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reading the twilight Saga book 1 Midnight Sun

Summary:
what if the characters of twilight got the books before New Moon!


Notes:


5. Invitations

Rating 0/5   Word Count 12875   Review this Chapter

Disclaimer: I DO NOT own Twilight or any of its Trademarks or Character's they are owned by Stephanie Meyer and Summit Entertainment.

Invitations

“Invitations” Bella read.

High school . Purgatory no longer, it was now purely hell. Torment and fire…yes, I had both.

Bella laughed, nearly falling off of Edward’s lap in the process, “Sometimes, . . . we really . . .think . . .exactly alike.”

Edward smiled at that, then Alice interrupted, “But it wouldn’t have been so bad, if you hadn’t been acting like an idiot.”

I was doing everything correctly now. Every "i" dotted, every "t" crossed. No one could complain that I was shirking my responsibilities.

To please Esme and protect the others, I stayed in Forks. I returned to my old schedule. I hunted no more than the rest of them.

Every day, I attended high school and played human. Every day, I listened carefully for anything new about the Cullen’s—there never was anything new. The girl did not speak one word of her suspicions. She just repeated the same story again and again—I'd been standing with her and then pulled her out of the way—till her eager listeners got bored and stopped looking for more details.

There was no danger. My hasty action had hurt no one.

No one but myself.

I was determined to change the future. Not the easiest task to set for oneself, but there was no other choice that I could live with.

“So I was completely wrong about that,” Edward acknowledged.

“You were always wrong when it came to Bella,” Emmett snickered.

Alice said that I would not be strong enough to stay away from the girl. I would prove her wrong.

“Ha!” Alice rolled her eyes, “that so didn’t happen.”

I'd thought the first day would be the hardest. By the end of it, I'd been sure that was the case. I'd been wrong, though.

It had rankled, knowing that I would hurt the girl. I'd comforted myself with the fact that her pain would be nothing more than a pinprick—just a tiny sting of rejection— compared to mine.

Bella kept her face blank at that, but she was both hurt and annoyed. Why did Edward always have to think her feelings were nothing compared to his. Did he just not care about her feelings, or did he truly think she didn’t harbor deep feelings for him?

Bella was human, and she knew that I was something else, something wrong, something frightening. She would probably be more relieved than wounded when I turned my face away from her and pretended that she didn't exist.

“Geese Edward,” Bella said getting up and looking him full in the face, “get this through your head, I have never been and will never be frightened of you. Even when I first found out, I wasn’t scared of you, not at all. So please believe me when I say that.” Edward sighed and pulled Bella back to him.

“I know, but back then I had deluded myself into thinking you were, I’m sorry,” Edward kissed your forehead.

“If it’s any help,” Jasper added, “the times she been around me all I feel is a little nervousness, and a lot of love.” Edward and Bella both smiled at that, though Bella blushed a little too.

"Hello, Edward," she'd greeted me, that first day back in biology. Her voice had been pleasant, friendly, one hundred and eighty degrees from the last time I'd spoken with her.

Why? What did the change mean? Had she forgotten? Decided she had imagined the whole episode? Could she possibly have forgiven me for not following through on my promise?

“Well, I was mad and irritated at first,” Bella said thoughtfully, “but then it faded to being thankful, you saved my life. I couldn’t possibly stay mad at someone who did something so selfless.”

The questions had burned like the thirst that attacked me every time I breathed.

Just one moment to look in her eyes. Just to see if I could read the answers there…

No. I could not allow myself even that. Not if I was going to change the future.

I'd moved my chin an inch in her direction without looking away from the front of the room. I'd nodded once, and then turned my face straight forward.

She did not speak to me again.

“Well if you didn’t want to speak with me, I wasn’t going to push myself on you,” Bella shrugged.

“I probably would have pretended to be mad, but then, been secretly pleased,” Edward smiled.

That afternoon, as soon as school was finished, my role played, I ran to Seattle as I had the day before. It seemed that I could handle the aching just slightly better when I was flying over the ground, turning everything around me into a green blur.

This run became my daily habit.

Did I love her? I did not think so. Not yet.

“Yes,” Edward said suddenly, making Bella jump, “I get it I was an idiot, all of you don’t have to keep saying it. Emmett.”

“I’m just making sure you’re informed,” Emmett chuckled.

Alice's glimpses of that future had stuck with me, though, and I could see how easy it would be to fall into loving Bella. It would be exactly like falling: effortless. Not letting myself love her was the opposite of falling—it was pulling myself up a cliff-face, hand over hand, the task as grueling as if I had no more than mortal strength.

Edward nuzzled Bella cheek and then moved to kiss her neck. Bella bit her lip and blushed, it was so easy to forget that she was in front of Edward’s whole family. They had to be polite. She was about to whisper this to Edward when Alice’s hand went up.

“Trust me Bella, no one minds, and you’re not being rude,” Alice smiled, Emmett chuckled wiggling his eyebrows.

More than a month passed, and every day it got harder. That made no sense to me—I kept waiting to get over it, to have it get easier. This must be what Alice had meant when she'd predicted that I would not be able to stay away from the girl. She had seen the escalation of the pain. But I could handle pain.

I would not destroy Bella's future. If I was destined to love her, then wasn't avoiding her the very least I could do?

Avoiding her was about the limit of what I could bear, though. I could pretend to ignore her, and never look her way. I could pretend that she was of no interest to me.

But that was the extent, just pretense and not reality.

I still hung on every breath she took, every word she said.

I lumped my torments into four categories.

The first two were familiar. Her scent and her silence. Or, rather—to take the responsibility on myself where it belonged—my thirst and my curiosity.

The thirst was the most primal of my torments. It was my habit now to simply not breathe at all in Biology. Of course, there were always the exceptions—when I had to answer a question or something of the sort, and I would need my breath to speak. Each time I tasted the air around the girl, it was the same as the first day—fire and need and brutal violence desperate to break free. It was hard to cling even slightly to reason or restraint in those moments. And, just like that first day, the monster in me would roar, so close to the surface…

“It wasn’t really that bad,” Edward assured her, noticing her increasingly forlorn expression.

“You can’t lie about your own thoughts Edward,” Bella countered.

The curiosity was the most constant of my torments. The question was never out of my mind: What is she thinking now?

When I heard her quietly sigh. When she twisted a lock of hair absently around her finger. When she threw her books down with more force than usual. When she rushed to class late. When she tapped her foot impatiently against the floor. Each movement caught in my peripheral vision was a maddening mystery. When she spoke to the other human students, I analyzed her every word and tone. Was she speaking her thoughts, or what she thought she should say? It often sounded to me like she was trying to say what her audience expected, and this reminded me of my family and our daily life of illusion—we were better at it than she was. Unless I wrong about that, just imagining things. Why would she have to play a role? She was one of them—a human teenager.

Mike Newton was the most surprising of my torments.

“Edward , honestly,” Bella said shaking her head in amazement.

“He is just lucky he survived,” Edward grumbled.

Who would have ever dreamed that such a generic, boring mortal could be so infuriating? To be fair, I should have felt some gratitude to the annoying boy; more than the others, he kept the girl talking. I learned so much about her through these conversations—I was still compiling my list—but, contrarily, Mike's assistance with this project only aggravated me more. I didn't want Mike to be the one that unlocked her secrets. I wanted to do that.

It helped that he never noticed her small revelations, her little slips. He knew nothing about her. He'd created a Bella in his head that didn't exist—a girl just as generic as he was. He hadn't observed the unselfishness and bravery that set her apart from other humans, he didn't hear the abnormal maturity of her spoken thoughts. He didn't perceive that when she spoke of her mother, she sounded like a parent speaking of a child rather than the other way around—loving, indulgent, slightly amused, and fiercely protective.

