The Stars Align
Something was up today, I could feel it. You know that weird feeling in the pit of your stomach that lets you know this day will be different somehow? Stars were aligning, or some cosmic eye was set on me, something big was coming.
I was a freshman in college and loving life on my own terms. I talked my father out of making me live in the dorms, by convincing him it was merely a party den and I would be much more responsible out on my own.
I really had no social life due to taking 18 credits. College was kicking my butt and I spent all my free time studying. I knew a few kids here from Forks, but most of my friends went out of state to school.
"Ms. Swan, can I have a word with you?" My professor asked.
I instantly tensed. My art appreciation class had over three hundred students in the large auditorium sized classroom. I wasn't aware Professor Banner knew my name and the thought of her singling me out made me very nervous.
"Yes," I said shyly, and approached her desk. I was trying to think of any assignment I may have forgotten or any time I was obviously not paying attention. I was the kind of student who worried about things like that.
"Are you employed?" She asked getting right to the point.
I shook my head in the negative. I was totally confused and not sure what business it was of hers what I did outside of class.
"Would you be interested in working as a model for a local artist?"
"Model," I snorted. Just the thought of my ordinary features considered model quality was funny.
Professor Banner finally stopped rustling her papers and looked up at me. "My husband runs an art gallery in Seattle and he has a client, a local artist, looking for a specific type of model. I have sent students to him before and he pays very well."
"He wants someone like me?" I sounded less than convinced. I was average in every sense of the word and I didn't like her pointing it out.
She picked up a slip of paper and read from it, "Chestnut hair, chocolate eyes, porcelain skin, and natural without makeup." She lowered her glasses and looked at me closely. "Sounds pretty much like you, Ms. Swan."
"What would I have to do?" I asked, worried about trying to master Botticelli poses.
"You show up, shut up, and get paid. That's it."
I nodded hesitantly and she handed me a card. "Take a cab and he will pay for it. Make sure you show up on time; be there at 4:00 sharp. He is a temperamental man."
I took the card and headed out the door. I felt uneasy about going somewhere alone without actually knowing the person, but if my professor had sent other students surely it couldn't be dangerous. It sounded too good to be true and my father had warned me about scams like this.
My cell phone rang and I looked at the ID. I kept getting messages from this number for someone named Alice. I answered in frustration. "There is no Alice at this number, please stop calling."
"I'm sorry to bother you," a beautiful voice came from the other end. "Can I verify the number to see if I am dialing incorrectly, or if I have the wrong number?"
"Sure, and I didn't mean to sound so rude," I apologized. He repeated the number and I assured him he was dialing correctly, he just had the incorrect number. He laughed lightly and it sounded like music to my ears.
"You have a great laugh," I said before thinking. I was not the flirtatious type but something about his voice held me captive.
"Thank you, and you have a beautiful voice, may I ask your name."
"Um…Bella," I said, not sure if I should give him my real name. I figured he only had my cell number and couldn't actually find me since it was in my father's name.
"A beautiful name," he stated softly.
"Are you going to tell me your name?" I asked, surprising myself with my own forwardness. I figured since I gave him my name he owed me his…especially after calling so many times.
He stalled and I could tell it was something he really didn't want me to know. He finally said, "Masen, my name is Masen."
"Is that a first or a last name?" I pushed.
"Both," he said with finality.
"Like Madonna or Sting?"
"Exactly," he laughed again, sending my heart pounding.
"Well, Masen, since Alice isn't taking your calls is there anything I can do for you?"
"You are too generous, I can't impose; I will have to wait until my sister calls me to get her correct number."
Sister, he said sister and my heart swelled. This was the most bizarre thing to ever happen to me. I answered a wrong number and took a sudden interest in a stranger who was unwilling to give me his full name. Maybe it was just the intrigue I was falling for. My life was so predictable that anything out of the ordinary would seem fascinating.
"Well, if you ever feel like talking, just give me a ring," I said coyly.
"I think I will take you up on that, Bella. It was a pleasure talking with you."
"Thank you, have a good day, Masen."
I couldn't concentrate on school the remainder of the morning and kept trying to imagine what the man with the beautiful voice would look like. I kept myself busy during the afternoon looking at laptops in the computer center on campus. If this modeling job panned out, I might actually have enough money to get a new laptop.
By 3:30, I hailed a cab and gave him the address. We began driving out of the city. I was really worried when it was 4:10 and we had not arrived at our destination. I was considering going back home, but I did not have enough money to pay the driver.
The next thing I knew we pulled up to an old iron gate. The gate slowly opened to reveal a massive house. It looked like we had stepped back in time. The large marble home was covered in elegant sculptures and facades.
We pulled into the circular driveway and I was met by a beautiful blond woman. She was tall and statuesque with perfect features. I smiled at her but she did not return the gesture. She was scary and very intimidating and I was finding it difficult to swallow.
"You're late," she said directly.
"I'm sorry I didn't….."
"Never mind, come with me."
She turned and began walking quickly away. I had to jog to catch up with her. When we reached a large wooden door, which looked gothic and frightening, she opened it with ease and nodded for me to enter.
She led me down a narrow hallway and motioned to an open door. I walked into a room filled with art work. Canvases were lying around the room and sculptures in various stages of completion filled the center. I walked around slowly, looking at all the paintings on the wall.
I jumped in fright when a voice came over an intercom. It was distorted and sounded electronic. "I don't appreciate losing time due to tardiness."
I looked around to see where the voice was coming from and finally answered loudly. "I didn't know you lived so far from the city. I will leave earlier next time."
"Next time? You assume too much," he said harshly.
I was embarrassed and felt like a child being scolded. I began playing with my fingers and didn't know what to say.
His voice came back over the speaker. "Which painting do you like the most and why?"
I felt my hands begin to shake. I wasn't sure if he wanted a critique of the different styles of artwork, or just my opinion of what I liked. I looked around the room and finally walked to a picture of a woman looking out a window. You could only see the back of her and she was dressed in a simple see-through gown, with a hand holding onto the curtains.
"I like this one," I said softly.
It was silent for a moment, and then the voice came back. "And why?"
"I like how much emotion is in the painting." I reached up and ran my finger slowly along the line of the curtain in the woman's hand. "She is so sad."
I waited a long time before he finally spoke again. "Why do you think she is sad, you can't see her face?"
"Because he is leaving," I said softly. "She sees him and she has to hold onto the curtains for strength. Her heart is breaking."
Again, there was a long pause. "Ms. Swan, stand on the platform in the middle of the room, please."
I walked over and stood awkwardly where he directed.
"Take your hair down, please."
I pulled the ponytail holder out and tried to fix my hair with my fingers.
"Stop fidgeting, please."
I stood perfectly still and felt my face turning red. He was embarrassing me but also making me grow angry.
"Is there some reason you should feel embarrassed? I haven't asked you to remove any clothing."
I took a deep breath. "Is that something you will be asking?"
"Do you see any nude paintings, Ms. Swan?"
"No, but some of the statues…."
"I didn't request a model for a sculpture, did I?"
I finally just shut my mouth and waited for more instruction. I was seething on the inside and wanted nothing more than to be out of here. It was quiet for a good five minutes before a hidden door at the side of the room opened and I was instructed to go inside.
I saw a small staged area with a couch, violin, and a beautiful gown lying on the couch. Bright lights came from the back of the room right into my eyes, blinding me. I could only see the outline of a painting easel and possibly someone standing behind it, but the lights were too bright to know for sure.
The blond woman stepped forward and showed me where to change into the gown. As I reached for it I felt her fingers and gasped at how cold they were. She only gave me a hateful stare and I lowered my eyes from hers.
When I returned she pointed to the couch and instructed me on how to lie down. She handed me the violin and positioned it in my arms before saying, "Don't move unless you ask permission."
I felt stupid and demeaned. I didn't care how much this paid; it was not worth feeling this badly. I hoped the time would pass quickly.
I could hear the scratching of someone drawing on the easel and I let my mind wander back to my mystery phone guy. I was trying to decide if I had the nerve to ask him out, or how I could find some way to meet him. For all I knew he was married or in his fifties. It was fun to fantasize though.
Right when I became aware of my arm beginning to cramp, the woman returned and told me I was free to dress, and she would have a cab waiting for me. I put on my clothes and made my way back to the gallery room when he spoke over the speaker again.
"Are you free for most of the day Saturday? I would pay you three thousand dollars for the entire day."
I almost choked on my own tongue. This suddenly wasn't such a bad gig. "That's an awful lot of money," I said in shock.
"That is not what I asked you," he said in irritation. I suddenly remembered why I didn't want to do this; he was so condescending and rude. But that much money buys an awful lot of patience.
"I have nothing planned for Saturday, what time do you need me here?"
"Ten a.m. and be on time," he said unkindly.
I sighed loudly, and left the room. The woman put me in a cab and handed me an envelope, before handing the driver a wad of cash. I said goodbye to her but she only nodded.
"Do you know these people?" I asked the driver.
"Their name is Cullen; Rosalie Cullen was the woman who paid you."
"What is her problem?" I asked rhetorically.
"You know how beautiful women act," the driver commented, obviously not worried about my actions, again reiterating the whole bizarreness of my new job.
"Who is the artist?" I had to admit his desire to remain unknown really piqued my interest.
"That would be Edward Cullen. Did you get a chance to see him?"
"He spoke to me, but I never saw his face."
"He's very elusive, nobody knows what he looks like, it drives me crazy," he laughed.
"If he looks anything like his personality he's the elephant man!"
We both laughed loudly but I wasn't sure what was so funny. The man was vile and I had agreed to spend an entire day with him. I had to keep reminding myself I needed the money.
When I arrived home I instructed the driver to pick me up Saturday at nine sharp. I promised I would be ready and would not keep him waiting. When I got inside my small studio loft, I opened the envelope to find two hundred dollars inside. With what I had manage to save already, I finally had enough to get the laptop I so desperately wanted, and made plans to go by the computer department and get some recommendations for which one would be best.
I changed into sweats and a tank top when my phone rang. It was Masen's number and I felt my heart race at the thought of talking to this perfect stranger.
"Hello, not Alice speaking."
He laughed and I loved the sound of it. "I'm not bothering you, am I?"
"Not at all, I'm just trying to decide which laptop to buy. Are you by any chance a computer nerd?"
"I do have a brother, Jasper, who would be able to recommend one for you. Do you need it for work or gamming?"
"I'm a student at the university here in Seattle, so I need one for taking tests online and writing papers."
"I will make sure to ask him and let you know what he recommends."
"Thank you, Masen. You sound like a really nice guy."
"What is your major, Bella?"
"English Literature, I hope to be an editor someday."
"What is your favorite book?" He asked.
"That's impossible; it would be like asking which color in a rainbow is the prettiest."
"Do you like art?"
"I did until today; I had a very weird experience. Do you know a painter named Edward Cullen?" The line was deadly silent for several moments.
"Um…I can't say I do," he said nervously.
"I modeled for him, and don't think I am some fashion model, because that would give you the wrong impression entirely."
"You are very beautiful," he whispered.
"I said you must be very beautiful."
"Not at all, I am very ordinary." I worried about Masen thinking he was talking to a stunning, perfect woman. I didn't want to give him the wrong impression if we were lucky enough to meet someday.
"I somehow doubt that."
I turned the conversation back to Mr. Cullen. "He is very talented. His work was amazing, but he lacks social skills, too much artist angst." I laughed.
"Well, I'm sure you will set him right," he said.
"So, what do you do, Masen?"
"I am a trust fund baby," he teased. "I do whatever interests me at the time. I am currently into music."
"Do you write, play or sing?"
"Yes, yes, and yes," he laughed.
"Sing me something you wrote," I asked him.
I could hear him moving around and the sound of paper shuffling. Suddenly, beautiful music began to play over the phone. He hummed along with the piano in perfect pitch. I lay back on the couch and shut my eyes, letting the music resonated through me.
"That was beautiful," I said emotionally, when he stopped playing. "I could fall asleep to that and dream beautiful dreams." I yawned, and sighed softly.
"I could only hope you would dream of my music. I will let you go. May I call again, Bella?"
I smiled so wide he probably could tell through the phone, "I will dream of you, Masen. Please call again."
"Goodnight, love," he said softly, causing my heart to go right to my throat.
I couldn't believe what a contrast I was experiencing. I was modeling, which in itself was surreal, but it was for a hateful, awful man. Also, I was talking to a sweet, romantic man that I had never met. I decide to hold out hope I would someday meet Masen, and he would be as wonderful as I imagined. I also held out hope my time with Mr. Cullen would end soon.
I had to force myself to concentrate in class the next day. I could hear Masen's melodic voice in my head. I kept fluctuating between wanting to ask him to my place, and telling myself if he wanted to meet me, he would suggest it.
I grabbed a sandwich from the student center and sat on a bench out of the rain to study and eat. My phone rang and I answered it quickly, "Masen?"
"Hello… how is your day?"
"Better now," I said, as I blushed. There was something intimate about our conversations and I couldn't quite put my finger on what it was. His voice did things to my body no other man's voice ever had and I felt connected to him in an odd way.
"I spoke with my brother, he told me to have you write down this number and go to the university bookstore for the best deal on this model."
I grabbed a pencil and wrote down what he told me. "Thank you, this is such a great help."
"You're welcome. How was your night's sleep?"
"Beautiful, thanks to you, how about you?"
He chuckled and changed the subject. "I was looking through my father's library and I have to agree with your perception regarding books and rainbows."
I smiled at the thought he was thinking about me outside of our conversations. It probably wasn't nearly as constant as my thoughts about him, but his little revelation thrilled me.
"Does he have one of those gorgeous cherry wood cases, with dark green and burgundy wool rugs, and Tiffany lamps?"
"You sound like you've been here," he laughed.
"No, I have just fantasized about having one of those about a billion times," I laughed in return.
"Do you not have a library at home?"
I laughed even louder. "Yes, it is an old Barbie bookcase with sagging shelves due to the weight of the books. My father has repaired it many times and threatens me for stacking too many."
"Where is home?"
"Forks, Washington," I admitted, before wondering why I was telling a stranger so much about me. "What about you, where is home for you?"
"Chicago," he said, after some hesitation.
"Are you calling me from Chicago?" I gasped. I was sad to think he was so far from me.
"I kind of move all over, I spend time in Washington, my family has a home here."
I felt relief. If he was going to be my fantasy guy, he could at least be in close proximity to me.
"Hey, Bella," Mike Newton called out.
"I'll let you go, you sound busy." Masen's voice sounded bothered, or maybe even jealous. I suddenly had the urge to explain.
"Oh, it's just a friend from Forks. I'm sure he wants to borrow notes to cheat for a test."
"May I call again?"
"Please do, Masen."
"Bella, when are you going to say yes to a date with me?" Mike said loudly. I heard a sort of growl before a loud click on the other end of the phone. I hung up; disappointed the conversation had to end, especially for someone like Mike.
"I'm busy, Mike," I said in irritation. "I have a job now."
"Yeah, doing what?"
"Um….I work for an artist in his studio." I wasn't about to tell him I was a model. It didn't sound right coming out of my mouth and I seriously doubted he would buy it.
"So, you have evenings off, right?"
I grabbed my phone and pretended like I had forgotten an appointment. "Sorry, Mike. I have to run and meet someone at the bookstore regarding my laptop." I grabbed my things and took off while I was explaining.
When I finally made my way into the bookstore I noticed a line at the counter. I saw a manager in a back room and took the paper I had written the product number on and handed it to him. "I'm looking for this model; do you know where I can find it?"
He took the paper and then looked over his shoulder to a small pile of boxes. "Are you Bella Swan?"
"Yes," I said curiously.
"I have it all right here for you." The stack contained a desktop computer, a laptop, printer, and web cam.
"Wait, I can't afford all of that, I just want a laptop."
"It's all paid for," he said, looking at me strangely.
"Who paid for it?"
"I don't know. Some man came in and paid cash."
"Who took the money?" I asked, hoping I could get some information on my mysterious crush.
"Jessica, she is at checkout three."
I made my way into her line and asked about the boxes. I was really hoping she would remember who paid. "It was a tall blond guy, with curly hair, and a very serious demeanor. I'd never seen him before."
"Do you remember his last name by chance?"
"I didn't get any name; he just pulled out a wad of cash and paid. He said his brother wanted them held for Bella Swan."
I suddenly felt nervous, I had never given Masen my last name and it felt creepy knowing he had found it out somehow. I knew he said he was a trust fund baby, but I was not used to rich guys buying me extravagant gifts. I left without claiming my boxes and decided to tell Masen to have his brother come get his money back.
I did my wash and looked at my less than stellar underwear. I would have to upgrade if I ever found a guy to show them off for. I was wondering if Mr. Cullen would have me model in underwear at any time and decided to make a trip to the mall in the near future.
I was eating my microwave dinner and studying when my doorbell rang. It took me a couple of moments to make it to the door and when I looked through the peephole nobody was around. I finally opened the door and the boxes of computers were piled against the bricks. I looked around for who could have brought them and was really hoping Masen was somewhere close by.
I pulled them into my house and called the bookstore. I was told the buyer had picked them up, but just like before, nobody got his name. I decided to unpack the stuff and make Masen promise to let me pay him back.
By bedtime I still hadn't heard from him and tried to call the number that showed up on my caller ID. It didn't ring, but went straight to a message. It wasn't Masen's voice, simply an automated voice repeating the phone number. I left a message for him to call me as soon as possible.
It was two more days before I heard from him again. I was beginning to sulk and was in a very bad mood. How could somebody I never met make me miss his so badly? I was lying in bed when my cell phone rang and my heart sped up when I saw it was Masen calling.
"Hello?" I said, a little too enthusiastically.
"Bella, this is Masen."
My eyes automatically closed in relief he wasn't just a figment of my imagination.
"I was beginning to think I wouldn't hear from you again. Did you get my message?"
"Yes, I apologize. I was trying to stay away, but I couldn't." His voice sounded sad, and defeated.
"Why would you try to stay away?" I wondered if he was married or involved with someone and began feeling guilty for flirting with me. I thought about ending the strange relationship right now but my heart was becoming invested in him.
"I'm trying to do the right thing and not interfere with your life."
"I don't understand," I said sadly. He purchased and entire computer system for me, but suddenly felt the need to stay out of my life?
"I'm sure you have plenty to keep you busy without being bothered with phone calls."
Was he crazy? I had nothing going on in my life besides studying and working with a man I loathed. "I look forward to your calls, although I have to admit I have a bone to pick with you."
"I need to know where to send the money for the computers. I can't let you pay, it was way too expensive."
"I told you, money isn't an issue for me. I want to do something to donate to the Bella Swan educational fund."
"That's another thing….I never told you my last name." Just saying the words gave me a chill, warning me to end everything now, but I couldn't do it.
"You told me you were from Forks. It was not hard to call the first business in town and find out your name and that your father is the Police Chief."
I knew I should be creeped out by the fact he was calling around and finding out things about me, but I was too excited to think he really wanted to know things about me, and made the effort to find out. "You don't have to start town gossip, if you want to know something, just ask me, I will tell you." I tried to sound casual and hoped he didn't think I was upset with him.
"Okay, let's see how willing you are to share. Tell me something nobody would know, something that can be our secret." He laughed lightly, fully expecting me to refuse.
"I have a recurring nightmare where a monster lures me to my window and when I get close it grabs me, and tries to pull me out. I had it again just the other night. I've never told anyone that."
"What kind of monster?" he asked. He sounded worried for my answer.
"A beautiful one, I go to the window because it is so beautiful, but then it changes and it becomes terrifying." He was quiet for several moments and something dawned on me. What if he never offered to meet with me because he had some sort of deformity? "Masen, tell me what you look like."
"I'm nothing special."
"What color is your hair?"
"You began with the most difficult question," he laughed loudly.
"Are you bald?"
"No, I have more hair than I know what to do with. It is just a very unique color. I guess you would call it copper."
"Copper? So, do you have green eyes?"
"No, um...a shade of brown."
"How tall are you?"
"I'm quite tall, and thin, with very pale skin."
"Why, are you sick?" I knew it was rude to ask, but I was sure there was a reason he was being so evasive with me.
"Um…I have a blood condition." I could hear the laughter in his voice and wondered what he found so funny. I sat quietly, pondering why he didn't ask what I looked like. I guess he wasn't curious enough about me.
"Are you married, Masen?"
"Heavens no, Bella, I would never call another woman if I was married.
"How old are you?" I asked with a sense of relief.
"I'm close to your age," he answered, remaining very vague and I was beginning to get irritated with him.
"I'm only eighteen," I admitted, and wondered if he already had the information. Maybe it was my age making him so cautious. "Exactly how close to my age are you?"
"Age is pedantic," he stated boldly. "Sometimes I feel a hundred years old and sometimes I feel like a teen. But, I assure you we are very close in age."
I didn't understand how telling someone you are nineteen or twenty would be a difficult thing to share, but I let it go and asked a different question. "Tell me something nobody knows about you." I wondered if he would be willing to share, since he was so cryptic about other things.
"Nobody knows I call you," he said quickly.
"Why do you call me? " I pushed.
"I don't know, I'm drawn to you and I can't figure it out."
I smiled and had to mentally kick myself for getting involved with a stranger, a stranger who had no intentions of meeting me. I wanted to beg him to come over and let me look into his eyes as he said such nice things to me, but I was getting way ahead of myself.
"I'm glad you call me, Masen. I enjoy talking with you."
"You shouldn't," he said very softly.
"Why?" I demanded.
"Because a college student needs her sleep," he said playfully, "and I am keeping you awake."
"Yeah, I better take my vitamins and go to sleep," I told him. "I have to work with Mr. Cullen tomorrow, ugh." Just the thought of him ruined my good mood.
"If it is that unbearable, why do you do it?"
"I am not a trust fund baby, and he pays very well."
"Is that the only reason?"
I wasn't sure what Masen was implying. Did he think I was chasing a rich artist, or was he somehow jealous? Surely, it was not the latter. "It is really hard to find a job that fits with my class schedule, and he pays as if it was a fulltime job. I should feel very lucky he wants someone as plain as me to model for him."
"He is the lucky one, I am sure."
"You say such sweet things, Masen."
"I like to make you blush," he teased.
Okay, that was too close for comfort. How would he know about my ridiculous habit of blushing over the slightest thing? It was a family trait I truly wished would have skipped a generation. "What makes you think I blush?"
"Because you seem like a sweet girl, and sweet girls always blush," he explained.
"You must have an awful lot of experience with girls, to have that much insight," I teased, but was really feeling a bit jealous myself.
He chuckled but didn't respond to my attempt to find out if he was one of those rich playboys always making the gossip rags. Maybe that was why he wouldn't meet me, I know all about him already and would not be impressed.
"Good night, Bella. I truly hope you have a better day tomorrow."
"Well, it can't get any worse, but thank you for the warm wishes."
I slept to the sound of soothing music playing deep inside my dreams, and not the faintest hint of a beautiful monster anywhere.
