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Darkest Before the Dawn

Summary:
The door opened behind me, with a cold gust of wind suddenly sweeping through the room, rustling the papers on the desk and carrying that scent! I froze. Not again!...I sensed nothing...The fragrance was maddening. I slowly turned my head, following the scent, and there she was. Standing, back pressed against the back wall, waiting. She was haunting me. A reimagining of Twilight from Edward's perspective, starting from the very beginning...The First Time - and continuing on beyond where Midnight Sun ends. NOMINATED: 2009 Bellie's category Canon that's Better than Canon NOMINATED: 2009 Indie's Top 10 Best Canon Disclaimer: All characters, settings, and a great majority of the dialogue are the property of Stephanie Meyer.


Notes:
I wrote the first five or so chapters of Darkest Before the Dawn before I knew about/read SM’s Midnight Sun. I have since read it, but have tried to stay true to “my” version of Edward, as well as staying true to SM’s original dialogue and plot line.


11. Chapter 11 - Conflict

Rating 5/5   Word Count 5920   Review this Chapter

Chapter 11 – Conflict

All eyes were on us as we walked together into Biology. It thrilled and satisfied me to hear several students thinking of us as a couple, whether they approved or not. Newton was busy thinking daggers at me, which made me quite happy. Angela grinned from her seat in back, excited for her friend. She was surprisingly uncurious, giving us privacy even in her own thoughts. Angela was an exceptional person, not unlike my Bella. I would have to remember to find a way to repay her for her interventions in Port Angeles.

Not wanting to be separated from Bella any more than necessary, I pulled my chair close to her, our arms almost touching as we leaned forward on the lab bench. Mr. Banner backed into the room with a tall metal frame on wheels that held a heavy-looking, outdated TV and VCR. Jubilant thoughts sprang into nearly every student’s head as they realized it was movie day. Mr. Banner shoved the tape into the reluctant VCR and walked to the wall to turn off the lights.

As the room became darker my awareness of Bella jumped. Less than an inch away, her warmth reached across the gap to caress my cold skin. I was shocked by the sudden intensity of it and that electric feeling leapt to life within me. Her perfume wafted across my skin, up my arm, across my face…a torrid desire to reach out and touch her possessed me. I found myself having to ball up my fists and cross my arms tightly across my chest in order to restrain myself from reaching over to her and caressing her face. It was the madness of the first day, all over again, only this hunger was completely different from the thirst that nearly destroyed me then.

The light of the movie cast a flickering sheen on the faces of the students. I hazarded a glance at Bella and found her looking sideways at me, her arms and fists also clenched. I grinned as I realized she was in the same torment as I, and felt a wolfish delight in that. The electric current buzzed so loudly in my body I was surprised it couldn’t be heard by the students around us. They were preoccupied by the movie, or their own incessant daydreaming or whispering—it was as if Bella and I were alone in the room, our own private sphere of tension. Bella occasionally would glance at me, but never relaxed her posture. I spent most of the hour staring at her from the corner of my eye. I was fascinated by the tautness in her body. She clearly felt this powerful thing between us—could she possibly want this as much as I wanted her? I was tremendously excited about that possibility. I wanted to whisper to her, ask her what it felt like to her, but could not relax for fear of giving into that urge to run my fingertips along her face. It was a deliciously long and painful hour.

Finally, Mr. Banner turned the lights back on at the end of class. The room brightened and somehow the electricity in my body dimmed by the same measure. Bella stretched her arms out in front of her, flexing her fingers which must be cramped from the hour of pretending to be a statue. I chuckled.

“Well, that was interesting,” I murmured, watching her carefully, wondering if the tension she felt would extend outside the class.

“Umm,” was all she said, tormenting me further.

“Shall we?” I asked, rising from the lab bench, cautiously watching to see her reaction to the intense hour we just spent. She seemed a little unsteady. I almost reached out reflexively to support her, but constrained myself to walking closely next to her. As we walked to her next class in silence, I thought madly about whether I dared do what I wanted. Pausing at the gym door, she turned to me to say goodbye. Something about the expression on my face must have stopped her because she just stared at me. I raised my hand, hesitating, wondering if I could really do this without driving her away. Quickly, I decided, and brushed the length of her cheekbone with my fingertips, so softly that it almost felt as if I had not touched her—except that my fingers were on fire with the heat and amazing softness of her skin. She didn’t shrink away, and the joy of that filled me. I turned and walked away before I completely lost all self-control.

