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Seducing Ms Swan

Summary:
AU Post-New Moon. Bella never jumped, Alice never had her vision and Edward never came back. Six years later, Bella is struggling to make a new life for herself as a teacher in Rochester, New York. How will she fare when a very familiar student crops up in her classroom? Will she be able to remain professional, or will old ties get in the way? Edward is convinced that getting Bella back is just a matter of 'persuasion', but Bella isn't prepared to be that cooperative. What's more, she's in the grip of a dark secret which threatens to prevent her from loving ever again. Bella Swan is slipping under...


Notes:
Thankyou to twike for beta work. Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.


6. Fear

Rating 3.9/5   Word Count 6356   Review this Chapter

I don’t want to die,
But I ain’t keen on living either.
Before I fall in love,
I’m preparing to leave her.
I scare myself to death,
That’s why I keep on running.

*~*~*

And suddenly I become a part of your past
I'm becoming the part that don't last
I'm losing you and its effortless

I burst through the double doors at the end of the hall and ran unseeingly down the corridor. Anger pounded through me like fire as I swept through the school, my mind reeling. I couldn’t believe what had just happened; that Bella, my Bella, could be so cold towards me was unthinkable. Visions of her face flooded through me, of her indifference as she ignored me and spoke to Carlisle, as she treated me like a stupid child. I growled at the memory and threw back another door with an almost deafening force. I detected a slight change in the temperature and realized that I had just left the building, entering the central courtyard around which the school was built. It was dark and silent, deserted save for a few snow-covered tables and benches. I took a step away from the door and rolled sideways until my back made contact with the solid wall. I slid down it, my head in my hands. What have I just done? I had almost certainly just sacrificed any chance of ever getting Bella back, not to mention drawn a lot of unwanted human attention towards myself. She had just made me so angry. She had been avoiding me for weeks, and then she gave me a detention when I tried to talk to her and now she was actively refusing to listen to a word I said. I swore angrily, my shoulders slumping back against the wall. I knew staying in Rochester was a bad idea; we should have left straight away. I had been a fool to believe there was even the faintest hope that Bella still harbored feelings for me; it was crystal clear that she resented my renewed presence in her life.

But then on my first and last attempt to ‘seduce’ her after class, three weeks ago, I could have sworn she had felt differently. At first I had intended just to talk to her, but when she had tripped and fell into my arms I decided that maybe, just maybe, following Emmett’s advice was a good idea. Indeed, for a few blissful moments I had hoped my attempts to kiss Bella were reciprocated… However it seemed I had been wildly wrong. After the arrival of a student had brought an abrupt end to my advances, Bella had seemed absolutely furious and she hadn’t spoken to me since, despite my best efforts to contact her.

My family had all offered to help me, especially Alice, but I had ordered them to stay away, mainly because I was too proud to admit that I was failing in my attempts to get Bella back. I was now on the edge of absolute despair; I felt rejected and embarrassed. But even worse was the supreme level of anger I felt: towards Bella for her actions, towards my family for persuading me to stay in Rochester in the first place, and mostly to me for believing their assurances that Bella still loved me. I let out a long frustrated growl as my mind was again inundated with memories of Bella’s eyes, so uncharacteristically filled with anger.

“Edward?”

My eyes snapped open to see Emmett coming through the door, an expression of surprise in his eyes. “What’s wrong?” he asked, “Why aren’t you with Carlisle and Esme? Weren’t you supposed to be seeing Bella?”

I just nodded, unable to bring myself to answer. I was already close to breaking point; the last thing I needed was Emmett’s incessant questioning. Emmett walked over to the nearest bench, where he sat down, still watching me curiously.

“So what happened?” he asked.

“I got thrown out,” I said through gritted teeth. Emmett raised his eyebrows, grinning.

“You got what?”

“I got thrown out,” I repeated, irritation flooding through me. He had heard me perfectly well the first time; he just wanted to add to my humiliation. I got to my feet and began to pace, attempting to clear my mind.

