Chapter Three

This was absolutely not going to stand. Isabella swore repeatedly to herself while pushing the side door of the school open to exit into the student parking lot. She was seething. After all the effort she'd gone through to get herself made into Edward's partner, the son of a bitch had the nerve to cancel. He'd apparently told the teacher that he was feeling sick and wouldn't be able to take part in the project. Mr. Becken had called her in right after the last period to ask if she wanted a new partner.

She'd told him no, that she'd take care of it herself. Then she'd made a beeline for the parking lot. She had to find Edward and put a stop to this 'sick' nonsense. He was trying to keep away from her, either because of the scent or because he knew who her father had been. Maybe he felt guilty, or maybe he was just afraid of her getting too close. Whichever, she was putting a stop to it. They had to be partners.

Halfway across the lot, as her gaze kept flicking back and forth searchingly, it occurred to Isabella that storming up, furious and agitated and just demanding that he take her back and stop the bullshit was likely to ruin the blank canvas image she'd been trying to portray.

No, she couldn't be angry. She couldn't demand what she wanted. There had to be another way.

Her searching, questing gaze finally spotted her target. Edward was standing near a silver Volvo, apparently talking to a pretty blonde and a truly massive, linebacker sized guy. Other vampires in his little clan, or tribe, or pack or whatever they called themselves? She'd find out soon enough.

From the way that Edward's shoulders abruptly hunched as she drew closer, Isabella could tell that he'd picked up her scent. She watched the facial reactions of the other two and smiled just a little to herself when they suddenly looked as though someone had waved a plate full of mouthwatering pizza under their noses. Yup, definitely vampires. That was another reason she'd asked for Jessica to do that spell. It made new bloodsuckers really easy to detect if you knew what to look for.

The other two were staring at her, even as Edward very slowly turned around. He finally met her gaze as Isabella made herself shuffle the last few steps. "Hey." She said. "I thought we could umm, go to the library…" Her words came out half mumbled, and she kept herself in a half-hunched position, her eyes moving between the boy's own and his chest, occasionally flicking down to his shoes. "For our project."

Edward blinked once, and then frowned even more than he had already been frowning. "Didn't Mr. Becken tell you? I can't do the project."

"Oh, well he uhh, he told me, sure." Isabella shifted her weight from one foot to the other, let the silence trail off for several seconds for seemingly no reason, and then cleared her throat. "But you know, you don't…. really look sick, so I thought maybe… you got better."

"Yeah, Edward." The big guy spoke up, smiling so easily she might have been charmed if she hadn't known what he was. "You still too sick for school?" He extended a hand toward her, and she barely detected his nostrils flare a little as he sniffed her again. "I'm Emmett, by the way. And this guy-" He hooked an arm around Edward's neck and pulled him over. "-he's my brother, so if he won't help you out, I can give you anything you need."

She could have shut the cocky guy down with a couple words, but that would hurt the illusion she was trying to give off, that she needed help. "I-" She made herself blush and look down before looking at Edward, her target. At first she very nearly pointed out that he didn't seem sick, but that as well might come off as too forward. No, she needed to remain as passive as possible and let him play hero.

"I could really use the help." Isabella finally settled on, though she was careful to keep her tone as neutral as possible. Whether Edward wanted her to sound breathy, or desperate, or injured, he would fill it in himself. He would hear what he wanted to hear, as long as she didn't let any actual emotion creep into her voice. "Since you've been in class longer."

Any normal person, she would have expected disbelief. Supposedly, he was sick, and if she was really selfish enough to come for his help anyway, she would have expected at least a little annoyance. Instead, she had a feeling that this Edward would appreciate the chance to play savior. She was usually really good at reading people. Almost as good as she was at manipulating them.

Her guess, educated as it was, proved right. Edward shoved himself out from under Emmett's arm. He still looked pained, but he started to walk away from the pair. "Library." He spoke the single word as if it was an order, and Isabella almost stared in disbelief before catching herself. She looked back toward Emmett, then past him to the girl. "I didn't get your name."

