Okay, please don't kill me…life got in the way and I hope I can make up for it by finishing this book as soon as I can and starting New Moon.

My life has been so hectic lately that I hope you all can forgive me. My mom made up with her brother after 20 years of not speaking. I just met him for the first time in the beginning of the summer and we got along really well. He was probably one of the closest people in my life. He had really bad cancer, in his liver, lungs, bone, pancreas, and they found some cells starting in his brain…he passed away in April.

I was also in several choirs where I had to learn over twenty pieces of music I was also a lead in my school play. And remember that lifeguards certificate I was all excited about? I have been working two summer jobs all summer…so please forgive me. Life just got in the way.

I just hope I can stay in character after all this time. Okay…enough of my rambling and onward we go…

Disclaimer: Sadly I do not own Twilight though I do want my own Edward…

Bella's Point of View

"The Game," Edward read, he tensed automatically and I sighed, there was no way I could calm him down. He hated to think about what James did even if there was nothing he could do about the past.

It was just beginning to drizzle when Edward turned onto my street. Up until that moment, I'd had no doubt that he'd be staying with me while I spent a few interim hours in the real world.

"The real world?" Emmett asked, "What does that make us? Imaginary?" I couldn't help but laugh at my loveable big brother. Edward even smiled lightly even though he was still tense knowing what this chapter would hold.

And then I saw the black car, a weathered Ford, parked in Charlie's driveway — and heard Edward mutter something unintelligible in a low, harsh voice.

Esme glared at her 'oldest' son, "Edward! You do not curse in front of a lady!"

Edward looked shocked, "How do you even know I cursed? It just said I muttered something unintelligible."

"In the way that Bella's mind works that means you cursed. She said the same thing when that van almost hit her!" Esme said she did not like being talked back to. Edward hung his head and muttered an apology to Esme and me. I smiled and kissed his jaw in acceptance. He smiled, all of the stress from the title gone from his features.

Leaning away from the rain under the shallow front porch, Jacob Black stood behind his father's wheelchair. Billy's face was impassive as stone as Edward parked my truck against the curb. Jacob stared down, his expression mortified.

Rose's face darkened and I thought about my relationship with Jacob. My family didn't seem to like his people very much and I could see why. If they did become werewolves, well, vampires and werewolves never really got along…even in myths.

Edward's low voice was furious. "This is crossing the line."

"He came to warn Charlie?" I guessed, more horrified than angry.

All of the Cullen's eyes narrowed, I guess Edward had not shared that bit of information.

Edward just nodded, answering Billy's gaze through the rain with narrowed eyes. I felt weak with relief that Charlie wasn't home yet.

"Let me deal with this," I suggested. Edward's black glare made me anxious.

"It really should have frightened you." Jasper said in awe. "That means he's mad and if anyone saw his eyes like that they would shy away and be frightened." I just shrugged, we had already established multiple times that my reactions are strange.

To my surprise, he agreed. "That's probably best. Be careful, though. The child has no idea."

I bridled a little at the word child. "Jacob is not that much younger than I am," I reminded him.

"He most likely has the maturity of a nine year old." Rose muttered. Esme didn't say anything but she glared at her 'oldest' daughter.

He looked at me then, his anger abruptly fading.

"That's because I can't look at you without all of my anger and anxiousness vanishing." Edward said with a smile and he kissed my hair lightly.

"Oh, I know," he assured me with a grin. I sighed and put my hand on the door handle. "Get them inside," he instructed, "so I can leave. I'll be back around dusk."

"Do you want my truck?" I offered, meanwhile wondering how I would explain its absence to Charlie.

He rolled his eyes. "I could walk home faster than this truck moves."

"You don't have to leave," I said wistfully.

Edward sighed as Alice and Rose were smiling and giggling.

He smiled at my glum expression. "Actually, I do. After you get rid of them" — he threw a dark glance in the Blacks' direction — "you still have to prepare Charlie to meet your new boyfriend." He grinned widely, showing all of his teeth.

"You enjoyed that didn't you?" I groaned. Edward just nodded with a smile. "You know, he called you Edwin like three times when I told him I'd be coming over for baseball."

