Author's Note: It's probably obvious... But this is my last update until Breaking Dawn! (TONIGHT! WOO!) Just a heads up as well... Anything that happens later on in this story is what I already planned BEFORE Breaking Dawn came out, so I don't plan on changing anything after I read the book. (I think that'd be kind-of hard to do with this story, anyway...)
Chapter Four: Twenty Questions
When I woke up today, I was much more at ease than I had been the morning before.
It was probably because Edward was still lying with me.
"Good morning," he whispered when I started to move. I quickly turned in his arms so that I was facing him.
"Hello," I mumbled, opening my eyes in a squint as I tried to look up at the god lying in my bed without getting blinded by the light spilling in through the window. "You're still here."
"Of course I am," he responded with that adorable crooked smile of his.
I grinned as Edward leaned down and kissed the tip of my nose and then moved in once more to kiss me on the lips.
I sighed, pressing myself into Edward's chest as I let myself get accustomed to the bright light shining in through my window. I touched my hand to Edward's, watching with fascination as it sparkled beneath mine.
"I hope the sun doesn't stop shining," I muttered, lacing my fingers through Edward's. He tore his gaze away from the window and looked at me with a quizzical expression.
"Why?" he asked, frowning. "I can't go outside unless it's cloudy," he gently pointed out, probably trying to figure out if I had completely lost my marbles.
I smirked and nodded. "I know," I replied in a lofty voice. "You would just have to stay in here with me all day."
The puzzled expression was wiped off of Edward's face as he let out a soft chuckle. "Oh, you're clever, Bella," he said with a hint of sarcasm. "Unfortunately," he added, "Alice said it should be cloudy in about ten minutes."
I didn't let the disappointment sink in that I wouldn't be able to keep Edward in bed for longer than ten minutes. Instead, I focused on another part of his statement. "You talked to Alice?"
He nodded, letting out a heavy sigh. "She called to let me know she'd stop by as soon as she could."
I yawned. "Why is she coming over?" I asked. "Did Tanya take her power, too?"
I had meant for my question to be a joke, but Edward didn't laugh. Instead, he shook his head. "Not yet," he muttered, looking back out the window.
I frowned. Then I reached over and wrapped my hands around Edward's middle and kissed the underside of his jaw. "It'll be fine," I tried to reassure him. "Don't worry about it."
Edward glanced down at me with an apologetic look. "You must be tired of hearing me complain about Tanya."
I shook my head, pressing it into Edward's shoulder. "As long as you don't say you love her more than me, I'm fine with it."
Edward rolled his eyes at the lunacy of this possibility. "Right," he muttered, turning so that he was facing me. He continued creeping closer, hovering just above me as I giggled. "Do you really think I could love anyone but you?"
I tried to laugh and respond playfully to Edward's comment, but I couldn't. Something about his close proximity was causing me to lose my breath. "Um… no?" My voice cracked as I spoke.
Edward just smiled and lowered his face to mine. He paused for a moment and I could feel his cool, sweet breath rush over me, making me dizzy, and then he kissed me.
Now, normally, I get along really well with Alice. Sometimes she gets to be a little too upbeat for my taste, and occasionally her know-it-all personality can be a little annoying.
But it's times like these when I really hate her.
"Edward, stop snacking on Bella!" she loudly interrupted, announcing her presence to the room. I heard my bedroom door slam closed behind her and groaned.
Edward smiled against my lips and slowly pulled away. He looked down at me with an amused expression and then rolled off of me and back onto his side of the bed.
"Dammit, Alice," I growled, sitting straight up. I would have to remind Charlie to invest in a security system. I threw my bed sheets off of my legs and climbed to my feet. "Why do you always have to barge in like that?"
I knew that Alice's smile was still plastered on her face, unfazed by my anger. "What?" she asked, playing dumb. "You mean just when it was getting good?"
I was facing my closet, picking out my clothes for the day, but I knew that both of them could see the blush on the back of my neck, clearly giving away my embarrassment.
I felt a cool pair of hands sneak up behind me. They carefully trailed down my spine, stopping at my waist, and then snaked around to my front. I was pulled back into Edward's chest as he hugged me close to him.
"She's just jealous," he whispered into my ear.
"No, I'm not," Alice quickly argued back, but I didn't seem to hear any of her words as Edward started to kiss his way down the side of my neck.
He slowly pulled away with a final kiss beneath my earlobe. "Go ahead and get dressed," he told me.
I nodded, afraid to use my voice, and darted to the bathroom to shower.
In record time, I showered, dressed, and dried my hair. Edward almost looked surprised that I was back so soon.
"Hey," he greeted me as I quickly walked across the room to his side. He was sitting on the edge of my bed, speaking in hushed tones with Alice. "That was fast."
"Yeah," I agreed. He reached out and snatched my waist, easily maneuvering me onto his lap. I looked up into his face. "What were you two talking about?"
Edward uneasily looked up at Alice and then back down at me. "Tanya," he admitted, sighing in frustration. "Again."
