|The Cullens and Bella Reading Eclipse
Author: Gailerina PM
The continuation of the Cullens and Bella reading the Twilight Saga. The last week before their senior year, the a mysterious package arrives on the Cullens front porch as Bella is spending the morning with them. What is next?Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Romance/Fantasy - Bella & Edward - Chapters: 29 - Words: 282,161 - Reviews: 521 - Favs: 548 - Follows: 188 - Updated: 08-24-10 - Published: 08-05-10 - Status: Complete - id: 6211480
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: Eclipse is beginning! Was this chapter always this long? Haha. This was a little hard to get started; I wanted to make sure to add the right amount of annoyance and laughter. A lot of doors will be opened due to this book, but don't worry…I have some great funny ideas in my head that I can not wait to write when I get to certain chapters. I hope I did a good job with it.
Since the chapters in this book and this book itself are a little longer, I will still update when I am finish with them. None of that…I want this many reviews or I only update once a week. As my free time allows it, I update :D (Remember in a few weeks, that becomes a little harder, but I will be updating).
Remember, I own nothing, so Enjoy!
"There is another letter" Carlisle said as he unfolded the piece of paper.
I hope all things went well as I imagine they would. I believe you have taken care of the problem and you will soon learn the number of people who will be grateful for that. Edward and Bella, you both will need to be calm during this book…there will be moments will it will be hard, but believe me, nothing near as bad as what happen in New Moon. As cheesy as it may to say, Love conquers all. Sometimes something gets thrown into the mix that messes us up more then we know and you have to remember that the future has already been change. I have faith in Alice to keep you two in check, have fun Cullens.
Also Bella, you may want to have a blanket to hide in if things get too embarrassing….sorry….but in the end, this was a good thing. I have no idea the outcome of reading these books, but I do believe a happy ending is there. There are too many decisions to be made for even Alice to know what will happen. Things will get clearer soon enough. Also, I am glad Rosalie is easier to deal with, but please be preparing for that not to be the case in the book.
"What in the world does that mean? " I asked.
"That I am going to be getting material to make Edward mad" Emmett said with a sparkle in his eyes, "well more material that is".
"Emmett if you embarrass Bella…." Esme threaten, not even having to finish the statement.
"I'll be good mom" Emmett said smiling angelic.
Edward reached for the blanket that was on the back of the couch, "I'm not cold" I glared at him. I did not want the blanket between us, I just got up.
"It's for later" he murmured.
Preface. Carlisle read.
All our attempts at subterfuge had been in vain.
With ice in my heart, I watched him prepare to defend me. His intense concentration betrayed no hint of doubt, though he was outnumbered. I knew that we could expect no help - at this moment, his family was fighting for their lives just as surely as he was for ours.
"What?" I chocked out.
"Don't worry, I'm there to protect you" Edward said trying to sooth me.
"But our family is fighting for their lives and it is my entire fault" I said as I started to sob.
"She said out family" Esme beamed.
"We may have nothing to worry about if this has to do with Victoria" Carlisle reminded us.
"Bella, don't cry. We'll be ok no matter what happens" Edward said still trying to sooth me.
"But you're out numbered, it is more then one person" I mumbled, "So it can't be Victoria".
"Bella love, please calm down. Everything will be ok, let's just read the book" Edward was frantically trying to stop my tears.
Would I ever learn the outcome of that other fight? Find out who the winners and the losers were? Would I live long enough for that?
The odds of that didn't look so great.
I shivered again, what have I done now to risk my entire family's lives? Edward was slowly wiping the tears from my eyes as he rocked me. I felt like a child, but at this moment, I did not care.
Black eyes, wild with their fierce craving for my death, watched for the moment when my protector's attention would be diverted. The moment when I would surely die.
Somewhere, far, far away in the cold forest, a wolf howled.
"What?" Emmett asked surprised.
"I really hope I do not cause you all to fight with the wolves" I mumbled, trying not to cry again.
"Carlisle would never allow that" Edward assured me.
"Chapter 1 "Ultimatum." Carlisle read.
"It seems you wrote a letter to Jacob, but he kept crossing out everything when replying" Carlisle said as he passed the book around.
I don't know why you're making Charlie carry notes to Billy like we're in second grade
if I wanted to talk to you I would answer the
You made the choice here, okay? You can't have it both ways when
What part of 'mortal enemies' is too complicated for you to
Look, I know I'm being a jerk, but there's just no way around
We can't be friends when you're spending all your time with a bunch of
It just makes it worse when I think about you too much, so don't write anymore
Yeah, I miss you, too. A lot. Doesn't change anything. Sorry.
"Basically, he does not know how to be tolerable to other people. You are nice to Mike and them, even though I know they annoy you at times" I mumbled, clearly mad at Jacob acting this way in the book.
"There is more to it then that though" Rosalie said rolling her eyes.
"I get it; he is a teenage boy" I mumbled, "But I can still complain about Jacob, correct?"
"As much as you wish" Edward chuckled, probably more out of the fact that I was annoyed at Jacob.
I ran my fingers across the page, feeling the dents where he had pressed the pen to the paper so hard that it had nearly broken through. I could picture him writing this - scrawling the angry letters in his rough handwriting, slashing through line after line when the words came out wrong, maybe even snapping the pen in his too-big hand; that would explain the ink splatters. I could imagine the frustration pulling his black eyebrows together and crumpling his forehead. If I'd been there, I might have laughed.Don't give yourself a brain hemorrhage, Jacob, I would have told him. Just spit it out.
Laughing was the last thing I felt like doing now as I reread the words I'd already memorized. His answer to my pleading note – passed from Charlie to Billy to him, just like second grade, as he'd pointed out – was no surprise. I'd known the essence of what it would say before I'd opened it.
"I have never actually passed a note before and now I have my father passing them for me…how embarrassing" I said.
"We can pass notes in class" Alice grinned.
"My luck I would get caught" I laughed.
"Nah, I would make sure you never did" she smiled.
What was surprising was how much each crossed-out line wounded me – as if the points of the letters had cutting edges. More than that, behind each angry beginning lurked a vast pool of hurt; Jacob's pain cut me deeper than my own.
"I sense a theme coming on" Rosalie frowned.
"I also sense an annoyed Edward and Bella, maybe I should go sit in another room" Jasper said looking concern.
"Jazzy you have to stay here or Bella won't hear you when it is your turn to read" Alice smiled.
"O come on Jazz if they start to annoy you just shot some love their way and they get so focus on one another you can feel all warm and fuzzy with them" Emmett chuckled.
While I was pondering this, I caught the unmistakable scent of a smoking burner rising from the kitchen. In another house, the fact that someone besides myself was cooking might not be a cause for panicking.
"What is Charlie doing" I groaned.
"Trying to cook it seems more entertainment for me. Can I set a video camera up in your house?" Emmett asked with pure joy in his eyes.
"No!" Edward and I said together.
"O…something you do not want me to catch little brother" Emmett smirked.
Edward's glare was enough for him to chuckle, but leave it be.
I shoved the wrinkled paper into my back pocket and ran, making it downstairs in the nick of time.
The jar of spaghetti sauce Charlie'd stuck in the microwave was only on its first revolution when I yanked the door open and pulled it out.
"What did I do wrong?" Charlie demanded.
"You're supposed to take the lid off first, Dad. Metal's bad for microwaves."
"How did Charlie survive before you came here?" Esme asked, shaking her head while smiling.
"The restaurant and carry out" I grumbled.
I swiftly removed the lid as I spoke, poured half the sauce into a bowl, and then put the bowl inside the microwave and the jar back in the fridge; I fixed the time and pressed start.
Charlie watched my adjustments with pursed lips. "Did I get the noodles right?"
I looked in the pan on the stove – the source of the smell that had alerted me. "Stirring helps," I said mildly. I found a spoon and tried to de-clump the mushy hunk that was scalded to the bottom.
"Charlie is never allowed to cook again" I sighed.
"You can't cook for him forever" Alice chirped.
"Well then help me teach him to cook" I said.
"Me?" she asked.
"Sure, you're his favorite" I grinned.
Emmett and Jasper busted out laughing as Edward grinned, I am sure the visions Alice were having are entertaining.
"So what's all this about?" I asked him.
He folded his arms across his chest and glared out the back windows into the sheeting rain.
"Don't know what you're talking about," he grumbled.
I was mystified. Charlie cooking? And what was with the surly attitude? Edward wasn't here yet; usually my dad reserved this kind of behavior for my boyfriend's benefit, doing his best to illustrate the theme of "unwelcome" with every word and posture. Charlie's efforts were unnecessary – Edward knew exactly what my dad was thinking without the show.
"I see another theme" Emmett smiled.
"Yeah, the hating Edward theme" Jasper smirked.
"Marvelous" Edward groaned.