“Who threw you out?” he asked, watching me, his grin getting even broader.

“Carlisle,” I said curtly. I was quickly losing patience with this conversation.

“Why did he-”

“Because I was shouting at Bella,” I snapped crossly, “she wasn’t listening to what I was saying so I got frustrated and began to shout at her, some of the humans heard and Carlisle told me to leave.”

"Smooth," snickered Emmett, his gold eyes sparkling. In my highly charged state, the one comment was more than enough to set me off. I rounded on him, seething.

"Shut UP," I growled, glaring at him. "This is already all your fault, even without the juvenile comments." Emmett widened his eyes incredulously.

"What the hell?!" he cried, jumping up from his seat, "How is it my fault?"

I narrowed my eyes. "It was your idea to stay here in the first place!" I changed my voice, mimicking him in mocking tones, "'you'll just have to seduce her Edward; Bella loves you Edward she's sure to come around with a bit of persuasion'. What stupid advice!" I spat bitterly on the ground, expelling the rage induced venom that had pooled in my mouth.

"It was NOT stupid advice," Emmett replied hotly, "you hardly even tried!”

I growled angrily. “In case you haven’t noticed it’s been near impossible for me even to get near her, let alone-“

“Oh don’t give me that Edward!” Emmett scoffed, “you’re a vampire! You could’ve gotten her alone if you wanted to. Admit it; the plan hasn’t worked because you have about as much experience in seduction as a 10 year old-“

“The plan hasn’t worked because it was an asinine, childish suggestion!” I snarled, interrupting his sentence, “which isn’t really surprising, considering you were the one who came up with it.” It was a pathetic reply and one that was based in hardly any truth; Emmett was anything but stupid. It was a misconception among strangers that Emmett was a fool, caused by his huge muscles and friendly demeanor, but in truth he was just as intelligent as Jasper or Carlisle and twice as practical. Emmett’s eyebrows knitted in an offended, angry scowl.

“Funny,” he said slowly, walking towards me until he was unbearably close, his gaze piercing, “that even though I’m so stupid, I’m not the one who is too scared to speak to the woman I love-”

“I have spoken to her, and look where it got me- absolutely NOWHERE!” I shouted, anger bubbling through ice-cold veins, clouding my mind. All the rage and frustration I had been feeling for weeks was coursing through me, magnified a hundredfold in its intensity by the confrontation with Bella. The rational, much smaller, part of me knew that none of this was really Emmett's fault, but I was beyond caring. I needed someone to blame for the emotions of self-hatred, heartache and rejection I was currently feeling and it was much easier to target him than admit that I had been wrong. Emmett has no idea what he’s talking about, the angry part of me hissed, this whole conversation is ridiculous.

“I was right and I never should have listened to you or your useless ideas,” I said, “None of this would have happened if we had just left three weeks ago. I’m not going to make that mistake again- I’m leaving.” I turned to go, my body still trembling, but Emmett stopped me.

“Oh of COURSE you’re leaving!” He bellowed, his eyes flashing. “That’s what you do best, isn’t it Edward? The minute the going gets tough you decide to leave.” I narrowed my eyes and clenched my fists.

“Stop it, Emmett,” I uttered in a deadly whisper. He ignored me, however, raising his voice above my growls.

“All your life you’ve been running from your problems, pretending they don’t exist, preferring to meddle with other people’s business and play God in other people’s lives, just because you can. But the minute you start to find a reason to exist, the minute you find a girl and experience love for yourself, instead of like a voyeur in other peoples’ heads, you get so bloody scared that you start to run.”

“STOP IT NOW!” I yelled, my entire body shaking. I could feel the last vestiges of my self control slipping away with every word Emmett uttered. I wanted him to stop, leave, die; anything to silence him. His accusations surged into me like poison, crippling my heart and blackening my soul. It was as though I had been stripped naked, with all my most suppressed secrets and deepest insecurities laid bare for the world to deride. The worst thing was that, deep down, I could feel the truth behind his words; I knew that he was right and it killed me.