My own gaze darted up towards Alice. "What did she do this time?" I asked. And then, in the nastiest tone I could produce, I muttered, "Kiss Jasper?"
Alice smiled at my comment, understanding my resentment towards Tanya. "No," she said, appearing somewhat apologetic. Edward sensed my unease and hugged me closer to his chest. "Actually, she hasn't done anything."
My jaw dropped of its own accord. "She hasn't done anything?"
Edward quickly corrected his sister's statement. "She hasn't done anything since last night, at least."
I was almost fuming by this point. "Did you know that she took away Edward's mind-reading powers?" I asked, taking out my frustration on Alice.
Alice simply nodded. She didn't even bat an eyelash as I lashed out at her. "Yeah, we figured that out," she told me. "Carlisle hasn't said anything, since Tanya and Kate are still at the house and he doesn't want them to overhear, but I think he's a little suspicious, as well."
"A little?" I repeated.
"Well…" Alice hesitantly looked over at Edward as she defended Tanya. "I can understand why she might feel uncomfortable when someone is constantly invading your private and personal thoughts."
Edward rolled his eyes, as if he had heard this conversation one too many times before. "It's not like I asked for it," he argued. "And I try to let you all have your own privacy as much as I can."
"I know that," Alice immediately fought back. "But Tanya doesn't know that."
I could feel the growl building in Edward's chest before I heard it in the back of his throat. "She didn't care last time," he quickly pointed out. "When I was in Denali, she didn't care that I could read her mind then!"
Alice held up a hand, gesturing for Edward to calm down. "I know," she repeated herself. "You don't have to defend yourself to me, Edward – I believe you."
I pressed my hand flat against Edward's chest, grabbing his attention. He quickly looked down at me, dropping his furious expression, but his breath was still coming out in short, quick puffs of air.
"I'm sorry," he finally whispered, reaching up to cover my hand with his. "It's just – she's so – "
"I know," I sympathized with him.
Alice took a step back so that she was pressed up against my desk. She lightly hopped onto a cleared spot, daintily crossing one leg over the other and folding her arms across her chest. "I've had to deal with this before," Alice pointed out. "With the werewolves, remember?"
I ignored the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach at the mention of werewolves and nodded. "Right," I said. "You couldn't see them in your visions – it was just blank."
Alice lifted an eyebrow and smirked, glancing over at Edward. "If I could handle it, then so can you."
Edward shook his head hesitantly. "But it's not really the same thing, Alice."
Alice rolled her eyes. "Well, you're not going to get much closer than that, Edward."
"Agree to disagree," I softly interjected, glancing back and forth between the two vampires. No matter how old they were – I knew they would always behave just like siblings.
"Fine," Alice immediately complied with my request. "But you two have to come back to the house." She narrowed her eyes at Edward. "Carlisle, Esme, and Rosalie left to go hunting this morning – they made Jasper, Emmett, and I stay behind to give Tanya and Kate some company while they're gone," she said as she wrinkled her nose in disgust. "And it just wouldn't be fair if you got to hide at Bella's the whole time without being tortured along with the rest of us…"
I knew Alice was trying to guilt Edward into going back with her, but I had a feeling she might need to persuade me just a bit more than him.
"Uh…" I looked up into Edward's expression, hoping he would remain set in his decision not to return. "No, I don't think so," I told her. "I mean – we already met them once, right? And we'll see them at the wedding…"
Alice turned her glare on me, probably trying to get me to shut my mouth without her having to use brute force.
"You don't want to go back?" Edward asked, turning his head so that he was looking directly at me.
"What – do you?" I nearly shrieked, disbelief evident in my voice.
Edward frowned, staring at a point past my head before answering. "Well, no, not really," he confessed. "But I think it's the polite thing to do."
"Polite?" I squeaked. "Edward – Tanya hates me." I glanced frantically back and forth between the two Cullen's. "Don't you think she might try to kill me if she had the chance?" I asked, somewhat frantic by this point.
Edward glanced wordlessly up to Alice who shook her head. "Well, she's not planning on it," she told me. "I've been trying to keep an eye on both Tanya and Kate since they got here, but there isn't anything out of the ordinary."
I scoffed at this statement, but felt somewhat assured by it nonetheless. "They're not doing anything?" I asked.
Alice shrugged. "All I've seen is Tanya and Kate at our place. Well." She waved her hand, as if she were brushing off her last comment. "And, of course, they'll go hunting. But other than that, there's really nothing out of the ordinary."
Edward spoke up. "But you'll keep watching," he said, looking pointedly at Alice.
She nodded. "Of course." Alice glanced down at my worried expression and relaxed into a friendly smile. "If it helps at all, I think Kate's going to go to a hotel."
This comment puzzled me. I looked over at Edward to see if he knew anything about this but he seemed as thrown off as I had been. "Why?" I asked.
Alice shrugged. "Not sure," she admitted. "I mean – I know she went to a hotel last night. She might just be a bit more tempted by your blood than Tanya is. At least, that's what I'm assuming since that's why she left in the first place."