The word boyfriend had me chewing on the inside of my cheek with a familiar tension while I stirred. It wasn't the right word, not at all. I needed something more expressive of eternal commitment. . . . But words like destiny and fate sounded hokey when you used them in casual conversation.
"I like those words just fine" Edward murmured as he kissed my forehead and for some reason it made me giggle, "I could add some to them as well". He then reached down and softly kissed me.
Edward had another word in mind, and that word was the source of the tension I felt. It put my teeth on edge just to think it to myself.
Fiancée. Ugh. I shuddered away from the thought.
Edward groaned and I rolled my eyes, "Edward...".
"I won't say anything today….." He said…making it clear this discussion was not over".
"Did I miss something? Since when do you make dinner?" I asked Charlie. The pasta lump bobbed in the boiling water as I poked it. "Or try to make dinner, I should say."
Charlie shrugged. "There's no law that says I can't cook in my own house."
"You would know," I replied, grinning as I eyed the badge pinned to his leather jacket.
"Ha. Good one."
"Lil sis made a joke" Emmett laughed.
"I can make jokes" I said as I glared at him.
"Not as good as me, but I'll teach you" he chuckled.
"Emmett I really rather you not teach Bella anything, especially jokes" Edward groaned.
He shrugged out of the jacket as if my glance had reminded him he still had it on, and hung it on the peg reserved for his gear. His gun belt was already slung in place - he hadn't felt the need to wear that to the station for a few weeks.
I guess he considered me old enough now not to shoot myself by accident, and not depressed enough to shoot myself on purpose, There had been no more disturbing disappearances to trouble the small town of Forks, Washington, no more sightings of the giant, mysterious wolves in the ever-rainy woods. . . .
I prodded the noodles in silence, guessing that Charlie would get around to talking about whatever was bothering him in his own time. My dad was not a man of many words, and the effort he had put into trying to orchestrate a sit-down dinner with me made it clear there were an uncharacteristic number of words on his mind.
I glanced at the clock routinely – something I did every few minutes around this time. Less than a half hour to go now.
"Is someone anxious for something to happen?" Emmett said raising an eyebrow at me.
"Yeah the moon to rise" I said rolling my eyes; it only made him burst out laughing.
"You better not be in this house," Jasper said glaring at Edward.
"Well since this book is from Bella's POV, we are never going to know" Edward chuckled.
Afternoons were the hardest part of my day. Ever since my former best friend (and werewolf), Jacob Black, had informed on me about the motorcycle I'd been riding on the sly – a betrayal he had devised in order to get me grounded so that I couldn't spend time with my boyfriend (and vampire), Edward Cullen – Edward had been allowed to see me only from seven 'till nine-thirty pm., always inside the confines of my home and under the supervision of my dad's unfailingly crabby glare.
"Not very romantic bro" Emmett chuckled.
Edward looked down at me, "But I'm with her, that is all that matters".
"I really hope you are somewhere near that house pacing, because if you are near this house, I am suffering" Jasper glared at Edward again.
"Edward is probably pacing in the forest, staring at his watch" Emmett laughed.
This was an escalation from the previous, slightly less stringent grounding that I'd earned for an unexplained three-day disappearance and one episode of cliff diving.
"Charlie has to hate motorcycles. You disappear for 3 days and also dove off a cliff…but you get in more trouble because of the bike" Alice said amazed.
"You have no idea" I mumbled,
"More of a reason to never let you ride one" Edward said.
"Even if you are the driver?" Emmett smirked.
"Remember, I want Charlie to like me more, not find a way to piss him off and him send Bella to boarding school" Edward shook his head.
"There is always the option of moving in here…" Emmett started.
"Emmett, we get it, you want the human to come live here so you can torture me" I said rolling my eyes.
"Not torture per say….just has fun with" Emmett smiled.
"Emmett" Edward yelled which only caused me to start giggling.
Of course, I still saw Edward at school, because there wasn't anything Charlie could do about that. And then, Edward spent almost every night in my room, too, but Charlie wasn't precisely aware of that. Edward's ability to climb easily and silently through my second-story window was almost as useful as his ability to read Charlie's mind.
Though the afternoon was the only time I spent away from Edward, it was enough to make me restless, and the hours always dragged. Still, I endured my punishment without complaining because – for one thing – I knew I'd earned it, and – for another – because I couldn't bear to hurt my dad by moving out now, when a much more permanent separation hovered, invisible to Charlie, so close on my horizon.
Edward cringed again.
"Will you stop that, it is annoying" I said.
"If it bothers you in the book, why does it not bother you now?" He demanded.
"Because it is not on the horizon, I'll freak by the time graduation comes if you makes you feel better" I said sourly.
He just groaned and pinched the end of his nose.
"Edward, I know what I would be saying goodbye to, but I also know it is not over for good. If all I can write are letters, then let it be. I love Charlie and Renee, but I know deep inside they want me to be happy. They will see that is with you and in the end, I know deep in their hearts; they will make everything better for me. If we learned anything from New Moon, we need to be together. I won't risk your life and you won't risk mine" I said as I stroked his cheek. I know he wanted to say more or even try to argue, but I knew Alice or at least Carlisle would stop him.
My dad sat down at the table with a grunt and unfolded the damp newspaper there; within seconds he was clucking his tongue in disapproval.
"I don't know why you read the news, Dad. It only ticks you off."
He ignored me, grumbling at the paper in his hands. "This is why everyone wants to live in a small town! Ridiculous."
"What have big cities done wrong now?"
"Seattle's making a run for murder capital of the country. Five unsolved homicides in the last two weeks. Can you imagine living like that?"
"I think Phoenix is actually higher up the homicide list, Dad. I have lived like that." And I'd never come close to being a murder victim until after I moved to his safe little town. In fact, I was still on several hit lists. . .
'Well I was and almost was" I said.
"We will keep the almost to never, I promise" Edward whispered.
The spoon shook in my hands, making the water tremble.
"Well, you couldn't pay me enough," Charlie said.
I gave up on saving dinner and settled for serving it; I had to use a steak knife to cut a portion of spaghetti for Charlie and then myself, while he watched with a sheepish expression. Charlie coated his helping with sauce and dug in. I disguised my own clump as well as I could and followed his example without much enthusiasm. We ate in silence for a moment. Charlie was still scanning the news, so I picked up my much-abused copy of Wuthering Heights from where I'd left it this morning at breakfast, and tried to lose myself in turn-of-the-century England while I waited for him to start talking.
"Really Bella, that novel is not the greatest" Edward said.
"Well I like it" I said defending myself.
I was just to the part where Heathcliff returns when Charlie cleared his throat and threw the paper to the floor.
"You're right," Charlie said. "I did have a reason for doing this." He waved his fork at the gluey spread. "I wanted to talk to you."
I laid the book aside; the binding was so destroyed that it slumped flat to the table. "You could have just asked."
He nodded, his eyebrows pulling together. "Yeah. I'll remember that next time. I thought taking dinner off your hands would soften you up."
"It would if he did not almost burn the house down" I laughed.
"Do you have a fire extinguisher in your house?" Edward asked concerned.
I rolled my eyes, "Edward is not that bad".
"Hmm, I would feel safer if you did" he replied.
"Edward" I groaned.
I laughed. "It worked – your cooking skills have me soft as a marshmallow. What do you need, Dad?"
"Well, it's about Jacob."
I felt my face harden.
"What about him?" I asked through stiff lips.
"I am going to hate this whole Jacob thing with Charlie, I know I will" I muttered.
"Why is that?" asked Esme
"Because he sees Edward as flake that ran off without even a word and left me to rot away and he sees Jacob as someone who was supposedly fixing the pieces, when he wasn't. He did help, but his own selfness was involved and he took advantage of me. Charlie is not going to like Edward and is therefore going to want me to be Jacob and will try to force the issue" I replied.
"Easy, Bells. I know you're still upset that he told on you, but it was the right thing. He was being responsible."
"Responsible," I repeated scathingly, rolling my eyes.
"Yeah, responsible, trying to get my boyfriend banned from the house so he can win me over in some pretend competition in his head. Stupid wolf thinks that would actually stop Edward from seeing me" I huffed.
"Nope, you would just come live with us" Emmett smiled.
"Right. So, what about Jacob?"
The careless question repeated inside my head, anything but trivial. What about Jacob? What was I going to do about him? My former best friend who was now . . . what? My enemy? I cringed.
Charlie's face was suddenly wary. "Don't get mad at me, okay?"
"Well, it's about Edward, too."
My eyes narrowed.
Charlie's voice got gruffer. "I let him in the house, don't I?"
"You do," I admitted. "For brief periods of time. Of course, you might let me out of the house for brief periods now and then, too," I continued – only jokingly; I knew I was on lock down for the duration of the school year. "I've been pretty good lately."
"Well, that's kind of where I was heading with this. . . ." And then Charlie's face stretched into an unexpected eye-crinkling grin; for a second he looked twenty years younger.
