Author: Eowyn77 PM
Sequel to Fair Game. Bella confronts a secret from Edward's past when he goes on an overnight hunting trip with his family. Slightly AURated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Humor - Chapters: 13 - Words: 17,771 - Reviews: 196 - Favs: 186 - Follows: 153 - Updated: 12-31-07 - Published: 07-10-07 - id: 3648509
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I snuggled closer, pillowing my head on Edward's arm — if an ice-block counts as a pillow. But I didn't mind. Edward was here. I'd gladly freeze to death.
I smiled in the darkness. Of course, Edward wouldn't let anything so... Shakespearean as that happen. No heroine dying in her lover's arms for this story! Turning my head, I kissed his marble cheek. For one thing, as much as I loved him, he wasn't my lover. All I'd have to do is say "Take me to Vegas" and that'd change in three days' time, but I pointedly ignored that fact. It didn't do me any good in the here and now.
"You seem to be... better." The corners of his lips tugged up.
"Yeah, well," I grumbled playfully, "don't let that make you complacent."
He sighed deeply, and a ghost of the hole rippled through my chest. He's leaving. He's only stayed this long because I was such a wreck. Now that I'm better, he'll go again...
I angrily pushed those thoughts away. He's here, and he loves me. Remember the epiphany!
"Relax, Bella." His cool breath tickled my ear. "I'll tell Carlisle no."
Carlisle? "What does Carlisle want?"
"The impossible," Edward whispered. He sighed again. "He wants me to go with the family on an overnighter hunting trip. But I'll tell him no."
"Because I know you." His lips brushed against my hair. "Danger magnet."
That wasn't the real reason, and we both knew it. Despite the epiphany, I still fell to pieces from time to time when we were apart. But he'd answered the wrong question. "Why does Carlisle want you to go in the first place?"
He pulled me closer. "Our behavior over this last year or so has been rather conspicuous, even for us. It's going to be a sunny weekend, and it's well-known that the Cullens go camping whenever the weather is nice. In the interest of appearing normal, the entire family is going — except me. I'm not leaving you alone."
"Won't that be conspicuous again?"
"Not really. It's not like I plan on going sun-bathing. Besides, I'm really past caring about things like that anymore."
"But... everyone else in the family is going." They had missed Edward too when I was a zombie, and since then, Edward had spent more time in my room than he had in his own house. Maybe that's why Carlisle wanted this trip, so they could spend some bonding time together as a family. Their family ties were stronger than blood.
"Are you saying you want me to leave?" There was just a hint of hurt in his eyes.
"No, of course not. But your family needs you too, Edward. I'll be okay for one night."
I heard the skepticism in his silence.
"How many months did I survive on my own?"
"That was sheer dumb luck, Bella."
His tone annoyed me. "Well, if you're that worried, I'll talk Charlie into letting Angela sleep over. I've been so out of touch with her for so long it'd be a good excuse to catch up. After all, I need to be maintaining the appearance of normal too." I grimaced. "I probably should invite Jess too. After our last girls' night out, I owe her." That night was probably why she was ignoring me now.
"Girls' night out?" He sounded as wary as when I told him about hearing "voices" during his absence.
"Yeah," I said slowly. "In an attempt to placate Charlie, I invited Jess to go to Port Angeles with me. We went to a movie and saw zombies eat everybody's brains. Oh, and I made her listen to rap the whole way there."
Edward rose up on one elbow and stared at me in naked disbelief. "You went to a horror movie and listened to rap?" He blinked twice, then slowly shook his head. "I don't think I'll ever fully appreciate just how badly I..." He winced as though swallowing something that burned him.
"Hurt me?" I said softly.
When he first came back two weeks ago, he'd been so afraid of losing me and so adamant about me staying human that we'd never really taken the time to "make up." Not that we needed to, exactly, but we just hadn't talked much about what had passed in those desolate months apart. It was something we were both happy to put behind us.
But I could see how much guilt still festered in him. "And I don't think I'll ever fully appreciate just how much pain you went through — how much pain you're still in." I shifted in his arms, moving his head to my chest. I knew how my heartbeat affected him. "Hear that?"
He inhaled deeply, breathing in my scent. "Yes."
"It's still beating — for you."
He held me more closely. "Which is why it is impossible for me to leave you again."
"But Carlisle wouldn't ask you to do this if it weren't important."
Now he was the one annoyed. "Carlisle's reasons are irrelevant if it means Victoria gets you."