Edward looked furious.
"Kate is having such a hard time being around Bella that she needed to go to a hotel?" he repeated, eyes wide. His protective grip around my waist tightened as his eyes frantically darted around the room, probably expecting Kate to jump out at any minute.
And then he opened his mouth and said the last thing I ever expected to hear cross those angelic lips.
I was too stunned to say another word. My jaw dropped and my eyes doubled in size, trying to process what Edward had said.
"What?" Alice asked, unfazed by Edward's exclamation. "What's wrong with that? She was hunting all night and rented a hotel room – isn't that a good thing?"
Edward jumped up so fast that I thought I was about to go flying through the air, but he caught me around the waist before I did. He gently placed me back on the floor as he stormed forward, stopping directly in front of Alice.
"It's one thing to be attracted to Bella's scent when I can hear their thoughts," Edward hissed. His hands were balled up at his side and shaking in his fury. He looked as if he were about to punch his sister, but Alice remained motionless on the desk with her arms still crossed. She even cocked her head to the side, as if she was purposefully trying to remain calm, just to get on Edward's nerves. "With James, I knew that he would try to attack at the baseball game," Edward pointed out, "because I could hear his thoughts. With Jasper – " Alice flinched, unable to keep her composure for this example " – I knew that he would try to attack at our house. Because I could hear his thoughts."
Alice finally averted her gaze, realizing the issue, now.
"If Bella so much as gets a splinter and Kate is attracted to the smell of fresh blood – I couldn't stop her if I wanted to!"
"Now, that's not true," Alice countered. She almost looked frightened by Edward's negative spin on her supposed "good news". "You don't need to read minds to protect Bella."
Edward took in a deep breath, trying to calm himself down from his rant. He turned to face me and immediately dropped his livid expression.
He was by my side in seconds, pulling me into his chest.
Although I was unable to move from his strong grip, I managed to ask, "Do we still have to go back, now?"
Edward chuckled, lifting the heavy mood that had filled the room. Alice's stiff posture relaxed. "We'll go for a bit," he said. "But you aren't leaving my side."
"I already promised you that I wouldn't," I mumbled into his shirt as a smile spread across my face.
"Good," he responded, gently stroking my hair.
"Right," Alice said, blowing out a great puff of air from the corner of her mouth. She easily jumped off of my desk and landed silently on her feet. "Now that we've solved that problem… Are you going to come back now? The sun will be back out in a few minutes and we should really leave while we have the chance."
I nodded, watching through my window as the clouds threatened to disperse and let the sun shine through. Reluctantly, I followed Edward out of my bedroom, down the stairs, and into the kitchen.
"By the way," Alice added as Edward snatched my car keys before I could. "There was definitely a werewolf on your property, Bella."
I frowned, glancing up at Edward. I hadn't seen or even heard from any of the wolves from the pack at La Push in weeks.
"What?" I replied, oh-so-intelligently.
"Outside," Alice responded, wrinkling her nose as I opened the front door. I noticed that Charlie's cruiser wasn't sitting in its usual spot on the driveway, meaning that he had already left for work this morning. "Of course – don't mind the fact that they're on our land and have, technically, broken the treaty…"
I ignored Alice's ramblings. The treaty between the wolves and the vampires had always been strictly enforced – but after my friendship with the werewolves, my house had quickly turned into neutral territory. Both vampires and werewolves alike were allowed in my home – though it seemed unusual to have a visit from a werewolf after our fallout a few months ago…
"Why?" I asked, looking around my front yard as if I was expecting a werewolf to jump out of one of my neighbor's bushes. "Who was it?"
Alice didn't say anything. Instead, she pointed at the mailbox at the end of our driveway. "I'd check there," she told me. "It smells the worst."
I threw a confused expression over my shoulder at Edward and Alice before cautiously stepping forward to open the mailbox.
Inside was a single slip of paper. I pulled it out of the dark space and examined it closer, realizing that it was one of the wedding invitations that Alice had sent out at the beginning of the summer.
"What is this…?" I trailed off, staring down at the paper. I flipped it over, startled by the messy writing scrawled on the back of it.
Sorry. Can't make it.
My shoulders slumped forward and my insides contracted uneasily as I read and re-read the card's contents.
"Jake?" I muttered, staring at the name on the bottom of the card. I blinked several times, processing the meaning of the card before turning and looking up at Edward who had just joined me. "You invited Jake?"
Edward did not look surprised by my accusation. He kept his hands at his side instead of reaching out to touch me as he normally did whenever we were in such a close proximity to each other. His face remained impassive and composed.
"Yes," he finally answered.
I closed my eyes, wishing I hadn't heard the word. But, try as I might, I couldn't ignore his confession. With an exhausted sigh, I whispered, "Why?"
Edward did not move whatsoever as he explained his reasoning behind inviting Jake to our wedding. "Because I knew you would have wanted to give him the choice."