I saw a dim glimmer of possibility in that smile, but I proceeded slowly. "I'm confused, Dad. Are we talking about Jacob, or Edward, or me being grounded?"
The grin flashed again. "Sort of all three."
"And how do they relate?" I asked, cautious.
"Okay." He sighed, raising his hands as if in surrender. "So I'm thinking maybe you deserve a parole for good behavior. For a teenager, you're amazingly non-whiney."
"Can I buy you one of those bright orange parole hoody?" Emmett asked.
"Are you insane? NO!" Alice shrieked, looking mortified he even thought it.
My voice and eyebrows shot up. "Seriously? I'm free?"
Where was this coming from? I'd been positive I would be under house arrest until I actually moved out, and Edward hadn't picked up any wavering in Charlie's thoughts. . . .
"It's hard to read his mind at times, things are not always clear" Edward muttered
"You would never have told me anyways, you would have probably wanted me to be surprise" I said.
Charlie held up one finger. "Conditionally."
The enthusiasm vanished. "Fantastic," I groaned.
"Bella, this is more of a request than a demand, okay? You're free. But I'm hoping you'll use that freedom . . . judiciously."
"What does that mean?"
He sighed again. "I know you're satisfied to spend all of your time with Edward -"
"I spend time with Alice, too," I interjected.
Edward's sister had no hours of visitation; she came and went as she pleased. Charlie was putty in her capable hands.
"Awesome" Alice giggled at Edward stared at her, "Not my fault bro"
"That's why you have to help with cooking lessons" He smirked.
Alice started mumbling under her breath…might be a good thing I had no idea what she was saying.
"That's true," he said. "But you have other friends besides the Cullens, Bella. Or you used to."
We stared at each other for a long moment.
"When was the last time you spoke to Angela Weber?" he threw at me.
"Friday at lunch," I answered immediately.
Before Edward's return, my school friends had polarized into two groups. I liked to think of those groups as good vs. evil. Us and them worked, too. The good guys were Angela, her steady boyfriend Ben Cheney, and Mike Newton;
"Looks like you're not friends with Jessica anymore" Rosalie smiled, "That girl is annoying".
"Newton is still there" Jasper smirked.
"If he is being nice, that's ok" Edward said.
"Yeah sure that is the only reason he is there" Emmett laughed.
these three had all very generously forgiven me for going crazy when Edward left. Lauren Mallory was the evil core of the them side, and almost everyone else, including my first friend in Forks, Jessica Stanley, seemed content to go along with her anti-Bella agenda.
"Can we start an Anti-Jessica and Lauren campaign?" Alice asked
"You will do such thing young lady" Esme scolded her.
"I'm not so young…so" Alice smirked.
"Fine, you will do no such thing old lady" Esme smiled at her,
With Edward back at school, the dividing line had become even more distinct.
Edward's return had taken its toll on Mike's friendship,
Edward chuckled, more pleased then he should be.
"You do know that is not the case right now, correct?" I asked.
He groaned after that.
but Angela was unswervingly loyal, and Ben followed her lead. Despite the natural aversion most humans felt toward the Cullens, Angela sat dutifully beside Alice every day at lunch. After a few weeks, Angela even looked comfortable there. It was difficult not to be charmed by the Cullens – once one gave them the chance to be charming.
"Yay, more human friends" Alice cheered, "Can we have a girly sleep over?"
Emmett laughed, "It will probably have to be a weekend Edward is gone, because I doubt he would be able to deal with Bella being so close and not being by his side or watching her sleep in his arms".
"Why can't she sleep in my arms?" Edward asked.
"Because if Angela came over here for a sleep over, Jessica would skin her alive to get all the details she wants. The last thing you want is that little detail getting out" Alice replied.
I gasped, "O man, Lauren would make my life pure hell and Charlie would be so mad, Jessica's mom will know and she has a big mouth also. I really think Angela would try not to tell her anything though".
"At this point Jessica is still being nice to Bella, how are you going to get away with only inviting Angela?" Esme asked.
"I will either figure that out or we can invite her" Alice said with a sparkle in her eyes.
"Alice…you will behave, you also Emmett" Esme said glaring at them. They both groaned…maybe at this moment, reading minds would not be a bad thing as Edward was silently chuckling.
"Outside of school?" Charlie asked, calling my attention back.
"I haven't seen anyone outside of school, Dad. Grounded, remember? And Angela has a boyfriend, too. She's always with Ben. If I'm really free," I added, heavy on the skepticism, "maybe we could double."
"O I like that idea" I said.
"Just don't do anything that involves eating" Jasper said.
"Hey we can do plenty of things that don't involve eating. We can go to the movies or bowling" I said.
"Hey you can also double with us" Alice added.
"Okay. But then . . ." He hesitated. "You and Jake used to be joined at the hip, and now -"
I cut him off. "Can you get to the point, Dad? What's your condition – exactly?"
"I don't think you should dump all your other friends for your boyfriend, Bella," he said in a stern voice. "It's not nice, and I think your life would be better balanced if you kept some other people in it. What happened last September . . ."
Edward stroked my cheek; I was not sure if he thought it upset me or if it was him who was upset at the mistake he almost made. I wrapped my arms behind him and breathe in his scent to calm me.
"Well," he said defensively. "If you'd had more of a life outside of Edward Cullen, it might not have been like that."
"As if" I muttered under my breath. Edward just held me closer.
"It would have been exactly like that," I muttered.
"Maybe, maybe not."
"The point?" I reminded him.
"Use your new freedom to see your other friends, too. Keep it balanced."
I nodded slowly. "Balance is good. Do I have specific time quotas to fill, though?"
He made a face, but shook his head. "I don't want to make this complicated. Just don't forget your friends . . ."
"Basically, don't forget Jacob" I muttered, "How is it freedom if he is basically telling me I have to hang out with Jacob?"
"I don't think he will force you" Edward said confused.
"No but my book self will anyways. Even if it was not to just please Charlie. I still feel bad about the whole Jacob thing, so I know myself well enough to know that I want to fix it".
"Marvelous" Edward groaned.
It was a dilemma I was already struggling with. My friends. People who, for their own safety, I would never be able to see again after graduation.
So what was the better course of action? Spend time with them while I could? Or start the separation now to make it more gradual? I quailed at the idea of the second option.
"Edward if you say one thing or make one movement, I will have Alice smack you" I warned him.
"Is that why she is sitting here today and not Esme?" He asked.
"Yep, since I can't actually hit you, she will" I grinned.
"If you are especially annoying, I'll hit you too" Rosalie added.
"Woot, it is picking on Edward day" Emmett laughed, clearly amused at Edward's predicament.
". . . particularly Jacob," Charlie added before I could think things through more than that.
"Seems my father needs an education on hormonal werewolf boys" I said as I rolled my eyes.
"He thinks he is helping" Esme said softly.
"I know, but I just know this whole Jacob thing is going to get worst" I mumbled.
"That won't be pleasant" Edward grumbled.
"But it sure will be fun to read" Emmett added.
A greater dilemma than the first. It took me a moment to find the right words. "Jacob might be . . . difficult."
"The Blacks are practically family, Bella," he said, stern and fatherly again. "And Jacob has been a very, very good friend to you."
"I know that."
"Don't you miss him at all?" Charlie asked, frustrated.
My throat suddenly felt swollen; I had to clear it twice before I answered. "Yes, I do miss him," I admitted, still looking down. "I miss him a lot."
"Well I don't" I grumbled, "In real life".
"You know you can be friends with him if you want" Edward said slowly.
"I know, but I want to finish the books before I make any decisions concerning the wolves" I replied.
"Then why is it difficult?"
It wasn't something I was at liberty to explain. It was against the rules for normal people –human people like me and Charlie – to know about the clandestine world full of myths and monsters that existed secretly around us. I knew all about that world – and I was in no small amount of trouble as a result. I wasn't about to get Charlie in the same trouble.
"With Jacob there is a . . . conflict," I said slowly. "A conflict about the friendship thing, I mean. Friendship doesn't always seem to be enough for Jake." I wound my excuse out of details that were true but insignificant, hardly crucial compared to the fact that Jacob's werewolf pack bitterly hated Edward's vampire family – and therefore, me too, as I fully intended to join that family. It just wasn't something I could work out with him in a note, and he wouldn't answer my calls. But my plan to deal with the werewolf in person had definitely not gone over well with the vampires.
"Sorry" Edward whispered.
"You would actually literally try to stop me, wouldn't you?" I asked slowly, not wanting him to think I was annoyed…yet.
"Well I had been gone for almost 8 months, so I may be a tad over protective of you. I also don't like the young wolves, it scares me a little. Also…I am not going to lie…the fact that Alice can not see them and when you are with them you disappear as well…I'm not going to be the nicest person around…sorry Jasper" Edward replied.
"So in the book you are basically banning me from going to La Push?" I asked.
"Probably…why?" he asked.
