Hey! Finally, finally, finally, here's chapter 24. And it's a long one :) Enjoy! And thanks so much to all my reviewers!


The words you choose to say something are just as important as the decision to speak. ~Author Unknown


Sunday, October 11th 5:00 P.M.

I had finally done it. Yesterday I had successfully completed Day 14 of Hell. Meaning, I can now go without feeding for two weeks and sit out in the forest for two hours without cracking and hunting down some poor animal. It took me over two months to do so, but hell, somehow I had done it. The Cullens were very proud. Jasper said in between congratulatory pats on my back that if I continue on the pace I'm going, I should be done by the end of summer. Worst case scenario, he couldn't help but to add, was that I finished a few months over a year from now. Yeah…I was hoping for the best case scenario.

Unfortunately, my success meant that I now had to tackle human blood, which, as Rose had helpfully informed me, would be exponentially worse than anything I had to go through with animal blood.

"You ready?" Emmett nudges me out of my thoughts.

I sigh. "As ready as I ever will be."

Emmett narrows his playful, golden eyes, not satisfied with my answer. "Yes Emmett! I'm super excited for this. I just can't wait!" he says in voice that I'm guessing is supposed to resemble my own.

I fight back a smile. "You expect me to be excited for this?"

"Hell yeah. The sooner you get this over with the better, right?"

"I suppose."

"I suppose," he mocks, grinning. "Come on, stop looking like you're about to meet Godzilla. We wouldn't be introducing you to human blood unless we knew you could handle it."

"I suppose."

He narrows his eyes again.

I grin.

His face brightens. "Ah, there it is." He points triumphantly at my smile. "I knew I could get one out of you."

I roll my eyes, leaning back against a tree. We had decided to do this outside at the edge of the woods. That way, the house wouldn't stink of human blood, harassing every occupant. For my first session, Carlisle and Emmett would stay out with me to supervise.

Speaking of Carlisle…"How much longer until Carlisle gets here anyway?"

Emmett shrugs. "Probably no more than a couple of minutes. He just had to run to hospital to get the blood."

"And how exactly is he getting the blood?" I ask curiously, trying not to laugh at the image of Carlisle casually strolling out of the hospital he worked in with a bag of blood under his arm.

"Well…it's not exactly legal, per se…" Emmett trails off, avoiding my eyes.

Realization dawns on me. "He's stealing it," I say in shock.

"No!" he denies adamantly. I raise an eyebrow. "Well, I would say that we're simply borrowing it. He's going to give it back, and no one will know any different."

I'm about to reply when my phone goes off. Scowling at Emmett to let him know that I still disapprove, I dig through my pockets.

"Yes?" I answer the phone.

"Start holding your breath, hon. I'm about a minute away," Carlisle quickly says before hanging up.

I suck in a breath and, against my instincts, I hold it in. A minute later, Emmett and I spot him jogging toward us. I'm about to yell a greeting but Carlisle holds a finger to his lips, reminding me to keep holding my breath. When he reaches us, he climbs the tree next to the one I'm leaning on and quickly arranges the bag of blood so that it's hanging from a branch of the tree. Jumping down, he then walks toward me and gently guides me so that I'm about 50 meters away from the bag.

He faces Emmett. "She's full, correct?"

As Jasper explained, the first day I have to gorge myself on animal blood right before being introduced to human blood. If I could resist the blood for an hour, the next day I wouldn't drink any animal blood beforehand and try to resist for another hour. If I failed the first time, then I'll continue gorging myself until I get it right. My next goal is to go a week without feeding and be able to sit in front of a bag of human blood for an hour without breaking down. Which, Jasper said, could take months for me to accomplish.

"Yup," Emmett answers Carlisle's question.

Carlisle nods. "Okay then, Bella, start breathing. Your hour starts now." He glances at his watch.

You can do this, I think silently to myself before inhaling.

"Carlisle!" Emmett yells as I immediately sprint towards the tree, intent on ripping the bag apart and licking every single drop of blood.

I snarl as I'm tackled to the ground. I thrash about, but I can't get up. I'm still breathing and every inhale draws in the heavenly, irresistible scent of blood. Not just any blood, human blood. I can't even articulate what the scent does to me. It's a thousand times better than animal blood. No, I can't even compare the two, that is how much better human blood smells like. Oh, I can just imagine the taste! I can just picture the ambrosia running down my throat. It doesn't even matter that I had just sucked three elks dry. In fact, why even hunt elk when there's this delectably-scented blood?

I keep looking at the bag, knowing that in just a few seconds it will be in my hands. Even Emmett's strength is not enough for my hunger.

