Disclaimer: All things Twilight belong to Stephenie Meyer. No copyright infringement is intended.
Edward doodled absently in his notebook while the professor droned on about atoms. He kept a small part of his brain focused on the lecture in case he was called on, but the rest of his mind wandered.
"Nice eyes." The girl whispered shyly beside him. He turned to her, puzzled, her thoughts were as hesitant as her voice.
She bit her lip nervously as he met her gaze.
"They're nice eyes," she offered again, nodding at his notebook. "Um, you draw really well."
Edward gave a small, polite smile and smoothly covered the drawing with his hand. He answered her with a soft thank you.
Her smile lit up her face, like all her Christmases had come at once, and her skin blushed crimson.
Then she turned quickly to the front again and in her fluster she knocked her textbook onto the floor. Edward bent to pick it up and set it back on her desk.
"Oh, um, thanks." She giggled this time. Edward nodded but avoided eye contact.
He turned back to the notebook.
Two eyes stared up at him from the page. Wide, dark, gentle eyes with long lashes. But the lead of his pencil couldn't capture their depths as he remembered them. The soft grey was no substitute for their warm brown.
He shook his head. Here he was, once again sketching the eyes of a girl he had sat next to in biology twice. Just twice. A girl he had had one, single conversation with. Just one. And much of it based around onion root.
A girl he had known for little more than two days.
A girl whose scent had almost driven him to kill her. A girl whose blood had called to him in ways he couldn't understand - on levels he couldn't reach.
A girl who now, two years later, was still the most important thing in his world - even if she didn't know it.
Bella Swan would be nineteen now. She'd be at college, probably somewhere warm. She didn't like the cold, he remembered that. He remembered everything. Every word she had spoken, every breath she had taken. Her heart shaped face. The way her cheeks coloured and the way her life beat its rhythm in her chest.
He wondered if she remembered him.
She probably did - in that way that most people would remember him. He would forever be that strange boy with the unusual eyes and the pale, cold skin who made her feel uneasy.
Yes, she would remember him.
He flicked the notebook onto a blank page.
Beside him the girl was working up the courage to speak again. He could see the idea forming in her mind and he gave an inaudible sigh of resignation.
He inclined his head politely in her direction but kept his eyes down.
"I was wondering..." She took a deep breath. "Some of us are going to see a movie on Saturday night and...I just...um doyouwannacome?"
She rushed the last words and he could feel her discomfort, her awkwardness. There had been a time when her invitation would have irritated him, but now not so much.
He turned to her and gave another polite smile. She gulped.
"Thank you," he said. "But I can't. My brother is getting married on Saturday."
The wedding reception was in full swing. The marquee in the garden was strewn with fairy lights and a laughing Emmett swung his beautiful bride gracefully around the dance floor. Eleazar and Carmen jitterbugged with Carlisle and Esme. A giggling Kate and Tanya joined in, making up their own unique moves. Edward stood to the side, talking and laughing with Irina, Alice and Jasper, Peter and Charlotte. On the surface he was enjoying himself - the atmosphere and the conversation were fun and fresh and a break from the routine of college. But the surface was as deep as it went.
The music on the expensive sound system changed - and so did the mood. A soft romantic piece filtered through the speakers now and the couples stopped jumping and swinging and instead found themselves in each others arms, swaying gently to the melody. Jasper and Alice locked eyes, their gaze only for each other. Together they headed for the dance floor while Edward headed for the woods.
The party he could handle...the intimacy he couldn't.
He thought of Isabella Swan.
He shrugged out of his dinner jacket, letting it drop on the ground as he began to run.
His fingers worked the knot of his tie and it flew away. He rolled up his sleeves, opened the top buttons of his shirt and pulled its tails free. The soft cotton clung to his chest and billowed out behind him as he ran.
He let the wind whistle past his ears, muffling the music, sighs and whispered declarations of love which gradually faded and disappeared behind him.
The wind felt good against his face and in his hair and he didn't slow until he had crossed the border from Vermont into New Hampshire. In the quiet woods he sat on a fallen log and stared at the sky. He smiled when he saw her face smiling back at him from the stars. Then he frowned.
His thoughts of her were always complex and confusing.
She was all at once a source of comfort and despair and it had been that way for a while now. Which was an improvement, really. Because in the beginning it had just been despair, pure, absolute and crippling.