The Difficulty of Sitting Still
I showed up on Saturday and made sure I had time to spare. Rosalie met me in the driveway again and led me to the studio. I walked around the gallery, this time paying more attention to the statues. All of his models had sad faces. I didn't know if he wanted them that way, or if he was known for a certain look.
"Hello, Ms. Swan," his voice came over the speaker.
"You seem particularly interested in the sculptures today."
"Why are they all so sad?" I asked him outright.
"I don't know what you mean, just because they aren't laughing stupidly, doesn't mean they are sad," he said defensively.
I took a deep breath to calm down before I tried to explain myself. "I didn't mean to imply anything negative. I just get a sad feeling when I look at them, maybe it's me."
It was quiet again for awhile and I stood nervously in the center of the room wishing I had kept my mouth shut.
"I am willing to let you remain as a model, but I would prefer you keep your opinions to yourself."
I was embarrassed and angry. He had asked my opinion last time, and just because I asked him something he didn't like, didn't mean he needed to shut me up forever. I sighed loudly and didn't answer.
"Will that be a problem?" He asked in anger.
"I guess not," I seethed. He was quiet again, so I asked, "Can we get started?"
He chuckled and the door to the side studio opened. I walked in to find a simple stool sitting in the middle of the platform. I walked over and sat down. Rosalie came in and adjusted a few lights and asked me to sit relaxed. I was happy when she told me it would be all I did today. She set a bottle of water next to the stool and left. I could hear movement behind the bright lights, but I still could not see anything. I sat and let my mind wander right to Masen.
I was enjoying our conversations so much and really hoped I would be able to meet him soon. He seemed too perfect to be true, and until I could actually meet him, I would have to assume he wasn't real. I wondered silly things like how he smelled and what kind of shoes he wore.
My thoughts were interrupted by Rosalie coming into the room. "What are you thinking about?" she asked.
"I'm sorry?" I wasn't sure what she was referring too.
"You are smiling; Edward wants to know what you are thinking about."
I looked up at the lights in shock. He was less than twenty feet from me and he couldn't ask me himself?
"Um…I was just thinking about a friend, and it made me smile. Is it a problem?"
Rosalie turned to look into the bright lights and then turned back to me. "He wants you to stop."
"Why?" I asked irritated. "Does he want me sad like all the other models?"
She looked at me with raised eyebrows and her mouth slowly lifted into a smile. "I would not anger him if I were you?"
I had so many things I wanted to say, but I bit my lip to keep my mouth shut. I was making an ungodly amount of money to just sit here quietly. I needed to just make it through the day.
'I'm sorry," I said quietly.
I was no longer in a good mood. I was angry that the freak in the shadows had to be so mean. I was angry that I had a computer given to me, as a pity gift, and even angrier that the man I was dying to meet wouldn't offer to come forward.
I was unaware of my leg bouncing in frustration until a paintbrush flew from the shadows and hit my leg. "Ow," I yelled.
"Stop moving." A voice sounding almost like a growl came from the shadows.
"Don't throw things at me," I yelled in anger, "and since you finally found your voice, can you speak to me like a normal person."
I heard a frustrated sigh and then the loud banging of a door slamming shut. In less the five seconds Rosalie returned. She put her hand on her hip and glared at me. "Just do what he says and let's get this over with," she instructed.
"I'm sorry, but sitting perfectly still without showing any emotions is a lot harder than it looks," I defended myself. "Maybe if he would talk to me while he paints it would be easier."
"He has to concentrate and don't take it personally, he doesn't like anyone."
I thought I heard a low growl coming from the lights again. "I'm trying," I said loudly, leaning around Rosalie so he would know I was talking to him.
Rosalie turned and left the room again. I sat as still as possible and felt my emotions go from mad, to sad, to happy, to giddy, to downright psychotic. I began laughing and I could not stop no matter how hard I tried.
"I am so sorry, Edward, um…..Mr. Cullen. I don't know what has gotten into me. I just find it so funny that you stand back there in the dark giving instructions through your wife. I am trying, I promise, but it would really help if you spoke to me once in a while.
There was no movement or any sound at all. I continued to try to contain my laughter and had to let it out when tears began falling down my face.
"She's not my wife," I heard over the speaker.
"What?" I asked, looking around the room for where the voice was coming from.
"I said, Rosalie is not my wife."
"Oh, I just thought….."
"You thought wrong," he interrupted.
"Are you married?"
"No," he said quickly.
I wanted to tell him I was not surprised, but I kept my opinion to myself.
"Are you gay?" I inquired.
"Excuse me?" he answered in anger.
"I don't mean anything by it, lots of artists are gay. I'm not judging you or anything."
"Why would you assume I would tell you anything personal about myself?" He said loudly over the speaker.
"Sorry, I just thought we were chatting, guess not." I rolled my eyes and looked down at my feet.
It was quiet for several minutes and he finally asked, "Are you involved with anyone?"
"Me? Why?" I pushed. If he wasn't going to chat I had no idea why he would ask such a personal question.
"I was just wondering if you would be willing to pose with another model."
I thought for a moment and then asked, "Nothing kinky, right?"
He sighed loudly in irritation and then said harshly, "You've seen my work, why would you ask that?"
"I don't know; you seem to pay a lot to have someone sit on a stool. I keep waiting for the angle."
"There is no angle, Ms. Swan." He sounded like he was losing his patience with me.
"Yeah, I would work with another model. Could we talk to each other or would we have to be quiet?"
"I seriously doubt you are capable of remaining quiet," he answered curtly.
I laughed and thought I heard him chuckle, but I couldn't be sure. I sat like a good girl for a couple of hours and Rosalie came back in with a tray of food.
"Do I get a lunch break?" I asked her.
"Do you need to use the facilities?" She asked.
"Yes," I laughed and shook my head. This whole house needed a serious unclenching of the ass. She asked me to follow her and I walked down a long corridor to a door off the side of a library. I gasped at the sight of the shelves of books. They were all hard bound and many were first additions.
I wandered through the massive collection of books in amazement. I could feel my fingers twitching with desire to pull something from the shelf. How can some people be so lucky and not appreciate what they have. If I lived here I would never leave this room.
The thought of having to return to the studio and sit in complete boredom was almost too much to contemplate. I would gladly pay the awful Mr. Cullen to let me spend the entire day in this room.
Rosalie came to find me and seemed very irritated that I was taking so long. I turned to her with tears in my eyes. "You are so lucky, this is an amazing library."
"This belongs to my father, Carlisle. He is a physician and spends a lot of time in here."
"Oh, I'm glad it is appreciated. It is amazing," I repeated.
"If you like, I could bring your tray in here."
"Would you mind?"
She turned and left the room as I continued my gawking. I pulled out an edition of Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles. I put the book to my nose and inhaled deeply. She returned with the tray, sat it on the table next to a large library chair, and left.
My cell phone rang in my pocket and I saw it was Masen calling. "Masen, you will never believe where I am. I am in heaven right now. I could die at this moment and be completely happy."
"I hope this is not our last conversation, I tend to look forward to this part of my day.
Where are you?"
"I am standing in the middle of the most amazing library I have ever seen. Every book in here is hard bound. The ceiling is fifteen feet tall and it is solid books from the floor to the ceiling. I just want to cry."
He laughed loudly at me. "I don't think I have known anyone who loves books as much as you do."
"I was an only child, books were my best friends." I was babbling as I made my way around the room. "Oh, Masen, the thought of going back into that room with that awful man makes me want to scream."
He was quiet and for a moment I thought I lost the connection. He finally said, "Maybe he just doesn't know how to talk to a pretty lady."
"Yeah, right, he's worked with tons of models. He is just snooty and has a stick up his ass."
"I'm willing to bet you have no idea what he is thinking."
I wondered why Masen felt he needed to defend Edward. Maybe he thought I would be too judgmental and not want to meet him. I decided to soften my mood and give Edward the benefit of the doubt.
"I just don't understand the artistic types. They are too emotional for me, I guess."
He laughed again and pointed out, "Maybe the librarian type confuses him."
"Touché," I conceded. "What do you love, Masen? What is your passion, besides your current interest in music?"
He was quiet again before answering. "I like studying the human condition. I guess psychology or sociology is my passion."
"Are you a student or a professor?" I was hoping he would give me some information willingly, but he didn't.
"Just an observer," he said. "Read something to me."
I picked up a copy of Chaucer and read a few lines from The Prioress. When I finished he was quiet again. "Masen?"
"Thank you," he whispered emotionally.
My heart sped up and I wanted to see his face so badly. The sound of his voice filled with such emotion and sent my adrenalin flowing.
"Masen?" I whispered.
"I have to go." I chickened out; I couldn't find a way to tell him how happy he made me just through telephone conversations and how desperately I wanted to meet him. There was no way to say all of that without sounding completely insane.
"Have a nice afternoon, may I call later?"
I picked up the sandwich and headed back to the studio. I sat down on my stool and took a bite of my food. I could hear Edward working, but I wasn't focused on him at all. I spent the rest of the afternoon thinking about Masen and trying to come up with a plan to meet him.
It had been hours when Edward finally spoke over the speaker again, "Why are you sad?"
"Isn't it what you prefer from your models?"
He was very quiet and then said in almost a whisper, "Give me an expression of desire."
"A what?" I asked, not sure what he was asking.
"Look into the lights as if looking at a lover," he explained.
My eyes darted around the room as I blushed annoyingly. I never had a lover and had no idea how to express desire. "Um…I'm not sure…"
" a," he called seductively, stretching my name out very slowly. My mind went blank and my heart began beating quickly. "He's staring into your eyes, pulled in by the beauty he finds there."
I instantly thought of Masen.
"He feels the heat radiating off of your flesh and his hands ache with the need to touch you."
My heart began to race and I found it difficult to breathe.
"His finger moves to hesitantly brush against your lips as his hand touches the small of your back to pull you to him."
I sighed and my eyes closed to imagine Masen pulling me into his arms. I felt a neediness I had never experienced before. I felt like my body was on fire and I was in physical pain as I panted for my phantom lover.
"Now, look at me," he said very softly. I opened my eyes and stared into the light as tears filled my eyes. "Oh my God," he whispered.
Rosalie opened the door and I instantly jumped, pulling my arms to cover my chest as if I had been naked.
"You're done," he said harshly. I figured I wasn't able to pull off the look he wanted so I was being asked to go. I stood and dropped my head because I could tell I was blushing from humiliation. "Will you come Wednesday to work with another model?"
"Whatever," I answered, just wanting to get out of there.
"Four o'clock," he said, as I heard the door slam.
I walked to the front of the house; Rosalie handed me an envelope and had a cab waiting. "Will I ever get to see his face?" I asked her.
"No, he is a very private man and does not want the public bothering him."
Her cell phone rang as I climbed into the car. She stuck her head in the window and said, "Edward said you may come early and spend some time in the library if you wish."
"Seriously!" I exclaimed. "Okay, tell him I said thank you."
I was in a much better mood on the way home. I decided if Edward could offer an olive branch I would try to be nicer to him. I also decided to go out on a limb and ask Masen if we could meet. I was anxious to hear from him again.
Partners and Pertinence
I hadn't heard from Masen for four days now and was sure he had moved on to other things. I was trying not to be disappointed, and kept telling myself it was better for it to end now, than after meeting.
I showed up early to the Cullen house and Rosalie led me into the library. I found a copy of Ovid and began working my way through the translation when I heard an odd sound. I looked up and didn't see anything.
I tried to think of what the sound could be. It was familiar, like some electronic devise. It finally dawned on me….a video camera rotating. I had heard the same sound in the gallery as I walked around looking at the art.
I looked up at the ceiling and saw a dark bubble hanging down lower than the light. It was obviously a surveillance camera. Mr. Cullen probably wanted to make sure I wasn't stealing from his library.
I sat the book harshly on the table next to the chair and folded my arms staring directly into the bubble. Within minutes Rosalie appeared in the doorway.
"Tell him to stop spying. I'm not hurting anything," I said in anger.
Her eyes briefly looked toward the ceiling and smiled. "Your partner is here, would you please come with me."
I looked at the ceiling one last time and stuck my tongue out at the bubble. It was immature, but so was his surveillance of me.
I walked into the gallery and the door shut behind me. A young man was standing in the room. "Hi, I'm Jake," he said extending his hand. He was gorgeous, tall, dark, with long hair pulled into a ponytail. I could tell he was Native American but I had no idea what tribe he came from.
"Hi, I'm Bella," I offered and felt myself blush.
"Is this your first time working for Mr. Cullen?" he asked.
"No, unfortunately," I mumbled. "But, it is my first time working with someone else."
"It'll be a piece of cake," he smiled a friendly smile that put me at ease.
"Can we start?" I said into the air, "or do you want to eavesdrop longer?"
The side door opened and I followed Jake into the room. Rosalie was standing next to a portable staircase and handed us both 16th century period clothing to put on. Jake pulled his shirt off and I couldn't help but stare. He had amazing abs and didn't mind showing them off. I pulled the dress over my head before removing my jeans. I wasn't about to try and compete with his body.
Rosalie posed us on the staircase. She placed me sitting on a step, staring up into Jake's face, as he stood two steps higher looking back at me. I heard the familiar sounds of Edward working behind the bright lights.
"Um, Mr. Cullen," I asked hesitantly. I instantly regretted interrupting him when I heard him growl in anger.
I didn't continue and went back to my posing.
"What is it, Ms. Swan?" He spoke over the intercom again.
"I just wanted to suggest something that I think will work better, but never mind, I won't interrupt again."
"I find that impossible to believe," he said hatefully. "Go ahead with your suggestion, so you can get it out of your mind."
I looked at Jake and he nodded in encouragement. "I just think it would convey what you are trying to say better if I lay on the steps like this." I moved to lay down the steps with my head by Jake's feet. I lifted one hand and gently closed my fingers around the hem of his pants. "Now Jake, turn just a little more and look down at me."
Jake moved to the pose I suggested and I turned my head away from him staring off at nothing. I waited….and waited.
"What is it you think I am trying to convey, Ms. Swan?" His voice was seething and I had to swallow before finding the nerve to answer him.
"Longing, loneliness, wanting the person you love to love you back, am I wrong?"
He was quiet again for several minutes and then threw his canvas to the ground. I jumped and Jake turned quickly, ready to defend himself.
"Get out," Edward roared without the microphone.
I felt tears coming into my eyes, not due to fear or sadness, but anger. I was so mad at this temperamental psycho, and I was tired of tiptoeing around him.
"I was only trying to help. If you don't like my idea just say so. Can you try to act like an adult for once, instead of the whiny, spoiled, self-centered, piece of shit that you are."
Jake laughed next to me and I realize I had totally forgotten he was there. "I'm sorry to ruin this job for you, Jake. I will pay you back for the money you lost," I assured him.
"Return to your original positions, please," Edward said softly from behind the lights.
My mouth fell open in shock. He was screaming in one moment and then totally composed in another. I felt a bit of relief that I hadn't cost Jake money, so I sat back down on the stairs in a huff and Jake looked at me and smiled. He had such a genuine happiness about him I couldn't help but smile back. We stayed posed for a couple of hours until Rosalie returned. She handed us both a bottle of water, and told us to change back into our clothes, she would have a cab waiting.
Jake quickly put on his shirt and left the room for me to dress. I looked around for a camera, but couldn't see anything, so I pulled the heavy dress over my head and quickly put on my jeans.
I went to leave the room when curiosity got the better of me. I tiptoed over behind the lights and looked at the canvas. It was strange looking at my own face, but that wasn't what made me gasp. Edward had used my suggestion. He had painted me lying on the stairs holding onto the hem of the man's pants. But the man was not Jake.
He was tall, with long brown hair pulled to the side revealing just his jaw, which was clenched tightly. It was not a painting of longing, but one of leaving. The man was leaving the woman, and the pain was heartbreaking.
I walked in a stunned silence from the room and ran into Rosalie. "Edward would like you to return for another Saturday session. Are you willing?"
"I have to think about it," I said quietly.
"He will be better behaved, I can promise you that."
"It's not that, I just…..I'll let you know. How can I reach you?"
She pulled a steno pad from her notebook and asked me to write down my number. "I will check with you on Friday evening. Please have a definite answer by then."
I nodded and climbed into the cab next to Jake. He was pleasant on the ride home, but I couldn't concentrate on the small talk. The painting was haunting me, and I had no idea why he would have me pose with Jake, and then keep him out of the painting.
When I finally made it home I logged onto my computer. I was desperate to find anything on Edward Cullen. I found his art sold for a lot of money and he had pieces hanging in almost every prominent art gallery. He had sculptures in buildings in almost every major city. I could not find a picture of him anywhere, but did read a little blip about his art selling at a record amount almost twenty years ago. He must be older than I originally thought.
My cell phone rang and my heart jumped when I saw it was Masen. "Hello, stranger."
"Bella, it's so nice to hear your voice."
"I was beginning to think you left the country or something."
"No, just distracted. How are you?"
"I've been better."
"No, it's just…..remember the artist I told you about?"
He hesitated a moment before answering. "Sure."
"I looked at his painting today. I wasn't supposed to, but I was so curious. I had given a suggestion and he shot me down, but then used my suggestion. I just don't understand him."
The line was completely silent. "Masen?"
"Yeah," he said quietly, "So, tell me about the painting."
"I told you the guy is very talented. I was just looking up his work online. He makes a lot of money. The one I saw today, it's just….I don't even know the right word. It was haunting, or maybe it was just seeing my face on canvas for the first time. I had a partner today, but he didn't paint the guy I was modeling with."
"Who did he paint?"
"I don't know, I couldn't see the face, only the profile. I've never, it was….this is going to sound stupid, but it broke my heart. It was like I was losing that man and I didn't even know I had him. Crazy, huh?"
"Are you still working for him?"
"I don't know. If you could make tons of money working for someone who was mean as hell, and creeps you out, would you do it?"
"How is he mean?"
"Believe me; Ebenezer Scrooge has nothing on this guy."
"Well, my advice would be to give him another chance. See if he can rise to the occasion. What did you think of the partner?"
"He was a nice guy. Really friendly and had a great smile."
I found his question odd, but maybe he was trying to push me toward someone else. "Like attracted to him romantically?" I asked.
"I don't know. I didn't really think about it. I was just freaked out by Mr. Cullen today."
"Was he your type?"
I laughed and began to think Masen was a little jealous. "I don't think I have a type."
"What kind of men do you like?"
"Ones that don't throw paintbrushes at me," I said as a private joke. "Hey, did you ever get hold of your sister?"
"Oh, yes I did, seems like she transposed a couple of numbers. I was sure to thank her for the misfortune. It was fortuitous for me."
"You sound like you come from a different time," I laughed. "Are you sure you are around my age?"
"I feel that way sometimes," he admitted.
I bit my lip and tried to decide if I wanted to push things or not. I finally decided it couldn't hurt. "Will I ever get the good fortune to ever meet you, Masen?"
"Ah, is that supposed to be subtle?"
"Not at all," I answered honestly.
"There is nothing I would like better than to meet you, but I have some obligations to take care of first. I hope you will afford me some more time."
"Sure, no pressure," I said, but felt my face sadden. I put myself out there and he shot me down. At least he was polite about it.
"Can you play me something," I asked greedily. If he wouldn't meet me at least he could let me enjoy his beautiful music.
A beautiful lullaby came over the phone. I took my vitamins and walked to my bedroom to sink into my bed. I closed my eyes and let the music transport me to another place. A place where I was held in the arms of the man I loved, the man in the painting.
I pulled myself closer to him and felt the hard plane of his chest underneath my cheek. I inhaled the most delicious smell and wrapped my legs over his body. He was tense and hesitant, but I would change his mind.
I ran my hands over his chest up to his face. I felt the taut line of his jaw and the silky smoothness of his chin. He slowly began running his cold hands softly down my back, rhythmically. I was entranced by him and my entire body relaxed as he hummed quietly in my ear. I could feel him kiss my hair every so often and wondered why he didn't lift my face to his and kiss my lips.
My body soon began to shiver from the cold. I pulled the covers tightly around me, but I was still so cold. My teeth began to chatter and my other century man rose from my side and left the room. I called out for him, only to find the dial tone of my phone lying next to my body.
I reached out for the phone and my bed was ice cold. I snuggled lower into the covers and instead of dreaming of my imaginary lover, I dreamed of the beautiful monster coming for me.
One Step Ahead
I decided I really needed to concentrate on school for the remainder of the week. I had midterms coming up and I couldn't afford to lose my scholarship, no matter how much Mr. Cullen paid. I was sitting in the library when my phone vibrated. I saw it was Masen, but I had to ignore it. He would certainly cause me to lose my concentration.
I got home late and put on my PJ's and climbed into bed. I was just about to fall asleep when there was a knock at my door. I thought about ignoring it, but decided to see who it was. I looked through the peephole to see Jake.
I opened the door slightly, "Hi, Jake."
"Hi, Bella. Man, I was hoping this was the right apartment."
I finally opened the door fully and let him in.
"What can I do for you?"
"I just wanted to know if you would go with me to a movie this weekend."
"Um….thanks, but I'm working for Mr. Cullen and I doubt I will be very good company." I couldn't think of a good enough excuse. He was a nice guy and very good looking. I just wasn't interested in him.
"Come on, we won't be out late. And I think you will need some relaxation after sitting with Mr. Cullen all day."
"Fine, what time." I didn't want to be short with him, but it bothered me he was so persistent.
"I'll pick you up at seven."
I opened the door, giving him the hint our conversation was over. "See you then."
He smiled and shook his head a couple of times. I felt a little guilty, but I was tired and needed sleep. I was out as soon as I hit the pillow. I was pulled from deep REM sleep to find my phone ringing. I picked it up to see it was Masen.
"Hello," I said sleepily.
"I'm sorry, love. You were sleeping."
"It's okay, Masen, I enjoy talking with you. How are you?"
"Awake," he teased. "How about you?"
"I had a long day, I guess. I have midterms coming up and I'm working for the vampire this weekend."
"What?" he gasped.
"Mr. Cullen, I call him that because he sucks the life out of me."
It was silent on the other end of the phone.
"Sing something to me, Masen."
He began a very affectionate version of "Love me Tender" and I smiled as my eyes grew heavy.
When he finished I sighed loudly, "You're amazing."
"You inspire me."
We were quiet for a few moments until he finally interrupted. "So, you decided to work for Mr. Cullen after all?"
"I have to. I used him as an excuse, so now I have to follow through."
"Somebody asked me to a movie." I hated giving him the details when I didn't have the nerve to tell him I didn't want to go out with Jake, because my heart was set on Masen eventually coming forward.
"You told him no?"
"Not exactly, I agreed, but I will call it a short night since I will be working that day."
"You may have more fun than you think. Give it a chance."
"Not you, too," I tried to laugh without showing my disappointment.
"I'm surprised when you called Forks they didn't ask you to find someone for me. I think my father has made it a town priority."