My final class of the day could not have been more tedious. I managed to get a seat near the window and spent a good deal of the time examining the trees beyond the school yard, watching the clouds slowly descend on the treetops. The memory of touching her cheek left me breathless just thinking about it. Given her cryptic comments earlier at lunch, I decided to distract myself by listening into Bella’s gym class. Unfortunately, Newton was the only mind I knew was in gym class with her. I grudgingly tore myself from thoughts of Bella’s touch and focused on him.

“Do you want to be a team?” he was asking her, eager as ever for any attention she would give him.

“Thanks, Mike—you don’t have to do this, you know,” Bella apologized, apparently thinking that it was a bad deal for Newton to be on her team. Foolish girl.

“Don’t worry, I’ll keep out of your way,” Newton replied, delighted to have time with Bella and confident he could dodge any mishaps that might head his way. It wasn’t long before Bella had somehow managed to hit herself in the head and whack Newton’s shoulder at the same time. I was glad that it hurt him as much as it did—his annoying thoughts yearning for her were starting to anger me. After that, Bella was relegated to the back of the court and Newton felt he was chivalrously protecting her from further injury.

My thoughts were captured by hearing someone think my name in my class. It was Angela: Bella and Edward Cullen…hmm. She had snuck a glance at me. Funny, I hadn’t realized she was in my class until now. I hope they work out, she thought. They look so…smitten. I wish they were going to the dance on Saturday. Bella could help me fend off Eric. Too bad, indeed—if this Eric was going to cause trouble for Angela at the dance, I would be happy to take care of that. But I was going to be with Bella this Saturday—perhaps I could help in another way, before the dance…my thoughts snapped back to Newton. He was planning on asking Bella about me.

“So,” Newton started, towards the end of class now, his thoughts tinged with anger now.

“So what?” replied Bella.

“You and Cullen, huh?” he asked, not at all happy about our recent appearance as a couple. I grinned.

“That’s none of your business, Mike,” she warned, causing me to grin even wider.

“I don’t like it,” Newton muttered, thinking I was no good for Bella and wondering why she couldn’t see how much better for her he was. My grin faded.

“You don’t have to,” retorted Bella, hotly.

“He looks at you like…like you’re something to eat,” Newton pressed. I cringed at his words, wondering what Bella would say. She didn’t seem to respond, just turning and walking away. This made Newton even angrier as he watched her flee to the locker room, thinking why can’t she see how dangerous he is? My flare of jealousy was tempered by the fact that the bell was about ready to ring. By the time she was done in the locker room, the bell had rung, and I was leaning against the wall, waiting for her.

“Hi,” she said, smiling broadly at me. It was breathtaking and immediately brought those cravings of the last hour back to me. I beamed at her.

“Hello,” I answered. “How was Gym?”

“Fine,” she said, her face falling.

“Really?” I asked, wondering if she would tell me about Newton’s accusations and interrogation. Newton’s antagonistic thoughts intruded again as he saw us in the hallway. You’re no good for her, Cullen. I glared at him, over her shoulder, as he walked away.

“What?” she demanded.

“Newton’s getting on my nerves.”

“You weren’t listening again?” she asked, horror-struck.

“How’s your head?” I asked, feigning innocence.

“You’re unbelievable!” she growled, stomping away toward the parking lot.

Keeping pace with her, I half-heartedly tried to defend myself. “You were the one who mentioned how I’d never seen you in Gym—it made me curious.”

She ignored me, clearly infuriated. As we neared the Volvo, a crowd of boys were gathered, gawking at Rosalie’s car. We slipped past them and climbed into my car.

“Ostentatious,” I muttered.

“What kind of car is that?” she asked.

“An M3.”

“I don’t speak Car and Driver.”

“It’s a BMW,” I said, rolling my eyes, trying to back out of the parking space without running over the ogling boys. “Are you still angry?” I asked.

“Definitely.”

I sighed. “Will you forgive me if I apologize?”

“Maybe…if you mean it. And if you promise not to do it again,” she insisted.

Well, that certainly wouldn’t do. “How about if I mean it, and I agree to let you drive Saturday?” I countered.

After a moment’s consideration, she agreed, “Deal.”

