. After everything we've been through, honestly, Bella..."-His cool hands held my head firmly in place - "...how could you let those few words break your trust in me?"

And so I cried; my chest heaving with tearless sobs, my eyes burning. His words were incomprehensible because they were impossible. I cringed when the hysterical sounds coming from in-between my lips made my ears feel like they were going to explode, but I couldn't seem to stop. Edward chuckled lightly without humor, pulling my face closer to his. "Silly, Bella," he chided. "How many times to I have to tell you before you understand? I can't survive in a world where you don't exist...where you aren't a part of my life. I'm sorry that my leaving didn't protect you, and I'm sorry that I've hurt you so much. I'll never forgive myself for leaving you...not even if I live for the rest of eternity.

"I realize now that I don't care about right and wrong anymore. It's irrelevant. To be honest, the whole concept has meant so little since I met you. All I care about now is what I want and what I don't want. I want you. All of you. And I don't want to lose you ever again. I've had to endure that feeling - the thought of never seeing your beautiful face again...and it was horrible. It was as if I'd left everything of myself here with you. My heart hasn't beaten in over one hundred years, but the...agony I feltwas all too real." He shuudered at the memory.

"Y-You felt it to?" I croaked, trying to stop the hiccups in my voice. Edward gave me a meaningful look, so I elaborated. "My heart...it was definitely lost. The pain was...unbearable."

He smiled in understanding, laughing lightly under his breath as his lips brushed my cheek. "We're so pathetic," he mumbled against my skin, and I could hear the smile in his voice. I laughed quietly along with him, leaning my head against his shoulder. I still couldn't believe that he was here and that he loved me. He had loved me all along, apparently. We stayed like that for another immeasurable moment before he pulled back to look at me with my favorite crooked smile. "Can you ever forgive me, Bella?"

I snorted. "Now there's a stupid question."

"Just answer it. Please."

I felt my face break out into a huge grin. The expression felt strange on my face. I hadn't truly smiled in so long. "Of course," I said without a second thought, my hand already reaching up to caress his face. "I've always loved you, and nothing will ever change that fact." I felt giddy as I said the words - words that I'd taken for granted before - now meant more to me than anything else in the world. I couldn't have meant them more in that particular moment.

Edward beamed down at me, his teeth flashing in the moonlight. "That's all I needed to hear."

I watched as he continued to lean in - stopping only inches away from my face to smile at me - before his lips engulfed mine, body and soul, in a desperate kiss...

...And it scared me.

The kiss was much the same as what I was used to - Edward was as cautious and careful with me as he always was, (though he didn't need to be anymore) but then something seemed to change quite abruptly. His lips were suddenly much more urgent and strangely desperate as one of his hands carelessly twisted itself in my hair, locking my face securely to his. I was trying to enjoy the fact that he was really, truly kissing me, buthe never seemed to relax, his entire body taunt and rigid against my own...and it was then that I felt as if something cracked inside Edward; for the briefest moment, I was completely overwhelmed by everything that he'd been working so hard to conceal from me; his terror, guilt and desperation, his anger...and his sadness, in all of its unbearable, heart-breaking glory.

I couldn't stop the small sound of pain that escaped my lips when he pulled away. It felt like goodbye, but the painful tightening in my chest told me that Edward seemed to see it as something much, much worse. I felt like I wanted to be sick.

"Bella," he breathed, stroking my cheek. His face twisted when he read the wild distress in my eyes. I was almost hyperventilating. "I'm not leaving you. Ever." His words sounded sincere, but his eyes still retained some of his panic. I didn't say anything and Edward seemed to hear the skepticism in my silence. "I promise, Bella. I'm not going anywhere - not without you," he said more decisively this time - the dread finally draining from his face.

While he seemed to relax, (though I was sure that was purely for my benefit) it was almost as if that kiss had just blasted me back into the present. I was suddenly, acutely aware of the fact that we were in a castle - the Volturi's fortress with absolutely no chance of escape. All of a sudden, the cool night air seemed to grow even colder and I shuddered.

Edward noticed, but he also seemed to pick up on that I wasn't cold. "Don't worry. We won't be here for much longer..." I was almost lip-reading his words and I guessed that was because he didn't want to be overheard. I watched him from where I stood, his beautiful angelic face now fully bathed in the moonlight flooding through the window, His coal-black eyes a strange mixture of determination and uncertainty.

I didn't blame him for being uncertain. Running from the Volturi was suicide. "Don't bother, Edward," I told him. I won't have you risking your life just to get me out of here a few months early." Just the thought of what they could do to him had my stomach in caught up in painful knots.