Emmett chuckled as well as Jasper, Alice, Rose, and Carlisle. Esme had a grin on her face and Edward smiled my favorite crooked grin. "I know, I heard."

"Of course you did." I muttered, that caused everyone to laugh a little harder.

I groaned. "Thanks a lot."

He smiled the crooked smile that I loved. "I'll be back soon," he promised. His eyes flickered back to the porch, and then he leaned in to swiftly kiss me just under the edge of my jaw.

My heart lurched frantically, and I, too, glanced toward the porch. Billy's face was no longer impassive, and his hands clutched at the armrests of his chair.

"Soon," I stressed as I opened the door and stepped out into the rain. I could feel his eyes on my back as I half-ran through the light sprinkle toward the porch.

"Hey, Billy. Hi, Jacob." I greeted them as cheerfully as I could manage. "Charlie's gone for the day — I hope you haven't been waiting long."

"Not long," Billy said in a subdued tone. His black eyes were piercing. "I just wanted to bring this up." He indicated a brown paper sack resting in his lap.

"Nope." Emmett said popping the 'p'. "He wanted to spill the beans about lil sis' new boyfriend."

"No," Jazz said with a smile, "he wanted to tell him that lil sis' new boyfriend was a vampire." Alice and Rose shook their heads lovingly at their husband/boyfriends. Edward had a small smile and I was giggling quietly. Esme and Carlisle were just smiling at their boys.

"Thanks," I said, though I had no idea what it could be. "Why don't you come in for a minute and dry off?" I pretended to be oblivious to his intense scrutiny as I unlocked the door, and waved them in ahead of me.

Rose had a small frown on her face, "We might have to teach you how to lie." I sighed, I really hated to lie but if it meant keeping my family safe from danger I guess I could learn a few things. I slowly nodded and everyone gave me a warm smile.

"Here, let me take that," I offered, turning to shut the door. I allowed myself one last glance at Edward. He was waiting, perfectly still, his eyes solemn.

"I did not like his thoughts at all." Edward growled. I could feel my eyebrows knit together in confusion. Edward sighed, "He was trying to find ways to get Jacob into pursuing you. He was also trying to figure out a way for Charlie to be in on it too." I was too shocked, I could feel my mouth open but I couldn't remember how to close it. Emmett snickered and I saw a pillow go flying from behind me and hit him square in the face.

"You'll want to put it in the fridge," Billy noted as he handed me the package. "It's some of Harry Clearwater's homemade fish fry — Charlie's favorite. The fridge keeps it drier." He shrugged.

"Thanks," I repeated, but with feeling this time. "I was running out of new ways to fix fish, and he's bound to bring home more tonight."

"Fishing again?" Billy asked with a subtle gleam in his eye. "Down at the usual spot? Maybe I'll run by and see him."

Everyone but Edward froze at that. "It's alright, Bella handles it perfectly." Everyone nods and I lean against my angel.

"No," I quickly lied, my face going hard. "He was headed someplace new… but I have no idea where."

He took in my changed expression, and it made him thoughtful. "Jake," he said, still appraising me. "Why don't you go get that new picture of Rebecca out of the car? I'll leave that for Charlie, too."

"Where is it?" Jacob asked, his voice morose. I glanced at him, but he was staring at the floor, his eyebrows pulling together.

"I think I saw it in the trunk," Billy said. "You may have to dig for it." Jacob slouched back out into the rain.

Something clicked in my mind as Edward read that. "Wait! He just wanted Jake out of the way didn't he?!" I asked. Edward just nodded. I huffed and crossed my arms across my chest causing Emmett to laugh.

Billy and I faced each other in silence. After a few seconds, the quiet started to feel awkward, so I turned and headed to the kitchen. I could hear his wet wheels squeak against the linoleum as he followed. I shoved the bag onto the crowded top shelf of the fridge, and spun around to confront him. His deeply lined face was unreadable.

"Charlie won't be back for a long time." My voice was almost rude.

Esme gave me a look that said she clearly didn't approve, "Sorry Mom, I was just stressed. He was planning on telling Charlie about you guys and I wasn't thinking straight." Esme sighed but smiled before coming over and kissing my cheek.

He nodded in agreement, but said nothing. "Thanks again for the fish fry," I hinted. He continued nodding. I sighed and folded my arms across my chest.

