A/N: Well, once again I am way behind schedule….I am so sorry. Since Christmas real life has been kicking my behind with a vengeance. Please read the A/N at the bottom of the page before you leave.
Disclaimer: S. Meyer owns everything Twilight.
'That's the deal, Bella,' Jasper said. 'Take it or leave it.'
'But, what would Charlie say?' she whined.
'Bella, you're stalling,' Rosalie said. Bella let out a sigh. Did she really have much of a choice? Alice clapped her hands, bouncing in her seat.
'Arghhhh...,' Bella screamed. She looked at Jasper. 'You win. I'll take the car...but only after my truck dies.'
'That can be arranged,' Edward was bombarded by the thoughts going through his family's minds. Bella held her hand over her mouth, trying to hold back a yawn.
'Bed time for the human,' Edward said, rising with her in his arms. She tried to protest it but gave up when her words were cut short by yet another yawn.
'We'll start the next book tomorrow,' Carlisle said as Edward raced up the stairs with Bella.
"Why do we have to wait for him?" Emmett whined.
"For the last time, Emmett, we are not reading until everyone is here," Rosalie growled at him.
"It's not our fault you don't have to go to school," Edward said, walking in the door. Alice and Bella trailed in behind him more than ready to get started.
"Whining again, Emmie," Bella snickered. For such a scary looking vampire he really was a big teddy bear as Edward had called him once. She was glad he was on her side though, he was still scary.
Emmett jumped up and grabbed Bella, swinging her around.
"Not too much Em, Bella can barely walk as it is," Jasper snickered. He wasn't helping with the wave of dizziness he shot at her.
"I need a human moment before Carlisle gets here," Bella said, heading towards the washroom.
"Are you hungry dear? I'll make you a snack," Esme headed to the kitchen which they now kept fully stocked just for Bella.
"Did you do the job yet?" Emmett asked his brother. He laughed at Edwards glare. "What? She can't hear us."
"Don't count on it, son," Carlisle laughed, entering the dining room. "Human women have a knack for hearing anything you don't want them to hear." They all laughed at this. "If you get rid of it too soon she will become suspicious." Emmett groaned knowing his father was right, again.
"Well, we have to get rid of it before next week," Alice said, giggling.
"That can be arranged," Rosalie said. "It would be my pleasure."
"Rosalie," Esme scolded her. "It was still a gift from her father, no matter what we think of it." Rosalie screwed up her face and turned away.
"Well, what if we just fix the truck up then?" Emmett asked.
"The truck itself is plain ugly, Emmett," Rosalie growled. "She needs a new car."
"Then we'll have to take care of the truck," Edward sighed. Truthfully he was more than ready to get rid of the monstrosity. "But it has to look like a natural death." They nodded their heads agreeing, it was the only way to get Bella to accept a new car gracefully.
"I wouldn't be too extravagant boys," Alice laughed. "I don't see her accepting those either." They looked at each other sheepishly, all three having thought of different, but rather wild cars for her.
"So, are we sitting here or in the living room again?" Carlisle asked. It really didn't matter to any of them as one place wasn't any more comfortable than the next.
"I'd rather sit in the living room," Bella said walking back in the room. "It's too uncomfortable sitting on a kitchen chair that long." They nodded in understanding, making their way into the living room. Making themselves comfortable, they looked at Carlisle who was now holding the second book.
"Guess you're reading first again Carlisle," Esme said.
Carlisle shrugged his shoulders. "This book is called Eclipse." There were slight murmurs, each wondering what it could mean. Carlisle opened the book, taking note of the preface again. The first line did not look promising at all.
"Just read, Carlisle," Edward growled. Apparently they were not about to get a break in this book either.
ALL OUR ATTEMPTS AT SUBTERFUGE HAD BEEN IN VAIN.
This had been the line Edward heard in his father's thoughts. He ground his teeth in an attempt to keep himself under control.
"So….does that mean what I think it means?" Emmett asked, looking around the room. There were worried faces all around, but what could they do right now?
With ice in my heart, I watched him prepare to defend me. His intense concentration betrayed no hint of doubt, though he was outnumbered. I knew that we could expect no help - at this moment, his family was fighting for their lives just as surely as he was for ours.
There were sharp intakes of breath in the silent room. Edward however was being bombarded with his family's thoughts. Who would they be fighting against and why were Bella and, obviously Edward, not with them?
"Do you think it's the Volturi?" Bella asked, remembering their request in the other book. Everyone had been quite sure they would not show up for years to see that they had followed through on the demand. What if they were wrong? No one would take the chance of answering, not one of them could say no without a doubt.
Would I ever learn the outcome of that other fight? Find out who the winners and the losers were? Would I live long enough for that?
The odds of that didn't look so great.
"This does not look good," Carlisle exclaimed to his family. "We'll have to be more vigilant now…,"
"Did you get a chance to call Tanya?" Edward asked cutting him off.
"Not yet. I thought to wait until the books were finished, so we would know completely what we were dealing with," he said. What if that was a mistake? A mistake his family would pay for with their lives.
"We can't think like that," Edward replied, hearing his father's thoughts. He nodded momentarily.
Black eyes, wild with their fierce craving for my death, watched for the moment when my protector's attention would be diverted. The moment when I would surely die.
Somewhere, far, far away in the cold forest, a wolf howled.
"A wolf? Oh God! Do you think we'll be fighting the wolves?" Bella asked frantically.
"You won't be fighting anyone," Edward growled at her.
"Doesn't matter. You will be, and obviously it's either them or us," she said. "And as much as that last book said I liked Jacob Black, I would rather it be them."
"Well, that was unexpected," Rosalie's thoughts came at Edward.
"Can't we just skip to the end of the book?" Emmett asked.
"Why would we do that?" Rosalie asked.
"The preface in the last book happened at the end. Maybe this one is the same," he explained, wanting to know who they were going to fight…. And needing to see if they would lose anyone.
"No," Carlisle said. "We'll read this book the same as the last one."
"And as long as you don't keep interrupting we should do just fine, Emmett," Bella scowled at him.
"It was only a suggestion," he mumbled, really wanting to know who they were going to fight.
"Uhmm…. The next lines are crossed out," Carlisle said. Edward could see the words in his father's head, wondering why they like that.
I don't know why you're making
Charlie carry notes to Billy
like we're in second grade - if I wanted
to talk to you I would answer the
"They're from Jacob?" Bella asked.
"It would seem that way," Carlisle answered, taking note of Edwards scowl.
"It doesn't seem like he wants to talk to me," she said dejectedly. Edward sighed. Did it really matter if she truly wanted nothing to do with him?
You made the choice here, okay?
You can't have it both ways when
Edward snorted. Seems like he was right again.
"Well, why can't I have it both ways?" Bella asked.
"I thought you didn't want to be friends with the mutt?" Rosalie ground out.
"Well…..." Bella's voice trailed off, not sure what to make of that comment.
What part of 'mortal enemies' is too
complicated for you to
"Really, Bella," Rosalie said, a little condescendingly to her. "You should know this by now."
"I know," she sighed. "I just don't like judging people before I know them."
"Well," Alice began, "Considering you want to be one of us, you really should think hard about becoming friends with Jacob. It most certainly will not be a wise choice."
Look, I know I'm being a jerk, but
there's just no way around
"Humph…," Emmett grumbled. "When were you not being a jerk?" He glanced at Edward who nodded his head in agreement. Jacob didn't seem to act like a very good friend to Bella in the other book. More like a thwarted boyfriend.
We can't be friends when you're
spending all your time with a bunch of
Rosalie growled at this. His name calling was getting old now and he was beginning to sound like the kid he was. Bella sighed.
It just makes it worse when I
think about you too much, so don't
Bella hung her head and Jasper could feel the remorse coming off of her. This was going to be long evening.
"The next lines aren't crossed out," Carlisle said.
Yeah, I miss you, too. A lot.
Doesn't change anything. Sorry.
"Hmmm….," Alice said. "It seems like as long as you're around us he doesn't want anything to do with you. That doesn't seem like a very good friend."
"More like a temperamental child not getting their own way," Rosalie commented.
Bella sighed, looking at her hands. From the little she saw of Jacob, she really didn't think he was like that. Maybe it would be better if she stayed away from him altogether. That way no one would get hurt.
I ran my fingers across the page, feeling the dents where he had pressed the pen to the paper so hard that it had nearly broken through. I could picture him writing this - scrawling the angry letters in his rough handwriting, slashing through line after line when the words came out wrong, maybe even snapping the pen in his too-big hand; that would explain the ink splatters. I could imagine the frustration pulling his black eyebrows together and crumpling his forehead. If I'd been there, I might have laughed. Don't give yourself a brain hemorrhage, Jacob, I would have told him. Just spit it out.
Esme sighed. This boy may be a werewolf, one of their mortal enemies, but she was a mother and it still hurt her to see him in pain."Sorry, Edward,"she apologized, seeing him wince at her thoughts.
Laughing was the last thing I felt like doing now as I reread the words I'd already memorized. His answer to my pleading note - passed from Charlie to Billy to him, just like second grade, as he'd pointed out - was no surprise. I'd known the essence of what it would say before I'd opened it.
Bella backed away from Rosalie's glare, pushing into Edward's chest. How were things going to get better with Jacob when it seemed like she was leading him on all the time? It was confusing to her; she could just imagine how Jacob and Edward felt about it.
What was surprising was how much each crossed-out line wounded me - as if the points of the letters had cutting edges. More than that, behind each angry beginning lurked a vast pool of hurt; Jacob's pain cut me deeper than my own.
Bella could feel her cheeks getting red and she tried to ignore Rosalie's angry glare. She had thought they were getting along better after the other book. Looks like the truce was short lived.
While I was pondering this, I caught the unmistakable scent of a smoking burner rising from the kitchen. In another house, the fact that someone besides myself was cooking might not be a cause for panicking.
"Charlie," Bella sighed, shaking her head. "I can't leave him alone for a moment," she said amongst the laughter.
"Maybe I could teach him, Bella," Esme said.
"I think it's a lost cause," Bella sighed, shaking her head, hearing a giggle from Alice.
I shoved the wrinkled paper into my back pocket and ran, making it downstairs in the nick of time.
The jar of spaghetti sauce Charlie'd stuck in the microwave was only on its first revolution when I yanked the door open and pulled it out.
"And he wasn't even really cooking," Emmett laughed.
Bella rolled her eyes. Her father truly was a lost cause at cooking. She couldn't help wondering how he had survived all these years. Probably ate at the lodge a lot.
"What did I do wrong?" Charlie demanded.
"You're supposed to take the lid off first, Dad. –"Oh My God!" she thought to herself. - Metal's bad for microwaves." I swiftly removed the lid as I spoke, poured half the sauce into a bowl, and then put the bowl inside the microwave and the jar back in the fridge; I fixed the time and pressed start.
"And that's how you cook," Emmett stated with a smirk, causing Bella to roll her eyes in amusement.
Charlie watched my adjustments with pursed lips. "Did I get the noodles right?"
"Oh God," Bella groaned. Seeing the look on Emmett's face Edward laughed.
"Let's just say that Bella's father does not cook for a reason," he laughed.
I looked in the pan on the stove - the source of the smell that had alerted me. "Stirring helps," I said mildly. I found a spoon and tried to de-clump the mushy hunk that was scalded to the bottom.
"Oh!" Emmett laughed.
"Yes," Bella said, turning red. "Charlie definitely cannot cook. At least the author got that part right."
