from Twilight, Chapter 19, 'Goodbyes', pg. 403

"Let's go." Carlisle began to walk toward the kitchen.

But Edward was at my side at once. He caught me up in his iron grip, crushing me to him. He seemed unaware of his watching family as he pulled my face to his, lifting my feet off the floor. For the shortest second, his lips were icy and hard against mine...

The Edge of Reason - Chapter 1

Thinking back on it later, I would be fairly certain it was that desperate kiss goodbye that caused him to snap - and to realize that goodbye wasn't something he could handle.

Edward had been ready to release me into Jasper and Alice's care, however reluctantly. Of that I was certain. He hadn't been faking his agreement with our plan. He hadn't planned what happened next ahead of time.

But suddenly the grip of his arms around me was almost painful, causing my eyes to snap open. When I focused on him, his were already open, fixed on my face - with a wild look in them that I had never before seen on his beautiful face. It looked a lot like...panic.

He had still yet to allow my feet to touch the floor again...

And then, suddenly, Alice surged toward us.

"Edward! No!"

I'll probably never know whether Alice had seen the same look in his eyes as I did, or if it was the future she was seeing as Edward panicked and made his snap decision. In fact, the only thing I could be completely certain of was Edward's reaction.

The close proximity of his mouth to my ear must have made his snarl sound more fierce and menacing than it could have truly been, I had time to ponder absently - because surely he wouldn't growl at Alice as though he fully intended to hurt her if she took even one step closer to us.

And that was the last thought I had time for, because then I was flying...

ooo

Somehow, he'd maneuvered my body so that he clutched me against his chest with his arm under my knees as he burst out of the Cullen home with me in his arms at vampire speed. I tensed for him to take off running, but he didn't go far.

"Edward!" I managed to gasp as he ripped open the driver's door of Emmett's huge Jeep still parked just outside the home, going right in the driver's door with me and rather unceremoniously depositing me into the passenger's seat. I heard the engine fire up almost immediately, and we took off backwards so abruptly that it flung my body forward...right into the steel pole that was Edward's arm, catching me and pushing me back into the seat.

"What's going on? What are you doing?" My voice was breathless, shocked.

"Seatbelt, Bella. Now. Put on the harness as best you can." His voice was outwardly calm, but his eyes still held that wild look of panic as he turned the Jeep around in a stomach-lurching move with one hand, still holding me upright with the other arm.

I actually screamed when I saw Emmett standing right in our path. It was a reflex reaction, and a somewhat needless one at that...I had already seen, after all, the effect of just one vampire-hand against a vehicle. The vampire wins. Tyler Crowley's death van would never be the same.

But Emmett wasn't moving and Edward wasn't slowing down, and I wasn't entirely sure what the outcome would be if Edward slammed into his brother at full force. But at the very last moment, Emmett looked to the side as though someone had called his name. I saw a flash of what looked like reluctance - or maybe disappointment? - cross his face, and then he jumped out of the way over us at the very last moment.

Spinning around to look out the back window, I saw the entire Cullen family with the exception of Rosalie - who was most likely still inside pouting - all standing a few yards from Emmett, watching us disappear into the night. They were all still as statues, and it hit me at that moment...

They had decided to let him go. Edward and I were on our own. And he clearly had no intention of abiding by my version of the plan. He had decided to do this his way.

Feeling very rebellious all of a sudden at being handled like a sack of flour and for all intents and purposes kidnapped, I considered defying him completely in the only way I could...by ignoring his command to strap myself in.

One look at the speedometer, however, and I amended that rebellion slightly. I'd at least put on the seatbelt. But I'd been belted into that ridiculous off-road harness for the last time today, 115 miles per hour or not.

ooo

"Edward, you have to take me back."

"No."

"Edward..."

"You're not leaving my sight until James is dead, Bella. Victoria too, for that matter."

We'd been having the same pointless conversation, in varying forms, for at least the past 30 minutes. After one particularly heated version of it, I'd made the mistake of slinging off my seatbelt and trying to open the door to remove myself from the Jeep whether he agreed or not. It had at least had the effect of making Edward slam on the brakes, but letting me out of the Jeep hadn't been in his immediate plan. Glaring at me and making sure it didn't happen again, on the other hand, seemed to be the key elements of the plan.

