Bella couldn't get Edward's daydream out of her head. Each time she closed her eyes, she imagined him jumping into the water and pawing at her exposed body. She didn't want to think about what would have happened had he acted on his desires. She wanted to believe she had the strength to fight him off, but after what happened between them earlier, she worried all it would take was one bite and she'd surrender to him once again.
Edward was going to kiss her in the meadow; she could see it in his mind. He'd kissed her in the same spot once—when she was human. At the time, she couldn't have stopped him if she wanted to. She didn't even try. Now she evaded his advances, but it wasn't out of fear or disgust.
Part of her was curious about what it would be like.
She blamed him, of course. It was his fault for putting the thoughts in her head. Had she not gotten small glimpses of his desires, it would never have crossed her mind. Bella didn't want to think of him like that, but the harder she tried to push it from her mind, the more she dwelled on it.
Bella closed her eyes and focused on the vibrations in the water. Even over the jets, she heard the bubbles sizzle and pop around her. She sank lower, until her chin was submerged. She thought of Edward again.
She should find him offensive, repulsive, but she didn't. That bothered her more than anything. She didn't want to admit that she was more put off by her own inexperience than she was by him.
Unable to be alone with her thoughts any longer, Bella turned off the jets and stepped out of the tub. It took only seconds for her to dry off and change into clean clothes. She slipped out of the bathroom as silently as possible, hoping Edward wouldn't notice she was done.
Instead of going upstairs to her room, she wandered down the hallway, drawn toward the sound of scribbling coming from Alice and Jasper's room. She peeked inside and found Alice hunched over a desk, pencil in hand. She was so focused on the paper in front of her that she didn't notice she was being watched.
Bella cleared her throat.
"Oh!" Alice tucked the pencil behind her ear and stood to greet her. "Bella, come in. Is everything okay?"
Everything was far from okay, not that she would ever admit it.
"What are you drawing?"
"Uh… visions, mostly." Alice swept the drawings on her desk into a pile, covering the one she had been working on. She sat back down on the stool and crossed her slender legs. "Would you like to see one?"
Before Bella could answer, Alice dug through the pile and produced a half completed drawing of a woman. Her face and hair had been outlined, but her eyes were shaded in, bringing her to life despite the monotone color.
"Wow, that's amazing. Who is she?"
"I don't know," Alice answered. "I had a glimpse of her, but I don't know why or what it meant." She frowned as she placed the drawing on her desk.
"So… how does that work, exactly? Your talent."
"It's subjective. Things like the weather are usually easy. It's either going to be sunny tomorrow or it's not. People are harder to read. I see the paths they're on while they're on them, but it can always change. The future is very rarely set in stone."
"How do you know if you're seeing the future and not, I don't know, making it up on your own?" Bella hoped her questioning came across nonchalant. She didn't want her sudden curiosity to raise any suspicion.
Alice, ecstatic that Bella had taken the initiative to have a little bonding time, was more than happy to oblige her.
"At first it was really hard to tell. I didn't even know what was happening. I thought it was a coincidence, but the more and more visions I had, the easier they became to distinguish. It's kind of like a dream." Alice smiled as she stared wistfully toward the ceiling. "You probably remember them better than me. It's been years since I've had one, but it's the same principle. Sometimes they feel real, but there's a sort of fuzzy haze surrounding them. The details aren't all there. And sometimes you just know. It's similar to that. I don't know how else to explain it."
"And they come to you randomly?"
"Yes and no. The closer I am to people, the more often their futures pop into my head, though I've gotten pretty good at blocking out the mundane things. I can look for specific things too, but it's an exercise in concentration. That's why I sketch. It helps to clear my mind so I can focus on the visions without altering them with my own thoughts."
"It sounds complicated."
Alice shrugged. "I've had decades of practice."
"But you can't see my future."
"And you can't see Edward's future when he can't read minds."
Alice shook her head.
"Why do you suppose that is?"
