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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:


9. Port Angeles

Rating 0/5   Word Count 15280   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.

Port Angeles

"Port Angeles," Rosalie read.

It was too bright for me to drive into town when I got to Port Angeles; the sun was still too high overhead, and, though my windows were tinted dark, there was no reason to take unnecessary risks. More unnecessary risks, I should say.

“Never stopped you before,” Rosalie muttered.

Edward rolled his eyes; he wasn’t in the mood for her lectures right now.

I was certain I would be able to find Jessica's thoughts from a distance—Jessica's thoughts were louder than Angela's, but once I found the first, I'd be able to hear the second. Then, when the shadows lengthened, I could get closer. For now, I pulled off the road onto an overgrown driveway just outside the town that appeared to be infrequently used.

I knew the general direction to search in—there was really only one place for dress shopping in Port Angeles.

“You would know wouldn’t you,” Emmett snickered, do you know designers too? He added in his thoughts chuckling.

Edward shot him a look, “seeing as I have mated with Bella, I highly doubt I’m gay, dumbass. And furthermore I have been on enough forced shopping trips with Alice to know my way around. Though, I’ll be sure to tell Alice of your fashion ignorance.”

“You wouldn’t,” Emmett growled at him, his smug smile wiped clean off his face. Alice smirked at the both of them when Edward smiled over at her.

“You two are ridiculous, and I’m sitting right here,” Alice huffed rolling her eyes at their antics. She wasn’t that bad. Edward ignored her.

“Try me,” Edward smirked kissing Bella forehead.

“Again right here,” Alice said pointing at her chest. Bella laughed and hit Edward playfully on the shoulder.

Emmett just growled at him.

It wasn't long before I found Jessica, spinning in front of a three way mirror, and I could see Bella in her peripheral vision, appraising the long black dress she wore.

Bella still looks pissed. Ha ha. Angela was right—Tyler was full of it.

“Of course he was,” Bella huffed annoyed, “I can’t believe he really told people he was taking me. Then to show up at my house, on prom night. The guy is insane.”

I can't believe she's so upset about it, though. At least she knows she has a backup date for the prom. What if Mike doesn't have fun at the dance, and he doesn't ask me out again? What if he asks Bella to the prom?

“He would have if I hadn’t been going out with you,” Edward grumbled, “he was pissed because I was standing in the way of him being with you.”

“If he really believes that he is as delusional as Tyler,” Bella groaned.

Would she have asked Mike to the dance if I hadn't said anything? Does he think she's prettier than me? Does she think she's prettier than me?

“Well, Mike does think you are prettier than her,” Edward smirked at Bella who shot him an annoyed look, “this one time he is actually right.”

“Oh no,” Emmett said blocking his mind from Edward.

“What, Emmett?” Edward rolled his eyes, what did Emmett have to hide.

“I can’t find it, I think it’s really gone,” Emmett replied getting up checking his pocket and all around the room.

“What?” Rosalie said looking around with him.

“Edward’s masculinity, it’s gone, all that’s left is that whipped mass of Bella loving punk over there,” Emmett cracked up laughing as the rest of them covered their mouths to keep from laughing too.

Edward growled at them, if he could blush he would have. Bella glared at Emmett, “Edward is not whipped. He is ten-times manlier than you, Emmett.”

“Please,” Emmett rolled his eyes.

"I think I like the blue one better. It really brings out your eyes."

Jessica smiled at Bella with false warmth, while eyeing her suspiciously.

Does she really think that? Or does she want me to look like a cow on Saturday?

“That is ridiculous, I would never do that,” Bella rolled her eyes.

I was already tired of listening to Jessica. I searched close by for Angela—ah, but Angela was in the process of changing dresses, and I skipped quickly out of her head to give her some privacy.

“Wait,” Bella said looking at Edward with raised eyebrows, “have you ever seen me naked?”

Emmett burst out laughing, “If you don’t know. Then both of you have a serious problem.”

“No, Emmett,” Bella blushed, “what I mean is you were watching me for weeks before I knew it, did you ever see me changing?”

Edward flushed, “No, I didn’t want to violate all of your privacy. I didn’t want to be a pervert like that, or a peeping Tom. I just wanted to see you, so I’d leave while you got ready for bed and came back when you were a sleep.”

“Always a gentleman,” Bella smiled and he kissed her lightly on the lips.

“Of course,” Edward smiled back at her.

Well, there wasn't much trouble Bella could get into in a department store. I'd let them shop and then catch up with them when they were done.

Bella winced and Edward growled. Everyone looked at them oddly but Edward just shook his head holding Bella tight to his chest, he shouldn’t have assumed anything, he should have watched her, if he didn’t she wouldn’t have gotten into that situation at all.

It wouldn't be long until it was dark—the clouds were beginning to return, drifting in from the west. I could only catch glimpses of them through the thick trees, but I could see how they would hurry the sunset. I welcomed them, craved them more than I had ever yearned for their shadows before. Tomorrow I could sit beside Bella in school again, monopolize her attention at lunch again. I could ask her all the questions I'd been saving up…

Bella laughed, “I remember the day you did that; you drove me crazy. I couldn’t figure out how it could be so interesting. My life is just as average and normal as every other human life, and you been around to hear and see them all.”

“Yes,” Edward nodded, “but I wanted to know you, all those things help me decipher what an amazing person you are. I never cared before, and then you walked in my life and hearing things about you was like being alive again myself. I enjoyed every minute of hearing about you.”

Bella kissed Edward nose and he chuckled.

So, she was furious about Tyler's presumption. I'd seen that in his head—that he'd meant it literally when he'd spoken of the prom, that he was staking a claim.

“You couldn’t have warned me?” Bella muttered under her breath. Edward chuckled at her.

“It was much more entertaining this way,” He smiled but it was waning due to what was coming.

Bella shot him a look, but when she noticed his expression she snuggled closer to him in comfort and sighed.

I pictured her expression from that other afternoon—the outraged disbelief—and I laughed. I wondered what she would say to him about this. I wouldn't want to miss her reaction.

Of course not, Bella thought sarcastically. She was worried about what the family would say when they found out. She wondered if he had told them, she was trying to figure out how quietly she would have to whisper for them not to hear her. She was about to give up hope when Alice looked over at her.

Alice got up and moved to her ear whispering so quietly she could barely hear, “No they don’t know yet, but they will in a few minutes. Just keep calm until then okay?”

Bella nodded her head and Alice went back to sit next to Jaspers. Everyone looked at them but Alice shook her head and Rosalie continued reading.

The time went slowly while I waited for the shadows to lengthen. I checked in periodically with Jessica; her mental voice was the easiest to find, but I didn't like to linger there long. I saw the place they were planning to eat. It would be dark by dinner time…maybe I would coincidentally choose the same restaurant.

“That would have been nice,” Bella smiled, “but I liked having you all to myself more.”

“Good,” Edward smiled down at her trying to distract himself.

I touched the phone in my pocket, thinking of inviting Alice out to eat… She would love that, but she would also want to talk to Bella. I wasn't sure if I was ready to have Bella more involved with my world. Wasn't one vampire trouble enough?

“Nope,” Emmett smirked.

Edward rolled his eyes, “I was right.”

This time Bella rolled her eyes at him.

I checked in routinely with Jessica again. She was thinking about her jewelry, asking Angela's opinion.

"Maybe I should take the necklace back. I've got one at home that would probably work, and I spent more than I was supposed to…" My mom is going to freak out. What was I thinking?

“Hey did you see anything there that you liked?” Edward asked casually. He would buy he it if she said she did. He smiled at the thought of getting her something, maybe a necklace or bracelet, for her coming birthday.

“Nope, nothing,” Bella shook her head, that wasn’t exactly true. She had seen a very pretty silver and emerald ring, but she didn’t want Edward to buy it for her.

Alice laughed at him, nice try Edward. He frowned at Bella and looked back to the book.

"I don't mind going back to the store. Do you think Bella will be looking for us, though?"

What was this? Bella wasn't with them? I stared through Jessica's eyes first, then switched to Angela's. They were on the sidewalk in front of a line of shops, just turning back the other way. Bella was nowhere in sight.

Oh, who cares about Bella?

Alice and Edward both growled at that. If only they had known how much danger Bella had actually gotten, then they wouldn’t take her safety so lightly.

Jess thought impatiently, before answering Angela's question. "She's fine. We'll get to the restaurant in plenty of time, even if we go back. Anyway, I think she wanted to be alone." I got a brief glimpse of the bookshop Jessica thought Bella had gone to.

"Let's hurry, then," Angela said. I hope Bella doesn't think we ditched her.

“I didn’t,” Bella sighed; Angela’s concern for her was really touching.

She was so nice to me in the car before… She's really a sweet person. But she's seemed kind of blue all day. I wonder if it's because of Edward Cullen? I'll bet that was why she was asking about his family…

“Possibly,” Emmett snickered; he didn’t understand why Edward, Bella, and Alice were so quiet. He was starting to wonder if something was wrong.

I should have been paying better attention. What all had I missed here? Bella was off wandering by herself, and she'd been asking about me before? Angela was paying attention to Jessica now—Jessica was babbling about that idiot Mike—and I could get nothing more from her.