"I'm sure you have had many offers. What's the hold up?"
"I'll know him when I see him. I just haven't seen him yet." I wanted to tell him I was only eighteen and much too young to fall in love, but my heart was falling quickly for Masen, so I left that part out.
"Perhaps you read too many romantic novels and ordinary men can't compete."
"Or maybe, I don't want an ordinary man. What about you, why isn't there a possible Mrs. Masen looming in your life?"
"It always is. Don't cop out on me…..answer."
He was silent and his voice suddenly turned very sad. "I guess I never felt worthy of anyone."
"Everyone has a past. People who don't forgive aren't worth your time."
"I'm afraid it is me who won't forgive."
"Well, Masen, I will give you the age old advice my father gave me."
"Okay," he chuckled. "You're father's how old?"
"Doesn't matter, this advice transcends time."
"Let's hear it."'
"Pull your head out." I waited nervously to see if he would be offended.
He suddenly broke into loud laughter and I breathed a sigh of relief. I couldn't image what he could have done that he was punishing himself for, and although I was curious, I wouldn't push him. I enjoyed his friendship too much to spoil it with past wrongs.
"You bring me so much pleasure, Bella Swan," he continued to chuckle.
"I aim to please; it's good to hear you laugh. You have such a beautiful laugh."
He sighed as if he was in pain. "Only you can make me laugh like this, thank you."
"Can I ask you something, since you're a man?" I said out of the blue.
"You can ask me anything, even if I weren't a man," he teased.
I closed my eyes so I wouldn't lose my nerve and blurted out, "Mr. Cullen asked me to give him a look of desire while posing. What exactly is a look of desire, I mean, how does a guy know if a girl desires him?"
He chuckled a little and finally said, "That's easy to answer. When her heart begins to beat faster and her palms begin to sweat. Her lips part to make breathing easier and her pupils darken. The scent coming off of flesh is…."
He suddenly stopped and cleared his throat. My mind was reeling and my entire body felt on fire. My voice was quiet and strained, "But, most of that he wouldn't be able to see so how can I fake that?"
"You can't fake it, if you feel it, it shows on your face."
I wanted to beg him to come over and let us talk face to face, so he could see my desire for him. I wanted to plead with him to be the great man I felt he was. I wanted to implore him to sweep me off my feet and love me forever. Instead, I told him I better get to sleep.
I lay in my bed and tried to focus on his voice, which brought me so much joy. It eventually transformed into HIS voice, the awful Mr. Cullen, my vampire. I pulled my covers over my head and screamed out in frustration.
The next day I headed to Professor Banners desk to turn in a paper on the affects of gothic art in middle Europe. I purposely lagged behind, so I could speak with her.
"Um….Mrs. Banner….can I ask you some questions about Mr. Cullen?"
"Sure, I don't know much about him. My husband works with him, not me."
"Has your husband ever met him?"
"I assume so. He has a showing Saturday night at my husband's gallery, so I would think he would be there."
I suddenly knew I was not going to keep my date with Jake on Saturday night. I was going to sneak into the gallery showing, and try to catch a peek at the elusive Mr. Cullen. If he saw me he would not be able to throw too big of a fit in a public place.
"Do you have one of your husband's cards?"
She dug through her desk and pulled out a business card and handed it to me. I couldn't help the big grin on my face.
"I hope you are not developing a crush on your employer, Ms. Swan."
"Are you kidding me? It would be easier to have a crush on Genghis Khan. He is a vile man."
"Very talented, I hear," she added.
"Oh yes, he is a very good artist, just not a very good person."
I left the room trying to find a way I could get hold of Jake. I eventually came up with the one person I knew would have his phone number, Rosalie. I intended on asking her first thing in the morning. I would arrive early under the pretense of using the library.
Masen didn't call last night and I was a little preoccupied when I pulled into the circular drive. Rosalie didn't come out to greet me; instead it was a very large muscular man with a very kind face. He was actually smiling…something I didn't think was allowed at the Cullen residence.
"Hi," he said, as he opened the cab door. "I'm Emmett, you must be Bella."
"Yes, I was expecting Rosalie."
"She's my wife," he beamed.
My eyes opened wide. Edward must hire his entire family to serve him. "Do you work here, too?"
"Work here? This is our home."
I glanced up at the large estate and wondered how many people actually lived there. "How are you're related to Edward?" I asked in shock.
"He's my brother, why?"
I stared at him in disbelief. How could this young man be the brother of the older artist? Maybe he came from a younger wife of their father's.
"I see you got all the charm in the family." I told him.
His laughter boomed against the old home, echoing throughout the courtyard. "Yeah, Edward would never be referred to as charming."
I liked Emmett, he seemed like a fun guy, and I had to admit I felt more at ease with him than his wife.
"I know I am early, but I wanted to use the library again. Edward said it was okay."
"Sure, let me show you in."
He walked me to the library door and I looked up at the surveillance camera before entering. He followed my gaze, but didn't say anything.
"Thank you, Emmett," I offered before entering the room.
I sat and began reading when my phone rang. "Hi, Masen."
"Good Morning, you seem very awake this morning."
"I was anxious to get my work done. I have plans tonight."
"Right, the date with the unimpressive man."
"Actually, I'm going to skip out on him. I have something better planned."
"I found out Mr. Cullen has a showing tonight and I'm going to the gallery to sneak a peek at him. I'm sure he will have a widow's peak and fangs," I giggled.
The line was silent and I thought I could hear papers rustling. "I'm sorry Bella, I have to run. May I call you later?"
"Sure, have a great day, Masen."
I read until Rosalie came to get me. I was disappointed it wasn't Emmett. "Hey, Rosalie, do you have Jake Black's phone number?"
She looked at me appalled. "I can't give out model's numbers."
"No, it's not like that. I have a date with him tonight and I can't make it, so I wondered if you could give me his number, so I can make other arrangements."
"I suggest you keep your date."
She kept walking and I had to hustle to keep up with her. "I seriously don't think he would mind."
"I seriously think he would."
I stared at her in disbelief. She was so mean, just like her brother-in-law. She had married the wrong Cullen. I walked into the studio and saw the same stool. "Didn't I already do this?" I said in frustration.
"Do you want to work today or not?" Rosalie spat at me.
I walked over to the stool and sat angrily. A stern voice came over the speaker. "I'm not in the mood to play today Ms. Swan, please sit appropriately."
I sat up straight and stared with hatred into the lights. His scratching on the canvass sounded loud and quick, almost like he was angry and taking it out on his painting. I sat, trying to come up with a scheme to make it to the gallery. I considered putting a note on my door, or maybe asking Jake if we could attend the showing instead of a movie.
I didn't realize how quickly time had passed until Rosalie came in to ask if I wanted to eat in the library. "Can we just work through lunch, I'm not hungry."
She looked shocked and turned toward the bright lights for instruction. I didn't hear anything, but she turned back to me and said, "He wants a break, so you have one. You can sit here or in the library."
"Fine," I said harshly. "I will sit here, but I wish he would HURRY," I yelled into the space behind the lights.
As I sat fuming, my phone rang. "Masen, two calls so close together? You better be careful or I may think you are actually pulling your head out."
He laughed and took a deep breath. "I needed to hear your voice. It has been a trying day."
"I hear that. What's making your day so hard?"
"Oh, some logistic problems, nothing I can't handle. Bella, I have some free time this evening and wondered if you could meet me for dinner?"
You have got to be kidding me! Now, he wants to meet me, tonight of all nights. I glanced at the lights and decided the elusive Mr. Cullen could remain elusive for all I cared. I would meet Jake at the door and pretend to be sick and head out to meet Masen.
"How about 7:30?" I asked him.
"That would work. Let me send a cab for you."
"Okay, I am really excited to meet you, Masen."
"As am I, have a great day."
My permanent scowl I had been wearing all day suddenly left and I couldn't help the grin plastered on my face. Luckily, Mr. Cullen didn't say anything, and I wasn't told to look like his other models, and sink into sadness.
I made plans to stop by the mall and purchase decent underwear. I wasn't planning on being promiscuous, but I wanted to be prepared for anything. The envelope Rosalie handed me at the end of the day contained more money than usual. I decided to buy a whole new outfit.
I was beyond excited when the cab pulled up front and honked. Jake had taken my rain check very well and gave me his phone number for future use. I climbed in the cab and watched in awe as it drove to the Four Seasons downtown. The driver assured me he had been paid already and would wait for me to return.
I walked into the bar and sat down to wait. After half-an-hour I asked the hostess for the fourth time if anyone named Masen had arrived. She looked at me sadly and brought me a free drink. I waited a total of one hour and fifteen minutes before leaving the place in tears. I saw the driver waiting for me, but headed to a different cab. I wanted nothing to do with Masen at that point.
Instead of giving the cab my home address, I gave him the gallery address. There was quite a throng of people and I felt confident I could sneak in unnoticed. I made my way to the back, less crowded room, and began looking around.
I walked slowly admiring his work when I stumbled into a small gallery with drawings instead of paintings. I gasped to see almost all of the drawings were of me. A woman looked at me and then back at the wall.
"Look everyone, it is his muse," she called out.
I quickly ran from the room and into the back of the gallery looking for a back exit. I opened a door just in time to see another model walk from the room. It was the man he painted in the portrait with me, the man with the strong jaw and long hair.
"Wait," I called out to him, but he was gone too quickly. I ran to the door he exited through, but it led to a large room of statues. I looked through the room, but couldn't find him anywhere. I felt cold air around my legs and figured he left through an obscure door. Maybe he was just as worried about being recognized as I was.
I decided to leave and made my way, head down, back to the street. I hailed a cab and left for home, feeling dejected and hurt. I should have kept my date with Jake. Why was I so quick to pass up the available guy for some mystery? I promised myself I would be more level headed.
No promise in the world could have stopped my tears. They flowed freely onto my pillow as my heart broke into pieces.
The Trouble with Men
Masen tried to call several times on Sunday, but I wouldn't take the call. I eventually turned my phone off and tried to keep myself busy with wash and studies. When the room began to close in on me, I pulled out my phone and called Jake.
"I know this is last minute but I was going to make an ice-cream run and decided to ask you to join me."
"Ice-cream, has it been that bad of a day," he joked.
"Mid terms….absolutely ice-cream worthy," I teased back.
He met me at the mall and I treated him to an Oreo cookie shake. We walked along the shops looking at the window displays and chatting comfortably. I found out he was raised on the Reservation not too far from Forks, and we knew a lot of the same people. It was a fun afternoon, but one thought kept going through my head…. "Why can't you be Masen?"
He gave me a ride on his motorcycle back to my apartment, and I breathed a sigh of relief when he didn't try to come inside. I went back to studying when someone knocked on the door. My heart jumped and I was sure it would be Masen.
I opened the door slowly to find Mike standing there. "Hey," I said, as I opened the door letting him come it.
"What's up, Bella?"
"Studying, and you should be, too." I sat in front of my computer and pulled up my history syllabus.
"Yeah, I'll get around to it. Want to grab some dinner?"
"No, I had a late lunch. Hey, do you know Jake Black? He's from the Quileute Reservation."
"I don't know Jake, but I know his girlfriend, Leah, she's in my calculus class."
I stared at him dumbfounded. "Are you sure they are still together?"
"They were on Friday. I saw them playing tonsil hockey on the quad. Why?"
"I hate men," I said to him emphatically. I couldn't image what would possess Jake to ask me out, unless he was a typical pretty boy, constantly playing the field.
"What did I do?" Mike protested.
"Do you guys have even a shred of humanity inside that weak excuse you have for brains?"
"Again, what did I do?" He said harshly, obviously unhappy with my attempt to lump all men into one category. He didn't know three separate men had all hurt me in the same week.
"Just go, before I decide to help my gender and begin castrating you all."
He laughed and headed out the door right as my cell phone rang again. I was ready to face Masen, or more like speak into a small electronic devise at him.
"What do you want?" I yelled into the phone.
"Am I catching you at a bad time?" he asked hesitantly.
"Does it matter? Isn't every minute of my day supposed to revolve around you? Don't you want me jumping when you say jump so you can laugh at what a ridiculous little girl I am?" I was tapping my foot impatiently on the floor as I waited for him to speak.
"Uh, I just wanted to apologize for missing our date."
"Something came up and I couldn't let it go."
"I wanted to call, but I just couldn't."
"Bella, please, I seriously want to apologize."
"Sure you do."
"Can I make it up to you?"
"Yes, Masen, leave me alone, don't call anymore and let me forget about you. I don't put up with men who lie."
"Is that what you want, to forget about me?" His voice was dripping with remorse and it made me lose focus for a second, until I remembered sitting in that lounge waiting for someone who had no intention of showing up.
"Yes," I said, with less authority than I wanted.
"Okay, I will honor your wishes."
I hung up without saying anything else, in case my voice betrayed me and he could hear the tears. I fell onto my bed and cried myself to sleep. I had a restless night, and finally got up to drink some herbal tea and take my vitamins. I climbed back in bed and finally relaxed when I could hear Masen humming softly in my dream. I smiled at the sweet music filling my head.
"I love you," I sighed in my dream.
"I love you," he said softly back to me. I never wanted to wake up.
The week was a blur of exams and study sessions. I crammed so much information into my brain in an attempt to forget about him. I scored very well due to my informational overload. Masen never called, Jake never called, and even my vampire never called. I tried to be grateful for the lack of interruptions, but I was sinking slowly into despair.
Saturday morning I woke up to a knock at the door. It was a flower shop delivering me roses. "Who are these from?" I asked, as I searched around for a card.
"I don't know, I just deliver them," the young man said.
I somehow knew right then, it was Masen. Finally, after the third delivery I pulled out my phone and dialed his number.
"Hello?" he answered cautiously.
"Truce," I said. "My small apartment can't handle anymore flowers.
"I'm afraid one more is coming," he chuckled.
"You sure know how to apologize."
"Only when I am truly sorry."
"If you were truly sorry, you would come over and tell me yourself."
He stopped speaking and I could tell he was contemplating something. I couldn't fathom any reason he would refuse to meet face to face, unless he was somehow deformed. I was beginning to feel like I was stuck in some modern day Phantom of the Opera.
"What is it Masen, what makes you so afraid to speak to me face-to-face?"
"I'm just much better on the phone. I don't feel trapped."
I could tell he was talking from the heart and I didn't want to tease him. "I don't want you to feel trapped. Just meet me in a public place. You can leave if you feel uncomfortable."
He waited for several moments before speaking. "I can't." He sighed as if he was tortured or harboring some huge secret.
"Okay," I said softly, as my heart ached inside.
"You have no idea how much I want to meet you, Bella. I just can't."
"Then why did you ask me out on a date?"
He sighed loudly again, and I knew right then he wouldn't tell me the truth. I couldn't bear to hear deception coming from his lips. It would hurt so much more than the truth.
"Masen, don't lie to me, please. I would rather you refuse to tell me than lie to me. Lying is something I just won't tolerate."
"I refuse to tell you," he said, with such pain in his voice I thought he must be crying.
"You can continue to call me," I offered. "If you want to, that is."
"Yes," he whispered.
"I missed you this week," I admitted.
"Ah, it was a week of endless nights for me."
"I hear you humming in my sleep." I figured if I was expecting the truth from him I needed to be willing to give it, too.
"I imagine you in my arms."
Tears began to flow down my cheeks and I closed my eyes trying to protect my heart. He began singing softly into the phone; I curled into a ball on my bed, and let my love for him tear into my soul.
When he finished singing I admitted something to him, "Masen, my heart is racing and my palms are sweaty."
He whispered, "May I call you again?"
"You may call anytime."
"Bye," was all I managed to get out.
A knock sounded on the door and I accepted the last of the roses with tears running down my face. I didn't know what Masen's reasons were for not meeting me, but I decided right then, I would give him the time he needed. I would focus on school and hope in time we could be together.
I got a call Sunday morning from Rosalie asking if I would be up to another session. I assured her I would be willing to do anything to pass the time and she set up a cab to pick me up at four that afternoon.
I walked into the house without any of my former attitude. I was too distraught emotionally to fight today. She handed me a silk peignoir and I changed into it with no questions asked.
I was led to the studio and found an antique wooden bed with elaborate ropes holding a feather mattress. I was told to lie in the middle and not to worry about moving or talking. I got comfortable and didn't move a muscle.
He finally spoke over the intercom. "What's wrong with you today?"
"Nothing," I growled.
"Do you want me to paint you sad?"
"Paint whatever you want, you do anyway."
"What do you mean?" he sounded offended.
"Just stop talking to me and paint."
I heard him laugh and I tried to ignore him. "This is new," he finally said.
I blinked back the tears threatening to escape and mentally warned myself about not letting him see me cry.
I was still for another hour before he spoke again. "I don't like you looking sad, it doesn't fit. May we try something?"
"What?" I asked with trepidation.
"Pull the blanket over your body and sit up as if waiting for your man."
I hesitantly pulled the blanket up and at the same time pulled up my knees. I placed my head on them and looked forlornly into the lights.
"Lower the strap of your gown," he said, with a slight hesitation.
I continued to stare into the lights as I lowered the strap off of my shoulder and onto my arm. I had no idea what he wanted my face to look like so I tried to imagine Masen staring back at me. I licked my lips and then bit on the bottom one as I wished he would step from behind the lights and let me finally see his face.
"Beautiful," I heard Mr. Cullen whisper.
My eyes automatically closed and I brought my own finger to my lip, touching it slightly. For some reason the motion caused tears to flow from my eyes.
"Stop," he said forcefully, "No crying."
"I'm sorry," I exploded. "How silly of me to assume my face would affect your painting. It's not like you couldn't just paint another models face over mine. And, just how does my crying keep you from working? Look around you, sourpuss, you don't exactly emote happiness in your work."
"Why did you come to the gallery?" he yelled loudly, "I never invited you."
I gasped and was surprised he had seen me there. I didn't see anyone who looked like he was the celebrated artist being fawned over.
"It's a public gallery. I am part of the public."
"It was a private showing," he seethed.
"Of MY face," I yelled back at him.
"Is that why you came, to see if I did justice to your face?" His voice was getting pretty loud.
"Turn off that damn intercom and talk to me like a man," I insisted. "I came to see YOUR face, you ass. I just had to know what such a hateful son-of-a-bitch looks like."
"Fix your clothing," he said softly.
"Fix your clothing, your breast is showing."
It was the final straw. I had no dignity left at all. I pulled the silk from my body, not caring if he saw me in only my panties, and grabbed my shirt and jeans and dressed quickly. I heard the door softly shut and knew he left.
I walked over to the painting and saw his unfinished work. I was lying in the bed in a man's arms. The man didn't have a face yet, but my mind immediately imagined Masen. I grabbed the painting from the easel and left the room.
Rosalie met me in the courtyard. "I haven't called a cab yet," she informed me.
"Fine, just tell him I will be walking and to pick me up."
"You can't take that," she insisted.
"Like hell, I can't. This will be my payment for today. It isn't even finished."
She turned to run back to the house and I kept right on walking down the driveway. I heard loud footsteps coming up behind me and turned to find Emmett. He looked very embarrassed and kept rubbing his neck and stammering. I finally put him out of his misery.
"What are you supposed to tell me?" I asked.
"Yeah, um….Edward wants his painting back."
"I'm buying this one."
He chuckled to himself and added, "I really don't think you can afford it."
"It can't be that much, it isn't even finished. What does he want for it?"
"He won't sell an unfinished painting. I can assure you that."
"Fine," I finally conceded. "Tell him I am buying this, so he can't sell it. Tell him I want him to finish it by adding a man that is pale, with copper hair, and a shade of brown eyes."
I realized that didn't sound too detailed, but it was all I had of Masen. Emmett stared at me like he had seen a ghost. He only nodded and reached out for the painting.
"Obviously, I can't afford this," I told him. "So tell Mr. Cullen I will work it off."
Emmett smiled knowingly and nodded toward the house. "Come wait inside. The cab won't be here for awhile."
I agreed and followed him into the house. He led me to the library and headed off with my painting. I heard the whine of the camera and kept my nose in my book while I lifted my hand high to flip him off. I couldn't even express into words how much I despised Edward Cullen.
You're the One I Want
It was late by the time I made it home, showered, and dressed for bed. I was lying in the dark thinking of Masen when my phone rang.
"Hello," I said in relief.
"Tough day?" he teased.
"You have no idea, but it's finally looking up."
"I'm glad I can be a high point in your day."
"You are most definitely a high point." I told him. "I spent the day with the vampire."
I heard a noise from Masen that sounded like he was just trying not to sneeze or cough.
"I assume it didn't go well." He finally said.
"He is such a hateful man."
"What leads you to believe that?"
"He has contempt for everything and everyone. He won't even speak to me unless it is over an intercom, but feels it is okay to watch me through a surveillance camera in his library. Who does that kind of thing?"
"I'm sure he is not comfortable outside of his studio. Maybe that is the only place he can truly be himself."
"Well, he is hateful to me there, too, so I guess his true self is just plain hateful."
"Why do you keep returning?"
I sighed and thought about the portrait that would keep me returning forever to pay it off. "He has something I want." I finally explained.
"What would that be?"
"This is going to sound so stupid, but one of his paintings reminds me of you…..I know I have no idea what you look like, but it is the you I imagine."
He laughed softly. "Bella, don't return on my account. I can't stand the thought of making you miserable."
"Well, it's all I have….for now, unless you are willing to send me a picture of yourself."
He took a long drawn out breath. "I don't think that would be a good idea."
"Masen, I don't care what you look like, please believe me."
He was quiet for a long time. "I hate telling you no so often."
"I'll wait," I assured him, as I sighed in frustration.
"Tell me something I can do for you, something I can say yes to."
"Can you make me a CD of your music?"
"Yes, love." He said the word yes with such a loving tone I was putty in his hands.
"Is there anything I can say yes, for you?"
"If the time ever comes when I need you to be open minded, will you promise to try?"
"Masen, you don't even need to ask me that. I would always be open minded where you're concerned. I think I'm a pretty open minded person."
"What about Mr. Cullen, how open minded are you there?
"That's not a fair question."
"Why is that?"
"He won't let anyone close to him. You can't reserve judgment on a person unwilling to participate in the human race."
Masen laughed and I wasn't quite sure what he was laughing about. "What is your favorite color, Bella?"
"I like mixed colors, shades and blends, ya know?"
"Okay," he chuckled, like I was a complete idiot.
"What about you?" I asked him.
"I like the color brown."
"It's warm and inviting, and kind, and gentle, and soft..."
"All that from brown," I laughed.
"I guess I got carried away."
"How many siblings do you have?" I wanted information about his family so I could figure him out a little more.
"Wow, you come from a big family. Besides Alice and Jasper, what are the other's names?"
"Why? You told me Alice and Jasper, why can't you tell me the others?"
"Nope," he repeated.
"Are they famous?"
"Do you have any idea how frustrating you are?"
"Yes. That I am fully aware of."
