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A Litany at Dusk

Summary:
Thanks to hellacullen for the awesome banner! Edward’s rebellious period wasn't just a few years; it lasted seventy. Having spent his years hunting on the edges of society, he rejoins his family in Forks ready to abstain when he runs acorss a young woman praying. Can a choice be made between one's desires, one's heart and one's soul? Will Edward be willing to fight for her instead of fighting against her? A/U a bit OOC, rated for lemons and adult content, some violence


Notes:
Thanks to PTB for their assistance and to hellacullen, who is the wind beneath my wings! Her consistent and intelligent commentary, suggestions and cheerleading were incredible and I wish everyone a beta like hellacullen. I own nothing of Twilight. Let's see who could be the owner? Possibly SM?


22. Chapter 22 Seeds Of The Whirlwind

Rating 5/5   Word Count 5340   Review this Chapter

Bella

I awoke some time after noon as the sunlight streamed through the cracks of the window shades. I stretched in bed, feeling as relaxed and spineless as a cat. On the bedside table, I saw several rose colored asters tied together with a piece of string. Underneath them was a note.

Dearest Bella,

I will be back this afternoon for you.

Never again will I curse Fate, for it brought me to you.

Edward

I brought the note to my nose, catching a faint whiff of his lingering scent on it. Fingering the asters and brushing them down my cheek, I remembered the sensations of his fingers there. Oh, that was a night, of all nights. It was the night I would remember when I was a dried up old lady of ninety, rocking away in my chair at the nursing home.

I twisted the sheet around me and slipped out of bed to my knees. I thanked Mary for bringing Edward into my life, and I asked for her guidance in bringing Edward back to God. I couldn’t find it within me to ask for forgiveness for my actions of last night, because it hadn’t felt like a sin. No, not like a sin at all. It had seemed more like a sacrament—a sacrament and celebration of the divinity of physical love.

The shower felt wonderful, and I let the hot water pound on my shoulders, hanging my head. I kept smiling, remembering his eyes, his hands, his mouth. I soaped up the scrubby and ran it over me, remembering how he had touched me. I was deliciously sore between my legs, a pleasant reminder of him, and the memory caused me to shiver with remembered pleasure.

Throwing on some clothes, I spied my cross necklace on the dresser. I had trouble with the clasp; for some reason, it wouldn’t stay open so I could slip it together. I gritted my teeth with frustration, determined that I would get it around my neck. It must have taken a full ten minutes to finally get it where it should be. I pressed it against me as I caught my own eyes in the mirror, trying not to read anything into something as mundane as a sticky clasp.

I fed Darcy, who made an appearance from under the bed, and turned on the TV as I straightened up. I sighed, looking at the holes in my mattress. He'd done that with his hands–his marvelous, long fingered hands. So full of strength and yet so incredibly tender and, well, talented. He'd taught me things about my body last night that I had not known.

I was basking in afterglow; even the news on the TV couldn't bring me down. It was at times like this that I missed my mother the most. I would have called her and shared with her the news of the incredible new man in my life. We'd have laughed and chatted, and she'd have known exactly how I felt. Charlie was great and all, but not much for this kind of sharing. I moved around the kitchen while silently asking Heaven to hold Renee in its heart.

From the kitchen, I heard a news teaser, talking about the recent wave of gang-related violence. I took my cup of coffee and sipping it, leaned against the doorway, watching the screen. I nearly dropped the cup when the mug shots of two of my attackers appeared.

The names under the mug shots said Roland Deschain and Darryl Hunnings. Their mutilated bodies had been found, one not far from where I had been attacked and the other floating in Puget Sound. Gang violence was suspected, but autopsies were being performed. I turned away from the TV, my emotions churning. Some part of me was very glad they were dead; they deserved to die. They were scum, and I felt a lot safer now that they were gone. The other part of me chided myself for being so un-Christian like. But by far the largest part of me wondered how they had died. My mind skittered away from the possibility that Edward had some part in it their deaths. They were gang members, right? Those people died by violence all the time.

I stood in the middle of the living room, trying to sort out my thoughts and feelings, when a very familiar chugging came wafting through my windows. I knew that unmistakable and unique sound intimately, having lived with it almost every day for two years. I ran over to the window to see my red truck come down the street and turn into my driveway.