A sad smile appeared on Bella’s face at that, she really did miss her mom. Maybe she would go and visit her soon. Alice face lit up and Bella suspected what she had seen; she would just go visit for a few days, that way Edward wouldn’t have a chance to miss her. Maybe she would go when he was hunting.

“Or Edward could go with you?” Alice supplied.

Edward looked at both of them, Alice had been blocking her mind from him, “What are you two up to?”

“Bella’s wants to go visit her mom, she’s thinking about going next weekend when you go hunting,” Alice replied.

“I just figured, that way, you won’t have to miss me,” Bella smiled kissing Edward’s nose and turned back to the book.

Edward looked away, he didn’t want to tell her how anxious he was whenever he was away from her, especially when he was hunting. It would be even worse knowing she is all the way in phoenix, he was getting uncomfortable just thinking about her being that far out of sight. But he couldn’t voice this, it is her mother that she wants to visit, and he won’t keep her away from her own mother. That wouldn’t be right. He sighed, he had to admit though, he liked Alice’s idea, the only problem was the sun. And of course convincing Bella.

He didn't hear the patience in her voice when she feigned interest in his rambling stories, and didn't guess at the kindness behind that patience.

Through her conversations with Mike, I was able to add the most important quality to my list, the most revealing of them all, as simple as it was rare. Bella was good.

All the other things added up to that whole—kind and self-effacing and unselfish and loving and brave—she was good through and through.

“So are you,” Bella said sternly.

“Hardly,” Edward said rolling his eyes.

“Both of you are saints now can we please keep reading,” Emmett chuckled annoyed.

These helpful discoveries did not warm me to the boy, however. The possessive way he viewed Bella—as if she were an acquisition to be made—provoked me almost as much as his crude fantasies about her.

“I really did not need to know that,” Bella said disgusted.

“It was even worse having to see them,” Edward agreed flinching.

He was becoming more confident of her, too, as the time passed, for she seemed to prefer him over those he considered his rivals—Tyler Crowley, Eric Yorkie, and even, sporadically, myself. He would routinely sit on her side of our table before class began, chattering at her, encouraged by her smiles. Just polite smiles, I told myself. All the same, I frequently amused myself by imagining backhanding him across the room and into the far wall…

It probably wouldn't injure him fatally…

Bella chuckled amused by his possessiveness, “Edward, no injuring people, I wasn’t interested in him anyway.”

“I know, but he’s still a pain in the a-“ Edward stopped when both Bella and Esme shot him a look.

Mike didn't often think of me as a rival. After the accident, he'd worried that Bella and I would bond from the shared experience, but obviously the opposite had resulted. Back then, he had still been bothered that I'd singled Bella out over her peers for attention. But now I ignored her just as thoroughly as the others, and he grew complacent.

What was she thinking now? Did she welcome his attention?

“Definitely not,” Bella said shaking her head.

And, finally, the last of my torments, the most painful: Bella's indifference. As I ignored her, she ignored me. She never tried to speak to me again. For all I knew, she never thought about me at all.

“Definitely not,” Bella repeated this time with a smile.

This might have driven me mad—or even broken my resolution to change the future—except that she sometimes stared at me like she had before. I didn't see it for myself, as I could not allow myself to look at her, but Alice always warned us when she was about to stare; the others were still wary of the girl's problematic knowledge.

It eased some of the pain that she gazed at me from across a distance, every now and then. Of course, she could just be wondering what kind of a freak I was.

“Not exactly, I was just trying to figure out what you were trying so hard to keep from me. I was confused,” Bella shrugged.

“So like he said, you wanted to know what kind of freak he was,” Emmett laughed.

Bella and Edward rolled their eyes at him, Emmett could be so childish sometimes.

"Bella's going to stare at Edward in a minute. Look normal," Alice said one Tuesday in March, and the others were careful to fidget and shift their weight like humans; absolute stillness was a marker of our kind.

I paid attention to how often she looked my direction. It pleased me, though it should not, that the frequency did not decline as the time passed. I didn't know what it meant, but it made me feel better.

Alice sighed. I wish…

"Stay out of it, Alice," I said under my breath. "It's not going to happen."

“She has every right to want to be my friend Edward,” Bella grumbled.

“I just didn’t know how you would feel about her friendship,” Edward shrugged, “plus it would be kind of hard for that to happen without you knowing about us.”

“Or he just wanted you all to himself,” Alice snapped.

“That too,” Edward smirked at her, she stuck her tongue out at him.

She pouted. Alice was anxious to form her envisioned friendship with Bella. In a strange way, she missed the girl she didn't know.

I'll admit, you're better than I thought. You've got the future all snarled up and senseless again. I hope you're happy.

“Not really,” Edward sighed, he had been miserable. Every second he had been an inch away from giving in.

"It makes plenty of sense to me."

She snorted delicately.

I tried to shut her out, too impatient for conversation. I wasn't in a very good mood—tenser than I let any of them see. Only Jasper was aware of how tightly wound I was, feeling the stress emanate out of me with his unique ability to both sense and influence the moods of others. He didn't understand the reasons behind the moods, though, and—since I was constantly in a foul mood these days—he disregarded it.

“I didn’t disregard it, I just knew there was nothing I could do to get you out of it,” Jasper shrugged, “so I just tried to ignore it, as best as I could.”

Today would be a hard one. Harder than the day before, as was the pattern.

Mike Newton, the odious boy whom I could not allow myself to rival, was going to ask Bella on a date.

Bella groaned, she did not want to think about this. It had made her feel so guilty to disappoint him, but at the same time she just wanted them to be friends. Why couldn’t he see that?

A girl's choice dance was on the near horizon, and he'd been hoping very much that Bella would ask him.

That she had not done so had rattled his confidence. Now he was in an uncomfortable bind—I enjoyed his discomfort more than I should—because Jessica Stanley had just asked him to the dance.

He didn't want to say "yes," still hopeful that Bella would choose him (and prove him the victor over his rivals),

But he didn't want to say "no" and end up missing the dance altogether. Jessica, hurt by his hesitation and guessing the reason behind it, was thinking daggers at Bella.

“Urg, why can’t people just leave me alone,” Bella groaned.

“Because they are completely blind,” Alice rolled her eyes.

“I will have to agree with that,” Edward chuckled amused.

Again, I had the instinct to place myself between Jessica's angry thoughts and Bella. I understood the instinct better now, but that only made it more frustrating when I could not act on it.

Edward smiled, now he could, he pulled Bella closer to him and rested his head on top of hers.

To think it had come to this! I was utterly fixated on the petty high school dramas that I'd once held so in contempt.

Mike was working up his nerve as he walked Bella to biology. I listened to his struggles as I waited for them to arrive. The boy was weak. He had waited for this dance purposely, afraid to make his infatuation known before she had shown a marked preference for him. He didn't want to make himself vulnerable to rejection, preferring that she make that leap first.

Coward.

“That’s not nice to say Edward,” Bella and Esme said in unison.

Edward groaned, “I didn’t like him, and I still don’t. I can’t help it, those crude thoughts he has for Bella will keep me from ever being able to like him, I’m just barely keeping him alive.”

He sat down on our table again, comfortable with long familiarity, and I imagined the sound it would make if his body hit the opposite wall with enough force to break most of his bones.

"So," he said to the girl, his eyes on the floor. "Jessica asked me to the spring dance."

"That's great," Bella answered immediately and with enthusiasm. It was hard not to smile as her tone sunk in to Mike's awareness. He'd been hoping for dismay. "You'll have a lot of fun with Jessica."