I judged the shadows. The sun would be behind the clouds soon enough. If I stayed on the west side of the road, where the buildings would shade the street from the fading light…

I started to feel anxious as I drove through the sparse traffic into the center of the town. This wasn't something I had considered—Bella taking off on her own—and I had no idea how to find her. I should have considered it.

“Yes, I should have,” Edward said darkly, “I should have watched you closer and paid more attention. I shouldn’t have been so careless.”

“Don’t blame yourself, Edward, they are the monsters,” Bella said, she nuzzled into his neck and growled lightly pulling her in breathing in her scent around him.

Everyone turned tense as they heard this starring at the book more intently now.

I knew Port Angeles well; I drove straight to the bookstore in Jessica's head, hoping my search would be short, but doubting it would be so easy. When did Bella ever make it easy?

Bella pulled back from Edward and rolled her eyes at him. He managed a small smile; it was true she loved to challenge him.

Sure enough, the little shop was empty except for the anachronistically dressed woman behind the counter. This didn't look like the kind of place Bella would be interested in—too new age for a practical person.

“That’s the same thing I thought, it just wasn’t what I was looking for,” Bella smiled at him, sometimes they were so similar.

I wondered if she'd even bothered to go in?

“I didn’t,” Bella answered shaking her head.

There was a patch of shade I could park in… It made a dark pathway right up to the overhang of the shop. I really shouldn't. Wandering around in the sunlight hours was not safe. What if a passing car threw the sun's reflection into the shade at just the wrong moment?

But I didn't know how else to look for Bella!

I parked and got out, keeping to the deepest side of the shadow. I strode quickly into the store, noting the faint trace of Bella's scent in the air. She had been here, on the sidewalk, but there was no hint of her fragrance inside the shop.

"Welcome! Can I help—" the saleswoman began to say, but I was already out the door.

“Edward that was rude,” Esme chided.

“I’m sorry, but I would do it again in a heartbeat, Bella needed me,” Edward responded in a choked voice, filled with the pain of the memory. Esme looked over at Bella who was nestled in Edward chest. She hoped nothing too bad happened.

I followed Bella's scent as far as the shade would allow, stopping when I got to the edge of the sunlight. How powerless it made me feel—fenced in by the line between dark and light that stretched across the sidewalk in front of me. So limited.

I could only guess that she'd continued across the street, heading south. There wasn't really much in that direction. Was she lost? Well, that possibility didn't sound entirely out of character.

“Actually this was the first time I was really lost,” Bella grumbled.

I got back in the car and drove slowly through the streets, looking for her. I stepped out into a few other patches of shadow, but I only caught her scent once more, and the direction of it confused me. Where was she trying to go?

Bella groaned, “I was trying to see if there was another books store, and then I got lost.”

Edward sighed and kissed Bella pulling her closer to him. He had to keep a firm control over himself or he would end up crushing her with his efforts to hold on to her.

I drove back and forth between the bookstore and the restaurant a few times, hoping to see her on her way. Jessica and Angela were already there, trying to decide whether to order, or to wait for Bella. Jessica was pushing for ordering immediately.

I began flitting through the minds of strangers, looking through their eyes. Surely, someone must have seen her somewhere.

I got more and more anxious the longer she remained missing. I hadn't considered before how difficult she might prove to find once, like now, she was out of my sight and off her normal paths. I didn't like it.

“And I had every right to be worried this time,” Edward growled.

Bella turned to look him in the eye trying to distract him as much as herself. She felt him slowly start to relax as he focused in on her.

The clouds were massing on the horizon, and, in a few more minutes, I would be free to track her on foot. It wouldn't take me long then. It was only the sun that made me so helpless now. Just few more minutes, and then the advantage would be mine again and it would be the human world that was powerless.

think the baby has another ear infection…

Was it six-four-oh or six-oh-four…?

Late again. I ought to tell him…

Here she comes! Aha!

There, at last, was her face. Finally, someone had noticed her!

The relief lasted for only a fraction of a second, and then I read more fully the thoughts of the man who was gloating over her face in the shadows.

His mind was a stranger to me, and yet, not totally unfamiliar. I had once hunted exactly such minds.

“Edward,” Rosalie growled her eyes darkening to nearly black though they had just hunted.

Edward refuse to meet her eyes.

Look at me! She shouted in her mind.

“Yes, Rosalie, yes,” was all he said then Rosalie’s eyes darted from Bella to the book and she growled again.

"NO!" I roared, and a volley of snarls erupted from my throat. My foot shoved the gas pedal to the floor, but where was I going?

I knew the general location of his thoughts, but the knowledge was not specific enough. Something, there had to be something—a street sign, a store front, something in his sight that would give away his location. But Bella was deep in shadow, and his eyes were focused only on her frightened expression—enjoying the fear there.

Her face was blurred in his mind by the memory of other faces. Bella was not his first victim.

The sound of my growls shook the frame of the car, but did not distract me.

There were no windows in the wall behind her. Somewhere industrial, away from the more populated shopping district. My car squealed around a corner, swerving past another vehicle, heading in what I hoped was the right direction. By the time the other driver honked, the sound was far behind me.

Look at her shaking! The man chuckled in anticipation. The fear was the draw for him—the part he enjoyed.

"Stay away from me." Her voice was low and steady, not a scream.

“You are so brave,” Edward whispered to her kissing her temple, her cheeks, and then her lips forcing himself to stay calm. Not to scare her with his anger.

"Don't be like that, sugar."

He watched her flinch to a rowdy laugh that came from another direction. He was irritated with the noise—Shut up, Jeff! He thought—but he enjoyed the way she cringed.

It excited him. He began to imagine her pleas, the way she would beg…

I hadn't realized that there were others with him until I'd heard the loud laughter.

I scanned out from him, desperate for something that I could use. He was taking the first step in her direction, flexing his hands.

The minds around him were not the cesspool that his was. They were all slightly intoxicated, not one of them realizing how far the man they called Lonnie planned to go with this. They were following Lonnie's lead blindly. He'd promised them a little fun…

“You had better tell me you rip their hearts out Edward,” Rosalie said with a dark calm that chilled everyone in the room.

Bella flinched away from the fierce edge in her voice. Edward tilted her face back to him and blew his breath into her face. Wiping all conscious thought from her mind, keeping her distracted, she welcome it.

One of them glanced down the street, nervous—he didn't want to get caught harassing the girl—and gave me what I needed. I recognized the cross street he stared toward.

I flew under a red light, sliding through a space just wide enough between two cars in the moving traffic. Horns blared behind me.

My phone vibrated in my pocket. I ignored it.

Lonnie moved slowly toward the girl, drawing out the suspense—the moment of terror that aroused him.

He waited for her scream, preparing to savor it.

But Bella locked her jaw and braced herself. He was surprised—he'd expected her to try to run.

“Why didn’t you?” Edward demanded.

“I trip a lot when I fall it wouldn’t have helped,” Bella said her voice shaking. Edward pinched the bridge of his nose and then kissed her suddenly.

“That’s all right,” He said frantically shaking his head, “I’ll protect you, that what I’m here for.”

Surprised and slightly disappointed. He liked to chase his prey down, the adrenaline of the hunt.

Brave, this one. Maybe better, I guess…more fight in her.

I was a block away. The monster could hear the roar of my engine now, but he paid it no attention, too intent on his victim.

Rosalie paid close attention, if Edward didn’t handle the situation she would knock him into another world.

Edward heard her thoughts and threw a look at Jasper, jasper sent her a wave a peace. Rosalie felt Jasper’s influence and growled fiercely at him Alice stood up instantly, and hissed at her.

“Everyone settle please let’s just hear what happened.” Carlisle was always the of reason.

Alice sat down reluctantly and Jasper put his arms around her.

I would see how he enjoyed the hunt when he was the prey. I would see what he thought of my style of hunting.

In another compartment of my head, I was already sorting through the range of tortures I'd born witness to in my vigilante days, searching for the most painful of them.

He would suffer for this. He would writhe in agony. The others would merely die for their part, but the monster named Lonnie would beg for death long before I would give him that gift.

Rosalie nodded her head calming down. It seemed to her like Edward was finally doing something right.

Edward tensed wondering what she would do when she found out he didn’t do that.

He was in the road, crossing toward her.

I spun sharply around the corner, my headlights washing across the scene and freezing the rest of them in place. I could have run down the leader, who leapt out of the way, but that was too easy a death for him.

“Edward,” Bella sighed worried.

“Bella please just listen,” Edward said gritting his teeth, he couldn’t comfort her properly right now when he was too angry about it himself.

I let the car spin out, swinging all the way around so that I was facing back the way I'd come and the passenger door was closest to Bella. I threw that open, and she was already running toward the car.

"Get in," I snarled.

What the hell?

Knew this was a bad idea! She's not alone.

Should I run?

Think I'm going to throw up…

Bella jumped through the open door without hesitating, pulling the door shut behind her.

And then she looked up at me with the most trustful expression I had ever seen on a human face, and all my violent plans crumbled.

“Please tell me that was a joke Edward?” Rosalie whispered in anger, “Please tell me you did not just leave them there and came back home.”