My truck! I got almost teary at the sight of the rusty red clunker that had been my father’s welcome gift to me when I moved in with him and my sole mode of transportation around Forks. It had been rusting in the driveway of my father’s house for the past month and a half while I tried to save money for the new engine it needed. Now, here it was in my driveway, purring like a kitten—well, as much as a truck of its maturity could.

My immediate glee was tempered, though, when I saw who the driver was. Jake. I took a deep breath and headed outside. The clouds were giving way to occasional bouts of sunshine and the air was getting crisper.

Jake climbed out of the truck and shut the door firmly behind him as I came down the steps. He turned around and smiled at me. Was it so wrong that some part of me still thrilled to see those full lips spread in that goofy grin? Although I could never forgive his actions, in many ways I still missed his friendship. His short hair made him look older and more serious, but he was still sort of beautiful in that dark, exuberant way.

“Jake,” I said, somewhat stunned. “What are you doing here? My truck—you got my truck running?” I reached out and ran my hand along the hood; the metal felt strangely comforting under my hand.

“Happy Birthday, Bella,” he said, grinning.

I looked at him, still unbelieving. “It’s not my birthday for another couple weeks.”

“Well, call this an early present then.” He patted the fender of the truck fondly.

“Jake, I—I don’t know what to say.”

“Thank you would be a start.”

“Well, thank you. Did you—what did you have to do to fix it?”

“Got a new engine from the junkyard in Bremerton.” The pride on his face was unmistakable. “I rebuilt the carburetor too.”

“A new engine? That must have cost you some money.”

He shrugged his shoulders. “Not as much as you’d think.”

“Jake, really, it’s too much. I should give you some money.”

He scoffed, looking at me through those bristling eyebrows. “You want to give me money for your birthday present? I don’t think so.”

"No, Jake, really," I protested.

"Don't be stubborn, Bella," he said, crossing his arms. “I’m not taking any money."

"Oh, I'm the stubborn one?" I asked, scoffing back at him. I pursed my lips, stymied. “I’m speechless. Really. Thank you.”

He spread his arms. “Can I get a hug?”

“Okay,” I said hesitantly. I stepped into his arms, trying to make sure the hug I gave him was the sisterly kind. It was the kind of hug we gave each other back when we were friends, before everything had gotten so screwed up.

Stepping back, I couldn’t help but wonder about his motives. “Tell me, why did you do this?”

He smiled disarmingly. “It’s your birthday, Bella. I always do something for your birthday.”

I frowned at him. I knew him better than that. “Jake, if this is—”

He stopped me. “Bella, if I could take back the last 8 months and get a do-over, I would. In a heartbeat. I've been a stupid, selfish ass, and you're the one who’s had to pay for all my mistakes."

My jaw dropped in astonishment. He was sincere, and his words created a maelstrom in me. I had to move. I took a few steps past him, around to the back of the truck and gazed at the ground, trying to sort my feelings. Part of me wanted to yell, "That's right, asshole!" Another part of me wanted to collapse, crying, in his arms. He’d been my best friend for so long; the urge to let that happen again was irresistible.

His voice came from behind me. "I would never have asked you to stop the pregnancy if I'd known..."

Why was being mature such a pain in the ass? I stared at the ground. "Jake, it's my body. Ultimately, the decision was mine." Unfortunately, the pain was too.

"I should have never..." His voice trailed off, and the two of us stood there in silence, each wrapped in our own grief. I stuffed mine back into the closet of my heart. I was too high in the afterglow of Edward to let it darken my day. I sighed and turned around.

He had his hands stuffed in his pockets. "I know I am a shit and what I did was unforgivable." I took a breath, unsure of whether to argue or agree with him. I saw him read the uncertainty on my face.

He rushed into his next words, before I could protest. "Bella, you know me as well as anyone. Did you really think I would do something like that without good reason?”

I took a step back, shaking my head. “You changed so much over such a short period of time. I mean, look at you. Even physically you’re not the same.”

“I know.” His face got incredibly sad. “More than you know. If I couldn’t be with you, it wasn’t because I didn’t want to.”

I wasn’t going to have this argument once more. “All right, let’s just stop there. I’m not having this fight with you again. And you can’t buy me off with my truck.”

“I’m not trying to buy you off,” he protested. Wistfully, he added, “We were friends once, Bella, before things got all fucked up. I would really like us to be that again.”