He scrambled for the right response. "Well…" he hesitated, and almost chickened out. Then he rallied. "I told her I had to think about it."

"Why would you do that?" she demanded. Her tone was one of disapproval, but there was the faintest hint of relief there as well.

What did that mean? An unexpected, intense fury made my hands clench into fists.

“I was relieved he hadn’t given her an outright no, Edward,” Bella chuckled, “I wasn’t secretly in love with him.”

Edward smiled at her tone on the last word.

Mike did not hear the relief. His face was red with blood—fierce as I suddenly felt, this seemed like an invitation—and he looked at the floor again as he spoke.

"I was wondering if…well, if you might be planning to ask me."

Bella hesitated.

In that moment of her hesitation, I saw the future more clearly than Alice ever had.

The girl might say yes to Mike's unspoken question now, and she might not, but either way, someday soon, she would say yes to someone. She was lovely and intriguing, and human males were not oblivious to this fact.

Bella rolled her eyes. Edward sighed and whispered in her ear, “You have no clue do you? You are all those thing and then some, I’m always telling you, you don’t see yourself clearly. Half the guys at school are sitting on pins and needles waiting for me to slip so they can dive in and swoop you up.”

Bella frowned at that, she didn’t want anyone but Edward, she thought she had made that ridiculously clear.

Whether she would settle for someone in this lackluster crowd, or wait until she was free from Forks, the day would come that she would say yes.

I saw her life as I had before—college, career…love, marriage. I saw her on her father's arm again, dressed in gauzy white, her face flushed with happiness as she moved to the sound of Wagner's march.

Bella laughed, “I am not planning on getting married anytime soon, and by that I mean any time before I’m thirty.”

Edward frowned at that but hid it quickly before Bella could notice. He would love to marry her, but he knew that would never be a possibility for them.

Alice however started to get a nagging head ache at those words. She usually got those when a vision was trying to make itself known, she knew by now not to force it, it would come in due time. She wondered what it meant.

The pain was more than anything I'd felt before.

A human would have to be on the point of death to feel this pain—a human would not live through it.

And not just pain, but outright rage.

The fury ached for some kind of physical outlet. Though this insignificant, undeserving boy might not be the one that Bella would say yes to, I yearned to crush his skull in my hand, to let him stand as a representative for whoever it would be.

I didn't understand this emotion—it was such a tangle of pain and rage and desire and despair. I had never felt it before; I couldn't put a name to it.

“Wow Eddie you really are thick,,” Emmett said shaking his head.

“I know, I just had never felt that before, it was a first for me, I didn’t know how to identify it.”

"Mike, I think you should tell her yes," Bella said in a gentle voice.

Mike's hopes plummeted. I would have enjoyed that under other circumstances, but I was lost in the aftershock of the pain—and the remorse for what the pain and rage had done to me.

Alice was right. I was not strong enough.

Right now, Alice would be watching the future spin and twist, become mangled again. Would this please her?

“Yes,” Jasper laughed, “she was practically doing a happy dance. The future was very clear for her after that, I could feel her euphoria from across the school.”

Everyone laughed at Alice who just hit Jasper playfully on the arm.

"Did you already ask someone?" Mike asked sullenly. He glanced at me, suspicious for the first time in many weeks. I realized I had betrayed my interest; my head was inclined in Bella's direction.

The wild envy in his thoughts—envy for whoever this girl preferred to him— suddenly put a name to my unnamed emotion.

I was jealous.

Emmett started clapping dramatically, wiping away fake tears, “Thank God, I thought he would never see the light.”

Edward chucked a pillow at his head and hit him spot on, Emmett just kept laughing.

"No," the girl said with a trace of humor in her voice. "I'm not going to the dance at all."

Through all the remorse and anger, I felt relief at her words. Suddenly, I was considering my rivals.

“You don’t have any,” Bella said rolling her eyes.

"Why not?" Mike asked, his tone almost rude. It offended me that he used this tone with her. I bit back a growl.

Edward eye’s turned hard at that, no one could be rude to Bella that was completely out of line.

“Was that really his tone, or did it just seem that why to your jealously filled mind,” Bella chuckled, Edward just shot her a look.

"I'm going to Seattle that Saturday," she answered.

The curiosity was not as vicious as it would have been before—now that I was fully intending to find out the answers to everything. I would know the where’s and whys of this new revelation soon enough.

Mike's tone turned unpleasantly wheedling. "Can't you go some other weekend?"

"Sorry, no." Bella was brusquer now. "So you shouldn't make Jess wait any longer—it's rude."

Her concern for Jessica's feelings fanned the flames of my jealousy. This Seattle trip was clearly an excuse to say no—did she refuse purely out of loyalty to her friend?

She was more than selfless enough for that. Did she actually wish she could say yes? Or were both guesses wrong? Was she interested in someone else?

“Yes to the first question and to the last,” Bella smiled.

“Oh really,” Edward said sarcastically, “who was the mystery guy you were interested in?”

“Oh, well,” Bella said playing along, “he’s tall, broodingly handsome, and has the softest bronze curls; sometimes when I look at him, I forget to breath.”

Edward beamed at her and put a searing kiss on her lips. Yeah, that whole breathing thing hadn’t been a lie, yet again, she had to remember how exactly you went about doing it.

"Yeah, you're right," Mike mumbled, so demoralized that I almost felt pity for him. Almost.

He dropped his eyes from the girl, cutting off my view of her face in his thoughts.

I wasn't going to tolerate that.

I turned to read her face myself, for the first time in more than a month. It was a sharp relief to allow myself this, like a gasp of air to long-submerged human lungs.

“Hmm,” Carlisle said thoughtfully.

“What was that?” Edward said looking over at him.

“Oh, I was just wondering , if all of us ignored our mates would we feel the same release upon seeing each over,” Carlisle said. Everyone looked around.

Emmett was the one who spoke up, “Let’s not find out. We can just take you and Edward’s word on this one.”

Everyone nodded in agreement and Carlisle chuckled.

Her eyes were closed, and her hands pressed against the sides of her face. Her shoulders curved inward defensively. She shook her head ever so slightly, as if she were trying to push some thought from her mind.

Frustrating. Fascinating.

Mr. Banner's voice pulled her from her reverie, and her eyes slowly opened. She looked at me immediately, perhaps sensing my gaze. She stared up into my eyes with the same bewildered expression that had haunted me for so long.

I didn't feel the remorse or the guilt or the rage in that second. I knew they would come again, and come soon, but for this one moment I rode a strange, jittery high. As if I had triumphed, rather than lost.

She didn't look away, though I stared with inappropriate intensity, trying vainly to read her thoughts through her liquid brown eyes. They were full of questions, rather than answers.

“Ya think, Edward,” Alice laughed at him.

Edward just grumbled and muttered under his breath, too fast for Bella to hear.

I could see the reflection of my own eyes, and I saw that they were black with thirst. It had been nearly two weeks since my last hunting trip; this was not the safest day for my will to crumble. But the blackness did not seem to frighten her. She still did not look away, and a soft, devastatingly appealing pink began to color her skin.

What was she thinking now?

I almost asked the question aloud, but at that moment Mr. Banner called my name. I picked the correct answer out of his head while I glanced briefly in his direction.

I sucked in a quick breath. "The Krebs Cycle."

Thirst scorched down my throat—tightening my muscles and filling my mouth with venom—and I closed my eyes, trying to concentrate through the desire for her blood that raged inside me.

The monster was stronger than before. The monster was rejoicing. He embraced this dual future that gave him an even, fifty-fifty chance at what he craved so viciously.