I looked deeply into her eyes and said with heartfelt sincerity, “Then I’m very sorry I upset you.” Her heart stuttered for a moment, bringing a smile to my lips. “And I’ll be on your doorstep bright and early Saturday morning,” I said playfully.

“Um, it doesn’t help with the Charlie situation if an unexplained Volvo is left in the driveway,” she protested.

Smirking at her, I said, “I wasn’t intending to bring a car.”

“How—“

“Don’t worry about it. I’ll be there, no car.”

She let it go, saying, “Is it later yet?”

Frowning, I replied, “I suppose it is later.”

I stopped the car—we had arrived at Charlie’s house. She seemed surprised how quickly we had arrived. I stared at her, wondering how to explain the hunt to someone who was supposed to be the prey.

“And you still want to know why you can’t see me hunt?” There was something faintly absurd about this conversation.

“Well,” she said, “I was mostly wondering about your reaction.”

“Did I frighten you?” I asked, hopefully.

“No,” she lied to me. I almost smiled.

“I apologize for scaring you. It was just the very thought of you being there...while we hunted,” I said, all humor vanishing.

“That would be bad?”

“Extremely.”

“Because…?”

I took a deep breath. The low cloud cover had descended and was pressing down on the town again, threatening to turn back into fog. I didn’t really want to explain this to her—the specific details of my monster nature.

“When we hunt, we give ourselves over to our senses…govern less with our minds. Especially our sense of smell. If you were anywhere near me when I lost control that way…” I shook my head, not willing to voice what the consequence would be. I glanced at her to see what her reaction to this was—still she remained calm. I looked at her, held her eyes in mine, saying nothing. The air seemed to grow thicker with the tension between us and some of the electricity from this afternoon in class started to build in me again. That irrepressible urge to touch her seemed to make my fingers warm, as if they remembered the last time, and I yearned to touch her again. I realized she had stopped breathing when she drew in a sharp breath. I closed my eyes to break the connection. I wasn’t sure whether my self-control was up to another round, especially in the close confines of the car.

“Bella, I think you should go inside now,” I said, my voice low and rough, keeping my eyes safely on the gathering cloud cover. She opened the car door, bringing a draft of cold air through the car, sweeping out her scent and clearing my head a little. She stepped out of the car carefully, as if she was unsteady again, and shut the door. I smiled, reminded that the effect I was feeling was coursing through her as well.

“Oh, Bella?” I called, leaning toward the open window, feeling more in control of myself now.

“Yes?”

“Tomorrow it’s my turn.”

“Your turn to what?”

“Ask the questions,” I said with a broad grin. I quickly turned on the car and sped away, before she could protest.

I was charged by the day’s encounters with Bella—the electric hour in Biology, touching her cheek, her agreeing to spend the day with me on Saturday, on my terms. When I went to watch her sleep that night, I was ready for the trance-like state that her measured breathing and heartbeat induced in me—I needed something to calm my ragged mind. But Bella was anything but restful. She tossed and turned and half-awoke so many times I took to hiding in her half open closet, on the off-chance she fully opened her eyes and looked around.

Feeling slightly ridiculous, I wondered what had so disturbed her sleep. I thought, perhaps, she had finally realized what danger she was in, agreeing to be alone with me on Saturday, and her dreams were filled with bloodthirsty vampires. But her moan filled dreams sounded more frustrated than frightened. Just watching her brought back some of that hunger that I had felt before in class. At one point, it took all I had not to leave the closet and climb into her bed with her—caressing her face and whispering softly to calm her. It was then that I decided it was best to leave, in spite of my great reluctance to do so.

The next morning I arrived early, but saw that Charlie had still not left the house for work. I waited down the street, listening. They were quiet, Bella and Charlie—comfortable in their own silences and sharing a simple breakfast. Charlie was turning over and over in his mind how to ask Bella about her plans for Saturday. He was concerned that she was not going to the dance. He wanted her to be happy, afraid that if she weren’t she might not want to stay in Forks. He was so happy to have her here that he would do anything to have her stay—he just didn’t quite know how to go about doing that.

“About this Saturday…” Charlie began, while they were finishing up their breakfast dishes.

“Yes, Dad?” replied Bella.

“Are you still set on going to Seattle?” he asked. I tensed, knowing Bella did not want her dad to know she would be alone with me. Now, maybe, she would have to tell him.

“That was the plan,” she replied, artfully using the past tense. Oh Bella.

