He could have thrown the books onto the table with enough force to match his mood and it wouldn't have made a difference. The gesture, like the swirl of plots and emotions in his head, would still have been graceful, fluid, and lacking in nothing.

However, Edward Cullen did not throw his books down--not while they were all here, sitting ever-so-conspicuously at the Forks High School cafeteria, their little group ever an oddity-- he, albeit vexedly, placed them on the white, hopefully sterile tabletop to mark his place while he went to acquire lunch. He wouldn't let himself sink to displays motivated by furor. She would not drive him to that.

At least lunch was easier than other parts of the day. Biology was absolute (and very nearly literal) murder, for obvious reasons. Walking down the hall, he could catch traces of where she'd been--he was able to pick out her locker with his eyes closed now, sensing the lingering aftereffects of her touch and presence. Worst was when she went somewhere that he hadn't expected her to go, say, to the school administrative office to drop something off. He'd been so caught offguard that he very nearly terrified one of the secretaries as she went off on her coffee break. He'd explained it all away, saying that it was a nasty bout of some stomach flu that he wasn't completely over yet. She'd been sympathetic, after all, who, on seeing one of the most talented students Forks High School had to offer very nearly crumple to the ground, grasping at the wall in his struggle desperation, wouldn't be?

The memory still made him grimace and he cursed his weakness.

He was still concentrating so hard to blot it out, though he knew it was futile. He could no more censor the scent from his senses than he could stop the pull of a whirlpool, or stand against a hurricane. He was debating the appropriateness of his ocean metaphors when he was hit with a strikingly vivid fantasy that the lunch lady was having about herself (looking much better than she actually did) in a bikini, Brad Pitt, water droplets glistening on his skin, and a sunset-washed seashore with no one else around, no one to see... Edward quickly reestablished his control over what he was seeing, trying hurriedly to concentrate on someone else to extricate himself from that. He barely managed to keep a straight face when, smiling and hair-netted, she handed him his tapioca pudding.

Sometimes he didn't understand why people wanted to the ability to read minds so badly. It often led to a lot more trouble than one bargained for.

Though, granted, it was helpful to know exactly what people had figured out about them, if only to give he and his some time to escape. He returned to the table, absentmindedly feeling the sweep of thoughts flow through him. He sat, and inspected the mass of things claiming to be edible that had accumulated on his tray. It certainly looked like today would be one of those days that he was glad that he couldn't eat.

No, he was preoccupied with a hunger of a much different kind...

He almost laughed at himself. He was starting to sound like one of those bulky males in romance novels whose authors insisted on describing every instinct in terms of hunger, insatiable and unstopp--

He blinked rather rapidly, driving away the thought.

Lunch was one of the rare times when he wasn't always startled to be struck by her proximity. She sat on the far side of the cafeteria, away from him, as most students were prone to do, far enough and with enough bodies in between them that her scent was, while not rendered ineffectual in any meaning of the word, muffled. Like trying to pick out a sole voice crying out in the din, it became more difficult to latch onto it. The voice, of course, that lone siren in the torrenting storm, would still be there, calling him and daring him, ever pulling at his resolve, but he could resist. Oh, he could resist...

"It's never going to work." He breathed.

"What's never going to work?" Alice inquired, tilting her head to one side curiously. "I could check that."

Edward smiled ruefully, shook his head, and whispered in her ear, "Jasper will never wear that, no matter how much you bribe him."

Alice pouted. A quick glance into her mind had revealed that she'd been toying with the idea of getting a Civil War style calvary coat for Jasper to wear about. She'd always been rather taken with the illustrious aspects of his past, and, now that the style of brocade dusters and velvet cuffs were again becoming chic, she had been hoping she might convince him. She gave Edward a sly grin and replied, "Prove me wrong."

He knew better than to take her up on the offer.

Lunch was winding down and people were getting ready to depart for their next classes. So, it looked like his momentary reprieve was over. Someone swiftly walked past, sending a wiff of the fresh, tantalizing call of her blood careening into him, a frantic message against the air. He struggled, eventually stooping to pretend that something of the inedible meal had gotten stuck in his throat, just to avoid making a scene...

Why did it have to be this way? Why couldn't any one of them have had this problem instead? Was it so much to ask that he, being burdened with knowing what everyone thought of him, about him, what they didn't want him to know, what they wanted no one to know--that he, perhaps should not be doubly burdened, maybe spared the added agony of having something so irresistable, something so tempting and so inviting, something that was his and his alone (but that he could never claim!), something so wrong placed right under his nose every day?

Had he really done so much evil in the world that he deserved torture like that?

Oh yes, of course he had. Which one of them had not? Who hadn't already damned themselves in his circle?

And yet, there it was again, so sweetly singing against the tides and tumults, strong and clear against the crashing waves of thoughts and other scents, a beacon piercing through the gathering clouds, through the roar of storm and strife, and all it took to reach out to it was--

No. He would conquer this. He was no slave to his instincts. He was not like those others.

He concentrated on the table. The feeling remained, ever patient, poking and prodding at the edges of his senses, taunting him just to give in a little, just a little bit. Surely he'd been doing so well keeping away that he could use a little relief, a little reward. Solace at the center of the storm. Whom would it hurt?

Just about everyone in the room. Her.

He could take it no longer. Edward wrenched his eyes from the table and set them, fiercely, defiantly on her.

It was the strangest thing.

The call remained, ever-present, ever assuring him everything would be just fine, asking him even to come over, but there was also silence. He'd long known that he couldn't access the workings of her mind--would he have wanted to, more so now? perhaps-- it came as no surprise to him. It was...oddly calm. He could still feel the whirls and shifts in the people around her, and knew that if he concentrated too hard on her area, his ears would ring with their thoughts, so silent was she.

It was...relaxing. And deadly, all at the same time. Some bizarre combination of solace and danger, a lure to him in both ways. To get too close was to kill her, to revel in the fulfillment of everything he'd been teased with, pushed to the edge of his will to deny. To stay far enough was to enjoy the blankness, the ability to have his thoughts, and just his own to occupy him, yet to always be called back to the source.

It was tempting, oh so tempting...

Perhaps, thought Edward Cullen, as he strode purposefully out of the cafeteria and onward to his next class, there was something more to this Bella Swan than her blood. Perhaps...

He flicked his eyes back at her for a moment and then was gone.

The girl in question stood up suddenly, nearly toppling her lunch tray and tripping over the leg of her chair in the process. Ben caught the tray, and Mike Newton steadied her.

"Hey, easy there. What's wrong?"

She shook her head.

"I dunno. It just felt like someone was calling me or something."

Mike looked around. "Doesn't seem like it."

Bella smiled, hoping to distract them from the all-too-recent almost-fiasco. "Yeah. Guess it was just my imagination, then."