The third, shaky future I'd tried to construct through willpower alone had crumbled— destroyed by common jealously, of all things—and he was so much closer to his goal.

The remorse and the guilt burned with the thirst, and, if I'd had the ability to produce tears, they would have filled my eyes now.

Bella frowned and tried to pull away from Edward again. Of course Edward felt it and pulled her back to him. They stared at each other, both glaring, she didn’t want him to be in pain, and he didn’t want her to worry about him, he was perfectly happy. Bella sighed and gave up, his stubbornness has always been greater than hers.

What had I done?

Knowing the battle was already lost, there seemed to be no reason to resist what I wanted; I turned to stare at the girl again.

She had hidden in her hair, but I could see through a parting in the tresses that her cheek was deep crimson now.

Bella’s face looked similar to that right then, everyone chuckled.

The monster liked that.

She did not meet my gaze again, but she twisted a strand of her dark hair nervously between her fingers. Her delicate fingers, her fragile wrist—they were so breakable, looking for all the world like just my breath could snap them.

No, no, no. I could not do this. She was too breakable, too good, too precious to deserve this fate. I couldn't allow my life to collide with hers, to destroy it.

But I couldn't stay away from her either. Alice was right about that.

“Of course I was,” Alice smiled smugly. Edward shot her a look.

The monster inside me hissed with frustration as I wavered, leaning first one way, then the other.

My brief hour with her passed all too quickly, as I vacillated between the rock and the hard place. The bell rang, and she started collecting her things without looking at me.

This disappointed me, but I could hardly expect otherwise. The way I had treated her since the accident was inexcusable.

“Yes it was,” Bella huffed. Edward sighed and turned her to look at him.

“I would have gladly been with you Bella, when I think of all the time I wasted in between,” Edward flinched on the last part and leaving it at that. Surprisingly enough this didn’t comfort Bella, it just served to remind her that Edward didn’t want forever with her, he was upset because he had wasted time of month of their so-called limited-time-together. She turned and looked away before he could read her face.

Edward had been hoping this would make Bella feel better, but when she turned away he frowned. He looked over towards Jasper, Jasper felt her emotions for him.

She feels really hurt and sad, and a little embarrassed.

Edward didn’t understand, “Bella whats wrong? I’m really sorry about it-“

“I’m fine Edward,” Bella said briskly, “it nothing honest, and I’m fine with that, you were confused about your feeling, and wanted to protect your family. That’s nothing to be ashamed of, I probably would have done the same things, if I had been in your shoes.”

Edward nodded, he could tell she was being sincere with her words. But he could also fell that she was holding back something, he pulled her tighter and tried to get her to meet his eyes but she wouldn’t. He started to worry about her, but he stopped and laid back into the couch and sighed. He couldn’t force her to tell him what was wrong, she would tell him when she was ready.

"Bella?" I said, unable to stop myself. My willpower already lay in shreds.

She hesitated before looking at me; when she turned, her expression was guarded, distrustful.

I reminded myself that she had every right to distrust me. That she should.

She waited for me to continue, but I just stared at her, reading her face. I pulled in shallow mouthfuls of air at regular intervals, fighting my thirst.

"What?" she finally said. "Are you speaking to me again?"

There was an edge of resentment to her tone that was, like her anger, endearing. It made me want to smile.

“It’s supposed to let you know you’re in trouble Edward, not amuse you,” Bella huffed.

Edward almost smiled but was still worried about what she was hiding.

I wasn't sure how to answer her question. Was I speaking to her again, in the sense that she meant?

No. Not if I could help it. I would try to help it.

"No, not really," I told her.

She closed her eyes, which frustrated me. It cut off my best avenue of access to her feelings.

She took a long, slow breath without opening her eyes. Her jaw was locked.

Eyes still closed, she spoke. Surely this was not a normal human way to converse. Why did she do it?

Bella blushed, “It’s easier to keep a clear head when I’m not looking in your eyes.”

Edward had to chuckle at that.

"Then what do you want, Edward?"

The sound of my name on her lips did strange things to my body.

“Oh really,” Emmett snickered, “like what?”

Edward growled at him, why did he have to be so perverted all the time?

If I'd had a heartbeat, it would have quickened.

But how to answer her?

With the truth, I decided. I would be as truthful as I could with her from now on.

I didn't want to deserve her distrust, even if earning her trust was impossible.

“Not impossible,” Bella whispered snuggling into Edward. He kissed her forehead.

"I'm sorry," I told her. That was truer than she would ever know. Unfortunately, I could only safely apologize for the trivial. "I'm being very rude, I know. But it's better this way, really."

I would be better for her if I could keep it up, continue to be rude. Could I?

Her eyes opened, their expression still wary.

"I don't know what you mean."

I tried to get as much of a warning through to her as was allowed. "It's better if we're not friends." Surely, she could sense that much. She was a bright girl. "Trust me."

Her eyes tightened, and I remembered that I had said those words to her before— just before breaking a promise.

I winced when her teeth clenched together—she clearly remembered, too.

“Yes, I did.”

"It's too bad you didn't figure that out earlier," she said angrily. "You could have saved yourself all this regret."

I stared at her in shock. What did she know of my regrets?

"Regret? Regret for what?" I demanded.

"For not just letting that stupid van squish me!" she snapped.

I froze, stunned.

How could she be thinking that? Saving her life was the one acceptable thing I'd done since I met her. The one thing that I was not ashamed of. The one and only thing that made me glad I existed at all. I'd been fighting to keep her alive since the first moment I'd caught her scent. How could she think this of me? How dare she question my one good deed in all this mess?

“Edward, what did you expect?” Bella said in a shaky irritated voice, “since the accident you yelled at me and ignored me, how was I supposed to know this is how you felt.”

Edward sighed, “I don’t know, I was seeing your side very clearly.”

"You think I regret saving your life?"

"I know you do," she retorted.

Her estimation of my intentions left me seething. "You don't know anything."

How confusing and incomprehensible the workings of her mind were!

She must not think in the same way as other humans at all. That must be the explanation behind her mental silence. She was entirely other.

“Thanks,” Bella snapped at him. Edward sighed, he wondered idly how much trouble he would get in by the end of this book.

She jerked her face away, gritting her teeth again. Her cheeks were flushed, with anger this time. She slammed her books together in a pile, yanked them up into her arms, and marched toward the door without meeting my stare.

Even irritated as I was, it was impossible not to find her anger a bit entertaining.

Bella just felt more irritated at that, Jasper chuckled. If Edward wasn’t indestructible, he would have gotten punched by now.

She walked stiffly, without looking where she was going, and her foot caught on the lip of the doorway.

She stumbled, and her things all crashed to the ground. Instead of bending to get them, she stood rigidly straight, not even looking down, as if she were not sure the books were worth retrieving.

I managed not to laugh.

The Edward in the book might have, but no one in the room did. Bella groaned and blushed in embarrassment. Edward had to lock his jaw to keep from cracking up with them.

Bella looked up at him, narrowing her eyes, “You better not!”

No one was here to watch me; I flitted to her side, and had her books put in order before she looked down.

She bent halfway, saw me, and then froze. I handed her books back to her, making sure that my icy skin never touched hers.

"Thank you," she said in a cold, severe voice.

Her tone brought back my irritation.

"You're welcome," I said just as coldly.

She wrenched herself upright and stomped away to her next class.

I watched until I could no longer see her angry figure.

Spanish passed in a blur. Mrs. Goff never questioned my abstraction—she knew my Spanish was superior to hers, and she gave me a great deal of latitude—leaving me free to think.

“Oh,” Bella said with a surprised smile, “ I didn’t know you were fluent in Spanish.”