"So what's all this about?" I asked him.
He folded his arms across his chest and glared out the back windows into the sheeting rain. "Don't know what you're talking about," he grumbled.
"Humph….I bet you don't," Bella grumbled to herself.
"How much?" Emmett asked gleefully, rubbing his hands together. Bella just looked at him.
"She is not betting with you," Edward glared at Emmett, then turned to Jasper, "or you."
I was mystified. Charlie cooking? And what was with the surly attitude? Edward wasn't here yet; usually my dad reserved this kind of behavior for my boyfriend's benefit, doing his best to illustrate the theme of "unwelcome" with every word and posture. Charlie's efforts were unnecessary - Edward knew exactly what my dad was thinking without the show.
Edward sighed. "Hopefully things will not go like this."
"If you don't act like a moron and leave," Rosalie glared at him, "Things should be fine." Edward sighed, knowing that was probably true. After all, everything bad in New Moon happened after he was stubborn and left.
The word boyfriend had me chewing on the inside of my cheek with a familiar tension while I stirred. It wasn't the right word, not at all. I needed something more expressive of eternal commitment. . . . But words like destiny and fate sounded hokey when you used them in casual conversation.
"Well, the words may sound hokey," Bella said, looking at Edward, "but I'm pretty sure fate did bring us together."
"And you are my destiny," Edward replied, "even if it did take a trip to Italy to make me realize it."
"I can just imagine how you would have reacted if I had come here two years ago," Bella said quietly, remembering how she had refused to visit Forks, and her father, one more time. Fate really did have a hand in keeping them apart until they could both handle the situation.
"Edward would have ran and never looked back," Alice said. They looked at each other quietly, all grateful that fate did intervene at that then as she did now. Bella had choose, albeit grudgingly, to return on her own.
Edward had another word in mind, and that word was the source of the tension I felt. It put my teeth on edge just to think it to myself.
Fiancée. Ugh. I shuddered away from the thought.
"I do not feel that way," Bella grumbled, while Edward couldn't help wondering if she was being truthful. It was times like this that he really wished he could read her mind.
"Did I miss something? Since when do you make dinner?" I asked Charlie. The pasta lump bobbed in the boiling water as I poked it. "Or try to make dinner, I should say."
Charlie shrugged. "There's no law that says I can't cook in my own house."
"There should be," Bella snickered, automatically feeling contrite when she saw Esme look at her. "Well, it's true."
"You would know," I replied, grinning as I eyed the badge pinned to his leather jacket.
"Ha. Good one." He shrugged out of the jacket as if my glance had reminded him he still had it on, and hung it on the peg reserved for his gear. His gun belt was already slung in place - he hadn't felt the need to wear that to the station for a few weeks. There had been no more disturbing disappearances to trouble the small town of Forks, Washington, no more sightings of the giant, mysterious wolves in the ever-rainy woods. . . .
"Well, that's a good thing," Carlisle smiled.
"I don't know," Jasper said. "It seems too quiet. Remember the preface?" They all winced.
I prodded the noodles in silence, guessing that Charlie would get around to talking about whatever was bothering him in his own time. My dad was not a man of many words, and the effort he had put into trying to orchestrate a sit-down dinner with me made it clear there were an uncharacteristic number of words on his mind.
I glanced at the clock routinely - something I did every few minutes around this time. Less than a half hour to go now.
"Go for what?" Emmett asked.
"I'm sure we'll find out," Alice laughed. "Bella likes to talk, and think, a lot in these books." Bella blushed at this causing Emmett to laugh again.
"And you do that a lot too," he added.
Afternoons were the hardest part of my day. Ever since my former best friend (and werewolf), Jacob Black, had informed on me about the motorcycle I'd been riding on the sly - a betrayal he had devised in order to get me grounded so that I couldn't spend time with my boyfriend (and vampire), Edward Cullen - Edward had been allowed to see me only from seven till nine-thirty p.m., always inside the confines of my home and under the supervision of my dad's unfailingly crabby glare.
"Ahhhh….. He put you under house arrest," Emmett smirked, looking at Edward. "Wonder what he would do if he found out about the late night visits?" he thought.
"Don't even think about it," Edward snarled at him.
"Too late," Emmett laughed at him. "I already am."
"I do not need help calming down," Edward growled out. This was obviously directed at Jasper.
"I believe you do," Jasper snorted, feeling the tension rolling off of his brother. He debated whether to let it proceed, just to see Edward and Emmett fight, but reading this book proved to be ultimately more important at the moment.
"Emmett," Carlisle sighed out, pinching the bridge of his nose. "Please leave your brother alone."
"Ahhh…we can never have any fun with Eddie," he whined. "Always running to daddy," he continued in his head. He laughed and ducked when Edward whipped a cushion at him.
This was an escalation from the previous, slightly less stringent grounding that I'd earned for an unexplained three-day disappearance and one episode of cliff diving.
"Whoa!" Emmett exclaimed, voicing all their thoughts. "He got that mad because of the motorcycle?"
"Well, I guess it's a good thing we're not getting you one now," Emmett said. "Although…"
"Emmett, don't do it," Bella sighed. She loved her teddy bear of a brother, but sometimes he could be such a pain in the ass.
"Ahhh… you used to be fun Bella," Emmett grumbled. "You hang out with Eddie too much."
"Anyway," Bella said, ignoring Emmett, "This just proves that you shouldn't buy me a motorcycle."
"That's why we're getting you a car instead," Alice grinned, causing Bella to groan.
Of course, I still saw Edward at school, because there wasn't anything Charlie could do about that. And then, Edward spent almost every night in my room, too, but Charlie wasn't precisely aware of that. Edward's ability to climb easily and silently through my second-story window was almost as useful as his ability to read Charlie's mind.
"Only almost?" Edward asked dejectedly, squirming in his seat.
"I think it's more important that you know what the Chief is thinking," Esme said, "that way you can avoid certain situations."
Edward grumbled but he had to concede to that fact. His ability to read Charlie's mind had prevented many a disaster; especially when he felt the need to check up on his daughter late at night. Didn't stop him from feeling put out though.
Though the afternoon was the only time I spent away from Edward, it was enough to make me restless, and the hours always dragged. Still, I endured my punishment without complaining because - for one thing - I knew I'd earned it, and - for another - because I couldn't bear to hurt my dad by moving out now, when a much more permanent separation hovered, invisible to Charlie, so close on my horizon.
Edward sighed. He had hoped this new book would show Bella in a different frame of mind. Obviously he was mistaken. She still wanted to become one of them.
My dad sat down at the table with a grunt and unfolded the damp newspaper there; within seconds he was clucking his tongue in disapproval.
"I don't know why you read the news, Dad. It only ticks you off."
He ignored me, grumbling at the paper in his hands. "This is why everyone wants to live in a small town! Ridiculous."
Carlisle paused and they all looked at each other. Could this be the reason behind the preface?
"What have big cities done wrong now?"
"Seattle's making a run for murder capital of the country. Five unsolved homicides in the last two weeks. Can you imagine living like that?"
"Five?" Esme asked worriedly. "Isn't that a little high, even for Seattle?" They could see the fear etched on her face as well as in her voice.
"I'm sure it's just coincidence," Carlisle smiled at her, hoping to put her at ease. Edward and Jasper knew the difference of his thoughts though.
"I think Phoenix is actually higher up the homicide list, Dad. I have lived like that." And I'd never come close to being a murder victim until after I moved to his safe little town. In fact, I was still on several hit lists. . . . The spoon shook in my hands, making the water tremble.
Edward pulled Bella closer and Esme reached out to hold her trembling hand. Bella had thought Esme would blame her for Edward running to Italy in the last book, but Esme had soon put her straight on that thought. It was just an unfortunate chain of events that had landed them both, along with Alice, in Volterra fighting for their lives. Events they would not let happen in this reality!
"It's okay sweetheart," Esme told her softly. "We will not let anything happen to you." Bella smiled at her, feeling comforted that Edward's mother could love her as a daughter. Oh, she knew her own mother, Renee, loved her, in her own way, but to be taken care of, and pampered the way Esme treated her children was something she had never been accustomed to. She was always on the giving side with her mother, being the one to take care of her wants, and needs until Phil came into the picture. Being on the receiving end for a change felt better that she was willing to admit at the moment.
"Well, you couldn't pay me enough," Charlie said.
I gave up on saving dinner and settled for serving it; I had to use a steak knife to cut a portion of spaghetti for Charlie and then myself, while he watched with a sheepish expression. Charlie coated his helping with sauce and dug in. I disguised my own clump as well as I could and followed his example without much enthusiasm. We ate in silence for a moment. Charlie was still scanning the news, so I picked up my much-abused copy of Wuthering Heights from where I'd left it this morning at breakfast, and tried to lose myself in turn-of-the-century England while I waited for him to start talking.
"Crap," Bella said. "I was hoping they would talk more about the paper. So we would know what's going on," she elaborated, seeing their confusion.
"Maybe they'll talk more later," Rosalie said. They all nodded their heads in agreement.
I was just to the part where Heathcliff returns when Charlie cleared his throat and threw the paper to the floor.
"You're right," Charlie said. "I did have a reason for doing this." He waved his fork at the gluey spread. "I wanted to talk to you."
"Excellent," Emmett smirked, rubbing his hands together. He was expecting Bella to get into more trouble with her father. Bella rolled her eyes, trying to ignore Emmett's grin.
I laid the book aside; the binding was so destroyed that it slumped flat to the table. "You could have just asked."
He nodded, his eyebrows pulling together. "Yeah. I'll remember that next time. I thought taking dinner off your hands would soften you up."
Bella snorted. Any offer of Charlie making dinner, other than to order in pizza was cause for concern and effectively made her paranoid.
I laughed. "It worked - your cooking skills have me soft as a marshmallow. What do you need, Dad?"
"Well, it's about Jacob."
"Great," Edward mumbled. Couldn't they go two pages without him being brought up? He sighed, catching the jest of Jaspers thoughts. He really didn't want anyone to pity him. After what he put Bella through in the last book, he figured he deserved whatever this book had to throw at him.
I felt my face harden. "What about him?" I asked through stiff lips.
"Easy, Bells. I know you're still upset that he told on you, but it was the right thing. He was being responsible."
"Responsible! So, why isn't he giving Jacob shi…, crap," Emmett amended, seeing his mother glare at him, "for teaching Bella how to ride it?"
"That's because he doesn't like me," Edward said softly.
"I think he only likes Jacob so much because it's his friend's son," Bella said.
"That could very well be," Edward allowed, "bit it doesn't alter the fact that he do not like me." Bella sighed. There wasn't much she could say when everything proved otherwise.
"Well, he still likes you right now," Alice said. "Well, more than in the books. Anyway, he's only like this because of what happened in the last book."
"Responsible," I repeated scathingly, rolling my eyes. "Right. So, what about Jacob?"
The careless question repeated inside my head, anything but trivial. What about Jacob? What was I going to do about him? My former best friend who was now . . . what? My enemy? I cringed.
"He'll end up being that anyway, Bella," Rosalie said, her voice hard. "If you go through with it." She didn't have to say what it was, they all knew.
"I know," Bella mumbled. She couldn't help wondering if things could be different though. Not that she wanted to be best friends with a werewolf, but she didn't like being enemies with anyone either.
Charlie's face was suddenly wary. "Don't get mad at me, okay?"
"Well, it's about Edward, too."