But that was before he had understood. He sighed and laid back on the ground now, eyes closed, arms folded comfortably behind his head.
Edward loved Isabella Swan.
He loved her unconditionally, absolutely, with a purity and depth that no human could ever fathom.
And he would love her this way, without alteration or diversion, until the universe, and time itself, ceased to exist. And even then he suspected his love would fill the void that was left behind.
She was everything.
You know, you don't have to be alone....
Tanya's thoughts interrupted him and he winced.
She appeared silently from the trees and Edward gave a very small smile, more at her persistence than her words.
"I think we've had this conversation before, Tanya."
"Oh, yes, I remember," she smiled, teasing. "But it was a while ago now. You came to Alaska with woman troubles."
Edward looked away and didn't respond.
"You might have changed your mind by now." There was a trace of hope in her voice, as well as in her thoughts, as she indicated the log. "May I?"
Edward slid along, making room. A lot of room.
"I haven't changed my mind," he clarified. "But thank you for the...er, thought."
Tanya shrugged again and tossed her long curls over her shoulder.
They sat quietly for a while, talking about the wedding and Tanya's new car and Edward's engineering course at the University of Vermont. Then her mind took a turn.
"I wonder, Edward...," she sighed a little. "Do you even realise what you're missing out on?"
Edward did know and he tapped his temple. Tanya laughed.
"And that doesn't do it for you?" She purred, and tried to slip her arm through his as her thoughts became more graphic.
He shook his head. "I'm afraid not." Neatly, he untangled himself from her hold.
"I could make you happy."
He shook his head.
He didn't respond.
She moved closer, her lips at his ear. "You don't have to be lonely, Edward."
Gracefully he stood and went to lean against a tree, hands deep in his pockets. He gave Tanya a half smile and shook his head again. But Tanya wasn't deterred. She'd been alive for a thousand years and Edward Cullen was the most attractive, desirable man, human or vampire, she had ever encountered. And the way he stood now, with his shirt loose and his hair hanging windswept over his eyes, leaning casually against the tree...
She bit her lip.
"But you have desires, don't you?" Her desires were obvious and barely contained.
"Desires? Mm, not the way you mean, Tanya."
"Oh? And what do I mean, Edward?" She kept her voice low and seductive.
He rolled his eyes and looked away, into the distance.
"But you are a man..." Her sentence ended there but her thoughts continued. Edward sighed.
"Yes, I am a man."
"And most men want..."
"You." He smiled weakly, trying to deflect her. "Yes, I know."
She gave a soft chuckle, and actually sounded embarrassed.
"My attempt to make you jealous."
"But it doesn't work, does it?"
His smile became apologetic.
She sighed. "What I meant was...most men want...someone."
He shrugged, his hands balling into fists in his pockets. He didn't want to discuss this with her.
Tanya studied him for a moment, her head cocked to her shoulder. Suddenly her mind went blank.
"What?" Edward frowned, looking up sharply. He was slightly rattled that she'd closed her mind to him so suddenly ... it was usually wide, wide open. He was wary now, wondering what was coming next.
Tanya cocked her head to the other shoulder.
"Is it still the girl? The human?"
Edward stiffened but stayed silent, essentially confirming Tanya's thoughts.
"Edward, that was two years ago...," she said gently. "You knew her for how long?"
Edward turned away and started pacing through the trees. He wouldn't discuss this with Tanya - it was too...intimate. And he doubted he could explain the complexity of his feelings for Bella to someone whose idea of a meaningful relationship was a second date. How could she understand, in one conversation, what had taken him months to realise.
Tanya followed and Edward pointed out some animal tracks in the hope of changing the subject.
In her thoughts now he could see she was jealous, wondering how a mere human could have such a hold on him. But she was also concerned. Her affection for him was genuine - she didn't want him to hurt. He grimaced now as she wondered if she could make him feel better - make him forget the human.
She ignored the thinly veiled exasperation in his voice as he kept walking and she reached out, her hand circling his wrist. He stopped walking and looked down where her fingers touched his skin.
"Would it be so wrong, Edward?" she whispered. "Really? Would it be so wrong to give in, to enjoy yourself, to feel...pleasure?" Her index finger traced the inside of his wrist. "Surely you have needs, urges...yes?"