Edward laughed a hard, sarcastic laugh. "You actually believed them when they told you that, Bella? I would have thought you more perceptive than that - you're as gullible as Alice claimed to be." The mention of his sister seemed to bring some of the hardness back to his face. "They intend to keep you," he said matter-of-factly, growling at the thought. "But I intend to steal you away-no matter what the cost." His eyes were ablaze as he spoke, intent on mine. A shiver bolted down my spine.

He leaned in kissed me gently on the lips before he pulled away slightly and leant his forehead against mine. "I don't plan to share you with anyone. I want you all to myself, and if anyone wants to disrepute that well then they'll have to deal with me." I was still a little doubtful of how long he planned to stay, but I wasn't about to tell him that.

"Please, Edward. Don't do anything irrational -," I stopped when Edward abruptly took two steps away from me, his eyes focused solely on the door; it was still open slightly. He seemed almost disgusted by something I couldn't comprehend. I heard it a few seconds later; the sounds of barely audible footfalls echoing down the corridor. Edward reached for my hand, winding his fingers strongly thorough mine.

Aro appeared a few moments later, a huge, too-innocent smile playing on his lips. Edward stiffened beside me.

"Ah, so have you both had a chance to clear things up?" he asked cheerfully, sounding genuinely interested. His eyes caught sight of our intertwined hands and his smile grew more pronounced, his milky red eyes sparking - a startling contrast to his pitch-black hair. His appearance always unnerved me. "So you have. I'm very pleased for you both."

"How can we help you?" Edward asked, his voice pleasant on the surface, but my newly tuned ears caught the slight hint of malice.

Aro seemed oblivious. "Ah, yes...your father wishes to talk with you, Edward. He's waiting downstairs."

"Why didn't he come himself?" I wondered.

"As it happens, I actually wanted to talk to you about something, Bella. So I told Carlisle that I would save him the trouble and tell you myself seeing as I had to come here, anyway." Edward and I had both heard it in Aro's voice; the hint of a demand - this wasn't actually a choice. Edward wasn't free to refuse.

His words seemed legitimate, but as I'm sure Edward noticed as well, his face was too honest. He was definitely up to something, and just the thought alone was enough to make my throat suddenly tighten with alarm. Edward squeezed my hand reassuringly before he let go - my palm stinging where his had once been - and made his way over towards the door. He turned to give me one last look of longing before he slipped through the small opening and was out of sight.

I swallowed hard, my eyes focusing on the stone grey floor. Aro's gaze always terrified me. He seemed to simply wait a few moments, and I guessed that he was waiting for Edward to be out of earshot, which made me even more terrified about what he could want.

"Bella," he said after a few moments of silence. I was so tense that the sound of his voice made me flinch in fright. He laughed, obviously amused. "Don't worry," he reassured me, still chuckling. "I'm not here to hurt you. I would never do such a thing!"

"Sorry." I grudgingly looked up, and as soon as I did, I relaxed.

"Thirsty?" he offered, still smiling.

I nodded, not really paying attention. I hadn't been hungry before, but I supposed that this was how he was keeping me under control - regular feeding. I internally cringed when I thought about that-like I was some caged-up pet of his. Of course, according to Edward, that's exactly what I was.

But what puzzled me even more was why he had gone to all of that trouble just to feed me. Surely Edward wouldn't have been disturbed about watching me drink. Sure, he still hadn't really resigned himself to what I was now, but I couldn't see how Edward would object. I didn't understand at all.

I wanted to ask, but thought better of it. Mainly because - for one thing - I knew I couldn't trust his answer and - for another - I had a feeling he already knew I suspected something, anyway and didn't want to make my opinions certain for fear that it could infringe on whatever it was that Edward was planning, if he was planning anything at all.

I took the packet of blood from his fragile-feeling hands without question this time, following the directions he'd offered me before. I let the burning in my throat take over, my eyes clouding as I sunk my teeth into the packet, the sensation of the warm liquid running down my throat more satisfying then anything I could ever remember. Aro passed me another bag as soon as I'd drained the first and I took it without even looking, my senses overwhelmed by the wonderful smell.

I was so engorged in my food that I didn't even think of being interrupted.

I jumped when I heard a loud boom - the sound of metal hitting stone. I screeched in pain, automatically moving to clamp my hand over my ears. My ears were ringing so loudly, I couldn't hear anything else. I felt something tugging hard on the sachet of blood in my hands and instinctively jumped away, crouching in a defensive stance as my eyes darted around wildly, trying to pinpoint who had been trying to steel my food. A hazy figure jumped in front of my vision and I growled as they approached.

"No, Bella!" it roared, coming at me faster now. I launched out at it, throwing all my weight against its chest and watched, satisfied as it fell back against the wall with a loud crack that hurt my ears, but I wasn't really concentrating on the pain. I lifted my meal up to my lips once more, suddenly realizing that whoever it was that was trying to take my feed for themselves couldn't have it if it was all gone. Venom violently churned on my tongue in anticipation and just before it was about to touch my lips, it was ripped clean from my hands.