"Can you tell me anything about your parents?" I pushed. I thought for sure he would deflect, but he began speaking and I could hear the emotion in his voice.
"I have wonderful, saintly parents. They give me hope in humanity."
"Wow…that's incredible," I said in shock. "Mine are…busy," I chuckled.
"Are you not close to your parents?" he asked with sudden interest.
I thought for a moment about how to describe my family dynamics. It wasn't like we didn't get along, but we offered each other space and privacy. I finally said, "I love my folks, but we have our own lives and we are all good with it."
"Would you ever leave Washington?" he asked hesitantly.
I laughed loudly and admitted my limited life experiences. "I leave every day through books, but I've only been in Arizona and Washington for my long eighteen years of life. I would love to see the world."
"I would love to give you the world," he said softly.
I wanted to ask him how that could ever happen when he refuses to meet me and refuses to even tell me his siblings names. I was silent for a few moments and he didn't try to fill the void. I didn't want to call to end so I quickly thought up a new questions.
"Okay, what's your favorite food?"
He laughed before answering. "I am an avid hunter."
"Like deer and elk?"
"Something like that."
"Doesn't it make you sad to kill a beautiful animal?" I had to admit I wasn't big on animal rights and my father was an avid fisherman, but I couldn't imagine shooting a deer.
"Everyone makes choices, Bella. What's your favorite meal?"
"Okay," he said hesitantly.
"Of course, what else could it be, Mia Bella?" His laughter sounded like music to my ears. I felt so comfortable talking with him and the aggravation from earlier today melted away.
"Have you ever been in love?" I asked, hoping he wouldn't refuse to answer.
"Only recently," he whispered.
I wasn't sure if he was referring to me or not and I got all tongue tied. "Um…I…well…"
"Have any young men stolen your heart?" He asked softly, and sounded like he wasn't sure he wanted to hear the answer.
"Only recently," I repeated his words.
He sighed heavily and didn't speak for a moment. "I really should leave you alone," he said, and then groaned as if in pain.
"I would rather you trust me," I pushed.
"I think Alice gave me the wrong number on purpose," he said, more to himself than to me.
"I think Alice is a brilliant woman," I said with confidence.
He laughed for a moment and then sighed again. "I better let you sleep."
"I will dream of you tonight," I said boldly.
"I will imagine you in my arms."
Visions of Edward's painting entered my mind and I knew I would pay any amount he wanted, just to have that painting as my own.
My dreams were disjointed as I was consumed by my lover. I called for him, panted in his arms as his fingers touched me in intimate places. My body was on fire as it writhed in its own need. I imagined vampires licking me softly until I couldn't take it anymore. "God, I want you," I screamed. "Bite me," I begged the creatures.
"Never," they replied, but they didn't pull away as my hands wandered around their cold bodies. "Masen," I called out, into the chaos of feelings. I searched for him but all I could see were the dripping fangs of the monsters.
I woke up shivering the next morning and checked the temperature in my loft. It was a comfortable 72 degrees and I wondered if I was coming down with a cold or something. I decided to double up on my vitamins.
I dressed for school and noticed all the posters around the quad announcing an upcoming Halloween dance. I was thinking about going home for the weekend. Frat boys vomiting while dressed as Ironman or Speed racer was not my idea of fun.
After my classes I got a text from Rosalie telling me my portrait was finished. I asked her if I could pick it up and she arranged a cab for me. I was anxious when I entered the gallery. I didn't want Edward to be around, but I needed to know what his terms were for payment.
I heard the intercom crackle and come to life. "Hello, Ms. Swan. I was told you wanted one of my paintings."
"Only if you finished it the way I asked?"
"I don't take requests," he said adamantly.
I felt my hands pull into a fist and took a deep breath to calm myself. "Can I buy it or not?"
"It's against the wall," he said rudely.
I walked over to where a canvass was turned backwards and flipped it around to look at it. I felt my heart sink. It was the other model, the one he had painted me with before.
"I don't want it," I said disappointed.
"Why?" He said angrily.
"I didn't want it of your model, I wanted somebody else."
"Why do you think this is one of my models?"
"Because I saw him at your showing, he was in a back room, probably hiding from you so he wouldn't be yelled at, too."
"Is his face somehow offensive to you?"
"No, he's too perfect for my liking. He looks like he stepped out of a catalog or something.
"Attractive people offend you?"
"No, I want to imagine someone else and I can't if I know the person in the painting. I have seen this guy, so I don't want the painting to look like him."
"Fine, leave it."
I felt tears well up in my eyes. I was so riddled with disappointment and wanted something of Masen I could stare at and keep close. I turned back to the picture. It wasn't completely unlike what I imagined Masen to be. The hair was shorter and had some copper mixed with the brown. The eyes were a strange golden color; but maybe I could imagine this into Masen, if I tried hard enough.
"How much is it?"
"What was that?" he asked over the speaker.
"If I take it, how much money do you want?"
I heard some rustling of papers and it sounded like he put his hand over the speaker to talk with someone. He finally came back and said, "Take it."
"I can't do that, Mr. Cullen. I'm willing to model for you to pay for it. Just tell me how much I will owe you?"
"Two weekends," he said with finality.
"Okay, um…I'm going home over Halloween weekend, so can I make it this weekend and then skip one?"
Again I heard the rustling sound and I could tell he was talking to someone else in the room with him. He finally turned his attention back to me. "My sister is throwing a Halloween party and would like for you to be here," he said rudely.
"Sorry, I don't do the whole monster mash thing." I couldn't imagine anything more miserable than spending time with Rosalie and Edward.
"Excuse me," he asked,
"I don't like to dress up, Okay."
"You wouldn't have to dress up, and you could invite someone if you like."
My mind instantly went to Masen. Maybe he would be willing to meet me if he could wear a costume. I suddenly got excited about the possibility. "Can I get back to you?" I asked.
"One last thing, Ms. Swan."
"Of course there is," I mumbled, and looked away from the lights.
"I want you to model for a statue."
My head snapped back in the direction of his voice. "Nude?" I asked, wanting to make sure we understood each other. Although, he had already seen my breast and could most likely paint it anyway.
"Of course not," he spit back.
I looked down and then nodded. "Sure, when do I start?"
"Can you come on Wednesday evening?"
"Does it count towards payment of my picture?" I didn't mean for it to sound like I wanted the least amount of time I could manage in his presence. I just wanted to pay off the painting and not feel obligated to him.
"No, two weekends for that. I will pay you for Wednesday."
"Deal," I said, as I picked up my portrait. I walked out to find Rosalie waiting for me by the cab.
"So how elaborate is the party going to be?" I asked her.
"What party?" she said, looking confused.
"Edward said you were planning a Halloween party."
"No, I'm not," she said, as if she wanted to smack him.
I was confused as to why he would lie and realized he wanted his statue finished quickly. I was a little disappointed and had been looking forward to asking Masen to come. He probably would have refused anyway.
Rosalie suddenly stiffened as if she heard someone speaking to her. She appeared to be a little angry when she looked at me. "I'm sorry, Bella; I wasn't paying attention to your question. Yes, I am having a Halloween party and would love for you to come."
"I think I'm required to be there," I said reluctantly. "Is Edward going to make an appearance in costume, so nobody knows who he is?"
"I'm not sure," she said with a tight jaw. She seemed awfully angry for someone talking about a party.
I got inside the cab and left. It took me half a minute to find the perfect spot for my portrait. I put it against the wall right in my line of sight from my bed. I stared at it as I waited for Masen to call.
I jumped when my phone rang and answered laughing.
"You sound like you are in a better mood," his beautiful voice came over the line.
"Much better," I told him, as I stared into the face of my illusionary man.
"That makes me happy," he said. "To know you are not sad."
"I have a huge favor to ask of you. Please say you will think about it before saying no right off the bat."
"If it is in my power to do, I will gladly do it."
"I hope so, I was invited to a Halloween party and I would like you to come as my guest." The other end of the line was silent. "You can wear a costume. Nobody would know who you are?"
"I would have to insist on remaining in my costume the entire night, as well as coming and going alone."
My heart sped up at the thought he was actually considering coming. "You will let me know who you are, right? I mean, you will tell me which costume you are wearing so I can find you."
"I will let you pick my costume," he added.
I screamed loudly and actually jumped up and down on my bed. Then suddenly stopped, "Masen, promise me you won't stand me up again. I couldn't take that so please don't lie to me."
"I promise," he said assuredly.
"Any costume I want?"
"Within reason, no Adam and Eve," he laughed loudly.
"How about the Phantom and Christine?"
"A bit predictable, don't you think?"
"I will ask Alice, this is her forte. She would be insulted if I didn't allow her to help."
I was happy to relinquish responsibility to someone more capable than myself. I suddenly had an idea. "I'm sure Rosalie wouldn't mind if Alice came, and Jasper could come, too."
He chuckled and I felt he was laughing at my enthusiasm. "I will mention it to them."
"Masen, you can't imagine how excited I am."
He sighed and then moaned. "Oh, Bella."
I could tell he was wavering so I quickly tried to calm him. "Don't over think this, please, just come and let whatever happens happen."
"I must be there," he exhaled. "I want you to feel my arms around you."
I looked at my portrait and smiled. I couldn't tell him I felt his arms around me in my dreams because I was afraid he would feel that was enough. So I simply replied, "There is nothing in the world I want more."
The Price of Companionship
When I showed up on Wednesday evening, I was going to do everything I could to play nice with Edward. I would not complain and I would not comment on his work. Rosalie showed me to the library and I forced myself to smile when I heard the camera move.
I was deep into my book when I heard Rosalie whispering to someone. I looked at the camera and tiptoed to the doorway, where I stood very quietly. I soon heard Jake's voice. I guess I would be modeling with Jake again for the statue.
"I tried to get her to go with me that night…she cancelled on me. What was I supposed to do?" Jake whispered.
"Don't let it happen again," Rosalie said forcefully.
"Come on, I have a girlfriend. I can't keep Edward's women occupied."
"Woman, just this one, and he is paying you handsomely to watch her I might add."
"Yeah, but what am I supposed to do when my girlfriend catches us at the mall again? It will be a dead giveaway don't you think?"
My blood was boiling. I don't know why Edward would make Jake take me on a date to watch me, but I was so angry and I was going to find out. I walked into the hallway and Jake looked up with a shocked expression on his face.
"I'm sure Leah would understand coworkers grabbing a shake." Jake's eyes widened at the mention of his girlfriends name. "What I'm not sure about, is why Mr. Cullen feels the need to pay men to go out with me. What business is it of his who I date?"
Rosalie looked livid. She glared at me and took a step in my direction. "This was a private conversation."
I wasn't about to back down to her. I took a deep breath and said, "It stopped being private the moment money was exchanged."
Rosalie tensed and her jaw tightened. "You will have to take this up with Edward."
"Ya think?" I said sarcastically, and then stepped around her. I headed for the Gallery and expected Jake to follow, but he never came.
I waited, and waited, and waited. I finally walked back toward the library looking for anyone. I sat in the chair and listened for the camera. I heard it after only a few short moments. I turned my face up toward the bubble. "I want to talk to you and I'm not leaving until I do."
"What?" Came his irritated voice over yet another intercom.
"Why?" I demanded.
"You will have to be more specific."
I narrowed my eyes at him and shook my head in consternation. "You know damn well what I mean. You probably hear every conversation inside this house, don't play stupid with me."
"I thought you should have options," he said quietly.
My mouth fell open. "What makes you think I don't? And what kind of option is a taken man?" He was silent and I waited angrily. I heard the speaker click on but he didn't speak. "Say it, Mr. Cullen. Tell me what supposed flash of brilliance made you think I needed you to interfere with my life."
"I guess your lack of charm had me confused and I thought you could use a date," he offered in his defense.
"What?" I screamed at him as I fought my tears. "You of all people judging me on my charm; I couldn't pay a woman enough to date you."
"I apologize," he said sincerely. "I didn't mean to offend you."
I felt tears begin to fall from my eyes and I looked away from the camera. He hit a nerve and brought my insecurities out into the open. Maybe Masen sensed something unapproachable about me and didn't want to waste his time unless he was securely hidden in a costume.
"Am I really that awful?" I whispered, as I lowered my head and wiped my tears.
"No," he said softly, "but I am really that dim-witted. I hope this doesn't make you change your mind… about working with me."
I crossed my arms and tried to come up with one good reason to continue putting myself through this.
"Again, I apologize," he offered softly.
I nodded and told myself I could not allow him to be the bigger person. "I will meet you in the studio."
I left the library and when I got to the studio door it was open. I walked in to see a weird contraption on the platform. Rosalie entered the room and nodded for me to move closer to the devise. "This will save your neck and back from too much strain, he wants you to stand looking up towards the ceiling."
I stood the way she instructed as she buckled me into a harness. My head rested comfortably on a soft ledge keeping it tilted up. The support on my back made me feel like I was floating.
I could hear Edward working a lot closer to me, but since I was strapped in I couldn't see him. He never spoke and I never complained.
I was relieved when Rosalie returned, since I needed to pee so badly. She unhooked me quickly and told me the cab was waiting. I asked her if I could use the bathroom first and she simply nodded.
I was making my way down the hall after using the restroom when I saw the model Edward used for my picture walking across the studio room. I jogged up to the door hoping to talk with him, but I couldn't see him anywhere. I finally decided it would be better if I didn't speak to him. I was sure Edward would make him take me on a date or impregnate me or something.
I walked to the cab and Rosalie handed me a card. "What's this?"
"My party," she said with exasperation.
"Oh yeah, I will be attending and I'm bringing a guest," I smiled at her.
"Oh goodie," she said, as if to mock me.
"Tell Emmett I said I really miss him." I was sure she would get my point.
When I got home I was anxious for Masen to call. I paced, and cleaned out my closet, and paced some more. I finally got ready for bed and was about to call him when my phone rang.
"Good evening, love."
"You will never believe what that vampire did," I said, without returning his greeting.
"What other vampires do I know?"
He laughed and cleared his throat. "What did he do?"
"He PAIDa man to ask me on a date, like he is Lord of all romance or something. He wouldn't be able to have a relationship if he was the last man on earth, but he assumed I would need help. What gall, what arrogance, he is just such a…a….an ass mixed with a bastard, topped with a son-of-a-bitch."
Masen laughed loudly and couldn't stop to respond.
"I hate him, Masen, I truly hate him. The only reason I'm agreeing to go to his stupid party is to meet you. If you say you aren't coming, I will stick my head in the oven."
"Don't hurt your pretty head, I will be there. I promise."
"I pray he doesn't come and ruin it. I may need you to defend my honor and beat him to a pulp."
"This is a whole new side of you, Bella."
"He brings out the worst in me. But you, Masen, you bring out the best. No more talk of him. How are you doing?"
"Better, you make me smile."
"Do you have my CD yet?"
"Yes, I finished it today. I will get it right over to you."
"Thank you, I will cherish it. Did Alice agree to help with the costume choices?"
"She was more than willing to help. She also agreed to come, and drag Jasper with her."
"May I meet them, too?"
"So what are the costumes going to be?" I was beyond curious and my excitement couldn't be contained.
"Well, according to Alice, it is a very long process and I didn't give her much time. She assured me they will be unique and fit our individual personalities."
"Wow, she must love Halloween."
"She loves any party."
I closed my eyes and tried to imagine the perfect costume for my mystery man. I spoke without realizing what I was saying. "I think I would know you, Masen, without ever seeing you, I feel like I would know you in a crowd."
"Everyone has different sides to their personality. You have only experienced the good side of Masen."
"I don't think it is possible for you to have a bad side. You are so perfect."
"I assure you I have my own monster within."
"Tell me one bad thing about you," I challenged, refusing to believe he was less than perfect.
"I am too selfish," he said right away.
"It is late and I am keeping you awake. I should be ashamed."
"You should," I teased, "Sing me to sleep to make up for your egotistical nature."
He began singing softly and I pulled my pillow into my arms pretending it was him. I remembered hearing a piano softly playing, but I was too far gone to respond.
My blankets were tucked in tightly as my teeth began to chatter. Soft humming put me back into deep sleep. I dreamed of being at the party and seeing Masen across the room. I tried to make my way over to him, but as I passed the window someone motioned for me. I walked closer to see who it was and an arm reached out and grabbed me.
I screamed and sat up in my bed. I felt a whoosh of air move over me and heard the soft click of my door shutting. I jumped from the bed and ran over to see the door was still locked. Nothing seemed out of place and I assumed I was just dreaming when I heard the noise. I went back to bed but couldn't take my eyes off the door. Something wasn't right and I had the strongest feeling someone had been in my room.
I was dragging through classes the next day and was relieved to see a package by my door when I got home. I opened it quickly to find the CD Masen promised, along with a beautiful old skeleton key with a heart in the handle. A note read, "You hold the key to my heart."
I hurried in the door and put the CD in my computer and let it play all afternoon. I found a chain and put the key on it to wear around my neck. I was beginning to learn some of the tunes and was able to sing along with them. My voice was nothing compared to the beautiful sounds coming out of Masen's mouth.
I received a text saying Edward would like to work for about an hour today and wondered if I was willing to come. I asked Rosalie if it would go toward my painting and she assured me, again, only the weekends would count.
Within minutes a cab was honking for me. She took me right to the studio and hooked me into the contraption. I was lost in my thoughts of Masen and happily humming his music as Edward worked noisily out of my view. I began to sing one of the songs softly to myself when something happened to send my heart crashing into my feet. I heard it, no matter how softly he was trying to sing, I heard him sing the first line of the next verse without my accompaniment.
I gasped loudly and froze. All sounds from his direction stopped.
"Did you send him?" I whispered. I was trying desperately to remember when Masen's calls had started in relationship to working for Edward.
It was silent for several moments and I heard the intercom crackle to life. "What are you talking about?"
"If you have anything to do with this I will never work for you again," I threatened.
"I don't have all day, Ms. Swan, what are you talking about?"
"The song you were singing? Where did you learn it?"
"Don't be ridiculous," he sneered.
"I won't ask you again," I screamed at him. My blood was ice cold and my entire body was shaking.
"Where do you think I learned it? You have been singing it nonstop for the past half hour. You are completely incapable of remaining quiet."
I tried to remember if I had been humming or singing. I honestly couldn't remember which. I was too caught up in my thoughts of Masen and maybe I had been singing.
This whole situation was getting ludicrous. I was so concentrated on Masen I was imagining him in my room at night. But, after hearing what Edward did with Jake I wasn't too sure about Masen's intentions with me. I was slowly falling apart and second guessing everything, and it needed to stop, now.
"Are you coming to the party?" I asked Edward.
He didn't answer and I wondered if he had left the room or if I should take it to mean he wouldn't be making an appearance. I heard Rosalie enter the room. She came over to unhook me. I looked toward the statue and could see it was taking shape.
"May I look at it?" I asked Rosalie.
"No," Edward's voice screamed from the speaker.
"Are you coming to the party?" I asked again, knowing he was listening.
"Maybe," he finally answered.
"May I ask what costume you will be wearing?"
"I don't know."
"May I suggest one?"
He was quiet, so I sighed loudly.
"Fine," he said.
"You are the perfect Vampire," I said forcefully. I heard the speaker shut off and Rosalie stood with her mouth open, staring at me. "I just think he would make a great vampire," I said to her stunned face. "I know he makes my blood run cold."
"You don't know him at all," she said, still appearing stunned.
"I know one thing for sure, he doesn't have a heart." I walked past her ashen face and got into the cab.
Fevers and Forever
I woke up Friday morning sicker than I had ever been in my life. I couldn't move my head without vomiting. I didn't bother trying to make it through classes and finally got the energy to text Rosalie and tell her I wasn't sure if I could make it this weekend.
I was hoping it was a twenty-four hour bug and I would be able to drag myself to Edward's studio and begin payment on my portrait. She said to make sure and keep her updated. Nothing else, no 'I hope you feel better,' or even a, "drop dead" which wouldn't surprise me.
I tried to drink a little water, but it only came back up, so I put in Masen's CD and stayed in bed. It was only a few minutes after texting Rosalie that I got a phone call. I didn't bother looking at the ID, since Masen only called after class, and he wouldn't expect me to be home.
After someone called for the third time I got up and brought my phone to my bed. I was almost asleep when it rang again. "What," I yelled with a nasal voice.
"Bella, you sound horrible."
It was the most beautiful voice in the world and I instantly felt a miniscule bit better. "I need my mommy," I teased.
"Does she live close by?"
"Oh, sorry, I guess I didn't tell you my mother lives in Florida with her juvenile husband."
"I'm sorry, love. What can I do for you? Can I send over soup, or juice, or…"
"No, no, stop naming liquids. My stomach can't even hear those words."
"That is not a good sign. You have to stay hydrated."
"I'll try later," I promised him.
"Go back to sleep, may I call to check on you later?"
"Why did you call, Masen?" I hoped my weakened condition wouldn't keep him from backing out of this commitment to come to the party.
"Oh, um, I just wanted to talk to you about Halloween. No rush, we have plenty of time."
"I would love to hear from you later. Gotta run." I threw my phone and just barely made it back to the bathroom in time. I really wanted to question him on why he called when I should have been in class, but my sensitive stomach couldn't handle the inquisition. I wondered if he 'felt' I needed him.
Maybe, we were becoming attuned to each other and could sense something was wrong. More likely, he was trying to back out of coming to the party and there was no way I was going to give him an out.
I had slept most of the day when a soft knock woke me up. "Please, don't be Masen," I said to myself. I would die of embarrassment to meet him looking like death.
I looked out to see the head of a very tiny woman. I opened the door and she turned to smile at me. "Hi, Bella, I'm Alice." She was beyond beautiful and my self esteem scampered into the farthest recesses of my brain. I opened the door for her to come in and began apologizing for my appearance. She assumed I meant because I was sick.
"My brother wanted me to see if you needed anything." She stepped forward and put her ice cold hand on my forehead. I was more confused than ever as to why he would send his sister but refuse to meet me in my dire need.
"Okay, right to bed and I will make you some tea," she instructed. "When did you last take Tylenol?"
"I can't keep anything down," I whined.
"Peppermint tea will calm your stomach, shoo get in bed."
I walked the few feet to my bed and lay down. I watched her set a large leather bag on my table and pull a kettle from it. She was everything I imagined Masen to be; kind, beautiful, thoughtful, it must be a family trait.
"Alice," I said to her, "tell me about Masen."
I noticed her brow furrowed for a second then she smiled at me. "My brother is a wonderful man, far better than he believes he is. He is extremely talented as you well know."
"Yes, I have been playing his CD all day."
She bit her lip like she had said something wrong and nodded. "Bella, I was so glad to receive an invitation to the Halloween party. It will be so much fun. I have the best idea for your costume and for the first time my brother will be forced to wear what I choose for him."
She giggled and it sounded like bells ringing, just like Masen. She poured the steaming water into a mug and brought it over to me. I sat up against some pillows and took a small sip of the tea, as she sat on the foot of my bed.