“Rosalie you don’t-“ Edward tried but before they knew what happened Bella was on the floor and Edward was pinned under Rosalie.

“You weak, pathetic, lowly excuse for a man!” Rosalie growled at him. Edward was quick in recovery and fueled by anger that she had grabbed Bella and threw her down. He flipped Rosalie over on her back and snarled in her face. Bella was horrified and confused she wanted to run to Edward defense but Alice and Esme held her away.

Emmett grabbed Edward off Rosalie and pulled them both apart from each other.

“Rosalie,” Carlisle voice rang out, loud and full of authority, “there will be more to this situation than just this. I assure you, Edward is more responsible than that, it will be dealt with but you have to calm yourself, or leave. Now!”

Rosalie put her head down, everyone was panting though they didn’t need to breath. Rosalie nodded and Emmett ushered her back to the couch, but held her firm. He wouldn’t let her attack Edward like that again.

Edward went straight for Bella, “Are you alright, she didn’t hurt you did she?”

“No, Edward, I don’t understand what’s going on,” Bella cried confused. Edward held her close and whispered that everything was alright, and that he was fine, it was Rosalie’s personal business. Bella nodded and they sat back down. Emmett finished reading from here.

It took much, much less than a second for me to see that I could not leave her in the car in order to deal with the four men in the street.

What would I tell her, not to watch? Ha! When did she ever do what I asked? When did she ever do the safe thing? Would I drag them away, out of her sight, and leave her alone here? It was a long shot that another dangerous human would be prowling the streets of Port Angeles tonight, but it was a long shot that there was even the first! Like a magnet, she drew all things dangerous toward herself.

I could not let her out of my sight.

Bella looked down at this, she could feel Rosalie’s death glare on her. Edward glared right back at Rosalie until Emmett growled at them both and told them to stop.

For once Emmett was the voice of reason. He didn’t want them to start fighting again.

It would feel like part of the same motion to her as I accelerated, taking her away from her pursuers so quickly that they gaped after my car with uncomprehending expressions. She would not recognize my instant of hesitation. She would assume the plan was escape from the beginning.

I couldn't even hit him with my car. That would frighten her.

I wanted his death so savagely that the need for it rang in my ears and clouded my sight and was a flavor on my tongue. My muscles were coiled with the urgency, the craving, the necessity of it. I had to kill him.

“Then you should have,” Rosalie snarled saying each slowly and precisely.

“Enough,” Carlisle said.

I would peel him slowly apart, piece by piece, skin from muscle, muscle from bone…

Except that the girl—the only girl in the world—was clinging to her seat with both hands, staring at me, her eyes still wide and utterly trusting. Vengeance would have to wait.

When Rosalie heard the word wait she calmed down and let jasper give her the waves of calm he had been trying to give before and during the fight. He had had to gritted his teeth and lock his muscles to stop attacking someone himself due to their combined levels of fury. He would have produced tears from the force of his effort and the pain of their fury, if he could have.

"Put on your seatbelt," I ordered. My voice was rough with the hate and bloodlust. Not the usual bloodlust. I would not sully myself by taking any part of that man inside me.

She locked the seatbelt into place, jumping slightly at the sound it made. That little sound made her jump, yet she did not flinch as I tore through the town, ignoring all traffic guides.

I could feel her eyes on me. She seemed oddly relaxed. It didn't make sense to me—not with what she'd just been through.

“I was just so happy to see you and be with you again,” Bella whispered into his neck.

“Shh, I know, it’s okay,” Edward said rubbing her back trying to soothe her.

"Are you okay?" she asked, her voice rough with stress and fear.

She wanted to know if I was okay?

I thought about her question for a fraction of a second. Not long enough for her to notice the hesitation. Was I okay?

"No," I realized, and my tone seethed with rage.

I took her to the same unused drive where I'd spent the afternoon engaged in the poorest surveillance ever kept. It was black now under the trees.

“It wasn’t your fault,” Bella and Rosalie shocked everyone by saying it in unison.

Bella meant herself, Rosalie blamed the men surprisingly.

I was so furious that my body froze in place there, utterly motionless. My ice-locked hands ached to crush her attacker, to grind him into pieces so mangled that his body could never be identified….

Rosalie smiled, satisfied with his words and nestled back into Emmett arms.

But that would entail leaving her here alone, unprotected in the dark night.

“Later then,” Rosalie nodded.

"Bella?" I asked through my teeth.

"Yes?" she responded huskily. She cleared her throat.

"Are you all right?" That was really the most important thing, the first priority.

Retribution was secondary. I knew that, but my body was so filled with rage that it was hard to think.

Bella rubbed her face against Edward’s soothing him this time. It wasn’t enough, he needed more of her. He locked his hands in Bella hair and gave her the most passionate kiss he could without pushing his limits to the breaking point.

When she was almost out of breath he pulled his mouth away from her moving to her throat. She sighed happily, she could barely remember that they were reading at all. Jasper however was gritting his teeth again. They went from anger and hate, to lust and love, this was going to be a long day for him.

"Yes." Her voice was still thick—with fear, no doubt.

And so I could not leave her.

Even if she wasn't at constant risk for some infuriating reason—some joke the universe was playing on me—even if I could be sure that she would be perfectly safe in my absence, I could not leave her alone in the dark.

She must be so frightened.

Yet I was in no condition to comfort her—even if I knew exactly how that was to be accomplished, which I did not.

“Then I will just have to comfort you then,” Bella smiled weakly. Edward sighed and forced a smiled back at her. He just wanted this part to be over with.

Surely she could feel the brutality radiating out of me, surely that much was obvious. I would frighten her even more if I could not calm the lust for slaughter boiling inside me.

I needed to think about something else.

"Distract me, please," I pleaded.

Emmett would have said something there but he just couldn’t bring himself to actually do it. Not with all the tension an pain in the room already.

“Thank you” Edward murmured to him. He really didn’t need his sarcasm and perverseness at the moment.

"I'm sorry, what?"

I barely had enough control to try to explain what I needed.

"Just prattle about something unimportant until I calm down," I instructed, my jaw still locked.

“Edward,” Esme chided though she could understand his anger.

“I couldn’t be rational at that moment mom,” Edward replied.

Only the fact that she needed me held me inside the car. I could hear the man's thoughts, his disappointment and anger… I knew where to find him… I closed my eyes, wishing that I couldn't see anyway…

"Um…" She hesitated—trying to make sense of my request, I imagined. "I'm going to run over Tyler Crowley tomorrow before school?"

She said this like it was a question.

This time everyone, except Rosalie, did chuckle lightly. Bella was so silly some times, she blushed and looked away.

Yes—this was what I needed. Of course Bella would come up with something unexpected. Like it had been before, the threat of violence coming through her lips was hilarious—so comical it was jarring.

“Seriously, Edward I can cause violence . . . really!” Bella huffed annoyed.

Edward rolled his eyes; his little tiger kitten.

If I had not been burning with the urge to kill, I would have laughed.

"Why?" I barked out, to force her to speak again.

"He's telling everyone that he's taking me to prom," she said,

her voice filled with her tiger-kitten outrage.

Bella glared at him and muttered, “I’ll show you a kitten.”

Edward burst out laughing, even though he was still angry that was completely hilarious. Bella was just so cute.

"Either he's insane or he's still trying to make up for almost killing me last…well you remember it," she inserted dryly, "and he thinks prom is somehow the correct way to do this. So I figure if I endanger his life, then we're even, and he can't keep trying to make amends.

I don't need enemies and maybe Lauren would back off if he left me alone.

might have to total his Sentra, though," she went on, thoughtful now. "If he doesn't have a ride he can't take anyone to prom…"

“That’s not what he’s feeling when he looks at you, it definitely not guilt,” Jasper smirked, “ and that not the only reason Lauren hates you.”

Edward growled at that, at the Tyler part mostly. He could just keep his hands to himself, Edward thought fuming.

Bella grimaced at that, she didn’t want to keep dealing with Tyler or Lauren. Thankfully he seemed to take the hint after prom.

It was encouraging to see that she sometimes got things wrong. Tyler's persistence had nothing to do with the accident. She didn't seem to understand the appeal she held for the human boys at the high school. Did she not see the appeal she had for me, either?

Emmett just couldn’t help himself, “and what’s that exactly?”

Edward growled, then Jasper chimed in, “Well, most of the time he’s just ho-“

“Shut-up!” Edward yelled at him. Bella eyes shot up as she thought about what he was trying to say then she ducked into Edwards chest.

He whispered down to her, “it’s not really that surprising. You’re the most beautiful girl in my world, and I am a man.”

Bella heart double timed and the whole room erupted in laughter.

Ah, it was working. The baffling processes of her mind were always engrossing.

I was beginning to gain control of myself, to see something beyond vengeance and torture…

"I heard about that," I told her. She had stopped talking, and I needed her to continue.

"You did?" she asked incredulously. And then her voice was angrier than before.

"If he's paralyzed from the neck down, he can't go to the prom either."

When Bella looked up Emmett winked at her, “I could have help with that, depending on how bad you want the damage?”

Bella rolled her eyes, “There would have been no damage mister.”