"OO I know the answer to that one…because Bella is stubborn and more fun is to come because of this" Emmett smirked.
Edward just groaned.
It was something to think about…to have my future disappear and how much pain that would bring Edward. But I knew if Edward was with me most of the time that it would be easier on him and also make sure that Jacob got a clear picture of how Edward and I were not going to separate. That would mean inviting them over for dinner…hmm maybe I could plan that for this week…hmmm….decisions decisions decisions.
"Isn't Edward up for a little healthy competition?" Charlie's voice was sarcastic now.
I leveled a dark look at him. "There's no competition."
"You're hurting Jake's feelings, avoiding him like this. He'd rather be just friends than nothing."
Oh, now I was avoiding him?
"This is so unfair, I am being made out to be the bad person" I huffed.
"You do remember this is not going to happen, right?" Jasper asked, clearing my annoying emotion was getting to him.
"I still don't like it, stupid wolf" I replied.
"I'm pretty sure Jake doesn't want to be friends at all." The words burned in my mouth.
"Where'd you get that idea, anyway?"
Charlie looked embarrassed now. "The subject might have come up today with Billy. . . ."
"You and Billy gossip like old women," I complained, stabbing my fork viciously into the congealed spaghetti on my plate.
"Billy's worried about Jacob," Charlie said. "Jake's having a hard time right now. . . . He's depressed."
"O man, I am going to feel responsible" I mumbled.
"Meaning….." Edward started.
"More annoying Edward" Emmett boomed.
"Emmett you are getting way too much enjoyment out of this" I said glaring at him.
"Come on, I have to. Since you guys are changing the future, this will never happen, meaning I have nothing to tease Edward with. I have to get it in now" he defended himself.
I winced, but kept my eyes on the blob.
"And then you were always so happy after spending the day with Jake." Charlie sighed.
"I'm happy now ," I growled fiercely through my teeth.
I hissed, it was the best way to vent my frustrations, "How was Charlie suppose to know that I was happy because of my delusions majority of the time and not Jacob?"
"I highly doubt you would want to tell him…I am sure he could find a padded room for you" Emmett said before he was smacked. He looked ready to say something, but stopped looking at Alice, "Sorry Alice"
"It's ok. It's no ones fault here, plus as I said, I have a family that loves me here, I wouldn't change anything. Plus if Bella was in a padded room, Edward won't have to worry about her hurting herself" Alice giggled.
The contrast between my words and tone broke through the tension. Charlie burst into laughter, and I had to join in.
"Okay, okay," I agreed. "Balance."
"And Jacob," he insisted.
"Good. Find that balance, Bella. And, oh, yeah, you've got some mail," Charlie said, closing the subject with no attempt at subtlety.
"It's by the stove."
I didn't move, my thoughts twisting into snarls around Jacob's name. It was most likely junk mail; I'd just gotten a package from my mom yesterday and I wasn't expecting anything else.
Charlie shoved his chair away from the table and stretched as he got to his feet. He took his plate to the sink, but before he turned the water on to rinse it, he paused to toss a thick envelope at me. The letter skidded across the table and thunked into my elbow.
"Er, thanks," I muttered, puzzled by his pushiness. Then I saw the return address – the letter was from the University of Alaska Southeast. "That was quick. I guess I missed the deadline on that one, too."
I flipped the envelope over and then glared up at him. "It's open."
"I was curious."
"I'm shocked, Sheriff. That's a federal crime."
"Oo you should totally pretend to arrest him" Emmett beamed.
"I am not so sure that would go over well" I said.
"But it would be hilarious!" Emmett laughed.
"She could pretend to call 911 on him, I bet the look on his face would be priceless" Rosalie added.
"Stop giving my girlfriend bad ideas" Edward interrupted.
"Oh, just read it."
I pulled out the letter, and a folded schedule of courses.
"Congratulations," he said before I could read anything. "Your first acceptance."
"I believe there is something fishy here" I said.
"Why do you say that?" Edward asked.
"It so late in the year…how am I still able to apply anywhere" I replied, "Edward…you better not do anything".
"Dear sweet Bella, you are smart enough that I do not have to do a thing, remember that" he murmured as he kissed my forehead.
"We should talk about tuition. I've got some money saved up –"
"Hey, hey, none of that. I'm not touching your retirement, Dad. I've got my college fund."
"Bella…" Edward started.
"Do not try to argue with me" I interrupted him.
"Why can't I help?" he demanded.
"Because I said so" I replied, not wanting to get into the money argument again.
"I would really like to help" he said quietly.
"Edward, we are not having this argument again. I don't like you spending money on me, simple as that" I said.
He reached down and pressed his lips to my cheek and then my neck and then softly kissing me. As he pulled away his breath washed over me. I had to blink and try to think; I might have forgotten my name, "Are you sure?"
I shook my head trying to focus, "Stop cheating".
He shrugged, "It was worth a try".
What was left of it – and there hadn't been much to begin with.
Charlie frowned. "Some of these places are pretty pricey, Bells. I want to help. You don't have to go to all the way to Alaska just because it's cheaper."
It wasn't cheaper, not at all. But it was far away, and Juneau had an average of three hundred twenty-one overcast days per year. The first was my prerequisite, the second was Edward's.
"I've got it covered. Besides, there's lots of financial aid out there. It's easy to get loans." I hoped my bluff wasn't too obvious. I hadn't actually done a lot of research on the subject.
"Will you at least do the research now?" Edward asked.
"You act like there is still an Option B" I said.
"You never know" he replied.
"So . . . ," Charlie began, and then he pursed his lips and looked away.
"Nothing. I was just . . ." He frowned. "Just wondering what . . . Edward's plans are for next year?"
"Ha, he wants you two on the opposite coasts" Emmett laughed.
"To bad I can go anywhere I want" Edward smiled.
Three quick raps on the door saved me.
"Looks like Edward gets to be the super hero right now" Emmett laughed.
"But he will never be as good as Super hero Alice" Alice beamed.
Charlie rolled his eyes and I jumped up.
"Coming!" I called while Charlie mumbled something that sounded like, "Go away." I ignored him and went to let Edward in.
I wrenched the door out of my way – ridiculously eager – and there he was, my personal miracle.
Time had not made me immune to the perfection of his face, and I was sure that I would never take any aspect of him for granted. My eyes traced over his pale white features: the hard square of his jaw, the softer curve of his full lips – twisted up into a smile now, the straight line of his nose, the sharp angle of his cheekbones, the smooth marble span of his forehead – partially obscured by a tangle of rain-darkened bronze hair. . . .
I could hear all the Cullens silently chuckling and I started to blush.
I saved his eyes for last, knowing that when I looked into them I was likely to lose my train of thought. They were wide, warm with liquid gold, and framed by a thick fringe of black lashes. Staring into his eyes always made me feel extraordinary – sort of like my bones were turning spongy. I was also a little lightheaded, but that could have been because I'd forgotten to keep breathing. Again.
"It's nice to know I can still dazzle you" Edward murmured.
"You already know that" I said.
"It did not work a few minutes ago" he replied.
"Maybe you needed to try a little harder" Emmett winked at Edward who growled at his brother, I really did not want to know what Emmett was thinking.
It was a face any male model in the world would trade his soul for. Of course, that might be exactly the asking price: one soul.
No. I didn't believe that. I felt guilty for even thinking it, and was glad – as I was often glad – that I was the one person whose thoughts were a mystery to Edward.
"Until now" he whispered.
"I swear Edward if you use that against me, both your sisters are smack you so hard your head will be on backwards" I hissed.
"These books might help you understand her, but her thought process may also changed…so in the end…you are probably just going to be back where you were" Alice giggled.
I reached for his hand, and sighed when his cold fingers found mine. His touch brought with it the strangest sense of relief – as if I'd been in pain and that pain had suddenly ceased.
"Hey." I smiled a little at my anticlimactic greeting.
He raised our interlaced fingers to brush my cheek with the back of his hand. "How was your afternoon?"
"For me, as well."
He pulled my wrist up to his face, our hands still twisted together. His eyes closed as his nose skimmed along the skin there, and he smiled gently without opening them. Enjoying the bouquet while resisting the wine, as he'd once put it.
Edward entwined our hands and pulled my wrist to his face and skimmed along the skin there. He lightly kissed it before he let our hands fall back into his lap, a small smile on his lips.
"Seriously…how are you able to do that?" Jasper asked.
"As I did once say, enjoying the bouquet while resisting the wine" he softly whispered.
"Such amazing resistance" Carlisle mused
"I'm glad you are able to do, it just makes no sense" Jasper said, still amazed.
"Jasper were you not here yesterday when he was kissing her neck? When they were kissing intensely? He sleeps with her in his arms almost every night that he is not away hunting. I am not really sure it is all the amazing" Rosalie said.
"What do you mean that?" Jasper asked confused.
"Love conquers all in the end" Alice beamed.