"Carlisle," Emmett hisses again as I almost escape his grasp. Another body lands on top of mine and I groan as I'm sprawled across the wet grass, two vampire on top of me.

"What the hell?" Emmett says angrily.

"Sorry," Carlisle grunts as I dig my elbow into his rib cage. "I was trying to figure out how to set the timer on my watch. I didn't know she would react so strongly. Didn't you make sure she hunted?"

"She had three elks!"

Carlisle responds but I barely register his words. Just breathing in the blood makes the previous two months days of resisting animal blood laughable. My throat burns like it never has before and I can't think of the fact that I just punched Emmett in the face or kicked Carlisle in his shin. All I can think about is the blood just hanging there, its scent teasing and taunting me.

"Goddamn Jasper and his goddamn boxing lessons," Emmett mutters angrily as he takes another uppercut to his face. "Are we almost done?"

"It's been two minutes," Carlisle responds, out of breath as he tries to shove down one of flying limbs.

I almost growl in pleasure, knowing that I am winning. They won't be able to stop me from getting what is mine. Wiggling my arms out of Emmett's grasp and shoving Carlisle aside, I stand, but just as soon as I do, I'm knocked down again, this time with a pair of more feminine arms.

"I had a vision…knew you needed help…Jasper's coming too," a voice says though I'm too out of it to make sense of what she is saying. I snarl as three more pairs of hands pull me face-down to the ground.

One heavy body brings my hands around so that they're resting on my back and then proceeds to sit on them. Two bodies sit on my legs and another lighter but still firm body sits on my shoulders. I growl fiercely, trying to get up but it's impossible to do without using my arms or legs. Nonetheless, the blood's call is too tempting to just give up so I try my hardest to free my arms, but they're held too tightly. I whimper minutes later after slowly coming to terms with the fact that I cannot free myself.

"There, there, Bella, fifty minutes left."

"Try not to think about it."

"Don't look at the bag either."

"It'll be over soon."

"It gets easier."

"Just get used to it. It's always the hardest the first time."

The voices continue to throw their worthless reassurances at me and soon I just block them out. It's too painful for me to concentrate on anything. I feel my mouth opening and closing but I don't even know what I'm saying, though I'm probably moaning in pain. My throat is on fire, my stomach tortuously empty, my whole body twitching, and my lungs are hyperventilating. Every breath adds to the fire, every breath cripples me, every breath is nothing less than hell.

A hand strokes my hair, an arm pats my back, a mouth whispers something into my ear—more reassurances but nothing stops the pain.

What feels like days later, someone shoves my shoulder, trying to get my attention. I look dully into a pair of golden, concerned eyes. The mouth says something and I blink blankly.

I feel pressure leave my calves and almost instantly a figure climbs the tree, grabs the blood, and takes off. My eyes widen immediately and anger burns through me. Why does he get the blood? I growl. That blood is mine. Mine. Once again I begin to thrash about. There are only three competitors now. I can take them. I'll do anything for that blood. But my hands and legs remain trapped under three bodies.

"Bella, Bella," someone's shouting, but I can't figure out what they're saying. But wait…that's my name they're shouting I realize. My head slowly clears. Yes, and that's Emmett sitting on my back and Jasper on my legs. And that's Alice who's shaking me and calling my name.

"It's okay," she's saying. "Carlisle took it away. It's gone. Just keep breathing, keep breathing. The scent it gone, just keep breathing in clear air. Just keep breathing," she keeps repeating. I do as she says and the red haze clouding my mind recedes just a bit at a time.

I gasp when it hits me what just happened. "Oh my god, oh my god," I whisper. Emmett and Jasper, seeing that I was more myself, slowing get off of me, ready to tackle me back to the ground if I make any sudden movements. But I'm done. The monster is gone. It's just me, it's me.

"Bella?" Jasper says in concern.

I ignore him and curl up in a ball. I had hurt them. I had punched and kicked them. I yelled at them. I had wanted that blood so much that I would have stopped at nothing to get it, even if it meant hurting all the Cullens. I was wrong. The monster isn't gone. The monster is still here. The monster is me, it's me.

"Do you want me to hunt some more deer for you?" Emmett asks in the gentlest voice I've ever heard him use.

I shake my head. After knowing what human blood smelled like, could I ever go back to just animal blood?

"Alright, sweetie, let's get you home, then," Alice says softly and strong arms help me up.

"You okay getting home? I could carry you if you'd like," Emmett offers.