I wished there was some way I could ask her to continue with the threats of death and bodily harm without sounding insane. She couldn't have picked a better way to calm me. And her words—just sarcasm in her case, hyperbole—were a reminder I dearly needed in this moment.

I sighed, and opened my eyes.

"Better?" she asked timidly.

"Not really."

No, I was calmer, but not better. Because I'd just realized that I could not kill the monster named Lonnie,

and I still wanted that more than almost anything else in the world. Almost.

“I’ll do it myself, if your too useless to,” Rosalie growled.

“Rosalie, let’s get through this chapter, I assure you, we dealt with them in the appropriate manner,” Carlisle replied. Rosalie slipped back into her seat and cuddle into Emmett who sighed and rubbed her arm; whispering quietly in her ear to make her smile.

The only thing in this moment that I wanted more than to commit a highly justifiable murder, was this girl. And, though I couldn't have her,

“Oh course you can have me Edward,” Bella whispered closely in his ear, “I’m yours.”

“Bella,” Edward groaned, pulling her gently back, and whispering into her ear too low for the others, “if you don’t stop I highly doubt we will make it through these books. You have no clue what you do to me, it’s not fair.”

Bella flushed and her heart rate tripled, Edward smirked smugly.

just the dream of having her made it impossible for me to go on a killing spree tonight—no matter how defensible such a thing might be.

Bella deserved better than a killer.

“Then it’s good that I have you then. You’re the furthest thing from a killer,” Bella smiled at him kissing his cheek.

“Bella right, son,” Carlisle agreed proud of him as always, Edward sighed, or course they felt that way. They always thought too highly of him.

I'd spent seven decades trying to be something other than that—anything other than a killer. Those years of effort could never make me worthy of the girl sitting beside me.

“What was that you called me again? Oh yes, absurd, you are absurd Edward,” Bella said crossing her arms in annoyance.

And yet, I felt that if I returned to that life—the life of a killer—for even one night, I would surely put her out of my reach forever. Even if I didn't drink their blood—even if I didn't have that evidence blazing red in my eyes—wouldn't she sense the difference?

I was trying to be good enough for her. It was an impossible goal. I would keep trying.

“You are good, so it shouldn’t be hard,” Bella stated seriously

“You have no idea, Bella, how hard it really is,” Edward shook his head.

“I meant that you are naturally an amazingly good person,” Bella argued, “it’s who you are, you don’t have to work on it you are it.”

Edward smiled at her, “Have I mentioned lately that I love you?”

“You might have said it once or twice or a million times. But who’s counting?” Bella and Edward both laughed and he kissed her nose.

"What's wrong?" she whispered.

Her breath filled my nose, and I was reminded why I could not deserve her. After all of this, even with as much as I loved her…she still made my mouth water.

I would give her as much honesty as I could. I owed her that.

Bella sighed sadly that didn’t seem to her like he didn’t deserve her, though she was happy he was working harder to be honest with her.

"Sometimes I have a problem with my temper, Bella." I stared out into the black night, wishing both that she would hear the horror inherent in my words and also that she would not. Mostly that she would not. Run, Bella, run. Stay, Bella, stay.

“I would never listen to that,” Bella grumbled.

“I know,” Edward sighed part of him never wanted he to, but the another part, the good part wanted her to stay safe even if that meant them being apart. The only problem was he never wanted to be apart from her, he was sure it would damn near kill him. He didn’t know what to do.

"But it wouldn't be helpful for me to turn around and hunt down those…" Just thinking about it almost pulled me from the car. I took a deep breath, letting her scent scorch down my throat. "At least, that's what I'm trying to convince myself."

“And as always, you’re wrong,” Rosalie snarled at him.

"Oh."

She said nothing else. How much had she heard in my words? I glanced at her furtively, but her face was unreadable. Blank with shock, perhaps. Well, she wasn't screaming. Not yet.

Bella rolled her eyes, she couldn’t believe he really thought that. It was completely ridiculous.

It was quiet for a moment. I warred with myself, trying to be what I should be.

What I couldn't be.

"Jessica and Angela will be worried," she said quietly. Her voice was very calm, and I was not sure how that could be. Was she in shock? Maybe tonight's events hadn't sunk in for her yet. "I was supposed to meet them."

Did she want to be away from me? Or was she just worried about her friends' worry?

“The later of course,” Bella shook her head in a “duh” kind of way, “I would have gladly spent all night with.”

“You kind of did,” Edward smiled.

“And it was lovely,” Bella smiled.

I didn't answer her, but I started the car and took her back. Every inch closer I got to the town, the harder it was to hold on to my purpose. I was just so close to him…

If it was impossible—if I could never have nor deserve this girl—then where was the sense in letting the man go unpunished? Surely I could allow myself that much…

“No,” Bella whispered.

“I know, trust me I know,” Edward sighed.

No. I wasn't giving up. Not yet. I wanted her too much to surrender.

“Much better,” Bella nodded smiling and Edward chuckled at her.

“Yes, I wanted you much too much, I still do,” he whispered in her ear and she shivered in pleasure.

We were at the restaurant where she was supposed to meet her friends before I'd even begun to make sense of my thoughts. Jessica and Angela were finished eating, and both now truly worried about Bella. They were on their way to search for her, heading off along the dark street.

It was not a good night for them to be wandering—

“No it wasn’t,” Carlisle and Jasper agreed.

"How did you know where…?" Bella's unfinished question interrupted me, and I realized that I had made yet another gaffe. I'd been too distracted to remember to ask her where she was supposed to meet her friends.

But, instead of finishing the inquiry and pressing the point, Bella just shook her head and half-smiled.

What did that mean?

“That of course you knew, you always know,” Bella rolled her eyes.

“He just knows because he cheats,” Emmett grumbled.

Well, I didn't have time to puzzle over her strange acceptance of my stranger knowledge. I opened my door.

"What are you doing?" she asked, sounding startled.

Not letting you out of my sight. Not allowing myself to be alone tonight. In that order. "I'm taking you to dinner."

“I can live with that,” Bella smiled.

“I bet you can,” Emmett snickered, he was trying his best to get everyone back to the light mood they were in before. Edward grunted at his thoughts but he wanted Bella to relax as well so he smiled at her to make her feel better.

Well this should be interesting. It seemed like another night entirely when I'd imagined bringing Alice along and pretending to choose the same restaurant as Bella and her friends by accident. And now, here I was, practically on a date with the girl. Only it didn't count, because I wasn't giving her a chance to say no.

“Yeah because I would have said no,” Bella smirked sarcastically.

“Well, I didn’t know how what I was doing then and I really didn’t know your feelings at the time,” Edward grumbled.

She already had her door half open before I'd walked around the car—it wasn't usually so frustrating to have to move at an inconspicuous speed—instead of waiting for me to get it for her. Was this because she wasn't used to being treated like a lady, or because she didn't think of me as a gentleman?

“No one’s ever opened the door for me before, that all, I think you’re definitely a gentleman,” Bella smiled at him.

“Thank you,” He chuckled and kissed her on the nose.

I waited for her to join me, getting more anxious as her girlfriends continued in toward the dark corner.

"Go stop Jessica and Angela before I have to track them down, too," I ordered quickly. "I don't think I could restrain myself if I ran into your other friends again." No, I would not be strong enough for that.

She shuddered, and then quickly collected herself. She took half a step after them, calling, "Jess! Angela!" in a loud voice. They turned, and she waved her arm over her head to catch their attention.

Bella! Oh, she's safe! Angela thought with relief.

“Angela is sweet,” Esme smiled.

“Yeah, I don’t know what I would do if I was just stuck with Jessica all the time,” Bella shivered.

“I would get rid of her,” Alice smirked.

“No,” Bella said pointing her finger at her.

Late much? Jessica grumbled to herself, but she, too, was thankful that Bella wasn't lost or hurt. This made me like her a little more than I had.

They hurried back, and then stopped, shocked, when they saw me beside her.

Uh-uh! Jess thought, stunned. No freaking way!

Bella grit her teeth and crossed her arms annoyed with Jessica’s thoughts.

Edward Cullen? Did she go away by herself to find him? But why would she ask about them being out of town if she knew he was here… I got a brief flash of Bella's mortified expression when she'd asked Angela if my family was often absent from school. No, she couldn't have known, Angela decided.

Jessica's thoughts were moving past the surprise and on to suspicion. Bella's been holding out on me.

“Urg,” Bella groaned, “she is so ridiculous.”

“And it only get worse,” Edward agreed barring himself in Bella’s hair.

"Where have you been?" she demanded, staring at Bella, but peeking at me from the corner of her eye.

"I got lost. And then I ran into Edward," Bella said, waving one hand toward me.

Her tone was remarkably normal. Like that was truly all that had happened.

She must be in shock. That was the only explanation for her calm.

Bella chuckled at him, “I’m very good with bad and weird.”

“Yeah, I know,” Edward smirked and everyone chuckled at her making her blushed.

"Would it be all right if I joined you?" I asked—to be polite; I knew that they'd already eaten.

Holy crap but he's hot! Jessica thought, her head suddenly slightly incoherent.

Angela wasn't much more composed. Wish we hadn't eaten. Wow. Just. Wow.

