A/N - Hello, all my lovelies - this is the very end of Careful :( However, I was persuaded to write a sequel, but that will come AFTER my new story, Because of a Spoon. (Don't worry, I promise not to forget about the sequel, and I promise to update every Friday like always)
Anyway, Enjoy! I have 2 versions here: my ex-editor's interpretive take on chapter 14, followed by my EPOV for Chapter 20, which, you'll recall, was Jessica's disastrous party.
Much love, and thank you for reading.
EPOV a la Jimmitti:
I was sitting in Biology class thinking about Bella…Oh Bella…
She was absolutely terrific. AND, she knew I was a vampire! The thought preoccupied me with worry last night, but I decided, hey – you only live once!
And then she walked in.
The new girl.
Or at least, the newest girl.
She moved with a subtle grace that mirrored that of my vampire peers. Her skin was sun-kissed brown, and were those…Sketchers?
By her facial features, I could tell she was East African as well. I suddenly heard her name in the thoughts of the mundane students around me:
She was awesome. More awesome than Bella.
And she agreed.
And Alice and Bella were okay with that.
Oh, and I'm in love with Jimmitti.
Now the real stuff...I give you...Edward!
Chapter Twenty: Fury
I sighed loudly, thoroughly irritated by this point. Alice was shutting me out again, this time by translating Dante's Inferno into Mandarin. I had nothing against Dante, but it was giving me a headache, so I made a half-hearted effort to watch a football game with Emmett, just for something to do. It was too bad that my thoughts kept slipping back to her, as they would always inevitably do. Bella was everywhere.
"So, Bro, what are you and the ladies up to tonight?" Emmett asked with a smirk. As if he didn't already know. I suspected that he was just setting me up for some innuendo, as was a favorite past-time of his.
"Alice is making us go to Stanley's party for Bella's benefit," I told him, rolling my eyes. Alice was a force to be reckoned with. There was no use resisting her. Even Emmett occasionally cowered under her glares.
"Jessica Stanley? Ni-ice. Hoping for a little girl-on-girl action there? I'm sure Jess'd be up for it," he grinned. I smacked the back of his head, repressing my own grin. The thought he'd planted in my head - of Jessica grinding up on Bella, and my sweet Bella just standing there, uncomfortable - was too funny to ignore.
"Get it, Edward," Emmett advised, nodding toward the stairs. I stood, football games and innuendoes forgotten, as I stared at her.
Bella was hardly recognizable. She looked ravishing in the simple but sexy black dress Alice had put her in, her hair tousled, and her eyes smoky. But she was still Bella as she tottered down the stairs in a pair of ridiculous heels, and I had to restrain the instinct to just grab her and carry her to safety.
In so many real ways, Bella was like a child to me, and I was used to feeling protective of her when I encountered Mike Newton's vulgar thoughts. This placed me in quite the predicament now, when I was the one conjuring images and ideas that I might have broken Newton's arm for thinking.
Jasper noticed my discomfort, and he squirmed a little as the full blast of my emotion hit him as he walked through the door. Clever as he was, he redirected that attention by focusing on Alice, perfectly natural. Emmett embarrassed us both by snickering when he realized what had happened, and Alice smirked. I was very thankful that Bella was somewhat less observant, and seemed to be too entranced by my face to notice much else, in any case.
You might want to take care of that Eddie, Emmett guffawed mentally.
Make it stop, Jasper groaned. I was sure that my unique combination of guilt, lust, and self-hatred was overwhelming in such a strong dose.
Men. Idiots. Alice winked at me.
"You look lovely," I told them both, reminded of her fragility when she stumbled on the last step, clutching my arm for support with her warm little hand. She blushed when she looked up, a little slow to let go. This made me sad; it was one thing for me to make myself miserable – it was quite another for her to be so involved. I was a bad choice for Bella, dangerous, but I would protect her tonight, when she most needed it. I could quite literally kill the Newton boy for attempting to take advantage of her this morning; if he did so much as glance in her direction tonight, he would wake up tomorrow with a loss of limb to accompany his hangover.