I shake my head again. That would just make me feel more pathetic. After a few more sympathetic glances and words full of pity, we take off toward the house.

oOo

"How did it go?" Edward is waiting for us at the front porch. I don't even look at him as I enter the house. He'll read his siblings' thoughts for the answer and I don't want to be there when his face collapses in disappointment and pity.

"We're fighting now, Jasper," I say sharply, already halfway into the living room, heading toward the back door. I don't look back to see if he is following.

"Bella," Jasper starts sympathetically when he joins me in the backyard. "I know it wasn't perfect, but for a first try—oof!" I punch him in the stomach. He stares at me shock before his eyes harden and a smirk emerges. "Alright, is that how it's going to be?"

I grin. This is just what I want. Ever since that first lesson, Jasper and I have been training daily, working on blocking, punching, dodging, and kicking. My form has been critiqued and perfected and I've learned many boxing strategies. I soon beat Esme, then Rose. I've beaten Carlisle once and half the time I can beat Emmett. Though, Emmett was quick to remind me that in few more months my newborn strength will deplete and I would no longer be able to beat him. Edward refuses to fight me, but even so I doubt I could beat him. He's tied with Jasper for best fighter in the family and I still have not been able to beat Jasper, though I've tried many times. But I really don't mind the losing. I love the strategy involved and the adrenaline that runs through my veins. It's just what I need to distress from all the blood training because it's a way to distract myself and focus all the anger and frustration I feel after a grueling day of resisting blood.

Jasper kicks me in the stomach, sending my flying. I hit the ground hard and wince from the sting of pain that shoots up my spine. Before I can get my bearings, Jasper is on top of me. "It'll be better tomorrow, I promise."

"I don't want to talk about it," I say through clenched teeth before heading-butt him and rolling us over so that now I'm on top of him.

"Damn girl, where did you learn to head-but like that?" Jasper hisses in pain.

I laugh. "When Rose did it to me."

"She would," Jasper grins. "She knows all the dirty tricks in the book."

I open my mouth to reply, but then think better of it and land a punch to his face instead. "Trying to distract me, huh?"

Jasper grunts and knees me in the stomach in response. He jumps up, and I follow. "I know you don't want to talk, but I really think—" I aim a punch to his chest, but he blocks it. "—that we should discuss it—" I kick both of his legs in one swoop, knocking him to the ground, but he bounces back up without batting an eyelash. "—since it's obviously bothering you." He lands a punch on my shoulder.

"It's not a bothering me," I hiss as he punches me again. He tries to kick me but I dodge it and then quickly throw myself at him, knocking him to the ground.

We exchange more punches and kicks until finally Jasper is sitting on my back and holding my hands captive. "Mercy?" he asks.

I struggle, but can't free myself. I groan. "Yes, fine." He gets off of me and offers a hand to help me up. "Rematch," I say, grabbing the offered hand and pulling him down again.

And so it goes for the next two hours. By the end I'm breathless and feeling exhilarated. I had forgotten all about my epic fail at blood training today. Well, that is until Jasper and I enter the living room and see all the Cullens on the couches. They fall silent as soon as they see me, making it obvious that they had been talking about me.

"Bella," Carlisle stands up. "We—"

"Wait," I hold a hand up. "Can I say something first?" Everyone nods.

I bite my lip. "I just want to say sorry to Carlisle and Emmett…for you know, attacking them."

Emmett snorts. "Please, girl. Nothing fazes me. I'm practically made of steel." He flexes.

"When Alice and I got there it looked like Bella almost had both you and Carlisle beat," Jasper says, a hint of pride in his voice. "She's my little prodigy, huh?" He ruffles my hair.

I flinch and move away. "You guys shouldn't make light of this. I could have really hurt someone."

"Aww, come on, Bells, it wasn't like that." Emmett grins. "It was just a little scuffle."

"No, it wasn't," I insist firmly. "This wasn't a play fight. I wasn't myself…I just…I wanted the blood so much. I know that isn't an excuse, but that's all I could think about. I didn't even care that I was hurting you guys." I shake my head, disgusted with myself.

"No one blames you, sweetie," Esme promises, her eyes bright with understanding. "We've all been there and felt that way at some point or another." Everyone nods in agreement.

"But, if it makes you feel better," Carlisle adds, knowing I'm still upset, "Emmett and I forgive you."

A small smile tugs at the corner of my lips. "Thanks."

"Now, come," Alice pats the spot between Edward and her. "Let's stop with all this self-hating and have some fun."

I walk toward her, but instead of sitting where she wants me to, I hesitantly sit down on Edward's lap. I look at him, hoping that this is okay and that he's not terribly disappointed in me. His soft eyes meet mine and he pulls me to his chest.