I searched his face. His warm brown skin and dark eyes were as familiar to me as my own. Why was it so hard to say no to Jake? I sighed and looked at him. “Friends?”

He could sense my capitulation before I could. “Friends,” he agreed nodding.

“Okay.” I said, as he stepped forward to hug me again. I put my hand out to stop him. “Friends,” I said warningly.

He spread his hands and shrugged his shoulders. “All right.”

I turned to the truck to pop the hood. “So, show me what you did.”

A half hour later we were sitting on my front stoop which was no longer damp from the morning's rain, while Jake brought me up to speed on the latest outings of the rez gang. “So, Quil’s dad is like, ‘you know the cup holder for the computer.’ Collin says, ‘Computers don’t have cup holders.’ And Mr. Ateara says, ‘Oh yes, they do. Mine does.’ Well, this we gotta see. So we go inside and Quil’s mom is there all, asking us about what we’ve been doing, and we go over to the desk. Mr. Ateara hits the CD drive button and the little tray slides out and he looks at us and goes ‘See? Cup holder.’”

I started laughing. Quil’s dad was notoriously tech disabled.

Jake went on. “Well, at this point, Collin can’t hold it in, and he starts laughing so hard, we practically had to carry him out.”

“That’s rich, a cup holder,” I said, shaking my head as we finished chuckling. “I’ve got some cokes in the fridge, do you want one?”

“Yeah, that would be great,” he said.

I paused, preparing to get up, but then sat down again. “How are you getting home?” I asked him.

“Paul’s visiting his sister in Parkland. He’ll come get me when I call.” He noticed the chain dangling around my neck. “That’s new,” he said curiously.

I grabbed the cross pendant in my hand, hiding it from his eyes. "Yeah, well, you're not the only one who has changed."

"May I see?" he asked while I reluctantly loosed my fist to hold the cross out as far as I could with the chain pulled around my neck.

He held it in his open hand, examining it. "It’s nice. Unexpected, though." He looked up and his face was close, his dark eyes searching mine. "You were never religious before."

I raised my chin. "That was before," I said stiffly, sure he wouldn't understand my conversion. I couldn't stand the sight of pity creeping into his eyes. "I should give you Charlie's jacket to take back to him," I said, jumping up from my seat, as from inside I heard the phone ringing.

I left him on the steps and entered the door, picking up the phone in the kitchen. “Hello?"

"Hello." It was Edward's voice, and even through the phone, it made my spine tingle.

"Oh, hi," I said, curling my fingers in the phone cord. "Thank you for the asters."

"I would have gotten you roses, but there weren't any florist's shops around."

"I don't need roses. I just want you here."

"I'll be there soon. Believe me, I started missing you the moment I stepped out your front door."

"That sounds about right for me too."

"I'm borrowing the Camaro again. I should be there soon."

"Well, we could take my truck, if you like."

"Your truck?"

"Yes, my truck. A friend got it running for me and brought it by as an early birthday present."

"I'll be there as soon as I can.”

“I’ll be counting the seconds,” I murmured into the phone.

“As will I, Bella, as will I.”

I sighed as I heard the line disconnect. Just the sound of his voice was enough to get me aching for him again. I hung up the phone and dreamily walked into the living room.

Jacob must have followed me in from outside. He was standing in the middle of my living room, his face scowling furiously, his fists clenched in rage. "Bella, I can't believe it."

"Believe what? What's wrong?" I asked, bewildered.

"Who was that on the phone?" he demanded, taking a step towards me. His black eyes were flashing with anger.

That was rather intrusive. Had he been eavesdropping? "Why do you want to know?" I asked suspiciously. "What's it to you?"

He grabbed my shoulders roughly. "Tell me that wasn't Edward Cullen."

I was shocked he put his hands on me. I glared back at him defiantly. "What if it was?" Was that was this was about? Boyfriend jealousy?

He let go of my shoulders and strode across the room, shaking his head. "Paul told me, but I refused to believe it." He whirled around and frowned at me scornfully. "But this whole place reeks of him."

"Reeks of him?" I was becoming alarmed. He was trembling so hard with anger, tremors were passing through him like waves. It was almost as if his outline was rippling. "Jake, you're scaring me."

"I'm scaring you? I'm scaring you? What about Edward Cullen? He should be scaring the pants off of you." He stepped to the doorway to my bedroom and looked swiftly around, inhaling through his nose. He turned back to me, and his eyes were like black tar, flat and murderous. "Or maybe he already has."