I was furious.

I shrieked at the blurry figure in absolutely fury, about to pounce on them and tear them to pieces when someone latched onto me from behind, pinning my arms to my sides, making it impossible for me to move. I screamed again, ignoring the pain shooting through my head and began kicking furiously at my attacker - there were two of them now.

"Shit. I can't hold her much longer, Edward! She's really fighting."

"Rose, Alice!" the other figure called, panicked. "Help Emmett."

"Let me go!" I yelled, kicking as hard as I could. I felt the grip on my body tighten considerably, something binding my legs as well as I was hoisted into a horizontal position. I still kept squirming. I heard another loud boom; an explosion of dust assaulting my senses...

And then I was flying.

The wind was cool and crisp on my face - slightly refreshing - but all too soon I smelt more prey below. I could hear their hearts beating, their breathing slow, and relaxed. Most seemed to be asleep; the perfect opportunity to sneak up on them without even waking them up. I struggled as hard as I could now; the promise of more food below seemingly enhancing strength...I could feel the binding around my body loosening.

"Edward, we're losing her. I think it's all the people below. It's driving her mad." I hissed at the figure who spoke, even as they echoed my thoughts.

"Give her to me," another one commanded. I snarled as their arms reached out, sneering. As soon as they let go, I was going to run. Several heartbeats of creatures nearby pounded away loudly in my head, making it hard to concentrate on what the blurry figures were doing.

"Bella, listen to me," I bared my teeth in warning, but it kept coming at me. I snapped at the hazy face that came into view; my jaws aching to bite as I tried repeatedly to take a chunk of its face.

"It's no use," another voice said, sounding rather desperate. "We have to get her away from the town altogether before she's even slightly reasonable."

"Bella..." one of them said, and I recognized them as the first one to attack me when I was feeding. He sounded rather upset. I growled and stopped struggling against the iron hold, hoping that maybe they would let their guard down and relax so I could break out more easily.

"There's the town limits," I heard a voice say. "She should calm down once we get done there, into that small patch of forest."

I felt the wind suddenly stop a few minutes later, the smell of moss and pine flooding my senses, and just like that, the hearts beating, the breathing all just...stopped. And the fog clouding my vision dispersed, revealing the beautiful angel sitting right in front of me; his warm, butterscotch eyes full of worry. He even looked a little scared.

I gasped when I realized who the "figure" had been, the guilt making me nauseous. "Edward?"

"Can I let her go yet?" I heard Emmett's familiar voice ask from somewhere just above my head. I could hear the smile in his voice, too. My insides twisted when I realized that I'd probably taken a snap at him as well. "Is she sane now?"

I looked down across my body my body to find that Emmett holding my torso and arms, while both Alice and Rosalie seemed to be holding my legs.

"Let her go," Edward commanded, voice bleak.

He came over towards me and knelt beside me in the grass, maintaining a small distance, his expression hard, distant. I swallowed loudly. "I'm so sorry, Edward! It's all my fault. Please forgive me. I had no idea -"

His eyes sparked at that; flashing in anger. "Forgive you?" he asked incredulously. "What on earth for?"

"If I'd been paying more attention, I wouldn't have attacked you and the rest of your family," I mumbled, keeping my eyes locked firmly on the ants crawling up my dress - anything that meant I wouldn't have to look at his face.

"Don't be stupid, Bella," he said harshly. I flinched. "The way you behaved was perfectly normal. That's how we'd all react in that situation - how monsters react - so don't even bother apologizing."

"Edward, don't -" Alice started, but Edward cut her off with a sharp motion of his hand.

"We're already in enough trouble because of you," he snapped back at his sister, and I could imagine how furious his eyes must have been.

I felt my own temper flare up at this. "Don't talk to her like that!" I growled, my eyes flying up to meet his. "She's done nothing wrong! If you're angry at me, take it out on me. Not everyone else."

"I'm not angry at you," he said automatically, trying his hardest to keep his voice even. He closed his eyes, taking a deep breath. "I angry with myself."

I heard Rosalie snort behind me. "So you should be," she hissed. "Thanks to that little stunt you pulled, we are now officially criminals."

I felt my eyebrows knit together in confusion. "I don't understand," I said slowly, the question burning in my throat. The horrible feeling in my gut told me that I already sort of knew the answer. "Why did you try and stop me feeding, anyway?"

Edward opened his eyes and I saw the sadness and guilt swirling there in the topaz depths, as well as a certain amount of revulsion. His jaw tightened and when he spoke, I could tell his teeth were clenched together.

"That wasn't animal blood you were drinking, Bella. It was human - and it was very fresh."