“Edward is fluent in everything,” Emmett snorted.

Bella ignored him, “ I took two years of Spanish, maybe you could help me refresh?”

Edward smiled, the idea of Bella speaking to him in a foreign language was ridiculously endearing.

“Calm down there, Edward,” Jasper laughed, feeling the longing and attraction increase seven fold from Edward.

“Shut-up,” Edward hissed at him.

Bella just laughed at both of them, “I will take that as a yes.”

So, I couldn't ignore the girl. That much was obvious. But did it mean I had no choice but to destroy her? That could not be the only available future. There had to be some other choice, some delicate balance. I tried to think of a way…

I didn't pay much attention to Emmett until the hour was nearly up. He was curious—Emmett was not overly intuitive about the shades in other's moods, but he could see the obvious change in me. He wondered what had happened to remove the unrelenting glower from my face. He struggled to define the change, and finally decided that I looked hopeful.

Hopeful? Is that what it looked like from the outside?

“Kind of,” Emmett shrugged, “it was more like, I don’t know, more relaxed than you had been. Like you had finally got over a headache or something and you could finally think.”

“It kind of felt like that at the time,” Edward agreed.

I pondered the idea of hope as we walked to the Volvo, wondering what exactly I should be hoping for.

But I didn't have long to ponder. Sensitive as I always was to thoughts about the girl, the sound of Bella's name in the heads of…of my rivals, I suppose I had to admit, caught my attention. Eric and Tyler, having heard—with much satisfaction—of Mike's failure, were preparing to make their moves.

“I just couldn’t catch a break that day,” Bella muttered under her breath. Edward stifled his chuckles.

Eric was already in place, positioned against her truck where she could not avoid him. Tyler's class was being held late to receive an assignment, and he was in a desperate hurry to catch her before she escaped.

This I had to see.

"Wait for the others here, all right?" I murmured to Emmett.

He eyed me suspiciously, but then shrugged and nodded.

Kid's lost his mind, he thought, amused by my odd request.

“I told you, he had no problems with you at the time,” Edward smiled.

Bella rolled her eyes at him, and looked over at Emmett who winked at her.

I saw Bella on her way out of the gym, and I waited where she would not see me for her to pass. As she got closer to Eric's ambush, I strode forward, setting my pace so that I would walk by at the right moment.

I watched her body stiffen when she caught sight of the boy waiting for her. She froze for a moment, then relaxed and moved forward.

"Hi, Eric," I heard her call in a friendly voice.

I was abruptly and unexpectedly anxious. What if this gangly teen with his unhealthy skin was somehow pleasing to her?

Bella shot Edward a are-you-serious look. Edward just shrugged.

Eric swallowed loudly, his Adam's apple bobbing. "Hi, Bella."

She seemed unconscious of his nervousness.

"What's up?" she asked, unlocking her truck without looking at his frightened expression.

"Uh, I was just wondering…if you would go to the spring dance with me?" His voice broke.

She finally looked up. Was she taken aback, or pleased? Eric couldn't meet her gaze, so I couldn't see her face in his mind.

"I thought it was girl's choice," she said, sounding flustered.

“I didn’t know what else to say,” Bella sighed helplessly.

"Well, yeah," he agreed wretchedly.

This pitiable boy did not irritate me as much as Mike Newton did, but I couldn't find it in myself to feel sympathy for his angst until after Bella had answered him in a gentle voice.

"Thank you for asking me, but I'm going to be in Seattle that day."

He'd already heard this; still, it was a disappointment.

“Then why did he ask we?” Bella groaned annoyed.

“He was hoping you were turning Mike down nicely. He doesn’t know you,” Edward shrugged.

“Yeah, because I would say that to Mike, then come to the same dance he would be at with someone else,” Bella rolled her eyes huffing lightly.

"Oh," he mumbled, barely daring to raise his eyes to the level of her nose.

"Maybe next time."

"Sure," she agreed. Then she bit down on her lip, as if she regretted leaving him a loophole. I liked that.

“Of course you did,” Bella chuckled sarcastically.

Eric slumped forward and walked away, headed in the wrong direction from his car, his only thought escape.

I passed her in that moment, and heard her sigh of relief. I laughed.

She whirled at the sound, but I stared straight ahead, trying to keep my lips from twitching in amusement.

“I knew it,” She said glaring at him. Edward just laughed.

Her face was priceless, his little tiger-kitten.

Tyler was behind me, almost running in his hurry to catch her before she could drive away. He was bolder and more confident than the other two; he'd only waited to approach Bella this long because he'd respected Mike's prior claim.

I wanted him to succeed in catching her for two reasons. If—as I was beginning to suspect—all this attention was annoying to Bella, I wanted to enjoy watching her reaction.

Bella said the words through gritted teeth.

“She is going to hit you soon,” Jasper laughed.

But, if it was not—if Tyler's invitation was the one she'd been hoping for— then I wanted to know that, too.

I measured Tyler Crowley as a rival, knowing it was wrong to do so. He seemed tediously average and unremarkable to me, but what did I know of Bella's preferences?

Maybe she liked average boys…

“What is your type?” Edward ask suddenly, “honesty, what are you interested in?”

Bella shrugged, and thought for a moment, “I guess looks really don’t matter. I like anyone who is honest, kind, isn’t stuck or overly confident. Someone smart and can make me laugh when I want to hit something. I just want a good person, someone who cares more for others than for himself.”

Esme smiled at that, that was Edward perfectly. Edward chuckled at his mother’s thoughts, he didn’t know about that, but it was sweet that she thought so.

I winced at that thought. I could never be an average boy. How foolish it was to set myself up as a rival for her affections. How could she ever care for someone who was, by any estimation, a monster?

She was too good for a monster.

“That’s true,” Bella said, “I wouldn’t want to be with a monster.”

Edward looked down ashamed at that. Bella put her hands on his face staring right into his eyes.

“Good thing I’m not then huh,” Bella smiled. Edward shook his head, she always thought he was better than he is.

I ought to have let her escape, but my inexcusable curiosity kept me from doing what was right. Again. But what if Tyler missed his chance now, only to contact her later when I would have no way of knowing the outcome? I pulled my Volvo out into the narrow lane, blocking her exit.

Emmett and the others were on their way, but he'd described my strange behavior to them, and they were walking slowly, watching me, trying to decipher what I was doing.

I watched the girl in my rearview mirror. She glowered toward the back of my car without meeting my gaze, looking as if she wished she were driving a tank rather than a rusted Chevy.

Bella laughed, “I was. I came this close to owing you a new car.”

Emmett laughed picturing Bella barreling into the back of the Volvo in her decrepit truck. Edward winced, then smiled.

“Never going to happen,” He said kissing her forehead, “those two cars aren’t going near each other again.”

Bella laughed.

Tyler hurried to his car and got in line behind her, grateful for my inexplicable behavior. He waved at her, trying to catch her attention, but she didn't notice. He waited a moment, and then left his car, sauntering up to her passenger side window. He tapped on the glass.

She jumped, and then stared at him in confusion. After a second, she rolled the window down manually, seeming to have some trouble with it.

"I'm sorry, Tyler," she said, her voice irritated. "I'm stuck behind Cullen."

She said my surname in a hard voice—she was still angry with me.

“Even more-so with you blocking my way out,” Bella snapped.

"Oh, I know," Tyler said, undeterred by her mood. "I just wanted to ask you something while we're trapped here."

His grin was cocky.

I was gratified by the way she blanched at his obvious intent.

"Will you ask me to the spring dance?" he asked, no thought of defeat in his head.

“They really don’t get the idea of a girl-choice dance do they?” Emmett snickered.