He looked away into the woods as he gently pulled his hand free from hers.
She made a small sound of exasperation.
"What do you want, Edward?"
"Good company," he answered with a small smile. "And your company is good, Tanya...when you're not obsessing about sex."
She smiled back.
"What's wrong with sex?"
"There's nothing wrong with sex."
"Mm...well I'm glad we're of a similar mind about that." She tilted her head and gave him a look that would have made most men fall to their knees, weeping with want. But Edward was unmoved. "We could be good together," she whispered and he was hit with a deluge of visions of just how good Tanya thought they could be. He winced.
She reached for his chest. He caught her hand, stilling her actions, and his deep, golden eyes met hers.
Slowly he moved her hand away, gently placing it back at her side as he slowly shook his head. All her thoughts of having him right there on the forest floor, claiming him as her sexual partner, began to fade. He saw the disappointment in her eyes. And the hurt.
"You'd like it," she whispered.
He shook his head again, slower this time.
"No, I wouldn't. Not like that."
"Not like what?"
The silence between them was heavy. His eyes held hers as she swallowed, once, twice. Finally understanding, Tanya spoke.
"Not without love?"
Tanya left Edward to himself and he sank to the forest floor, his back against a large spruce tree. He knew his rejection had stung, and he didn't like hurting her feelings, but he also knew he could never take what she offered. He rested his arms on his knees and stared again at the night sky. He took a deep breath and then he closed his eyes.
Tanya had talked of desire. And as she had sprinted through the trees, away from him, she had actually wondered if Edward was even capable of feeling desire or lust.
He allowed himself a wistful smile.
Edward was certainly capable.
It was just that for him, desire and lust came from love.
The feelings that he recognised now had been there from the start, almost from that first moment in the cafeteria. But they were so faint and unfamiliar that they became lost beneath the crushing weight of his confusion and frustration - his anger and pain.
It had taken a while for those feelings to come to the surface.
But come they had.
It had been another night like this - the sky crystal clear and brilliant with stars, but the ground had been covered with snow.
He'd been hunting and had devoured the better part of a herd of elk. His thirst was satisfied and he was in no hurry to get home. It was always in the night sky that he saw Bella's face most clearly so he had laid down in the snow and watched her eyes looking back at him from the stars.
And he had let his mind wander.
His thoughts had followed their usual path at first - her eyes, the soft waves of her hair, the curve of her mouth. But this time, as Edward had remembered the way she'd pulled her bottom lip between her teeth, his body had suddenly tightened.
And his memories had taken on a new and different focus. Things like how the cotton of her shirt pulled gently across her breasts as she breathed. The sound of denim against her thighs as she crossed her legs beneath the desk.
He had pushed his head back in the snow and groaned, low and deep. His hands had fisted against the ground as new sensations slowly licked and lapped at him. He had told himself to stop this, he shouldn't think of her this way, it wasn't right...but then he realised it didn't feel wrong.
Edward had growled as he let himself go. He'd imagined how Bella's skin would feel against his, her hands in his hair and her legs wrapped around him while he held her; his hands cradling her head, holding her gaze as he slid into her, taking her, worshiping her, loving her. To feel her around him, surrounding him, taking him in and making him hers. His mouth on her neck; her name on his lips and his on hers as together they found ecstacy. He would show her with his body what he felt in his heart, and it would be so, so beautiful.
Eyes screwed shut, his body had arched and shuddered, his hands clawing at the earth as he'd cried her name into the night.
Then a broken whisper...
He had laid there, his body humming, eyes wide as he'd realised what had just happened.
He'd rolled onto his stomach, breathless, panting softly, blinking hard.
He had waited for the mortification and the shame...but they hadn't come. Instead, he had only wished with all his heart that this experience had been with her.
That night had been almost a year ago, and though it didn't happen often, that first time hadn't been the last. But it was always bittersweet for him. For Edward the love only emphasised the loss.
He shook his head now as the feelings began to stir.
"Not tonight," he told himself.
He stood up. Rosalie and Emmett would be leaving for their honeymoon soon and he should be there to say goodbye. And on the rare and precious occasions when he did indulge, it was never something he wanted to rush. He took one more look at the stars, bidding Bella a silent goodnight as he moved away through the trees.