You can’t do this to Bella again you coward, Emmett’s thoughts screamed at me. “I’m sure you think you were being so noble, don’t you?” Emmett asked his voice ringing with bitterness, “It’s obvious that you’ve been wallowing in self-pity all this time; it’s obvious that you love feeling self-righteous in this way, that you get some sick, twisted thrill from it. Well guess what Edward? We might not be able to read your mind, but we can all see through you. Everybody knows that you were wrong and that you’re nothing but a Grade A, first class, win-an-Olympic-fucking-medal, life-ruining IDIOT!"

There was no stopping it. The minute Emmett’s tirade ended I felt a barrier inside of me break as though blown to pieces and, before I knew what I was doing, I lunged at him. Anger emanated from every area of my body as I flew in a blur of savage snarls and violent slashes towards him. I waited for the impact, my hands already outstretched to wrap around his throat, but he was too fast, moving with lightning speed three feet away from where he had just stood. As I spun to leap at him again, I saw a flash of blond from the corner of my eye. Jasper had come on to the scene, his hair flying behind him as he ran blindingly fast across the courtyard towards Emmett and me. I tried to escape but it was useless; I instantly felt Jasper flash to my side, simultaneously pinning my arms behind my back with enough force to crush human bones and barraging me with calming emotions. Such was my anger, however, that the attempts just rolled off of me with no effect whatsoever.

"For God's sake Edward, what do you think you’re doing?!" Jasper hissed, struggling to restrain me as I thrashed furiously against his grip. I gnashed my teeth in aggravation and writhed in his grasp, guttural growls ripping from my throat. I wasn't me anymore; the uncontrollable creature of anguish and wrath that had invaded my soul was feral and monstrous, wild and untamed- the furthest thing on earth from polite, upright Edward Cullen. I glared at Emmett from underneath Jasper's arms, my eyes burning as I took in his crouched, combative stance- a mirror image of my own. He flashed me a challenging look that was full of danger.

"What are you going to do Edward?" he growled, a chillingly menacing undercurrent rumbling through his low voice, "Kill me? Go on then; give it your best shot. We'll see who's still standing at the end of it, shall we, brother?"

The word sent a shock through me, and the tiny fragment of my mind that was still independent from the monster broke through the haze for the first time. This is Emmett, it pleaded, not an enemy; family. Think of the others; think of Carlisle. And then, think of Esme. Visions of my parents shocked and devastated as they supported a sobbing Rosalie flooded into my mind and I faltered.

My moment of uncertainty was all Jasper needed to overcome my anger, and I felt his power slam into me like a wall, sending me reeling backwards. I stopped and swayed disorientated on the spot, as though awoken from a trance. Then, weakened, I sunk to the snow covered ground, falling forward onto my knees as I clasped my temples. What was I thinking? I asked myself, horrified. Disbelief and shame gripped me as they had done when I had threatened Alice three weeks earlier, but a hundred times worse.

What have I become? I was afraid of the answer. This was more than simple aggression; I had actually tried to attack Emmett. What if I had hurt him? Killed him? Even in the non-existent chance that any of my family would have left me unpunished after such an act, I would never have been able to live with myself. I would have set the plans I had never followed into action and gone straight to Volterra. The thought of the possible repercussions my moment of madness could have had was enough to make me sick.

I could see that Jasper had approached Emmett, placing a soothing hand on his shoulder. Emmett received it gratefully, clasping it with his own, letting his breathing slow gradually before he eventually let go. “Thanks,” he said to Jasper, who nodded wordlessly. Then they both turned to watch me where I sat, shaken expressions on their faces. I could hardly bring myself to meet their eyes. Throughout all my heartache the support from my family had always been constant; now I didn’t even deserve to be in their presence.

Jasper’s voice broke the silence. “He’s fine now,” he murmured to Emmett, “he doesn’t seem to be feeling any anger anymore, only guilt.”