So by this particular rehashing of the same argument, I was now belted quite securely-thank-you-very-much into the harness, with the added security of one of Edward's hands closed like an icy vise around my closest wrist - keeping me from jumping out of the Jeep, even if I could manage to undo the straps with the other hand.

I no longer had any idea how fast we were going, because I couldn't even lean over to look. But it was fast enough without him driving one handed, I thought to myself bitterly.

With an angry sigh, I shifted tactics. This was the first time he'd mentioned the redheaded female vampire, so at least we'd have something new to argue about.

"Why Victoria too? Does she want to kill me now like James?"

He was grinding his teeth so hard that I could hear it even over the souped-up engine of the Jeep. "Not yet, but she will when we're done with James. He's her mate."

"Her mate?" I asked incredulously.

"Yes," he replied, as though that explained everything. The tight set of his jaw said that he didn't really want to talk about it in further detail, either.

It was maddening. Perhaps instead of Googling books on Quileute legends, I should have looked for some kind of handbook...Understanding Your Vampire - a Glossary and Instruction Manual for Humans Who've Lost Their Damn Minds.

"I don't understand," I told him, clenching my teeth in a way that almost rivaled his own tense pose.

For some reason I didn't understand, his eyes softened a bit as they flicked over to me. "I know. I know."

My own anger melted slightly at his softer look, and damn him and his dazzle, suddenly I was willing to let him get away with that ridiculously evasive answer. "But you understand it. I mean, why she's going to want to kill me. It makes sense to you."

Again he looked at me, something unreadable in his eyes. His hand on my arm tightened almost imperceptibly, but loosened back up when I winced. He'd already been holding onto me as tightly as he could without causing me pain. Instead, his other hand clamped down on the steering wheel so hard that I thought I heard something crack, and I suspected he was leaving indentions in the huge, leather wrapped wheel. He didn't glance at the road for several seconds, his eyes fixed on me and holding me far more captive than his hands ever could.

"Yes," he told me, more emotion packed into that word than I could truly grasp. He finally looked back at the road, his expression hard and impassive once again. His foot pressed impossibly harder on the gas. When he did speak a few seconds later, it was so low I barely heard. "The same reason that I'm going to kill her. We don't - vampires don't give second chances when it comes to someone harming our mates, Bella."

Like a complete coward, I didn't ask the obvious question. I turned to stare out the window instead, trying to ignore the grip of his hand on my arm. Right now I didn't feel like I'd ever be his mate...I felt like his prisoner.

ooo

"I thought they were going to follow us," he murmured to himself several quiet hours later, making me jump. I hadn't been asleep, but I hadn't exactly been awake either. Looking down, I saw that he still maintained the same grip on me, only slightly looser and higher up my arm. He must have decided that circulation was important, I grumbled in my mind.

"James and Victoria?" I asked out loud somewhat groggily, noticing that the sun would be coming up within a couple hours.

"No, my family." He seemed confused, focused, concentrating on something. I suspected he'd been focused like that for some time. "They're not within miles of us. I can't hear them. I haven't heard them. I assumed they would try to stop me. But I don't hear James either." Looking over at me finally, he blinked in surprise at what he saw. "God...Bella. I'm sorry. I'll stop at the next exit."

I tried again to lean forward to see the answer to my question for myself, but was pulled up short by the harness. "Are we almost out of gas?"

"I...no, Rosalie likes to be prepared for anything, so she modifies all of Emmett's vehicles. She installed a second large fuel tank, and we have an extra canister of fuel as well. No, Bella, we'll stop for you. You need to eat something. Drink something. I'm so sorry. You should have said something."

I had not 'woke up' in a good mood. My bladder was full, I had a serious case of PMS, and my patience with being kidnapped and strapped into an off-road harness so tightly that I could barely move had worn dangerously thin before it ever really started.

"Does the prisoner get a shower too?" I carped at him, hating the way I sounded but seriously on the brink of losing my mind.