"Edward?" Bella asked in surprise. What the hell could Charlie want to discuss that involved both Edward and Jacob?
My eyes narrowed.
Charlie's voice got gruffer. "I let him in the house, don't I?"
"Apparently very briefly," Alice giggled.
"You do," I admitted. "For brief periods of time. Of course, you might let me out of the house for brief periods now and then, too," I continued - only jokingly; I knew I was on lockdown for the duration of the school year. "I've been pretty good lately."
"Well, that's kind of where I was heading with this. . . ." And then Charlie's face stretched into an unexpected eye-crinkling grin; for a second he looked twenty years younger.
"Do you think…? Naw, Charlie wouldn't," Bella said, totally confusing them all.
I saw a dim glimmer of possibility in that smile, but I proceeded slowly. "I'm confused, Dad. Are we talking about Jacob, or Edward, or me being grounded?"
The grin flashed again. "Sort of all three."
"All three?" Bella groaned. "What is he up to now?"
"Well, Bella," Emmett said nonchalantly, "if you stop interrupting Carlisle, maybe we would find out."
Bella blushed and grinned sheepishly at Emmett. She was sure he only made that remark because of what she had said earlier to him. Now, here she was doing exactly what she had told him not too.
"And how do they relate?" I asked, cautious.
"Okay." He sighed, raising his hands as if in surrender. "So I'm thinking maybe you deserve a parole for good behavior. For a teenager, you're amazingly non- whiney."
"There's a catch," Bella deadpanned.
"Why would you say that?" Esme asked her.
"Charlie would never give in this easy on something like this," she answered, looking at Edward's mother. "Maybe if it was just the Italy thing… or even the cliff diving, but not this."
"Well maybe we'll find out," Carlisle smiled, looking to the book again.
My voice and eyebrows shot up. "Seriously? I'm free?"
Where was this coming from? I'd been positive I would be under house arrest until I actually moved out, and Edward hadn't picked up any wavering in Charlie's thoughts. . . .
Charlie held up one finger. "Conditionally."
"I knew it," Bella cried out. Edward sighed; he could just imagine what condition Charlie would implement.
The enthusiasm vanished. "Fantastic," I groaned.
"Bella, this is more of a request than a demand, okay? You're free. But I'm hoping you'll use that freedom . . . judiciously."
"What does that mean?"
He sighed again. "I know you're satisfied to spend all of your time with Edward -"
"I spend time with Alice, too," I interjected. Edward's sister had no hours of visitation; she came and went as she pleased. Charlie was putty in her capable hands.
"Hey, that's not fair," Bella grumbled. If she was grounded, one visitor shouldn't be more privileged than another.
"Charlie loves me, Bella," Alice said. "I'm sure I could talk him into anything."
"Alice, it wouldn't be right to sway Bella's father like that," Esme said, disapprovingly. They both looked at her, guilt written across their faces. They had used that tactic a few times already.
"That's true," he said. "But you have other friends besides the Cullens, Bella. Or you used to."
"Not really," Bella whispered. There was only one girl besides the Cullens that she would consider a friend. Edward pulled her close, hugging her. For once he knew what she was thinking and he agreed with her. Most of the kids at school only wanted to be her friend until the newness wore off. The others were trying to get closer to the elusive Cullens, some of them bitter because Bella had captured their attention in less than a week, whereas they had tried for two years to no avail. Lauren and Jessica's thoughts were very loud.
We stared at each other for a long moment.
"When was the last time you spoke to Angela Weber?" he threw at me.
"Friday at lunch," I answered immediately.
Before Edward's return, my school friends had polarized into two groups. I liked to think of those groups as good vs. evil. Us and them worked, too. The good guys were Angela, her steady boyfriend Ben Cheney, and Mike Newton; these three had all very generouslyforgiven me for going crazy when Edward left. Lauren Mallory was the evil core of the them side, and almost everyone else, including my first friend in Forks, Jessica Stanley, seemed content to go along with her anti Bella agenda.
Edward snorted, even the unknown author agreed with him.
With Edward back at school, the dividing line had become even more distinct.
Edward's return had taken its toll on Mike's friendship, but Angela was unswervingly loyal, and Ben followed her lead. Despite the natural aversion most humans felt toward the Cullens, Angela sat dutifully beside Alice every day at lunch. After a few weeks, Angela even looked comfortable there. It was difficult not to be charmed by the Cullens - once one gave them the chance to be charming.
"Ang is going to be our friend?" Alice squealed. "Oh, we have to invite her to sit with us." Alice was bouncing in her chair, clapping her hands gleefully. "This is going to be so much fun….," her voice trailed off with talks of sleepovers and shopping trips galore. It was making their heads spin.
"Darlin'….," Jasper tried to interrupt his wife's spiel. "Alice." Alice was now debating the merits of getting Angela a new haircut. What style would look better on her, and she definitely needed to try out makeup. Bella did, albeit grudgingly and look how good she looked now.
"Not that you didn't look good before," Alice smiled at her, and went straight back into talking about Angela again.
"Alice!" they all yelled at the same time. She finally stopped to look at them.
"What?" she asked as if she hadn't just carried on for the last five minutes about a girl they barely spoke too.
"Why don't you let her get used to sitting with us first?" Edward asked, laughing at her. He could see Alice's visions, and their decision to invite Angela to sit with them had sent Alice spiraling out of control. Angela would become a friend to Alice too. He was happy for her; they didn't get to make human friends at any of the places they lived. Too dangerous for both the human, and the vampires because of what could happen.
"Outside of school?" Charlie asked, calling my attention back.
"I haven't seen anyone outside of school, Dad. Grounded, remember? And Angela has a boyfriend, too. She's always with Ben. If I'm really free," I added, heavy on the skepticism, "maybe we could double."
"Or triple," Alice said, before Jasper clamped his hand over her mouth. Even then she went on mumbling through his fingers, her eyes wide. Carlisle tried to keep a straight face while he continued again.
"Okay. But then . . ." He hesitated. "You and Jake used to be joined at the hip, and now -"
I cut him off. "Can you get to the point, Dad? What's your condition - exactly?"
"He wants you to hang out with the wolf," Edward said in a monotone voice, all traces of happiness from a moment ago now gone.
"Seriously?" Bella asked. "You think that's what this is all about?"
"It's obvious Bella," Edward sighed, although he thought Charlie may have been pushing her more towards dating this Black kid, than being friends with him. Bella sighed and he looked up at her.
"My father was always delusional," she said.
"I don't think you should dump all your other friends for your boyfriend, Bella," he said in a stern voice. "It's not nice, and I think your life would be better balanced if you kept some other people in it. What happened last September . . ."
"Would happen now too, if this were to come about," Bella said.
"You can't know that for certain," Edward replied.
"I can," she said. "No matter how long I am with you, my heart will forever be yours. No amount of time or distance will alter that. If you were to leave me, it would tear me apart in the end."
Edward sighed, he still wasn't completely sure that she wouldn't change her mind, after all, she was human.
"Well," he said defensively. "If you'd had more of a life outside of Edward Cullen, it might not have been like that."
"It would have been exactly like that," I muttered.
Bella gritted her teeth, not liking this turn of events. She was quite happy with the friends she had, as least they were true friends, not looking to gain something from her.
"Maybe, maybe not."
"The point?" I reminded him.
"Use your new freedom to see your other friends, too. Keep it balanced."
I nodded slowly. "Balance is good. Do I have specific time quotas to fill, though?"
Bella rolled her eyes and crossed her arms in a huff. She should have just moved out.
He made a face, but shook his head. "I don't want to make this complicated. Just don't forget your friends . . ."
"And by friends, you mean Jacob Black," she said between clenched teeth.
It was a dilemma I was already struggling with. My friends. People who, for their own safety, I would never be able to see again after graduation.
So what was the better course of action? Spend time with them while I could? Or start theseparation now to make it more gradual? I quailed at the idea of the second option.
". . . particularly Jacob," Charlie added before I could think things through more than that.
"Ah!" she growled, "I knew it." She noticed Edward suddenly getting quiet behind her and turned around. "Don't worry, I won't let that happen." He gave her a tiny smile, but it didn't reach his eyes. How could it when he may just lose her to his mortal enemy?
A greater dilemma than the first. It took me a moment to find the right words. "Jacob might be . . . difficult."
"The Blacks are practically family, Bella," he said, stern and fatherly again. "And Jacob has been a very, very good friend to you."
"I know that."
"Don't you miss him at all?" Charlie asked, frustrated.
"Humph," she mumbled. Maybe she would if she got to know him, but with the given situation, she doubted that would ever happen.
My throat suddenly felt swollen; I had to clear it twice before I answered. "Yes, I do miss him," I admitted, still looking down. "I miss him a lot."
Esme sighed. Was Bella missing out on new friends because of their involvement in her life? She saw Edward glance at her and apologized in her thoughts; he didn't need to feel anymore guilt right now.
"Edward you know that I can never be friends with him," she sighed.
"You should though, Bella," he said quietly. "You're better off with humans as friends. It's not so dangerous that way."
"Well, I guess that means I still can't be friends with Jacob then," she smirked at him. He couldn't argue that point. While Jacob did have a beating heart, at times he was not human, and Edward wanted Bella nowhere near him.
"Once again I'm left with Mike Newton," she said. She laughed seeing the look of consternation that crossed his face.
"Then why is it difficult?"
It wasn't something I was at liberty to explain. It was against the rules for normal people -human people like me and Charlie - to know about the clandestine world full of myths and monsters that existed secretly around us. I knew all about that world - and I was in no small amount of trouble as a result. I wasn't about to get Charlie in the same trouble.
"It's difficult because Jacob doesn't want her around us and is not happy with her decision to do so," Emmett said. Hmm…sometimes Emmett surprised them. "And he wants her for himself."
"With Jacob there is a . . . conflict," I said slowly. "A conflict about the friendship thing, I mean. Friendship doesn't always seem to be enough for Jake." I wound my excuse out of details that were true but insignificant, hardly crucial compared to the fact that Jacob's werewolf pack bitterly hated Edward's vampire family - and therefore me, too, as I fully intended to join that family. It just wasn't something I could work out with him in a note, and he wouldn't answer my calls. But my plan to deal with the werewolf in person had definitely not gone over well with the vampires.
"You're going to try to talk to an unstable werewolf?" Edward said calmly. Bella knew that voice though, had heard it many times, he was by no means calm.
Bella shook her head. "I'm not trying to talk to anyone, Edward," she said. "As of right now I don't even know any werewolves, stable or not."
"He will be," Emmett said. "Very shortly too, apparently."
"Not helping Em," Bella sighed.
"Oh, sorry," he said.
"Edward, you do realize that the same guy you keep trying to push me towards," she said quietly, "is the very werewolf you do not want me around?" She watched as Edwards mouth dropped open.
"If you are so intent on pushing me towards a supernatural creature," she continued, "then, at least let it be the one I want to be with." She smirked seeing his mouth still gaping open.
"Isn't Edward up for a little healthy competition?" Charlie's voice was sarcastic now.
I leveled a dark look at him. "There's no competition."
"There is no competition, Edward," Bella said. He truly hoped there wasn't. He didn't want to win her affections; he wanted her to give them freely. He shook his head, letting his brother know that he was fine without the help of his gift this time.
"You're hurting Jake's feelings, avoiding him like this. He'd rather be just friends than nothing."
"Yeah, right," Edward snorted. Obviously Charlie wasn't privy to the information they had, but even in the book he couldn't have been that blind. Did he hate him that much?