Now I was angry and scared. "Jake! What in hell is wrong with you?" I'd never seen him in such a fury. But he gave up any right to be concerned with whom I was dating months ago.

"Edward Cullen. What's he been doing here?" His voice was low and murderous. It sent cold fingers down my spine, but I refused to be intimidated.

I raised my chin and crossed my arms. "I'm trying to figure out why you think this is any of your business." The chill in my voice could have frozen ice cubes.

I could see him finally register my anger. He took a deep breath and unclenched his fists. "Bella," he said, "you're in danger. Grave danger."

"Jake, listen to yourself. You sound like a comic book. Stop being ridiculous. Edward would never hurt me. In fact," I insisted, thinking back to the attack, "he's already saved my life."

"Saved your life?" He laughed harshly without humor. "Yeah, like you would save a turkey sandwich for a snack."

"It's jealousy, isn't it?” I threw the words at him bitterly. “That's what this is all about."

"Bella, it’s about saving your life." He crossed his arms, his biceps bulging. "Edward Cullen is one of the most dangerous monsters to walk the earth."

I looked at him, unwilling to hear his ignorant comments. I headed across the room towards the door. "I'm not listening to this anymore."

He caught my arm as I passed, whirling me around. His dark eyes were glowering just inches from mine. "Believe me, I am deadly serious. Edward Cullen is part of a coven of the most dangerous creatures on earth." His voice dropped lower. "I’m not supposed to say anything, but you need to hear this.” He looked at me, his expression deadly serious. “Bella, he's a vampire."

I searched his face. There was no denying his sincerity. I wondered whom he'd been talking to. The Jake I knew was a laid back, down to earth kind of guy. "I don’t know why you're saying these things, but get out. I want you to leave."

"Oh, come on, Bella!" He rolled his head in frustration. "Wake up! Haven't you noticed anything odd about him? The cold skin? Have you seen how strong he is?"

I froze even as my mind started stuttering. The holes in my mattress. The way he'd held down grown men with just one hand. The feeling of his cold hands pressed against my back, my thighs. His cool lips on my face. No, absolutely not. Edward had been sent by God; he wasn’t a vampire, of all things.

Jake pressed his point, still clutching my arm. He saw the sudden doubt in my eyes. "You’ve seen it, haven't you? The strength, the speed? Maybe he did something unexpected, unexplained? And you just ignored it like everyone else."

I shook my head. "Jake, this is not the movies. A vampire?” I remembered him talking about his family. “I suppose his whole family are vampires too," I said sarcastically.

He nodded, taking my comment at face value. "Now you're getting it."

I pulled my arm from his grip. "This is insane! Dr. Cullen and his family are all vampires?" I shook my head, heading for the door. "I don't know what you've been smoking at those tribal councils, but they shouldn't let you drive while you're like this."

“Bella! Damn it, girl!” He strode one furious step across the room and then back. “What will it take for you to believe me?”

“Try telling me something besides…insanity! The Cullens are a bunch of bloodsucking vampires living right in the middle of Forks?” I glared at him. “I suppose they’ve been stashing the corpses in their basement?”

"The Cullens are different. Why do you think we allow them to live in Forks? They're only allowed to stay as long as they keep away from humans."

This was getting crazier with every passing second. I couldn’t even wrap my mind around it. "So, you're saying...What are you saying?"

"They live off of animal blood. They hunt, often and well. Weren't they out of school all the time?"

"Yeah, they are, like, big hikers..."

"Hikers, hunters. They've been decimating the game around the National Park for years now."

I shook my head. Dr. Cullen had seen me in the emergency room. He was a wonderful doctor. I could picture him in his white doctor's coat, the corners of his golden eyes crinkling with his smile. Golden eyes like Alice Cullen had, and Jasper Cullen. Even the older two, Rosalie and Emmett, had those eyes. Such an unusual eye color, but the whole family had it, even though they said they weren't related.

I stared at the floor, my mind racing furiously. Jake stepped closer. "I wasn’t supposed to say anything, but this is it. I’m tired of trying to keep secrets from you. I've lost you once because of secrets. I won’t let you die because of them."

“Well, this is one secret you should keep to yourself, Jacob Black, because it’s crazy!” I shook my head. The Cullens were a family of vampires? I almost started chuckling.