The blonde was staring at her with clear distrust. That one might be harder. "I didn't give it." She replied airily.

Chuckling, Emmett took the blonde's hand. "Don't worry about Rosalie. She just takes time to warm up to strangers, ahhh…" He paused, clearly unsure of what to call her.

"Bella." She introduced herself and then looked after the still walking Edward.

"You better go." Emmett winked. "Little Bro doesn't like to repeat himself."

As odd as that statement was, and slightly telling, Isabella simply walked after her class 'partner'. She could feel the eyes of both the other vampires boring into her back, staring hungrily after her. It made her want to turn around, to stare them down. But no, above everything else, the one and only thing keeping her marginally safe while she played this game was that they didn't know there was a game being played. They thought she was just a clueless, helpless little lamb.

The moment they stopped thinking that, if she wasn't ready, she would be dead.

"What do you need help with?" Edward's voice was a little strained as he stood slightly away from the table in the back corner of the library. Isabella had deliberately chosen a place away from witnesses. Maybe it was too daring, or even stupid, but she wanted to see what he would do, if anything. She needed to know what kind of control he had, and she was betting that he had enough not to kill her in the middle of the school library.

She really hoped that wouldn't prove to be a dumb bet.

"The… World War One." She shrugged. "I'm not sure what could have changed what happened." Isabella gestured at three different books on the table. "I'm not really all that creative. I mean, a lot of people died. What does he want?" It was almost physically painful to claim she didn't understand the project or couldn't do it.

Edward took the bait, and pulled out the chair furthest from where she was sitting. "Okay, first of all, call it the Great War, not World War One. If you're changing what happened, you should refer to it by the original name."

"Wait," Isabella looked up, schooling her expression into blankness. "Those are the same war?"

She continued that way, letting Edward 'explain' things to her, getting gradually closer to him while watching his reactions. He still looked very stiff and uncomfortable, but he didn't leave. She had the feeling that he liked lecturing; he enjoyed being listened to and looked up to. The latter part she played up as much as possible, staring at him while he spoke and seeming to hang off his every word. Yes, this was a man who appreciated attention and, she was certain at this point, obedience.

About thirty minutes into their work, she chanced an interruption. While he was exchanging one book for another, Isabella spoke up. "You have very intense eyes."

His reaction to that was to look up and stare at her, because of course he did. She'd complimented his eyes, and he wanted to show them to her.

Of course, his vocal response was quite different. "No, I don't." He said gruffly.

"You do." Isabella said quickly, leaning over the table as though to stare into them. "They're very deep. They look… soulful, piercing… angelic. Your eyes look… perfect."

Okay, that would have been creepy to hear on a first date, let alone a school project. For a second, Isabella thought she'd pushed it too far and almost cursed herself.

Then she realized that Edward was still staring at her. So she stared back, gazed into those golden eyes as if she couldn't even dream of looking away. She'd said enough. It was time for him to make the next move, whatever that would be.

But he made no move. He just sat there, staring at her. If she hadn't known she was immune, she might have thought he was reading her thoughts. Maybe he was trying to. Either way, she continued to meet his gaze.

What are you thinking, psycho? She wondered while continuing to stare at him, as unblinkingly as possible. Are you trying to get into my head? Or just wondering if you can drain me dry without anyone noticing?

Still, he continued to stare in what… she was beginning to believe he thought was a soulful way. Huh. Well okay then. She stared 'soulfully' back and waited for him to say something.

Thirteen Mississippi… fourteen Mississippi…. fifteen Mississippi…

Wow, this guy can stare for a long time. Is this romantic?

Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation…

Is there something on my forehead? She wondered, trying to will her eyes not to water. Surely he'll say something now. No one can actually think this is romantic or anything but weird.

Beware the Jabberwock, my son! The jaws that bite, the claws that catch! Beware the jubjub bird, nad shun the frumious Bandersnatch!

Okay, seriously, dude, kiss me or kill me or whatever you're going to do, but do something. This is weird. Not even dangerous vampire weird, but creepy, I think I need an adult weird. Give me a break here.