“And you’re sure you can’t make it back in time for the dance?” Charlie asked, figuring maybe he could talk her into it.

“I’m not going to the dance, Dad,” Bella replied impatiently.

“Didn’t anyone ask you?” he asked. I laughed out loud.

“It’s a girl’s choice,” Bella replied, sidestepping him again. Bella could be more deceptive than I thought her capable of. I mentally tucked that away for future reference.

“Oh,” replied Charlie, disappointed, wondering why she hadn’t asked anyone. He was torn between wanting her to have someone to be interested in, and not thinking anyone would be good enough for his daughter. If he had any idea the kind of…person Bella was interested in…well, I didn’t think I was likely to win his approval.

Charlie gave up, frustrated at his inability to understand his teenage daughter, and left after saying goodbye. As soon as the cruiser rounded the corner, I was in her driveway. I waited patiently as she walked over, opened the door and stepped in.

“Good morning,” I said with that smile that automatically broke out whenever I saw her. “How are you?” I looked at her face carefully, noticing the dark circles under her eyes and the general fatigue. The night had taken its toll on her.

“Good, thank you,” she replied, and seemed to genuinely mean it.

“You look tired,” I couldn’t resist saying, hoping maybe she would fill me in on the drama of her dreams the night before.

“I couldn’t sleep,” she confessed, but seemed to shrink back from providing anything further—my Bella of the terse answers.

“Neither could I,” I teased as I started up the car.

“I guess that’s right,” she said, laughing. “I suppose I slept just a little bit more than you did.”

“I’d wager you did.”

“So what did you do last night?” she asked.

I chuckled. “Not a chance. It’s my day to ask questions.” Besides, I wasn’t quite ready to come clean about my nocturnal habits.

“Oh, that’s right. What do you want to know?” She frowned at me.

What did I want to know? Everything. Clearly, I did not understand her very well and I meant to correct that. Usually people were an open, and uninteresting, book to me. I wanted to know what she liked, disliked, and even hated. I needed to know if I was to have any hope of convincing her of my love. The dreary, ever-present mist of Forks was coating the windshield as we drove. I wanted to start slow, get her talking, before I asked the questions I really wanted to know.

“What’s your favorite color?” I asked, a little more seriously than that question required.

She rolled her eyes at me and said, “It changes from day to day.”

“What’s your favorite color today?” I asked, again. This was going to take a long time if she kept to her terse-answer strategy.

“Probably brown,” she replied.

“Brown?” I asked, disbelieving. I hoped she would at least be honest with me.

“Sure. Brown is warm. I miss brown. Everything that’s supposed to be brown—tree trunks, rocks, dirt—is all covered up with squashy green stuff here,” she complained. I stared at her. Even a simple question wasn’t, with Bella. More than ever, I ached to see into that unique mind of hers.

“You’re right,” I agreed, looking into those chocolate eyes that I loved so much. “Brown is warm.” I reached out, hesitating slightly in case I was being too bold, and swept her rich chestnut hair back behind her shoulder, inhaling the wave of scent that released my way.

We arrived at school in the midst of a crowd of cars and students milling around the parking lot. Once parked, I turned back to her to resume my questioning. If she continued with the short answers, I would simply have to drag them out of her the old-fashioned way. The day was mine.

“What music is in your CD player right now?” I asked, seriously. I knew her mother listened to Debussy, but where did her tastes lie?

“Black Holes and Revelations?” she replied. I flipped open the CD compartment under the car’s player, fished around amongst the jumble of CDs packed in there, and found the one I was looking for. I handed it to her.

“Debussy to Muse?” I asked, looking skeptical. She nodded. So her tastes ran classic to alternative. I continued to grill her on the way to class, sidestepping the students swirling around us, gaping.

“What’s your favorite book?” I asked intently.

“Whichever one I’m currently reading,” she replied. I gave her a withering look, demanding more. “Okay. I like anything Jane Austen. My favorites are Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility.” She seemed to blush at this, and I couldn’t imagine why. “We’re reading Wuthering Heights in English,” she went on. “I’ve read it already, but I like it, so I’m reading it again.”

“Why do you like Jane Austen?” I probed, wondering what the blushing was about.

She shook her head, ducking and hiding under her hair again, avoiding answering. We had reached her class, but I was reluctant to leave without an answer. “I have to go now,” she said, clearly wanting to escape this line of questioning.

