One thing was certain. I was going to be in big trouble. Very big trouble. I was not proud of lying to Jacob, and I was probably certifiably insane for doing so, but at this point it wasn't what was important to me. There wasn't a doubt in my mind that Jacob would learn of my blatant disregard for his warnings. I had sat and listened to Jacob's story. I had been lulled into silent observance as his deep voice spun the tale in perfect detail. For a few moments I had been so bewitched by the fascinating tale that I forgot it wasn't just a legend meant to entertain and warn small children of the dangers that lurk in the dark. It was reality. My reality.
And now, unbeknownst to Jacob, I was driving my truck through the narrow mountain roads to the Cullens'. I would have thought that learning the truth about them would have scared me enough to keep me from going, but Jacob's story did not have the effect he desired. The story had reassured me in a surprising way. Despite his arguments to the contrary, the tale of how Ephriam Black and Carlisle Cullen had peacefully developed a treaty told me enough so that I was only mildly terrified of going to the Cullens'. The terms of their agreement were fairly simple. The Cullens are not permitted on Quileute land, and most importantly, they are not allowed to hunt any humans in order for the treaty to be valid. Being that they had yet to break the treaty, why would they start now?
Jacob had also reluctantly offered up the information that Edward and the rest of his "family" only hunted animals. But he had been sure to press the fact that it was still too dangerous to be around them, and I was to keep my distance. I could have accepted that, except I knew there was more to their story. I could get used to the fact that they are vampires, even though thinking the word still catapulted my heart into my throat. I wouldn't say that the truth didn't scare me. It turned my knees to jelly. But I knew in my heart there was a reason for all of this. Most importantly, Edward had saved my life. That was reason enough to at least try to believe that they could be good vampires. I wanted it to be possible. Actually, I prayed that it was true, plain and simple.
But it wasn't that plain and simple. Nothing of what I felt for Edward was simple. It certainly wasn't simple how whenever he crossed my mind, which was often, I felt an unexplainable tug in the pit of my stomach. Nothing I had felt before in my life came close to the way Edward Cullen made my body feel weak, and my head light. Was it fear? Desire? Love? It was impossible to tell, but I could tell that I wouldn't be able to stay away from him.
It was an unusually clear night. Diamond-bright stars were scattered over the pitch black sky. The moon was full, its glow filtering through the trees to light my path. Usually, I would have very much enjoyed a night like this. The clear, cool weather would have taken me down to First Beach to take pleasure in a solitary moonlit walk. Or I would have spent time in my garden. Being what I am, I know flowers are always more fragrant, and definitely more potent, when picked by the light of the full moon. Filling baskets of flowers, with magic in the air, always reminded me of the midnight walks Renee and I would take through her garden when I was a child. She would softly chant as she filled baskets with an assortment of flowers. Between chants, she would teach me about charms and spells, and the powers passed down to me. Those memories were some of the best of my childhood, and thinking of them made me miss being close to my mom. As my mind had wandered, I hadn't realized how close I was to arriving at my destination.
As I rounded the final turn, the Cullens' impressive home came into sight. I could see light pouring out of the great picture windows, and figures moving around inside the home. My palms were suddenly cold and clammy where they were gripped onto the steering wheel. I could do this. I would just go in there like nothing had happened. I was invited after all. I would spend some time with Edward's family and see what I could find out. I still hadn't figured out exactly how I was going to go about my "investigation", but subtly seemed to be the best course of action. As I started to pull up the long driveway, a silhouette in the darkness caught my eye. I slammed on my brakes and felt my heart stop beating momentarily as my breath rushed out of my body in a silent scream. Edward was standing in the middle of the driveway, staring at me. I could only gawk, trying to catch my breath, as his fierce golden eyes locked on mine. His eyes were molten lava, furious, and burning, though I only felt the cold.
Had I caught him as he was just coming back from his trip? No…no, I highly doubted that. For some reason I knew he had been waiting for me. I found my hands were shaking terribly as I reached to power off the truck, almost forgetting to put it into park before turning off the ignition. Struggling to find my breath, I still could not look away. He did not move toward me at all. He was just standing there, completely immobile, like some dangerously beautiful statue. His stare was hard and cold, and I suddenly felt that my visit was no longer welcome.
I wasn't going to run away scared. I came here, and I was going to get my answers. So what if my body felt numb with fear, and a cold sweat was beginning to glisten on my skin. I refused to be scared away.
Pocketing the keys with trembling hands, I slid out of the truck as gracefully as possible, trying to mask my unsteadiness. Still holding his hateful stare, I forced my body to move forward, though it just wanted to keep rooted to the spot, or run in the other direction. Run and run, and never stop running. But I wasn't going to run. In a way, I was entirely too scared to run. They say don't run from a hungry grizzly bear, right? Because all they will do is chase you.