I shook my head, incredibly frustrated. I hadn't been this upset with Edward in months. "But I told you not to!"
Edward's gaze dropped to the ground. He almost looked apologetic. "If it had been me – I would have wanted to know you still cared."
I crumpled up the wedding invitation in my fit of fury and threw it on the ground. I started to stomp away, ignoring Edward's hurt expression, before immediately turning right around to argue back with him. "Well, what if I don't care?" I shouted at him, knowing that it was a complete lie. "I mean – there was a reason I didn't invite him – right?"
Edward did not say anything. Alice, who had been standing by my truck, remained silent as well. I wanted to shake them both – to yell and scream in their faces, just to get a reaction, but I knew it wouldn't do me any good.
"Alright, fine," I muttered, walking back to Edward with my eyes locked on his shirt instead of gazing up into his expression. I crossed my arms over my chest. "I still care about him," I admitted, though Edward didn't appear surprised. "But I didn't want to hurt him." Then I glanced up into his understanding expression and felt my arms drop weakly to my side, unable to put up a fight any longer. "And I guess I'm glad you still sent him an invitation."
After my awkward apology, Edward casually stepped forward and hugged me, as if nothing had happened. Then he whispered, "I know."
Bound and determined to leave this mess behind me, I quickly pulled out of his arms and dragged him over to my truck. "Let's just get this visit over with, shall we?"
Edward smiled, juggling my car keys back and forth between his hands as he circled the car. "Agreed."
Patrol this morning was particularly excruciating. Normally, it would consist of me trying to think of anything but Bella while the other wolf on duty would constantly complain about how annoying it was to work with me.
But today, there were almost no thoughts of Bella.
Any other time, I would have been relieved to know that I had finally found some way to avoid obsessing over the girl who had been plaguing my thoughts for several months – but the thing that concerned me was that I had replaced Bella with another girl.
No, not just some other girl.
The only reason why my sudden change didn't seem to draw any suspicion was the fact that Embry's thoughts were mirroring my own.
She was so nice. And pretty. Really pretty. How old do you think she is? She couldn't be more than seventeen – eighteen tops.
Seventeen, my thoughts automatically supplied without a chance for me to abstain from answering.
Yeah, probably seventeen. Maybe she's sixteen – do you think? But she looks too mature to be that young, though, right?
I stared at the green scenery as I ran past, actually trying, for the first time in several months, to think of Bella on purpose.
Bella. I love Bella, I forced myself to think. She's beautiful – with that wavy, brown hair, I tried to convince myself. But then, before I could list anymore traits about her that I liked, my mind seemed to speak for itself. But it's not nearly as nice as black hair.
Embry's response was immediate. I know, it's nice, he said, ignoring my strange thoughts. I think I'm going to ask her out.
I was caught so off guard by this thought that I didn't have time to be upset. Kate? I confirmed. You're going to ask Kate out? Why are you doing that? What if you don't find her? Besides, she's only here for a week!
Embry easily answered the questions I had bombarded him with. There's only one hotel in town, Jake, he reminded me with a short dumbass tagged onto the end of the sentence, though I was sure he didn't intend for me to hear that piece of his thoughts. She'll be in the area. I just have to keep an eye out for her.
Well, when are you going to ask her? I couldn't hold back the question before it spilled forward.
After our shift, I guess. I was hoping to bring her to a bonfire tonight. We could take her to Sam to – dammit, I forgot about Sam – I haven't talked to him since I found out we were brothers. But we have a shift together tomorrow – he'll find out sooner or later, Jake. I need to tell him – it'll probably have to be tonight, won't it? God, I don't want to tell him. Shit, what am I going to do?
Though I wasn't glad to hear where Embry's thoughts had traveled this time – I knew the last few hours of our shift would be filled with his worries about Sam – I was certainly rather relieved to not have them concentrated on Kate any longer.
Edward tensed in the driver's seat, gripping tighter onto the wheel. He glanced over at Alice and me in the seat beside him before groaning.
"Tanya's still here," he muttered, staring openly at Alice. He watched her for a moment, as if trying to read her mind, and then he cringed and turned back to the road.
"Course she's still here," Alice muttered, shaking her head. "That's why we came back to the house in the first place. So you could have a pleasant conversation with her," Alice reminded him, stressing the word "pleasant".
Edward merely stared straight ahead as his lips tightened into a straight line.
Far sooner than I had hoped, we arrived at the Cullen's house. Alice hopped out of my truck and ran up to the house the moment the vehicle was in park, but Edward and I seemed to wait a beat before exiting.
My slow shuffle up to the front porch normally would have bothered Edward, but he didn't seem to mind the pace. In fact, he was practically setting the pace, moving slower and slower as we got closer to the door.
No matter how hard we tried to prolong the inevitable, we eventually entered the house, hovering nervously in the doorway.
I watched as Edward did a quick check around the room, probably searching for any sign of Kate, and then wrapped his arm protectively around my waist.
"They're upstairs," he muttered under his breath, but his eyes did not stop darting back and forth. "They're all in Alice's room."