Now why couldn't I do that to Bella?

“Edward sometimes you are really blind,” Bella blushed looking down, “how do you know you weren’t?”

Edward smirked smugly at that as his sibling laughed at them.

"Er…sure," Jessica agreed.

Angela frowned. "Um, actually, Bella, we already ate while we were waiting," she admitted. "Sorry."

What? Shut up! Jess complained internally.

Bella shrugged casually. So at ease. Definitely in shock. "That's fine—I'm not hungry."

Bella rolled her eyes again.

"I think you should eat something," I disagreed. She needed sugar in her bloodstream—though it smelled sweet enough as it was, I thought wryly. The horror was going to come crashing down on her momentarily, and an empty stomach wouldn't help.

She was an easy fainter, as I knew from experience.

Bella glared at Edward and attempted to hit him with a pillow.

Edward grabbed the pillow and pulled it to his chest pulling her along with it, “My apologies.”

He was starring so deeply into her eyes she melted, “For w-what?”

Everyone laughed.

These girls wouldn't be in any danger if they went straight home. Danger didn't stalk their every step.

And I'd rather be alone with Bella—as long as she was willing to be alone with me.

“I bet you would rather be alone with her,” Emmett snickered.

Edward growled at him.

"Do you mind if I drive Bella home tonight?" I said to Jessica before Bella could respond. "That way you won't have to wait while she eats."

"Uh, no problem, I guess…" Jessica stared intently at Bella, looking for some sign that this was what she wanted.

I want to stay…but she probably wants him to herself. Who wouldn't? Jess thought. At the same time, she watched Bella wink.

Bella winked?

Bella turned to Edward and winked at him, he laughed then kissed her softly on the lips.

“She’s giving you the green light Eddie, you better take it,” Emmett snickered, Edward through a pillow at his head knocking him hard.

"Okay," Angela said quickly, in a hurry to be out of the way if that was what Bella wanted. And it seemed that she did want that. "See you tomorrow, Bella…Edward." She struggled to say my name in a casual tone. Then she grabbed Jessica's hand and began towing her away.

I would have to find some way to thank Angela for this.

Emmett smirked at Edward remembering what they had done for her.

Jessica's car was close by and in a bright circle of light cast by a streetlamp.

Bella watched them carefully, a little crease of concern between her eyes, until they were in the car, so she must be fully aware of the danger she'd been in.

Jessica waved as she drove away, and Bella waved back. It wasn't until the car disappeared that she took a deep breath and turned to look up at me.

"Honestly, I'm not hungry," she said.

Why had she waited for them to be gone before speaking? Did she truly want to be alone with me—even now, after witnessing my homicidal rage?

“Edward, of course I wanted to with you,” Bella gave him the duh look, “you have a right to be upset, I didn’t that against you.”

Whether that was the case or not, she was going to eat something.

"Humor me," I said.

I held the restaurant door open for her and waited.

She sighed, and walked through.

“You should have asked first,” Esme muttered.

“I’m sorry, I was still a little too upset and worried about her to be polite,” Edward sighed.

I walked beside her to the podium where the hostess waited. Bella still seemed entirely self-possessed. I wanted to touch her hand, her forehead, to check her temperature. But my cold hand would repulse her, as it had before.

“It never repulsed me,” Bella smiled at took his hand and placed it on his cheek.

“Good,” he smiled back.

Oh, my, the hostess's rather loud mental voice intruded into my consciousness. My, oh my.

“Is there any girl who isn’t attracted to you?” Bella muttered irritated.

“Is there any guy who isn’t attracted to you?” Edward countered just as annoyed, Alice laughed at both of them.

It seemed to be my night to turn heads. Or was I only noticing it more because I wished so much that Bella would see me this way?

Bella rolled her eyes. How could he not see that she was head over heels in love with him.

We were always attractive to our prey. I'd never thought so much about it before. Usually—unless, as with people like Shelly Cope and Jessica Stanley, there was constant repetition to dull the horror—the fear kicked in fairly quickly after the initial attraction…

"A table for two?" I prompted when the hostess didn't speak.

"Oh, er, yes. Welcome to La Bella Italia." Mmm! What a voice! "Please follow me." Her thoughts were preoccupied—calculating.

Maybe she's his cousin. She couldn't be his sister, they don't look anything alike. But family, definitely. He can't be with her.

At that Bella looked down embarrassed of her own plainness.

Edward lifted her chin, “She was just jealous, you are the most exquisitely beautiful person in my world.”

“You are biased,” Bella shook her head, Edward rolled his eyes and kissed from the base of her neck all the way up to her jaw line. He was such a cheater.

Human eyes were clouded; they saw nothing clearly. How could this small minded woman find my physical lures—snares for prey—so attractive, and yet be unable to see the soft perfection of the girl beside me?

Bella blushed and Edward whispered in her ear, “See I told you.”

Well, no need to help her out, just in case, the hostess thought as she led us to a family-sized table in the middle of the most crowded part of the restaurant. Can I give him my number while she's there…? she mused.

“No!” Bella huffed. Edward found her jealous so adorable.

I pulled a bill from my back pocket. People were invariably cooperative when money was involved.

Bella was already taking the seat the hostess indicated without objection. I shook my head at her, and she hesitated, cocking her head to one side with curiosity.

Yes, she would be very curious tonight. A crowd was not the ideal place for this conversation.

“Probably not,” Jasper chuckled, he remembered how Bella knew they secret the next day at lunch so this must be when they talk about it. Edward nodded in confirmation.

"Perhaps something more private?" I requested of the hostess, handing her the money. Her eyes widened in surprise, and then narrowed while her hand curled around the tip.

"Sure."

She peeked at the bill while she led us around a dividing wall.

Fifty dollars for a better table?

“Edward,” Bella glared at him, “that was not necessary, you spent way too much.”

“Nonsense,” Edward said rolling his eyes.

Rich, too. That makes sense—I bet his jacket cost more than my last paycheck. Damn. Why does he want privacy with her?

“Because she’s sort of my girlfriend,” Edward smiled.

“Sort of?” Bella asked crossing her arms.

“I mean that you are so much more than an average girlfriend to me. But for now that word will have to do,” Edward shrugged and Bella smiled, she liked that. Edward thought of another word he preferred but that wasn’t an option for them, and that made him sad.

She offered us a booth in a quiet corner of the restaurant where no one would be able to see us—to see Bella's reactions to whatever I would tell her. I had no clue as to what she would want from me tonight. Or what I would give her.

How much had she guessed? What explanation of tonight's events had she told herself?

“Not what I was thinking you had,” Edward murmured.

"How's this?" the hostess asked.

"Perfect," I told her and, feeling slightly annoyed by her resentful attitude toward Bella, I smiled widely at her, baring my teeth. Let her see me clearly.

Whoa. "Um…your server will be right out." He can't be real. I must be asleep. Maybe she'll disappear…maybe I'll write my number on his plate with ketchup…

She wandered away, listing slightly to the side.

Odd. She still wasn't frightened. I suddenly remembered Emmett teasing me in the cafeteria, so many weeks ago. I'll bet I could have scared her better than that.

Was I losing my edge?

“It would be hilarious if you did,” Emmett snickered, “Bella’s got you so whipped you can’t even find your manliness if it were right in front of you with a neon sign.”

“Shut-up,” Edward growled at him.

"You really shouldn't do that to people," Bella interrupted my thoughts in a disapproving tone. "It's hardly fair."

I stared at her critical expression. What did she mean? I hadn't frightened the hostess at all, despite my intentions. "Do what?"

"Dazzle them like that—she's probably hyperventilating in the kitchen right now."

Hmm. Bella was very nearly right. The hostess was only semi-coherent at the moment, describing her incorrect assessment of me to her friend on the wait staff.

“I knew I was right,” Bella smirked and Edward rolled his eyes.

“I doesn’t really matter, I don’t care about her,” Edward replied running his hands through Bella’s hair. She sighed happily.

"Oh, come on," Bella chided me when I didn't answer immediately. "You have to know the effect you have on people."

"I dazzle people?" That was an interesting way of phrasing it. Accurate enough for tonight. I wondered why the difference…

“There is no difference,” Bella huffed.

"You haven't noticed?" she asked, still critical. "Do you think everybody gets their way so easily?"

"Do I dazzle you?" I voiced my curiosity impulsively, and then the words were out, and it was too late to recall them.

But before I had time to too deeply regret speaking the words aloud she answered,

"Frequently." And her cheeks took on a faint pink glow.

I dazzled her.

My silent heart swelled with a hope more intense than I could ever remember having felt before.

“You dazzle me all the time, multiple times,” Bella smiled at him. He lead in and breath into her face smiling crookedly. Bella blink and gasped out, Edward smirked.

“Obviously,” He laughed.

"Hello," someone said, the waitress, introducing herself. Her thoughts were loud, and more explicit than the hostess's,

Bella glared at the book and everyone chuckled at her.

but I tuned her out. I stared at Bella's face instead of listening, watching the blood spreading under her skin, noticing not how that made my throat flame, but rather how it brightened her fair face, how it set off the cream of her skin…

Bella hid her flaming face in Edward chest and her chuckled at her.