My breath was coming in quick spurts, visible in the cold Washington air. I stopped, feet from him, and attempted to find my voice with my pulse racing and my heart beating like an entire drum line in my ears. He was the one who spoke first, and I was surprised that I could be startled any more than I was. I hadn't really expected him to speak. I would have believed that he was the statue he resembled, except for the churning fire in his eyes.
"Go home Bella." He spoke slowly and deliberately, making clear that this was an order and not a request. It amazed me that this was his choice of greeting. I had been expecting something more dark, and ominous, I suppose. But he wasn't threatening me, and I was still alive. He was just telling me to go home.
I must have stayed in silence, frozen to the spot. He spoke again.
"Go home now. And don't turn back. Forget what you know, forget about us." There was more of a hint of emotion to his voice this time, instead of cold indifference and anger. It was almost as if he was pleading for me to do what he said. Then the true meaning of his words struck me like lightning, seeming to shock my almost catatonic brain back to life. He knew. Somehow he knew that I knew.
"Do you think this is a game, Bella?" He spat at me, taking a step forward, and I stunned myself by not recoiling in fear. I stood my ground.
"N-no. I don't." I could speak after all, even though the few words I spoke were timid and insecure sounding.
"If you're smart, you will turn around now, and not look back." The fight had faded and now he really was begging. He almost looked…sad. In that moment I knew that I wasn't in danger. He was telling me to go because he wanted to protect me. But could I really believe there was anything, or anyone, in that house that I needed protection from?
"I…just want to know the truth." Then, like opening Pandora's box, the words came without warning or control.
"I know it was you who saved me on that road, and you lied about it. I know your skin is white as snow, and cold as ice. I know…" I trailed off as his eyes darkened again.
"No, don't stop." His tone was challenging and almost sarcastic. "What else do you know, Bella?"
"I know you're a vampire." I squeaked out.
"And still you came." It wasn't a question, but a statement. No, more like an insult, as he clearly thought I was crazy for willingly putting myself in the mercy of a house of vampires. He probably wasn't far off the mark.
"I had to…" See for myself. Get the answers I needed. All of these words of explanation failed me.
"You think you know what you're dealing with here. You have no idea." He stepped forward again. "I could kill you where you stand. In an instant. You wouldn't even know what happened to you….If you ran, I would catch you. You wouldn't have a chance of fighting me off." Edward said, stepping forward again, and I did take a step in retreat this time.
I had no uncertainty of the truth of his words, not one bit. But I still did not believe that he would do any of those things, even if he was capable of them.
"You won't hurt me. Y-you saved my life." He made a sound at that, almost a growl. Wouldn't be the first time I was growled at that day.
"You won't hurt me." I repeated myself, for emphasis. And I realized that I truly believed it.
"You don't know what you're saying. You don't know anything! I may walk, and talk, and act human, but I'm not. I'm a killer. A monster. I don't have a soul. It was damned to hell a long time ago. So tell me, why shouldn't you run in the other direction?" He continued to take steps forward as he spoke, and I took a matching step in the other direction. My back was now pressed against the grill of my truck. Edward was leaning forward, his hands on either side of me, trapping me in.
"I don't believe that." My body was no longer shaking. A slight sliver of fear was still hiding in the depths, but my confidence in the situation had begun to return. I knew I was right. I knew it with every fiber of my being.
"You're a doctor, you save lives. And even now, when I know the truth about you, you are still trying to protect me. I…I'm not scared of you." If there was any time to be honest, it was now.
"I know more than you think. I know about your family, and the pact you made. I know you only hunt animals. And I know that….even after all of this…I can't stop thinking about you." I looked up at him as his eyes softened, but turned what I could only describe as tortured. In the short time I've known Edward I've only seen three expressions on his beautiful face. One was stoic and indifferent, one was fierce and angry, and one was the expression I was seeing right now.
Before I could say anything more and dig myself deeper into the hole, or before he could respond, we were interrupted.
"Edward." The melodic voice was hard and annoyed. For the first time since Edward's figure had caught my eye in the driveway, I looked away. Alice stood at the foot of the short stairs leading up to the Cullens' front door. Her arms were crossed over her small frame, and she was glaring at her brother.
Edward spared me one last glance before looking back at her. She moved forward, reaching us quickly, despite her short gait. When her gaze shifted to me, she no longer looked annoyed, but pleased.
"Bella, I have to apologize for my brother's rude behavior. The family is inside, and we're ready to answer any questions you have." She slipped a tiny arm around my shoulders, leading me toward the front door. I didn't speak, floored by the change in circumstance. Her offer to help me in my quest for answers was as casual as someone offering to give advice on which brand of coffee to buy.
"Alice." Edward hissed, falling into step behind us. He reached out and slipped his icy fingers around my forearm gently, but it halted our movements. "Can't you just mind your own business?"
"This isn't only about you, Edward." She spoke plainly and with resolve. I was dumbfounded that someone so tiny could be so authoritative. I wasn't going to argue with her; that was for sure.
And with that, she continued to lead me into the house, and I took a deep breath to prepare myself. Here we go.