"You okay, sweetheart?" He cradles me.

I dig my head into his shoulder and breathe in his comforting scent. "I am now," I whisper. He kisses the top of my head in response.

"Actually," Jasper says, walking to the front of the room, "before we have fun, we should debrief and go over today's session."

"No."

Everyone stares at me. "Well, why not, Bella?" Esme asks, immediately concerned.

"I just…I don't want to talk about it." I bury my head deeper into Edward's chest.

Edward runs a soothing hand through my hair. "Then we won't talk about it," he says in a voice that dares someone to argue with him.

Jasper sighs. An awkward silence ensues as I avoid looking at anyone's eyes.

"So Halloween's coming up in less than three weeks. Who's excited? I know I am. I'm thinking of going as a vampire, you know, shake things up a bit this year," Emmett says, expertly changing to a lighter subject and diffusing the tension in the room. I glance thankfully at him and he winks at me.

We talk about Halloween costumes for the next twenty minutes, Alice and Rose monopolizing the conversation for the most part. Soon, Edward and I make an excuse to go upstairs and be by ourselves.

"You know," Edward begins as soon as he shuts his bedroom door, "you shouldn't feel so—"

I interrupt him with a frustrated sigh, starting to get annoyed. "I don't want to talk about it."

"Oh," he looks hurt. "That's fine, then."

I sigh, this time a soft one full of regret. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to snap. It's just that I'd rather be doing something else right now."

"Oh?"

I smile as I walk up to him. I place a gentle hand on his cheek and his face immediately softens. "This thing would also make me feel better."

"Do tell, my love," he grins, knowing where I'm going with this.

I stare lovingly into his eyes. "I haven't seen you since this morning before you left for school." I bite my lip. "I missed you."

He rests his forehead on mine. "And you know I missed you."

"Well, you know what they say, miss me, miss me, now you gotta kiss me," I sing.

His chest softly rumbles with a purr. "With pleasure," he says before leaning in to give me a kiss that leaves me breathless and wanting more. He gladly repeats the gesture, again and again and again.

That is, until it's time for him to leave for school.

Two weeks later

"Edward," I moan as he roughly sucks at my neck. I tug at his hair and he rewards me by returning his lips back to my waiting ones. He blissfully sighs my name as my hands slip under his shirt and my fingers trace his hard abs. Pretty soon, I can't take it anymore. His lips are back to ravaging my neck and I need to feel more of him. I tug on his shirt, hoping he gets the hint. He does. He quickly pulls his gray, wool shirt off. I've slipped my hands under his shirt plenty of times and if he wore a collared shirt I would always unbutton it—when he learned of this he wore collared shirts much more often—but his shirt has never been completely off. The sight makes me crazy. I pull him back down onto me with all my strength—which probably hurts him, but he sure doesn't complain.

I kiss him fervently and he purrs. God, he knows what that sound does to me. I bite his bottom lip and soothe the sting with my tongue, making his purr turn into a growl. I lose myself in the kiss, needing this relief so badly. It was another day of awful blood training and like always, Edward's lips never fail to distract me from the hunger that constantly surrounds me like a black cloud. It's so easy to turn my hunger for blood to hunger for his kisses, his touch, his sighs, his moans. It's a hunger I don't have to resist, nor would I ever want to.

"Bella," he suddenly pulls away from me and I whimper at the loss of contact. Confused, I look down and realize that my hands are dangerously close to his belt buckle. Surprised, I quickly move them up again, but Edward's already off the bed.

"You didn't even realize what you were doing, did you?" He shakes his head, his face expressionless but I know him well enough to see the hurt swimming in those topaz eyes of his.

I sit up, still confused as to what just happened, but by the time I open my mouth, my room is painfully empty.

"Wait, Edward," I rush out of my bedroom and see his door open, letting me know that at least he isn't mad enough to shut me out. "What's wrong?" I demand when I see him lying face down on his couch.

He doesn't answer. I sigh and move to knell down in front of the sofa. I hesitantly put a hand in his soft hair and thankfully he doesn't pull away.

"I'm sorry. If you feel like we are moving too fast, you only need to tell me—"

I see him flinch and he moves my hand away from him. "If I think we are moving too fast? Is that a joke?" He laughs, though it's safe to say that it's a humorless one.

I furrow my eyebrows in hurt and confusion. "Well, what is it then?"

He sits up and looks mournfully at me. "Am I just a distraction for you? Be honest."

"What?"