Oh, now I was avoiding him ?
"I'm pretty sure Jake doesn't want to be friends at all." The words burned in my mouth. "Where'd you get that idea, anyway?"
Charlie looked embarrassed now. "The subject might have come up today with Billy. . . ."
"Ahhh…," Bella said. "It makes sense now. Billy is trying to keep me away from Edward by using my friendship with Jacob."
"I'm sure Jacob isn't complaining," Rosalie quipped.
"You and Billy gossip like old women," I complained, stabbing my fork viciously into the congealed spaghetti on my plate.
"Billy's worried about Jacob," Charlie said. "Jake's having a hard time right now. . . . He's depressed."
Bella snorted. She wouldn't call it being depressed. Frustrated, furious definitely not depressed.
I winced, but kept my eyes on the blob.
"And then you were always so happy after spending the day with Jake." Charlie sighed.
"I'm happy now," I growled fiercely through my teeth.
"Uhm….yeah…," Emmett said quietly before they all burst out laughing.
"You had me fooled, Bella," Alice giggled.
The contrast between my words and tone broke through the tension. Charlie burst into laughter, and I had to join in.
"Okay, okay," I agreed. "Balance."
"And Jacob," he insisted.
Edward rolled his eyes. Of course Charlie had to get the dog in there.
"Good. Find that balance, Bella. And, oh, yeah, you've got some mail," Charlie said, closing the subject with no attempt at subtlety. "It's by the stove."
I didn't move, my thoughts twisting into snarls around Jacob's name. It was most likely junk mail; I'd just gotten a package from my mom yesterday and I wasn't expecting anything else.
Charlie shoved his chair away from the table and stretched as he got to his feet. He took his plate to the sink, but before he turned the water on to rinse it, he paused to toss a thick envelope at me. The letter skidded across the table and thunked into my elbow.
"Er, thanks," I muttered, puzzled by his pushiness. Then I saw the return address - the letter was from the University of Alaska Southeast. "That was quick. I guess I missed the deadline on that one, too."
"You're actually going to apply there?" Edward growled at her.
"Down boy," Emmett snickered.
"Doesn't really matter where I apply at," she said. "I won't be going anywhere."
"You know you could if you wanted too," Edward said.
"Key word, Edward… Wanted….which I don't….," she told him. "And anyway, I can't afford anywhere else," she added more quietly.
I flipped the envelope over and then glared up at him. "It's open."
"I was curious."
"More like nosey," Bella grumbled to herself. Of course the whole family heard her.
"He's just interested in what you do, Bella," Esme said.
"So, he could have waited for me to open it myself," she mumbled. It would be nice to know where she stood herself, before everyone else knew about it.
"I'm shocked, Sheriff. That's a federal crime."
"Oh, just read it."
I pulled out the letter, and a folded schedule of courses.
"Congratulations," he said before I could read anything. "Your first acceptance."
Bella rolled her eyes. Couldn't he even let her read the thing first before he blurted it out? She would have to make a point of getting the mail when she sent her applications out. She had resigned herself to the fact that Edward was going to make her, whether she intended on attending college or not.
"Well, it's not my school of choice, but at least you got in," he smiled at her.
"Yes, well, don't get too excited about it," she said with a smile. Going or not, it still felt good to know that she got in.
"We should talk about tuition. I've got some money saved up -"
"Hey, hey, none of that. I'm not touching your retirement, Dad. I've got my college fund." What was left of it - and there hadn't been much to begin with.
Bella sighed. She knew she didn't have much of a fund to begin with and, apparently, she had spent quite a bit on the motorcycles. She was glad she didn't do it in this reality, because it really would have been a waste of money considering Charlie's reaction in the book.
Charlie frowned. "Some of these places are pretty pricey, Bells. I want to help. You don't have to go to all the way to Alaska just because it's cheaper."
"Far away, lots of cloud coverage….," Bella said. "Everything to keep Charlie right here in Forks…. away from us." What could they say? They would need to keep Charlie away from her for the first….. Well, technically forever. She felt her heart clench, but she refused to think she was making the wrong choice here.
It wasn't cheaper, not at all. But it was far away, and Juneau had an average of three hundred twenty-one overcast days per year. The first was my prerequisite, the second was Edward's.
"I've got it covered. Besides, there's lots of financial aid out there. It's easy to get loans." I hoped my bluff wasn't too obvious. I hadn't actually done a lot of research on the subject.
"You don't need financial aid Bella," Edward sighed, as the family looked at her in astonishment.
"You're a part of the family now Bella, our money is your money," Esme said.
"I've been trying to tell her that," Edward sighed. "She's very stubborn."
"You're telling me," Jasper laughed, knowing first hand just how stubborn his new sister could be.
"If you insist on being a part of our family, Bella," Rosalie said, "then you need to deal with all the perks and the downfalls that come with it."
"So . . . ," Charlie began, and then he pursed his lips and looked away.
"Nothing. I was just . . ." He frowned. "Just wondering what . . . Edward's plans are for next year?"
"Taking care of the crazed psycho killer," Bella said, as if there wasn't anything at all wrong with that thought. Edward gave her a cold glare.
"That will not happen, Bella," he said, between clenched teeth.
"Right," Bella snorted. "Like I'll be the first newborn vampire not to go after humans." Alice snickered behind her hand.
"I'd like to see that," Carlisle said, trying to tamp down the grin pulling at the corners of his mouth.
"Of course," Bella rolled her eyes, huffing. "Let's just turn Bella into an experiment."
"Ohhh, can we?" Emmett was very excited. "We can make a yes and no list. My first question is 'Is she still clumsy?' This is exciting….," he stopped short as he saw the others watching him. "Don't tell me. You were joking, right?"
"Yes," Bella nodded her head.
"That's not fair," Emmett whined. "I don't care; I'm playing the game anyway." He got up and ran to his room. He grabbed some blank paper and was back in front of Bella before her eyelids hit her face the second time. "I'll just make the chart while Carlisle is reading. Feel free to add anything you want." He smiled, waving his hand at the others. Carlisle shook his head knowing it was pointless to argue with Emmett.
Three quick raps on the door saved me. Charlie rolled his eyes and I jumped up.
"Saved by the bell," Emmett shouted. "I always wanted to say that. I loved that show when it was on TV"
"Coming!" I called while Charlie mumbled something that sounded like, "Go away." I ignored him and went to let Edward in.
I wrenched the door out of my way - ridiculously eager - and there he was, my personal miracle.
Edward sighed. Bella always had this ridiculous concept of him. Miracle indeed! More like the worse luck imaginable.
Time had not made me immune to the perfection of his face, and I was sure that I would never take any aspect of him for granted. My eyes traced over his pale white features: the hard square of his jaw, the softer curve of his full lips - twisted up into a smile now, the straight line of his nose, the sharp angle of his cheekbones, the smooth marble span of his forehead - partially obscured by a tangle of rain-darkened bronze hair. . . .
"Can Bella go five minutes without thinking Edward is a hot god…..." Emmett spoke as he wrote on the paper in front of him. Rosalie snickered.
"I think you should give us all a copy, and whoever gets the most answers right, wins," Rosalie said. They all agreed, suddenly wanting in on it.
I saved his eyes for last, knowing that when I looked into them I was likely to lose my train of thought. They were wide, warm with liquid gold, and framed by a thick fringe of black lashes. Staring into his eyes always made me feel extraordinary - sort of like my bones were turning spongy. –"Who do we know that lives under the sea?" Thwack! "Shut the fuck up Emmett."- I was also a little lightheaded, but that could have been because I'd forgotten to keep breathing. Again.
It was a face any male model in the world would trade his soul for. Of course, that might be exactly the asking price: one soul.
Edward winced at that. That was one of the reasons he refused to turn Bella. He truly believed he had lost his soul and he was not about to be responsible for the loss of hers too.
"Emo Eddie is back….," Jasper sang under his breath. Of course everyone but Bella heard him, and subsequently turned to glare at him. Bella looked around as if she had missed something important.
No. I didn't believe that. I felt guilty for even thinking it, and was glad - as I was often glad - that I was the one person whose thoughts were a mystery to Edward.
"Nice one Bella," Emmett began writing again. "Can Bella still block Edward from her thoughts." He smiled; they were compiling a very good list.
I reached for his hand, and sighed when his cold fingers found mine. His touch brought with it the strangest sense of relief - as if I'd been in pain and that pain had suddenly ceased.
"Hey." I smiled a little at my anticlimactic greeting.
He raised our interlaced fingers to brush my cheek with the back of his hand. "How was your afternoon?"
"For me, as well."
"How about that rain out there? Oh, it's sunny for a change? Well, you just never know anymore…," Emmett looked up realizing Carlisle had stopped talking. He took the pen from his mouth and looked at them. "What? It was boring, I was only adding to it."
"Keep your comments to yourself next time, Emmett," Rosalie said.
He pulled my wrist up to his face, our hands still twisted together. His eyes closed as his nose skimmed along the skin there, and he smiled gently without opening them. Enjoying the bouquet while resisting the wine, as he'd once put it.
I knew that the scent of my blood - so much sweeter to him than any other person's blood, truly like wine beside water to an alcoholic - caused him actual pain from the burning thirst it engendered. But he didn't seem to shy away from it as much as he once had. I could only dimly imagine the Herculean effort behind this simple gesture.
"It gets even easier than it is now?" Edward asked, suddenly intrigued.
"It sounds that way," Carlisle replied. "Maybe it's because of everything that happened in the last book."
"Hmmm….I never thought of that," Edward said, obviously picking an unspoken question from his father's mind. He shook his head as Bella looked at him.
It made me sad that he had to try so hard. I comforted myself with the knowledge that I wouldn't be causing him pain much longer.
I heard Charlie approaching then, stamping his feet on the way to express his customary displeasure with our guest. Edward's eyes snapped open and he let our hands fall, keeping them twined.
"Good evening, Charlie." Edward was always flawlessly polite, though Charlie didn't deserve it.
Edward sighed. "He's your father, Bella. He does deserve it."
Bella huffed in response. "Just because he's my father does not mean he deserves it. Does he say things in his mind about you now?"
"Of course," he laughed, "but I imagine it's no more than any other father would, though I have nothing to compare it too." Bella smiled back at him, deciding she would need to have a little chat with her father.
Charlie grunted at him, and then stood there with his arms crossed over his chest. He was taking the idea of parental supervision to extremes lately.
"I brought another set of applications," Edward told me then, holding up a stuffed manila envelope. He was wearing a roll of stamps like a ring around his littlest finger.
"Prepared much?" she grimaced at him.
"Always," he replied sweetly.
I groaned. How were there any colleges left that he hadn't forced me to apply to already? And how did he keep finding these loophole openings? It was so late in the year.
He smiled as if he could read my thoughts; they must have been very obvious on my face. "There are still a few open deadlines. And a few places willing to make exceptions."
I could just imagine the motivations behind such exceptions. And the dollar amountsinvolved.
The Cullens laughed at that. Their money and credit cards may have paid their way into many colleges, but they had never actually bribed their way in. Money may have opened the door, but their grades got them through it. Bella would be no exception to that rule.
Edward laughed at my expression.
"Shall we?" he asked, towing me toward the kitchen table.
Charlie huffed and followed behind, though he could hardly complain about the activity on tonight's agenda. He'd been pestering me to make a decision about college on a daily basis.