“But he tried to kill me, Jasper!” Emmett replied, shock ringing through his voice, “he might have done it, if you hadn’t…” he trailed off, stunned.

There was a long pause, during which Jasper scrutinized me piercingly. “No,” he sighed finally, “no… I don’t think he would have. He was already rethinking his actions when I intervened; a minute longer and he would have seen sense.” Emmett made a disbelieving sound; clearly he didn’t find this news very reassuring.

Is he right, Edward? He thought, Would you have stopped yourself? Do you even feel remorse now?

“Y-yes,” I rasped immediately, struggling to my feet, “Emmett I’m…. I don’t know what just happened, I couldn’t… God, I swear… I’m so sorry,” the last word has barely left my lips before I felt a broken sob heave through my body. I tensed, fighting to keep it at bay. I was sure that I had never felt so guilty in my entire existence. Emmett held my gaze for what seemed like an eternity, his eyes, uncharacteristically devoid of humor, the most serious that I had ever seen them.

“Sure you’re sorry now, but what happens when I say something else you don’t like? Will you kill me then?” he said finally.

“No!” I cried, repulsed at the very idea.

“I was only trying to help you Edward, that’s all any of us have ever tried to do. Bella was like a sister to me; I want her back in our lives almost as much as you do.” He shook his head sadly, disappointed in me. “You have to get a grip on your emotions; Jasper can’t always be here to calm you down. And if you lose your control around Rose or Alice…” He didn’t need to finish the sentence; Jasper’s low growl said enough.

“I know,” I said quietly, my voice pained, “I won’t hurt… I wouldn’t ever let myself hurt either of them.” There was another long silence as Emmett considered me. Finally he nodded slowly and I knew that I was, for the most part, forgiven. Not that I deserve it.

There was a long silence and then: “I need to talk to Carlisle.” I said shakily, turning to Jasper, “Do you have any idea where he is?”

“He’s with Rosalie,” Jasper said, “he met us after he left the hall and we were coming to find you, but they got waylaid by one of Rosalie’s teachers. Carlisle sent me to come and find you instead, seemed to think you’d need ‘calming down’.” He raised an eyebrow at me and I looked away ashamedly.

Emmett narrowed his eyes at me. “Wait a second, why do you need to talk to Carlisle?”

I paused, unwilling to reply. I didn’t want to start another fight and I wasn’t sure that I trusted myself not to lose control if Emmett challenged me again. On seeing Emmett’s expression, however, I knew I had no choice. “I want to talk to Carlisle because… because I need to tell him that I’m leaving.”

“WHAT!?” Emmett bellowed. He moved closer to me, his eyes furious again. “Didn’t you hear anything I just said? How can you still think that leaving is a good idea?!” He glared at me and took a step forward. Jasper hastily positioned himself between us again, placing a calming hand on Emmett’s shoulder.

“Yes Emmett,” I said, “I heard everything you said, and you were right. I should never have left Bella in the first place; I did more harm than good and I will never forgive myself for losing her.” I paused again, inwardly steeling myself against the pain I would feel at my next words. “But the fact remains that I did leave, and I won’t ever be able to undo it. It happened, Bella’s moved on and there’s no point in me staying here. I can’t ‘seduce’ her and I can’t force her to love me. I have to leave, it’s just too hard to constantly be around her but be unable to be with her.”

“But how do you know she doesn’t love you?!”

“Because she said so!” I growled, feeling some of my anger push back through Jasper’s muffling calm. “What else am I supposed to do?” Seduce her! Emmett’s thoughts retorted. I growled again. “If you even think the word ‘seduce’ one more time Emmett, I swear I’ll-” I was cut off mid-threat by Jasper who sent another wave of calm around. Emmett and I immediately relaxed where we stood; we had both unconsciously become tense again as though preparing for another fight. Once satisfied that we had both sufficiently composed ourselves, Jasper addressed me.

“What Emmett is trying to say, Edward, is that you need to reconsider your tactics.”