"Because it feels like all we've been doing for the past two weeks, no the past few months, is kiss."

I scoff, my initial hurt at his response quickly turning to anger. "Oh, I'm sorry that it's such a burden for you to kiss me!" I hiss.

"That's not what I mean, Bella." He runs a frustrated hand through his hair.

"Well, then please enlighten me as to what exactly you do mean." I put my hands on my hips.

"Just what I said. For the past months, I've gone to school, come home, you go off blood training, you come back, go fight with Jasper, then come upstairs and you kiss me until I leave for school and the whole damn cycle starts all over again."

I can't believe this. "I kiss you? You seem to forget that you always kissed me back. I certainly have never heard you complain before. Well…until now."

"Because I'm just now starting to realize that just maybe all I am to you is someone to kiss in order to distract you from your hunger."

I can't tell whether he's more hurt or angry, but I quickly determine that I don't care. His accusation still rings in my ears. I stand up and ball my hands into fists. "I can't believe you just said that."

"I'm right, though, aren't I?" he says, seemingly unaffected by my anger.

"How dare you? I love you."

He continues as if I haven't spoken. "When's the last time we've talked, like really talked, Bella?" he demands. "Huh?"

I turn away from him. "I can't speak to you right now." I start towards his door.

"Oh, of course, at the first sign of an actual conversation you turn away. Typical," comes his biting retort.

I whip around to face him. Even I'm shocked by the anger I feel. "You know what, Edward? I would love to talk to you when you're done being an ass. Come find me then, will ya?" And with that, I leave him in his room, both of us fuming.

I march downstairs and storm into the living, still furious.

"I don't," I hold up a hand before any of the Cullens can say a word, "want to talk about."

I hate the pity and sympathy shinning in everyone's eyes. I turn away, running a hand through my hair. "Come on, Jazz, let's fight." I desperately need something to distract me and release some of my jumbling emotions.

That day is the first day I beat Jasper.

oOo

"We're going to be late, Alice," Edward's rarely-used hard voice calls from downstairs.

"Don't you have someone to say goodbye to first?" she demands, not getting up from her spot on her bed.

"Shh!" I shove her.

She widens her eyes innocently at me. We hear the front door slam seconds later.

"I guess that answers your question," I mumble, stung.

"Oh, Bella, leave it to me. I'll straighten him out," she promises, patting my hand.

"No," I say sharply, but then soften at her hurt expression. "Something's clearly bothering him and he needs to figure it out. On his own. Just…stay out of it, okay? When…if he talks to me, I want it to be because he wants to, not because any of you guilted him into it."

"Fine," Alice sighs, "but I can't stop him from reading my mind. And right now I'm thinking about what a jerk he is."

"Come on, stop that." I ruffle her spiky hair. "He's your brother. Don't be mad at him."

"But, Bella, you're my sister," she says as if this explains everything.

I smile, touched. "Thanks, Ally," I say sincerely. "Now, you better go or else he'll drive away."

She scoffs. "I'll like to see him try." However, she gets up anyway, but suddenly Jasper is there standing in front of her, blocking her exit.

"Leaving without saying goodbye?" He pulls her into an embrace.

She giggles before standing on her tippy-toes to give him a kiss.

I look away, immediately heart-broken. Just yesterday that was Edward and I saying goodbye to each other before he headed off to school.

I know I put a brave face in front of Alice, but Edward leaving without saying goodbye really hurt me, more than I'd like to admit. We've fought before and he's been mad at me…but never like this. He's never shut me out, never ignored me, never refused to even acknowledge me. And what am I supposed to do? Beg for forgiveness? I don't even know what I did! In fact, he should be the one apologizing to me.

"Bye, Bella," Alice's voice breaks me out of my thoughts.

I wave glumly.

Alice purses her lips and faces her husband. "Take care of her, will you, Jazz?" she whispers.

"I can hear you, you know. And I don't need a babysitter, thank you very much."

A car honks outside. Alice rolls her eyes. "Okay, I gotta go. Do as I say, Jazz. Love you guys! Bye." She's out of sight in a blink of an eye.

"Can you close the door on your way out?" I mumble, flipping onto my stomach and burying my head into a pillow.

"Um…are you kicking me out? Of my own room?"

I sit up, disoriented, before realizing that he's right, we are in his room. I shake my head in an attempt to clear it. "Oh, yeah. Sorry, I'm just…yeah, I'll leave then." I stand up and brush by him on my way out.

"Not so fast, Bella." He puts a hand on my shoulder.

I wrench my shoulder out of his grasp. "I'm fine, Jazz."