It was Monday. Edward sat in the back row of the auditorium, waiting for the lecture to begin. As usual, the girl, Jennifer, took the seat beside him. She gave him a small smile which he returned. Encouraged by this she decided to ask him about his brother's wedding. He asked her about the movie night. Then they were silent as the professor shuffled through the double doors.
The lecture began but as the professor's monotone filled the auditorium Jennifer's thoughts were elsewhere. They shaped and formed and as her resolve grew Edward shifted in his seat, subtly changing his position so he was turned a little away from her. He hoped his body language would be enough.
She took a deep breath, inclined her head towards his, and began.
"Um, Edward...I was wondering if maybe, one day, if you're not doing anything after classes..." She paused and he gave an internal sigh. He looked up at her now.
"Would you like to grab a coffee...er...or something?" She shrugged. "You know...if you want to...one day..."
Without waiting for a response Jennifer looked quickly down at her book again while Edward's brow creased in a soft frown.
He had literally had thousands of such offers over the years. Coffee, dinner...and more. Where once he responded with a cool gaze and a curt no thank you, these days he took his time not to hurt feelings.
"Thank you," he whispered. "But I'm busy most days after class."
"Oh..." Jennifer looked up and then dropped her eyes back down again.
"And I wouldn't want to accept an invitation I couldn't fulfil," he added gently and hoped that got the message across.
She looked up again, blinking as reality began to dawn. Of course, she thought. How could I be so stupid...someone like him...
"You have a girlfriend?"
His throat tightened and so did he chest. A girlfriend.
He swallowed past the lump in his throat.
"There is someone..." he answered smoothly, vaguely.
Jennifer nodded, looking back at her book again. Of course he had someone.
"But thank you for the invitation," Edward said politely. She nodded again, smiling weakly but avoiding his gaze. Then Edward's eyes darted to the sandy haired boy two rows in front. Daniel.
Edward was well-familiar with the boy's shy but affectionate thoughts about Jennifer. He knew that Jennifer thought Daniel was 'kinda cute'.
"I think Daniel likes coffee," Edward said casually.
Jennifer's eyes flickered to the back of Daniel's head. In her mind Edward could see her considering.
Smiling, he turned back to his notebook and began sketching a pair of eyes set in a heart-shaped face.
He sighed softly.
Isabella Swan had wrenched his world apart with her wrecking-ball scent.
But really, everything changed even before she'd walked in front of that air vent in the biology lab. It had started in the cafeteria and Jessica Stanley's unkind thoughts that had made Edward feel strangely protective of the new girl with the intriguingly silent mind.
But his protectiveness had evaporated half an hour later when she had stumbled down the classroom aisle towards the lab desk they would share just twice.
Escaping to Alaska after that first, near-fatal biology lesson should have been the answer for him. He should have been able to write the incident off as a near miss and stayed away...but he couldn't. The inexplicable pull was too strong and he'd gone back.
Bella had survived their second biology lesson together and Edward had learned a little about her, including that he wanted to learn more. And he still hadn't understood why.
But he had fled Forks for good after that second lesson - his decision made when he saw Alice's vision of a pale-skinned Bella with blood-red eyes.
That could never be allowed to happen. The girl, Bella, could never become a monster. He could not allow it.
He would not allow it.
Leaving was the hardest thing he had ever done. The thought of going had actually hurt him - a searing pain that lanced through his chest and settled there, making his heart its home.
But he knew that leaving was the right thing to do. For her. He had no choice. His feelings didn't come into it, even if he had understood what the feelings meant. Which he hadn't.
"You love her." Alice's words had struck him like an avalanche.
Was that what it was?
He couldn't love a human.
He had spent a month alone in a cave pondering that revelation, trying to understand. And when understanding finally came he'd felt no joy or excitement - only a crushing despair that he could never, ever be with the one he loved. He roared and railed at the fates that had decided his eternity would be spent alone; that meant he didn't even have the hope of love...and that Isabella Swan would never be loved the way she should be - because no-one would love her as deeply as he.
And the realisation that his love would be the most dangerous thing in her life...hurt.
It hurt so much it nearly broke him.
He had curled into a ball and wondered how he'd have the strength to get through the next day. He couldn't bear to think of the next thousand years. And the thousand after that.
Until one day, as he had wondered for the thousandth time what Isabella Swan was doing right at that moment, he had also wondered what she would think of him...if she saw him at that moment.
