A/N: Thank you all for your patience! The last 2 years have been such a struggle! I just want you to know that I appreciate all of you and your love and support! This chapter would not be possible without the help from Athena (bandeforever16), Kris (mkystich), Kristina (LyricalKris), and Sally (Alice's White Rabbit). And some love goes to LayAtHomeMom and TrinaSmusicPatterson for calling me out at TFMU...in a totally loving way! I hope you all enjoy!
I nudge one of the three empty pizza boxes with my foot to make more room to prop my feet up on my coffee table. Emmett looks over the progress I've made on Edward's genealogy and keeps quiet. My eyes are drooping and I know I should sit up and try to wake up some. After a day of shopping and then devouring almost a whole pizza by myself, it has made me realize how sleepy I was.
"So this guy you're working for is also the same guy who you went shopping with today." Emmett glances at me with mock sadness on his face. "The guy who made you forget about me … and he's taking you out tomorrow night. Did I get all that right?"
I roll my eyes, "Yes, although did I really forget about you? I did answer my phone." He's still staring, and under the scrutiny, I can't keep it to myself anymore. I told Emmett about how I was drawn to Edward and how I couldn't tell if the sensation was because he was a target or because of natural attraction.
Emmett just looks at me for a moment, and then starts pacing. I can't read him; he's showing no emotion on his face, and he isn't speaking to me. In this moment, I realize he's mad at me … or worse—he's hurt that I haven't confided in him yet.
"Bella," he says and just stares at me. I can see it now, clear as day. The hurt is agony to me; Emmett is my best friend and closest confidant.
"I need to go," he says simply and grabs his keys off the kitchen counter and heads to the door. "I'll call you in a few days." Then he's gone.
I'm not sure how long I sit there, staring at my front door, or how many times I berate myself for being such a shitty friend. Eventually, I pick myself up and throw away the trash from our pig out and stick what's left of one of the pizzas in my fridge.
I screwed up, and the only thing I could do now was to wait for Emmett to call me so I can apologize, and we can move on.
I putter around the apartment for a bit, straightening up and aimlessly touching my knick-knacks until I decide to give in and flop onto the couch and turn on the television. I channel surf for a bit until I stumble upon a favorite movie of mine and let myself get lost in the plot.
My phone buzzed from inside my pocket, startling me, and I pulled it out quickly, hoping it would be Emmett. I'm only slightly ashamed to say that I wasn't at all disappointed to see Edward's name on my display.
Edward: I don't want to bug you while you're with Emmett, but I'm just wondering if you like seafood?
Bella: I love seafood!
Bella: And Emmett left, so no worries.
Edward: Oh, good. You aren't some weird person who doesn't like seafood!
Edward: It seems early for him to have left already.
I sigh and don't respond. I stretch and consider my options. I could tell him anything or nothing. The fact that I'm going to see him tomorrow night just means he's going to bring it up again; Edward strikes me as that type of person. After the way I explained my relationship with Emmett, he's going to want to make sure we're all right.
I lie all the time … to everyone. It comes with the territory. It's not that I set out to do it, but I do it in order to keep people at bay and uninterested. That way, when I disappear, no one cares. But … I lie all the time; it's eating at me.
My phone buzzes again, and I snatch it up to see Edward's name again.
Edward: I'm sorry. It's none of my business.
I sigh; it really isn't.
Bella: We fought about work stuff. Miscommunication.
Edward: Communication is key in any relationship, Bella.
Bella: I'm well aware. I'll give him some time to cool down, and hopefully, we can move forward.
Bella: So, seafood?
Edward: Yeah. I got a recommendation from someone at work. How's seven work? I can pick you up.
Our plans are set, and while I'm excited, I'm preoccupied with Emmett.
If I'm being completely honest, I'm not sure why he was so hurt. Was it because I wasn't sure who or what Edward was? Did he feel like I was lying to him?
I have never lied to Emmet. I had no reason to. We both knew what was going on and what was expected of us.
So why do I feel like a jerk?
I sleep like hell and seriously consider cancelling on Edward for the majority of the day. I'm putting mascara on at five minutes to seven and still contemplating calling and telling him I can't go tonight when I hear a car horn from the street below.
I walk over to my living room window and look down to find Edward leaning out of the back window of what I assume is an Uber. He gestures for me to come down, and I find myself smiling at him before I even know what I'm doing.
I grab my bag, lock up, and get down the stairs and into the car.