"I don't know. You must be blocking us somehow. I don't think Edward has ever met anyone whose mind was silent to him. Whatever wall you have up in that head of yours, it must be pretty powerful."
Powerful was never a word Bella would have used to describe herself. She didn't try to block Edward's gift or read his mind. She hadn't even tried to intercept Alice's visions. It just happened, like the pushing and pulling she felt in her head when Edward was near.
If Alice's foresight began in the same way, then perhaps she, too, would get better at deciphering the visions. Maybe with a little concentration of her own, she could take control of what was going on in her mind. Maybe all she needed was a little practice.
Edward squeezed his eyes closed as the whirlpool jets turned off. He pushed all thoughts of Bella out of his mind, forcing it to be as empty as possible. It was easier said than done. For the first time, he gained a new appreciation of the strength it took for his family to block their thoughts around him.
Without making a sound, Edward sprang to his feet and bolted out of the house. The cool night air whipped against his face as he ran farther, not stopping until he was certain his thoughts were his own. His legs crumbled beneath his weight, and he fell to the ground, his head in his hands.
He didn't know what to do.
More than anything, he wanted to go to Carlisle, but this wasn't something that could be fixed. Carlisle was nothing if not logical, and Edward would find no sympathy there. He didn't want any more reprimanding. He didn't want to hear "I told you so."
He groaned as he heard footsteps approaching.
Esme's worried about you.
"She shouldn't be."
What's wrong, brother?
Bella rejecting you in the bathroom?
Edward smiled despite himself. "She always rejects me."
Talk to me.
Edward hesitated, deciding what—if anything—to say. If Bella could in fact read his mind, there was a reason she didn't admit it. Who was he to spill her secrets?
"Do you ever notice Bella paying attention to you when you're not speaking?"
"All the time. You jealous?"
Edward fixed Jasper with a glare. "I'm serious."
It took everything Jasper had to neutralize his smile. "Not really. She seems to avoid me if anything. Why?"
Edward shrugged. "No reason." He listened in as Jasper processed the information he'd been given, trying to decipher Edward's reasoning behind it. He flinched when the correct thought passed through Jasper's mind.
"You think she can read your mind?"
"I don't know. I hope not." He sighed and shook his head in resignation. "She can. She won't admit it, but she can. I know it."
"All of us?"
"That's what I'm trying to figure out."
"Wow." Jasper crossed his legs and sank to the ground next to Edward. "It's not as mortifying with a second person as I thought it would be. Still. I was kind of getting used to knowing there wasn't anyone in my head."
"It's not your fault." Well, actually it is.
Edward waited for him to say it out loud, to get angry, but he didn't. He took a deep breath.
"It'll drive her away," he said at last. "I've asked her not to leave, but she will. I've been thinking about what you said, and I'm not convinced she doesn't hate me. I don't even know why she's still here. She'll never stay now. This will drive her insane. This will make her hate me even more. This—"
Edward clenched his jaw.
"If Bella wanted to leave, she would have already. And it took a long time before you snapped. She's a strong girl. She can handle it."
"She shouldn't have to."
What's done is done, Edward. You can't change the past.
"I wish I could."
Jasper laughed. "What would you do? Go back to being miserable?"
"I'd have left her human. Taken her up on the offer she made. Let her live her life and come back to me at the end of the day."
"You did what you had to do."
"I didn't understand the price!"
You changed her, and now you have to accept the consequences. The universe will always find balance.
Edward didn't respond. There wasn't anything left to say. He hadn't been thinking clearly at the time, but with clarity came guilt. He wanted to allow his instincts to take over again, but he knew that would ruin any chance he had at a future that included Bella.
"I wish I knew what was going to happen. I wish I could hear her thoughts."
"Oh, the irony." Jasper reached out and lightly punched Edward in the shoulder.
Edward ignored his teasing.
"I just wish I knew how she felt about me."
The silence stretched on between them. Jasper's thoughts flitted between memories of Bella and speculation of what was special about her. Then his mind became too silent. Jasper typically wasn't one to edit. Edward found himself listening harder.