He was stock-still, gazing at the floor. I shifted uneasily, waiting for him to laugh, say it had all been a joke. Ha-ha, Bella, almost got you that time. What a crazy jerk. I went for my purse; I would pay him for the repairs on my truck. There was no way I wanted to be indebted to him. Then he could just cart his sorry ass home.

His eyes watched me cross the room. “I know, Bella, because I am one of their natural enemies.” He said it softly, but the effect it had on me was chilling. It sent shivers down my back.

I kept shaking my head. This was more than ridiculous. “Natural enemies is right,” I said sarcastically over my shoulder. I rummaged through my purse, looking for the checkbook. “You keep spreading shit like this, and you’ll be an enemy for sure.”

I turned around, and he inexplicably lifted his tee shirt over his head. He’d filled out even more; his muscles rippled as he did so. “I am trying to save your life.”

“What do you think you’re doing?” I asked indignantly, my hands on my hips, still holding my purse. I stood there, flabbergasted, as he threw the shirt on the couch.

“My tribe, Bella, we’re the natural enemies of vampires. It’s a part of our heritage. It’s the magic and the power that the land gives us.” He bent over to slip one sneaker, then the other, off his feet. “This is what I’ve been doing, learning how to use that power.” He stood up. “Don’t you see? That’s why I couldn’t come to the hospital. I didn’t have the control yet."

My mind started stuttering again. Pictures of Edward ran through my mind: his perfect looks, the power that seemed to pour off of him. The strength, the speed. The TV news detailing the deaths of my attackers. In my mind’s eye, I saw the Cullens turning to look at me from their lunch table, all so different, yet with the same extraordinary eye color. I shook my head to clear it. “If you think there’s power in you taking off your clothes, I have some news to break to you real quick.”

His hand went to the fly of his pants. "It's why I didn't want a child. I'd just learned myself about how this is passed down. I was as scared and confused as you were.”

My eyes felt like they were popping out of my head as I watched him unzip his jean shorts and step out of them, leaving him in just his boxers. I almost broke up laughing; they were the same smiley face ones I had gotten him for last Christmas. “Jake, really. Stop this. Put your clothes back on. I don’t know what you’re trying to prove.”

“I am trying to prove to you, Bella,” he said through gritted teeth, “that everything you thought was a legend is true. That the supernatural surrounds you. You’ve just been hiding your head under the sand like the rest of the palefaces.”

He slipped the boxers off himself and tossed them on top of his tee shirt. He stood in my living room, huge and naked, built like a wrestler. “I am trying to save your life because Edward Cullen will take yours without so much as a second thought.”

I shook my head. “You don’t know him,” I said, suddenly unsure, as something odd started happening to Jake’s body.

“Stand in the kitchen,” he ordered. “Don’t get too close, you could get hurt.”

The kitchen had a back door. Escape might be needed. I clutched the purse to me and sidled along the wall until I was on the other side of the kitchen doorway, propped against the counter.

His chin rose with something close to defiance. “You will believe me. Everything I am telling you is true.”

Incredibly, Jake’s body started shimmering. “What’s going on?” I cried. Fear started shooting through me as I watched him raise his hands to the ceiling, reaching for it and then falling forward as his body expanded and changed. The hands at his suddenly elongated arms hit the floor, and his body started to puff up, doubling, tripling its mass.

I stopped breathing; my jaw dropped in horror as his form swelled and grew hair. Unconsciously, I raised my hand to my mouth, and my eyes grew huge, watching as Jake’s face sprouted a muzzle and his ears migrated to the top of his head. My head started spinning, and I suddenly remembered to breathe, frozen as I was in dread and shock.

Where Jake had been, there was now a huge dog-like creature in my living room. It’s a wolf, some part of my brain whispered, watching the monster that nearly filled the room to overflowing. The huge creature gazed back at me. I couldn’t move. I was literally shocked into motionlessness.

Then the ears of the giant, horse-sized wolf creature in my living room drooped, and it settled down to the rug on to its belly. It lowered its head and whimpered just slightly, while its tail wagged once, knocking the coffee table to the wall. The effect was like a gigantic domestic dog, and with that, the spell I was under was broken.