He flinched at that one, and for once his discomfort left me with a very satisfied feeling. But then he turned to me with apology in his eyes, and I almost softened. Almost.

Suddenly, however, his expression changed dramatically, from chagrin to amused affection as his eyes roved over my face. Something he saw caused his lips to twitch in an approximation of the crooked smile I love so much. A soft chuckle escaped him, and his eyes had the audacity to twinkle at me as he laughed at me.

"Yes, Bella, your captors are humane," he teased. Biting back another smile at the obvious fury on my face, he moved his hand down from my arm to my fingers, taking them in his own and giving them a light squeeze before I angrily yanked my hand away. Of course, I knew full well that I'd only succeeded in doing so because he allowed it, and that only annoyed me further.

There was still an amused smile in his voice as he stretched the offending arm along the seatback behind me, not quite daring to touch me but making sure I knew he was still there. "I'll find us a place to stay for a little while."

I spared him one glare before turning to stare out the window. I didn't really hear the words that left his lips next, but I wasn't going to give him the satisfaction of asking, either. It sounded a lot like, "My angry kitten," but that wouldn't have made any sense.

ooo

His wealthy sensibilities and his noble ones as well seemed to be insulted by the only lodging available in the near vicinity. Maybe I'd sounded like a spoiled child in the Jeep. But Edward sounded a little bit like one as he made a huge deal out of having to take me to a cheap national hotel chain instead of some ridiculously overpriced five-star hotel. He'd dragged me to the middle of freaking nowhere. What did he expect - the Ritz Carlton? I truly wasn't in the mood.

Of course, that experience paled in comparison to going Wal-Mart'ing with Edward. His Majesty had decided to fly the coop with me without the bag we'd packed at Charlie's house, so I not only had nothing to wear, I also had no toiletries. Our hotel definitely wasn't the type that could provide those things, and this town only had one store. By some miracle, it was a 24-hour Wal-Mart.

Since he refused to let me out of his sight or even to break physical contact with me - keeping one arm wrapped tightly around my waist from the moment we left the Jeep as his eyes constantly scanned the area - I had no choice but to fill up a shopping cart right in front of Edward. Each item was more blush-inspiring than the last: cheap jeans, sweatshirt, pajamas with huge smiley faces that might actually be the death of me, standard toiletries, bra, panties, tampons...

Somewhere near the end of that list and after the third time I tried unsuccessfully to break his grip on me so that I could make an attempt to preserve some dignity by hiding from him what I was buying, I finally decided that if I was going to have to suffer then I was taking my turn-of-the-century vampire with me. I made sure, in addition to a nice basic set of underthings, to throw a black lace thong and push-up bra in the cart right in front of his ever-watchful eyes. Too bad vampires can't blush.

In contrast with the unmentionables, the tampons actually had no effect on him at all - much to my disappointment. He didn't even bat an eye. It suddenly occurred to me that my cycles were probably not any great surprise to Edward...he probably knew before I did when it was time. My turn to cringe.

And then it was my turn to cringe again, when he insisted on paying for everything. I'd forgotten about that part, but it wasn't as though I'd been allowed to come prepared, either.

By the time I finally staggered into our hotel room with Edward right on my heels, where he promptly pushed me behind him the moment the door closed until he could be sure we were truly alone, we had only minutes before the sun was going to be coming up.

ooo

When I glimpsed my reflection in the bathroom mirror, I forgave Edward instantly for laughing at me earlier. I'd have laughed at me too. My hair was in knots, sticking out in clumps all over my head. My face was a mess, and on the entire right side of my face there appeared to be a near permanent impression of every detail of the passenger windowsill where I'd been leaning my head. I could only imagine how bad it'd been when I'd first sat up to talk to him. And oh dear God then he'd taken me out in public like that. If I didn't kill him for the whole kidnapping thing, Alice was going to finish him off for that one offense alone.

With a loud groan, I flopped back against the wall in exhaustion. I was almost too much of a mess to clean up.

"Bella?"

I very nearly jumped right out of my skin his voice was so close. For just a second, I thought he was in the bathroom.