We grin at each other and the driver takes off. There's something in the air; it's swirling around us, and by the time we make it downtown and get dropped off in front of the little restaurant, my skin is buzzing and my blood is boiling.
There's a cool breeze blowing, and I take the time that Edward is rating the ride to try and cool down.
This feels more like the curse, and I'm scared.
I don't want this.
I want to be a normal woman.
I want to just be on a date.
I take a chance and turn to Edward and look into his eyes. I'm trying to see if I can figure this out. If he's my target, then I want to finish this. I can woo him, lure him, and kill him.
Then go to Hera and plead my case to be done.
When I look into his eyes, eyes that aren't green or blue but a glowing mix of sea colors, I'm suddenly lost.
"Hey, what's wrong?" He reaches out and grabs my shoulders, "Are you feeling all right?"
I nod and realize that my heart has leapt up into my throat. I try to clear it, but my voice still cracks a little.
"I just need to try something," I say and wrap my arms around his waist and pull myself closer to him.
His eyes widen slightly, but he doesn't pull away from me.
I lean in and press my lips to his. They're warm and not too soft, but I don't feel much of anything.
Until he suddenly deepens the kiss, and my mind is thrown into a vision of the night of my death.
A very young sailor with copper-colored hair and a strong jawline is yelling for the others to spare us and let us all go.
He's struggling against men twice his size and putting up a heroic fight.
I'm lifted up, and as I go over, it looks like he does also.
As Edward slips his tongue into my mouth one more time, I hear Hera's voice echo through my mind.
You've found him. The very last one.
Whoever Edward's ancestor was, he tried to save me.
He can't possibly be the next target. I won't believe it. I feel the panic start to rise, and I pull away.
I'm breathless, but so is Edward. He smiles at me, and I try to return it. I'm pretty sure I convince him. I am a liar after all.
He moves to the door of the restaurant, and I follow silently.
After we're seated, I excuse myself to the restroom and have a mild panic attack in the stall. I text Emmett, but I know he won't respond because he's pissed off at me.
Nothing makes sense right now. If that sailor died, how is Edward sitting at the table waiting for me?
The urge to flee is so strong right now, but more than anything, I want to know as much as I can about Edward Cullen.
I splash water on my face and move to leave the restroom when my phone buzzes.
Emmett: Hera says she'll grant you an audience.
Emmett: Are you all right? I can come get you.
Even with our fight last night, Emmett knows. Usually, when I find my mark, the bloodlust sets in automatically. It can be dangerous for the innocent bystanders, obviously, but in this day and age, I have to be aware of people seeing something and filming me and posting it online somewhere.
Bella: Threat level: Green. I can feel a buzz ... but it's like it's barely there.
Emmett: I'll be nearby.
He has this ability to know where I am at all times. When Emmett and I first met, I hated it. I still hate it, but right now, I'll take it.
I drag myself out of the restroom and make my way to the table where Edward is sitting. He looks up from his menu and smiles at me as I sit down.
"Hey, are you sure you're all right?" he asks as I take a sip from the water glass at my seat. "You look a little pale."
I nod as I set the glass down. "I didn't get a lot of sleep last night. So, I'm just a little tired, but I'm fine."
This place is the casual type where the tables were covered with paper. Dinner came in a plastic bag—a mess of crab, shrimp, crawfish, corn, sausage, and potatoes swimming in butter, garlic, and Cajun seasoning.
Silverware was strongly discouraged.
We were trying to make small talk while attacking our food.
"What do you do for a living?" I ask as I watch Edward suck a crawfish head.
"I work for the government actually." He smirks a little as I feel my jaw drop slightly. "I'm not a mindless drone."
"What do you do?" I'm using every wet wipe the server has left to clean my hands, but I know they'll smell like garlic for a few days.
"I'm a civilian instructor for the Navy. I teach sailors how to use and maintain equipment on their ships," he says with a shrug, like it's no big deal. Maybe it isn't to him.
"Were you in the Navy?" I'm trying for casual, and since he doesn't look alarmed, I decide I pull it off well.
"No, I wrote the program software and just got lucky with the job. The job opened up here in San Diego, and I sat on it for a long time." He sets down yet another tiny crawfish corpse and looks up at me. "Then I got that feeling, the one we were talking about last night. I just knew it was the right time." He grins and I get a flutter in my stomach.
That feeling is always with me, lurking under the surface.
I can feel it clawing at me, trying to release the monster inside of me.