"That it does" Esme added
"I believe in the book it may be a little different, as it is also now as well. In the book Edward learned from his mistake, he tried so hard to run and make her decisions on what he believed was better, but in the end they both ended up broken. He realized how close he came to losing her. The same can be said about yesterday, Bella was so upset she left his arms not wanting anything to do with him; she actually believed the book at first, but then Jasper made a point of making Edward suffer Bella's pain. He always underestimated her emotions and he learned the hard way to never do that again. It is not the same thing clearly, but Edward did realize how close he came to making the biggest mistake of his entire life. The few times she got upset enough to move away him, he even softly whimpered" Carlisle explained.
"I understand what you all are saying and I guess in the end, it is just simply amazing" Jasper said.
I knew that the scent of my blood – so much sweeter to him than any other person's blood, truly like wine beside water to an alcoholic – caused him actual pain from the burning thirst it engendered. But he didn't seem to shy away from it as much as he once had. I could only dimly imagine the Herculean effort behind this simple gesture.
"Easier then you can imagine" he murmured
It made me sad that he had to try so hard. I comforted myself with the knowledge that I wouldn't be causing him pain much longer.
"Edward" I warned…not wanting him to say anything.
I heard Charlie approaching then, stamping his feet on the way to express his customary displeasure with our guest. Edward's eyes snapped open and he let our hands fall, keeping them twined.
"Good evening, Charlie." Edward was always flawlessly polite, though Charlie didn't deserve it.
"That's because Esme would smack him with a wooden spoon if he was impolite" Emmett chuckled.
"You're stilling my jokes" I glared at him.
"I am merely showing my approval by using it" he smirked.
Charlie grunted at him, and then stood there with his arms crossed over his chest. He was taking the idea of parental supervision to extremes lately.
"I brought another set of applications," Edward told me then, holding up a stuffed manila envelope. He was wearing a roll of stamps like a ring around his littlest finger.
I groaned. How were there any colleges left that he hadn't forced me to apply to already?
And how did he keep finding these loophole openings? It was so late in the year.
I glare at him… "Edward".
"What?" He asked.
"You better not be doing anything to get those applications accepted" I continue to glare at him.
"Never my sweet Bella" he smiled….hmmm I am not so sure I trusted that.
He smiled as if he could read my thoughts; they must have been very obvious on my face.
"There are still a few open deadlines. And a few places willing to make exceptions."
I could just imagine the motivations behind such exceptions. And the dollar amounts involved.
Edward laughed at my expression.
"Shall we?" he asked, towing me toward the kitchen table.
Charlie huffed and followed behind, though he could hardly complain about the activity on tonight's agenda. He'd been pestering me to make a decision about college on a daily basis.
I cleared the table quickly while Edward organized an intimidating stack of forms. When I moved Wuthering Heights to the counter, Edward raised one eyebrow. I knew what he was thinking, but Charlie interrupted before Edward could comment.
"Speaking of college applications, Edward," Charlie said, his tone even more sullen – he tried to avoid addressing Edward directly, and when he had to, it exacerbated his bad mood.
"Bella and I were just talking about next year. Have you decided where you're going to school?"
Edward smiled up at Charlie and his voice was friendly. "Not yet. I've received a few acceptance letters, but I'm still weighing my options."
"Where have you been accepted?" Charlie pressed.
"Syracuse . . . Harvard . . . Dartmouth . . . and I just got accepted to the University of Alaska Southeast today."
"Of course" Edward murmured, slowly stroking my hair.
Edward turned his face slightly to the side so that he could wink at me. I stifled a giggle.
"Harvard? Dartmouth?" Charlie mumbled, unable to conceal his awe. "Well that's pretty . . . that's something. Yeah, but the University of Alaska . . . you wouldn't really consider that when you could go Ivy League. I mean, your father would want you to . . ."
"My children are more then welcome to go to any college of their choice" Carlisle chuckled.
"Good thing we have plenty of time to experience them all" Emmett laughed, "As many times as we want".
"Carlisle's always fine with whatever I choose to do," Edward told him serenely.
"Guess what, Edward?" I asked in a bright voice, playing along.
I pointed to the thick envelope on the counter. "I just got my acceptance to the University of Alaska!"
"Congratulations!" He grinned. "What a coincidence."
"I hope you acting have gotten better" Edward grinned.
"If I have to teach Charlie to cook, then you have to let me give you lessons on how to lie" Alice smirked.
Charlie's eyes narrowed and he glared back and forth between the two of us. "Fine," he muttered after a minute. "I'm going to go watch the game, Bella. Nine-thirty."
That was his usual parting command.
"Er, Dad? Remember the very recent discussion about my freedom . . . ?"
He sighed. "Right. Okay, ten -thirty. You still have a curfew on school nights."
"Bella's no longer grounded?" Edward asked. Though I knew he wasn't really surprised, I couldn't detect any false note to the sudden excitement in his voice.
"I wonder if I knew" Edward said.
"Not unless he decided on it when talking to Billy…as a plan" Alice said.
"A plan?" I asked.
"Well how Charlie could push you to see Jacob…but still have you grounded" Alice explained.
I growled and Emmett laughed at me until I heard he got smacked. The poor dude, I wonder if he gets smacked a lot or if he was just being especially annoying this weekend.
"Conditionally," Charlie corrected through his teeth. "What's it to you?"
I frowned at my dad, but he didn't see.
"It's just good to know," Edward said. "Alice has been itching for a shopping partner, and I'm sure Bella would love to see some city lights." He smiled at me.
"The question is…does Eddie boy mean Alice or himself" Jasper smirked.
"He has a better chance pretending it is Alice" Emmett laughed.
"Glad Charlie's hatred for me is amusing and stop calling me Eddie" Edward growled at his brothers.
"O come on, Alice has already said she had a plan to make sure that Charlie falls in love with you in this reality, so just enjoy the future you been able to chance" Jasper said rolling his eyes.
But Charlie growled, "No!" and his face flushed purple.
"Dad! What's the problem?"
He made an effort to unclench his teeth. "I don't want you going to Seattle right now."
"I told you about that story in the paper – there's some kind of gang on a killing spree in Seattle and I want you to steer clear, okay?"
"I have my own super heroes, I am sure I am fine" I grinned.
"I doubt the last thing I would do is still take you to Seattle" Edward said shaking his head.
"Mr. Overprotective, that can be your super hero name" Emmett grinned and started humming a tune.
I rolled my eyes. "Dad, there's a better chance that I'll get struck by lightning than that the one day I'm in Seattle -"
"No, that's fine, Charlie," Edward said, interrupting me. "I didn't mean Seattle. I was thinking Portland, actually. I wouldn't have Bella in Seattle, either. Of course not."
I looked at him in disbelief, but he had Charlie's newspaper in his hands and he was reading the front page intently.
"If you are agreeing with Charlie, it can't be good, can it?" I asked.
"We will see Bella" Edward replied.
"I have a feeling we are going to be learning about the army in this book" Carlisle thought.
He must have been trying to appease my father. The idea of being in danger from even the most deadly of humans while I was with Alice or Edward was downright hilarious.
It worked. Charlie stared at Edward for one second more, and then shrugged. "Fine." He stalked off toward the living room, in a bit of a hurry now – maybe he didn't want to miss tip-off.
I waited till the TV was on, so that Charlie wouldn't be able to hear me.
"What –," I started to ask.
"Hold on," Edward said without looking up from the paper. His eyes stayed focused on the page as he pushed the first application toward me across the table. "I think you can recycle your essays for this one. Same questions."
Charlie must still be listening.
"Mind reading is very useful" I smiled.
"Speak for yourself" Emmett pouted.
"You only say that because you hate when Carlisle or Alice have a conversation with me and you have no idea what we are talking about" Edward smirked.
"You know Bella likes it because that means you know when Charlie is coming and hide before he catches you two doing anything" Emmett grinned evilly.
I sighed and started to fill out the repetitive information: name, address, social. . . . After a few minutes I glanced up, but Edward was now staring pensively out the window. As I bent my head back to my work, I noticed for the first time the name of the school.
I snorted and shoved the papers aside.
"Be serious, Edward. Dartmouth ?"
"Aw, you should apply there" Edward said.
"Again, I do not see the point and I am not sure I have what it takes to get it" I replied.
"You should do it, having Edward over helping you with college applications can be part of the Getting Charlie to Adore Edward ALMOST as much as he loves Alice plan" Alice smiled.
Edward lifted the discarded application and laid it gently in front of me again. "I think you'd like New Hampshire," he said. "There's a full complement of night courses for me, and the forests are very conveniently located for the avid hiker. Plentiful wildlife." He pulled out the crooked smile he knew I couldn't resist.
"Cheater" I mumbled.
"I see another pattern" Emmett grinned.
"Shut up Emmett before I throw a pillow at you" I hissed.
"Bring it sis" Emmett smiled before he was smacked by a pillow Rosalie had.