He seemed to sense that I had given up on small talk. "Bella," he said, and then he hesitated. I waited. "Bella," he said again, "Charlie is one of my best friends."

"Yes."

He spoke each word carefully in his rumbling voice. "I noticed you've been spending time with one of the Cullens."

"Yes," I repeated curtly.

His eyes narrowed. "Maybe it's none of my business, but I don't think that is such a good idea."

"You're right," I agreed. "It is none of your business."

"Wow." Emmett said in awe, "Lil sis has got an attitude!"

"And unless you want to see the wrong side of it I suggest you shut-up." I said in a sickly sweet voice. Alice chuckled as her eyes went blank and I felt silent laughter from behind me.

"I suggest you don't do that Emmy," Edward said causing Emmett to scowl at the nickname. "You don't want to see the outcome. Emmett pouted with his arms crossing his chest muttering, 'Don't call me Emmy', "Than don't call me Eddie." Edward replied with a smirk.

He raised his graying eyebrows at my tone. "You probably don't know this, but the Cullen family has an unpleasant reputation on the reservation."

"Actually, I did know that," I informed him in a hard voice. This surprised him. "But that reputation couldn't be deserved, could it? Because the Cullens never set foot on the reservation, do they?" I could see that my less than subtle reminder of the agreement that both bound and protected his tribe pulled him up short.

"That's true," he acceded, his eyes guarded. "You seem… well informed about the Cullens. More informed than I expected."

I stared him down. "Maybe even better informed than you are."

He pursed his thick lips as he considered that. "Maybe." he allowed, but his eyes were shrewd. "Is Charlie as well informed?" He had found the weak chink in my armor.

Jasper chuckled, "You have weird thoughts, sis." I shrugged.

"We already established that I have a weird mind, my reactions are weird, my thoughts are weird, and my mind is the only one Edward can't read. I'd say that makes me pretty weird." I said. Edward growled behind me.

"You are not weird, you are special and I love what makes you special. I love it that your reactions are weird and I love your thoughts. The only thing is that I wish I could hear them." That made me smile as he kissed me, at least this time I remembered to breathe. Out of the corner of my eye I could see everyone smiling but none as bright as Esme's smile.

"Charlie likes the Cullens a lot," I hedged. He clearly understood my evasion. His expression was unhappy, but unsurprised.

"It's not my business," he said. "But it may be Charlie's."

"But that's my business whether or not I want to tell Charlie." I said with a frown, hopefully they understood my convoluted sentence. Edward on the other hand just laughed silently behind me. "What?"

"Just listen." He said continuing to read.

"Though it would be my business, again, whether or not I think that it's Charlie's business, right?"

Emmett looked like he had been wacked in the face with a frying pan. I couldn't help but laugh at his expression, Rose, Edward, Jasper, and Alice were not far behind me.

I wondered if he even understood my confused question as I struggled not to say anything compromising. But he seemed to. He thought about it while the rain picked up against the roof, the only sound breaking the silence.

"Yes," he finally surrendered. "I guess that's your business, too."

I sighed with relief. "Thanks, Billy."

"Just think about what you're doing, Bella," he urged.

"Okay," I agreed quickly.

He frowned. "What I meant to say was, don't do what you're doing."

Rose scowled, "She can do whatever the hell she wants!"

"Rosalie Lillian Hale!" Esme scolded, "You do not use that kind of language in this house." Rose muttered an apology but continued to scowl at the book in Edward's hands.

I looked into his eyes, filled with nothing but concern for me, and there was nothing I could say. Just then the front door banged loudly, and I jumped at the sound.

"There's no picture anywhere in that car." Jacob's complaining voice reached us before he did. The shoulders of his shirt were stained with the rain, his hair dripping, when he rounded the corner.

"Poor boy." Esme muttered leaning in closer to Carlisle.

"Hmm," Billy grunted, suddenly detached, spinning his chair around to face his son. "I guess I left it at home."

Jacob rolled his eyes dramatically. "Great."

"Well, Bella, tell Charlie" — Billy paused before continuing — "that we stopped by, I mean."

"Stupid double meaning." Emmett pouted. I couldn't help the giggle that left my lips.