I cleared the table quickly while Edward organized an intimidating stack of forms. When I moved Wuthering Heights to the counter, Edward raised one eyebrow. I knew what he was thinking, but Charlie interrupted before Edward could comment.
"Speaking of college applications, Edward," Charlie said, his tone even more sullen - he tried to avoid addressing Edward directly, and when he had to, it exacerbated his bad mood. "Bella and I were just talking about next year. Have you decided where you're going to school?"
"We want to go to Dartmouth….," Alice began.
"I want to go somewhere where there is a lot of rain," Bella said thoughtfully. "Lots of wildlife, very few humans." She was hoping to talk Edward into changing her, though she thought it to be a lost cause.
Edward smiled up at Charlie and his voice was friendly. "Not yet. I've received a few acceptance letters, but I'm still weighing my options."
"Where have you been accepted?" Charlie pressed.
"Syracuse . . . Harvard . . . Dartmouth . . . and I just got accepted to the University of Alaska Southeast today." Edward turned his face slightly to the side so that he could wink at me. I stifled a giggle.
"Way to impress my father, Edward," Bella giggled.
"Got to impress the in-laws," Emmett said.
"How did you impress your in-laws?" Bella asked him.
"Oh, I just took care of their baby girl and let my muscles do all the talking," he said, flexing his arm. Rosalie and Edward just snorted at that.
"Harvard? Dartmouth?" Charlie mumbled, unable to conceal his awe. "Well that's pretty . . . that's something. Yeah, but the University of Alaska . . . you wouldn't really consider that when you could go Ivy League. I mean, your father would want you to . . ."
"Carlisle's always fine with whatever I choose to do," Edward told him serenely.
"Not everything," Carlisle said quietly, thinking about the last book. He would definitely not be okay with that choice. Edward sighed knowing his father was right. They may have agreed with him in the book, but they would certainly not let him get away with an act like that here.
"Guess what, Edward?" I asked in a bright voice, playing along.
I pointed to the thick envelope on the counter. "I just got my acceptance to the University of Alaska!"
"Congratulations!" He grinned. "What a coincidence."
"Coincidence indeed….," Bella smirked at him. "You were probably listening to everything."
"I'm very sure you are right," he laughed with her.
Charlie's eyes narrowed and he glared back and forth between the two of us. "Fine," he muttered after a minute. "I'm going to go watch the game, Bella. Nine-thirty."
That was his usual parting command.
"Er, Dad? Remember the very recent discussion about my freedom . . . ?"
He sighed. "Right. Okay, ten -thirty. You still have a curfew on school nights."
"Curfews mean nothing when your boyfriend crawls through your window at night," Emmett laughed, "and sleeps with you."
"Christ, Emmett," Edward growled, "do you have to be so tactless?"
"Sorry, I guess you're right, Eddie," Emmett said, afraid to look anywhere on the off chance it may ruin his thoughts, "considering vampires never sleep." He snickered hearing Edward growl at him.
"Bella's no longer grounded?" Edward asked. Though I knew he wasn't really surprised, I couldn't detect any false note to the sudden excitement in his voice.
"Conditionally," Charlie corrected through his teeth. "What's it to you?"
"Geez, Charlie. Lighten up, he is Bella's boyfriend," Alice grumbled. "Of course he's going to be excited, even if it is an act for your benefit."
I frowned at my dad, but he didn't see.
"It's just good to know," Edward said. "Alice has been itching for a shopping partner, and I'm sure Bella would love to see some city lights." He smiled at me.
"Oh, we're going shopping?" Alice suddenly jumped up, grinning wide. Her grin faded as she looked at Bella, who was wildly shaking her head back and forth. "Not fair," she frowned.
"That's a good question," Emmett laughed. "Will Bella still hate shopping?"
"She better not," Alice grumbled.
But Charlie growled, "No!" and his face flushed purple.
"No?" Alice asked. Didn't anyone want her to go shopping?
"I don't think it's about you, Alice," Edward said, reading her thoughts. "You know Charlie loves you."
"Then what is it?" she asked worriedly. It wasn't like Charlie to refuse Bella time with her. She was over there so often, she truly felt like a real sister to her. Edward shrugged his shoulders, looking to Carlisle.
"Dad! What's the problem?"
He made an effort to unclench his teeth. "I don't want you going to Seattle right now."
"I told you about that story in the paper - there's some kind of gang on a killing spree in Seattle and I want you to steer clear, okay?"
"Trust Charlie to be worried about…..." but she was cut off by Jasper.
"No, I think there is something going on," he said. Edwards head whipped around to look at his brother.
"Do you really think that?" he asked, worry in his voice.
"It's the only thing that makes sense," Jasper replied.
"Well, let's read farther," he said apprehensively, "see what it says." Even though his thoughts showed him to be hesitant about the whole waiting game, Jasper nodded his head. They both ignored the stares from the other members of the family and motioned for Carlisle to continue.
I rolled my eyes. "Dad, there's a better chance that I'll get struck by lightning than that the one day I'm in Seattle -"
"No, that's fine, Charlie," Edward said, interrupting me. "I didn't mean Seattle. I was thinking Portland, actually. I wouldn't have Bella in Seattle, either. Of course not."
I looked at him in disbelief, but he had Charlie's newspaper in his hands and he was reading the front page intently.
"It's got to be that," Jasper thought. Edward silently agreed. He hoped the family were aware of this turn of events and were preparing for it.
He must have been trying to appease my father. The idea of being in danger from even the most deadly of humans while I was with Alice or Edward was downright hilarious.
It worked. Charlie stared at Edward for one second more, and then shrugged. "Fine." He stalked off toward the living room, in a bit of a hurry now - maybe he didn't want to miss tip-off.
I waited till the TV was on, so that Charlie wouldn't be able to hear me.
Bella laughed in her mind, not wanting to interrupt Carlisle. Her father was prone to overacting, being the Chief of Police and all, but both Edwards seemed to be agreeing with him. She could feel the panic begin to rise in her chest.
"What -," I started to ask.
"Hold on," Edward said without looking up from the paper. His eyes stayed focused on the page as he pushed the first application toward me across the table. "I think you can recycle your essays for this one. Same questions."
Charlie must still be listening. I sighed and started to fill out the repetitive information: name, address, social. . . . After a few minutes I glanced up, but Edward was now staring pensively out the window. As I bent my head back to my work, I noticed for the first time the name of the school.
"Ohhh…. Wonder where it is?" Emmett asked.
I snorted and shoved the papers aside.
"Be serious, Edward. Dartmouth ?"
"You'll like Dartmouth, Bella," Alice said. "Oh! Then we'll get to go shopping for books, and clothes, and makeup, and shoes, and oh, we can't forget the clothes….,"
"Alice!" Bella yelled, cutting her off. "I am not going to Dartmouth."
"We'll see," she grinned, showing her pearly white teeth. Bella sighed, knowing it was pointless talking to her at the moment.
Edward lifted the discarded application and laid it gently in front of me again. "I think you'd like New Hampshire," he said. "There's a full complement of night courses for me, and the forests are very conveniently located for the avid hiker. Plentiful wildlife." He pulled out the crooked smile he knew I couldn't resist.
"What the hell, Edward?" Bella said. "You want to go to a school where I will clearly never see you?"
"Well…," he said, for once at a loss for words.
"Well nothing. I'll be in school in the day, you'll go in the evening… what if we have weekend classes?" she asked him.
"Well, to be fair, Bella," Emmett said, "You sleep at night, so you don't really see Edward anyway." She turned to glare at him.
"Not helping, Em," Edward said to his brother.
"Yes, but at least he is still with me," she said. She really didn't want to go to college at all, much less one that would separate them for such long periods of time.
I took a deep breath through my nose.
"I'll let you pay me back, if that makes you happy," he promised. "If you want, I can charge you interest."
"Edward," Esme said, clearly shocked. "Bella, honey, you don't have to pay anything back. You're a part of our family now sweetheart, you can use the money we have too. And there is no need to pay it back, with, or without, interest."
"So there," Emmett smirked, licking out his tongue at Edward. "Oh, that's another good question. Will Bella use the family money without a fight?"
"Like I could even get in without some enormous bribe. Or was that part of the loan? The new Cullen wing of the library? Ugh. Why are we having this discussion again?"
"Will you just fill out the application, please, Bella? It won't hurt you to apply."
My jaw flexed. "You know what? I don't think I will."
I reached for the papers, planning to crumple them into a suitable shape for lobbing at the trashcan, but they were already gone. I stared at the empty table for a moment, and then at Edward. He didn't appear to have moved, but the application was probably already tucked away in his jacket.
"Edward….," Bella warned him.
"What? You don't have a chance if you don't send an application in," he said. She sighed and turned back to Carlisle.
"What are you doing?" I demanded.
"I sign your name better than you do yourself. You've already written the essays."
Emmett snorted, but had the decency to look ashamed when Bella glared at him.
"You're going way overboard with this, you know." I whispered on the off chance that Charlie wasn't completely lost in his game. "I really don't need to apply anywhere else. I've been accepted in Alaska. I can almost afford the first semester's tuition. It's as good an alibi as any. There's no need to throw away a bunch of money, no matter whose it is."
A pained looked tightened his face. "Bella -"
Bella gasped. "You really don't want me to go through with it." She had to wonder now what the real reason was, her soul, as she was lead to believe, or did he just not want her around for eternity? It was easy to say he did, when he knew she would eventually die, but when, or if, she changed, would he still feel the same way?
She looked up to see both Edward and Jasper watching her closely. The smile she gave them was a strained attempt at best.
"Don't start. I agree that I need to go through the motions for Charlie's sake, but we both know I'm not going to be in any condition to go to school next fall. To be anywhere near people."
My knowledge of those first few years as a new vampire was sketchy. Edward had never gone into details - it wasn't his favorite subject - but I knew it wasn't pretty. Self-control was apparently an acquired skill. Anything more than correspondence school was out of the question.
"Hmmm…," Carlisle said, thoughtfully. He looked over at Edward who was shaking his head back and forth. "She needs to know everything about us Edward, before she can make an informed decision." He turned his head, clenching his jaw tight but he could still hear his fathers' internal voice. "She's old enough to make her own decisions, Edward. We will do whatever it takes to stop the last book from happening to either one of you."
Edward rolled his eyes. They had no idea why he was so adamant against her changing. What if she were like every other human? What if the feelings she took for love, turned out to be nothing more than teenage lust after she turned? Could he just sit back and watch her walk away? Would she detest him for 'tricking' her into this lifestyle?
"Edward," Jasper screamed his thoughts at his brother. "Stop, you're stressing me out here, man."
"Sorry," he apologized, calming himself down.
"I thought the timing was still undecided," Edward reminded me softly. "You might enjoy a semester or two of college. There are a lot of human experiences you've never had."
"I'll get to those afterward."
"They won't be human experiences afterward. You don't get a second chance at humanity, Bella."
I sighed. "You've got to be reasonable about the timing, Edward. It's just too dangerous to mess around with."
"There's no danger yet," he insisted.
"I guess there isn't in this reality," Bella agreed with the book. "But I know how quickly things can change in your world." She remembered the incident with James at the Ballet Studio last spring, one amongst many that had happened to her in her lifetime.
"My God, you're right," she said.
"I usually am," he snickered at her, "but about what this time?"
"I was just thinking….," she started.
"Look out," Emmett laughed. "Bella's thinking."
Bella huffed and shook her head at him. "I really am a danger magnet, aren't I?" she said.