I started laughing so hard at Emmett's shocked face that if Edward had not been holding on to me, I would have fallen on the floor.
I took a deep breath through my nose.
"I'll let you pay me back, if that makes you happy," he promised. "If you want, I can charge you interest."
"Like I could even get in without some enormous bribe. Or was that part of the loan? The new Cullen wing of the library? Ugh. Why are we having this discussion again?"
I glared at Edward, "So help me if you ever think of doing something that stupid".
"Seeing as you do not have to worry about missing deadlines, there is no need to worry about bribes, now is there?" Edward asked.
I glared at him.
"Though, I wouldn't be surprised if you had to bribe a few people to get them to read her application in the first place," Carlisle added. "Most places don't make exceptions like that without some kind of... exchange."
"Will you just fill out the application, please, Bella? It won't hurt you to apply."
My jaw flexed. "You know what? I don't think I will."
I reached for the papers, planning to crumple them into a suitable shape for lobbing at the trashcan, but they were already gone. I stared at the empty table for a moment, and then at Edward. He didn't appear to have moved, but the application was probably already tucked away in his jacket.
"What are you doing?" I demanded.
"I sign your name better than you do yourself. You've already written the essays."
"Hey that is illegal" I said.
Edward just smiled at me innocently.
"You're going way overboard with this, you know." I whispered on the off chance that Charlie wasn't completely lost in his game. "I really don't need to apply anywhere else. I've been accepted in Alaska. I can almost afford the first semester's tuition. It's as good an alibi as any. There's no need to throw away a bunch of money, no matter whose it is."
"Spending money on you, not matter what way it may be, is not throwing it away" Edward murmured.
When was he going to get over this whole gift giving thinking?
A pained looked tightened his face. "Bella –"
"Don't start. I agree that I need to go through the motions for Charlie's sake, but we both know I'm not going to be in any condition to go to school next fall. To be anywhere near people."
My knowledge of those first few years as a new vampire was sketchy. Edward had never gone into details – it wasn't his favorite subject – but I knew it wasn't pretty. Self-control was apparently an acquired skill. Anything more than correspondence school was out of the question.
"I thought the timing was still undecided," Edward reminded me softly. "You might enjoy a semester or two of college. There are a lot of human experiences you've never had."
"I'll get to those afterward."
I glared at him, "stupid excuses".
"They won't be human experiences afterward. You don't get a second chance at humanity, Bella."
I sighed. "You've got to be reasonable about the timing, Edward. It's just too dangerous to mess around with."
"There's no danger yet," he insisted.
I glared at him. No danger? Sure. I only had a sadistic vampire trying to avenge her mate's death with my own, preferably through some slow and torturous method.
"Now you don't, nothing to fear" Edward said.
"Except getting older" I mumbled.
Who was worried about Victoria? And, oh yeah, the Volturi – the vampire royal family with their small army of vampire warriors – who insisted that my heart stop beating one way or another in the near future, because humans weren't allowed to know they existed. Right. No reason at all to panic.
Even with Alice keeping watch – Edward was relying on her uncannily accurate visions of the future to give us advance warning – it was insane to take chances.
Besides, I'd already won this argument. The date for my transformation was tentatively set for shortly after my graduation from high school, only a handful of weeks away.
A sharp jolt of unease pierced my stomach as I realized how short the time really was. Of course this change was necessary – and the key to what I wanted more than everything else in the world put together – but I was deeply conscious of Charlie sitting in the other room enjoying his game, just like every other night. And my mother, Renée, far away in sunny Florida, still pleading with me to spend the summer on the beach with her and her new husband. And Jacob, who, unlike my parents, would know exactly what was going on when I disappeared to some distant school. Even if my parents didn't grow suspicious for a long time, even if I could put off visits with excuses about travel expenses or study loads or illnesses, Jacob would know the truth.
"I don't trust the wolves" I said.
"They wouldn't tell Charlie anything, he would think they were insane. He knows how much they don't like us" Alice said.
"I still don't trust them" I mumbled, "How can I be sure that Jacob won't play any kind of tricks and make Charlie think I am lying?"
"If you were married to me, Charlie might take little value in what he says" Edward said grinning.
I glared at him, "Try again".
For a moment, the idea of Jacob's certain revulsion overshadowed every other pain.
"Bella," Edward murmured, his face twisting when he read the distress in mine. "There's no hurry. I won't let anyone hurt you. You can take all the time you need."
"I want to hurry," I whispered, smiling weakly, trying to make a joke of it. "I want to be a monster, too."
"Bella! Really?" Edward asked me, a mixture of anger and sorrow in his eyes.
"It just said I was trying to make a joke out of it" I said defending myself.
"If we are monsters, I want to be the Loch Ness Monster, that would be so cool to freak people out by being a large dinosaur" Emmett laughed, "I would be the boogie man, but Edward already has that".
"Emmett you are about to start a huge tangent on monsters, so just keep it all in your head and only annoy Edward" Alice warned.
His teeth clenched; he spoke through them. "You have no idea what you're saying."
Abruptly, he flung the damp newspaper onto the table in between us. His finger stabbed the headline on the front page:
DEATH TOLL ON THE RISE, POLICE FEAR GANG ACTIVITY
"What does that have to do with anything?"
"Monsters are not a joke, Bella."
I stared at the headline again, and then up to his hard expression. "A . . . a vampire is doing this?" I whispered.
He smiled without humor. His voice was low and cold. "You'd be surprised, Bella, at how often my kind are the source behind the horrors in your human news. It's easy to recognize, when you know what to look for. The information here indicates a newborn vampire is loose in Seattle. Bloodthirsty, wild, out of control. The way we all were."
My eyes widen, "Edward" I said as I shivered.
"Finally, a rational response" Edward said.
"That is not what this is about, those people in Seattle, can't you all do something?" I pleaded.
"So Bella" Edward murmured, "I believe the people might be fine".
"What do you mean by that?" I asked, confused.
"We can't be sure, but once we learn it is what I think it is, I promise to explain, ok?" He pleaded with me now.
"That makes no sense" I said.
Edward sighed and was handed what looked like one of the letters from the book and gave it to me. I saw it said to not have me read it right away…what was going on? As I read, fear struck me…Victoria. "Edward what are you going to do about Victoria?"
"As we said earlier, you do not have to worry about her" he replied.
"Edward you didn't go hunting last night, did you?" I asked.
"In a sense I did" he whispered, taking in my reaction.
"Are you ok? Is everyone ok? Who was here with me? O Edward I wish you did not go and do that, she could have hurt you" I said, everything rushing out at once.
"Calm down Love, Carlisle and Esme were here with you, the others were with me. She was no problem at all, she had no idea we were coming. You have nothing to worry about" he calmly told me.
He slowly wiped the few tears that were escaping my eyes and I looked over at all his family members, to make sure they are ok. I know they are, but I have to try to calm the panic in my heart. Edward was slowly stroking my hair and held me tight. "Please continue Carlisle" I whispered.
I wanted to be mad at Edward and his family for going and doing this without telling me, but deep inside I was relieved. I did not have to worry about Victoria coming here and all those hikers getting hurt. I did not have to worry about her getting to Charlie, but was this book even about her? Whatever danger it was, I knew the Cullens would stand by me and protect me. They truly love me.
I let my gaze drop to the paper again, avoiding his eyes.
"We've been monitoring the situation for a few weeks. All the signs are there – the unlikely disappearances, always in the night, the poorly disposed-of corpses, the lack of other evidence. . . . Yes, someone brand-new. And no one seems to be taking responsibility for the neophyte. . . ." He took a deep breath.
"Well, it's not our problem. We wouldn't even pay attention to the situation if wasn't going on so close to home. Like I said, this happens all the time. The existence of monsters results in monstrous consequences."
I tried not to see the names on the page, but they jumped out from the rest of the print like they were in bold. The five people whose lives were over, whose families were mourning now. It was different from considering murder in the abstract, reading those names. Maureen Gardiner, Geoffrey Campbell, Grace Razi, Michelle O'Connell, Ronald Albrook. People who'd had parents and children and friends and pets and jobs and hopes and plans and memories and futures. . . .
I shivered again hearing the names and laid my head on Edward's chest. These people would not have to die, thanks to the Cullens, they will live.
"It won't be the same for me," I whispered, half to myself. "You won't let me be like that. We'll live in Antarctica."
"We can live in an igloo" I smiled.
"And Eskimo kiss all day" Alice giggled.
'Sure…just Eskimo kiss all day" Emmett smirked.
Edward snorted, breaking the tension. "Penguins. Lovely."
I laughed a shaky laugh and knocked the paper off the table so I wouldn't have to see those names; it hit the linoleum with a thud. Of course Edward would consider the hunting possibilities. He and his "vegetarian" family – all committed to protecting human life – preferred the flavor of large predators for satisfying their dietary needs. "Alaska, then, as planned. Only somewhere much more remote than Juneau – somewhere with grizzlies galore."