"I will," I muttered.

Jacob was surprised. "Are we leaving already?"

"Charlie's gonna be out late," Billy explained as he rolled himself past Jacob.

"Oh." Jacob looked disappointed. "Well, I guess I'll see you later, then, Bella."

"Aww! Jakey Wakey wants to spend more time with Bella-boo!" Emmett said in a sing song voice. I laughed as six pillows attacked his face. "Ow! Carlisle? Esme? Really? I thought you loved me?!" he pouted.

Carlisle just shook his head at his son, though Esme couldn't help the giggles that left her lips.

"Sure," I agreed.

"Take care," Billy warned me. I didn't answer.

Jacob helped his father out the door. I waved briefly, glancing swiftly toward my now empty truck, and then shut the door before they were gone.

I stood in the hallway for a minute, listening to the sound of their car as it backed out and drove away. I stayed where I was, waiting for the irritation and anxiety to subside. When the tension eventually faded a bit, I headed upstairs to change out of my dressy clothes.

I could hear Alice grumble at that and I sighed, what had I gotten myself into? Allowing Alice to dress me? I really was an idiot! Maybe I could somehow…

"Don't even finish that thought Isabella Marie Swan! Remember that I know where you live and I can and will replace your whole wardrobe without you knowing." Said pixie said menacingly. I shivered as I realized she wasn't kidding, Edward rubbed my back gently and comfortingly. Even he knew not to mess with an angry, fashion obsessed, pixie.

I tried on a couple of different tops, not sure what to expect tonight. As I concentrated on what was coming, what had just passed became insignificant. Now that I was removed from Jasper's and Edward's influence, I began to make up for not being terrified before. I gave up quickly on choosing an outfit — throwing on an old flannel shirt and jeans — knowing I would be in my raincoat all night anyway.

Alice grumbled some more, "What do you want from me, Alice?" I teased, "You don't want me to get sick do you?" I asked with a pout. She frowned.

"No! Of course not, Bella. How could you even…" Her eyes went blank for a moment. "That was just plain mean, Bella." She said through her musical giggles.

The phone rang and I sprinted downstairs to get it. There was only one voice I wanted to hear; anything else would be a disappointment. But I knew that if he wanted to talk to me, he'd probably just materialize in my room.

There was laughter throughout the room at my comment. "As much as I would like to deny it, it's true." Edward said with my favorite crooked smile on his face.

"Hello?" I asked, breathless.

"Bella? It's me," Jessica said.

"Oh, hey, Jess." I scrambled for a moment to come back down to reality. It felt like months rather than days since I'd spoken to Jess. "How was the dance?"

"It was so much fun!" Jessica gushed. Needing no more invitation than that, she launched into a minute-by-minute account of the previous night. I mmm'd and ahh'd at the right places, but it wasn't easy to concentrate. Jessica, Mike, the dance, the school — they all seemed strangely irrelevant at the moment.

"When you fall in love, things do seem to be irrelevant." Jasper said with a grin, as he glanced at Alice. I smiled, happy that I could actually be a part of this amazing family.

My eyes kept flashing to the window, trying to judge the degree of light behind the heavy clouds.

"Did you hear what I said, Bella?" Jess asked, irritated.

"I'm sorry, what?"

"I said, Mike kissed me! Can you believe it?"

"Good, they're perfect for each other." Rose said with a sickly sweet smile on her face, scaring me slightly. She could be extremely scary when she wanted to be.

"That's wonderful, Jess," I said.

"So what did you do yesterday?" Jessica challenged, still sounding bothered by my lack of attention. Or maybe she was upset because I hadn't asked for details.

"Could be either with her." Alice said with a dreamy look on her face.

"Nothing, really. I just hung around outside to enjoy the sun." I heard Charlie's car in the garage.

"Did you ever hear anything more from Edward Cullen?"

"Nope. Gotta stay away from the Eddie comments now." Emmett said with a grin. Edward just mumbled under his breath and Esme glared at her oldest son as he continued to mumble.

"Edward Anthony Mason Cullen! Do not say such things about your brother! Apologize at once!"

"Sorry Emmett, sorry Mom." He sighed before going back to reading.

The front door slammed and I could hear Charlie banging around under the stairs, putting his tackle away.