The waitress was waiting for something from me. Ah, she'd asked for our drink order. I continued to stare at Bella, and the waitress grudgingly turned to look at her, too.

“The waitress is an idiot,” Alice laughed.

“Yeah it wasn’t going to happen,” Emmett chuckled with her.

"I'll have a coke?" Bella said, as if asking for approval.

"Two cokes," I amended. Thirst—normal, human thirst—was a sign of shock. I would make sure she had the extra sugar from the soda in her system.

She looked healthy, though. More than healthy. She looked radiant.

“Thank you,” Bella whispered in his ear.

“I only spoke the truth, my love,” Edward said this a deep voice, Bella heart beats stuttered.

"What?" she demanded—wondering why I was staring, I guessed. I was vaguely aware that the waitress had left.

"How are you feeling?" I asked.

She blinked, surprised by the question. "I'm fine."

"You don't feel dizzy, sick, cold?"

She was even more confused now. "Should I?"

"Well, I actually I'm waiting for you to go into shock." I half-smiled, expecting her denial. She would not want to be taken care of.

“That’s because I didn’t need to be taken care of I was fine,” she sighed still lying on his chest.

“Of course you were,” Edward said with sarcasm, rolling his eyes.

It took her a minute to answer me. Her eyes were slightly unfocused. She looked that way sometimes, when I smiled at her. Was she…dazzled?

Bella blushed more as everyone laughed at her. Esme and Carlisle put their hands over their mouths but they were still chuckling.

I would love to believe that.

"I don't think that will happen. I've always been very good at repressing unpleasant things," she answered, a little breathless.

Did she have a lot of practice with unpleasant things, then? Was her life always this hazardous?

“No,” Bella shook her head.

"Just the same," I told her. "I'll feel better when you have some sugar and food in you."

The waitress returned with the cokes and a basket of bread. She put them in front of me, and asked for my order, trying to catch my eye in the process. I indicated that she should attend to Bella, and then went back to tuning her out. She had a vulgar mind.

“Alice would you like to go to their sometime with me,” Bella asked through gritted teeth imagining them yelling at the waitress. Alice just laughed at her.

"Um…" Bella glanced quickly at the menu. "I'll have the mushroom ravioli."

The waitress turned back to me eagerly. "And you?"

"Nothing for me."

Bella made a slight face.

Hmm. She must have noticed that I never ate food. She noticed everything. And I always forgot to be careful around her.

“Yeah,” Bella nodded to him, “I noticed, and just added it to the list of weird.”

“That’s a long list if you’re talking about Eddie,” Emmett laughed.

I waited till we were alone again.

"Drink," I insisted.

I was surprised when she complied immediately and without objection. She drank until the glass was entirely empty, so I pushed the second coke toward her, frowning a little. Thirst, or shock?

“Thirst, I hadn’t eaten all day,” Bella shrugged. Edward frowned at that but said nothing, she should have eaten.

She drank a little more, and then shuddered once.

"Are you cold?"

"It's just the coke," she said, but she shivered again, her lips trembling slightly as if her teeth were about to chatter.

The pretty blouse she wore looked too thin to protect her adequately; it clung to her like a second skin, almost as fragile as the first. She was so frail, so mortal.

Bella sighed at that, though still blushing a little, and looked at him pointedly.

“Not until after the books Bella,” Edward said sternly.

"Don't you have a jacket?"

"Yes." She looked around herself, a little perplexed. "Oh—I left it in Jessica's car."

I pulled off my jacket, wishing that the gesture was not marred by my body temperature. It would have been nice to have been able to offer her a warm coat. She stared at me, her cheeks warming again. What was she thinking now?

Edward turned to her, and Bella avoided his gaze blushing.

“Bella!?”

“Fine,” Bella huffed, “I thought your shirt looked very nice on you.”

She had mumbled through it embarrassed, everyone laughed but Edward ignored them, “If you keep reading, you’ll know I was doing the same with you”

I handed her the jacket across the table, and she put it on at once, and then shuddered again.

Yes, it would be very nice to be warm.

"Thanks," she said. She took a deep breath, and then pushed the too-long sleeves back to free her hands. She took another deep breath.

Was the evening finally settling in? Her color was still good; her skin was cream and roses against the deep blue of her shirt.

"That color blue looks lovely with your skin," I complimented her. Just being honest.

She flushed, enhancing the effect.

She looked well,

“Very well,” Edward whispered in her ear smiling. Bella groaned when he pulled her closer making every snicker at them.

“Edward,” Bella breath out begging him to show her some mercy. Edward chuckled and pulled back into the couch.

but there was no point in taking chances. I pushed the basket of bread toward her.

"Really," she objected, guessing my motives. "I'm not going into shock."

"You should be—a normal person would be. You don't even look shaken." I stared at her, disapproving, wondering why she couldn't be normal and then wondering if really wanted her to be that way.

“Nope,” Alice chimed in rolling her eyes.

"I feel very safe with you," she said, her eyes, again, filled with trust. Trust I didn't deserve.

Her instincts were all wrong—backwards.

That must be the problem. She didn't recognize danger the way a human being should be able to. She had the opposite reaction. Instead of running, she lingered, drawn to what should frighten her…

How could I protect her from myself when neither of us wanted that?

“Then don’t protect me,” Bella smiled then added, “at least from you any way.’

Edward sighed but said nothing, he would see this through, he owed her that. He owed everyone that.

"This is more complicated than I'd planned," I murmured.

I could see her turning my words over in her head, and I wondered what she made of them. She took a breadstick and began to eat without seeming aware of the action.

She chewed for a moment, and then leaned her head to one side thoughtfully.

"Usually you're in a better mood when your eyes are so light," she said in a casual tone.

“You are so strange,” Jasper said eyeing her speculatively.

Her observation, stated so matter of factly, left me reeling. "What?"

"You're always crabbier when your eyes are black—I expect it then. I have a theory about that," she added lightly.

So she had come up with her own explanation. Of course she had. I felt a deep sense of dread as I wondered how close she'd come to the truth.

“Too close,” Rosalie muttered and Edward shot her a look.

"More theories?"

"Mm-hm." She chewed on another bite, entirely nonchalant. As if she weren't discussing the aspects of a monster with the monster himself.

“You. Are. Not. A. Monster,” Bella said hitting him with another pillow to emphasize her point.

"I hope you were more creative this time…" I lied when she didn't continue.

What I really hoped was that she was wrongmiles wide of the mark.

Bella huffed at that annoyed.

“I thought you would leave me if you knew,” Edward groaned.

:And that why you are rediculous.

"Or are you still stealing from comic books?"

"Well, no, I didn't get it from a comic book," she said, a little embarrassed. "But I didn't come up with it on my own, either."

"And?" I asked between my teeth.

Surely should would not speak so calmly if she were about to scream.

“You really need to let this whole scream and run thing go,” Bella sighed.

“It took me a while,” Edward shrugged. He still sometimes waited for it.

As she hesitated, biting her lip, the waitress reappeared with Bella's food. I paid the server little attention as she set the plate in front of Bella and then asked if I wanted anything.

I declined, but asked for more coke. The waitress hadn't noticed the empty glasses. She took them and left.

"You were saying?" I prompted anxiously as soon as we were alone again.

"I'll tell you about it in the car," she said in a low voice. Ah, this would be bad.

“No it was good,” Bella said poking him on the nose.

“Yes it was,” Edward smiled.

She wasn't willing to speak her guesses around others. "If…" she tacked on suddenly.

"There are conditions?" I was so tense I almost growled the words.

"I do have a few questions, of course."

"Of course," I agreed, my voice hard.

“Of course,” everyone repeated laughing, Bella rolled her eyes and blushed.

Her questions would probably be enough to tell me where her thoughts were heading. But how would I answer them? With responsible lies? Or would I drive her away with truth? Or would I say nothing, unable to decide?

We sat in silence while the waitress replenished her supply of soda.

"Well, go ahead," I said, jaw locked, when she was gone.

"Why are you in Port Angeles?"

That was too easy a question—for her. It gave away nothing, while my answer, if truthful, would give away much too much. Let her reveal something first.

“That is not the true, I told you about my family and I have always been honest with you, I have revealed plenty,” Bella said shooting him a look.

Edward sighed, “You know when it comes to you I can never hear enough.”

"Next," I said.

"But that's the easiest one!'

"Next," I said again.

She was frustrated by my refusal. She looked away from me, down to her food.

Slowly, thinking hard, she took a bite and chewed with deliberation. She washed it down with more coke, and then finally looked up at me. Her eyes were narrow with suspicion.

"Okay then," she said. "Let's say, hypothetically, of course, that…someone…could know what people are thinking, read minds, you know—with just a few exceptions."

It could be worse.

“This was a good place to start,” Carlisle nodded in agreement.

This explained that little half-smile in the car. She was quick—no one else had ever guessed this about me. Except for Carlisle, and it had been rather obvious then, in the beginning, when I'd answered all his thoughts as if he'd spoken them to me. He'd understood before I had…

“It was quite interesting,” Carlisle chuckled.