He snorts in disbelief. "Don't forget, little sis. I can read your every emotion. You are anything but fine."

I scowl. "I just don't—"

"Yeah, yeah, you don't want to talk about it," he finishes my sentence, waving a hand dismissively.

I glare at him, about to respond, but before I can, Emmett walks into the room.

"Hey, Bells!" he greets cheerfully.

I groan in frustration at the sight of him, at the happiness he emanates. God, I'm in such a bad mood and there is nothing more I want to do right now than crawl into my bed and wallow in my confusion. "I just want to be alone right now," I tell them. "Why can't you guys understand that?" I throw my hands in the air in exasperation.

Emmett looks like someone just killed his favorite puppy. "Geez, someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed today."

I sigh, trying to calm down. "Look, I know you guys want to cheer me up…but I meant what I said. I just want to be alone." No sooner had the words left my mouth than Esme and Rose join the party.

"Boys," Rose says as she grabs my arm and starts to drag me outside. "We got this from here. What Bella needs is some girl time."

"No, I don't," I say through clenched teeth, starting to get really irritated with all of them.

"Sure you do, sweetie," Esme pats my back knowingly, leading me down the stairs and into the living room.

I try to struggle from her grasp but stop when I lay my eyes on the coffee table full of DVD cases and cartons of ice cream. I do a double-take. "Ice cream?"

Rose shrugs, a little embarrassed. "Well, yeah. Isn't that what human girls eat when they're sad?"

I crack a tiny smile at this and nod.

"And I figure we can watch hot guys and throw popcorn at the screen at all the mushy-gushy stuff," Rose adds.

I study Esme's and Rose's hopeful expressions and tentative smiles, both of them looking like they think I will refuse them and march out. Though, I think with chagrin, that is what I've been doing lately. But no longer. I'm stronger than that. Blood training won't keep me down and nor will Edward.

"What movies do you have?" I question, plopping down onto the couch.

Rose grins in satisfaction. "Okay, take your pick. We have Brad Pitt, Ryan Glosing, Owen Wilson, Justin Timberlake, Leonardo Dicaprio, Ryan Reynolds, J—"

"Brad Pitt," I interrupt, knowing she could go on forever.

She nods approvingly. "Good choice. Ooh! Let's watch Troy. He's butt-naked in one scene."

I look down, embarrassed. "Totally naked?"

"No worries, you only see his back side." I can just picture her rolling her eyes. "And you know how human parents are always awkward with sex scenes? Well, Esme's totally cool."

Esme sits down next to me. "I am a pretty cool mom."

I laugh and snuggle up to her side. "That you are."

Rose joins us on the couch. Our eyes meet; I know that Rose isn't particularly comfortable with, as she calls it, mushy-gushy conversations, so I don't say thank you, but just let my eyes convey it. She blinks at me and I know she gets it.

"So what are we going to do with the ice cream?" I ask.

Rose taps her chin in thought. "Hmm…oh!" She widens her dark-honey eyes in excitement before leaning conspiratorially toward us. "Let's do a drinking game, except with ice cream. We'll invite Emmett and Jasper down to watch and every time Emmett comments on something, we eat a spoonful."

Usually I would disagree. Emmett is known for his excessive commentary during shows and movies and ever since the last and first time I had thrown up as a vampire, I haven't eaten any human food. But…I need to do something fun, even if I regret it later when I'm heaving into a toilet. So Esme and I look at each other before laughing and agreeing.

Minutes later, Emmett and Jasper are sitting on the couch, the movie has started, and there is a carton of ice cream on each of our laps.

"You know, he isn't even that attractive," Emmett says as we watch the opening scene.

We each take a spoonful and I force the thick liquid down my throat.

"Why are you guys eating that? You'll just throw it up later," Jasper says, confused.

"None of your business," Rose bites back, and that's that.

"Look at his long hair, it's so bizarre."

"I bet I could be a better warrior."

"He's not that good of an actor."

"How long is this movie, anyway? I'm already bored."

"That is obviously fake blood."

After two hours of Emmett's chatter, we take out Troy and put in Moneyball. Several hours later, Rose, Esme, and I are laughing uncontrollably as we dry-gag into Esme's bushes.

"God, I think I ate the whole carton." Rose rubs her stomach.

"Do you know how many times I wanted to tell Emmett to just be quiet," Esme shakes her head, her hands on her knees as she bends over the bushes.