“I’m not done with you yet,” I smiled wickedly. “See you soon.” I hurried to my own class in order to not be late. As I sat, my focus was drawn away from my next round of questioning by someone thinking about…Angela. It was Eric. He sat two seats ahead and to the right of me, and he was thinking about his upcoming dance date with Angela. I wonder…she doesn’t seem very experienced…should be easy to get a good night kiss…I’ll have to find some way to get her alone…My chivalrous anger rose in me, and I resolved a plan to help Bella’s friend—hopefully in a way that would not set the rumor mill alive in Forks High. At the end of class I moved quickly to be at Eric’s side as the bell rang.

“Hey,” I said, staring down at him as he rose up from his seat.

“Uh…hi,” he said, looking at me, bewildered that I was speaking to him and a little frightened. Good.

“You’re Eric, right?“ I asked. He nodded, wondering what he had done to attract my attention, which he clearly did not want. “I hear you’re going to the dance with my friend, Angela?”

“Um…yeah. Angela’s your friend?” he asked, wondering how this news had escaped him.

“Well, she’s really Bella’s friend.” I shrugged, smiling. “Could you do me a favor?” I asked, smile widening slightly.

“Uh…sure,” he replied, wondering what in the world a Cullen could want from him.

“Bella and I won’t be able to make the dance, and I just want to make sure Angela’s okay—you know, that no one takes advantage of her.” My smile widened a bit more, showing more teeth. “Could you watch out for her, for me? I wouldn’t want anything to happen to her.” My smile was, I was sure, distinctly menacing now. The threat was not lost on Eric. He shrunk back a little from me, unconsciously.

“Oh, yeah, sure—I’ll make sure she’s okay.”

“Thanks. I really appreciate it.” I left him with one more dangerous smile and turned to leave the classroom. I was fairly certain any plans Eric had to take advantage of Angela had evaporated under my predatory grin. Supremely happy with my good deed, I hurried out to meet Bella between classes to slip in a few more questions.

“Favorite movie?”

Pride and Prejudice.” Again, the blushing.

“Why do you like it?” I asked, intensely curious as to the source of her embarrassment, trying to remember what the story held that could be so…

“Umm…” she seemed to be debating whether to tell me something. “Well, I like the way she…explains people. She’s very honest and critical of the times and speaks passionately about love and romance and…” she stopped, seeming to have said more than she wanted. Her answer didn’t really satisfy me, but not wanting to torment her, I moved on.

“Favorite non-Jane-Austin movie?” I asked.

“Um, The Notebook? Or, maybe Memoirs of a Geisha? I don’t watch a lot of movies.” Ah, she was a romantic.

I reluctantly let her go to her next class, and spent the next period pondering what ground I had not covered in my line of questioning. Books and movies definitely leaned classic, and romantic…mostly serious. She liked things that were honest…and passionate. I smiled as I contemplated the portrait that was forming in my mind: brilliant, deeply thoughtful, yearning…there was no surprise why Bella drew me in.

At the end of the period, I was waiting for her again outside of her Trig class. Jessica rolled her eyes at me, and didn’t give us a second look. I continued the interrogation on the way to lunch, ignoring the open stares of the other students along the way.

“What other books have you read? Which ones did you hate?” I asked.

“I don’t think I’ve ever read I book I didn’t like, actually. I don’t know. I read a lot.”

“Names?” I demanded.

“Um…Great Gatsby? Brave New World?” Hmmm. She obviously liked the classics, but Brave New World? That was different.

“Any modern titles?” I probed.

Atlas Shrugged? Is that modern?”

“Well, more so. Popular fiction?”

“Not really. I guess I haven’t found anything that has caught my interest.”

We had made our way through the cafeteria line, tray laden with food again, and were seated at what had become my favorite table. I paused to organize my next line of inquiry. She seemed tired, probably due to her lack of sleep and my relentless questions. Even with dark circles under her eyes, I was completely absorbed by her face, her eyes—I felt that somehow my questions had cracked open the door to her mind and I was too eager to know more to stop now.

“Where have you been, besides Forks and Phoenix?” I asked as she appraised the tray of food I had selected for lunch. I hoped I had picked something she liked, and realized that I didn’t know what kind of food she preferred. That would be next on the exploration list.