"Yeah, yeah, let's go," Alice said impatiently, smug at my reaction to Bella's makeover, but worried about Jasper. He slunk out of the room, after mentally requesting that I keep an eye on his wife. I nodded. We both knew how Alice could get carried away at a party. After her last one, Carlisle and Esme had "grounded" her, so to speak, for five years. Even years later, I'd heard that the humans still spoke of that party with awe.
It seemed like seconds later that I was standing on Jessica's doorstep, placing myself protectively behind an overwhelmed Bella as Tyler Crowley stumbled past us to the bushes to empty the mainly-alcoholic contents of his stomach.
"Duuuuuuuude," he slurred.
Alice was too busy jumping up and down in excitement to notice him slink off toward his Toyota. When I was satisfied that Bella's attentions were suitably occupied, I slipped after him. Even if I didn't particularly care for the boy and his lewd fantasies involving Bella, I couldn't let him drive drunk. Which is why I swiftly plucked his keys out of his hand before he could blink and chucked them into the Stanleys' vast, dark yard. He would have to get another driver; he'd find the keys in the morning, or the late afternoon, after a few pots of coffee.
I stole back to Bella's side before either of them had noticed I'd gone. I was just in time to be greeted by Jessica herself.
"OMG, Bella, you look HOT. And," she squinted at me, bleary eyed and slowly spilling her bottle of beer as her grip slackened, tilting it to a 45 degree angle. "Edward? Edward Cullen?"
HALLELUJAH, her thoughts screamed at me, accompanied by several images I was only too happy to ignore. There really is a God! Thank you, Jesus. Eddie Cullen, come to mama!
"I'm aware we weren't invited; I hope you'll forgive the intrusion," I said as politely as my irritation with the whole scene would allow.
"Well, DAMN," she hollered, frightening some roosting crows in her backyard into flight "Get on in here!" I can't believe that plain-Jane Bella was the one who finally brought the reclusive Cullens out – whatever, she looks super-whory tonight so he's sure to prefer me anyway...
I frowned. Bella did not look 'whory' in the slightest – she looked perfect and wonderful and sexy.
Alice bounded in after Jessica, but Bella hesitated, clearly dithering over whether it or not it was worth it to skip the party and invoke Alice's wrath. As much as we both didn't want to be here, I was glad to be here with her.
"I won't leave you," I whispered.
She smiled shyly up at me as I guided her forward, though privately I felt by doing so I may have failed a little as her protector. It was a mad house. Within the first minute, we were assaulted by the smells of vomit and stale beer, and those disgusting "junk foods" humans so enjoyed guzzling. I had to move Bella out of the way of an animalistic couple that was rolling across the wall, about to careen into her where she stood stock-still, shell shocked.
We exchanged a look of chagrin before our lips tugged upward in horrified amusement.
"Bella," Alice bounced over, put out by our lack of enthusiasm. She seized Bella and dragged her into the next room where ear-splitting music was slowly driving me mad. Had these humans no taste at all? I surveyed the scene with disdain, the bodies sprawled across the floor and furniture in various states of undress and alcohol-induced stupors. Alice's next words brought be back to attention with curiousity. "It's a party! Dance."
At this, Bella flushed, and I was instantly frustrated once more by my inability to hear her thoughts.
"I don't dance," she whispered to Alice. She glanced up at me then, but I had already moved swiftly away in order to appear to be admiring a decorative painting as I struggled to control my laughter. "Remind me to kill you later," she added.
Alice laughed heartily at that idea before she sashayed into the center of the floor and started a one-woman dance party. As usual, it didn't take long for the drunken Neanderthals to catch on to the theme.
"Unbelievable," I muttered darkly. I realized what a tall order Jasper's request had been when she was swallowed in a crowd of male admirers; if she hadn't been as sturdy as a boulder, I most certainly would have been concerned for her safety as they all but molested her.
"I know," Bella agreed, wonder in her voice. "This is crazy."
"Crazy," I chuckled "is an understatement. Alice is going to be in the doghouse for a month, at least. What would Jasper say?" I threw another glance at the mass of testosterone with a hidden vampire center.
"Do you want to get some air?" Bella suggested.
