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It had been three days since she'd seen him, or any of them, really. Three days where she'd been left to wonder just what was going on, since he hadn't bothered to call, or answer her calls and texts. And now, as she pulled up and parked her truck after another solitary day at school, there he was, leaning against his Volvo, waiting, she could only surmise, for her.
She knew, when he'd escorted her home from that disaster of a birthday party at his home, that something serious had been going through his mind. And if she knew anything about Edward Cullen—and after what had happened in Arizona with James the nomad, she was pretty sure she did-he was thinking about leaving her, again, for 'her own good' of course.
Before she'd even reached for her bag, he was there, opening her door for her. "Hi," she said as she got out, stepping to the side as he closed the door. "Where've you been? And why haven't you or Alice answered my calls?"
With a put-upon sigh, he gestured toward the house. "Let's go inside and I'll tell you."
The fell into step together and he waited as she unlocked the door. Hanging her coat and bag on the hook by the door, she waited for him to do the same before heading for the living room where she took a seat on the couch.
Looking at him expectantly as he chose to sit in Charlie's chair, she raised a brow as he ran a hand over his messy hair before meeting her gaze.
"Before I tell you what's going on, you should know it was my intention to leave Forks after what happened with Jasper."
Even though his words weren't entirely unexpected, her stomach twisted into knots and her heart felt as though it was cracking in two. Did she really mean that little to him? That he could just leave when things didn't go perfectly? Wasn't she worth staying to work out the hardships? She certainly would have for him…
He must have read the hurt in her expression and her eyes because he raised a hand. "It's not because I don't care for you, Bella. It's actually because I care so much that I wanted to leave. We're just not safe for you to be around, and I was a fool to expose you to our world, and an even greater fool to think you and I could ever work."
"Nothing serious happened, Edward. I'm fine. You all kept me safe."
He leaned forward in the chair, frowning deeply. "Bella, you just don't get it, do you? One more split second, if Emmett, Rose and Carlisle hadn't stopped him, you would be dead or at the very least, changed right now. It was that close. And with the exception of Carlisle, there wasn't a vampire in that room that didn't lust for your blood, including me—especially me, to my everlasting shame," he finished with a murmur as he slumped back into the chair.
"It wouldn't be so bad being changed," she muttered. "You know it's what I want."
Slowly, he shook his head. "You have no idea what you're asking, Bella. You have this perfect picture in your head of what it will be like, and I can tell you, it's not even close."
"I know what your family's like! And despite what you say, none of you are monsters, Edward."
He shot forward, grasping her chin firmly, but gently enough that it wouldn't bruise as he hissed, "You know nothing! We—every one of us—are soulless monsters, Bella. What you see is a façade—a mask we put on every day for the sake of the humans we live amongst. Every minute with you is a struggle not to kill you, don't you see?" He cupped her face while staring into her wide eyes. "As much as the human part of me cares for you, Bella, there's an equal part of me that longs to drain every drop of blood from your body." He released her face and sat back in Charlie's chair. "That is the truth of it."
Her eyes misted with tears and one rolled down her cheek as she asked," Okay, so what now? Are you breaking up with me?"
He leaned forward and dropped his face into his hands, then slowly shook his head, his tone laced with misery as he spoke, "I should. God knows, it's the right thing to do." He looked at her then, his eyes full of pain. "But I can't. Over the last three days, I've tried to force myself to leave…but I can't, especially knowing that the rest of the family has to stay."
At first, all she felt was relief, then the wording he'd used sank in and her brow pinched. "What do you mean, the rest of the family has to stay? You make it sound like they don't have a choice."
He looked away as a muscle in his jaw ticked. "They can't go anywhere because of Jasper." He looked back at her and his eyes had a hardened glint to them. "Carlisle's even taking a hiatus from the hospital because of him."
"Why? Did he…did he slip after you guys got him outside?"
He scoffed. "No, he didn't slip. They wrestled him into the woods, but couldn't risk letting him go. It took all four of them—Emmett, Rose, Alice and Esme—to hold him down. Then, when I finally left with you, it took the five of them to get him down into the basement."
Her brows shot up. "The basement? I thought there was nothing down there?"
"Why would you guys put him down there?"
His eyes were hard as he answered, "Because he's completely lost it. He's feral, Bella, and none of us can get through to him. We even had to chain him when I got home that night."
She gaped at him. "You have him chained? What about Alice? Can't she talk to him?"
He shook his head. "No, he snaps and growls at anyone that gets close, even Alice."
"Maybe he just needs to hunt. Why didn't they let him go in the woods that night? He probably just needs to feed."
He chuckled, but there was no humor in it. "Let him go?! So he could murder half of Forks?" He shook his head. "You see? This is what I'm talking about, Bella. You have no idea what I've seen in his head or what Alice saw him doing that night if they had let him go."
She rubbed her brow and nodded. "He wanted to finish me," she stated, thinking that had to be it, but he shook his head.
"No," he said, almost grudgingly, "that's the curious part. He had no intention of going after you." He looked bemused. "The bits and pieces of coherent thoughts I could get from him were…protective of you." His tone changed from thoughtful to disgusted as he drove home his last point, "But make no mistake, he wanted human blood that night, and has every day since. That's why we have him chained."
"Has he even spoken to anyone?" her tone sad as she thought of the quiet, gentlemanly vampire she knew being in such a state.
"No, he hasn't. He doesn't even answer mentally when asked direct questions. His mind's a mess of violence, memories and…" She watched as Edward's hands clenched into fists. "….flashes of you, especially the expression on your face when he tried to get to you on your birthday."
"Me?" she asked, surprised. If he didn't want to finish her, why was she in his thoughts?
"Yes. And no, I don't know why he's thinking of you."
"Maybe…" she began hesitantly, knowing Edward wasn't going to like this idea at all, but she had to try. She could only imagine what poor Alice was going through, and this was, at least in part, her fault. If she hadn't been so damn careless and gotten that paper cut… "Maybe I should try to talk to hi…"
"No!" he snapped. "There's no way I'm letting you anywhere near him, Bella, so forget it."
She scowled. "You said he's chained for god's sake, and if all of you are there…"
His tone was the coldest she'd ever heard it as he answered, "I said no, Bella and I mean it. You're not even to come to the house for the foreseeable future." He stood and grasped her chin, staring into her eyes while making sure she couldn't look away. "Don't defy me in this, Bella. You won't win this one. Not even Alice will help you."
She had to fight back a shudder at the subtle threat she read in his eyes and tone as she murmured, "Fine, I get it, I'll stay away."
He smiled, leaned down and pecked her lips with a quick kiss. "Good girl. I'll see you tomorrow at school."
He turned and left and she blinked, wondering what the hell had just changed between them. She couldn't quite grasp what it was, but it was almost tangible—like something cold and uncomfortable had just settled over her shoulders. Nothing at all like the warmth she'd always felt with him in the past.
Her phone buzzed in her pocket and she jumped at the suddenness of it before plucking it out to read the text.
'Hi Bella. You don't know me, but I'm a friend of Jasper's. Name's Peter. Now, I don't follow the same diet the Cullens do, but I swear on my Mama's grave I won't hurt you. I think Jasper needs our help, so would you be willing to meet and talk with me? You name the time and place.
Looking forward to hearing from you,
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