"There's nothing wrong with you," Edward said, as he planted kisses all over Isabella's face, "you're absolutely perfect."
Though precautions had been made to avoid our names being mentioned in the press, my close friends knew about mine and Isabella's involvement in the rescue of Amy and her baby, and they insisted on a celebration. Garrett, Kate, Sam, and his wife Emily were meeting us at a local bar.
Seated across from me, Isabella's warm brown eyes stared into mine until they arrived and were escorted to our secluded table, by none other than Lou, the owner of the establishment. A waitress came and took our drink orders. For some reason, Isabella seemed to be regulating herself this evening, only taking a few sips. Alcohol does not affect me, so I've never understood the human description of what it feels like to be drunk, or high, for that matter. However, I do feel an unusual degree of excitement in the air tonight. I suppose it's due to Isabella's easy acceptance regarding my ability to read minds. It's given me hope for our future.
Garrett was his usual jovial self, joking around and keeping everyone laughing. Isabella, Kate, and Emily seemed to get along well. Sam brought out his son's football team pictures, as well as a photo of of their two daughters wearing ballet costumes. Being the only couple with children, we weren't surprised when Sam and Emily were the first to call it a night, but Garrett was eager to get Kate alone. Before he could leave, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to razz him by making the same drunken face he made at me when I first fell for Isabella. He covertly threw me the finger behind Kate's back, and they headed towards the exit, Isabella, and I followed close behind.
The beautiful woman on my arm held my complete concentration as we came out of the restaurant, and walked down the sidewalk a few feet from our group. We were almost to the car when the hair on the back of my neck rose instinctively, alerting me to the presence of danger. I automatically pulled Isabella behind me. Garrett did the same with Kate, Sam and Emily had already made it safely to their car, and he quickly sent her away with directions to call for back up.
At the end of a row of cars, two individuals were keenly attuned to something on the ground between them; neither had noticed us yet. I suspected the object on the ground was an unlucky human. Sure enough, when they raised their heads, blood was dripping from their mouths. I tried to prevent Isabella from seeing, but the sound she made told me I was too late. I managed to catch her as she slumped to the ground. Kate hurried over and took Isabella from my arms. Garrett looked back at me when several more figures emerged from the darkness; nomads by the look of them. The tallest one with dark skin took the lead but was quickly flanked by others. It seemed, they'd caught Isabella's scent, and it slightly befuddled them.
Obviously, they could tell she was human, but my scent was on her, yet she wasn't marked.
"She's mine!" I growled. "You're way out of your league, and if you know what's good for you, you'll leave-NOW!"
"S s sorry," the head man stuttered, "we'll be going." He motioned to the group, and they backed away and started to scatter.
A lone male stared arrogantly and stood his ground. One side of his face was covered by stringy blonde hair that halfway covered a jagged scar. He maneuvered to the side, openly staring at Isabella lying unconscious on the ground. "I don't see your mark on her, is she your pet? I don't blame you for hiding her, she looks delicious." He bared his teeth and snapped, then flew towards me. I struck him with a backhand, and he landed several feet away. A female vampire with blood red eyes crouched beside him. He motioned for her to back off.
Invariably I would have chosen to avoid fighting him, but it was clear from his thoughts that he was set on having Isabella. We may have been matched in skill, but I had the advantage of being able to read his thoughts. Eventually, he paid the ultimate price for his filthy thoughts, when in an unguarded moment, I tore into his throat and ended his sorry existence.
Garrett and Sam already had the remaining nomads taken care of. "Leave nothing except the dust of their ashes," Garrett ordered when a team arrived to clean up.
I wrapped Isabella in my arms and carried her to the car. In only a few short moments, we were out of the parking lot on our way home.
I'd let my guard down, and it weighed heavily on me. Our relationship hadn't needed this! I felt slightly sick, would the shock of what she'd seen tonight be too much?
I took her inside the apartment, where I laid her on my bed. Normally she would've reached up and pulled me close, but she curled onto her side and wrapped her arms around herself. I tucked her hair behind her ear and tilted her chin up so I could see her face. "Isabella?" Her warm brown eyes blinked unseeingly. Her chin quivered. I pulled the comforter over her. "Isabella, baby, please say something." She was really scaring me. I held her trembling form until she fell into a fitful sleep.
I eased into the living room and called Carlisle. "Come down here please." I met him at the elevator. For the first time in years, I allowed my father to see how distraught I truly was. I explained what had happened. "I'm scared, Carlisle, she isn't speaking."
"It's just the shock, Edward," he said comfortingly.
"She just accepted that I'm telepathic, now the rest, what if it's too much?" A sob escaped my throat, "I can't live without her." I cried without the benefit of tears. Esme came in and sat by my side. She smoothed my hair back and spoke in a soft voice.
"She loves you, Edward, and I think it will be all right son."
It's been a long hot summer, but it's winding down.
So is Edward's Isabella, but first there are a few problems that have to be taken care of.
How's Isabella going to reckon with the idea that her beloved Edward is a vampire, an immortal?
Edward has to tell Isabella what really happened the night they met.
And then there is ... Victoria.
I'd like to thank my beta Frannie Walsh, who is wonderful!