I let out another painful dry-heave. "Tell him to be quiet? Please, after that 100th spoonful, I was ready to strangle him." We all laugh at that. And if you have never laughed and dry-gagged at the same time, let me tell you now, it is not a fun experience. But for some reason, we cannot stop laughing and pretty soon we are leaning against each other for support, slapping our knees.

This must have been the scene that greets Alice and Edward as the Volvo comes up the driveway. Instantly, my laughter disappears at the sight of him. I can see him through the windshield and I know him well enough to catch the flash of hurt across his face before his expression hardens to anger. He gets out of his car without a word and passes us without a second glance.

"What?" Alice puts her hands on hips, standing in front of us. "You guys had a party without me?"

I don't answer her. I collapse onto the porch.

"Bella," comes Esme overly-concerned voice and suddenly three pairs of hands are on my back.

I shake them off and bring my knees up to my chest. "Just go inside," I whisper, and thankfully, after moments of hesitation, they do.

I bury my head into my knees and bite my lip to keep the sobs at bay. All it took was the sight of him, still angry and hurt, to wipe away any small trace of happiness I had felt.

What if he never spoke to me again? What if he stayed angry forever? And what did I even do to make him so angry?

He said that I was just kissing him for distraction, which is ridiculous. I kiss him because I love him, plain and simple. Even if I didn't have blood-training I would still want to kiss him for as long as I could. Does he not feel the same way? Does he not like how much we kiss?

And I mean, I do kiss him after blood-training lessons because I need something to divert my attention from the hunger, but that's not the only reason. Sure his delectable lips offer the best kind of distraction because every time they come in contact with mine, my every thought, my every worry is wiped away and all I can concentrate on is how his lips move against mine and that small ball of pleasure that starts in the pit of my stomach and spreads throughout my whole body.

Is that so bad?

Is it completely terrible that I love kissing him so much that it leaves me dizzy and breathless and so full of happiness?

And is it awful that after a horrible blood-training lesson, the one thing I need more than anything is not to talk about it, but to be caressed and loved and feel worthy, not pathetic and useless like I would normally feel?

And is it my fault that after denying my hunger, the other hunger, the hunger for my mate, strengthens?

Does he want me deny both hungers?

Could I?

For him, anything. I would do anything for him.

Why can't he see that?

To say that he's nothing more to me than a distraction is blasphemy. How can he doubt me so much?

And it's not like he gave any inclination that he didn't want to kiss me. He's always been more than willing. If he wanted to talk, I would have loved to talk.

Not true, a voice in my head whispers, showing me flashbacks from the past few months.

Edward asking me about my day, and me just saying fine, not asking him the same.

Edward asking me about blood-training and me changing the subject to something lighter, like the weather.

The calls I never made, the texts I never sent.

But that's not my fault! He's the one that doesn't text or call. I'm just letting him focus on his studies. Trust me, the phone is by my side all day. I miss him so much when he's at school; there's nothing more I'd like than to communicate with him when he's away. And I don't like to talk about blood-training. It's nothing against him, I just don't want to talk about.

My breath catches. I don't want to talk about it. How many times have I said that these past few weeks? Hell, I've said it at least five times the past twenty-four hours. How has that made Edward feel? Trying to reach out to me, and I just shut him out every time.

Oh my god.

This whole time I've been waiting for Edward to come me, to apologize, to say that he was just having a bad day. But…what if it's me that has to apologize? I mean, from Edward's point of view, he has a girlfriend that refuses to talk about her deepest problems and who seems to just want to kiss him. But he's got it all wrong. That's not what's going on at all. I have to tell him. I have to let him know that I love him, that I haven't opened up about how hard blood-training has been because I can't stand the sight of his face filling with disappointment, that I don't call or text because I'm waiting for him to do it, that I fight with Jasper instead of talking with him because I need a way to release my anger and shame. Once he knows, once he understands, he won't be angry with me anymore.

Excited, I sprint inside, up the stairs, and stop at Edward's closed door. Edward's closed door. I can't remember the last the time it's been closed with me on the outside. Not knowing what to do—do I knock, just go in, what?—I stand there dumbly for a minute. Finally, I square my shoulders and just open the door. I step in and settle my eyes on Edward who is lying on his couch with a book in his hand. The sight of him sends a pang of hurt through me. Usually we would lie together on his couch, legs intertwined, and books in our hands. Sometimes I would read and he would stare at me, making me self-conscious enough that I would tell him to stop looking and start reading. Or sometimes when he was done with reading and I wasn't, he would kiss and suck on my neck despite my protests until I finally gave in, put down my book next to his, and threw my arms around him, not letting him come up for breath until hours later.