I hate it. I'm not a monster. I never was. Hera made me this way.
I saved you. They tried to violate you. They tried to kill you.
I shake her voice away and try to focus on Edward.
"I only ask because I think I may have found an ancestor of yours who was on a sailing ship more than 150 years ago," I say as I take a sip from my water. "That's why I wondered if there was a history there."
Edward frowns a little, and it takes him more than a moment to respond.
"Bella, that's really interesting, but this"—he gestures around to the restaurant and we both smile as we take in the fake fishing nets and plastic crabs hanging on the walls, the small piles of crustacean shells on our table—"is a date. If you want to talk about the genealogy you're doing for me, let's set up a separate time to do that."
"Point taken," I tell him and excuse myself to the restroom again. This time, I just wash my hands as thoroughly as possible and only take a small moment to breathe through a panic attack.
Get it together. He can't see you like this.
I exit the restroom to find him coming out of the men's restroom, and he tells me he's taken care of the check, and we should get out of this place.
Downtown San Diego is starting to come to life, and I suggest walking down to Seaport Village for ice cream and a walk along the embarcadero.
Edward catches my hand as we run across the street before the crosswalk timer runs out, and I grip him tightly.
"That's a little hard," Edward says as he flexes his hand within mine. I relax my hold and smile.
The siren is building inside of me. This would be the perfect opportunity to take him, isolate him.
"Sorry," I chuckle and give his hand a playful squeeze. "I don't know my own strength sometimes."
We make our way down to the tourist trap with small, overpriced gift shops and restaurants. Maritime decorations are scattered everywhere, and when we pass an art gallery that is closing up shop for the day, Edward stops us.
"Isn't it gorgeous?" he asks, and it takes me several moments to figure out what he's focused on.
There are sculptures of dolphin pairs leaping out of the water and a group of sea turtles twisting about in an infinity pattern.
Finally, I see it. Nestled off to the side, almost as if it's hiding.
A mermaid with a shimmering rainbow tail in a graceful dive, one arm outstretched in front of her. Her mane of hair billowing around her and a look of sheer determination on her face.
"It is beautiful." I find myself sighing as I stare at the creature. "I have a collection of mermaid art; well, anything mermaid really."
"Seriously?" Edward asks as I Iead him away and steal one more glance over my shoulder.
"Oh, yeah. I have a really kitschy set of salt and pepper shakers and oven mitts." I laugh as we hit the Ben and Jerry's stand. "If it's got a mermaid on it, I usually buy it."
"Well, that's a handy tidbit to know," Edward says as we make our way down the embarcadero, past the tiny fishing boats, the giant USS Midway Museum, and past a few buskers hustling for money.
Our cones are gone, and we're leaning on some railing looking out on the residential sailboats and enjoying the lights from the city on the water.
"I've had a really nice time tonight," Edward says as he drapes his arm around my shoulders.
I feel myself grin, and the only thing I feel right now are soft butterflies of lust and desire in my belly.
There's no darkness or hate anywhere … and I revel in it.
"You're good company," I tell him and bump his hip gently with mine.
He offers to call for an Uber, and we start to walk toward the pickup point.
Edward's playing with my fingertips, and I'm giggling lightly, and it feels like a Netflix rom-com.
Then the night comes crashing around me. I hear footsteps approaching, and I'm immediately on guard.
I know the scent of the being near us.
"Bella? Is that you?" The friendly voice catches me off guard; it sounds forced and slightly strained.
"Oh, Emmett!" I drag Edward closer to my side, just slightly.
"Edward, this is Emmett." I introduce the two men and stare at Emmett until he clears his throat.
"I was just out on a date. How weird is this?" he says with a forced laugh. Edward laughs with him and doesn't notice anything, but I can see and hear and feel everything Emmett isn't telling me.
"It's nice to finally put a face to the name," Edward says and then looks around. "Where's your date?"
I continue to stare at Emmett. He dates, but I have never had to meet one of his girls.
We are weirdly close; anyone who spends enough time around us sees that something isn't natural between us.
So we don't do this whole "meet my current squeeze" bullshit.
Heels click clack toward us, and my head snaps in the direction of the sound.
We're standing just under the light of a street lamp, and the first thing that is illuminated is one long, tan leg.
"There you are." A tall, slender blonde appears, and I suddenly feel the rage that has subsided erupt inside of me.
"This is Rosalie," Emmett says.
"You must be Bella," she says in a saccharine voice. "It's such a pleasure to meet you."