"Is Masen big on parties?" I asked, searching for any information about him.
"No, he is not fond of crowds."
"Tell me what he looks like," I pried.
Her eyes were drawn right to my painting and she looked at me with a strange expression.
"Oh, never mind that," I explained. "I don't even know the guy. It is someone my employer uses as a model."
"Who's your employer?" she asked, but it sounded forced, like she was trying to be interested.
"An awful man, I call him a vampire, but his name is Edward Cullen."
Her eyes were wide and she actually let her mouth drop open.
"Have you heard of him?"
She nodded awkwardly.
"Have you ever seen him?"
She took a deep breath and looked at me very hard. Finally she nodded toward the picture, "Bella…that is Edward Cullen."
I spit my tea across the covers and stared back at the picture. "Are you sure?" I asked her; unable to believe what I was hearing.
"Yes, I am sure. I went to a lecture he held once."
"That bastard," I said softly under my breath. I finally looked over at her again. "He sold paintings for millions of dollars as a child?"
"I'm not following," she said.
"I saw an article talking about his art selling for millions, twenty years ago."
"I'm sure it was a misprint."
"It would have to be, maybe they meant two years ago."
She nodded without saying anything.
"Well, Alice, I have to thank you. You saved me hours of free work."
"I am not buying a picture of me lying in that man's arms. I can't stand to look at it, now.
I told him to make it look like Masen," I looked at her, "and I know it sounds stupid because I don't know what Masen looks like. Do you have a picture?"
"I'm sorry; I don't carry pictures with me."
"Please tell me anything, just something I can use to dream of him," I begged.
"You are meeting him soon; I don't want to spoil the surprise." She smiled like I would be pleasantly surprised but I found her vagueness infuriating.
"Can I ask you something personal about him?"
"Okay," she said hesitantly.
"Does he have any deformities? Any scars or something that would make him apprehensive about meeting people?"
She laughed. "No, my brother is pretty much perfect, visually. Although, he does lack a certain ease around people."
"Oh." I suddenly remembered something. "I have to pay your husband back for the computer. I insist."
"Don't be silly, Bella. My brother purchased everything and meeting him is payment enough. We all want him to be happy and you seem to make him very happy."
"Why is it a gorgeous, perfect, rich man, has trouble meeting women?" I was suddenly feeling like she wasn't telling me the whole story.
"He has no idea how wonderful he is, that is what we hope you can do for him," she smiled.
"It will be hard if he only allows me to meet him in a costume," I sighed.
"He'll come around. Edward always does."
"Edward?" I said with distain.
"I'm sorry," she laughed, and smacked her head. "I was thinking about the party. Of course, I meant my brother."
I turned and looked at the painting. I shook my head in disbelief. What kind of fool did Mr. Cullen think I was? I was sure he was laughing at me, knowing he was forcing me to pay for a portrait of someone I despise.
"Are you feeling better?" Alice asked.
"Much, thank you."
"Want to discuss costumes?"
"Yes," I giggled.
"My brother tells me you love books, so I was thinking of a sexy librarian costume."
I immediately began laughing. "That is perfect!"
"I can also guarantee my brother is going to love it."
"What's his costume going to be?"
"He is a lot more difficult. I was thinking Beethoven, powdered wig and all, but it just doesn't feel right."
"What are you wearing?"
"I have the perfect thing for me and Jasper. I will be wearing an old antebellum gown and Jasper will be a confederate soldier."
"I can picture it, Gone with the Wind and all."
"I am so excited, and I usually skip right over Halloween. Tell me more about Masen. What was he like as a child?"
I saw something in her eyes, something making her uncomfortable. "I guess he didn't tell you we are all adopted. I didn't know him as a child."
"Oh, I'm sorry. He didn't tell me, he is very guarded about what information he gives out."
She glanced at the picture and acted like she was going to tell me something but decided against it.
"I have to get going. I will be late." She stood and walked over to get her bag. "I will leave the tea. I hope you feel better soon."
"I can't thank you enough, Alice."
She waved her hand to dismiss the gratitude. "I will see you next week when I bring your costume."
"Thank you, again."
As soon as she walked out the door, I texted Rosalie telling her I was much too sick to come tomorrow. I didn't want to have a huge fight with Edward and miss my opportunity to attend the party. I would deal with him after Halloween.
I had it all planned out in my head. I would march into his studio and push my way past Rosalie right into the bright lights. I would hand him the painting and tell him I wouldn't pay a dime for a picture of his arms holding me. Then I would tell him I had a wonderful man in my life and I hoped he eventually found a vampire to spend his time in hell with.
But, my plan would have to wait until after the party, no matter how irritated Edward made me in the mean time. I climbed out of bed and turned the painting around, so I wouldn't have to look at it. The tea really settled my stomach and I was able to sleep all evening. At ten my phone rang.
"Hello," I said as a smile came to my face.
"You sound much better."
"Thanks to you. I adore your sister."
"She was pretty taken with you, too."
"I wish you could come help me through the night," I suggested, hoping he would have a desire to take care of me.
He sighed, but not as if he was angry. His sigh sounded sad, like he really wanted to come, but couldn't. "Bella," he whispered. "I feel our time is limited, like I will lose you very soon."
"You're wrong," I said adamantly.
"I pray I am."
"I've never met you and I am falling in love with you." I was stunned it fell from my mouth so easily.
"I fear you are falling in love with me because you don't know who I am."
"Who are you?" I begged with my voice for him to tell me.
He was quiet and I wanted to scream for him to just spit it out. To tell me the awful thing he is sure would send me running. But I waited, patiently, silently, for him to speak.
"I am your nightmare." He finally admitted.
"No, you aren't, Masen, you are my daydream."
"I love you," he said so very softly.
Tears came raining down my cheeks and my heart was pounding loudly in my chest. It felt so natural to hear him say those words, as if I had heard them coming from his lips before.
"Say it again," I pleaded.
"I love you," he said a little louder.
"I love you, Bella Swan."
"Remember that, Masen. Remember that until I am in your arms next weekend and you can tell me to my face. If you get scared or nervous or feeling trapped, remember that I love you, and for right now, you love me."
"Not for right now, forever." He said, as if he made some final decision.
"Yes, forever. Please know there is nothing you can say or do to make me stop loving you, Masen."
"We'll see," he sighed.
"No, Masen, you will see. You will see I don't care what you have done in the past or what you look like. To me you are kind, and loving, and talented, and you have made me so happy."
"You are wrong," he said forcefully.
"You're not coming, are you?" I said almost in tears. I could tell by the hesitation in his voice he was planning on standing me up.
"Bella, I promised you I would come and that is a promise I will keep. Find a private place, away from the crowd, and I will come to you. My arms are aching with need to hold you," he said, as if he was in pain.
"One week," I whispered to him.
"It has never felt so long," he moaned.
"I wish I could sleep it away and when I wake it would be Halloween."
"You need to sleep now, love. I want you healthy when we meet," he laughed loudly, "no coughing as I try to kiss you."
My heart jumped with anticipation, "I will double up on my vitamins," I laughed.
"Sweet dreams, my love."
"Always of you, Masen, I love you."
That night I dreamed of the beautiful monster again, but this time when he pulled me through the window, he only held me tightly to his chest. I felt safe and contented as my body turned into the stone of a statue.
All the Worlds a Stage
I stayed in bed for most of the weekend and only heard from Masen once. He was going on a hunting trip with Jasper and would not be in an area where he could call. It was a long weekend and I missed him so much.
By Monday I felt better and was actually up to facing Edward without threatening to kill him. I texted Rosalie, asking her if Edward needed me to come this week, she answered quickly, saying Edward would be preparing for the party and not painting this week.
I had nothing to do and it was driving me crazy. I didn't even have any test or papers to study for. I decided to head to the mall and participate in a little retail therapy. I don't know what got into me but I decided to purchase some really sexy Halloween underwear. I found a black bra with fangs and panties that had fake slashes going down the butt as if I was attacked by a werewolf.
I walked past a costume shop and saw a vampire costume. I wanted to call Edward and tell him his costume was ready, but I had to play nice until after meeting Masen. I purchased a pair of glasses, hanging from a chain around my neck, to go with my librarian costume. I was excited to show them to Alice.
By the time Friday came around I was bouncing off the walls. When I heard a knock at my door I ran to answer it. "Hi Alice," I said too enthusiastically.
"Are we excited?" she asked, as she laughed.
"Oh, I left excited behind days ago. Have you heard from Masen?"
"Jasper called and said things were going well."
"Did they catch anything?"
She smiled at me and I noticed a twinkle in her eye, "Oh yes, it has been a very successful trip."
"Do they hunt often?"
"Yes, not always together. Jasper is working on my brother's…..control."
I looked at her confused and she only turned to pull things out of the large bag she brought with her.
"Go try this on."
I want to show you what I bought. I grabbed my bag and pulled out the glasses and underwear. She widened her eyes and screamed with excitement. "That is perfect, Bella; I wish you had the nerve to wear just the bra and panties."
I choked out a laugh. "Um…that would be a no."
"Go put it all on. I'm dying to see how it looks."
I grabbed the bag and ran to the bathroom. I put on the set I bought and then the fishnet stockings Alice brought. The pencil skirt was very tight but also very comfortable. I put on the white blouse and found it was cut almost to my navel, proudly displaying the black bra. The last thing in the bag was bright red stiletto heels.
When I walked out of the bathroom Alice whistled at me and jumped up and down. "I have the perfect thing for your hair. We will do it up in a bun and hold it with pencils."
I kept looking at my reflection in the mirror and couldn't believe it was really me. "I owe you big time, Alice."
"I can't wait to see Edward's face," she squealed.
"Well, I am praying he doesn't show up. I know it is his sister's party, but I really don't feel like putting up with his sour ass."
She dropped her eyes and began looking at her nails. "I'm going to show up early and dress there. Why don't you meet me and I will do your hair for you."
"Did Rosalie say it was okay? She is just as hateful as Edward, although Emmett is great!"
"She didn't seem so bad when I spoke to her. I actually liked her."
It didn't surprise me to hear Rosalie was kind to Alice. I don't think it would be possible to find something offensive about her. Alice was beautiful and energetic and made any room light up with her mere presence. Rosalie was most likely only mean to the hired help, just like her brother.
"Okay, I will be there at what? 8-8:30?" I asked, and began counting the minutes in my head.
"Perfect," Alice smiled.
"Okay, now you have to tell me how to recognize Masen. What will he be wearing?" I was actually bouncing up and down at the mere anticipation.
"Sorry, he hasn't chosen yet. I think he knows I will tell you, so he is keeping it a secret."
"I thought you were picking it out?"
"I am, but I gave him some options. I really can't tell you, Bella. He wants to surprise you."
I tried to hide my disappointment, but at least he was still planning on coming. If it made him feel more secure to know I wouldn't be able to recognize him, I would have to accept his decision.
"I really miss talking to him. It seems like forever since I heard his voice."
Alice smiled and hugged me lightly and I noticed how cold her tiny body was. She was so thin, and I could understand her fighting circulation problems, but Rosalie was very curvaceous and she was always cold to the touch, too. I wondered if maybe I wasn't just always a little too warm.
I promised her I would show up on time and we said goodnight. I finally had a good nights sleep and heard Masen humming in my dreams. "I love you," I called out in my sleep. "I'll love you forever," he said back in my dream. "Make love to me," I begged unconsciously. "Soon," he replied, causing me to smile widely.
It was raining and I hoped it wouldn't ruin my costume. I threw on sweats and decided to dress at Edward's house. I packed a small suitcase and showed up at five minutes before eight. People were already arriving in costumes and it appeared it was going to be a huge party. The house looked amazing, as if it was professionally decorated.
I stopped someone carrying a food tray and asked if they knew where Rosalie was. They said the women were upstairs getting ready. I walked the long staircase and began looking in rooms.
The house had an opulent otherworldly feel to it. The rooms were decorated in thick draperies and linens in golds and reds. They were exactly what I imagined rooms of renaissance painters would look like.
I opened one room that was very dark, but smelled like paint from Edward's studio. I moved to quickly close the door when something caught my eye. I slowly reached for the light switch, and then walked into the middle of the room.
It was covered with canvasses, all with my face. They were poses I never sat for in clothing I never wore. I turned in a slow circle, staring in shock when someone walked through the door.
Our eyes met and I gasped. His face pulled into a tortured expression and he turned like he was going to leave. He was so much taller than I expected and nothing about him seemed mean or hateful. He looked frightened and vulnerable.
"What is this, Mr. Cullen?" I asked softly. "Why did you paint these?
He turned very slowly to face me, "You know who I am?"
I nodded, trying to find the anger I thought I would be feeling, "Yes, I do."
He looked around at the paintings. "This is my process. I was trying to decide which statue I wanted to sculpt. Don't read too much into it."
His words alone should have ignited fury, but I noticed how his body was shaking and I felt sorry for him. "I never said I was reading anything into it."
He opened his mouth like he was going to speak, but quickly shut it and turned to leave.
"Why?" I yelled after him, wanting him to explain things to my confused mind. I could see in his face he wasn't trying to trick me into a painting he knew I would hate. There had to be another reason.
He stopped, but didn't turn to look at me.
"Why did you put yourself in my painting?" I asked him with a pleading voice.
He shook his head a few times before speaking. "You're a bright girl, Ms. Swan, you figure it out." His voice wasn't filled with guile like it usually was, he was almost pleading with me.
"Edward," I said softly. "Look at me."
He was frozen in place and didn't turn. I reached my hand out, not close enough to touch him, but I felt the need to comfort him for some reason. "Enjoy the party," he finally said, before bolting from the room.
I walked into the hallway in a stunned daze.
Alice ran from a room to grab me. "Hurry, Bella. I have so much to do."
I dressed without saying a word, but my mind was reeling. Alice chatted away, never noticing I wasn't answering her rhetorical questions. When she turned me to the mirror I didn't even know who I was. I had on thick makeup and false eyelashes, but that had nothing to do with the stranger staring back at me in the mirror.
Alice told me over and over again how perfect I looked, but I couldn't even respond. I was too stunned to understand what was going on around me. She grabbed her costume bag and ran to find Jasper. I couldn't even find it within me to wonder what Jasper looked like.
I headed down the stairs into the large room full of costumed people I didn't know. How did I become part of this world? These weren't my people and I felt out of place, not only in this house but in my own skin.
I grabbed two champagne glasses and quickly downed them both, something I had never done in my life. I looked around the room at nothing. I saw costumes, but couldn't even focus on what they were. By the time I made it to the covered veranda on the back of the house I had finished another drink.
I stood in my tall heels looking above the dark forest watching the stars overhead, as the rain clouds slowly parted. It was a cold night, but I didn't feel it. My body was warmed by my hope.
I never heard any footsteps coming up behind me, but they could have been as loud as kettle drums and I wouldn't have noticed. I felt a pair of gloved hands come around my waist and I closed my eyes in joy, not fright.
"Hello, love," he whispered in my ear.
I placed my hands on his and leaned against his chest. He kissed my neck softly and I sighed from the complete bliss it stirred in me. "See there?" he said, pointing to the stars. "That is Gemini, the twins."
"The artist," I said softly.
"Yes, love." His arms tightened around my waist and he ran his silky lips over my cold ear. "You look stunning," he whispered.
His hand moved to pull the pencils from my hair, letting it fall in waves onto his chest. He gently kissed my head several times and I knew it was time to look at the man who had so completely stolen my heart.
I turned slowly to see he was dressed as a mime. He was wearing tight black clothing, accentuating his perfect chest, with thick, white face make-up obscuring his features. His eyes were hidden behind tiny, round wire-rimmed glasses with black glass. His hands were covered with white gloves, and even his hair was cloaked in a black stocking cap.
His costume told me he was playing a part, unwilling to let me really see him, but pretending to be the man I hoped so badly he was. He looked at my outfit and took a very deep breath, then smiled.
I could only think one thing. "You're beautiful, Masen." I said, wondering why he wouldn't meet me and needed to hide behind the generic makeup and glasses. He was perfect, just like his sister said. There had to be some other reason why he wouldn't let me see his face. I stared at my hands lightly resting on his chest, shaking in despair.
He put his finger under my chin and pulled my face up to look at his. "Why are you so sad?" he whispered.
I felt tears build in my eyes. "You're going to leave me," I whispered back to him. "I know that like I know my own name. I don't get to keep you."
He didn't dispute anything or promise to stay; he simply picked up a small vile of some sort of drink off of the railing and offered it to me. It tasted sweet and I took a big sip. He finally moved slowly to put his cold lips on mine and pulled me tightly against him. I let my arms move automatically to his neck and I pulled myself even closer. My heart was running a marathon and my breathing was getting more and more labored.
When he finally pulled back the tears were spilling down my face. He wiped them with his gloved finger. "Tonight is ours, Bella, anything you want. I won't deny you anything."
"Just tonight?" I asked, already knowing the answer.
He didn't speak, but pulled my fingers to his lips. I was beginning to feel the alcohol and it felt like the floor was spinning. I swayed and he instantly wrapped his arms around me.
"Are you okay, Bella?"
"I think I may be a little drunk," I said apologetically. He chuckled, and it reminded me of him….the vampire….the one I hate, but instead of pushing him away I pulled him to me. "I can have anything?" I reiterated.
"Be Masen, and make me believe I'm yours." I wasn't even sure my foggy mind understood what I was asking him. I was talking from my heart and I needed him to be the man I loved and let me spend a night in his arms, without fear of heartbreak, until the morning.
He lifted me into his strong arms and the space around me began to whirl past us. Everything was disconnected and I had to close my eyes until I felt his movement stop. He placed me on a beautiful antique bed, with dark wood and thick coverings. I pulled him down with me and he melted against my body.
He began covering me with kisses and I felt like I didn't have room enough in my body to contain the joy I felt. We couldn't force our lips to leave the other's body. We talked in muffled whispers, keeping our mouths on the other's skin as we spoke.
"Where are we?" I managed to ask.
"In my room," he whispered against my shoulder.
"We're at your house?" In my drunken condition I couldn't recall how long it took us to get here.
"In your room?" I asked again.
"In your bed?"
"Are you mine?" The desperation in my voice even surprised me. I needed his reassurances, I would even accept his lies, but I had to hear the words to stop my heart from breaking.
"Forever," he answered, and I heard the tears in his voice.
Everything else melted away. I was only aware of him, how he smelled, how he breathed heavily against me, how he kissed me so tenderly. My naked body was burning and his cold muscles felt amazing against me. I finally gathered enough coherence to tell him something.
"Masen, I've never been with a man before."
He let his hands stop wandering over my body and moved his face into my neck as he spoke, "I've never been with a woman before," he said softly.
He began to pull away and I quickly wrapped my legs around him. "Don't go," I said, "you promised me tonight."
"I promise you forever," he responded, with so much force I felt like we were transported to another time and place. We couldn't get enough of each other and all I could see, and taste, and smell was him.
He knew exactly how to touch me to make me cry out for more. He was gentle and said beautiful, heartfelt things as we began to move as one.
"Say my name," he begged, and I could feel the trace of panic in his voice. "You know what it is, say it."
"Masen," I said in passion.
"Say My name, Bella," he ordered, while he was panting against me. It was so hard to focus on anything. My body was on auto pilot and all I could feel was his perfect movements. "Say it," he yelled in a familiar growl.
Everything exploded around me as I screamed out in ecstasy, "Edward!"
His body went stiff and he let out an incredible roar. It was animalistic and primal and I made him do that. I brought his body so much happiness that normal sounds couldn't express what he was feeling.
I pulled him to me and told him how much I loved him. He buried his face in my neck and tried to slow his panting. He finally rolled to the side of me and pulled me against his chest.
I could see large streaks in his makeup and knew I must be covered in the white paint, but I still couldn't make out his features. His skin was just more white, under the white.
"Do you hate me?" he asked, with pain dripping from his words.
I was stunned and couldn't imagine why he would ask me such a thing. I just gave him all my love, everything I had to give. "Masen, why would I hate you? I only love you so much more, that was incredible."
He tensed at the mention of his name and I felt him pull away and out of my arms. I tried to keep him close, but he was too strong and easily broke my hold.
"What's wrong," I asked him, as I stared at my empty arms. He stood and walked into the bathroom attached to his room. He had such a beautiful body and I smiled at the sight of him walking away.
I watched as he turned on the sink and got a washcloth wet. He slowly washed the makeup from his face, and when he turned to face me he pulled the cap from his head. He stood perfectly still as my mind fought the alcohol for understanding.
The room began to spin and I couldn't catch my breath. I grabbed the covers and pulled them over my body. "Where's Masen," I screamed at him. "What did you do to him?"
His head fell and he remained where he was while my brain connected the dots. He always defended Edward…he only called when I wasn't posing…he stood me up the night of his show…he wouldn't tell me his sibling's names…Alice never once called him Masen…he put himself in the painting I wanted of Masen…and finally, we never left the house last night.
When realization dawned on me I scrambled away from where he had laid next to me.
I crawled from the bed and grabbed my clothes trying to shield myself from him. I knew it was crazy to hide my body, the body he just had his hands all over, but I felt exposed.
I put on my bra and panties and no matter how quickly I moved all my efforts were in slow motion. I looked down to see the garish pieces I had bought to arouse him.
Pain hit me like a brick, as I turned slowly in a circle wanting everything around me to just disappear. I began to cry in horrible gasping sobs and collapsed onto my knees to hide my face in my hands. I had sex for the first time with HIM. I had just made love to a man I hate, but even more awful was the fact the man I love doesn't exist.
Edward walked over to me and knelt by my side. He didn't try to touch me and he didn't seem embarrassed that he wasn't wearing any clothing. "I can explain," he said quietly without any emotion. He wasn't being callous; he was hollow inside and was consumed by his own grief.
I shook my head back and forth. There was no explanation for this, not from him, or Rosalie, or even Alice. He let me believe he was someone else. He let me fall in love with a ghost. It hurt even more to know he had paid Jake, my Masen, was trying to pawn me off on another man.
I looked up at him to see his eyes racked with guilt. My voice was weak but filled with hatred. "You can't explain this away; you lied to me over and over again. You paid another man to take me out. You made love to me pretending to be someone else. There isn't any explanation."
He tried to plead with me. He leaned close, but I recoiled away from him.
"I tried everything I could not to fall in love with you, Bella. I can't even paint anymore, because all I see is your face," his voice was crying, but his eyes held no tears.
"Poor, Edward," I said with distain, as I stood to glare down at him. "How awful it must be for you."
"You told me you would be open minded," he pleaded.
"I was open minded when I saw you earlier, I was open minded when I waited for you in the dark, and I was even open minded when you carried me to your bed. But I stopped when you tricked me into having sex with you."
"You called out my name, Bella," he said, as he closed his eyes in tearless sobs.
"When we made love it was my name on your lips, not his."