I looked at Jasper incredulously. “Tactics? This isn’t a game!”

“Isn’t it? I thought you wanted to win her back,” Jasper said, eyebrows raised.

“I do, but-”

“And clearly your methods of doing so have not been effective thus far,” he interrupted me.

“Ha! You can say that ag-” Emmett began, but he was silenced by the looks Jasper and I shot him.

I turned back to Jasper warily. “What do you mean? I’ve been doing everything I can.” It was true; I had tried to talk to Bella, I had rung her every night, I had played her lullaby to her. I had even tried, albeit poorly, to ‘dazzle’ her after class but to absolutely no avail. I didn’t think there was anything more I could have done.

However it was clear from the way Jasper was looking at me that he didn’t agree. “Following her around? Harassing her with phone calls? Purposely disrupting her lesson and then verbally attacking her in front of her colleagues?” I inclined my head very slowly. When he put it like that it did sound bad, but I still couldn’t quite comprehend where this chain of thought was going. Jasper shook his head in exasperation. “Honestly Edward, based on the way you’ve been behaving recently I’m surprised Bella hasn’t assaulted you, let alone rejected you.”

I ran a hand through my hair, distracted. “Well what am I supposed to do? She hates me Jasper, she was absolutely livid after the only time I tried to ‘seduce’ her and then she avoided me for three solid weeks. She doesn’t want to know!”

Jasper rolled his eyes. “Is that really any surprise? Consider the situation from her point of view; you left her in Forks and haven’t made any attempt to contact her since.”

“That’s because-” I began heatedly, but Jasper raised a hand to silence me.

“I’m not questioning your actions; I understand why you left, even if I don’t agree with it. But that’s not the point, what I’m trying to say is that Bella undoubtedly didn’t feel very cordial towards your leaving to ‘protect’ her. God knows she had absolutely no sense of self-preservation; don’t you remember the way she went after James? Bella loved you Edward; the intensity of her emotions around you used to make it overwhelming to even be in the same room with you two when you were together. You hurt her when you left and she’s had six years to dwell on that pain. You can’t possibly expect her to just welcome you back with open arms.”

I did not reply, suddenly uneasy. The truth was that Jasper didn’t even know the half of it. He, like the rest of my family, believed that I had simply told Bella that we were leaving for her own safety. They had no idea what the exact details of our conversation had entailed, nor did they suspect that the version I had related to them was anything other than the truth.

At the time, I had never believed the fact that I had lied about my feelings towards Bella was important; it was only now that I was starting to suspect differently. I doubted it made a huge amount of difference to her; after all, one word couldn’t possibly have been enough to negate months’ worth of declarations, but I was still reluctant to divulge to my family the extent of what had happened in the forest. I tried to compose my face so that I would not give myself away to Jasper and Emmett, but there was no stopping the creeping feeling of guilt and regret winding itself around my heart. Jasper looked at me in surprise and then furrowed his brow in suspicion.

“That is all you told her, right? You didn’t say anything else, anything that might explain why she’s so angry now?”

“No, of course not,” I said quickly, but it was obvious that Jasper was not convinced.

“Edward,” he growled warningly. Why are you lying? He thought, what did you say?

I hedged his question, trying to bide my time. “When I told her I was too dangerous, it wasn’t enough,” I said, trying to justify myself, “she wouldn’t let me go; she wanted to come with us…” I trailed off feebly, cringing slightly under my brothers’ unflinching gazes.

“So what did you say?” Emmett asked slowly, his eyes wide.

I shut my eyes, wincing against the pain as I was gripped by memories of that fateful night.

“Bella, I don’t want you to come wi th me.” I spoke the words slowly and precisely, willing her to believe the lie, ignoring the voice inside my head that was screaming the truth. This was it; I was committing the blackest kind of blasphemy and there was no way I could escape hell now.

Her brow furrowed as she mulled over the words. “You… don’t… want me?”