This question wasn't so bad. While it was clear that she knew that there was something wrong with me, was not as serious as it could have been. Mind-reading was, after all, not a facet of the vampire cannon. I went along with her hypothesis.

"Just one exception," I corrected. "Hypothetically."

She fought a smile—my vague honesty pleased her.

“Since you finally decided to be honest with me,” Bella glared at him.

“At the time I wanted to I just was afraid and couldn’t,” Edward sighed.

"All right, with one exception, then. How does that work? What are the limitations? How would…that someone…find someone else at exactly the right time? How would he know that she was in trouble?"

"Hypothetically?"

"Sure." Her lips twitched, and her liquid brown eyes were eager.

"Well," I hesitated. "If…that someone…"

"Let's call him 'Joe,'" she suggested.

I had to smile at her enthusiasm. Did she really think the truth would be a good thing? If my secrets were pleasant, why would I keep them from her?

“I don’t know, you could have not trusted me enough, that’s what I thought,” Bella looked down.

“Bella I trust you with my life, I have no doubts about that,” Edward said pulling her face up and kissing her fiercely.

"Joe, then," I agreed. "If Joe had been paying attention, the timing wouldn't have needed to be quite so exact." I shook my head and repressed a shudder at the thought of how close I had been to being too late today. "Only you could get into trouble in a town this small. You would have devastated their crime rate statistics for a decade, you know."

Her lips turned down at the corners, and pouted out. "We were speaking of a hypothetical case."

I laughed at her irritation.

Everyone one else laughed too, but Edward flushed thinking of what he was thinking of after that.

Her lips, her skin… They looked so soft. I wanted to touch them. I wanted to press my fingertip against the corner of her frown and turn it up.

Edward did just that but he couldn’t stop there he moved to run his fingers from her hair line to the tips of her fingers she shivered happily.

“Now, now you two you’re in public for crying out loud,” Emmett barked laughing loudly.

Impossible. My skin would be repellent to her.

"Yes, we were," I said, returning to the conversation before I could depress myself too thoroughly. "Shall we call you 'Jane'?"

She leaned across the table toward me, all humor and irritation gone from her wide eyes.

"How did you know?" she asked, her voice low and intense.

Should I tell her the truth? And, if so, what portion?

“All of it,” Bella answered for him.

“I know,” Edward conceded.

I wanted to tell her. I wanted to deserve the trust I could still see on her face.

Bella sighed, “you will always deserve it, you already did then.”

"You can trust me, you know," she whispered, and she reached one hand forward as if to touch my hands where they rested on top of the empty table before me.

I pulled them back—hating the thought of her reaction to my frigid stone skin— and she dropped her hand.

“Edward I had already felt your skin when we brushed hands during our lab,” Bella said annoyed, “if I didn’t like your skin I wouldn’t have reached out to touch you.’

“I forgot,” Edward said honestly, he hadn’t thought of that, not once.

I knew that I could trust her with protecting my secrets; she was entirely trustworthy, good to the core. But I couldn't trust her not to be horrified by them. She should be horrified. The truth was horror.

“You just thing it is,” Bella grumbled.

"I don't know if I have a choice anymore," I murmured. I remembered that I'd once teased her by calling her 'exceptionally unobservant.' Offended her, if I'd been judging her expressions correctly. Well, I could right that one injustice, at least. "I was wrong—you're much more observant than I gave you credit for." And, though she might not realize it, I'd given her plenty of credit already. She missed nothing.

Bella blushed pleased by that.

Edward smiled at her expression, “Of course.”

"I thought you were always right," she said, smiling as she teased me.

"I used to be." I used to know what I was doing. I used to be always sure of my course. And now everything was chaos and tumult.

Yet I wouldn't trade it. I didn't want the life that made sense. Not if the chaos meant that I could be with Bella.

“Good, just remember that,” Bella said sternly pointing at him.

“I’ll try,” Edward nodded.

"I was wrong about you on one other thing as well," I went on, setting the record straight on another point. "You're not a magnet for accidents—that's not a broad enough classification. You are a magnet for trouble. If there is anything dangerous within a ten mile radius, it will invariably find you."

Why her? What had she done to deserve any of this?

Bella's face turned serious again. "And you put yourself into that category?"

Honesty was more important in regards to this question than any other.

“That’s true,” Jasper nodded.

“No it’s not, you are not a danger to me,” Bella disagreed. Edward just rolled his eyes, he would never convince her to see the obvious.

"Unequivocally.”

Her eyes narrowed slightly—not suspicious now, but oddly concerned. She reached her hand across the table again, slowly and deliberately. I pulled my hands an inch away from her, but she ignored that, determined to touch me. I held my breath—not because of her scent now, but because of the sudden, overwhelming tension. Fear. My skin would disgust her. She would run away.

She brushed her fingertips lightly across the back of my hand. The heat of her gentle, willing touch was like nothing I'd ever felt before. It was almost pure pleasure.

“So gross, so unbelievably gross,” Alice said reading more into it than need be. Edward hissed at her.

“Not gross, Atta boy Edward,” Emmett wolf-whistled.

Would have been, except for my fear. I watched her face as she felt the cold stone of my skin, still unable to breathe.

A half-smile turned up the corners of her lips.

"Thank you," she said, meeting my stare with an intense gaze of her own. "That's twice now."

Her soft fingers lingered on my hand as if they found it pleasant to be there.

I answered her as casually as I was able. "Let's not try for three, agreed?"

She grimaced at that, but nodded.

I pulled my hands out from under hers. As exquisite as her touch felt, I wasn't going to wait for the magic of her tolerance to pass, to turn to revulsion. I hid my hands under the table.

Bella glared at Edward, “You are completely absurd. Just let yourself enjoy and don’t think so much.”

“I’m sorry I couldn’t help, this was all new to me,” Edward groaned and apologized.

I read her eyes; though her mind was silent, I could perceive both trust and wonder there. I realized in that moment that I wanted to answer her questions. Not because I owed it to her. Not because I wanted her to trust me.

I wanted her to know me.

“That’s much better,” Bella smiled.

“Yes, I love that I can be honest with you, and that I can talk to you openly,” Edward agreed.

"I followed you to Port Angeles," I told her, the words spilling out too quickly for me to edit them. I knew the danger of the truth, the risk I was taking. At any moment, her unnatural calm could shatter into hysterics. Contrarily, knowing this only had me talking faster. "I've never tried to keep a specific person alive before and it's much more troublesome than I would have believed. But that's probably just because it's you. Ordinary people seem to make it through the day without so many catastrophes."

I watched her, waiting.

She smiled. Her lips curved up at the edges, and her chocolate eyes warmed.

I'd just admitted to stalking her, and she was smiling.

Everyone chuckled.

“I was smiling because that meant you truly cared about me, you liked,” Bella shrugged blushing as usual.

“I didn’t like you Bella, and I didn’t care for you, I was in love with you, both then and now,” Edward smiled and kissed her fiercely.

"Did you ever think that maybe my number was up that first time, with the van, and that you've been interfering with fate?" she asked.

"That wasn't the first time," I said, staring down at the dark maroon table cloth, my shoulders bowed in shame. My barriers were down, the truth still spilling free recklessly. "Your number was up the first time I met you."

It was true, and it angered me. I had been positioned over her life like the blade of a guillotine. It was as if she had been marked for death by some cruel, unjust fate, and—since I'd proved an unwilling tool—that same fate continued to try to execute her.

I imagined the fate personified—a grisly, jealous hag, a vengeful harpy.

I wanted something, someone, to be responsible for this—so that I would have something concrete to fight against. Something, anything to destroy, so that Bella could be safe.

“How about your own self-doubt,” Bella reasoned.

“Maybe,” Edward mused

Bella was very quiet; her breathing had accelerated.

I looked up at her, knowing I would finally see the fear I was waiting for. Had I not just admitted how close I'd been to killing her? Closer than the van that had come within slim inches of crushing her. And yet, her face was still calm, her eyes still tightened only with concern.

"You remember?" She had to remember that.

"Yes," she said, her voice level and grave. Her deep eyes were full of awareness.

She knew. She knew that I had wanted to murder her.

Where were the screams?

"And yet here you sit," I said, pointing out the inherent contradiction.

"Yes, here I sit…because of you." Her expression altered, turned curious, as she unsubtly changed the subject. "Because somehow you knew how to find me today…?"

“Without you I’d be dead by now,” Bella said.

“Don’t say that,” Edward growled.

Hopelessly, I pushed one more time at the barrier that protected her thoughts, desperate to understand. It made no logical sense to me. How could she even care about the rest with that glaring truth on the table?

She waited, only curious. Her skin was pale, which was natural for her, but it still concerned me. Her dinner sat nearly untouched in front of her. If I continued to tell her too much, she was going to need a buffer when the shock wore off.

I named my terms. "You eat, I'll talk."

She processed that for half a second, and then threw a bite in her mouth with a speed that belied her calm. She was more anxious for my answer than her eyes let on.

“Well I had to take advantage of your willingness to talk while it last,” Bella laughed.

“And you sure did,” Edward chuckled shaking his head.

"It's harder than it should be—keeping track of you," I told her. "Usually I can find someone very easily, once I've heard their mind before."