Air would be good; it would help eliminate this awful odor, not to mention take me away from the half-dozen unoriginal fantasies involving my sister.
I quickly agreed and led her out onto the deck, where we sat down on the wooden steps. Bella shivered slightly, though the night was still temperate by human standards. I removed my jacket and placed it lightly in her lap. I looked away; I understood Bella enough by now to know that any displays of concern or generosity embarrassed her.
"Thanks," she mumbled. There was a long silence before either of us spoke again. "Why did you come?" she wondered.
Because against my better judgment and all natural reason, I can't seem to stay away from you.
Because it feels wrong whenever you're not near to me.
"I couldn't let you come here alone after what happened to you today," I said, not looking at her. The statement itself was true enough, if a lie by omission.
"Alice is here," she pointed out. She was right. But Alice, though irked and infuriated by Bella's earlier trauma, did not share my intense desire to rip Mike Newton limb from limb.
"True, but she isn't waiting for you to go into shock like I am. She's ready to believe you're alright, or at least that you will be after a 'girl's night out'. But somehow, I think that you don't process bad things the same way she would."
"I'm alright. Really," she croaked. What an awful liar the girl was. Her fragility and the delusional bravery that accompanied it made me all the more besotted by her.
"Why don't I believe you?" I murmured.
She leaned toward me; I could feel the movement in the heat rolling off her body, though I wasn't looking at her. When I turned to look, her face was open, hopeful, brown eyes and heart-shaped face glowing in the weak fuzzy light from the porch lamp. She inhaled, just as the sliding doors behind us scraped open to admit several scantily clad would-be bathers on their trek to the pool.
She straightened up, looking chagrined and embarrassed. I wondered why; it was so impossible not to know her mind when it possessed the only thoughts I would truly give much to access.
"I have to go to the bathroom," she said suddenly. "I'll be right back."
I put my head in my hands, as if blocking out my sight could provide me with a clearer glance into her thoughts. She was, for all her protestations of openness, impossible to read.
I waited, impatient as ever, thinking of what I could do or say to restore the moment before she had risen. A glance at my watch revealed that she'd been gone for a whole two minutes. Not having needed to "use the bathroom" in a good ninety years, I was unfamiliar with the length of time the proceedings usually took these days. Though I assumed that even for a human, two minutes should be enough.
Sigh. Bella would be thoroughly embarrassed if I went into the house to check on her. I didn't want that. Then again, being Bella, who was to say that she had even found the bathroom? If she was lost in the Stanley's house, in some dark hallway, perhaps – there was no telling was manner of foul things could happen to her, surrounded by inebriated imbeciles.
I rose fluidly and glided through the sliding doors. There was no need to panic. No need to seem overbearing or as if I cared more than I should. After all, if anything too dire was about to occur, I assumed that Alice would see it and intervene.
He was too drunk to mentally form words, but I saw Bella's face in his mind. Scared, Panicky, framed by the blue tile wall. It twisted in pain as she hit the sink, propelled by his hands.
My fury shot me into action. I stalked as quickly as could toward the thoughts of the boy who was about to know the true meaning of pain. I was torn; if I focused on his thoughts, it would slow me, but then, I was going at a snail-like pace already under the suspicious eyes of the partygoers, frightened by my murderous expression.
Bella's back was to me, the hands of the enemy scrabbling at the buttons on her dress.
No, I snarled. The dark hall was empty, allowing me to leap the last few feet and kick the door out of the way. Bella's eyes flew open in shock, her mouth still scrunched in fear, fists balled at her sides. My fury abated ever so slightly as I took in her terror, my instinct was to comfort her, everything else be damned.
A 'thunk' reminded me of Newton's presence. I glanced up in enough time to see his head slip from the porcelain bowl of the toilet, falling into almost immediate unconsciousness. I looked at him with pure hatred in my heart.
I looked away from his body, too focused on Bella to register my disappointment at being denied the opportunity to show him retribution.
She was shaking. The shock that she had never shown earlier returned with a vengeance and I went to her immediately, cradling her in my arms. I whispered her name once as her eyelids fluttered closed.