"I thought you said you couldn't hear their thoughts," I whispered as we moved up the circular staircase. I was trying to lower my voice so that no one could hear it, but I was sure that whatever I said would be no secret to anyone in the Cullen house.
Finally, Edward's protective exterior broke and he let slip a tiny smile. "That doesn't mean I can't hear their voices."
"Oh." I dropped my eyes to the ground, blushing. "Right."
I had been expecting Tanya to be the first to say something the moment we were close enough to Alice's room, but, to my surprise, Emmett had been the first to speak.
"Yeah?" Edward responded, climbing the last stair. He gently guided me into Alice's colorful room by pressing his cool hand to the middle of my back. "What is it?"
Emmett was lounging on a wooden chair. His hands were locked behind his head in a laid-back pose and his feet were kicked up onto Jasper's desk. In the corner of the room, Jasper was hovering just beside Alice, glaring half-heartedly at Emmett. I had the suspicion that he had already tried once before to ask Emmett to move his feet off of his desk, but it didn't look like that conversation seemed to have worked the way Jasper would have wanted it to.
"Good morning," Emmett sang in a cheery tone, sounding almost Alice-like. He grinned.
I glanced up at Edward, wondering if I had missed something, but Edward seemed just as taken aback as I was. "Good morning, Emmett," he greeted his brother. "Why are you in such a good mood?"
Emmett scoffed. "Why would you assume that I was in a good mood – just because I was being polite."
Edward lifted an eyebrow as if the answer were obvious. "Because you're never polite."
I chuckled at this comment, unable to find the situation anything but hilarious.
"Well, Edward," Emmett continued, dropping his feet onto the floor with a dull thud. Jasper growled softly as a stack of papers – rather important looking documents – floated to the floor. "It just so happens that Tanya and I were having an interesting conversation before you got here."
My eyes immediately flicked over to the small couch pushed up against the opposite wall where Tanya had been sitting silently, staring at Edward and me up until that point. Now, she gave us a sickeningly sweet smile.
"Oh?" Edward said, sounding casual. Though I knew if I had been in his place, my voice surely would have cracked under Tanya's penetrating gaze.
"Yes," Emmett continued, positively beaming by this point. He glanced over to Tanya once more before turning back to eye Edward with curiosity. "We were just talking about how uncomfortable it gets when you're constantly reading everyone's mind."
Edward visibly tensed. His arm wrapped around my waist seemed to tighten around me, drawing me in as close as he possibly could. He fixed his stare on Emmett, refusing to look at Tanya. "I don't try to read your mind," Edward responded in a slow, but steady voice. "It's not something I can just turn off."
Emmett's smile, if possible, grew even wider. "Oh, I understand," Emmett quickly added. "We were just – discussing how things are different now that you can't pry into our minds."
Edward's normally golden eyes started to darken. I could tell that Emmett's playful comments weren't amusing to him in the slightest – they were almost doing the complete opposite.
"And how is it different?" Edward spoke through clenched teeth. His gaze darted over to meet Tanya's before it returned to Emmett's, glaring once more.
"Well – I could be planning what to buy you for your wedding gift right now – and you would have no idea what it was."
Edward shook his head, trying to ignore Emmett's taunts.
"Or maybe," Emmett continued with a smirk, "I took the Vanquish out for a spin last night while you were at Bella's." He bit his lower lip as he tried as hard as he could not to laugh. "But you can't really yell at me for borrowing your car if you don't know I did it, can you?"
Edward took a deep breath, trying to calm himself. I could tell it was taking a great deal of restraint for him to not march across the room and throw Emmett straight through the wall.
"Ok, let's play twenty questions!" Emmett finally shouted, letting out a loud laugh that he had been bottling up for several minutes. His knees were bouncing up and down in excitement as he teased Edward. He scrunched up his face, appearing as if he were deep in thought. "I'm thinking of a person…"
"Emmett," Edward growled, his eyes blazing with fury as he broke out of his controlled state.
"Damn, you guessed it," Emmett muttered, frowning. "Even without your ability, you're good…"
"Emmett, I think that's enough," Alice muttered, watching Edward with a nervous gaze. Though once Edward's eyes left hers, I was sure I spotted the tiniest of smiles grace Alice's lips.
I pressed my hand onto Edward's chest, hoping to calm him down before he got too worked up.
"So," Tanya broke the silence. She narrowed her eyes at me. "Where were you two planning on going for your honeymoon?"
Edward's entire body relaxed at the change of subject. He looked down at me, allowing a smile to grace his lips.
"Well," he answered, "it's actually a surprise."
Tanya's eyebrows shot up into her hairline. "Bella doesn't get any say?"
"Well, it's a little easier to buy her things when she doesn't know what they are," Edward explained. His smile was growing larger the more he spoke.
Tanya frowned. She leaned back on the couch and crossed her long, flawless legs. Then she turned her laser-like stare on me. "You don't let him buy you things?" she confirmed.