Staring at him now as he continues reading, not even sparing me a glance, makes me miss him so much that my heart literally aches. I wish I could crawl into the couch with him. I wish that he would smile and pull me close like he always does instead of pulling away like he is now.

"Edward," I whisper, walking closer to the couch. "Edward," I say louder, thinking that he didn't hear me, but of course he did, he just doesn't want to answer. "Edward," my voice breaks this time. "I-I miss you," I whisper.

He sucks in a breath and finally sits up. "You miss me?" He says skeptically, his voice full of cynical doubt as he stands up. I nod hurriedly. "It sure didn't look like that when I came home."

I think back to Rose, Esme, and I laughing like crazy, and the flash of hurt across his face as he drove up. Now his face is impassive, indifferent, like he's already bored with the conversation. "Oh…that, that wasn't anything. We were just being…silly."

"Silly?" He repeats, shaking his head. "You know what? It doesn't even matter now. I'm outta here." He starts toward the door.

"That's it?" I say incredulously. "You…you don't want to talk about it?"

He turns slowly around to face me. "Oh, now you want to talk? Well, sorry, but I don't." And with that, he leaves and I'm left feeling like he probably has for the past months—confused, lonely, and hurt.

oOo

For the next ten hours, Edward stays in his room, and I stay in mine. The Cullens periodically knock on each of our doors to try to get us to come out, but we always turn them away. When Edward leaves for school with Alice, he doesn't say goodbye and neither do I. While he's away, Rose, Esme, Emmett, and Jasper all try to convince me to leave my room with promises of more movies and games, but I refuse them. I wallow in my grief, constantly going over my actions these past months, realizing more and more what a terrible girlfriend I've been. By the time Edward and Alice come home, I hate myself, thinking that it's best that Edward ignores me. I deserve it for the way I've been treating him.

And it is at my lowest point that Jasper knocks on my door, telling me that it's time for another blood-training session.

oOo

It's too much, it's too much. I can't do it, I can't. I stop fighting, curl up in a ball, and start sobbing. Emmett, Jasper, and Carlisle immediately stop restraining me.

"Bella, what's wrong?" Carlisle's bewildered voice asks.

"Everything!" I cry.

"What do we do?" Emmett asks, panicked. Trust a crying, teenaged girl to completely dumbfound three century-old men.

"I don't know. She's not trying to go for the blood…should we end the session? She's obviously unstable right now," Carlisle reasons.

"Yeah," Jasper agrees. "Em, get the bag and take it home. While you're there, get Edward."

At the sound of his name, I start sobbing harder. Emmett rushes to do as he is told and for the next few minutes Jasper and Carlisle awkwardly try to comfort me, but I can't stop crying.

"Bella, Bella, tell us what's wrong," Carlisle coaxes.

"What's wrong?" I sniffle. "What's wrong? I'm so weak that I can't even resist a stupid, goddamn bag of blood. And Edward…Edward hates me." I moan in pain. "Oh god, he hates me, he hates me, he hates me."

"No," an astonished voice whispers from behind me. I would know that voice anywhere. I roll to my other side to face him, his face full of pain. "Oh, Bella, my Bella," he rushes to me and takes me into his arms. I struggle to get as close to him as I physically can, but even that's not enough. "I don't hate you, love. I don't. I can't."

I let out another dry-sob against his chest and he whimpers in response, as if my pain is his. "You should, you should hate me."

"Oh, Bella, don't you know?" He takes my head into his hands, forcing me to look into his tormented, topaz eyes. "I was made to love you, not hate, never hate."

I dig my head into his shoulder. "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry," I repeat over and over.

Edward rubs circles on the small of my back, peppers kisses on my checks as if he's kissing away my tears, and for every sorry I utter, he tells me that he loves me, as if this fact negates any apology due on my part.

When I finally calm down enough, he moves his head so that we can look at each other. I rub my eyes and take a deep breath. "I'm sorry," I finally say.

He smiles sadly. "That's what you keep saying."

"This time it's for breaking down like that. The blood-training…it always messes my mind and puts my emotions out of wrack. Well, you know…" But then I trail off as we both think the same thing—that no, he doesn't know, he couldn't possibly know because I've never told him before. I take another deep breath and lace our fingers together. Then I say the words I know he's been dying to hear for far too long, "Let's talk."


There you go! Next chapter is of course the talk and maybe Rose and Em leaving for their trip.

And I've decided to just update after I finish writing a chapter, so I'll update as soon as I can. Until then, review please :)

Wish me luck on the SAT!

Thanks For Reading!

Review for a sneak preview!

Until Next Time,
Valerie