"Grizzlies" Emmett boomed, "You will love them Bella".
I giggled, "I think I will like mountain lions better".
"Aaww, trying to be like Eddie, I will convert you to grizzlies though" Emmett smirked.
Edward slowly stroked my hair and I swear I heard him groaned. I did not mean to upset him with the conversation.
"Better," he allowed. "There are polar bears, too. Very fierce. And the wolves get quite large."
"What's so funny?" Alice asked.
"He just pissed my book self off or made me sad, meaning he has to now apologize" I smirked.
"So are you also going to be making fun of me getting in trouble?" Edward asked.
"Yes, because it will be interesting to see what you do to apologize" I smiled.
"OOO polar bear…I have never had one" Emmett smiled changing the topic, "Can we take a hunting trip in Alaska to find one"
"You never had one while visiting your cousins?" I asked.
"No, but I might have to change that though" he grinned.
"Emmett focus, we can go during winter break" Edward said glaring at him.
"I thought Alice was planning a cool winter break for us?" I asked, "If you are hunting in Alaska, you won't let me come".
"We have to figure out if Charlie will let you come on a vacation with us first" Edward said.
"Please, one puppy dog look from Alice and she will have my bags already packed for me" I glared at him.
"I could always send you two on your own little vacation" Alice said smiling
"Aaww, I thought it was a family vacation, without Bella it won't be complete" Emmett said pouting.
"Bell will be fine. We all don't hunt at the same time and we will be far from their home, so it will be ok" Esme said smiling.
"Wait, we are staying with your cousins?" I asked, "Do they even know about me?"
"Of course they do and they will be glad to finally meet you" Carlisle assured me.
"Edward you are going to have to inform Bella about Tanya before that though" Alice thought.
My mouth fell open and my breath blew out in a sharp gust.
"What's wrong?" he asked. Before I could recover, the confusion vanished and his whole body seemed to harden. "Oh. Never mind the wolves, then, if the idea is offensive to you."
His voice was stiff, formal, his shoulders rigid.
"He was my best friend, Edward," I muttered. It stung to use the past tense. "Of course the idea offends me."
"Please forgive my thoughtlessness," he said, still very formal.
"Are you actually apologizing or just trying to appear as if you are" I said glaring at him.
"I shouldn't have suggested that."
"Don't worry about it." I stared at my hands, clenched into a double fist on the table.
We were both silent for a moment, and then his cool finger was under my chin, coaxing my face up. His expression was much softer now.
"See, I really am" Edward replied.
"Hmm ok fine, I think kissing me would have been a better way" I giggled.
"Charlie is there, I rather not annoy him" Edward said softly.
"I know. I know it's not the same thing. I shouldn't have reacted that way. It's just that . . . well, I was already thinking about Jacob before you came over." I hesitated. His tawny eyes seemed to get a little bit darker whenever I said Jacob's name. My voice turned pleading in response. "Charlie says Jake is having a hard time. He's hurting right now, and . . . it's my fault."
"First off, that is so unfair and his pain is not even close to being your fault" Edward said.
'Explain both of those statements" I was confused.
"It is not your fault that Jacob is in pain, you did nothing wrong. He was the person in the wrong the entire time. He took advantage of you when you were weak and he has some blinded delusion that you care about him as more then a friend. It actually might be possible in this book, but the point is simple, had he been a real friend and not tried to force anything, this would not be such a mess" Edward huffed.
"I know, well I know it in this reality" I whispered, "But what is unfair?"
Edward was quiet for a moment and then Alice giggled, "He doesn't want to give you any ideas, but the pleading part. He can't ignore you when you plead".
"So my pleading is like you dazzling me?" I asked.
"You dazzle me Bella, more then you know" he said.
It seems he would not give a direct answer…hmm maybe I will learn more as we read. If he could have a secret weapon again me, I could have one against him.
"You've done nothing wrong, Bella."
I took a deep breath. "I need to make it better, Edward. I owe him that. And it's one of Charlie's conditions, anyway –"
"Stupid conditions" I muttered.
His face changed while I spoke, turning hard again, statue-like.
"You know it's out of the question for you to be around a werewolf unprotected, Bella. And it would break the treaty if any of us cross over onto their land. Do you want us to start a war?"
"Of course not!"
"So unfair!" I said
"What?" he asked.
"Threatening to start a war' I huffed.
"No one ever said life was fair" he grinned.
"Edward Anthony Masen Cullen, you will never do that to her, do you understand" Esme said, glaring at him.
"Yes mom" he said hanging his head.
"Then there's really no point in discussing the matter further." He dropped his hand and looked away, searching for a subject change. His eyes paused on something behind me, and he smiled, though his eyes stayed wary.
"I'm glad Charlie has decided to let you out – you're sadly in need of a visit to the bookstore. I can't believe you're reading Wuthering Heights again. Don't you know it by heart yet?"
"Not all of us have photographic memories," I said curtly.
"Photographic memory or not, I don't understand why you like it. The characters are ghastly people who ruin each others' lives. I don't know how Heathcliff and Cathy ended up being ranked with couples like Romeo and Juliet or Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. It isn't a love story, it's a hate story."
"You have some serious issues with the classics," I snapped.
"Am I going to dislike that novel as well when this book is over?" I asked.
"Why, do you see another theme?" Edward asked.
"I believe I do" I mumbled.
"It'll be ok, maybe it will make you love the book more…if that is a good thing" Edward said.
"Perhaps it's because I'm not impressed by antiquity." He smiled, evidently satisfied that he'd distracted me. "Honestly, though, why do you read it over and over?" His eyes were vivid with real interest now, trying – again – to unravel the convoluted workings of my mind. He reached across the table to cradle my face in his hand. "What is it that appeals to you?"
His sincere curiosity disarmed me. "I'm not sure," I said, scrambling for coherency while his gaze unintentionally scattered my thoughts. "I think it's something about the inevitability. How nothing can keep them apart – not her selfishness, or his evil, or even death, in the end. . . ."
"Yeah I see a theme" Rosalie smiled…it seemed genuine.
His face was thoughtful as he considered my words. After a moment he smiled a teasing smile. "I still think it would be a better story if either of them had one redeeming quality."
"I think that may be the point," I disagreed. "Their love is their only redeeming quality."
"I hope you have better sense than that – to fall in love with someone so . . . malignant."
I could hear silent chuckles…but I have no idea who they were coming from, besides Emmett.
"It's a bit late for me to worry about who I fall in love with," I pointed out. "But even without the warning, I seem to have managed fairly well."
He laughed quietly. "I'm glad you think so."
"I do" I whispered quietly in his ear.
"I agree" he murmured, locking his eyes on mine.
I sat there staring into his eyes, getting lost. I could see into the depth of them and see his soul, the one he did not want to believe that he had. Every now and then I heard her whisper breathe, was I forgetting to breathe? Suddenly I was in the air and Emmett was holding me, laughing loudly.
"Put me down!" I demanded, but it came out too softly, I was still trying to focus.
"Emmett I said to leave them alone they looked so cute" Alice giggled.
"You just say that because it reminded you of us at the end of New Moon in the airport" Jasper smirked.
"That was very odd" Rosalie added.
"Emmett, please put your sister down before you upset Edward any further" Esme scolded him as Carlisle chuckled.
Emmett placed me back into Edward's arms as they wrapped around me protectively.
"Why did you not here him coming to do that?" I asked.
"I sometimes get too distracted" he grinned at me.
"We were calling your names and well I was screaming his name in my head, but I wanted to leave you alone when we noticed you two were not paying attention to Carlisle reading. Emmett decided to take it upon himself to help you two focus again" Alice chirped.
"I might end up permanently red before this weekend is over" I groaned.
"Well, I hope you're smart enough to stay away from someone so selfish. Catherine is really the source of all the trouble, not Heathcliff."
"I'll be on my guard," he promised.
I sighed. He was so good at distractions.
"So is she it seems" Emmett said laughing.
I put my hand over his to hold it to my face. "I need to see Jacob."
His eyes closed. "No."
"It's truly not dangerous at all," I said, pleading again. "I used to spend all day in La Push with the whole lot of them, and nothing ever happened."
But I made a slip; my voice faltered at the end because I realized as I was saying the words that they were a lie. It was not true that nothing had ever happened. A brief flash of memory – an enormous gray wolf crouched to spring, baring his dagger-like teeth at me – had my palms sweating with an echo of remembered panic.
Edward and I both shivered.
"I really don't think I want one to actually change in front of me" I whispered.
"We will do what we can to make sure that never happens" he assured me.
Edward heard my heart accelerate and nodded as if I'd acknowledged the lie aloud.
"Werewolves are unstable. Sometimes, the people near them get hurt. Sometimes, they get killed."