"I'm fine," I called back, seeing the shadow of his shoes standing right outside the door. It was a miracle he actually wasn't in the bathroom with me, so I should have known he'd be sticking close, listening to every sound. I was too tired to even sound irritated.

Somehow I made it through a shower, combed the tangles out of my wet hair, brushed my teeth...and then realized I'd brought no clothes into the bathroom with me.

Hesitating, I looked down at the pile of clothes I'd dropped to the floor, and then wrinkled my nose. No way I was putting any of it back on right now. And no way was I asking Edward to go pawing through my Wal-Mart bags and bring me some panties and those ridiculous pajamas, even if it would be sort of fun to make him hyperventilate over whether or not it was the thong that I wanted. No, Edward was just going to have to deal with half-naked Bella. If he didn't like it, then he really shouldn't be kidnapping teenage girls and locking them into hotel rooms with him, should he? Wrapping the tiny, flimsy towel as tightly around myself as I could, I opened the door...and almost ran right into him.

His eyes widened as they automatically ran down my form and snapped quickly back to my face. His mouth hung open slightly. Well, at least I'd found one way to get him to give me some space. He backed up so fast that if he'd not been a super-graceful vampire he'd have landed right on his butt.

"I forgot my clothes," I informed him bluntly, as though daring him to challenge me on it.

Edward speechless. There was a first. Maybe now would be a good time to bargain for my release...from captivity, that is...

Another scowl came to my face when I pushed past him to the shopping bag and pulled out those ridiculous smiley pajamas that had constituted exactly 50% of the pajama selection in my size in the local store. It had been either that or the pink princess ones, and I hadn't fallen quite that far yet, I didn't think.

"Um, Bella..."

"Hm?" I asked, a little distracted. I was madder than a hornet at him, and Alice would be the first to confirm that I didn't exactly write the book on fashion anyway; but I still wasn't sure I wanted Edward to see me in these. Even I had my limits.

"Emmett had a spare bag in the Jeep. There's a t-shirt, some sweatpants. I thought maybe..."

I dropped the deranged smileys and whirled around to look for Emmett's bag so fast that I almost dropped the towel. Edward kept his eyes carefully on my face, but there was a hint of a smile there again when he saw how eagerly I responded to his suggestion. "I'm quite certain they'll swallow you whole, but I thought you might prefer them." He lost his battle with the smirk as he motioned toward the pajamas I'd just rejected. "It wouldn't do for your rest to be interrupted by nightmares. I've no doubt you'll have enough to say to me in your sleep tonight as it is."

I'm not sure what about his gorgeous smile and sweet gesture completely undid me, but every bit of fight fled from me in the span of a heartbeat. Forgetting my state of dress, I crossed the distance between us in three steps and crashed into his chest, my arms instantly winding around his waist.

His arms were somewhat more tentative, as I heard him draw in a sharp gasp of surprise. I could feel his hands hovering just alongside my shoulders, but he seemed unsure whether or not he should touch me, considering I was as close to naked as I could get without being completely uncovered.

But when the first completely overwhelmed sob pushed its way up through my chest and out of my mouth against his hard, cold chest, he forgot all about propriety and his rules. His arms wrapped tightly around me, cradling me to him and one hand fisting itself in my wet hair.

"Oh, Bella...shhhh...it's going to be okay, sweetheart."

I only clung to him more tightly, sobbing harder - for Charlie and the way I had hurt him, for Edward and the position he'd been put in, for the Cullen family who'd been drawn into this, and for myself for more reasons than I could count.

Edward sank to the floor like he'd been sucker punched in the gut, taking me with him down onto his lap. My tears seemed to make him frantic - his voice was shaking as hard as my body. "Bella, please don't cry...I'm not going to hurt you, and I promise I won't let anything happen to you. I'll keep you safe, I swear it, and when this is over I'll take you back to Charlie. You're safe with me."

It was such a complete 180 degree turn from what he'd been trying to tell me for months - that he was the most dangerous thing imaginable to me. The irony hit me like a sledgehammer, pulling a slightly hysterical giggle from my throat. That, too, turned into a hard, shuddering sob, which in turn caused Edward to pull me even closer against him. I could feel his tension through my entire body.