"You have no idea," Alice sighed.
I glared at him. No danger? Sure. I only had a sadistic vampire trying to avenge her mate's death with my own, preferably through some slow and torturous method. Who was worried about Victoria? And, oh yeah, the Volturi - the vampire royal family with their small army of vampire warriors - who insisted that my heart stop beating one way or another in the near future, because humans weren't allowed to know they existed. Right. No reason at all to panic.
Bella's heart rate picked up. Victoria was a too real problem she had to deal with, apparently in the near future. They hadn't realized the other two members of James' coven would be a problem but the New Moon book proved otherwise. Victoria was hell bent on killing her, but maybe there was still hope for Laurent. She had yet to meet Irena but she hoped for the girl's sake that Laurent would see reason and take their side. She sighed quietly, the list of people they were to reveal the books too seemed to grow larger every day.
Even with Alice keeping watch - Edward was relying on her uncannily accurate visions of the future to give us advance warning - it was insane to take chances.
"Exactly," Alice said, nodding her head. The future could change in the blink of an eye or, in Alice's case, a sudden change of decision.
Besides, I'd already won this argument. The date for my transformation was tentatively set for shortly after my graduation from high school, only a handful of weeks away.
Although Bella wasn't surprised to hear it, the low growl behind her caught her off guard and she jumped in her seat. She glared at Edward. They had yet to discuss her…transformation…but she had little doubt that he would be any more open to the idea than he was in the book.
A sharp jolt of unease pierced my stomach as I realized how short the time really was. Of course this change was necessary - and the key to what I wanted more than everything else in the world put together - but I was deeply conscious of Charlie sitting in the other room enjoying his game, just like every other night. And my mother, Renée, far away in sunny Florida, still pleading with me to spend the summer on the beach with her and her new husband. And Jacob, who, unlike my parents, would know exactly what was going on when I disappeared to some distant school. Even if my parents didn't grow suspicious for a long time, even if I could put off visits with excuses about travel expenses or study loads or illnesses, Jacob would know the truth.
"And why does it matter if the dog knows what is going on?" Rosalie sneered. Bella was stumped at the coldness in Rosalie's voice. Her emotions had been running hot and cold since they began reading these books and Bella had began to wonder if she might be Bi-Polar. She snickered thinking of another explanation, one she knew was impossible… unless Edward's sister was changed just before she….uhm…yeah. She briefly wondered if any of them had thought to ask the blond beauty that question. Maybe she could talk to Rosalie….
She heard Alice's tinkling laugh, seconds before Edward joined in. She looked up to see Alice watching her and flushed brightly. She could just imagine what they had seen.
"It matters because of the Treaty, Rosalie," Jasper sighed. They all knew Bella's proposed change would be an issue with the wolves, and it would be the end of the Treaty they shared. Although he didn't believe either one of them would care if it meant keeping Edward's mate, their sister, with them forever. Maybe they could use the fact that the pup had inadvertently broken the Treaty months ago to their advantage.
For a moment, the idea of Jacob's certain revulsion overshadowed every other pain.
"Bella," Edward murmured, his face twisting when he read the distress in mine. "There's no hurry. I won't let anyone hurt you. You can take all the time you need."
Bella growled this time. It was very annoying that he was always trying to talk her out of this. If they hadn't read New Moon, she would think he didn't want her forever.
"I want to hurry," I whispered, smiling weakly, trying to make a joke of it. "I want to be a monster, too."
His teeth clenched; he spoke through them. "You have no idea what you're saying."
Edward was bombarded with the thoughts of his siblings as several growls were heard around the room. "The child has no idea," "monsters," "Is that what she thinks of us?" Edward shook his head trying to clear the many thoughts now going through it. He hoped their Bella didn't think that way. Bella squirmed uncomfortably in her seat. She had never thought of the Cullen's as monsters and was a little put out that the author would say that.
Abruptly, he flung the damp newspaper onto the table in between us. His finger stabbed the headline on the front page:
DEATH TOLL ON THE RISE,
POLICE FEAR GANG ACTIVITY
"Oh fu...," Emmett's voice trailed off. He turned to look at Jasper then they all turned to Carlisle. "Do you think it's...," Carlisle held up his hand, cutting Emmett off.
"I really would rather not think about it right now," he said. "Let's just finish reading these books." "And hope we never have to live the contents," he added in his mind. The thought of losing his son, or new daughter, just about did him in and now there's talk of gang fighting? He could only hope it was truly gang related, but so far their luck didn't run that way.
"What does that have to do with anything?"
"Monsters are not a joke, Bella."
I stared at the headline again, and then up to his hard expression. "A . . . a vampire is doing this?" I whispered.
"Is that what you guys think?" Bella screeched. "That...that...it's not just one, is it?" Carlisle sighed. This was just what he had tried to avoid. The girls would all worry, Jasper and Edward would be wrecks, Emmett... will he would want to just jump right in and fight, scaring everyone half to death. Well, technically they were already dead, but it sure as hell felt like he was dying all over again, and that was at the mere thought of his family being in danger. He shuddered at the thought of them actually having to face a gang of vampires.
Edward froze at his father's thoughts. Could vampires get sick? Just the thought of the girls, even the tough as nails Rosalie, fighting against a gang of vampires made him feel queasy. He glanced at Jasper who had picked up on his emotions, and at the look that was reflected back at him. He tried to reign in his emotions before they both hurled on the living room floor. Esme wouldn't be too happy with them, and it was kind of disgusting too.
He smiled without humor. His voice was low and cold. "You'd be surprised, Bella, at how often my kind are the source behind the horrors in your human news. It's easy to recognize, when you know what to look for. The information here indicates a newborn vampire is loose in Seattle. Bloodthirsty, wild, out of control. The way we all were."
"Well that just makes me feel a whole lot better," she said, shivering despite her convection not to be afraid. "You guys just better make sure I'm not bloodthirsty like that."
"There's not much we can do about that, darlin'," Jasper told her. "We can try to make sure you don't go after any...humans, but we may not be able to stop you."
"What do you mean?" she asked.
"That you will be much stronger than any of us are, for awhile at least," Edward said.
"So, if you want human blood," Emmett cut his brother off, "Then chances are no one here will be able to stop you." He laughed at the look of horror on Bella's face.
"You're the one that wants in on this," Rosalie said, scathingly. "It's not all pretty faces and trips to the mall. Deal with the consequences like the rest of us had too."
"Rose," Edward growled at her.
"No, it's okay, Edward," she said, putting her hand on his arm. He calmed almost immediately, turning to smile at her. "Rosalie is right. This is something I want, so I need to get used to the idea of what may happen when I change."
"What will happen you mean," Emmett corrected her, ignoring Edward's glare. "Oh, how many humans will Bella kill..."
"It has to be a yes or no question, Em..." Bella said.
"Will Bella kill any humans?" he continued without missing a beat.
I let my gaze drop to the paper again, avoiding his eyes.
"We've been monitoring the situation for a few weeks. All the signs are there - the unlikely disappearances, always in the night, the poorly disposed-of corpses, the lack of other evidence. . . . Yes, someone brand-new. And no one seems to be taking responsibility for the neophyte. . . ." He took a deep breath.
"Great, just what we need," Edward sighed.
"This will surely attract attention from the Volturi," Jasper said. "We will have to prevent this from happening, but we need to find the source behind it first."
"Why would anyone create that many vampires in Seattle?" Esme asked.
"Normally this many vampires are created as a means of destroying another coven," Jasper said. Edward heard the unspoken thoughts running through his brothers head. He had spent many years in Maria's army creating newborns, and fighting battles for her, if he thought this killing spree was about a Newborn Army, who were they to argue against it?
"But….the only coven around here is….," Esmes voice trailed off, her face clouded with shock and concern, as she realized yet another potential horror they could be facing.
"Well, it's not our problem. We wouldn't even pay attention to the situation if wasn't going on so close to home. Like I said, this happens all the time. The existence of monsters results in monstrous consequences."
Bella sighed. Maybe this did happen often she just didn't want Edwards' family being caught in the middle of it.
I tried not to see the names on the page, but they jumped out from the rest of the print like they were in bold. The five people whose lives were over, whose families were mourning now. It was different from considering murder in the abstract, reading those names. Maureen Gardiner, Geoffrey Campbell, Grace Razi, Michelle O'Connell, Ronald Albrook. People who'd had parents and children and friends and pets and jobs and hopes and plans and memories and futures. . . .
"People just like you, Bella" Edward whispered in her ear at the same time as Carlisle spoke. She suppressed a shudder, grinding her teeth together.
"Not really," she said.
"And what makes them so different from you?" Rosalie asked condescendingly.
"They're being tortured and turned into ravenous killing machines against their wishes, because I am sure they do not want to be like that. They are not being shown the other side, not given a choice in the matter. However I am and, I am choosing to be with Edward forever. His forever, not mine where I will have to hide, pretend he is my son…or grandson, and eventually die." She glanced at Edward seeing him wince but couldn't be bothered as she turned back to Rosalie.
"You keep talking about choices, that you weren't given one. What do you think you are doing to me?" she asked, tears threatening to spell from her lids, whether from grief or anger, she wasn't sure. Maybe a mixture of both. "The only option I get is to stay human and die. There is no guarantee that I will live to be old. The fact that every one of you are under thirty should be proof of that." Again she couldn't be bothered with the looks of shock on their faces.
"You can marry, have children…." Rosalie began.
"I can marry Edward," Bella spit out at the blond vampire in front of her. She was too angry at Edwards' sister to be scared of her. "And as for children…I. Love. Edward. Why would I even think about having children with anyone else?" She reached for his hand, squeezing it, letting him know she had no regrets.
He pulled her back into his arms, whispering his love for her in her ear. He glowered at his sister, warning her with his eyes to keep her mouth shut. "She will hate this life, they all eventually do," Rosalie thought, knowing Edward could hear her. Could he argue that thought? Alice seemed fine with it. Emmett was ecstatic with the power he now had. Carlisle and Esme were content with their little family. Even Jasper seemed to be settling, outside the scattered setback with human blood thing. Rosalie was so pissed at losing her chance of a happy family, of growing old that she refused to let herself be happy in her current life. Did he want to go on like that?
"You talk about losing your chance at happiness, outside of the fact that you would all be dead, and I would know none of you, only two people in this room had that chance. Carlisle may have had that life if he didn't choose to chase vampires. Jasper may have had that life if he had been ten minutes earlier, or later, or if he had not been the one to take the others to safety," Bella paused taking a deep breath. Yes, she was scared, but she was angry more and she needed to get this out while she had the nerve too.
"But the rest of you? You had no chance at that happy life, you were all dying. Even Alice didn't stand a chance against James, her sire knew that and he chose to let her live. I don't care what you think of me, but if it weren't for Carlisle, Maria and even James, I would not be getting my chance at a happy life. I would have died a tragic death when Tyler's van came at me earlier the year." She looked over at the elder vampire, begging with her eyes for understanding.
They took turns giving her hugs, with the exception of Rosalie of course, although she couldn't hide her thoughts', or emotions from her brothers. They left it alone knowing she would come around in her own time. Carlisle waited a few minutes for things to die down then began to read again.
"It won't be the same for me," I whispered, half to myself. "You won't let me be like that. We'll live in Antarctica."
"Great," Rosalie muttered. "Back to the frozen wastelands again." Bella felt a momentary twinge of remorse. Just a little one though, because someone needed to show the great Rosalie Hale that the world didn't revolve around her.