“Well, I haven’t traveled much. My mom and Phil took me to an out-of-town game in Texas once. Mostly I’ve traveled around Arizona. My mom and I have gone to Albuquerque a few times. It’s beautiful there.”

I was sure I was tiring her with my questions, but there was so much I wanted to know, and not much time left before Saturday. I pressed on. We were locked in our tight, private bubble again.

“What’s your favorite gemstone?” I asked, leaning forward, chin resting on my laced fingers and gazing into her warm eyes. I was particularly interested in the answer to this one.

“Topaz,” she blurted out, looking a little surprised. And then that delightful blush rose in her cheeks again. With our faces so close together, it hit me even harder than usual. My breath escaped me.

“Why?” I demanded breathlessly, wondering why a gemstone could cause such a reaction. Was there some history to this, some past lover that had made some kind of gift? My curiosity was intense.

She shook her head, shrugging, unwilling to give up the answer and acting as if she didn’t know. She looked away from me, so I couldn’t persuade her that way.

“Please won’t you tell me?” I asked gently, with honey dripping from my voice. She was not going to escape telling me this one. She refused to look at me.

“I just like it,” she said, shrugging again.

Trying to capture her with my eyes, I commanded, “Tell me.”

She sighed, giving up. “It’s the color of your eyes today,” she said, staring down at her hands as she fiddled with a piece of her hair. “I suppose if you asked me in two weeks I’d say onyx.” I was strangely anxious about that answer, so I moved on.

“What kinds of flowers do you prefer?” I asked, changing subjects.

“I’m not particular about flowers, although I do like lilies,” she replied, and we continued the interrogation until the end of lunch. We barely noticed that the lunchroom had cleared and just made it to Biology in time. I continued to question her about her travels—what parts of Arizona she had visited and why they were interesting to her—until Mr. Banner dragged the audiovisual frame into the classroom again for the second half of our movie. I had been so absorbed with the electricity between us the last time, I hadn’t realized that we had not yet reached the end of the movie.

Not wanting to cause quite so much tension this time, I slid my chair slightly away from Bella as Mr. Banner approached the light switch. It didn’t help. As soon as the light was off, that same electric feeling burst to life inside me and I longed to touch her—perhaps even more, now that I knew she would not shrink in terror from me, and possibly craved it as much as I did.

Bella leaned forward on the table, resting her chin on her folded arms and surreptitiously gripping the table with her fingers. She didn’t look at me, but I openly stared at her in the dark. I was unable to look away, fascinated by her clenched position. I wanted to reach out and touch her back, lightly sooth away the tension there. I wondered what she could be thinking, and what she would think if I did—but of course that wasn’t possible. I didn’t know if I had the self-control to do it without…well, without it ending badly. I desperately wished that I did. I didn’t watch the movie at all.

After class I rose without a word, conflicting desires raging inside me. I waited for her to walk with me toward her gym class, again in silence. I turned to her, fighting against my better judgment. I softly touched her face, from her temple down to her jaw, slowly brushing her hot, soft skin with the back of my hand. It was just as I remembered it yesterday—a streak of tantalizing fire across my skin. I turned, wordlessly, and walked away, not tempting fate any further.

The next hour was forgotten as soon as it happened and I was back waiting for her as soon as the bell rang for the end of school. She came out of the locker room, dark hair swinging as she walked, smiling as she saw me. I had a surge of gratitude that somehow, for some reason, this lovely being had been dropped into my life, literally resurrecting me from my dead existence. My automatic grin spread over my face and I felt my whole being lighten, just being in her presence again. I wanted to just linger, maybe find an opportunity to lightly touch her hair or face again—but I had questions to get answered.

“Hello,” I said, still grinning.

“Hi.”

“So, what do you miss most about home?” I asked as we turned to walk to the parking lot.

She rolled her eyes at me. “Are you going to keep this up all day?”

“Absolutely.”

She groaned. “I miss my mom, of course.”

“You said she was your best friend,” I stated. She nodded, looking sad. “Who is your best friend here in Forks?” I asked gently, wanted to ease her sadness.

She frowned, as if she didn’t really want to answer. I waited patiently as we reached my car and climbed in. The heavy clouds had not released their load of raindrops yet, so the road was fairly dry.

“People are nice in Forks. I have a lot of friends here.” I grinned, thinking of all her male fans and how she had to keep beating them off with a stick.