I had just enough breath for one chilling scream that rose up from my toes, through my body and out my mouth like a steam whistle. It seemed to go on and on forever, like some other body than mine was making it. Finally it stopped because I realized I had run out of breath. The monster in my living room slowly rose off its belly and took one step towards me. With a huge inward gasp, I whirled and bolted out the back door.

I stumbled down the back steps and fell to my knees, raking my hand on the cement patio. Jumping back up and still clutching my purse, I ran wildly across the yards of the houses adjoining mine, not even sure where I was headed. My only thought was to get away, run away. I looked back once over my shoulder, terrified I would see a huge wolf bounding after me, but the back door to my building stayed shut.

I ran pell mell, dodging lawn furniture, kids’ toys and barbecue grills. I lost sense of my direction, but still I ran, trying to outrun the pictures of a giant wolf lowering its head, Jake’s lips saying “natural enemies,” the image of Edward’s face, brutal and murderous as he held down with one hand each of my attackers, the Cullens watching me with golden eyes, and Edward–always back to Edward.

Still running haphazardly, I came to the main street, pausing as cars rushed by. I teetered on the edge of the curb, realizing I had run with no particular destination in mind. What was I going to do? Where would I go? My whole world had just shifted seismically from the nice cocoon I thought I had for myself, the facade of normalcy ripped away. With relief so great my knees almost buckled, I saw the spires of my church extending into the sky. I crossed the street, dodging the traffic, and ran up the stone steps.

I could have almost cried as I entered the nave, with its soaring spaces, hushed silence and the altar with Jesus’ form on the cross, looking down with compassion. There was a noise off to my left, and I saw Mrs. Nelson leaving the confessional. Now was when I needed spiritual guidance more than ever, and I ran to it like it was a life raft in the middle of a churning ocean. I entered the dark confessional, closing the door behind me. I clutched my purse to my chest as I sat down on the bench and tried to compose myself.

The elaborately carved screen slid open. The Monsignor's voice was soft and compassionate. "Good afternoon, Bella."

I fell to my knees in front of the screen, curling my fingers around it. "You have to help me, Monsignor. I am surrounded by monsters." And with that, I burst into tears I could no longer hold back.

*******

A half hour later, the tears had left, leaving numbness in their place.

"Isabella, do you hear what I am saying?" the Monsignor was asking.

"What? Oh yes," I answered, staring blankly at the darkly paneled walls in front of me. "I must pray that I am removed from the clutches of Satan," I said in a flat voice.

"Until you make yourself right with God," the Monsignor said, "you will be beset by monsters, both real and figurative.” He sighed, shaking his head. “I am sorry you had to learn of the existence of vampires. Your life is now in grave danger.”

I sat on my heels, my shoulders slumped. My mind had gone into shock; I felt like I was watching myself from some great removed distance. Still, his words were so similar to what Jake had said, they caught my attention. I almost closed my eyes; that light-headed feeling was creeping up on me. “Danger?”

“These creatures guard their secrecy at all costs. Your life would be sacrificed without a second thought. You must consider going away for a while. You need to spend time in penance and–"

His voice broke off abruptly as I heard the door on his side of the confessional yanked open, the locked door splintering the wood framing as it was forcibly opened. I brought my face to the screen and felt my heart drop into my shoes. A silhouette of Edward's form stood in the doorway, the light from the church behind him so that all I could see was his shape. But I had no doubt that it was him.

There was a moment of silence, broken only by a soft thunk as a piece of broken wood fell to the floor.

The monsignor crossed himself and then held up the crucifix he held on the outside of his vestments. "Get away from me, you spawn of Satan," he hissed.

"Leave us, you doddering fool." I could hear the anger and rage in Edward's voice. I backed up into the corner of the booth, starting to shake with fear.

Edward stepped into the Monsignor's side of the confessional, and with one hand, picked him up by the scruff of his clothes and set him outside the door. I heard the footsteps of the Monsignor scurrying away. Edward's voice, harsh and contemptuous, followed after him like a curse. "Go, old man, write your letter, call your Roman friends. Give my regards to the Volterran crows. As surely as you plant the seeds, you will reap the whirlwind."

My gaze swept the confessional; there was no escape. The door to my booth swung open, and Edward stood there. His clothing was torn and ripped, and his eyes were ruby red. I felt the paneled walls beneath my palms and back.

He took a step inside and said softly, “Bella..."

For the second time that day, I screamed long and hard and with all my heart.