I ignored my heart, tightened my resolve and uttered the single syllable that would destroy my life: “No.”

I shuddered and dragged my mind back to the present. Jasper and Emmett were still staring at me expectantly. There was no avoiding it; I had to tell them.

“I… I told her that I didn’t want her to come with me,” I said falteringly, my voice barely above a whisper, “she asked if I wanted her and… I said no.”

A ringing silence followed my words, broken after what seemed like an age by a dumbfounded Emmett. “You… lied?” he asked, completely taken aback, “you told her you didn’t love her?”

I bowed my head in acquiescence. He gaped at me, thunderstruck. Even his thoughts were astounded. Then, finally, one broke through. You absolute IDIOT!

“EDWARD!” he shouted, “What the hell were you THINKING?! It’s no WONDER Bella won’t talk to you; she still believes that you don’t love her!”

I shook my head, tearing my eyes away from his fuming face. “No, you’re wrong. How could she still think that? After all the times I told her I loved her, how could she possibly let one word break her faith in me?” I could understand why the lie would make her angrier with me now, but I didn’t honestly think she still believed it; it was too transparently false. As if I could ever stop wanting her. Surely six years was long enough for Bella to see through such nonsense? I looked up to see Emmett and Jasper staring at me with identical looks of speechless enragement on their faces.

Finally, Jasper choked out, “Alice was right; you really are a brainless piece of-”

Edward! The rest of Jasper’s sentence was lost to me as I heard somebody thinking my name behind me. I turned around to see Carlisle sweeping towards the three of us from the same direction from which Jasper had come, his handsome face deadly serious. Uh-Oh. He did not look happy. As soon as he got within ten feet to me, the diatribe started.

What on earth were you thinking Edward? His thoughts asked, How dare you speak to Bella in that manner? And in front of a room full of humans? You could have exposed us all. It was foolish and reckless.

I hung my head in shame. “I know Carlisle, I’m sorry. I don’t know what came over me.” He looked at me with displeasure for a few more moments, before he sighed, his anger diminishing to be replaced by a weary look of fatigue.

“Honestly Edward,” he exhaled, “you need to be more careful.” I nodded dutifully; he was right, my behavior in the hall, though perhaps not uncalled for, was thoughtless to the extreme. “And son,” Carlisle continued, regaining my attention, “just as a general tip here, but if you wanted to, ahem, ‘seduce’ her, that,” he gestured towards the hall on the word, “was not the way to go about it.” I groaned. Not this again.

“Well that doesn’t matter anyway because-” I began, but I was interrupted by the arrival of Esme.

“Carlisle!” she cried as she walked quickly through the door I had emerged from, her soft face alight with worry. When she reached Carlisle she clung to him, her brown eyes wide as she gazed into his which were suddenly full of concern. “Carlisle, something awful just hap-” she broke off when she realized the way Emmett, Jasper and I were all curiously listening. To my surprise, her frantic expression escalated into a look of sheer panic.

I immediately focused in on her thoughts. Such was her distress that, despite her best efforts, she was unable to block me out. An image of Bella swam into my head. I watched as she as good as told Esme she didn’t love me. The words didn’t come as a surprise, but they were still excruciatingly painful to hear. I looked at Esme, whose pained expression almost mirrored my own. Oh Edward. I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself. But she could have been lying… I shook my head curtly, refusing her words. This declaration, coupled with Bella’s recent behavior towards me, was all I confirmation I needed of her dislike. I turned slowly to face Carlisle and the others who were watching us with expressions of apprehension.

“Bella just told Esme that she didn’t love me. Is that enough proof that it’s futile to remain here? Now can we leave?”

“No!” Emmett said, “We can’t leave until you tell Bella that you lied!”

“Lied about what?” Esme asked Emmett confusedly.

“When we left Forks Edward told Bella that he didn’t love her,” Emmett said, his narrowed eyes still fixed on me. Esme and Carlisle both let out noises of shock and disbelief. They turned to look at me, their eyes wide.