I wanted to deny it, but another image slowed my rebuttal. I saw in my head the once beautiful face of Emily Young, now marred by a trio of dark scars that dragged down the corner of her right eye and left her mouth warped forever into a lopsided scowl.
"Poor Emily" Esme said.
"It's ok Esme, she is alive. Maybe one day we can help" Carlisle said trying to sooth her.
He waited, grimly triumphant, for me to find my voice.
"Smug vampire" I muttered.
"You don't know them," I whispered.
"I know them better than you think, Bella. I was here the last time."
"The last time?"
"Am I really that slow? You all told me that you were here before" I said.
"We started crossing paths with the wolves about seventy years ago. . . . We had just settled near Hoquiam. That was before Alice and Jasper were with us. We outnumbered them, but that wouldn't have stopped it from turning into a fight if not for Carlisle. He managed to convince Ephraim Black that coexisting was possible, and eventually we made the truce."
Jacob's great-grandfather's name startled me.
"We thought the line had died out with Ephraim," Edward muttered; it sounded like he was talking to himself now. "That the genetic quirk which allowed the transmutation had been lost..." He broke off and stared at me accusingly. "Your bad luck seems to get more potent every day. Do you realize that your insatiable pull for all things deadly was strong enough to recover a pack of mutant canines from extinction?
"Hey that is so uncool, it's not my fault!" I said.
"I don't know that" he smiled.
"Yeah so teasing me is a good idea…especially for someone already in hot water" I shot back.
His smiled disappeared and he took a deep breathe.
If we could bottle your luck, we'd have a weapon of mass destruction on our hands."
"Edward" I yelled glaring at him
"Umm..Sorry?" he said confused.
"I am not that bad" I whispered, slightly offended, more annoyed I guess. I knew I was a danger magnet at times, but really?
I ignored the ribbing, my attention caught by his assumption – was he serious? "But I didn't bring them back. Don't you know?"
"My bad luck had nothing to do with it. The werewolves came back because the vampires did."
Edward stared at me, his body motionless with surprise.
"Ha, I love when she catches you off guard, it brings me joy that someone finally can" Emmett laughed.
"Jacob told me that your family being here set things in motion. I thought you would already know. . . ."
His eyes narrowed. "Is that what they think?"
"Easy to understand why I don't believe it" Edward said.
"But it is true" Carlisle said sadly.
"We can't be 100% sure, it might be different" I said.
"I am not sure we will really ever know the answers, they might not even understand them. They may just assume they know" Carlisle said.
"That won't stop you from trying to figure it out though" Edward pointed out.
"Very true" Carlisle smiled.
"Edward, look at the facts. Seventy years ago, you came here, and the werewolves showed up. You come back now, and the werewolves show up again. Do you think that's a coincidence?"
He blinked and his glare relaxed. "Carlisle will be interested in that theory."
"Indeed I am" Carlisle chuckled lightly.
"Theory," I scoffed.
He was silent for a moment, staring out the window into the rain; I imagined he was contemplating the fact that his family's presence was turning the locals into giant dogs.
"Interesting, but not exactly relevant," he murmured after a moment. "The situation remains the same."
I could translate that easily enough: no werewolf friends.
I glared at Edward again. Though I was unsure if I wanted to actually be their friend right now, no one was allowed to make that decision for me.
"Bella, I have already told you that I am not going to chose your friends in this reality, it is ok" Edward assured me.
I knew I must be patient with Edward. It wasn't that he was unreasonable, it was just that he didn't understand. He had no idea how very much I owed Jacob Black - my life many times over, and possibly my sanity, too.
"I might not understand in the book, but I am also scared. Your future disappears, that is hard" he said softly.
"I know" I replied and rested my head on his shoulder. This whole situation was not going to be easy.
I didn't like to talk about that barren time with anyone, and especially not Edward. He had only been trying to save me when he'd left, trying to save my soul. I didn't hold him responsible for all the stupid things I'd done in his absence, or the pain I had suffered.
"I wish you wouldn't, I made my own decisions" I said.
"But I was the catalyze" he replied.
"Edward, you're not leaving. You thought you would have been doing the right thing. All that matters is you are never leaving, please remember that" I pleaded with my eyes.
So I would have to word my explanation very carefully.
I got up and walked around the table. He opened his arms for me and I sat on his lap, nestling into his cool stone embrace. I looked at his hands while I spoke.
"Please just listen for a minute. This is so much more important than some whim to drop in on an old friend. Jacob is in pain ." My voice distorted around the word. "I can't not try to help him - I can't give up on him now, when he needs me. Just because he's not human all the time. . . . Well, he was there for me when I was . . . not so human myself.
"Another excellent reason to never ever leave Edward" Rosalie said glaring at him.
"I am never going anywhere" he said softly kissing my head.
You don't know what it was like. . . ." I hesitated. Edward's arms were rigid around me; his hands were in fists now, the tendons standing out. "If Jacob hadn't helped me . . . I'm not sure what you would have come home to. I owe him better than this, Edward."
I looked up at his face warily. His eyes were closed, and his jaw was strained.
"I'll never forgive myself for leaving you," he whispered. "Not if I live a hundred thousand years."
"I didn't want to make you feel bad" I mumbled.
"But it is the truth" he replied.
"Still the point was not to make you feel bad" I said.
I put my hand against his cold face and waited until he sighed and opened his eyes.
"You were just trying to do the right thing. And I'm sure it would have worked with anyone less mental than me. Besides, you're here now. That's the part that matters."
"If I'd never left, you wouldn't feel the need to go risk your life to comfort a dog ."
I flinched. I was used to Jacob and all his derogatory slurs – bloodsucker, leech, parasite . . . . Somehow it sounded harsher in Edward's velvet voice.
"Wait, I'm not allowed to insult him?" Edward asked, annoyed.
"No because you were raised with manners" Esme glared at him.
"You know, I sort of want to see Esme with a wooden spoon now smacking him on the head" Emmett laughed.
"If she starts smacking him with a wooden spoon…that means she gets to use it on you as well" Alice giggled.
"She will have to find one strong enough to smack us both" Emmett grinned.
"She will jut buy a case of them, will be a lot easier with you involved" Jasper smirked.
"Shopping" Alice chimed.
"I don't know how to phrase this properly," Edward said, and his tone was bleak. "It's going to sound cruel, I suppose. But I've come too close to losing you in the past. I know what it feels like to think I have. I am not going to tolerate anything dangerous."
"You have to trust me on this. I'll be fine."
His face was pained again. "Please, Bella," he whispered.
I stared into his suddenly burning golden eyes. "Please what?"
"Please, for me. Please make a conscious effort to keep yourself safe. I'll do everything I can, but I would appreciate a little help."
"I'll work on it," I murmured.
"Do you really have any idea how important you are to me? Any concept at all of how much I love you?" He pulled me tighter against his hard chest, tucking my head under his chin.
I pressed my lips against his snow-cold neck. "I know how much I love you ," I answered.
"You compare one small tree to the entire forest."
"Edward" I hissed.
"Sorry" he mumbled.
"Another theme, Edward being stupid and under estimating her feelings" Rosalie hissed.
"I don't now, isn't that what matters?" he asked.
"Indeed, but your stupidity is only going to cause more problems in the book" Rosalie replied.
I rolled my eyes, but he couldn't see. "Impossible."
He kissed the top of my head and sighed.
"I'm not going along with that. I have to see Jacob."
"Then I'll have to stop you."
"Edward!" I yelled.
"What did I do?" he asked.
"I don't like being told what to do" I hissed.
"You might actually be sleeping on the couch tonight before this book is over" Emmett laughed.
He sounded utterly confident that this wouldn't be a problem.
I was sure he was right.
"We'll see about that," I bluffed anyway. "He's still my friend."
I could feel Jacob's note in my pocket, like it suddenly weighed ten pounds. I could hear the words in his voice, and he seemed to be agreeing with Edward – something that would never happen in reality.
Doesn't change anything. Sorry.
"That's the end" Carlisle said as Rosalie reached for the book.
"I can not wait to see the trouble Edward gets it" Emmett said rubbing his hands together.
"So…" Alice started, "Before we continue we might need to address something".
"Which is what?" Edward asked, "Stop singing that song in your head as well".
"Well it is very clear that both you and Bella are very annoyed with the Jacob in the book and since you might not really be paying attention…there is a theme here" She said.
"Come on shortie, spit it out" Emmett said annoyed.
"There might be some sort of love triangle forming" she said slowly.
I groaned, "No".
"Well not now, but I wanted to warn Edward and yourself it seems that way because of Jacob. You can't ignore what he did for you or the feelings that were developed because of it, you are only human" Alice explained.
"Great, more of the wolf" Rosalie hissed.
"Edward you do know that is not possible in this reality, right?" I asked, since he had been too quiet.
"I know, believe me I know, but it won't be pleasant to read about and no I am not suggesting we don't read. Let's just get it over with" he replied.