"Um." I hesitated, not sure what my story was anymore.

There were chuckles at that, "You lose attention way to quickly Lil' sis." Emmett said shaking his head as he chuckled.

"Hi there, kiddo!" Charlie called as he walked into the kitchen. I waved at him.

Jess heard his voice. "Oh, your dad's there. Never mind — we'll talk tomorrow. See you in Trig."'

"I hate to say it, but she can be smart when she wants to be." Jasper sighed.

"Seeya, Jess." I hung up the phone. "Hey, Dad," I said. He was scrubbing his hands in the sink. "Where's the fish?"

"I put it out in the freezer."

"I'll go grab a few pieces before they freeze — Billy dropped off some of Harry Clearwater's fish fry this afternoon." I worked to sound enthusiastic.

"He did?" Charlie's eyes lit up. "That's my favorite."

"He's so easily appeased." I said with a smile. I may not say it all the time but I do love my Dad.

Charlie cleaned up while I got dinner ready. It didn't take long till we were sitting at the table, eating in silence. Charlie was enjoying his food. I was wondering desperately how to fulfill my assignment, struggling to think of a way to broach the subject.

"What did you do with yourself today?" he asked, snapping me out of my reverie.

"Well, this afternoon I just hung out around the house…" Only the very recent part of this afternoon, actually. I tried to keep my voice upbeat, but my stomach was hollow. "And this morning I was over at the Cullens '."

"Poor Charlie. He probably had a heart attack." Esme said with a frown. Carlisle laughed at that.

"No, otherwise I would have seen him that day and I don't remember that at all." I couldn't help but smile at Carlisle's humor.

Charlie dropped his fork. "Dr. Cullen's place?" he asked in astonishment.

I pretended not to notice his reaction. "Yeah."

"What were you doing there?" He hadn't picked his fork back up.

"Well, I sort of have a date with Edward Cullen tonight, and he wanted to introduce me to his parents…Dad?" It appeared that Charlie was having an aneurysm.

"Umm…maybe he didn't take it as well as Eddie boy would have liked." Emmett said.

"No, he just got the wrong Cullen." I said with a smile.

"Dad, are you all right?"

"You are going out with Edward Cullen?" he thundered.

Uh-oh. "I thought you liked the Cullens."

"He's too old for you," he ranted.

There was more laughter at that though Edward frowned, "Yea, like ninety years to old." Emmett laughed. I frowned at him. I didn't like it when they made fun of his Vampire age.

"We're both juniors," I corrected, though he was more right than he dreamed.

"Wait…" He paused. "Which one is Edwin?"

There was more laughter at that. Edward just looked like he would have blushed if he could, but I had no problem blushing for both of us.

"Edward is the youngest, the one with the reddish brown hair." The beautiful one, the godlike one…

Jasper groaned, "Don't say that sis! It'll get to his head!"

"Too late." Alice said with a grin as Edward smiled like a maniac.

"Oh, well, that's" — he struggled — "better, I guess. I don't like the look of that big one.

Emmett frowned, "He doesn't like me?"

"No, he just doesn't trust you with his daughter." Jasper said with a smile.

I'm sure he's a nice boy and all, but he looks too… mature for you. Is this Edwin your boyfriend?"

"It's Edward, Dad."

"Is he?"

"Sort of, I guess."

Edward mock frowned, "Sort of? Really?"

"What? Did you want me to tell him that I thought we were soul mates destined to be together forever?" I asked, sarcasm evident in my tone. There was laughter at that.

Edward just smiled, "No, just making sure that's what you thought." I snuggled into his coat and him a little more after that.

"You said last night that you weren't interested in any of the boys in town." But he picked up his fork again, so I could see the worst was over.

"Well, Edward doesn't live in town, Dad."

"Technicality." Rose said with a wave of her hand.

He gave me a disparaging look as he chewed.

"And, anyways," I continued, "it's kind of at an early stage, you know. Don't embarrass me with all the boyfriend talk, okay?"

"When is he coming over?"

"He'll be here in a few minutes."

"Where is he taking you?"

I groaned loudly. "I hope you're getting the Spanish Inquisition out of your system now. We're going to play baseball with his family."