I drew my hands into fists and screamed down at him, "Not his? Do you hear yourself…there is no him." I grabbed my stomach which threatened to empty its contents onto the floor. "You are a monster; you are my nightmare after all."
He shook his head in agreement and then added, "I'm just pointing out you knew, on some level, you knew all along."
I stood there completely humiliated and heartbroken as he tried to tell me I knew what I was doing. I grabbed my skirt and blouse and looked back at him one last time. "I hate you, Edward Cullen. I hate you more than I have ever hated anyone in my life."
He dropped his head and then nodded. "It doesn't change the fact that I love you, and that I will love you, forever."
"Whatever helps you sleep at night," I spat at him, and walked out of his room.
I quickly put my blouse on and hopped into the skirt without zipping it up. Rosalie met me at the bottom of the stairs with a shocked look on her face. She knew, and had helped him trick me into his bed. A routine they most likely pulled on naïve college girls, over and over again.
"You are a rude, hateful, bitch," I said, as I looked into her eyes and then walked around her and out the door.
I was headed down the driveway when Emmett pulled up next to me inside a huge jeep. He motioned for me to get in, and knowing I couldn't walk home, I obliged.
"Just don't speak to me," I warned him.
He smiled, showing off some deep dimples, when I glared at him he raised his hands in surrender. "I only need an address."
I gave him my address and stared out the window as he drove. I couldn't help the tears that kept falling and was glad he was driving so fast. When we pulled into my apartment complex he turned toward me.
"Bella, please don't turn against him. He has never been in love, ever. He didn't know what he was doing."
"And what about you, Alice, Rosalie, and Jasper, you didn't know what you were doing?"
"No, we didn't," he defended. "We were so hopeful Edward finally found someone and never expected him to fall for a hu…" Emmett shut his mouth tightly then muttered, "It's probably all for the best, anyway."
I climbed out of the jeep and turned back to him. "Just so you know; I've never been in love either. And I didn't lie to him." I went into my apartment without watching Emmett drive away.
I showered and tried to scrub away the memory of Edward, but it wouldn't come off. It was a film that I could push around but not remove. He would forever be a part of me know matter what I did to try and forget. This was the forever he gave me; the memory of my first time would always be of Edward Cullen.
I crawled into my bed, and tried to shut the light of morning out of my eyes. I cried, and cried and couldn't stop the night from replaying over, and over again in my head. He was so tender, and so loving, and that made it all the worse. He told me he loved me and he didn't want to exist without me in his life. How could Edward say those things and be so hateful whenever I was around him?
I thought back to our phone calls and how he was so cryptic. He had called me while I was in his own house, right down the hallway from him. Why couldn't he just step forward and tell me who he was, let me see his face and explain why he used Masen as a cover?
There had to be another reason he needed to hide behind a persona. He was still lying to me and I was determined to get to the bottom of it. I gave him everything I had and he owed me the truth.
I got up and got dressed, then hailed a cab to make the long drive to his house. I pounded on the door for several minutes. Nobody ever came to answer. I tried the latch and it opened easily.
I ran up the stairs to his room. Nothing had changed, the bed was still a mess and the evidence of my ignorance stained the sheets. I looked in the bathroom and it was empty. I pulled the curtains back and looked into the massive back yard.
Staring up at me was my own face. He had finished the statue after all and placed it right where it looked up at him. I was filled with rage….my face was smiling. How dare he carve my face smiling up at him.
I ran down the stairs and into his studio and grabbed a mallet and headed outside. The statue was massive and I couldn't even reach the head from the ground. I ran over to the deck and pulled a chair up to the base.
I climbed from the chair onto the likeness of my back. I worked my way around to the front by sitting on the image of my shoulder. I planted one foot on my stone breast and got enough leverage to stand and swing the mallet as hard as I could into the representation of my own face.
Everything happened so quickly I couldn't respond fast enough. The rain soaked ground gave way under the weight of the statue and sent it crashing to the ground. I screamed as the heavy stone fell onto my abdomen, pinning me to the wet earth. Pain shot up my spine then everything went numb.
I tried to lie perfectly still until my fingers felt the warm blood pooling at my side. I tried to lift the heavy statue off of me, but it wouldn't budge. I began screaming loudly hoping someone was around and could hear me. As the day wore on I began to give up hope. I was getting cold and was sure I wouldn't be able to make it through the night.
My mind began playing tricks on me. I could hear Masen calling for me, telling me I was mistaken and he was just out of reach, waiting for me. He was real and if I could just come to him, he could prove it.
I sang his songs and hummed his melodies. I could hear him telling me how much he loved me, but his voice somehow became Edward's voice. He was telling me softly in my ear that he loved me and how he knew I could never love him back. He apologized for coming only in my dreams, but it was the only place he could exist with me.
He tucked the covers around me to stop my body from shivering. It was so real my shaking body, lying in the mud, calmed. He told me everything he couldn't tell me when I was awake. He told me of his childhood and of his lonely existence with his family.
He confessed the one thing he could never tell my conscious mind. The reason we could never be together, the thing he was so certain would drive me away from him forever. He told me he was a vampire.
My heart ached for him and not just in my dreams, but in reality. I wanted the phantom who came at night to talk sweetly and sing me his love. He wasn't Masen or Edward, just my love, my heart, and my soul.
I needed him to come save me, not from the cold wetness leaching the life from my body. I needed him to come save my heart. To say whatever he needed to say to patch it back together. I was slipping away and only one thing gave me the will to fight.
Everything changed as I stared death in the face. I was forced to take a long look at myself and I didn't like what I saw. I wanted to hurt Edward so badly that I did what I was accusing him of doing.
If only I could have a chance to tell him I was sorry for lashing out at him. If he was Masen, any part of Masen, than there was good in him. I was so fixated on Masen that I never gave Edward a chance. I came to work with an attitude and I read something negative into everything he said.
I never showed kindness or acceptance of him. I talked about him, complained about him, not only to others but directly to him, over the phone. But he still called back, and he still wanted me to pose for him. He painted us together and I mocked him for it. I wasn't worthy of his love.
I was trying to stay awake. If thinking about what an awful person I was could keep me focused on breathing, I would do that. I looked down at the face of the statue pinning me to the ground, to see my own face, cracked down the middle where I had rendered the blow. It was exactly how I felt.
I heard a voice coming out of the dark forest. I didn't have the strength to call out and hoped the person would see me. Someone ran to my side. I didn't know who he was. He was blonde and pale and had a kind look about him. He moved slowly to feel my pulse then turned to call out to others.
"Emmett, get Jasper out of here. Alice and Rosalie, hold back Edward." He turned to me and looked directly into my eyes. "Bella, can you hear me?"
I heard a horrible moan, it sounded like someone getting their heart ripped out. The wailing increased until it brought tears to my own eyes. The man finally turned toward the sound and spoke, "Let him come."
Edward came to my side and lowered his face to mine. "Bella, Bella, Bella," he repeated over and over. "Do something, Carlisle."
"I can't, son. If we move the statue she will die instantly. It is the only thing keeping blood in her body."
"No," he screamed, putting his hands to my face. "Don't leave me, Bella."
"Edward, you can change her," Alice said softly.
"No," Rosalie insisted. "Let her die, don't damn her to this life."
"I can't live without her," Edward cried out.
"She won't remember you if you change her, she hasn't known you long enough. Let her go."
"Rosalie," I heard Emmett say sternly. "Shut your mouth. You made the decision for me and I have done nothing but love you. Let Edward make the decision for her. Let Bella spend eternity loving him."
It was quiet and I could feel the warmth of his hands. His hands that were always so cold, now felt warm against my dying body. He brought his lips to my mouth one last time. "I can't do this to you, Bella. I have to tell you goodbye."
I tried to focus my blurred eyesight on him. I took a deep breath and tried to speak. He leaned closer and asked me to whisper, telling me his heart would hear me. "Edward," I said, as a breath, not a spoken word. "You, I love you, not him, you."
"Bella, what do you want me to do?"
"Save me," I whispered.
He kissed me softly on my mouth and moved to lie in the mud next to me. He spoke gently into my ear. "I am so selfish."
"No," I breathed out.
He kissed my ear and down my neck where he placed his teeth against my flesh. He stopped before biting down. He was holding my hand and he brought my fingers to his cheek, holding my palm flat against his face as he bit into my soft tissue.
I cried out, but it was a silent breathy moan. He turned his head slightly and kissed my palm before biting into my wrist. He finally lifted his body over mine and kissed my struggling heart saying, "Please, remember us." Then he bit into my chest.
My body suddenly arched and my eyes flew open wide. I screamed and Edward pulled my upper body into his arms holding me tightly against his shaking chest. "Noooooo," I shrieked.
"I love you," he cried against my neck.
"Make it stop, help me, Edward. God, help me."
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, Bella."
My body fell backwards in his grasp, with my arms splayed wide, and my head falling loosely from my shoulders.
"Carlisle, what's wrong? What's happening?"
"Her body is very broken. The venom has a lot of work to do. Her change will be very painful."
"Bella, can you hear me?" Edward begged.
I cried and even my tears hurt. They felt like lava running down my face. "Edward, kill me. Please, kill me."
"God," he screamed into the air.
A soft voice came from behind him. "Edward, go, let me do this. I will hold her and help her through this."
"Rosalie, what have I done?" he screamed in pain.
"You've fallen in love, go, and let me do this for you, brother."
I felt his arms move from my back and it felt like he was pulling my flesh off. I screamed and folded my arms over my chest trying to contain the pain.
"Bella," Rosalie said to me. "Listen to my voice. Listen to what I am saying."
I threw my head back and forth trying to block her words.
"You will be so happy. You will live forever with Edward. He will love you so completely and his love will never fade or change. You are going to be so lucky to have Edward as your mate. Do you hear me? Focus on my words. Focus on his love."
"Edward," I repeated.
"Yes, this is nothing compared to the joy you will know. Pain is nothing compared to love. Be strong; think about the love waiting for you."
I felt my body relax a bit. The pain was still unimaginable but if I listened to her words I had hope. It started small, a simple flicker, but it grew. As the flames spread through my body I imagined it searing love into my soul. I got strong and no longer cried out as she continued to talk, and talk, and talk.
I felt the last beat of my heart. I listened to it lurch and make a couple of feeble attempts to beat and then it stopped. It was silent, but every movement around me echoed in my mind.
I opened my eyes to see I was lying in a library. I was surrounded by books and heard feet shuffling toward me. I turned toward the door to see a small woman standing in the hallway.
"Bella," she called out.
I stood and my body felt strong, like I wanted to run. I smiled at her and nodded.
"How do you feel?" she asked.
"I feel….I don't know what to say."
"Do you feel thirsty?" she asked.
"Yes, does your throat burn?"
I put my hand to my throat and shook my head back and forth.
"Can we come in and talk to you?" She took a step toward the room.
"I have to leave."
She looked back at the blonde haired man who came into view. He reached out and handed me a cup. I looked at the red liquid inside of it and then back at him.
"You need to drink that, Bella."
I put the cup to my lips and swallowed it down and handed him the cup back. "I have to go now." I didn't know what I meant, I just knew I had to leave.
The two looked at each other worriedly.
"I'm Alice, we want you to stay with us for a few days," the woman said.
"Why?" I asked.
"We want to make sure you are okay. We want you to talk to Edward."
I turned to the blonde man and smiled. "What do you want to talk to me about, Edward?"
He smiled and chuckled a little. "My name is Carlisle. May I go get Edward?"
I looked Alice and she nodded at me, so I nodded at the man. He left the room and I could hear his steps all the way through the house. I heard him open a door and call for Edward. I could hear them make their way back to the library.
Carlisle came in first followed by Edward. He looked at me hesitantly and then stepped forward to hug me. "Hi," I said to him.
"Do you know me?"
I looked at the man and the woman and then back to him. "You are Edward."
"Do you remember what I did to you?"
"No, what did you do to me?"
"I changed you; I bit you and changed you into something different."
I stared at them and begin to feel panic. "I want to leave," I told them. I didn't fear the people staring at me but something deep inside made me want to be out of their sight.
"Where are you going?" Carlisle asked me.
"I want to go home."
"Where is home?"
I tried to think. I tried to picture a house where I belonged. I knew I had to go somewhere, but I didn't know where. I had an uncontrollable urge to get away from these people no matter what it took.
"Bella, you said you wanted to go home, where do you live?"
I opened my mouth but I didn't know how to answer. I felt alone, disconnected, my instincts told me to run, but I didn't know where to go.
"I need to leave. I feel trapped," I said, as I began backing out of the room. I ran into the hallway, but I didn't recognize anything. I began throwing open doors, banging them into the walls with amazing force.
I came to one already open and I ran into the room. It was filled with paintings and drawings and I froze when I saw them. It was me, my face; this was my home. I spun around to see Edward standing behind me. Over his shoulder I saw a painting of us; he was holding me in his arms and smiling down at me.
I looked at him and took a step back. "I don't know you. I don't know who you are or how I belong to you."
"I love you," he said, pleading with his eyes. I noticed a blue hue appear around his body as he spoke and it kept me glued to my spot in fascination.
"I want to leave," I said again, with much less force this time.
He dropped his head and ran his finger through his hair before answering me. "I can't let you leave. This is where you belong."
The color around his body turned an angry red and pulsated around him. I finally understood it meant he was lying.
"Do I belong to you?" I asked.
"Yes," he answered, covered in red.
"You are Edward?" I asked, and watched the color change to blue as he answered. My eyes shot to the doorway behind him and he moved a bit further to block my path. He stood firmly planted on both feet and I knew I couldn't get past him.
He sighed loudly and said, "I can't let you leave here, Bella."
"You will have to stop me," I threatened, as a low growl built in my chest.
"I will," he assured me, the blue telling me he would try.
I turned to my side and let my hair hide me, causing him to lean on one leg as he tried to see my face. It was all I needed. I lunged at him knocking him onto his back and ran through the door.
I almost made it down the flight of stairs before he tackled me from behind. Our bodies slid on the marble floor and crashed into a wall. I tried to kick him off me, but he held tightly to my arms, bringing my body with him as he flew through the air.
We landed in a thud and I crawled toward the door, but he grabbed my ankles and swung me into the air, landing my body back onto the stairway. Before I could stand, he had his arms locked around my chest and lifted me easily.
I screamed and tried to kick him, but he was able to keep his hold while he walked. I saw a tall blonde man, with long curls falling around his face. His eyes stared into mine and I felt my body relax against my will.
"Carlisle, open the door," Edward screamed.
A thick metal door slowly opened for us to enter and then began to close. I could feel the calm begin to slowly drain from my body and only rage remained.
The room was dark, built of thick rock and metal walls, sparsely decorated. He loosened his arms around me and I swung at him, connecting with his head, knocking him to the ground. I ran up the stairs and tried to push open the solid metal door.
"Bella," he called out to me. "Let me talk to you."
The door wouldn't budge under my super strength, so I began kicking at it wildly. "Stay away from me," I screamed at him.
"I won't hurt you. I love you."
My chest heaved with anger as I turned to face him. My mouth pulled back into a fierce growl and I could feel something coat my teeth with anticipation.
I smiled hatefully and said with disgust. "I will hurt you. I hate you."
Perchance to Dream
I expected him to give up in defeat, or maybe even attack me again, forcing me to actually hurt him. But his response surprised me. "Well, there's something familiar," he said, with a sweeping gesture of his arms.
Since I had expected him to attack, my body was riddled with the excitement of fighting him. "What are you talking about?" I asked, as I tried to slow the adrenalin pumping through me.
"Your declaration of hatred for me, it seems to be the one constant in our relationship."
"If I hate you so much, why won't you let me go?"
"I want you to calm down and listen to me. I need to explain what happened to you," he sighed loudly.
"I don't really have a choice, do I?" I glanced back at the locked metal door.
He didn't wait for me to come down the stairs and began explaining. "Your name is Bella Swan, you came here to model for me; I'm an artist. I called you earlier on the day we met and told you my name was Masen…"
"I thought your name is Edward," I interrupted, heading down the stairs.
"It is, but I told you it was Masen before you came over here."
I was confused. "So, is your name Edward or is it Masen?"
My eyes watched him closely and I asked, "So, in the very first conversation you had with me you told me a lie?"
He bristled but then took a deep breath to continue. "Yes, but it was because I never planned on meeting you. After you modeled for me I couldn't stop thinking about you, and when I called you that night I found out the woman I was talking with was the same one who modeled for me."
"So, you told me then you were Edward?"
He dropped his hands to his side in frustration. "No, I didn't, because you hated me."
"Okay, so we're right back to where we started, can I leave now?" I took a step toward the stairs.
"No, Bella listen, we fell in love, but I couldn't meet you because I didn't want you to know what I was."
"I think we pretty well established you are a liar."
He shook his head but he didn't deny what I had called him. He stared at me intently and finally stated bluntly, "I didn't want you to know I was a vampire."
There was something familiar about that word. I couldn't place the feeling, but his declaration didn't startle me or upset me in any way so he continued. "I wanted you to love someone else, so I set you up on a date."
"You just lied again," I yelled, pointing at the aura around his head.
"You lied, the light around you turns red when you lie and blue when you tell the truth."
His eyes grew wide with shock. "Oh my God, Bella, your gift is discernment, you can tell when people are lying. This is amazing. Carlisle will love hearing this."
"Maybe, it is just you. Maybe I am so used to hearing lies from you I can finally tell the difference."
A small slit in the door opened and bags of blood dropped onto the floor. Edward climbed the stairs and picked them up. "Here," he said tossing me a bag. I caught it and stared at the red liquid. When I looked up at him he tossed me the second bag. "Drink them, you'll feel better."
"Why aren't you drinking?"
"Because I just hunted, these are for you."
"Are they poisoned with something? Is that why you won't drink?"
"For God's sake, Bella, I'm trying to be a gentleman here, drink the damn blood."
I bit into the bag and sucked the liquid from the plastic. I did feel better right away and quickly drank the second bag.
"That is animal blood you're drinking. We don't drink from humans," he explained.
"Really, I think I'm proof that isn't quite the truth, Edward." I only meant to tease him because I could see he was surrounded in blue when he told me they only drank from animals.
"Let me finish the story and you will understand," he demanded.
"Fine, you just lied about setting me up on a date, continue."
"Errrrr," he growled. "You are the most annoying person I have ever met."
I chuckled as the hue around him turned bright blue. "Then open the door and let me leave," I suggested.
"I can't open the door from the inside, and you can tell I'm not lying about that."
I looked up at the door and back to him. I could tell he wasn't lying and began to understand I could not fight my way out of this room. I was going to have to listen to him and trick him into letting me leave.
I walked over and sat on a small bed and motioned for him to continue.
"I would go to your house every night and hold you in your sleep. I would sing to you, do you remember me singing in your dreams?"
"Of course," I smacked my forehead. "You sneaking into my house uninvited and molesting me, yes I remember."
"I never touched you inappropriately," he insisted in anger.
I laughed loudly. "Um….that's a red aura, sweetheart."
He looked nervous and took a deep breath. "I touched you out of love, and you touched me back. I made love to you as Masen, but you knew it was me. You called out my name."
"Okay, Vampire, you are gonna have to explain this one."
"I threw a party just so I could be with you. You walked into my room and saw me before it started. I wasn't even coming to the party, because you invited Masen…"
I lifted my hand to ask a question, like a child in grade school. I couldn't help the laughter rippling through my body.
"What?" He asked in exasperation.
"Let me see if I understand this. You Edward, threw a party that, you Edward, weren't going to attend because I invited, you Edward, thinking you were Masen, and ran into, you Edward?"
He looked confused for a second as he worked through my sentence. "Yes, exactly."
"And seeing you caused me to fall instantly in love with you, right?"
"No, but you knew. I could tell by your voice things were beginning to click. I showed you the constellation Gemini and you knew it was called the artist. You were putting it all together, I know you were."
"So, of course you explained Masen wouldn't be coming?"
He dropped his head and refused to look at me.
"Are you kidding me," I exclaimed, and then laughed hysterically. "You showed up as Masen? You're not doing a very good job convincing me we were in love."
"I didn't plan on anything happening. I thought we would have the one night where I could hold you in my arms and then I would tell you I was moving or something. I didn't know how it would end up."
"Look at me and say that again."
He raised his head and stared into my eyes. "I never made love to anyone before;
Vampires can't be intimate with humans. I was terrified, but you loved me, Bella, you gave me the strength to do the impossible. I don't regret a thing because you called out my name."
His head fell in shame and he shook it back and forth before admitting something he was trying to hide. "I gave you something to drink, in case I hurt you. I only wanted to love you."
I couldn't laugh at him or tease him. He was telling the truth and I could see the pain it caused him. "Is that when you changed me?"
He shook his head sadly and sat on the bottom step. "You told me you hated me and left."
"So," I said softly, "you changed me for revenge."
His head snapped up and his mouth fell open. "No, we came back from hunting and you were hurt. A statue fell onto you, crushing your spine. You were dying and you asked me to change you."
I sat quietly trying to think through everything he was telling me. I couldn't understand why I would forget someone I loved. He spoke softly but I could hear him plainly. "I never deserved your love. I tried so hard to forget you, and I would have left you alone if that was what you truly wanted. I never expected you to have to become one of us to be with me."
I could tell he was speaking truthfully, but I couldn't believe he could be so naive. "Edward, how could you think we could be together any other way?"
"We were, I loved you and you loved me back in every way a man and woman could."
I was surprised he actually felt we could have a relationship. "You had to drug me, Edward. It would have been temporary."
"It would have been enough," he said softly, and I could see how much he was hurting.
"Not for me," I said sadly. "If I loved you, I would have wanted forever."
He closed his eyes, as the ache in his heart showed on his face. "I promised you forever. I wanted to show you the world." He looked over at me and then scanned the room. "And look what I ended up giving you."
I couldn't say I felt love for him, but I did feel compassion. "I wish I could remember, Edward, I really do. But, I can't." I walked over to sit on the step next to him.
"I won't make you stay with me or be my mate, but we can't just let you walk out of here. You don't have enough control yet, you would be a danger to other humans."
I smiled at him, knowing we were coming to some type of an agreement and believed for the first time I wouldn't have to fight him to get out of this dungeon. "There are other vampires who drink the blood of humans. You could go live with them if you choose."
"I don't know, I've only tasted animal blood, is it different?"
"Very, human blood is much better, but you have to be able to live an eternity with the deaths of humans on your conscious. I don't think you would want that."
I tried to imagine living the way he mentioned and I couldn't even picture it. I had no desire to kill a human and drink its blood. "So, if I stayed with you what would my life be like?"
He paused for several moments and wouldn't look at me as he spoke. "You could be my sister, like Rosalie and Alice. You haven't met our mother yet. I think you will really like her."
His suggestion was ridiculous and he couldn't even look at me as he said the words. I knew it would break his heart if I agreed to only be his sister. "And you would be okay with that…me being your sister?"
"Yes," he said, and saw me glance at the bright red color around him. "No," he finally admitted, "but, I will adjust."