“Not at all,” Edward muttered.

"I'm not going to be in town, Tyler," she told him, irritation still plain in her voice.

"Yeah, Mike said that."

"Then why—?" she stared to ask.

He shrugged. "I was hoping you were just letting him down easy."

Her eyes flashed, then cooled. "Sorry, Tyler," she said, not sounding sorry at all. "I really am going to be out of town."

“I wasn’t sorry, if he knew that he shouldn’t have asked,” Bella said angrily.

He accepted that excuse, his self-assurance untouched. "That's cool. We still have prom."

He strutted back to his car.

I was right to have waited for this.

The horrified expression on her face was priceless. It told me what I should not so desperately need to know—that she had no feelings for any of these human males who wished to court her.

Also, her expression was possibly the funniest thing I'd ever seen.

Bella started hitting Edward with a pillow (that way she wouldn’t break her hand punching him) everyone chuckled at them. Edward grabbed the pillow and plucked it from her grasp. He flipped it back onto the couch and started tickling Bella.

“That’s no fair,” Bella complained breathlessly, after a few minutes he stopped. Bella face was red with irritation and embarrassment. Edward was laughing.

My family arrived then, confused by the fact that I was, for a change, rocking with laughter rather than scowling murderously at everything in sight.

What's so funny? Emmett wanted to know.

I just shook my head while I also shook with fresh laughter as Bella revved her noisy engine angrily. She looked like she was wishing for a tank again.

"Let's go!" Rosalie hissed impatiently. "Stop being an idiot. If you can."

Her words didn't annoy me—I was too entertained. But I did as she asked.

No one spoke to me on the way home. I continued to chuckle every now and again, thinking of Bella's face.

As I turned on to the drive—speeding up now that there were no witnesses— Alice ruined my mood.

"So do I get to talk to Bella now?" she asked suddenly, without considering the words first, thus giving me no warning.

“So that’s how you have to do it,” Emmett smirked evilly, thinking about using that technique in a fight.

Edward rolled his eyes, “You aren’t capable of doing it, so I would give up now.”

"No," I snapped.

"Not fair! What am I waiting for?"

"I haven't decided anything, Alice."

"Whatever, Edward."

In her head, Bella's two destinies were clear again.

"What's the point in getting to know her?" I mumbled, suddenly morose. "If I'm just going to kill her?"

Alice hesitated for a second. "You have a point," she admitted.

I took the final hairpin turn at ninety miles an hour, and then screeched to a stop an inch from the back garage wall.

"Enjoy your run," Rosalie said smugly as I threw myself out of the car.

But I didn't go running today. Instead, I went hunting.

The others were scheduled to hunt tomorrow,

But I couldn't afford to be thirsty now. I overdid it, drinking more than necessary, glutting myself again—a small grouping of elk and one black bear I was lucky to stumble across this early in the year. I was so full it was uncomfortable. Why couldn't that be enough? Why did her scent have to be so much stronger than anything else?

I had hunted in preparation for the next day, but, when I could hunt no more and the sun was still hours and hours from rising, I knew that the next day was not soon enough.

“You started all the way back then?” Bella said incredulously.

Edward shrugged, ‘I couldn’t help it, being away from you is impossible for me.”

The jittery high swept through me again when I realized that I was going to go find the girl.

I argued with myself all the way back to Forks, but my less noble side won the argument, and I went ahead with my indefensible plan. The monster was restless but well-fettered. I knew I would keep a safe distance from her. I only wanted to know where she was. I just wanted to see her face.

It was past midnight, and Bella's house was dark and quiet. Her truck was parked against the curb, her father's police cruiser in the driveway. There were no conscious thoughts anywhere in the neighborhood. I watched the house for a moment from the blackness of the forest that bordered it on the east. The front door would probably be locked—not a problem, except that I didn't want to leave a broken door as evidence behind me.

I decided to try the upstairs window first. Not many people would bother installing a lock there.

“You sound like a total creeper,” Emmett said in a sing-song voice.

I crossed the open yard and scaled the face of the house in half a second.

Dangling from the eave above the window by one hand, I looked through the glass, and my breath stopped.

It was her room. I could see her in the one small bed, her covers on the floor and her sheets twisted around her legs. As I watched, she twitched restlessly and threw one arm over her head. She did not sleep soundly, at least not this night.

Bella blushed, this was going to be so embarrassing. She wondered when he realized she talked in her sleep.

Did she sense the danger near her?

I was repulsed by myself as I watched her toss again. How was I any better than some sick peeping tom? I wasn't any better. I was much, much worse.

“Couldn’t agree with you more,” Emmett laughed.

“Shut-up,” Edward said flustered.

I relaxed my fingertips, about to let myself drop. But first I allowed myself one long look at her face.

It was not peaceful. The little furrow was there between her eyebrows, the corners of her lips turned down. Her lips trembled, and then parted.

"Okay, Mom," she muttered.

Bella talked in her sleep.

Well that answered that question, Bella groaned.

Emmett started rolling on the floor laughing, “That’s, that’s just perfect, this should be good.”

Alice hit him upside the head, “ Be quiet, and let Bella read.”

Curiosity flared, overpowering self-disgust. The lure of those unprotected, unconsciously spoken thoughts was impossibly tempting.

I tried the window, and it was not locked, though it stuck due to long disuse. I slid it slowly aside, cringing at each faint groan of the metal frame. I would have to find some oil for next time…

Emmett had his fist in his mouth on that comment. Edward shot him a glare. If he kept up his thoughts Edward was going to kill him.

Next time? I shook my head, disgusted again.

I eased myself silently through the half-opened window.

Her room was small—disorganized but not unclean. There were books piled on the floor beside her bed, their spines facing away from me, and CDs scattered by her inexpensive CD player—the one on top was just a clear jewel case. Stacks of papers surrounded a computer that looked like it belonged in a museum dedicated to obsolete technologies. Shoes dotted the wooden floor.

I wanted very much to go read the titles of her books and CDs, but I'd promised myself that I would keep my distance; instead, I went to sit the old rocking chair in the far corner of the room.

“I like that chair,” Bella smiled.

“Me too,” Edward chuckled.

Had I really once thought her average-looking? I thought of that first day, and my disgust for the boys who were so immediately intrigued with her. But when I remembered her face in their minds now, I could not understand why I had not found her beautiful immediately. It seemed an obvious thing.

Right now—with her dark hair tangled and wild around her pale face, wearing a threadbare t-shirt full of holes with tatty sweatpants, her features relaxed in unconsciousness, her full lips slightly parted—she took my breath away.

Edward smirked down at Bella, “See?”

Bella rolled her eyes and muttered the word, biased.

Or would have, I thought wryly, if I were breathing.

She did not speak. Perhaps her dream had ended.

I stared at her face and tried to think of some way to make the future bearable.

Hurting her was not bearable. Did that mean my only choice was to try to leave again?

The others could not argue with me now. My absence would not put anyone in danger. There would be no suspicion, nothing to link anyone's thoughts back to the accident.

I wavered as I had this afternoon, and nothing seemed possible.

I could not hope to rival the human boys, whether these specific boys appealed to her or not. I was a monster. How could she see me as anything else? If she knew the truth about me, it would frighten and repulse her. Like the intended victim in a horror movie, she would run away, shrieking in terror.

“I’m starting to think you just wanted me to,” Bella said thoughtfully.

“No, I just figured you would, that would be the normal response,” Edward replied.

“When have I ever did something normal?”

“You have a point there,” Edward conceded.

I remembered her first day in biology…and knew that this was exactly the right reaction for her to have.

It was foolishness to imagine that if had I been the one to ask her to the silly dance, she would have cancelled her hastily-made plans and agreed to go with me.