My knees were practically shaking by this point. All she had asked was a simple yes or no question – and I looked like I was about to faint!
"Um – no," I mumbled, pressing my entire body into Edward's side as I spoke. It was as if I was trying to hide myself from Tanya by burying myself deeper and deeper into Edward's chest. "I don't like it when he spends money on me," I told her. "It's not fair."
Tanya looked stunned by this response. She let out a high, musical laugh as she threw her head back and slapped her knee. "Well, why the hell not?" she asked in a voice loud enough to make me jump.
"Uh…" I slowed my hurried breaths as I glanced around the room. Edward remained motionless beside me as he stared unblinkingly back at Tanya. Jasper, by his rigid posture, was probably receiving several mixed emotions from the occupants of the room. Alice frowned, waiting for my response.
Emmett was the one that spoke up, however.
"If she doesn't like it when Edward buys her expensive things, then that's her choice," he stated with a low growl coating his voice. "You don't need to make her feel bad about it."
Tanya seemed surprised by Emmett's reaction. I know I would have been shocked if I were in her spot. One minute, he was making fun of Edward with Tanya, and the next he was defending me against Tanya.
"I was just trying to find out her reasons behind her statement," Tanya coolly replied. "Is there a crime against asking her a simple question?"
"No crime," Edward responded in a deadly calm tone. "I just think it would be nice if you spoke to my fiancée with a little more respect."
My stomach filled with butterflies at these words.
I stared at Tanya as her jaw slackened. I could practically read her mind. She's just a human! I knew she would say. She's not even pretty – how could you settle for that?
But she didn't say any of those things. Instead, she looked down at her short skirt, smoothing it out absentmindedly. "Well, I wouldn't have objected to you buying me anything…"
I took this as my cue to leave.
"Edward," I softly interrupted. His head spun around to look down at me. "I'm going to run downstairs to grab a glass of water."
Edward nodded. "I'll come with."
"Let's all go downstairs," Tanya added, sending me a false smile as she made a move to stand.
"Uh – no, that's alright," I quickly told him, eyeing Tanya. I patted his arm that was wrapped firmly around my waist and he hesitantly dropped it. "You stay – get caught up with Tanya. It's been a while since you've seen her."
Edward turned to face me, looking somewhat confused, He gripped the tops of my arms with both hands. "You promised me you wouldn't leave my side," he whispered, though I knew the entire room could hear.
Alice interrupted, smoothly gliding toward us. "Just let her go grab something to drink," she told him. "Kate's still out – she won't be back for a few minutes."
Edward's grip loosened and I easily slid out of it. I kissed his jaw – the highest point I could reach on my tiptoes – and whispered, "Thanks," before practically running out of Alice's room.
By the time I was on the main floor, I nearly collapsed in exhaustion.
It was nothing but painful to remain in Tanya's presence for more than ten minutes. The way she looked at you was enough to make you feel like you were less than dirt. And if she ever spoke to you – it was like you were a little child again.
I took my time as I trudged into the kitchen to grab a small glass. I was in absolutely no rush to get back up to Alice's room. I was debating whether or not I should feign a sickness in order to give Edward and me an excuse to leave earlier than we had planned, but I knew Tanya wouldn't believe me.
My insides contracted as I thought of Edward. I felt horrible, making him stay upstairs with Tanya, but I knew it was the only way to get away from her. It wasn't too hard to figure out that wherever Edward went, she would follow.
I sighed, holding my glass beneath the faucet at the kitchen sink. Maybe if I dropped the glass and it shattered on the floor, I could claim that I had a dizzy spell that caused me to lose the glass. After that, it wouldn't be too hard to convince them that I was feeling rather faint or weak. I mean – when was the last time they've been sick? Not for several dozen years…
I held the glass to my lips, about to take a sip, when I noticed a blurred figure darting back and forth outside. I squinted through the window pane, trying to make out the figure, and soon realized that it was Kate.
I was torn in two. Edward wouldn't want me to approach her. He wouldn't even want me to be near her if he was with me. He was terrified she might be too tempted by my blood. But she just looked so – so –
Going against my better judgment, I approached the back door and slowly opened it. I stepped outside into the lightly drizzling rain and softly closed the door behind me.
The blurred figure immediately stopped moving. I noticed she was still wearing her clothes from the night before.
"Oh," she whispered, staring at me with wide eyes. "I'm sorry – I had no idea you were there."
I shrugged, smiling. "You looked a little preoccupied. Like something's on your mind."
Kate let out a hollow laugh. "Yeah, there's something," she muttered.
I watched as Kate started to pace again, but it was a bit slower this time so I could follow her movements. She didn't seem bothered by my presence whatsoever.
"Um…" Kate slowed to a stop, watching me with curious eyes as I addressed her. "Did you want to talk about it?"
Kate smiled and I felt my entire mood lift, forgetting entirely about Tanya's presence upstairs. "No, I'm fine," she said. "Just – " She swallowed, trying to find some sort of excuse for her anxious behavior. Finally, she broke eye contact, shaking her head. "Um – Tanya," she muttered. "I guess – she bothers me sometimes."