Edward snorted, breaking the tension. "Penguins. Lovely."
"Oh God," Emmett laughed. "Just think how many we will have to drink to feel full. Will there even be enough for everyone?"
"I'm sure we can travel elsewhere to take care of our 'needs', son." Carlisle answered him.
"I hope so," he said, "penguins are very slow. It won't be any fun at all." They all laughed at the thought of chasing penguins around the ice.
I laughed a shaky laugh and knocked the paper off the table so I wouldn't have to see those names; it hit the linoleum with a thud. Of course Edward would consider the hunting possibilities. He and his "vegetarian" family - all committed to protecting human life - preferred the flavor of large predators for satisfying their dietary needs. "Alaska, then, asplanned. Only somewhere much more remote than Juneau - somewhere with grizzlies galore."
"Now that sounds more like it," Emmett said. "Polar bears put up a good fight too. And the wolves grow very big there." He smiled unaware of the silence that had fallen over the room. "What?" he asked, seeing their shocked faces.
"I know they're your mortal enemies," Bella winced, "but are wolves necessary?"
"Great," Rosalie said, "They're not even your friends and you want to protect the dogs?" Bella looked down at her lap, not quite sure why she would feel the need to protect them. It's not like they were shape shifters like the ones in Forks were.
"Better," he allowed. "There are polar bears, too. Very fierce. And the wolves get quite large."
Carlisle laughed. It seemed the author knew their family quite well.
My mouth fell open and my breath blew out in a sharp gust.
"What's wrong?" he asked. Before I could recover, the confusion vanished and his whole body seemed to harden. "Oh. Never mind the wolves, then, if the idea is offensive to you." His voice was stiff, formal, his shoulders rigid.
Bella rolled her eyes, seeing the same reaction with her Edward.
"He was my best friend, Edward," I muttered. It stung to use the past tense. "Of course the idea offends me."
"Please forgive my thoughtlessness," he said, still very formal. "I shouldn't have suggested that."
"Don't worry about it." I stared at my hands, clenched into a double fist on the table.
We were both silent for a moment, and then his cool finger was under my chin, coaxing my face up. His expression was much softer now.
"I truly am sorry," Edward said in her ear. "Even though it is in the book, I don't want to cause you any worry that it may happen in this life. If you happen to become 'friends' with…Jacob, I will refrain from drinking from wolves."
Bella just looked at him, unsure if she had won that round or not. Edwards family existed this long by lying to humans; was he lying now?
"I know. I know it's not the same thing. I shouldn't have reacted that way. It's just that . . . well, I was already thinking about Jacob before you came over." I hesitated. His tawny eyes seemed to get a little bit darker whenever I said Jacob's name. My voice turned pleading in response. "Charlie says Jake is having a hard time. He's hurting right now, and . . . it's my fault."
"And just how do you think it's your fault?" Rosalie asked her. Bella was surprised whom the question was coming from, especially after the 'argument' they just had. "He brings a motorcycle to your father, knowing full well what the consequences may be. He chooses to ignore your attempts at contact, although I don't know why you continue to try. He tells you he wants nothing to do with you, and lets your father think he's hurting?"
"Enough, Rosalie," Edward growled out between clenched teeth.
"He's trying to make you feel sorry for him, trying to get you to leave Edward on your own," she continued, ignoring her brother. Bella had her say on the change thing and she would get her point across here. "Do you have any idea how selfish that is of him? If he really thought of you as a friend, he would be happy for you."
"It's their job to protect the humans against creatures like us," Carlisle said.
"Then why are we only hearing about him wanting to see Bella?" Rosalie said. "Jacob Black wants to be more than friends, it was obvious in the other book."
"Ohhh…can we bet?" Emmett asked, backtracking as they all glared at him.
"You've done nothing wrong, Bella."
I took a deep breath. "I need to make it better, Edward. I owe him that. And it's one of Charlie's conditions, anyway -"
"I think your father is being unreasonable too," Rosalie said. Bella didn't argue with that. She didn't like that her father would try to manipulate her into seeing Jacob.
His face changed while I spoke, turning hard again, statue-like.
"You know it's out of the question for you to be around a werewolf unprotected, Bella. And it would break the treaty if any of us cross over onto their land. Do you want us to start a war?"
"Of course not!"
"Then there's really no point in discussing the matter further." He dropped his hand and looked away, searching for a subject change. His eyes paused on something behind me, and he smiled, though his eyes stayed wary.
"What do you see now?" Bella asked, worriedly.
"I'm glad Charlie has decided to let you out - you're sadly in need of a visit to the bookstore. I can't believe you're reading Wuthering Heights again. Don't you know it by heart yet?"
"We can't all have a good memory like you, Edward," Bella said tersely, hearing him snicker.
"We really should take you to Port Angeles to get a new book," he smiled at her.
"Woo Hoo," Alice yelled, "We're going shopping." Bella groaned knowing there was very little chance she would escape it if Alice 'saw' it happening. And what did they have against Wuthering Heights anyway? It was a classic!
"Not all of us have photographic memories," I said curtly.
"Photographic memory or not, I don't understand why you like it. The characters are ghastly people who ruin each others' lives. I don't know how Heathcliff and Cathy ended up being ranked with couples like Romeo and Juliet or Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. It isn't a love story, it's a hate story."
"You have some serious issues with the classics," I snapped.
Bella rolled her eyes, slinking further down in her seat. Out of all her books, Edward had the biggest problem with this one and she could never figure out why.
"Perhaps it's because I'm not impressed by antiquity." - "That's because we are antiques," Emmett smirked to himself, causing Edward to snicker. - He smiled, evidently satisfied that he'd distracted me. "Honestly, though, why do you read it over and over?" His eyes were vivid with real interest now, trying - again - to unravel the convoluted workings of my mind. He reached across the table to cradle my face in his hand. "What is it that appeals to you?"
Bella ignored him as he turned to her, presumably for the answer. He would find out if she answered in the book.
His sincere curiosity disarmed me. "I'm not sure," I said, scrambling for coherency while his gaze unintentionally scattered my thoughts. "I think it's something about the inevitability. How nothing can keep them apart - not her selfishness, or his evil, or even death, in the end. . . ."
"Humph," Rosalie grunted out. "You know you're describing yourselves. Well, your book selves," she amended, seeing their shocked faces. Smiling sweetly at them she continued. "Bella, like Catherine, is selfish. She wants Edward, but expects him to stand back and allow her 'friendship'," she used air quotes, "with Jacob to continue despite his many warnings. Then Edward always thinks himself to be this monster that will hurt Bella, when truly the only way he has hurt her so far was by leaving her. And death, technically Edward is dead, once Bella is like us, they will be together forever."
"Am I being selfish?" she asked Edward's family. No one answered.
"In the book you are being very selfish, Bella," Rosalie huffed. Seeing the other girls distressed look she added, "That also means you have a chance to redeem yourself in real life. Don't blow it. My brother deserves happiness, no matter who his choice is…. And you do too."
His face was thoughtful as he considered my words. After a moment he smiled a teasing smile. "I still think it would be a better story if either of them had one redeeming quality."
"I think that may be the point," I disagreed. "Their love is their only redeeming quality."
"I hope you have better sense than that - to fall in love with someone so . . . malignant."
They smirked, noticing Edward was in effect warning Bella away from himself…again.
"It's a bit late for me to worry about who I fall in love with," I pointed out. "But even without the warning, I seem to have managed fairly well." Bella smiled at this.
He laughed quietly. "I'm glad you think so."
"Well, I hope you're smart enough to stay away from someone so selfish. Catherine is really the source of all the trouble, not Heathcliff."
Rosalie snorted. Both siblings were warning the other away from their character without noticing. The two idiots were so in love they couldn't see each others flaws. "Sorry," she thought, smiling sweetly at her brother.
"I'll be on my guard," he promised.
I sighed. He was so good at distractions.
I put my hand over his to hold it to my face. "I need to see Jacob."
His eyes closed. "No."
"It's truly not dangerous at all," I said, pleading again. "I used to spend all day in La Push with the whole lot of them, and nothing ever happened."
Rosalie folded her arms over her chest. "Humph, Really Bella?"
"No," she answered sheepishly. She couldn't deny what they had all read in the last book, and she didn't need any reason for the Cullens to break the Treaty.
But I made a slip; my voice faltered at the end because I realized as I was saying the words that they were a lie. It was not true that nothing had ever happened. A brief flash of memory - an enormous gray wolf crouched to spring, baring his dagger-like teeth at me - had my palms sweating with an echo of remembered panic.
Bella shivered at the image that ran through her mind. Would she constantly worry over what the wolves perceived to be a threat to humans?
Edward heard my heart accelerate and nodded as if I'd acknowledged the lie aloud. "Werewolves are unstable. Sometimes, the people near them get hurt. Sometimes, they get killed."
I wanted to deny it, but another image slowed my rebuttal. I saw in my head the once beautiful face of Emily Young, now marred by a trio of dark scars that dragged down the corner of her right eye and left her mouth warped forever into a lopsided scowl.
He waited, grimly triumphant, for me to find my voice.
Carlisle sighed. He had heard about the young woman from hearing Sue Clearwater at the hospital. He knew the reason she hadn't been brought to the emergency room that day, thought it ridiculous they would deny one of their own medical attention because of the mortal enemy issue. He wished they would take money, see a plastic surgeon to repair the damage to the young woman's face, but he knew they were too proud for that. This woman was forever doomed to carry the scar because of their petty feud.
"You don't know them," I whispered.
"I know them better than you think, Bella. I was here the last time."
"The last time?"
"We started crossing paths with the wolves about seventy years ago. . . . We had just settled near Hoquiam. That was before Alice and Jasper were with us. We outnumbered them, but that wouldn't have stopped it from turning into a fight if not for Carlisle. He managed to convince Ephraim Black that coexisting was possible, and eventually we made the truce."
Jacob's great-grandfather's name startled me.
Bella looked down guiltily. She had no idea why Ephraim Blacks' name would surprise her. Although Jacob had not said his great-grandfather's name at the time, it was not the first time she heard this story. The first time had been on the beach at La Push, when Jacob had laughed at violating the treaty between the wolves and the Cullen's.
"We thought the line had died out with Ephraim," Edward muttered; it sounded like he was talking to himself now. "That the genetic quirk which allowed the transmutation had been lost. . . ." He broke off and stared at me accusingly. "Your bad luck seems to get more potent every day. Do you realize that your insatiable pull for all things deadly was strong enough to recover a pack of mutant canines from extinction? If we could bottle your luck, we'd have a weapon of mass destruction on our hands."
Emmett snickered although they all knew the difference of what Carlisle had just read. Contrary to popular belief, it was the vampires and not Bella that caused the comeback of the wolves. Emmett ducked as a cushion flew pass his head.
I ignored the ribbing, my attention caught by his assumption - was he serious? "But I didn't bring them back. Don't you know?"
"Oh… something the great Edward Cullen doesn't know," Alice snickered. Edward smirked at her and she winked back knowing there would be no hard feelings there.
"My bad luck had nothing to do with it. The werewolves came back because the vampires did."
Edward stared at me, his body motionless with surprise.
"Jacob told me that your family being here set things in motion. I thought you would already know. . . ."
His eyes narrowed. "Is that what they think?"
"That's what they know, bro," Emmett laughed, throwing the cushion back at him.
"Emmett," Esme warned him. "Please stop throwing things in the house." Rosalie covered her mouth, covering a grin.