It was pure desperation that drove my lips to his, as I turned my head and sought out his mouth.

"Edward..." I moaned against his lips, grasping his face and kissing him with no restraint at all. To my surprise, he kissed me back with a suprising amount of ferocity, causing me to gasp into his mouth. His hand, still tangled in my hair, held me still as he pressed his mouth against mine over and over, sliding our lips together in an ancient dance. I parted my lips, and was shocked to feel his cool tongue sweep in to taste me - something he'd never allowed before.

I tried to turn in his arms, intent on straddling his lap and pushing my chest even closer against him. But, unsurprisingly, his hands shot to my waist and restrained me from doing so - even as his tongue continued to plunder my mouth and dance with my own.

He groaned almost as though he was in pain, his fingers gripping more tightly at my waist - one of his hands against bare skin where the towel had fallen slightly open at the side. The sound of his own enjoyment shot a flood of arousal through my entire body, almost prompting me to try again to turn and face him.

"Bella...time to stop, love." His voice sounded as though he'd rather do just about anything than stop. His tongue had retreated, but his lips were still firm and demanding against mine when he captured them again.

"Please, Edward, I need you..." It had never worked before, but I'd never been dressed in only a towel, in his lap, with my life in danger from a sadistic vampire tracker, either.

"As I need you, Bella, but this isn't right." He still sounded pained enough that I thought I had a hope of convincing him.

"It feels right," I told him, undeterred by the fact that he wouldn't let me kiss him on the lips again. I just went for his spectacular jawline instead.

"It feels amazing, Bella, but even if it were possible for us to take this any farther, this is not the way I'd ever let it happen."

I sighed and pulled back until I could see him, knowing when I was beat. "What do you mean?"

Ever so gently, he brushed my hair off of my shoulder before leaning in to plant a tender kiss on my forehead. "Aside from the fact that I could kill you? Right now you see yourself as my prisoner, Bella. You said so yourself. You're not, of course, but I shouldn't even have let things go this far so long as you believe that. Please forgive me."

I managed, with great difficulty, not to roll my eyes. "It was a joke, Edward."

His eyes searched mine calmly. "Perhaps. But I am holding you against your will. Can you honestly tell me that this is where you want to be right now?"

He had me there, and we both knew it. My gaze faltered, my eyes dropping. "With you? Yes. But here? No. I want you to take me home."

Sadness filled the depths of his golden eyes. "And I'd love nothing more than to give you anything you ask of me. But you've asked the only two things I can't give you, Bella. I can't take a chance on either. Your safety simply isn't negotiable - no matter what it costs me."

"But Edward, why this way? Why..." I struggled to come up with some profound way of phrasing it that didn't involve the words 'kidnap' or 'prisoner', and failed miserably. "Why like this?"

We seemed to have both forgotten that I still sat on his lap completely naked other than the tiny hotel towel. His eyes were utterly serious as he framed my face in his hands and looked straight in my eyes. "Alice was trying to see how it would happen, and I was watching her thoughts. There were just bits and pieces of a thousand different possibilities that could come out of the decision to send you with Jasper and Alice...nothing even close to concrete. But Bella, in at least one of them I saw you alone with James. Unprotected."

"I wouldn't have left them, Edward. They wouldn't have left me."

His hands dropped to my shoulders, and I suppressed a shiver at the coldness of them against my bare skin. "It doesn't matter." His voice was hard, firm, unyielding. "Maybe you wouldn't have. Maybe they wouldn't have let you out of their sight. But I know I won't let you out of mine. I don't need a mindreader to tell me that."

His eyes burned into me, and I didn't doubt the truth of that statement for a second: there would be no escape from Edward until this was over, whether I wanted one or not. At that exact moment, I didn't want one. But if he intended to strap me back into that off-road harness the next day, there was a good chance I'd change my mind on that.

Exhausted, I dropped my head against his shoulder, giving in for the moment.

His voice was soft, gentle again as he coaxed me to my feet. "Bed time. Come on, Bella."

TO BE CONTINUED...