I leaned my head on his shoulder and sighed. "Oh Edward, what am I going to do with you?"
He reached over and took my hand in his and kissed it softly. "I would love to paint you again."
"Did I enjoy that?"
He laughed and shook his head, "You hated it."
I smiled as I kept my head on his shoulder and spoke in only a whisper. "I saw the painting of us together, did you enjoy that?"
I raised my head and looked directly into his eyes. "Okay, Edward, I will let you paint me."
"It's a start," he sighed.
"Yes, it's a start," I agreed. I watched his mouth form into a smile and it caused me to smile back at him. "You said you would sneak into my room and sing to me, what did you sing?"
"Songs I wrote."
"Sing me something."
He put his arm around me and pulled me to his chest. I wrapped my arms around him and listened to his beautiful voice. He sang of love and he was telling the truth. He sang as he gently rubbed my arm making me feel safe and protected. I didn't have the urge to flee or the urge to attack.
I bent my neck to look at him as he finished his love song. He was so beautiful and I was sure I must have loved him at one time. There was nothing about him not to love. There was only one way I would know for sure.
I reached up and pulled his mouth to mine. I kissed him and it felt comfortable and familiar. He moaned and moved his hands into my hair holding my head tightly in place. I smiled under his lips as he moved his hand up my shirt.
He froze and pulled away, "I'm sorry."
I stood and put my hand out for his and as he took it I pulled him to his feet. I led him to the small bed and climbed up.
"Bella," he said, shaking his head no.
"Edward, I don't remember calling your name. Let me make a new memory."
He didn't look grateful or even happy about my offer. He looked like I had purposefully tried to hurt him. "I can't do this and let you walk out of my life. It would kill me," he finally admitted.
I smiled at his pained face. "Then you better be sure to make it worth my time to stay."
His eyes widened in surprise and then he laughed and climbed onto the bed next to me. I straddled his hips and he growled, flipping me over, so I was under him. My shirt ripped from my body in an instant, as he pinned my hands over my head.
"This isn't familiar," I said, breathing heavily.
"It shouldn't be, but it is going to be unforgettable."
I laughed at his confidence but he made good on his promise. It was unforgettable. I screamed his name over and over again. We lay wrapped in each other's arms just like the portrait, as we tried to calm our bodies.
"I love you, Bella," he whispered into my hair.
"I love you, Edward, forever."
He smiled wide and nodded, "Yes, forever."
The door opened and we both yelled up in unison, "Close that door!"
It was the beginning of our Eternity.
After several more blood deliveries we were ready to leave the sanctuary. I was expecting Edward to call out to somebody or use some sort of phone to get the door to open. Instead he turned to me and held out his hand.
"What?" I asked.
"The key around your neck, it goes to this door," he said, and then smiled a devilish smile.
I reached for the skeleton key on a chain around my neck and my eyes widened. "You said you couldn't open the door, and your aura was blue."
"I couldn't, you could," he smirked, and I realized he already knew how to get around my personal lie detector.
"Where did I get the key?"
"Masen gave it to you," he said, bathed in blue. "But, he didn't tell you what it was for."
"Why did he give it to me?" I pressed, wondering if Edward planned on changing me all along.
He dropped his head and then struggled with what he wanted to say. "I hoped to tell you my secret, and I didn't know how you would react. I wanted you to have a way to protect yourself until we left the area."
I stared at him in shock. He planned to run away if I rejected him. "I'm thinking Masen is pretty much an ass right now," I laughed.
"Yes, let's blame everything on that ass Masen," he laughed with me.
We walked from the room, up the narrow staircase and into the brightly lit house. A group of strangers were staring back at me and I felt panic rise in my body. I began to shake and Edward could feel it against him.
"Bella, this is my family. Nobody wants to hurt you, you are safe with us."
I nodded and noticed a wave of calm run through my body. I looked at the blonde man with curls and asked, "Are you doing that?"
"Yes, Bella. I am Jasper, and I can project emotions onto other people."
I noticed the blue surrounding him and relaxed to let the calm overtake my tense muscles.
"You remember Alice and Carlisle," Edward said, as they both nodded at me.
"What can you do?" I asked Carlisle.
"Only Edward, Jasper, and Alice, have powers beyond vampire speed and strength," Carlisle explained.
I turned to look accusingly at Edward, "You forget to tell me something, sweetheart."
Edward exhaled loudly and shook his head. "I can read minds, but I can't read yours. I have never been able to read yours."
"Why?" I asked, suddenly worried something was wrong with me.
"I don't know," he said sadly. "Carlisle," Edward continued, "Bella can discern when people are telling the truth or lying. She sees colors when people speak.
Carlisle walked closer and looked deeply into my eyes.
"Wait," I said angrily, "I'm not done processing the whole mind-reading thing."
Edward reached out and took my hand as he leaned down to meet me eye-to-eye. "I never read your mind, Bella; I wasn't trying to manipulate you…." He stopped speaking and closed his eyes, knowing I could see the bright red color surrounding him.
"Okay, I did manipulate you, but I only wanted to be close to you."
"Bella," Alice called out to me. "I can see the future. I saw you in one of my visions. I asked Edward to paint a picture for me and used your description so he could meet you. You and Edward are meant to be together."
Two more women walked into the room and I tensed for a second before another wave of calm hit me. Both women smiled at me and there was something familiar about the tall blonde.
"Hello, Bella," she said, and I could remember her voice.
"You," I said pointing at her. "I know you."
"You remember Rosalie?" Edward asked in shock.
"Of course she does, I am very memorable," she laughed.
Edward looked dejected, upset I remember Rosalie but not him or his love.
"I remember your voice," I closed my eyes trying to process the words I could hear faintly in my brain. "Love," I said loudly, "you told me to remember the love."
Edward's arm came around my shoulder and pulled me back against his chest. "She was talking about my love, Bella."
I was feeling overwhelmed by the man holding me and became more certain than ever I truly did love him. I turned to face him and just when I thought I would rip his clothes from his body a wave of fatigue hit me.
I turned to glare at Jasper and he laughed, "Sorry, but none of us care to watch you and Edward going at it like farm animals."
Edward growled at Jaspers statement and the woman standing by Rosalie stepped forward and pulled me into a tight hug. "I'm Esme, Edward's mother. Welcome to the family."
As I put my arms around her to return the hug, another man entered the room. He was huge and ripped with muscles, but walked lightly on his feet, wearing a wide smile. Something hit me like a blanket covers your body. I was suddenly wrapped in pure hatred, more than I could handle.
Jasper gasped and fell to his knees, overcome by the emotion flowing from me. I growled uncontrollably and launched at the man entering the room. Edward was right behind me pulling me from Emmett's large body.
Only one thought filled my entire body, I wanted Emmett dead and would do anything in my power to kill him.
Loud growls were coming from every direction but none were as fierce as the sounds coming out of me. Edward held me tightly as I fought the confinement.
"Bella," Edward was screaming, "It's my brother, Emmett. This is my brother."
"I'm going to kill you," I screamed at Emmett, "you will die, do you hear me?"
Rosalie roared with her own anger and jumped between me and her stunned husband. I felt Jasper shoot emotion at me, but it couldn't make a dent on the rage I was feeling.
"Get her out of here," Rosalie screamed.
"Get Emmett out of here," Edward yelled back.
Edward was panting from the energy it was taking to hold me back as Rosalie and Emmett fled the room. I kicked and screamed a bit longer and could finally feel the calm Jasper was trying to fill me with.
When I finally relaxed I felt Edward's arms loosen. "What in the hell is wrong with you?" Edward said, as he tried to calm himself.
I backed away from him and needed to get out of the small room where I felt trapped. He saw my eyes dart to the large picture window and stepped in front of me to block my escape.
"Don't," I warned him. I knew I was capable of hurting him at the moment.
"Let me take you hunting. You can run and feed and feel free," he offered.
I nodded and let him take my hand in his. Running was an amazing feeling. The world melted away and nothing but streaks of colors remained. Edward would catch the animals for me and let me feed all I wanted.
I felt free, completely free.
We stopped in a beautiful meadow and lay on the ground staring into each others eyes. "Bella, what happened with Emmett?" he asked softly.
"I'm not sure. I was running on pure instinct. I needed to kill him."
"Why, think about it really hard. What thoughts went through your mind?" I tried to think of any conscious thought I had before I attacked, but the only thing I could remember was the rage I felt. I shook my head and let my head drop in sorrow. "Bella, you knew Emmett before your change. You liked him, you let him drive you home and you felt safe with him."
I shook my head back and forth refusing to believe I could be so wrong about something so consuming. I looked at Edward and noticed the concern in his eyes. He was terrified about something, not physically, but something was weighing on his mind.
"You're afraid for me," I stated.
"No, I just want to figure this out," he said, as the red pulsed around him.
"Don't lie to me," I growled.
"We need to talk to Carlisle," he said, as the color changed to blue. "I love you, Bella. If we have to leave the rest of the family I will be okay with that, but I want to work this out so we can all be together."
"Do you think I'm broken?" I asked him pointedly.
"I don't know," he answered honestly.
Something horrible entered my mind. "You will live to regret your decision to change me," I told him, and the truth of my statement hurt my soul.
"Never," he whispered, and I closed my eyes so I couldn't see him bathed in red.
Edward pulled me into his arms and kissed me passionately. It wasn't a physical need, but a desperate fear fueling our passion. I felt like time was ticking on our union and he wasn't mine to keep. I could tell by his touch he felt the same thing.
He held me so tightly as our bodies joined into one. We weren't expressing love for one another, he was trapping me in his hold, trying desperately not to lose us. His moans were sounds of pain and I stopped trying to push him away so I could look into his eyes. I let him hold me, trapped, and joined together as if fused. He pinned me to the earth in an attempt to keep me with him, but unless he planned to keep me bound it would not do any good.
We returned to the house later in the day to find Emmett and Rosalie gone. I listened as Edward and Carlisle tried to find some sort of pattern or reason for my behavior.
"Can I experiment with you?" Carlisle asked me.
"No," Edward said emphatically.
I turned to look at him and laughed. "I think he was speaking to me, Edward, and I can answer for myself."
Carlisle chuckled and spoke as he left the room. "I think you have your hands full, son."
Edward took a long slow breath and tried to relax. I reached over to run my fingers down his beautiful face and he smiled. I didn't want him to feel regret for choosing me as his mate. I knew the one thing that would give him peace. "Sing to me," I asked.
He took my hand in his and laid his cheek against my fingers. "I'm so scared, Bella," he admitted, "I have no music for what I'm feeling."
"I know," I told him.
"Don't leave me," he pleaded.
"Never," I whispered, thankful he couldn't see colors around the lie I told him.
Carlisle came back into the room and handed me a piece of material. "Smell this."
I held it to my nose and inhaled. It didn't illicit any response from me and I handed it back to him. He held out a picture and I took it from his hand. It was a picture of Emmett and Rosalie and I stared at it without any emotion whatsoever.
Carlisle rubbed his neck as he tried to think everything through. "It isn't sight or smell that set her off. It has to be emotion based. She can discern when people are telling the truth, maybe there is more to her power than we realize."
"Why would Emmett elicit an emotion from her? She can't even remember him?" Edward asked.
"I don't know," Carlisle responded. "Bella, can I ask you to step back into the room in the cellar. I just want to witness your reaction when you look at Emmett without fearing one of you will be hurt."
I nodded and followed him back to the room that now held wonderful memories for me. I stood on the top step after handing the key around my neck back to Edward. The door closed and I felt a moment of panic as the feeling of being trapped resonated through me.
I waited for almost an hour until Emmett returned to the house and drank the last bag of blood lying on the step. I could hear Emmett's footsteps coming down the narrow stairway and smelled the scent of freshly killed bear wafting off of him. He bent down to look at me through the slit in the door.
He was smiling and his dimples looked adorable. "Hi, hellcat," he laughed.
I smiled back at him and felt none of the rage I had felt before. Carlisle asked me to go to the bottom of the stairs and cautiously opened the metal door keeping me trapped. I slowly raised my eyes to look at Emmett and again felt nothing.
I raised my hand to give him a little wave and began climbing the stairs toward him very slowly. Everyone waited with anticipation for me to reach the top and sighed with relief when I remained under control.
"Maybe it was just some weird anomaly," Emmett offered. "You want me, don't cha, Bella?"
I couldn't help but laugh, and it only increased when I saw Rosalie's angry face. Carlisle took my hand and we returned to the room where everyone waited. My eyes sought out the man I love and I watched his mouth form a large smile.
Suddenly, without any warning whatsoever I spun around to face Emmett as a loud roar erupted from my throat. Jasper grabbed me right before my teeth made it to Emmett's throat and Rosalie kicked me hard in the stomach, sending me flying backwards into a wall.
Edward, Carlisle, and Jasper held me pinned to the ground as I fought to free myself. Edward was furious and turned to scream at Rosalie, "Don't you ever touch her again."
"She's messed up," Rosalie yelled back. "Get rid of her."
I couldn't focus on the conversation going on around me. I had one concern and it was the large man cowering from me. "You're dead," I screamed at Emmett, "do you hear me, you are dead."
"Why, Bella?" Carlisle screamed over my own howls. "Tell me what you are feeling."
I couldn't answer, I just stared at Emmett in pure rage.
"This is like nothing I have ever felt before," Jasper said, as he tried to steady his own emotions. "I don't think she even knows what she is feeling."
Rosalie pulled Emmett from the room and I was slammed with all the calm Jasper could throw at me.
"Bella, do you fear for Edward's safety when you see him in the room with Emmett?" Carlisle asked.
"No, I don't think so," I replied, suddenly very calm and unconcerned.
"Do you fear for your own safety?"
I thought really hard. "No, I can't explain it, but I don't feel like myself. I feel like I am just observing what is happening and I can't do anything about it."
Tiny Alice moved to hold tightly to Jasper and I could tell she was stressed about something. "Do you see anything?" Carlisle asked her.
"No, I could never see Bella on her own, only in relationship to Edward."
I stared at her and noticed how nervous she looked. I suddenly realized what had her so rattled. "Do I hurt him?" I finally asked.
She shook her head back and forth and I stared in horror at the red surrounding her small body. I took a step toward her and noticed how Jasper drenched me in a calming feeling. I stopped walking and looked at him. I could tell he was afraid for his wife. They were all afraid of me and I felt horrible for changing their lives for the worse.
Edward reached out for my hand and I let him lead me to his studio. I knew he wanted me away from his family, either for their safety or mine. I didn't care at the moment and walked around looking at his artwork and marveled at his talent. I liked feeling that just the two of us existed and all of our problems with the others were forgotten. "Did you paint as a human?" I asked him.
He smiled slightly and nodded before pulling me into his arms, "Never such a beautiful subject as you."
I smiled at the blue illuminating his face. "Did you say such lovely things to me before I changed?"
"I wanted too, very badly," he smiled. "It was pure torture having you so close to me, and having to remain at a distance. It physically hurt."
I felt such love for him, but I also worried for him on a level I didn't understand. Alice knew I was going to hurt him and that couldn't be ignored. "Edward, I don't want to hurt you anymore. You need to send me away from here before something horrible happens."
He leaned in to speak into my ear and whispered, "Never."
I kissed him deeply and he pulled me against the wall. His low growls elicited the same noise from me and I totally surrendered to his strength and will. I had to force my body not to respond to its need for control and let him lead our lovemaking.
I shut off my sense of smell, and closed my eyes, to concentrate on his movements. I felt a sense of flying and was stunned to feel a mattress come up from underneath me. I kept my eyes shut and something familiar began registering in my brain. I remembered this. I remembered the feel of his hands on my body as I screamed out his name.
It wasn't the same as in the forest or in the cellar, this was an old memory and I basked in the realization. I felt the strange sensation on my skin of a paintbrush. My body was numb until the brush pulled the paint to fill in the penciled areas. I began to feel alive as the painting in my mind neared completion.
With the last stroke I screamed out his name and finally became aware of the master artist in my arms.
"Bella," he called out in fear, lifting me from the ground, "what happened?"
I opened my eyes and was stunned to see myself still in his studio and being held in his arms with a bed nowhere in sight. I pushed away from him and stood as I stared at the studio in confusion.
"Did we just make love?" I asked him.
He shook his head slowly back and forth, watching me carefully. I backed away and tried to concentrate on what I had just experienced. I felt panic rising in me and I could still feel his hands on me.
I looked at the blue hue around his head, but I knew I didn't imagine the whole thing. I took a step back as he took a step toward me.
"Bella, you don't need to be afraid of me," he insisted.
I wasn't feeling fear of him, I knew with a certainty I was broken in some way and I would end up killing him. "I am so afraid I am going to hurt you, I don't understand what is happening, Edward. Please help me."
He pulled me into his arms and I could feel myself shaking against him. Carlisle entered the room and Edward unconsciously tightened his arms around me. He was afraid they would make me leave. Something was causing him to fear for us, and for the final time I knew our time was limited.
"We're going to hunt," Carlisle said, "and Rosalie and Emmett are staying far from here tonight."
"I think I should stay in the cellar," I offered. "I know it would make me feel better knowing I can't hurt anyone."
Carlisle nodded and looked at Edward's pained face. He placed his hand on Edward's tense shoulders and I could tell he was speaking to him with his mind, trying to comfort Edward in some way.
I couldn't see the color of his thoughts as he nodded to his father, but I didn't need to, they would be as red as his blood that called to me.
We went to the cellar and I gave Edward the key as pulled him with me to the small bed. He stacked some bags of blood on the floor and I noticed a drawing pad next to the bed. I lay contently in his arms as he told me all about his life as a vampire.
He was only seventeen when he was changed, but it was almost a hundred years ago. He told me of all the places he had seen and experienced. I knew he was trying to give me the world before I would have to separate myself from him.
I loved it when he sang to me and noticed how his eyes lit up when he drew pictures of me. I picked up a bag of blood and drank it down quickly before returning to the pose I was holding for my Edward.
"I am amazed at your ability to remain silent," Edward laughed, "who knew it would take immortality to shut you up."
"If I bothered you so much, why did you want me posing for you?"
"It wasn't a want, love, it was a need. I needed you to pose for me."
He smiled and I watched as his body began to slowly melt in front of me. I tried to speak, but nothing on my body worked. I was frozen and couldn't move or speak when my vision began to narrow into a tunnel of total darkness.
I suddenly gasped and was able to move again, only to see Edward across the room lying awkwardly against the wall. His leg was in an abnormal position and I heard the loud crack it made when he put it back in place.
I huddled on the small bed, pulling myself into a tight ball. "I hurt you," I cried.
He stood, but didn't attempt to come closer. "I'll be fine, Bella. I won't let this ruin us?"
I saw him drenched in blue and my dead heart ached for him. "Go," I begged. "Lock the door and leave me here, please, Edward."
He shook his head and took a tentative step toward me, "I did this to you, Bella. I won't leave you alone with the results."
When he sat on the bed I grabbed his shirt and pulled myself into his arms. I saw his terrified eyes, but his arms held me tightly. I couldn't stand the thought of him living a life in fear.
"Tell me the story of us," I begged him. I needed to know why he would be willing to let me continue to exist.
He kissed my head and spoke softly, "You walked into my gallery and my cold heart sprang to life. You are so beautiful, love, and I finally found my reason to paint. I was obsessed, and worked around the clock trying to capture just the essence of my Bella. I called you as Masen, believing you were simply interesting, but when I found out you were the same person, I knew you were my destiny."
"And you told me you loved me," I interjected, needing reassurance.
"I love you more than all the colors in the world," he said, and kissed my head again.
I felt panic by his words, not the comfort he thought they would offer. I knew what had to happen so I tightened my arms and asked, "If I asked you to do something for me, would you?"
"Anything, love, you only need to ask."
I snuggled closer to him, not allowing any space between our two bodies and spoke directly to where his heart lay frozen in his chest. "Kill me, Edward. Please, kill me."
Edward pushed me from his arms and stood. The pain on his face was almost unbearable as he turned and headed slowly up the stairs and out of the cellar. I jumped from the small bed and ran to close the door, leaving me trapped inside.
I would rather spend eternity locked in the dark, than hurt Edward. He could visit me and talk to me through the door, handing me bags of blood. I fell to the ground in realization that was no life, for either one of us.
I made my way back to the bed and pulled the covers, drenched in his scent, to envelop me. I was too upset to feed and let the blood lie there unused. Time meant nothing to me and I was surprised when the door opened and light filtered in, telling me it was daytime.
Esme walked down the stairs toward me and I moved quickly to the wall. Her expression was agonizing and I held out my arm to stop her from coming closer. I couldn't bear seeing this kind woman crumpled on the floor.
"Go away," I said in horror.
"Bella, come with me, dear. Come out of the dark and let me take you to Edward."
"I can't, I hurt him," I cried.
"No, sweetie you can't hurt him physically, but you can destroy his heart. Please, Bella, come save my son's heart," she pleaded.
I took her outstretched hand and grabbed a bag of blood to soothe my burning throat. She led me into the light and up to Edward's room. He was sitting in a chair, so still he looked like a statue.
I walked over and knelt in front of him. Only his eyes moved to look at me and I tried to smile. His hand moved gently and he put his palm to my cheek. "I'm sorry," he said, so softly only vampire ears would be able to hear him.
"I love you, Edward," I said softly back.
He shut his eyes and his jaw tightened as he spoke through clenched teeth, "Never, ask me to do that again, understand?" I moved to sit on his lap and he pulled me tightly to him as he buried his face in my neck, "I love you more than you will ever know," he admitted
"Show me," I whispered, "let me feel your love."
He easily lifted me and took me to his bed. I kept my eyes open, and focused on him, asking him often if this was really happening. He assured me, soaked in blue, that he was indeed loving me.
We stayed in his bed the entire day and I never felt confused or out of control. We began talking about lighter subjects and even laughing on occasion. When I mentioned the burning in my throat he handed me the bag of blood I had left by the chair. I wasn't about to go hunting and let him out of my arms.
He later carried me into the shower and I let him soap my body clean. The feeling of the hot water on my cold skin was amazing, and I basked in the sight of water running down Edward's perfect form. Until it slowly turned into blood, dripping from his head down his skin to pool at his feet. I became ravenous and could feel my lips pull back on my teeth. He spun me around and pinned my arms to my side as I thrashed, breaking the shower door into tiny pieces.
I fought to turn my head enough to bite him, but he was too fast. I could hear my growls but they seemed to be coming from someone else. Edward pulled me from the shower and pushed my fighting body to the bed, to pin me against the mattress.
Carlisle rushed in to help him hold me, so Edward grabbed my hair and spoke into my ear. "Stop, Bella, I love you. Listen to my voice, I love you. I love you," he repeated, over and over until I finally lost my will to fight.
I relaxed and Carlisle let go of me as Edward pulled a blanket to cover my nude body. The empty bag of blood fell to the ground and Carlisle kicked it out of the way.