I was not the one she was destined to say yes to. It was someone else, someone human and warm. And I could not even let myself—someday, when that yes was said— hunt him down and kill him, because she deserved him, whoever he was. She deserved happiness and love with whomever she chose.

“Plus it would probably be impossible,” Bella smiled.

“What do you mean?” Edward said confused he was sure he could, not that he would of course.

“You can’t hunt down and kill yourself Edward,” Bella chuckled poking his nose. He smiled in understanding and chuckled at her.

I owed it to her to do the right thing now; I could no longer pretend that I was only in danger of loving this girl.

After all, it really didn't matter if I left, because Bella could never see me the way I wished she would. Never see me as someone worthy of love.

Never.

Could a dead, frozen heart break? It felt like mine would.

“And you say I’m absurd,” Bella rolled her eyes.

“Bella I-“ She cut him off.

“I don’t even want to hear it, seriously.” Edward sighed and looked away.

"Edward," Bella said.

I froze, staring at her unopened eyes.

Had she woken, caught me here? She looked asleep, yet her voice had been so clear…

She sighed a quiet sigh, and then moved restlessly again, rolling to her side—still fast asleep and dreaming.

"Edward," she mumbled softly.

She was dreaming of me.

Could a dead, frozen heart beat again? It felt like mine was about to.

"Stay," she sighed. "Don't go. Please…don't go."

Bella smiled she remembered that dream and she was happy that it had made Edward stay.

She was dreaming of me, and it wasn't even a nightmare. She wanted me to stay with her, there in her dream.

I struggled to find words to name the feelings that flooded through me, but I had no words strong enough to hold them. For a long moment, I drowned in them.

When I surfaced, I was not the same man I had been.

My life was an unending, unchanging midnight. It must, by necessity, always be midnight for me. So how was it possible that the sun was rising now, in the middle of my midnight?

At the time that I had become a vampire, trading my soul and my mortality for immortality in the searing pain of transformation, I had truly been frozen. My body had turned into something more like rock than flesh, enduring and unchanging. My self, also, had frozen as it was—my personality, my likes and my dislikes, my moods and my desires; all were fixed in place.

It was the same for the rest of them. We were all frozen. Living stone.

When change came for one of us, it was a rare and permanent thing. I had seen it happen with Carlisle, and then a decade later with Rosalie. Love had changed them in an eternal way, a way that never faded. More than eighty years had passed since Carlisle had found Esme, and yet he still looked at her with the incredulous eyes of first love. It would always be that way for them.

It would always be that way for me, too. I would always love this fragile human girl, for the rest of my limitless existence.

I gazed at her unconscious face, feeling this love for her settle into every portion of my stone body.

Bella and Edward reached for each other at the same time. Their kiss, which had started off soft and loving, escalated to something fierce, and filled with longing. Bella’s head started to swim when Edward moved to her throat. But he was only there a second before he pulled himself up to look in her eyes. They could both feel the love they had for each other swirling through the air around them. Edward smiled and looked over at Jasper, who just winked at them.

She slept more peacefully now, a slight smile on her lips.

Always watching her, I began to plot.

I loved her, and so I would try to be strong enough to leave her.

The distance look Bella had earlier returned on her face and she shifted uncomfortably in Edwards lap. He wished now more than ever he could hear her thoughts. He thought it would kill him.

I knew I wasn't that strong now. I would work on that one. But perhaps I was strong enough to circumvent the future in another way.

Alice had seen only two futures for Bella, and now I understood them both.

Loving her would not keep me from killing her, if I let myself make mistakes.

Yet I could not feel the monster now, could not find him anywhere in me.

Perhaps love had silenced him forever. If I killed her now, it would not be intentional, only a horrible accident.

“You couldn’t hurt her now even if you wanted to,” Carlisle said seriously, “She’s your mate, your whole being will shy away from harming even one hair on her head. It’s impossible. My guess is, yes, her blood still appeals to you, but when you feel the monster now. I believe that it represent your, um… less gentlemanly thoughts.”

Emmett cracked up of course, and Edward’s eyes went wide then he couched in embarrassment. If Edward could blush he would have. But as it were Bella had that covered for him.

I would have to be inordinately careful. I would never, ever be able to let my guard down. I would have to control my every breath. I would have to keep an always cautious distance.

I would not make mistakes.

I finally understood that second future. I'd been baffled by that vision—what could possibly happen to result in Bella becoming a prisoner to this immortal half-life?

Now—devastated by longing for the girl—I could understand how I might, in unforgivable selfishness, ask my father for that favor. Ask him to take away her life and her soul so that I could keep her forever.

She deserved better.

But I saw one more future, one thin wire that I might be able to walk, if I could keep my balance.

Could I do it? Be with her and leave her human?

Deliberately, I took a deep breath, and then another, letting her scent rip through me like wildfire. The room was thick with her perfume; her fragrance was layered on every surface. My head swam, but I fought the spinning. I would have to get used to this, if I were going to attempt any kind of relationship with her. I took another deep, burning breath.

I watched her sleeping until the sun rose behind the eastern clouds, plotting and breathing.

“Your self-control with her is really astounding,” Jasper marveled.

I got home just after the others had left for school. I changed quickly, avoiding Esme's questioning eyes. She saw the feverish light in my face, and she felt both worry and relief. My long melancholy had pained her, and she was glad it seemed to be over.

I ran to school, arriving a few seconds after my siblings did. They did not turn, though Alice at least must have known that I stood here in the thick woods that bordered the pavement. I waited until no one was looking, and then I strolled casually from between the trees into the lot full of parked cars.

I heard Bella's truck rumbling around the corner, and I paused behind a Suburban, where I could watch without being seen.

She drove into the lot, glaring at my Volvo for a long moment before she parked in one of the most distant spaces, a frown on her face.

“I didn’t want to have to owe you a Volvo,” Bella blushed. Edward shook his head laughing.

It was strange to remember that she was probably still angry with me, and with good reason.

I wanted to laugh at myself—or kick myself. All my plotting and planning was entirely moot if she didn't care for me, too, wasn't it? Her dream could have been about something completely random. I was such an arrogant fool.

“You could be arrogant,” Bella laughed, “I was dreaming about you, and I did want you to stay. I just didn’t think you felt the same about me in reality.”

“You two think exactly alike, it’s kind of creepy,” Alice noted.

“I would use the word, wonderful,” Edward said ignoring her.

Well, it was so much the better for her if she didn't care for me. That wouldn't stop me from pursuing her, but I would give her fair warning as I pursued. I owed her that.

I walked silently forward, wondering how best to approach her.

She made it easy. Her truck key slipped through her fingers as she got out, and fell into a deep puddle.

She reached down, but I got to it first, retrieving it before she had to put her fingers in the cold water.

“Thank you,” Bella smiled up at him. He nodded and kissed her forehead.

“My pleasure, Madam.”

I leaned back against her truck as she started and then straightened up.

"How do you do that?" she demanded.

Yes, she was still angry.

I offered her the key. "Do what?"

She held her hand out, and I dropped the key in her palm. I took a deep breath, pulling in her scent.

"Appear out of thin air," she clarified.

"Bella, it's not my fault if you are exceptionally unobservant."

The words were wry, almost a joke. Was there anything she didn't see?

Did she hear how my voice wrapped around her name like a caress?

Bella smiled and kissed Edward softly on the lips.

She glared at me, not appreciating my humor. Her heartbeat sped—from anger? From fear?

“Edward, you are so blind sometimes,” Bella laughed, “I was far from afraid of you then, the smile on your face was, beautiful, and your eyes, I couldn’t barely remember my name.”