I watched her face carefully as I said this. Guessing right was one thing, having it confirmed was another.

“That’s true,” Bella agreed. ‘But I think I handle it okay.”

“I glad you think so,” Edward sighed. He reactions always drove him crazy.

She was motionless, her eyes wide. I felt my teeth clench together as I waited for her panic.

But she just blinked once, swallowed loudly, and then quickly scooped another bite into her mouth. She wanted me to continue.

“Of course,” Bella smiled at Edward rolled his eyes at her.

"I was keeping tabs on Jessica," I went on, watching each word as it sank in.

"Not carefully—like I said, only you could find trouble in Port Angeles—" I couldn't resist adding that. Did she realize that other human lives were not so plagued with near death experiences, or did she think she was normal?

“No Edward I knew it was weird thank you,” Bella huffed at him annoyed.

“Sorry, sorry,’ Edward groaned, this book kept getting him in trouble. Jasper laughed at him, reading his irritation and impatience.

She was the furthest thing from normal I'd ever encountered. "And at first I didn't notice when you took off on your own. Then, when I realized that you weren't with her anymore, I went looking for you at the bookstore I saw in her head. I could tell that you hadn't gone in, and that you'd gone south…and I knew you would have to turn around soon. So I was just waiting for you, randomly searching through the thoughts of people on the street—to see if anyone had noticed you so I would know where you were. I had no reason to be worried…but I was strangely anxious…" My breath came faster as I remembered that feeling of panic. Her scent blazed in my throat and I was glad. It was a pain that meant she was alive. As long as I burned, she was safe.

“I still wish you didn’t have to burn at all,” Bella sighed. Edward kissed her temple and shook his head.

“I don’t, if that’s the price I have to pay to be with you then I will gladly pay and not complain,” Edward said honestly.

"I started to drive in circles, still…listening." I hoped the word made sense to her.

This had to be confusing. "The sun was finally setting, and I was about to get out, and follow you on foot. And then—"

As the memory took me—perfectly clear and as vivid as if I was in the moment again—I felt the same murderous fury wash through my body, locking it into ice.

I wanted him dead. I needed him dead. My jaw clenched tight as I concentrated on holding myself here at the table. Bella still needed me. That was what mattered.

“you won’t be able to use that excuse for long so you better have done something,” Rosalie growled at him, irritated again.

Edward ignored her, she would find out soon enough.

"Then what?" she whispered, her dark eyes wide.

"I heard what they were thinking," I said through my teeth, unable to keep the words from coming out in a growl. "I saw your face in his mind."

I could hardly resist the urge to kill. I still knew precisely where to find him. His black thoughts sucked at the night sky, pulling me toward them…

I covered my face, knowing my expression was that of a monster, a hunter, a killer. I fixed her image behind my closed eyes to control myself, focusing only on her face. The delicate framework of her bones, the thin sheath of her pale skin—like silk stretched over glass, incredibly soft and easy to shatter. She was too vulnerable for this world. She needed a protector. And, through some twisted mismanagement of destiny, I was the closest thing available.

“I like that your my protector. I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Bella smiled at him.

“Well then you’re in good hands,” Edward smiled back, they would read their future and he would see if he could make this work.

I tried to explain my violent reaction so that she would understand.

"It was very…hard—you can't imagine how hard—for me to simply take you away, and leave them…alive," I whispered. "I could have let you go with Jessica and Angela, but I was afraid if you left me alone, I would go looking for them."

For the second time tonight, I confessed to an intended murder. At least this one was defensible.

“Which is why I didn’t have a problem with it,” Bella smiled and Edward just rolled his eyes.

She was quiet as I struggled to control myself. I listened to her heartbeat. The rhythm was irregular, but it slowed as the time passed until it was steady again. Her breathing, too, was low and even.

I was too close to the edge. I needed to get her home before…

Would I kill him, then? Would I become a murderer again when she trusted me?

Was there any way to stop myself?

She'd promised to tell me her latest theory when we were alone. Did I want to hear it? I was anxious for it, but would the reward for my curiosity be worse than not knowing?

“You are such a pessimist, did that stop when we got together?” Bella asked him.

Before he could answer everyone burst out laughing Emmett the loudest, “Yeah, sure. Let’s go with that.”

At any rate, she must have had enough truth for one night.

This time it was Bella snorting, “Yeah, sure. Let’s go with that.”

I looked at her again, and her face was paler than before, but composed.

"Are you ready to go home?" I asked.

"I'm ready to leave," she said, choosing her words carefully, as if a simple 'yes' did not fully express what she wanted to say.

“I didn’t want to go home yet, but I was ready to leave there, so we could really talk,” Bella answered him.

Frustrating.

The waitress returned. She'd heard Bella's last statement as she'd dithered on the other side of the partition, wondering what more she could offer me. I wanted to roll my eyes at some of the offerings she'd had in mind.

Bella huffed really, really annoyed with the waitress, “Edward want to go back there for dinner?”

Edward laughed, “Sure that should be interesting.”

"How are we doing?" she asked me.

"We're ready for the check, thank you," I told her, my eyes on Bella.

The waitress's breathing spiked and she was momentarily—to use Bella's phrasing—dazzled by my voice.

Jasper started laughing, “Bella, trust me Edward does not care about that girl what-so-ever, if she hadn’t been so close he wouldn’t have known about her at all.”

Bella sighed at that and nestled back into Edward and Edward for his part just enjoyed it. It was nice that she could get a taste of what he had to deal with, with the guys at schools thought about her.

In a sudden moment of perception, hearing the way my voice sounded in this inconsequential human's head, I realized why I seemed to be attracting so much admiration tonight—unmarred by the usual fear.

It was because of Bella. Trying so hard to be safe for her, to be less frightening, to be human, I truly had lost my edge. The other humans saw only beauty now, with my innate horror so carefully under control.

I looked up at the waitress, waiting for her to recover herself. It was sort of humorous, now that I understood the reason.

“I like that your sweeter for me,” Bella smiled at him, “But if that means more girls falling all over you, you could be a little meaner.”

Edward laughed, “Well I love that your clumsy and selfless but since that makes you more attractive to guys like Mike and Tyler I would prefer if you were more selfish and graceful.”

Everyone laughed at them as Bella glared at Edward.

"Sure," she stuttered. "Here you go."

She handed me the folder with the bill, thinking of the card she'd slid in behind the receipt. A card with her name and telephone number on it.

Yes, it was rather funny.

“Not really,” Bella glared at him. Edward sighed at pinched the bridge of his nose; this book was indeed trying to get his girlfriend to kill him.

I had money ready again. I gave the folder back at once, so she wouldn't waste any time waiting for a call that would never come.

"No change," I told her, hoping the size of the tip would assuage her disappointment.

“Let her be disappointed,” Bella growled, Emmett laughed he was enjoying Bella jealousy immensely.

I stood, and Bella quickly followed suit. I wanted to offer her my hand, but I thought that might be pushing my luck a little too far for one night. I thanked the waitress, my eyes never leaving Bella's face. Bella seemed to be finding something amusing, too.

“You not paying attention to her,” Bella smirked.

We walked out; I walked as close beside her as I dared. Close enough that the warmth coming off her body was like a physical touch against the left side of my body.

As I held the door for her, she sighed quietly, and I wondered what regret made her sad. I stared into her eyes, about to ask, when she suddenly looked at the ground, seeming embarrassed. It made me more curious, even as it made me reluctant to ask.

Bella sighed when Edward looked questioningly at her, “I remembered Jessica talking about her first kiss with Mike; I wanted to kiss you but I knew you would like it. It made me sad.”

“I’m sorry I was so conflicted,” Edward sighed then he leaned and kissed her softly building until Bella ran out of breath; then he chuckled and pulled away.

The silence between us continued while I opened her door for her and then got into the car.

I turned the heater on—the warmer weather had come to an abrupt end; the cold car must be uncomfortable for her. She huddled in my jacket, a small smile on her lips.

I waited, postponing conversation until the lights of the boardwalk faded. It made me feel more alone with her.

Was that the right thing? Now that I was focused only on her, the car seemed very small. Her scent swirled through it with the current of the heater, building and strengthening. It grew into its own force, like another entity in the car. A presence that demanded recognition.

“I’m fine Bella, really, I just needed to get used to it,” Edward rubbed her back soothingly when he had felt her tense up at the description.

It had that; I burned. The burning was acceptable, though. It seemed strangely appropriate to me. I had been given so much tonight—more than I'd expected. And here she was, still willingly at my side. I owed something in return for that. A sacrifice. A burnt offering.

Now if I could just keep it to that; just burn, and nothing more. But the venom filled my mouth, and my muscles tensed in anticipation, as if I were hunting…

I had to keep such thoughts from my mind. And I knew what would distract me.

"Now," I said to her, fear of her response taking the edge off the burn. "It's your turn."

“Oh yeah Bella its all you,” Emmett smirked.

Edward snorted, “Do you really think it would be that easy to get something out of her out her.”

Emmett looked at her and then groaned, “She’s going to drag this out isn’t she.”

“Yep,” Edward smirked.

“Chapters over,” Rosalie said throwing the book on the floor in disgust.

“I’ll read,” Edward smiled.