Not much, he had supposed.
And that stung.
Edward had sat up and brushed the dirt from his knees and his shirt. He would never want her to see him like this...and that was when he found the strength to pull himself together. And from that strength came resolve and a strange sort of comfort that he was doing the best thing for the woman he loved.
That his absence meant her life.
He began to change.
Everything he did now, he did with her in mind. He would be a better man for her, even if she never knew it. He would be someone that she would be glad to know, someone she would want to call her friend, even though they would never meet again.
So there would be no more slouching around high schools for him. Only college and real jobs.
He tried hard to remember what he'd been like as a human, hoping it would give him a clearer picture of Bella and the real meanings behind the words, expressions and blushes from their one and only conversation.
As a human teenage boy he had been shy and a little awkward, he remembered that. But then, most teenage boys were. He recalled that he would sometimes put up a false front of bravado to hide behind.
He had had strong opinions about the world and everything in it. Perhaps too strong for a lad of seventeen - he had argued with his father on more than one occasion.
But he had been a good son. His parents had loved him very much and he had loved them. He still loved them now.
Gradually, Edward's cool inconsequential attitude towards humans began to change and his long-buried humanity began to surface as he saw parts of himself in the humans around him.
And slowly, as the pieces fell into place, Edward's picture of Bella became clearer. She was selfless and brave. She thought of others. She was shy. But determined. And she was perceptive.
She wasn't vain - her lack of nail polish and make-up told him that. She hadn't even had her ears pierced.
He thought she might feel uncomfortable in her own skin. A bit like he had felt sometimes - and still did sometimes, even now.
He didn't know what she had thought of him.
His pencil moved over the page as he thought, shading her jaw, her throat and collarbones.
He often wondered where she was now, what she was doing. Which college had she chosen? What subjects had she taken, what career path did she plan? Wherever she was, he hoped the sun was on her skin.
He always avoided thoughts of boyfriends and marriage.
Sometimes he thought about finding her. Not so she'd know, he would just watch from a distance, see how she was. But he knew he would never be strong enough for that. He doubted he'd be able to leave her a second time. Once had nearly done him in, as it was. And if she had a boyfriend...then he wasn't sure what that would do to him. No, it was better this way. He would live for her, and keep his memories just as they were.
"Mr Cullen?" The professor's voice pulled Edward from his thoughts. Quickly, he scanned the lecturer's mind.
"Electrostatic force," Edward answered and the professor nodded, going on to ask another question of someone else.
Jennifer's eyes were on Edward's sketch now, her thoughts wondering about the pretty girl with the thoughtful eyes. He flipped casually to a clean page in his notebook just as the phone in his pocket vibrated. Glad of something to distract Jennifer, Edward made a show of taking the phone out of his pocket and rolling his eyes in mock exasperation. Jennifer stifled a giggle and looked back to the front, the sketch forgotten. Edward looked at the screen in the palm of his hand.
It was a text from his lawyers in Chicago. The tenants of his house were moving out. It was time for Edward to play landlord.
The following weekend Edward stood in the empty living room of his human home and looked around. It had been five years since his last inspection.
The latest tenants had moved out two days before and thankfully the place had been left clean and in good condition. Although he wondered why anyone had thought a feature wall of burnt orange was a good idea. Had the agency granted them permission to do that? With the dull reflection from the grey, drizzly sky outside the wall looked like mud. It would have to go. Now. And he would do it himself - it would be quicker and he would do a better job than any decorator.
He took his car keys from his pocket and opened the front door.
Someone was moving into the Victorian terrace opposite his. (It had been converted into four small apartments some years earlier.) A tall, skinny reading lamp stood on the pavement, wobbling slightly in the breeze. A suitcase sat beside it. A small car was parked with its trunk open. Two girls, hoodies pulled over their heads against the spitting rain, were scrambling with a large, heavy-looking cardboard box, trying to pull it over the lip of the trunk, their feet slipping on the wet surface of the road.
Edward thought he would offer to help. He started down the front steps, ready to call out to them, just as the soft breeze picked up, blowing stronger. It knocked the lamp over so its plastic shade snapped in pieces against the ground.
A second later Edward was almost on his knees, shaking, gasping. His throat was on fire and his hand crushed the doorknob in his desperation to get back inside the house. He slammed the door shut behind him and sank to the floor, his body trembling uncontrollably. The growls ripped from his chest while the door shook and his throat blazed.