I lifted an eyebrow, surprised by this answer. I knew why I hated Tanya – but Kate was her sister! "Why?"
"She puts a lot of pressure on me," she confessed in a soft voice. "She just has these ridiculous ideas and – she can just get so irritating."
I looked away, thinking about this, and then glanced back up at Kate. "Then why are you still putting up with it?" I asked.
Kate looked as if she really had no excuse, shaking her head. Then she said, "Tanya was the one who saved me. After I was changed, I had completely lost all hope," she confessed, grimacing as she remembered her earliest memories. "I was terrified of what I had become – but Tanya helped me live a normal life, again," she concluded with a slight smile. "I can't abandon her…"
I nodded, trying to show Kate that I understood, but I couldn't find any excuse for Tanya's behavior.
I watched for a few more minutes as Kate once again started to walk back and forth from one end of the yard to the other. I wondered if maybe I should address the Tanya issue again to figure out what had happened between then, but then she stopped abruptly and spun to face me, as if she had suddenly remembered something.
"Bella," she said, watching me with a curious look.
I was surprised by her sudden comment. "Yes?"
"Do you remember – yesterday – when we were talking?"
Though I had tried as hard as I could to block out all memory of yesterday's events, I nodded. "Yeah, I remember."
She stepped closer, wringing her hands together nervously. It was the first time I had seen a vampire appear so nervous before. "And we were talking about your friend. Jacob Black."
"Jake!" I said, brightening. "Yeah, he's one of my good friends." I paused, frowning slightly. "Sort-of."
Kate didn't pay attention to what I had tagged onto the end of my sentence. "You said he told you that Edward was a vampire, didn't you?"
"Yeah." I nodded, elated to find that Kate was eager to know more about me. It made me feel important. "He's part of the Quileute tribe, so he heard about the treaty between his ancestors and the Cullen's. Of course," I added with a small smile as Kate walked closer, "he didn't know at the time that he told me that the Cullen's were actually vampires. He thought it was all some myth."
Kate chuckled, causing me to grin.
"But he found out it was true?" she asked.
By this point, she and I were both standing directly in front of the other. She gestured to a stone bench beside the back door. I sat down beside her. "Yeah, he figured it out," I said. Then I glanced up into her curious expression. "He wasn't very happy when he realized that I had been dating a vampire this entire time and I didn't seem bothered by it."
Kate's expression fell.
"So – he hates vampires?" she asked with a frown.
I couldn't hide my laughter from her. "Well – yeah!" I exclaimed as if it were obvious. "I mean – he's a – "
I spun on my chair, surprised to hear Edward's voice. But before I had managed to turn all the way around in my seat, Edward had run to my side and picked me up off of the bench, cradling me close to his chest, and started to growl at Kate.
"Calm down," I scolded him. "Kate and I were just talking!"
"Bella," he hissed, turning his glare on me. "I told you what could happen if you left my side – don't you remember?"
I remembered our conversation clearly – he told me not to speak to Kate without him at my side. Which was absolutely ridiculous since Kate didn't look like a threat at all!
But the moment our previous conversation replayed itself in my mind, I felt a wave of guilt wash over me. I groaned softly, burying my head into Edward's shoulder.
"I'm sorry," I whispered. How could I have fallen into her trap – again? "She just looked so upset, Edward. I was only trying to help."
Edward's anger was gone as fast as it had appeared. "I know," he said. "You didn't mean to. It's not your fault."
If I had been alone, I probably would have smacked myself in the forehead for going and doing something so stupid. Again.
"Kate!" Tanya shrieked, throwing her hands up in the air. "You're back!"
Kate smiled weakly, acknowledging her sister's greeting.
"Why didn't you tell me you were back?" Tanya asked, dropping her smile. "Edward asked Alice to check in on Bella and she had to tell us that she saw you and Bella talking in the backyard."
Kate shrugged, glancing over at me once before turning to look back up at Tanya. "I just got back a few minutes ago," she muttered, standing up from her bench.
"Well," Tanya said in a soft voice. She glanced over at Edward and me, then put her hand on Kate's shoulder and ushered her towards the trees. "Let's go for a walk, shall we? You can tell me how your hunting went last night…"
As Tanya and Kate walked further and further away, Edward cautiously set me back on the ground. He kissed my cheek and followed me back in the house, leaving no less than three inches of space between us as we walked.
Inside the kitchen, Emmett was leaning back against the counter with his arms crossed over his chest. Alice was sitting on the edge of the sink with Jasper standing upright beside her.
"I'm so sorry, Bella," Alice immediately apologized the moment we walked through the door. "We were all talking and I just – forgot to keep a close eye on you."
"Don't worry about it," I told her, accepting her apology without any hesitation. "We were just talking." Then I shrugged, thinking back to the conversation outside. "She didn't even look hungry."
Edward didn't seem to care about any of this information, however.