"Wait," Edward yelled. "The blood, this happens every time she drinks the blood. Where did you get it?"
Carlisle looked stunned. "I didn't get it," he said in shock. "I thought you ordered it."
Edward looked at me to see if his father was telling the truth, and that alone hurt him. He told me his parents were saintly and I was causing him to doubt them. "Blue," I whispered.
Edward turned back to his father and said, "I never saw it until someone put it through the door in the cellar."
Both men ran from the room, with Edward only in a towel. I threw on my clothes and grabbed Edward's shorts before I ran after them. I noticed how everyone tensed when I entered the room and Jasper hit me with a shot of calm.
I ignored him and ran over to Edward, "What's going on?"
"You were being poisoned Bella, someone sent this blood here."
I turned to face the others, "Did you do this?" I asked each one, only to see blue surround them all.
"We are your family now, Bella. We wouldn't try to poison you…unless you go after Emmett again," Rosalie said.
"Shut up, Rose," Edward yelled.
"No, I won't," she yelled back at him, "I'm not going to pretend everything is okay. There is something wrong with her and you know it."
I stared at Edward and noticed how he tried to control the anxiety he was feeling. "Someone sent tainted blood," Edward reiterated to Rose.
"Who would know I would need the blood?" I asked.
The family all looked at each other and I could tell they had an idea exactly who sent the blood, but didn't want to say in front of me. I looked at each member and finally made my way to Edward. He dropped his eyes and I felt anger grow inside me. Not the rage the tainted blood produced, but anger from the knowledge he was keeping something from me.
"When I fell in love with you, Edward, did I know everything?" He shook his head back and forth as the blue danced around him. I took a deep breath and remained calm as everyone left the room to allow me and Edward to be alone. "What haven't you told me?" I asked.
"I told you I came to your apartment to sing to you," he said softly, before raising his eyes to look at me. "It was the only place I could exist with you; you loved Masen, not me. I could hold you and tell you how much I loved you, but only if you were asleep."
"So, you made sure I was asleep?" I asked, already knowing the answer.
He nodded, and let his head drop in shame.
"You took vitamins every night. I would substitute a narcotic if I planned on being with you that night. It was a monstrous thing to do, Bella. I am so selfish."
I ignored his self-loathing and hoped we found the answer to the issues I was having. "What would the narcotic do to me as a vampire?"
He looked into my eyes before speaking. "I'm not the one doing this to you, Bella," he swore, and I already knew the color would be blue.
"I didn't ask you that, I asked what it would do to me now."
He shook his head in pain and whispered, "I don't know."
"But, you are not giving me anything now, so, there is a possibility the blood is not tainted and it is just me?"
He took a step toward me and I instantly backed up. His eyes widened as he understood I was not ready for him to get comfort from me. Either I was broken, or his drugs were being used against me. Either way, he was the last person I wanted in my arms right now.
"Carlisle is testing the blood, we will know for sure, but I need to take you hunting and get clean blood into you, just in case."
"Who would know you were going to change me? I thought it was an accident."
He wouldn't even look at me and only reiterated the fact he needed to get clean blood into my system. I stared at him for a moment and I could tell he knew what I was going to say, but he made me say it anyway. "I'm not going with you; I'll hunt, but only with Rosalie."
He nodded and I saw the pain he was feeling written all over his face. Rosalie was the only person I trusted to be completely honest with me, and she was also the only person who I felt would grant me my wish if the blood turned out to be clean.
I waited on the back veranda until Rosalie came to join me. She was dressed in running clothes and had her hair pulled back, giving her a beautiful fierceness. She walk up to me keeping eye contact the entire time and finally spoke, "I won't go easy on you if you attack me. I will kick your ass and not feel badly about it."
"I'm counting on it," I told her, causing her to smile widely.
We headed out and never felt the need to speak to each other; it was just what I needed. My body felt full long before the burning in my throat eased. We stopped by a small stream and cleaned the blood and dirt from our hands and faces.
"I'm ready now," I told her.
"Is that supposed to mean something to me?" she asked hatefully.
"Come on, Rose. You are the only one who will tell me the truth, so let's hear it."
She leaned back against a tree and took a deep breath. "Edward was completely stupid to fall in love with a human, but then again Edward never could separate himself from the world." I raised my eyebrows telling her I needed an explanation. "He sells his art, he doesn't need the money; he just likes the connection to the humans. He makes me help him, hoping it will rub off or something. It just reinforces my belief in his stupidity."
"I have no idea," she laughed, "You were not the prettiest or the easiest to work with, but he went crazy over you." I knew I should be insulted, but I wanted the truth and had to listen to it. "Alice fed his whole obsession, encouraging him in his belief he could have you as a human. I made sure to remind him constantly that it could only end with you being hurt, and he needed to drive you away."
She glanced over to see how I was taking the information and I kept my face completely void of emotion. "Hell, he treated you like vermin, but you kept coming back. Maybe you were mentally unstable before he changed you?"
"Did Carlisle give him the narcotics?" I asked, figuring a doctor would be his source.
She laughed loudly at the suggestion and shook her head. "The only man more obsessed with doing the morally right thing would be Carlisle. He would have freaked if he knew what Edward was doing."
"So, who knew?"
"The one person who would never be able to tell Edward no, and the only person who would have a reason to want you dead," she said emphatically.
I waited, but she didn't speak. "And….."
"And, nothing, I'm not telling you shit. Make Edward tell you."
"Are you afraid of me?" I asked, searching her for colors.
"No," she said forcefully, and surrounded in blue. "I have less humanity than the others and I'm warning you right now, you hurt Emmett and I will kill you."
I narrowed my eyes and bit my lip for a moment before asking her the one thing I wanted to know most, "If I ever ask you to kill me, will you be able to do it?"
Her mouth fell open and she looked genuinely stunned, "What?" she said softly.
"If the blood is clean, I want you to kill me; can you do it?" She stared into my eyes and I wasn't quite sure what she was looking for so I added, "I will end up hurting someone, and if Edward takes me away it will be him. I can't live with the thought of hurting this family, especially Edward."
"He would kill me, Bella," she said hesitantly.
"He would never know," I pleaded with her.
"Alice would see."
"I would make it look like I attacked you, like you didn't have a choice; she wouldn't tell Edward if she felt you had no choice."
"You're serious?" she asked appalled.
She thought for a minute and I could see she was getting nervous. Her legs were bouncing back and forth and her eyes were staring at nothing. I added something to push her decision in the direction I wanted. "Think of Emmett."
"Fine," she finally said, "I'll do it."
We hunted for a couple of more hours and eventually made our way back to the house. Carlisle and Edward were sitting together at the table and Alice looked totally distraught. Jasper hit everyone with a shot of comfort and I knew at that moment I was not going to like the news I was about to hear.
"Did you test the blood?" I asked Carlisle.
"Bella, just because it didn't contain the narcotics Edward used doesn't mean it is clean. I need to do more testing and those results will take awhile."
I nodded and let my eyes drop to the floor. Edward reached out his hand for me, but I moved in the other direction.
"Um…I'm going to stay in the cellar. If you need to speak to me or tell me something, just send Rosalie, Okay?"
I glanced at her and she nodded slightly. I left the room before I had to see the distressed face of the man I loved. He was the only memories I had, and they remained in my head, perfectly recalled over and over again. Each one led me back to one spot, Edward's twisted body against the wall.
I couldn't add to that picture, I had to end this now, and I was ready.
I wasn't in the cellar long when Edward came walking down the stairs. He seemed nervous and he stayed on the far side of the room. I sat on my hands, hoping to show him the restraint I was willing to use on his behalf.
"I was so stupid," he finally said.
He put his hands up to stop me from cutting him off. "It was never me, Bella, it was always him. I wish I could tell you I was the man you fell in love with, but I'm not. Masen was pretend, and I thought if I pretended long enough you would love me, too."
"You know I have no memory of who Masen was; why are you telling me this?"
"Because you never deserved this life. Masen would have let you die, Edward was too selfish."
"Will you let me go now?" I asked him, terrified he would say he no longer wanted me.
"I can't let you be on your own, you would be too dangerous."
I smiled at him kindly and spoke lovingly, "You know that is not what I mean, Edward. You promised me forever, can this be the end of forever?"
He leaned against the wall and let his body slide to the floor. His arms rested on his knees, but I could see the way they were shaking. "I still want you, Bella. I don't care what is wrong, poisoning or something else, I still want you."
"Thank you," I smiled, "that is enough for me."
"I waited almost a hundred years for you, but the truth is I had given up. I had finally agreed to a forced partnership, convinced there was nobody on this earth I could love. That very day you walked into my studio. Alice knew, of course, but I would have never believed her if she told me a human girl would steal my heart."
"I'm so sorry for ruining your life, Edward." I felt like I should be sobbing but my face remained steady.
His eyes widened and he shook his head vehimantly "Ruin? You brought me life. I was only existing until the moment I met you."
I had to make him understand somehow the predicament we were in and that it was imperative to solve it. "Would you ever hurt me?" I asked him.
"I would rather die than hurt you."
"So, you do understand," I said softly, and watched as he closed his eyes tightly and inhaled painfully.
I knew there had to be some reason Edward came into the cellar and I waited for him to find the words he wanted to use. He finally said, "Some visitors are coming and we need you to use your power to see if they are being truthful."
I felt fear grow inside me. It only meant more people I could possibly hurt. "Who are they?"
"Friends," he said, as a light red hue formed.
"Are you sure about that?" I pressed him.
"We think one of them may have poisoned you." I could hear the faith in his voice.
"And what if they didn't?"
He slowly rose from the floor. "Then we will wait for the blood results and know for sure."
I knew his heart was full of hope and he needed those results to come back positive. My heart was full of angst, and I already knew they would come back negative. He just needed to hold onto something right now, and hope was all he had.
"Can I go hunting with Rosalie tomorrow?"
"You don't want to go with me?" he asked sadly.
I shook my head and felt like I would burst into tears at any moment, but of course that was impossible. "I want you to come hold me, make me believe you are mine and I get to have your for eternity."
He launched himself from the wall onto the bed, pulling me into his arms. He kissed me with desperation, because he knew, somewhere deep in his soul, he knew I would not be alive this time tomorrow.
Live to Die For
The next day, Edward heard Carlisle call out for him and he pulled me with him from the bed. We had been in the cellar for hours and I never felt the need to attack, but that didn't mean one glance at the others wouldn't set me off.
I could smell the scent of new vampires in the house and tensed at the thought. Edward put one arm around my back to comfort me, as well as give him a fighting chance if I decided to suddenly attack someone.
I kept my eyes down when we entered the room until Carlisle called my name. I looked at him and he smiled. "Bella, this is Tanya, we want to ask her some questions and would like for you to look at the colors."
I turned to look at a beautiful, young vampire, with a very angry face. She glared at me like I was taking my life in my hands for simply entering the room. When her stare moved to Edward, the loathing increased.
"Tanya, did you get narcotics for Edward?" Carlisle asked her.
"He asked me to do it," she defended, and I saw bright blue around her.
I looked at Edward in surprise, the one person who wouldn't be able to tell him no was this beautiful woman?
"Did you send blood for Bella?" Carlisle asked her.
"Are you trying to blame me for something?" she screamed.
"Answer him," I yelled at her, without realizing it. She held all our happiness in her hands and I hated how she was trying to stall. I needed her to tell us quickly so I knew if I had a future with Edward or not.
Edward held me a bit tighter and Tanya's eyes glared at the both of us. "If I wanted you dead, you can bet you wouldn't be standing here, little girl."
"She doesn't know, Tanya," Edward seethed, "don't treat her like she does."
"I don't know what?" I asked Edward.
Tanya took a step toward me and I instinctively growled in response. "You better train your pet, Edward."
My body began to tense and I lowered into a crouch. "Stop, Bella," Edward said forcefully, and pulled me to stand up fully. I stood and took a deep breath to calm down as I glared at him, waiting for him to tell me what I needed to know.
"What a good little pet," Tanya laughed.
Edward raised one finger toward her in warning, and she instantly coward back a few steps. "Bella, I had agreed to be Tanya's mate the day I met you. It never happened and you are the only woman I have ever loved."
I turned to look at Tanya again. I didn't care what their past was, I just needed to know if Edward and I had a future. "Did you send me blood?"
"I wouldn't send you shit," she said hatefully.
"Answer me," I screamed.
"No, I didn't send you blood," she screamed back, and bright blue pulsated all around her.
I gasped and backed away from Edward. "Rosalie," I called out loudly. She came into the room and I spun around to look into her eyes. "I need you to take me hunting, I need to hunt," I said with a panicked voice.
She nodded with understanding and held out her hand. I turned to look at Edward one last time. "I wish I remembered, Edward. I'm sure I really did love you the most." I turned and ran with Rosalie as fast as I could.
When we got deep into the forest we stopped running. She was wringing her hands and kept looking over her shoulders. I growled to get her attention.
"I don't know, Bella. It doesn't seem right anymore. We need to wait for the tests to come back."
I could tell Rosalie was losing her nerve and I would have to force her into killing me. Emmett was her Achilles heel and I knew what buttons to push for a reaction. "You don't have a choice," I said with venom, "only one of us is leaving here, you can decide."
"Don't threaten me," she warned, and her own body tensed in anger.
"I can always send your broken body to Emmett as a remembrance." She growled at me and I knew I needed to push her further. "Emmett is the one I really wanted to kill all along; you will just be a poor substitute. And, if I do walk away, he will be joining you in hell soon enough."
She jumped at me landing a kick directly into my chest and sending me flying into a tree. I stood to face her again. "Come on Rosalie, that's all you've got? Emmett won't last another day the way you fight."
She let a long growl escape and lunged at me pinning me to the ground. I didn't fight and I didn't show any emotion. I let her strong arms keep me held to the mud as I turned my head to expose my throat.
Venom dripped from her teeth and she opened her mouth wide to bite into my esophagus, just as a flash of color sent her flying off of me. "No," I screamed, vowing to take my savior with me for interrupting my plan.
"Are you insane, Bella?" Alice screamed at me. She was standing directly between me and Rosalie to stop me from fulfilling my goal. I had to make her understand and assist Rosalie if needed.
"Yes, yes I am. That is why I have to end this. It is the only way to save Edward. I love him, Alice, and if you love him too you have to help me do this. " I was hysterical and begging with everything I had for her to agree with me.
"You are not broken, Bella, you were poisoned," she insisted.
I saw the blue around her but she was only speculating, not stating facts. "You don't know that, the results were negative," I cried out.
She lifted her chin and walked toward me undaunted. "We don't need results. We found out who sent the blood, and you were poisoned with psychogenic drugs, so Edward would keep his promise to Tanya."
Only blue surrounded her, but she must have forgotten I was there when Tanya spoke honestly about not sending the blood. "This is a trick," I insisted.
Tiny Alice marched up to me and got right in my face. "I don't trick people, Bella. Tanya's sister admitted to sending the blood. So, apologize to Rose and get your ass home to Edward."
I stared down into her tiny face as I worked my way through her words. I suddenly began to laugh. I laughed at her angry expression, I laughed at how close I came to leaving Edward, and I laughed at how I would spend eternity trying to make it up to Rosalie."
"You're crazy," she finally laughed with me.
I saw Edward come into view further back in the trees. His face wiped the grin right off of mine. I looked over Alice's head at the man I loved enough to kill myself for. "Yeah, I'm crazy in love," I admitted.
I ran to him and fell into his arms, letting him hold me tightly enough that it actually hurt a bit. He was mumbling apologies, and profanities, and threats about my actions. I pulled back and looked into his anguished eyes. He shook his head back and forth and asked, "Bella, why?"
"I love you enough to die for you, Edward." I declared to him, but it wasn't enough. I held his head in my hands and stared into his eyes as I said with more force, "I love you enough to die for you."
"But, do you love me enough to live for me?" he asked, as his arms pulled me closer, placing his forehead on mine. "After all the deception I put you through, can you forgive me and still love me?"
"Yes," I said emphatically, "Edward, Masen, or anyone else you decide to become."
Our existence together was so convoluted, but he was everything I could ever want to remember. His lies meant nothing to me anymore, it was his love I concentrated on.
"Marry me," he said with determination. His eyes looked almost crazed and he begged me to be truly his.
"Who's asking?" I managed to question, trying to hide the amusement in my face.
"Both of us," he laughed.
"Yes," I laughed with him, "I will marry you both."
We returned to the house to find Emmett comforting Rosalie. I owed them both such huge apologies, but they refused my offer. I hugged her tightly and promised to love her as a sister. When I hugged Emmett I spoke softly into his ear. "I forced Rosalie to attack me by threatening you, Emmett," I admitted in shame.
His smile widened to show off his dimples and he rolled his eyes, "Oh Bella, like you could have any chance at all against me."
I nodded at his huge frame and then looked at Carlisle and asked, "Why was it Emmett I wanted to kill?" Just the thought of taking on the strong man seemed ridiculous.
"Yeah, it should have been Edward," Emmett said bothered. "He's the sucker that lied to her."
"The drugs were used in various amounts and in various combinations. Something about Emmett brought forth latent unresolved feelings of anger in Bella," Carlisle explained. "Maybe her subconscious remembered him as the only other male family member she met."
"And if you recall, she pretty much kicked my ass," Edward admitted.
Emmett laughed loudly and teased Edward without mercy, "And let's not forget the imaginary sex, you better step up to the plate, bro."
"Edward does just fine," I interrupted, causing Emmett to laugh louder.
"Wow, and eternity of 'fine', no wonder you wanted Rose to kill you."
"Ignore him," Alice said, and squealed as she took my hand. "Tell everyone the news."
"Um, I've agreed to marry the man that lied his way into my heart," I said with a laugh.
The family erupted in a cheer and began throwing out suggestions for the wedding. I shot them all down and insisted on a very simple ceremony with only the family. I really didn't see the need for two vampires to marry, but it seemed important to Edward.
I began hunting everyday and nothing bizarre or out of the ordinary happened again. Every once in a while, I would let my mind contemplate how close I came to leaving Edward, and promised myself never to act rashly again.
The only awkward moment I had was when I was forced to facetime with my parents and introduce them to the man I had fallen in love with. The Cullens persuaded me to use Emmett as my fiancé since he had an easier time relating to people of this generation. He had a fun nature about him, instead of the seriousness Edward possessed.
I didn't even want to talk to my parents, since I had no memory of them, but they insisted it was the only way they would believe I ran off with a man. Emmett and I sat next to each other on the sofa in front of a computer screen. His large thighs dwarfed mine.
"Hi, dad," I said awkwardly. "Meet Emmett, my….boyfriend." I managed to choke out the words and Edward turned and left the room. Emmett smiled largely and waved at the screen.
"Seriously, Bells?" the stranger asked, and I nodded stiffly.
"Do you play football, boy?" my father asked Emmett.
"Naw, I blew out my knee. I spend my free time hunting," he laughed. "But now that I caught Bella, my hunting days are over."
My head lowered as a smile formed on my face. Emmett continued on, surely just to torture Edward. "She was hard to catch. I thought she was going to rip me to pieces, but I eventually won her over. Now she can't force herself to leave my side. We're inseparable." His big arm came over my shoulder and he pulled my face up as he squeezed my cheeks. I worried he was going to actually kiss me.
Edward stepped back into view and glared at his brother until he removed his hands from me.
"Um, dad, I just wanted you to see I'm in love. Emmett's my…he's my…um…my life is with Emmett now."
"Are you dropping out of school?" he asked in shock.
I hadn't realized I had been a student and I looked over at Edward, causing him to leave the room again as I wondered what else he kept from me.
"Um…no, but when I'm done I'm leaving the area with Emmett."
"Will you keep in touch?" he asked, and his demeanor seemed to sadden.
"Sure," I said, without feeling any quilt over my lie.
Emmett smiled again and leaned in closely to the screen. "I'll take care of her, Mr. Swan. She'll know nothing but happiness."
We all said an awkward goodbye and sat completely still until Carlisle got my mother onto the screen. She looked right at Emmett and said, "You fell in love, didn't you?"
I looked at the doorway and waited for Edward to step into view and then I smiled widely and said, "Yes, I fell madly in love."
The woman no longer cared to direct her conversation to me so I let her speak alone to Emmet and walked toward the man staring at me with nothing but love. I was only vaguely aware my mother was flirting with Emmett and Rosalie was growing angry.
When I stood directly in front of Edward he spoke in a whisper, surrounded by blue. "He's a big guy, but I would kill him if he ever wanted you."
"I think he has his own love. And, I like the brooding artist type."
He smiled and said, "You told Masen you didn't have a type."
"I lied," I replied.
He reached out for my hand and said, "You were majoring in English and hoped to become an editor. You are free to return, but just so you know, I am extremely wealthy."
"Really?" I asked with raised eyebrows. "You're not a starving artist?"
He chuckled and seemed to stand a bit taller as he said with pride, "I'm a very successful artist."
I smiled widely and then said, "The hell with being an editor. I'd rather be a model."
He stared into my eyes and clarified something. "Only for me, promise?" I laughed at his jealousy so he added, "Maybe for Masen, too."
My mind was full of the many memories we had made in the few short weeks since my change, each one better than the last. I walked proudly toward the archway covered in flowers to join Edward and become his wife.
I wasn't sure how legal it was, since we were both technically dead, but it was the thought that counted. Emmett was officiating, and kept swaying to the beat he alone was hearing in his head. I couldn't keep a straight expression when we turned to face him.
"Hey, Hellcat and Mr. Personality," Emmett said with a grin.
"Shut up and marry us," Edward responded, as I giggled loudly.
"Okay, Edward, do you take Bella, for an eternity of wild vamp sex, and let her use the library at anytime day or night? Do you promise to be patient when you paint her, and never let psycho ex's try to poison her again?"
"This isn't funny, Emmett," Edward growled.
"It's perfect, Edward," I smiled at him.
"Fine, yes, all of that plus I vow to love her unconditionally and completely," he winked and added, "and of course, truthfully, for all eternity."
I grinned at the blue hue circling his body.
"Bella, do you take Edward, for an eternity of his attempts at wild vamp sex, and find a way to put up with his brooding? Do you promise to compliment his art and his music so he won't cry, and never try to kill family members again?"
"Yes, and I vow to love him as Edward and as Masen, unconditionally, completely and honestly for all eternity."
Edward pulled me into his body as he kissed me earnestly. When we pulled apart Emmet cleared his throat to get our attention. "Welcome to the world of the ball and chain," Emmett said, as he shook Edward's hand and gave me a hug.
Edward pulled me into his arms and whispered, "We'll do it again in Vegas, I promise."
"Okay, since I'm marrying both of you, I really should have two weddings," I teased.
His face turned serious and he kissed me passionately sending all the family members from the area. "Bella, my wife, you brought meaning not only to my art, but also my life. I'm going to take you everywhere and give you the world."
I nodded and stared into his beautiful face, "You gave me the stars, Edward. You are my Gemini."