Bella. His Bella.
She was here.
And she had just wrenched his world apart all over again.
Her scent was still in his nostrils, filling him, possessing him. He could taste her on his tongue - his eyes rolled back in his head. Edward bared his teeth and he snarled. His hands clawed at the floor boards, carving deep, jagged grooves in the wood as he fought to control himself. The monster rattled its cage - but the monster was weak, because while this scent still called to the most primal part of him, it meant something more, now.
Edward forced himself to take a deep breath. And another. The slightly stale air of his house eased his throat and cleared his mind enough that he could think...but just barely.
He struggled to his feet and went to the window. He peeked out, eyes wide, as he watched from behind the blinds. His body still shook. His mind was all disarray and utter confusion.
She was laughing now. Her hood had slipped and the wind was whipping her hair around her face as she and the other girl attempted to carry the box up the front steps.
So beautiful. So, so beautiful.
The last time he'd seen her he hadn't known he loved her. Now he saw her with new eyes that devoured her. And a new heart that, right now, was almost beating.
"Bella..." His voice cracked. His long fingers gripped hard onto the window sill - he barely registered the splintering of the wood.
Why was she in Chicago? Why wasn't she somewhere warm? He had wanted her to have warmth and sunlight - she liked that. He had imagined her on beaches in California, or Hawaii - walking across sunny campuses with her arms full of books while the light played on her hair.
This new development was too much for him to take in and even his vampire-sized brain was having trouble understanding.
She was here. She was really here.
And so was he.
He wouldn't let himself think where this could lead.
Bella's mind was still silent to him but he focused on the thoughts of her friend, hoping for answers.
But he found none. She was too focused on the blind date she was setting up for her brother.
The girls disappeared through the front doors and Edward stood up and began pacing. Where were Alice's visions when he needed them? He snatched his phone from his pocket, hoping to see a message from his sister, but there were none. How could she not have seen this coming? Or had she seen something and decided not to tell him? He tried calling her, but her phone didn't answer. He left a curt message.
"It's Edward. Call me."
And then he hung up.
He growled, pulling hands through his hair as he prowled and paced, waiting for...he didn't know what.
He'd spent every moment of the last two years dealing with his feelings for Bella, accepting them, managing them, and now...
It was like being back at square one again. Like he was back in that biology lab watching her walk down the aisle towards his desk.
He put his fist through the wall.
When Alice called an hour later Edward was sitting in his boyhood bedroom, hugging his knees to his chest while he watched the windows of Bella's apartment.
"What am I going to do?" he growled down the phone and Alice sighed.
"I don't know, Edward. Only you know that, I can only see the result when you decide."
He screwed his eyes shut and banged the back of his head against the wall. The plaster cracked.
"I can't let her go again," he ground out.
"I know. And...I don't think you should."
His eyes snapped open.
"What are you saying?"
"I...I don't know, really. It's like last time, Edward. Nothing is clear...I couldn't even see this coming. You're at a cross-roads. You just have to choose which way to go."
"I don't know which way to go."
Alice sighed again.
"I think you do, Edward. You just told me you couldn't leave again." She paused and let her words sink in. "Think about it, Edward."
He was silent.
"I think you have your answer," Alice said softly.
Edward let out a sharp breath. His chest felt heavy and tight.
"I don't...I can't..." He pulled his hand through his hair, tugging on the strands so hard it almost hurt. "I don't know how I'm going to..."
"But it's different now, Edward," Alice cut him off gently.
"How?" he snapped. "Tell me how it's different, Alice! I'm still a vampire, she's still human and her scent..." His eyes closed, he couldn't even finish the sentence. "Nothing's changed!"
But as soon as he said the words he realised he was wrong.
He had changed.
His eyes opened as he began to wonder.
He was not the same boy he'd been in that biology lab. In the past two years he'd done something almost unheard of for a vampire - he had grown and matured and changed. Alice seemed to read his mind.
"Things have changed, haven't they, Edward?"
"Maybe," he muttered by way of response.
There was silence as Edward continued to think and Alice let him.
"Maybe," he said again after a moment. "But I'm still a risk to her, Alice. I am still the most dangerous thing in her world."