Oh Edward! Esme thought despairingly.

“Is this true?” Carlisle asked seriously.

I sighed, stressed. “Yes,” I finally begrudgingly said. This prompted another round of exasperated sighs and groans from my family. “Look,” I said, raising my voice to be heard above them, “none of that matters, it’s in the past. Regardless of what I said to Bella six years ago, it’s obvious that in the here and now she doesn’t love me. My agreement to stay in Rochester hung on the condition that I’d wait to determine Bella’s feelings for me; it’s painfully clear that she does not love me, therefore there is absolutely no point in staying.”

“I already told you, she’s probably just-” Emmett began, but I cut through him.

“That’s my final decision; I don’t wish to discuss it any further.” I looked at Carlisle. “I presume we can leave tonight?”

He paused for a minute, as though deliberating. What can I tell him? He thought. I frowned, trying to understand his jumble of thoughts. “Actually,” he said hesitantly, “we can’t leave, not for a while, anyway.”

“What?! Why?”

“I’m sorry Edward,” he said evenly, “I was so sure we were going to be here long-term that I haven’t even warned the hospital of our departure.”

“So what?!” I cried, “You didn’t give them any warning in Forks! Call the hospital now, what does it matter?!” I couldn’t believe that Carlisle was using the hospital as his excuse to stay; it was obvious that his decision had nothing to do with that.

“I can’t do that-”

“Why not?”

“-because I don’t want to,” he finished simply. I gaped at him, and he carried on. “Leaving Forks was a terrible mistake with far-reaching consequences for all of us; I have no desire to make the same error again.”

I roared, clasping my head in frustration. “SHE DOESN’T LOVE ME! When will you all accept that?!”

Carlisle looked at me levelly, his calm face a polar opposite of my own. “Judging by what Emmett has just told us, you can’t be certain about that until you and Bella are both on the same page in terms of your feelings. I suggest that you remain in Rochester long enough to speak to her properly, preferably in a conversation that does not involve shouting.”

I just gawked at him wordlessly. Why were they all so determined to work against me? I was utterly helpless. I couldn’t leave on my own without upsetting Esme and I couldn’t force my family to come with me.

“And anyway,” Carlisle continued, seemingly oblivious to my dazed state, “it would be incredibly rude to leave now that we’re expecting a visitor.”

The word ‘visitor’ broke me straight out of my trance. We were expecting a visitor? Who would possibly want to visit us? We didn’t have any acquaintances who would visit us except for… my eyes widened in horror as I glimpsed Carlisle’s thoughts.

“No!” I gasped, disbelieving. No way, he couldn’t possibly mean- “Why Carlisle?!” I shouted desperately, “How could you possibly think inviting her to stay was a good idea?!”

Carlisle looked at me and I was only slightly comforted by the fact that he had the grace to be abashed.

“I didn’t so much invite her as she invited herself…” he said guiltily. It was obvious from Esme's expression that Carlisle had already divulged this crucial bit of information to her, but Emmett and Jasper watched us in confusion.

“Who’s coming to visit?” Jasper asked.

“Tanya,” Carlisle and I said in unison, his voice calm, mine a horrified wail. This was not just bad; it was awful, terrible, CATASTROPHIC.

Emmett burst out laughing.

I whipped around, glaring at him with eyes that screamed ‘drop dead now’.

“How in hell is this situation funny?”

Emmett raised his eyebrows, as if the answer was obvious. However, once he had glanced from my livid expression to the others’ puzzled ones, he seemed to realize that nobody else got the joke.

“Oh come on, can’t any of you see the humorous side of this?” he asked.

We all continued to stare at him, nonplussed.

“It’s funny because Tanya and Bella are both your exes-”

“Wrong, but carry on,” I growled. Tanya was never my ‘ex’; we’d hardly even had a relationship; it had been more of an embarrassing misunderstanding. Emmett looked at me with a smirk.

“Well can you really not see the irony in the fact that at 112 you’ve never been laid, yet you have two exes and the one that you detest is the one who wants to get into your pants?”