… Gimme a break, giiimme a break, break me off a piece of that Kit Kat bar! Oooh, chocolate. Yummy chocolate.

Still nothing. He was still staring in what she was now certain he believed was a deep, emotional gaze, and she didn't dare look away.

I like chicken, I like liver, Meow Mix Meow Mix please deliver!

ZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzZzzzzzzZzzzzzZZZZZZZzzzzzzz

Isabella was dangerously close to kicking the guy's shin to make sure he was still alive or… whatever he was, when Edward finally spoke. "You're the police chief's daughter."

"Former." She replied, trying not to jump at the suddenness of his voice. "Former chief, not former daughter. He died." She managed, with considerable effort, not to let that sound accusatory.

"I heard." Edward replied simply, and it was all she could do not to smack the look off his face. "I'm sorry."

"I wasn't close to Charlie." She had decided that calling her parents by their first names would be just the thing a wannabe 'edgy' youth would do, and he would clearly eat it up.

Indeed, Edward raised an eyebrow. "Charlie. You call your dad by his first name."

She made herself shrug. "We didn't spend much time together." Isabella said quietly. He still hadn't stopped staring at her. It was time to push this along.

Trying not to visibly brace herself, she pricked her finger against the pin in her pocket. The pain was sharp, and her yelp was genuine.

"Ow! I think I poked something." Taking her hand out from under the table, she let the drop of blood on the end of it glisten. "Ow, jeeze, I think I need a band aide." She looked up as though to ask for one, then blinked. "Hey, what's wrong with your eyes?" They had gone from gold to black, and he was almost openly salivating.

"I… I need to go." His voice came out gruffly, as he shoved himself backwards, knocking over his chair in the process. It fell to the ground with a bang.

"Go?" Isabella stood after him. "What about…" But it was too late. He'd simply grunted, looked pained, and then he was gone.

Nope, nothing suspicious about any of that.

"That was a little dumb."

The voice made Isabella jump, and she looked to the end of the nearby bookcases as Jessica emerged. "He could have come after you. What if he lost control?"

"I wanted to see how much control he actually has." Isabella replied, looking at the blood on her finger. "You sure he didn't know you were there?"

Jessica shook her head. "He had no idea. I'm positive. I do know how to hide from vampires. It's one of the things we're best at." She reached out after approaching and took Isabella's hand. "Let me fix that for you."

While the other girl healed her finger, Isabella looked away, down the stacks. "He looks so guilty all the time. You think he's the one that killed my father and now he feels bad about it?"

Jessica released her hand once it was fixed and shrugged. "I don't know, Iz-I mean, Bella. It was one of them, one of the vampires, and they're the only vampires in town."

"No, they're not."

The voice came from the other side of the table, and both Isabella and Jessica jumped, startled by it.

Standing there, where Edward had been, was a small young woman, even shorter than Jessica, and almost anorexically thin. Her dark hair was cut short, but stuck out in every direction.

She repeated herself while Isabella and Jessica stared with wide, shocked eyes. "They're not the only vampires in town."

Isabella glanced at her friend, who just shook her head and still looked half panicked. Clearly Jessica had no more idea of how this girl had suddenly appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, than she did.

"How… do you know?" Isabella finally managed to ask, carefully. She was weighing her options, trying frantically to think of something she could say or do if this was as bad as it looked.

"Because I used to be one of them." The girl replied, her voice soft and quiet.

Breath catching, Isabella pulled Jessica back by the arm, as though a few more inches of space would protect them. As if the table between the two girls and the other would do anything if she really was... "Used to be one of what?"

The girl smiled just a little. "I'm not going to hurt you. I couldn't if I wanted to. My name is Alice."

Frowning at that choice of words, Isabella regarded the girl. "I say again… used to be one of what? And why couldn't you hurt us?"

In answer, the girl stepped forward. She stepped into the table and through it, walking right into it as if it wasn't there. Or rather, as if she wasn't actually solid. Then she stood, right in the middle of the table as it cut through her figure as if she was a hologram, or a…

"I used to be a vampire." Alice said simply. "Before I died."