"That must have been a shock to his system." Carlisle said, remembering that the chief's favorite pastime was watching baseball.

His face puckered, and then he finally chuckled. "You're playing baseball?"

"Well, I'll probably watch most of the time."

"You must really like this guy," he observed suspiciously.

"Understatement." Alice, Rose, and I said together, breaking off into laughter, the guys just rolled their eyes at us.

I sighed and rolled my eyes for his benefit. I heard the roar of an engine pull up in front of the house. I jumped up and started cleaning my dishes.

"Leave the dishes, I can do them tonight. You baby me too much." The doorbell rang, and Charlie stalked off to answer it. I was half a step behind him.

I hadn't realized how hard it was pouring outside. Edward stood in the halo of the porch light, looking like a male model in an advertisement for raincoats.

Emmett and Jasper groaned again, I couldn't help my laughter at that point.

"Come on in, Edward." I breathed a sigh of relief when Charlie got his name right.

"He was only teasing you." Edward said with a smile.

"Thanks, Chief Swan," Edward said in a respectful voice.

Esme beamed with pride, "At least you remembered your manners this time." Edward just smiled at his mother.

"Go ahead and call me Charlie. Here, I'll take your jacket."

"Thanks, sir."

"Have a seat there, Edward." I grimaced.

Edward sat down fluidly in the only chair, forcing me to sit next to Chief Swan on the sofa. I quickly shot him a dirty look. He winked behind Charlie's back.

"Nice." Jasper said with a smirk. I smiled, I liked Jasper a lot and was glad we were getting closer thanks to these books.

"So I hear you're getting my girl to watch baseball." Only in Washington would the fact that it was raining buckets have no bearing at all on the playing of outdoor sports.

"Yes, sir, that's the plan." He didn't look surprised that I'd told my father the truth. He might have been listening, though.

There was laughter as Emmett pouted, "Of course."

"Well, more power to you, I guess." Charlie laughed, and Edward joined in.

"Okay." I stood up. "Enough humor at my expense. Let's go." I walked back to the hall and pulled on my jacket. They followed.

"Not too late, Bell."

"Don't worry, Charlie, I'll have her home early," Edward promised.

Edward grimaced, little did he know then that I wouldn't be back for a while. I sighed as I guessed his thoughts and kissed his jaw as I snuggled closer to him.

"You take care of my girl, all right?"

There was silence at that, no one was willing to bring up what really happened that night.

I groaned, but they ignored me.

"She'll be safe with me, I promise, sir." Charlie couldn't doubt Edward's sincerity, it rang in every word.

I stalked out. They both laughed, and Edward followed me.

I stopped dead on the porch. There, behind my truck, was a monster Jeep. Its tires were higher than my waist. There were metal guards over the headlights and tail-lights, and four large spotlights attached to the crash bar. The hardtop was shiny red.

"That's my baby." Emmett said in a proud voice.

Charlie let out a low whistle. "Wear your seat belts," he choked out.

"Of course." Edward said, trying to smile. I could tell this chapter was bringing back to many bad memories.

Edward followed me around to my side and opened the door. I gauged the distance to the seat and prepared to jump for it. He sighed, and then lifted me in with one hand. I hoped Charlie didn't notice.

Edward smiled at me, "Do you really think I wouldn't make sure he wasn't looking before helping you?" I just blushed.

"I'm sorry, the vampire thing was still pretty new to me."

As he went around to the driver's side, at a normal, human pace, I tried to put on my seat belt. But there were too many buckles.

"What's all this?" I asked when he opened the door.

"It's an off-roading harness."

"Uh-oh." I tried to find the right places for all the buckles to fit, but it wasn't going too quickly.

He sighed again and reached over to help me. I was glad that the rain was too heavy to see Charlie clearly on the porch. That meant he couldn't see how Edward's hands lingered at my neck, brushed along my collarbones. I gave up trying to help him and focused on not hyperventilating.

Esme and Carlisle tried to look stern but couldn't keep the smiles off of their faces. I just blushed as Emmett's booming laugh echoed around the living room.

Edward turned the key and the engine roared to life. We pulled away from the house.

"This is a… um…big Jeep you have."

"It's Emmett's. I didn't think you'd want to run the whole way."