"Eh! Eddie threw it first," he whined.
"And please don't tattle on your brother," she said, "it's not nice." Rosalie snickered at him.
"Edward, look at the facts. Seventy years ago, you came here, and the werewolves showed up. You come back now, and the werewolves show up again. Do you think that's a coincidence?"
He blinked and his glare relaxed. "Carlisle will be interested in that theory."
"Theory," I scoffed.
"It is interesting. I wonder if they would let me…," Carlisle's voice trailed off as he heard the others groan. He would have to pursue this another time.
He was silent for a moment, staring out the window into the rain; I imagined he was contemplating the fact that his family's presence was turning the locals into giant dogs.
"Interesting, but not exactly relevant," he murmured after a moment. "The situation remains the same."
"No dogs allowed," Emmett quipped. Edward muffled a snort.
"Emmett," Esme admonished him. "That was not very nice."
"Regardless," he shrugged his shoulders, "It is true." Esme shook her head, sometimes her children had no shame.
I could translate that easily enough: no werewolf friends.
I knew I must be patient with Edward. It wasn't that he was unreasonable, - Carlisle ignored the snickering and kept reading- it was just that he didn't understand. He had no idea how very much I owed Jacob Black - my life many times over, and possibly my sanity, too.
Bella sighed. "Well, at least this will never happen." They all turned to Edward narrowing their eyes as if to warn him against leaving.
I didn't like to talk about that barren time with anyone, and especially not Edward. He had only been trying to save me when he'd left - Carlisle chose to ignore the muttering around him from the family - trying to save my soul. I didn't hold him responsible for all the stupid things I'd done in his absence, or the pain I had suffered.
"You should though," Edward said, cutting his father off.
"Edward," Bella said, a note of warning in her voice.
"Dude," Emmett laughed. "You haven't left yet, and you're already getting emo on us." Edward looked down at his hand, the one curled around Bella's fingers. Whether it would happen or not, just knowing he would have caused the entire family that magnitude of pain was enough to make him run away. Considering he was trying to avoid that scenario, it made no sense at all.
"Ahhh…Cheer up bro. We promise not to let you leave." Jasper sent a calming wave across the room in his direction, hoping to alleviate some of his fear. Edward gave him a grateful smile, hoping the family would just drop the subject right now. He really didn't want to go into explanations at the moment.
"Of course you do," Bella said, throwing her hands in the air. Edwards hand rose effortlessly with hers and they both clunked back down, causing her to wince. She glared at him, daring him to apologize for it.
So I would have to word my explanation very carefully.
I got up and walked around the table. He opened his arms for me and I sat on his lap, nestling into his cool stone embrace. I looked at his hands while I spoke. "Please just listen for a minute. This is so much more important than some whim to drop in on an old friend. Jacob is in pain ." -Rosalie snorted at Carlisle's words- My voice distorted around the word. "I can't not try to help him - I can't give up on him now, when he needs me. Just because he's not human all the time. . . . Well, he was there for me when I was . . . not so human myself. You don't know what it was like. . . ." – Bella sighed feeling Edward tense up. He really was a stubborn vampire - I hesitated. Edward's arms were rigid around me; his hands were in fists now, the tendons standing out. "If Jacob hadn't helped me . . . I'm not sure what you would have come home to. I owe him better than this, Edward."
"Owing a person is one thing, but treating them better that your own boyfriend is another," Rosalie looked up at their shocked faces, a look of dismay written across her lovely face. "Whoops! Did I say that out loud?"
"That was uncalled for, Rosalie," her father said.
"But true none the less," she mumbled to herself, or so she thought. "I truly am sorry Edward, Bella." She looked anything but sorry but Edward decided to let it go.
I looked up at his face warily. His eyes were closed, and his jaw was strained.
"I'll never forgive myself for leaving you," he whispered. "Not if I live a hundred thousand years."
"Wow!" Emmett exclaimed. "Can we even live that long Carlisle?" They all turned to the head of their family certain he would have this knowledge.
"I'm not sure," he answered truthfully. He never really thought about it before but perhaps he could contact the Voltu… no, he winced, remembering he would need to avoid the Volturi at all costs. At least for now!
I put my hand against his cold face and waited until he sighed and opened his eyes.
"You were just trying to do the right thing. And I'm sure it would have worked with anyone less mental than me. Besides, you're here now. That's the part that matters."
"If I'd never left, you wouldn't feel the need to go risk your life to comfort a dog ."
I flinched. I was used to Jacob and all his derogatory slurs -bloodsucker, leech, parasite . . . . Somehow it sounded harsher in Edward's velvet voice.
"That's not right," Esme said, looking at Edward. "Neither one of you boys should be talking like that. It's very rude."
Rosalie rolled her eyes. "Who cares? Certainly not them,"she thought. Edward frowned, he remembered the Quileute's from the last time they were here, but would their descendants be any different from them? According to the books they would still be untrusting and a lot ruder than before.
"I don't know how to phrase this properly," Edward said, and his tone was bleak. "It's going to sound cruel, I suppose. But I've come too close to losing you in the past. I know what it feels like to think I have. I am not going to tolerate anything dangerous."
"And young wolves are certainly volatile," Emmett said.
"And they smell too," Rosalie said with a shiver. While Bella couldn't dispute Emmett's remark, she would have to wait for awhile to comment on Rosalie's; although, both sides had commented more than once on the smell from the other.
"You have to trust me on this. I'll be fine."
His face was pained again. "Please, Bella," he whispered.
I stared into his suddenly burning golden eyes. "Please what?"
"Please, for me. Please make a conscious effort to keep yourself safe. I'll do everything I can, but I would appreciate a little help."
Emmett snickered, clearly remembering the trip he and Edward had gone on to Goat Rocks Wilderness, Edward complaining nearly the entire time about how much trouble Bella could get herself into. She seemed to attract everything dangerous within miles around her.
"I'll work on it," I murmured.
"Do you really have any idea how important you are to me? Any concept at all of how much I love you?" He pulled me tighter against his hard chest, tucking my head under his chin.
Bella felt Edward's fingers twitch at her sides. She was gaining a better perspective of how deep his love ran now even though these books were in her point of view. She was listening as if it were happening to someone else and not their lives, seeing things she would not ordinarily see if they were actually living it, instead of reading about it.
She turned to place a soft kiss on his cheek. "I love you too," she whispered, "More than you could ever know." He gave her a small smile. He would have laughed at that before, had actually scoffed at the idea of her love comparing to his, but after the other book they read he could see the possibility that he was wrong to downplay her love for him. He also acknowledged the fact that she was only close to Jacob, he shuddered at the thought, because he, Edward, had inadvertently pushed her there causing them to become friends. He vowed not to make that mistake this time around.
I pressed my lips against his snow-cold neck. "I know how much I love you," I answered.
"You compare one small tree to the entire forest."
I rolled my eyes, but he couldn't see. "Impossible."
He kissed the top of my head and sighed.
"You know she won't agree to that," Emmett laughed. Bella sighed knowing Emmett was right; at least for the book scenario anyway. The book version of the wolves seemed more than willing to fight the Cullens, she had to wonder if they would be like that now.
"I'm not going along with that. I have to see Jacob."
"Then I'll have to stop you."
He sounded utterly confident that this wouldn't be a problem.
I was sure he was right.
"I wouldn't stop you, you know," he whispered barely loud enough for her to hear. If she were sitting anywhere else, she wouldn't have caught it. She gave him a strange look. "If you want to be friends with…Jacob," he managed to push the words from his mouth even though his dead heart twisted with each word he spoke. He could deny her nothing.
"That's very…open-minded… of you," she said, "but completely unnecessary. If they do not like you guys, then I have no reason to want to get to know them." That helped to alleviate some of the tension he had been feeling, but Edward couldn't help wonder how things would play out in the end; Bella was a very head strong person.
"We'll see about that," I bluffed anyway. "He's still my friend."
I could feel Jacob's note in my pocket, like it suddenly weighed ten pounds. I could hear the words in his voice, and he seemed to be agreeing with Edward - something that would neverhappen in reality.
Doesn't change anything. Sorry.
Bella sighed. Maybe talking to the wolves would be a good idea. They really needed to get over themselves. She could understand their need to protect humans from vampires like James and his coven, even the Volturi were to be feared by them, but the Cullen's had lived in the area for years and had posed no threat to the townspeople. Well…with the exception of Mike Newton…she was sure Edward would take great delight in helping him disappear. She wondered briefly if the wolves would be open to exceptions.
She heard Alice's tinkling giggle and looked up to see Alice's eyes on her. She could understand Emmett's frustration with the silent conversations as she saw the smirk play across Edward's face. She could only guess it had to do with Mike.
Carlisle watched his children with pride. These last few days had been hard on all of them, Edward and Bella more so than the others. He hoped they would be free from the conflict but given the fact that the book was written from his newest daughter's perspective, he really doubted it was over yet. He took a deep breath when he heard Edward's laughter cut short.
"That's the end of this chapter," he said shutting the book to on his finger, holding its place. This chapter had been very informative. They would have to be on the lookout for an army of newborns being created in the area. And Victoria was still out there somewhere too. Carlisle sighed hearing Edward's low growl.
"Who is reading next?" he asked his family.
"Are we going in the same order as the last book?" Emmett asked. "I think we should change it up a bit."
"It's my turn to read," Alice said, anxious to get started.
"You read after Carlisle last time," Emmett whined.
"And I am this time too," Alice said, reaching for the book.
"You're very pushy for someone so short," Emmett said hearing Jasper snort behind him.
"Sorry, darlin'," he apologized, seeing Alice glare at him.
"Fine," Emmett said, "but I get to read after you again then."
A/N: Once again I would like to apologize for the long wait and hope that you will stick by me. The last month or so has been real hard and Friday night I received some not so good news about a close family member. While I am still going to write, I will let you know if I have to stop for a bit…. I will try to get ahead on my writing so I don't fall behind on posting.
Once again, thank you for sticking with me… I truly appreciate it.
On another note, a FF friend has started a website for people with alternative lifestyles. Maybe you, a family member, or a friend would be interested in checking it out. It's a place to voice your opinion, or your own story. Everything is anonymous so no one will know who you are, unless you want them too. On the website you can click on the link to submit a story, or ask Jackie to contact you back. He will help set you up on the site with your story if you want to, or you can just go there and read stories others have submitted. He's one of the sweetest guys I know….and yes you can tell him I said that.
Are you, or someone you know, gay, lesbian, poly, het, Bi… something other? Check it out. Click on the banner to enter. You are not alone.
sites (dot) google (dot) com/site/notalonevoices/
Copy and paste the link to your address bar. Don't forget to remove the (dot) and replace with a .
If the link fails, it's posted on my profile page.
Now, I've entered a V-Day countdown where 28 authors are submitting o/s stories based on V-day and love. There will be a variety from het to slash. All mature themed stories will be posted as such, so if you are not 18+…. Do not read them. At the end there will be a mass collab story that most of the authors have written together…I took part in that too.
There will also be a contest throughout the stories, if you are one of the first ten readers to correctly guess the sentence you will receive an O/S outtake, in pdf form, that will not be in the countdown. Once again, this O/S is written by the authors. Click on the link below, check it out and try your luck out. It starts on Feb 1st. If the link fails, pm me and I'll get it to you.
www(dot)fanfiction(dot)net/s/6618121/1/ You know what to do…
Thank you again girls and guys…. Have fun