“Anyone you’re especially close to?” I asked, probing. She frowned again—it seemed like there was someone, but perhaps she didn’t want to tell me? This frustrated me, to not know who her confidantes were.

“Well, Jessica and Angela are probably my best friends,” she said, finally.

“So, no one you can really confide in?” I asked, watching her. She looked sharply at me.

“I haven’t told anyone about you. I mean, about what you are.” She grimaced as she said this, as if she didn’t like the sound of the words.

“I know,” I said, gently, soothingly. I hadn’t meant to accuse. “It just seems that…well, I wondered if you missed being able to talk to your mom. Being able to share everything with her.”

“Yes,” she said, sad again. I decided to change the subject, to erase that sad look from her face. We had arrived at Charlie’s house and parked.

“Tell me about Phoenix. I’ve never been there.” I flashed a grin, wondering if she could guess why. “What does it smell like?”

“Smell?”

“Yes, each place has a smell. At least, it seems that way to me. When you think of it, what does it smell like?”

She seemed to consider it for a moment and then laughed lightly. “There is a smell, now that you mention it. There is a plant called a creosote bush. You only find it in the southwest and Phoenix is overrun with it. It smells…bitter, especially after the rain, a sort of resinous but pleasant smell. They live a long time, the creosote bushes.” She gave me a strange look.

“What else do you like about it?” I continued. We talked for a long time—well, mostly Bella talked as I peppered her with questions about the beauty of Arizona and New Mexico, and why she missed it. In the gathering darkness, from the lowered sun and downpour of rain that the clouds had finally let loose, she seemed more comfortable and talked more freely. I asked her about her friends in Phoenix—of which there were apparently only a few—and what objects she had in her room—none of which seemed extraordinary, except for her massive book collection. I paused, interrupted by the intrusion of Charlie’s thoughts on his way home from work. I had been scanning periodically, listening, to be sure we had ample warning.

“Are you finished?” she asked in relief.

“Not even close—but your father will be home soon,” I answered, smiling.

“Charlie!” she exclaimed. She looked out at the rain-darkened sky and sighed. “How late is it?” she asked as she looked at the clock.

“It’s twilight,” I murmured, looking where the setting sun was hidden by the clouds. This was the time I usually spent away from her, thinking about the day or waiting until I saw her again. She stared at me, so I turned to her, looking deeply into her eyes.

“It’s the safest time of day for us,” I said. “The easiest time. But also the saddest, in a way…the end of another day, the return of the night. Darkness is so predictable, don’t you think?” I smiled wistfully, thinking of the endless stream of days and nights that had comprised my existence, and how most of them had been so empty…until Bella became a part of them.

“I like the night. Without the dark, we’d never see the stars.” She frowned. “Not that you see them much here.”

I laughed and thought ahead to the time tonight when I would see her next. I liked the night too.

“Charlie will be here in a few minutes. So, unless you want to tell him that you’ll be with me Saturday…” I asked, hoping she would cave in to my request.

“Thanks, but no thanks.” She gathered up her books. “So is it my turn tomorrow, then?”

“Certainly not!” I asked, pretending to be outraged. “I told you I wasn’t done, didn’t I?”

“What more is there?”

“You’ll find out tomorrow.” I reached across her to open her door for her, enjoying the momentary closeness, especially when I heard her heart speed up as our bodies nearly touched. I froze, and not because I wanted to keep that close proximity to Bella. I heard a second car coming, whose occupants I was not glad to have coming to Bella’s house.

“Not good,” I muttered, jaw clenched.

“What is it?” Bella asked, surprised. I glanced at her.

“Another complication,” I said, disappointed that not only did I have to leave, but that she would be spending the next few hours with them. I flung her door open and moved swiftly away from her, before they could round the bend and see us. A flash of headlights through the rain shone on us as a dark car pulled up to the curb, just a few feet away.

“Charlie’s around the corner,” I warned, staring through the downpour at the two Quileute in the car. They definitely saw me. The older one knew who I was, and wanted Bella to stay away from me. The younger one just wanted Bella. I searched for a name…Jacob Black…of course. I was seething.

Bella hopped out of the car quickly, the rain drenching her jacket. I revved the engine, wishing I could confront the two Quileute in the other car rather than running away and leaving Bella here with them—and their suspicions. They were on my land. Instead I left frustrated, tires squealing against the wet pavement. I would be back tonight.