I shuddered. That was hitting below the belt. I didn't want to be left undefended either. But the more he resisted, the more I felt it was important for him to spend some time with his family. He must have used all the same arguments with Carlisle, and Carlisle still wanted him to go. He'd probably never go for it, but... "Jacob may not be talking to me, but if I told Billy you guys were leaving — "
"No," Edward snarled. "I am not placing you in the hands of werewolves!"
Stupid rivalries. "Well there must be someone you could ask to keep an eye on me. If not the Quiluetes, then someone else — another vampire, someone not in your family?" I searched my memory for any other animal-hunting vampires he may have mentioned.
"Bella, that's even more insane than..."
"The Denali family!"
His head jerked up, his eyes wide in panic. "Absolutely not!"
His alarm piqued my interest. "Why not? They're vegetarians too, aren't they?"
"Yes, but..." If anything he seemed more desperate.
His jaw clenched. "They're a thousand years old. They've... been around the block a time or two."
Aro's paper-thin skin came to mind. "Are they too old to fight? Because there's, what, five of them? Even being that old, five of them together should be able to hold Victoria at bay for a day or so, especially since she ran away at just the scent of Alice." I was trying to convince myself more than him, but my suddenly-burning curiosity was keeping the panic at bay. Why hadn't I met the Denali family yet?
"Well... Carmen and Eleazar are only five hundred years old. Maybe they could do the job." He was suddenly firm. "But I don't want them in here. They'll patrol outside."
I was a bit disappointed, but I'd figure a way around that stipulation later. "Fine." I half-wondered if all this mystery surrounding Tanya's family was Edward's way of providing a distraction for me.
He placed his ear over my heart again, and my irritation melted. I'd so missed the cool weight of his touch. When he spoke again, he sounded almost petulant. "If I didn't know better, I'd think you were trying to get rid of me."
I stroked his hair for a moment. "Yeah, because you're so replaceable. All I have to do is put my blanket in the freezer until bedtime and pop your piano CD in the player. I'd never know you were gone."
I could hear his mock indignation. "Is that all I am to you? A cold quilt and a musician?"
"I thought I was the musician."
The tip of Edward's nose trailed along my jawline. "La mia cantante," he whispered possessively. He paused to kiss my neck, sending chills between my shoulder blades, then sighed in resignation. "I'd rather you come with us than leave you under anyone else's protection, but..."
"I know," I answered softly. Even if Charlie hadn't grounded me, there was the whole safety issue. "Don't worry. We'll have plenty of opportunities to hunt together later."
His breath whooshed out in disgust. "You're actually looking forward to that."
"I look forward to being with you every minute, day and night, forever. I'm not going to get that while human, whether you go on this trip or not. So go. I'll be alive when you get back."
"Promise?" His voice was sarcastic.
I grinned. "I promise. I have so much to live for."
Edward and I spent Friday afternoon cuddling on the couch. We didn't really talk much, just memorized the scent and feel and closeness of each other for use against the time we'd be apart. As soon as Charlie's patrol car pulled into the driveway, Edward started packing up.
His cold, marble lips brushed lightly against mine, so gently I ached with longing. Then he stole a quick peck of a kiss just as Charlie opened the front door. "You have my cell phone number, right?"
I was still a bit breathless. "Yes." I probably recited it in my sleep.
Concern mingled with affection in his gaze. "Call if you need anything. If I don't answer, just leave a message and don't worry. We'll have spotty coverage, but I'll call you back as soon as I have reception."
"You going somewhere?" Charlie demanded gruffly. He didn't do a good job of hiding his alarm.
With a solemn expression, Edward turned to meet my father's eyes. "It's supposed to be nice this weekend, so Carlisle decided we should go on an overnighter." For Charlie's benefit, he added, "LA doesn't have much in the way of good camping."
"When are you going to be back?" He sounded like Edward was his own wayward son. I was surprised that Charlie would actually speak to Edward directly. This was the longest conversation they'd had since Edward came back.
"Sometime on Saturday, probably late. Like I said, we haven't had a family outing like this in a long time."
Charlie seemed to process this, and a smile twitched on Edward's lips. Stupid mind-reading abilities.
"Have a good time," Charlie said at length, in a grudging concession to civility.
Edward leaned in to kiss my brow and whispered, "Tomorrow night." Then he slung his backpack over his shoulder and walked out my front door.
I took a deep breath and forced myself to look away. He'll be back soon, in just one day. I can do this. I did it for months, and that was when I thought he was never coming back. I can survive.
Charlie shut the door and then studied my face. "Bella? Are you okay with this?" He was probably worried about me going all zombie on him again.
Summoning all the composure I could, I smiled at him. "Yes, I'm fine. He offered to not go, but he does need to spend time with his family. I can share."
Charlie put a supportive arm around my shoulder. "That's my girl."