He scowled. "What do you mean, am I? Of course I am."
"You love her, don't you?"
He clenched his teeth. "You know I do."
"Would you ever do anything to hurt her?"
"No! Of course not! Why would you even... " He shook his head. "That's why I've stayed away, that's why I should stay away again now."
Alice sighed. "So, you'd never do anything to hurt her?"
"No! Never!" He was almost shouting now. Just the thought of Bella coming to any harm filled him with such horror and dread and pain and...oh...
"Think about what you just said, Edward."
But he already was.
He sighed and closed his eyes again, letting this new concept bloom and grow. He loved her more than he wanted her blood. He could never hurt her. He knew that now.
"Will you call me if you see anything?" he whispered.
He hit end call and let the phone fall to the floor so he could hold his head with his hands.
"Alright," he muttered as he stared at his feet. "I'm not going anywhere...so now what?"
He spent the next two days thinking and planning, then revising those plans, and thinking some more.
He almost paced a hole in the floor. If his fingernails weren't like steel he would have bitten them down to the bone. If he was human he would have ground his teeth to stumps.
Should he just watch over Bella from afar for the rest of her life, like some sort of guardian angel? The irony of that wasn't lost on him.
Or could he re-introduce himself and find a place in her life, however small? Even if he was just that guy she met once in Forks who happened to live across the street now. Someone to wave "hi" to in passing. Except he could only be in her life for a year or two, before she realised he wasn't ageing. Even now he looked too much the same.
Or...did he try for something more? The thought thrilled and terrified him. And he had no idea what that more could be.
He paced and prowled and weighed up every option. He analysed every possible scenario.
He watched her apartment from his window. He would see her come and go but was never sure where she went - and that bothered him. College, he assumed. Maybe shopping sometimes. There had been a bag of groceries at one point.
She listened to a lot of music. She didn't seem to have a television. Her lights were usually off by eleven, and she was up again at six thirty.
There had been one other visitor - a young man with a housewarming gift and lots of decorator tips and whose thoughts told Edward that Bella was single and he was gay.
She was single. Her male friend was gay.
This piece of information pleased Edward very much, but it didn't really help his decision.
He re-weighed his options and re-analysed the scenarios. Over and over again.
On Tuesday night he went hunting.
By Wednesday morning he had made his decision.
He waited for Alice to call, but she didn't.
On Wednesday afternoon Edward watched Bella's small car turn into the street and pull up out the front of her building.
He flung the window open wide as she stepped out onto the pavement. The wind was blowing and he pulled in a deep, deep lungfulof air. It was like hot knives in his throat as her scent assaulted him. He pulled in another breath, and another. Another. The burn was relentless, but the monster made no appearance.
Over the past few days Edward had come to realise that this was not the scent of torment and temptation and anguish...
...this was the scent of second chances.
He raced down the stairs three at a time, pulled open the front door and almost ran out into the street. He slowed when he hit the pavement.
What if she didn't remember him? What if she did remember and didn't like him? What was he going to say? What would she say? What if she told him to go away? Maybe this was a bad idea. Maybe he should just turn around and leave.
But he knew he wouldn't. He squared his shoulders and started walking.
Bella was grabbing her book bag from the back seat of the car. She looked up as he approached, her eyes curious, and his steps almost faltered.
Her eyes...dear Lord, her eyes. His knees actually felt weak.
And suddenly it felt to Edward like everything had slowed down. The road felt a mile wide. His footsteps were loud, echoing on the asphalt as he walked.
And her heartbeat...it was everywhere, surrounding him so his own body felt alive with its rhythm.
And her scent...
Her scent was on the air, his throat burned but he barely noticed because right now that scent meant she was here and he had hope.
At last he reached her.
"Bella?" Edward tried to keep the shake from his voice. His memory had been no match for her beauty - he could see that now as he stood before her. He swallowed as she frowned at him and he hesitated slightly. Then her eyes widened. Her brows shot up and her mouth dropped open. He swallowed again.
"It's Edward," he said. "Edward Cullen, from Forks High."
She stared at him, speechless, but he saw the blush rise in her cheeks. She began to bite her lip. He sucked in a nervous breath, stuck out his hand and smiled.
A/N: This is just a short story - two, maybe three chapters. I hope you liked this first chapter, and will stick around for the next one (or two). Cheers :)