Emmett Cullen: king of inappropriate comments. I sent him a glare that could shatter stone, before turning back to face Carlisle. “When does Tanyaarrive?” Perhaps I can make an unexplained disappearance…

“Tomorrow,” Carlisle said, halting all plans of escape in their tracks. “And I expect you to mind your manners and remember the way you were brought up, Edward. I don’t want you displaying anything but the utmost civility towards our guest. Now as far as Bella is concerned…”

I groaned; this evening was turning from bad to worse.

“…I recommend that you speak to her as soon as possible, if only to prove that you are capable of being a gentleman. Forget ‘seduction’, how about we try for a little bit of basic courtesy first?” Carlisle said, a slight smile haunting his features.

I scowled. “Come on, haven’t we already established that this is pointle-”

“You can start right away,” Carlisle said, ignoring my protestations. He wasn’t looking at me; instead he was focusing on something over my shoulder. I spun around, to see Rosalie round the corner into the courtyard from the paved pathway that skirted past the M block, followed at a distance by Alice and Bella.

At first I felt angry- I had warned Alice not to talk to Bella- but then I felt my body stiffen, as my eyes drank in Bella’s appearance. She was listening calmly to an animated Alice, smiling warmly occasionally. She was so beautiful; even after all this time the sight of her still took my breath away. She looked stunning in the moonlight with her brown hair falling in soft waves to her shoulders, the deep chocolate color a striking contrast to her radiantly pale skin.

It dawned on me that all this talk of leaving Bella was worthless- there was no way I would ever be able to tear myself away from her again; I was still irrevocably in love with her. The air felt magnetically charged as my body yearned to close the distance between us, to touch her, to hold her and kiss her perfect lips… As she and Alice drew towards us, Bella looked up and caught sight of us, letting out a little gasp, her lips parting in a small ‘o’. It took all my self control not to grab her then, I gripped my hands into fists and forced myself to look at the ground; I had no desire to catch Jasper’s smug smile at my reaction.

“Go to her now Edward,” Esme said softly, too quietly for Bella to hear, “we’ll wait for you in the parking lot.”

“No, wait, I-” I wasn’t sure what to say. I didn’t want them to leave me alone with Bella; in truth, I was terrified of her rejecting me again. “What do I say to her?” I finally asked feebly, suddenly feeling extremely vulnerable. Esme smiled.

“Just be polite, Edward. You can be very charming you know- when you’re not shouting, that is. Just apologize to her and try not to lose your temper again.” She gave me a consoling hug, before turning on her heel to leave, the others following her. I tried to call after them, but before I could find the right words they had melted into the shadows and through a door back into the main part of the school. I was suddenly hyper aware of how quiet the courtyard was; it was silent except for the soft rush of passing cars on the street outside and the occasional whisper of the wind.

Slowly, I turned around. Part of me was surprised to see Bella still standing there; I had half expected her to flee. It had started to snow again; a few flakes had already collected on her eyelashes and the end curls of her hair. I realized with a slight smile that I was now jealous of snowflakes. Bella was watching me uncertainly and the blush that I knew and loved so well began to creep up her neck, caressing her cheeks. The familiar sight caused my body to react and before I could stop myself I was walking towards her as though drawn by a magnet.

I wasn’t sure what I was going to say, only that it was crucially important that I didn’t mess this up again. Whether she loved me or not, I simply couldn’t afford to lose Bella again. I loved her with ever inch of my being; without her, I was incomplete. I needed her like a fish needed water; our connection was permanent, binding and irreversible. I had to win her back.

I was feet from her now and she was watching me with wide brown eyes. This was it; perhaps it was the only chance I would have to make things right.

“Hello Bella,” I said, and my quiet voice seemed to ring around the empty courtyard. She looked at me breathlessly for a few moments, her wide eyes unsure.

Tentatively, her perfect lips curled into a very small smile. “Hello Edward.”