"Bella and I are going back to her house," he announced to the kitchen, placing a hand on my shoulder. "We will be there for the rest of the week and will remain there until Tanya and Kate are out of this house."
My heart started to pick up speed, thrilled by this news. I hadn't even had to fake an illness to leave early!
"All week?" I repeated with a stunned expression. "You mean we don't even have to leave my room until the wedding?"
"Not unless you want to," Edward said with a smile on his face. He looked about as excited as I felt. Then he turned to the rest of his family. "If any of you want to drop by, you're free to visit – but we don't intend on seeing Tanya or Kate until the wedding."
Emmett scoffed, smirking. "Well, from the way Bella's blood is pumping, I doubt she'll want us to grace you with our presence," he said, grinning as I blushed more than I had in months. "I'm thinking she has big plans for the two of you while you're locked in her room all day for an entire week…"
I looked over at Jasper, hoping he hadn't picked up on my excitement, but he was smiling at me, confirming my fears.
"Good," Edward said, sending me one of his adorable, crooked smiles. "We didn't want any surprise visits anyway."
And it was on that note that we hurried back to my truck, headed for home with a giddy expression on my face.
"What the hell were you doing?"
I didn't flinch as Tanya immediately turned and growled at me. I had been expecting this outburst from her as soon as I knew we would be out of sight and out of hearing range from the Cullen house.
"I was just talking to her," I defended myself. "There's nothing wrong with being friendly."
Tanya made a face. "I don't give a damn who you were talking to – I meant why didn't you find me the instant you got back?"
"I hadn't even been back for two minutes!" I roared back at her.
Tanya looked as if she were about to shout at me once again, but she fought the temptation and instead stopped walking to turn and face me. "Well, what did you find?"
I took a moment, trying to figure out what I should say. But before I could say another word, Tanya leaned in to smell my scent.
She looked livid.
"Did you even find the dogs?" she spat, "because I don't even smell them on you!" She was baring her teeth. "Kate – I told you I wouldn't deal with any of your screw-ups."
"Relax," I hissed, subconsciously taking a step away to put more distance between us. "I rented a hotel room for the week so I could use the shower to get their smell off of me." I gestured to my shirt. "I even snuck into the hotel's basement to wash my clothes."
To my surprise, Tanya's eyebrows shot up in delight. "Really," she muttered, mulling the idea over. "That's brilliant," she complimented me. "And you can tell everyone you're staying there to avoid Bella – when you're actually spying on the dogs – genius…"
I found myself smiling at this comment. It wasn't very often that Tanya approved of something that I did.
"So, what did you find out?" Tanya asked, rubbing her hands together in anticipation. "How many are there?" she asked. "Who's in charge?"
I shook my head and held my hands up, palm out, to stop her questioning. "Well, for starters – you were right," I told her. "Because of this whole – niceness thing," I said, referring to my abnormal gift, "the wolves can't smell me. It's like they look right past it or something. They have no idea."
Tanya was grinning more than she had in over a century.
"The best part," I added, "is that it seems to work in reverse as well." I smiled. "I can smell them – but it's definitely not as strong as you described it. It doesn't bother me at all."
Tanya started to laugh. "I told you it would work!" she nearly shrieked, grabbing onto the top of my arms and shaking them with her excitement. "Now tell me what happened last night when you met them!"
"I found some of them," I told her. "I definitely found – a werewolf – " I paused, unsure how to finish this sentence " – maybe two." I dropped my gaze to the ground, shaking my head. "I'm not sure."
Tanya's excited expression disappeared entirely. "What do you mean – you're not sure?" she hissed.
"I – I don't know," I stammered, losing the confidence I had held just moments before. "I don't really know that much about wolves to start with – just that they're warmer than average and they have a horrible smell." I shrugged. "I'm just not positive if both of them were wolves."
Tanya sighed, irritated again. "Well did you find out anything else? Where they live? How long they've been around? Are they experienced?" Tanya caught on to my guilty expression. "Anything?"
"Sorry," I muttered. "Nothing else." I didn't want to tell her that I had been too afraid to stay around the wolves once that one wolf – Jake – had surprised me.
Tanya looked positively livid, as if she were about to slap me. "You have less than a week," she hissed. "Get back out there and find those dogs," she growled. "Or I'll call in the Volturi if I need to."
I cringed, unable to even fathom the idea of working alongside the Volturi. "Alright," I whispered with a nod of my head.
We stood in the middle of the woods, silent and unmoving. For a moment, I wondered if Tanya had left without me realizing it. Slowly, I glanced back up, surprised to find Tanya still standing in front of me. She had her arms crossed over her chest and was glaring daggers.
When our gaze met, her eyes blazed with fury. "Go!"
I didn't hesitate. Before I could be yelled at any longer for doing the job incorrectly, I ran back to the soda machine where I had first met the wolves.
Author's Note: There you have it! And now the next few chapters will be focused primarily on the wolves. (I just needed to get the informational stuff from Edward and Bella out of the way before I focused on the wolves!)
Hope you liked it!