"Why are you blocking me?"
"Then why did you begin reciting Romeo and Juliet?"
"I'll talk to you later, Edward." Jasper stood and turned in the direction of the house. "See you at home."
When Edward returned to the house, he ran into Bella as she was returning from Alice's room. He didn't even have to try reading her mind for the mental voices to melt away. Relief and guilt washed over him, and he gave her a timid smile.
Bella felt the familiar tug against her temple. She pushed against it with her mind, sending a ripple through her head. It wasn't something she felt or saw, more of a sixth sense she was unable to explain.
"Are you feeling better?" he asked.
"Huh? Oh, yes."
"You know, if there's anything you ever want to talk about…"
Bella shifted her weight and crossed her arms over her chest.
"You can come to me. Or Esme," he added, though it pained him to suggest she seek advice from someone else. "We're here for you."
Come to me.
Bella uncrossed her arms and shoved her hands in her pockets. "I'm gonna go upstairs."
Edward watched as she disappeared around the corner and listened to the sound of her feet padding up the stairs. He sighed.
Jasper appeared at his side. He gestured for Edward to accompany him, and then followed in Bella's footsteps. Edward gave his brother a questioning look, but he didn't speak. Whatever was up his sleeve, it must have been what had him guarding his mind outside.
Jasper didn't knock as he shoved the bedroom door open.
"That's it! Time to go!"
Bella sprang from the bed. Surprise was clear on her face as she looked between Edward and Jasper.
"What?" she asked.
"Your presence is a liability to this family. Pack your things. You can keep what we've been generous enough to have given you."
Edward was too shocked to respond. He looked at Jasper and then to Bella. Her expression morphed to one of indifference.
She made a beeline toward the door. All Edward could do was watch, mouth gaping, as she stormed past them. Before he could move to stop her, he was hit with crippling agony. He gasped as the emotional pain struck him. Jasper staggered backward, coming into contact with the wall.
Bella glanced over her shoulder. She frowned as she took in the state of the two men. Jasper pulled himself together first, but Edward looked as though he'd been punched in the gut. The despair he felt gave way to confusion, and he shook his head as he tried to make sense of everything.
What is happening? Make it stop.
"Jasper, what are you doing? Stop."
Jasper stayed strong. He wanted to make sure Edward felt every ounce of Bella's emotions.
As suddenly as it began, it ended, and Edward's emotions were his own once again. Jasper breezed out of the room, past Bella, and down the stairs. Edward grabbed Bella by the shoulders.
"Don't leave, okay? Promise me."
Bella nodded, and Edward took off after Jasper.
"What the fuck did you do?" he yelled when he caught up with him. "What was that?"
"Remember when she first woke up as a newborn? I tried to manipulate her emotions and it backfired. We all felt her fear. It's a loophole. You wanted to know how she felt. I showed you."
"I wanted to know how she felt about me, asshole! And what was the point of lying to her? Did you want to hurt her?"
Jasper bristled. He stepped forward, getting right in Edward's face. "No, I wanted her to have a strong emotional response so we could be certain it worked."
"You couldn't think of anything else to say to her?" he spat.
"I said something that would be useful. Now you know how she feels about leaving."
Realization dawned on Edward. He took a step back as the fight drained out of him. Jasper was right. He could have shared Bella's feelings at any time, but it wouldn't have been helpful. It wouldn't have told him anything other than her emotions at that moment. It might not have answered his question of how she felt about him, but it did show how she felt about staying with the family.
"And based on her reaction," Jasper continued, "she's not reading my mind."
Edward returned to the bedroom at top speed. Bella sat cross-legged in the middle of the bed. Her lips turned down into a pout as she looked at him. The sight tore at his heart. He pulled her to her feet and wrapped his arms around her petite body.
"You're staying," he whispered into her ear. "He didn't mean it, okay? He didn't mean it. I'll never let anyone separate us. I promise."