Edward kissed her again, he couldn’t help it, he held her closer to him.

After a moment, she looked down.

"Why the traffic jam last night?" she asked without meeting my eyes. "I thought you were supposed to be pretending I don't exist, not irritating me to death."

Still very angry. It was going to take some effort to make things right with her. I remembered my resolve to be truthful with her…

"That was for Tyler's sake, not mine. I had to give him his chance." And then I laughed. I couldn't help it, thinking of her expression yesterday.

"You—" she gasped, and then broke off, appearing to be too furious to finish.

There it was—that same expression. I choked back another laugh. She was mad enough already.

At this Bella glared at him again, “How is it, that every time I’m mad at you, you find it funny?”

Edward sighed and stroked Bella cheek, “It’s not that I find it funny, I don’t like making you upset with me, honestly. It just, your expression is so adorable, I can’t help it.”

"And I'm not pretending you don't exist," I finished. It was right to keep this casual, teasing. She would not understand if I let her see how I really felt. I would frighten her. I had to keep my feelings in check, keep things light…

"So you are trying to irritate me to death? Since Tyler's van didn't do the job?"

A quick flash of anger pulsed through me. Could she honestly believe that?

It was irrational for me to be so affronted—she didn't know of the transformation that had happened in the night. But I was angry all the same.

"Bella, you are utterly absurd," I snapped.

Her face flushed, and she turned her back on me. She began to walk away.

Remorse. I had no right to my anger.

"Wait," I pleaded.

She did not stop, so I followed after her.

"I'm sorry, that was rude. I'm not saying it isn't true" —it was absurd to imagine that I wanted her harmed in any way— "but it was rude to say it, anyway."

"Why won't you leave me alone?"

“Did you want him to?” Alice snorted, “Because I don’t think you really did, plus he probably still would have followed you.”

“No, I didn’t really want him to. And I wouldn’t have minded if he did,” Bella shrugged.

“Of course you wouldn’t you in looove with Eddiekins,” Emmett snickered.

“Shut-up Emmett,” Bella and Edward said in unison, then turned and smiled at each other.

Believe me , I wanted to say. I've tried.

Oh, and also, I'm wretchedly in love with you.

Keep it light.

“You could have told me that,” Bella smiled. Edward rolled his eyes.

"I wanted to ask you something, but you sidetracked me." A course of action had just occurred to me, and I laughed.

"Do you have a multiple personality disorder?" she asked.

It must seem that way. My mood was erratic, so many new emotions coursing through me.

"You're doing it again," I pointed out.

She sighed. "Fine then. What do you want to ask?"

"I was wondering if, a week from Saturday…" I watched the shock cross her face, and choked back another laugh. "You know, the day of the spring dance—"

She cut me off, finally returning her eyes to mine. "Are you trying to be funny?"

Yes.

“You are despicable,” Bella laughed.

He winked at her and she chuckled.

"Will you let me finish?"

She waited in silence, her teeth pressing into her soft lower lip.

That sight distracted me for a second. Strange, unfamiliar reactions stirred deep in my forgotten human core.

Edward held up his hand, “Emmett I will rip you apart and it will take Rosalie weeks to find you.”

Emmett put his hand over his mouth trying his hardest not to say anything.

I tried to shake them off so I could play my role.

"I heard you say that you were going to Seattle that day, and I was wondering if you wanted a ride?" I offered.

I'd realized that, better than just questioning her about her plans, I might share them.

She stared at me blankly. "What?"

"Do you want a ride to Seattle?" Alone in a car with her—my throat burned at the thought. I took a deep breath. Get used to it.

"With who?" she asked, her eyes wide and bewildered again.

“And you say Edward’s blind,” Alice said rolling her eyes. In her opinion both of them had been acting like idiots.

"Myself, obviously," I said slowly.

"Why?"

Was it really such as shock that I would want her company? She must have applied the worst possible meaning to my past behavior.

“Well, your actions didn’t exactly scream, ‘I’m in love with you’ ya know,” Bella huffed.

“I know, I really wasn’t thinking, my feelings were so new to me, I shouldn’t have expected you to understand everything when I didn’t even understand it myself,” Edward acknowledged.

“It’s okay, we were both confused that’s all,” Bella smiled with understanding.

Rosalie rolled her eyes at this, it was so ridiculous they whole thing. Esme on the other hand was practically crying with happiness.

"Well," I said as casually as possible, "I was planning to go to Seattle in the next few weeks, and, to be honest, I'm not sure if your truck can make it." It seemed safer to tease her than to allow myself to be serious.

"My truck works just fine, thank you very much for your concern," she said in the same surprised voice. She started walking again. I kept pace with her.

She hadn't really said no, so I pressed that advantage.

Would she say no? What would I do if she did?

“I wasn’t going to say no,” Bella rolled her eyes.

"But can your truck make it there on one tank of gas?"

"I don't see how that is any of your business," she grumbled.

That still wasn't a no. And her heart was beating faster again, her breath coming more quickly.

"The wasting of finite resources is everyone's business."

"Honestly, Edward, I can't keep up with you. I thought you didn't want to be my friend."

“I most definitely didn’t want to be your friend,” Edward smirked.

“Then what do you want,” Bella murmured raising an eyebrow.

“Well,” Edward mused smiling, “I let you know as we go, but friendship, yeah, that’s not nearly good enough. You would be closer with the word, soulmate.”

Bella blushed and looked away.

A thrill shot through me when she spoke my name.

How to keep it light and yet be honest at the same time? Well, it was more important to be honest. Especially on this point.

“Definitely,” Bella said shaking her head in agreement.

"I said it would be better if we weren't friends, not that I didn't want to be."

"Oh, thanks, now that's all cleared up," she said sarcastically.

She paused, under the edge of the cafeteria's roof, and met my gaze again. Her heartbeats stuttered. Was she afraid?

“Let me guess,” Alice smirked, “it was his eyes again, wasn’t it?”

Bella said nothing but the blush on her cheeks spoke volumes.

Emmett winked and hit Edward on the shoulder, “Nice.”

Edward rolled his eyes but smiled down at Bella.

I chose my words carefully. No, I could not leave her, but maybe she would be smart enough to leave me, before it was too late.

"It would be more…prudent for you not to be my friend." Staring into the melted chocolate depths of her eyes, I lost my hold on light. "But I'm tired of trying to stay away from you, Bella." The words burned with much too much fervor.

Her breathing stopped and, in the second it took for it to restart, that worried me.

How much had I scared her? Well, I would find out.

"Will you go to Seattle with me?" I demanded, point blank.

She nodded, her heart drumming loudly.

Yes . She'd said yes to me.

And then my conscious smote me. What would this cost her?

“Edward, can’t you ever just let yourself be happy, please?” Bella pleaded in a tired voice.

“I’ll try,” Edward sighed, he would do anything to get the sadness out of her voice.

"You really should stay away from me," I warned her. Did she hear me? Would she escape the future I was threatening her with? Couldn't I do anything to save her from me?

“I don’t want to be saved,” Bella huffed.

“I know,” Edward groaned, “but how am I going to save you if neither one of us wants you to be saved.”

“Easy, don’t,” Bella smiled, Edward rolled his eyes and kissed her.

Keep it light , I shouted at myself. "I'll see you in class."

I had to concentrate to stop myself from running as I fled.

“That’s the end of the chapter,” Bella smiled and held the book out.

“I’ll read,” Carlisle smiled holding out his hand.

“Oh great, more of my thoughts being read to my entire family,” Edward muttered.

“Let’s just call this payback,” Emmett smirked. Bella chuckled with him and Edward shot her a look.