"Where do you keep this thing?"

"We remodeled one of the outbuildings into a garage."

"Aren't you going to put on your seat belt?"

The vampires gave me incredulous looks and I blushed, "Yet again, I was just getting used to the whole 'my boyfriend's a vampire' thing." That earned some laughter.

He threw me a disbelieving look. Then something sunk in. "Run the whole way? As in, we're still going to run part of the way?" My voice edged up a few octaves.

"Really sis? You just caught that?" Jasper asked with a smirk. So I did the mature thing and stuck my tongue out at him. The rest of our family just laughed as Jasper did the same.

He grinned tightly. "You're not going to run."

"I'm going to be sick."

"Keep your eyes closed, you'll be fine." I bit my lip, fighting the panic.

Edward leaned over and kissed my head, "Sorry to frighten you."

"It's alright. I don't mind it so much now."

He leaned over to kiss the top of my head, and then groaned. I looked at him, puzzled.

"You smell so good in the rain," he explained.

"In a good way, or in a bad way?" I asked cautiously.

He sighed. "Both, always both."

Edward frowned again before looking thoughtful and smiling, I couldn't help but wonder what Alice had spoken to him about that could make him like this? Said pixie looked over at me and winked.

I don't know how he found his way in the gloom and downpour, but he somehow found a side road that was less of a road and more of a mountain path. For a long while conversation was impossible, because I was bouncing up and down on the seat like a jackhammer. He seemed to enjoy the ride, though, smiling hugely the whole way.

I rolled my eyes, I must be learning that from Edward…though I didn't mind it so much.

And then we came to the end of the road; the trees formed green walls on three sides of the Jeep. The rain was a mere drizzle, slowing every second, the sky brighter through the clouds.

"Sorry, Bella, we have to go on foot from here."

"You know what? I'll just wait here."

"it might have been better if you did stay there." Edward said with a frown. I sighed.

"You know, James might have been one of the better things that happened to us." I said causing seven vampires to look at me in shock. "No, listen. When I went after him I did it because I was sure you wouldn't get to him in time to save my mother but now I know differently. I know that even if my mom was taken by him you would have saved her and me…he caused me to trust you explicitly and know that you would do anything for me."

They all just stared at me in shock, "That's…actually a very good way to see things, Bella." Carlisle said with a slight smile on his face.

"What happened to all your courage? You were extraordinary this morning."

"I haven't forgotten the last time yet." Could it have been only yesterday?

He was around to my side of the car in a blur. He started unbuckling me.

"I'll get those, you go on ahead," I protested.

"Hmmm…" he mused as he quickly finished."It seems I'm going to have to tamper with your memory."

"Do you have another power we don't know about?" Emmett asked with a confused expression. Alice laughed as she understood, I then couldn't hold it in either as I remembered what he had done.

Before I could react, he pulled me from the Jeep and set my feet on the ground. It was barely misting now; Alice was going to be right.

"Tamper with my memory?" I asked nervously.

"Something like that." He was watching me intently, carefully, but there was humor deep in his eyes. He placed his hands against the Jeep on either side of my head and leaned forward, forcing me to press back against the door. He leaned in even closer, his face inches from mine. I had no room to escape.

"Now," he breathed, and just his smell disturbed my thought processes,

"Oh." Was all Emmett had to say about that before bursting out into laughter.

"what exactly are you worrying about?"

"Well, um, hitting a tree —" I gulped "— and dying. And then getting sick."

He fought back a smile. Then he bent his head down and touched his cold lips softly to the hollow at the base of my throat. "Are you still worried now?" he murmured against my skin.

"That's cheating!" Rose said, trying to sound stern and irritated but she smiled, ruining it.

"Yes." I struggled to concentrate. "About hitting trees and getting sick."

His nose drew a line up the skin of my throat to the point of my chin. His cold breath tickled my skin. "And now?" His lips whispered against my jaw.

"Trees," I gasped. "Motion sickness."

"You're so stubborn." Edward said, amusement evident on his face as he remembered how hard he had to work to erase her thoughts.

He lifted his face to kiss my eyelids. "Bella, you don't really think I would hit a tree, do you?"

"No, but I might." There was no confidence in my voice. He smelled an easy victory. He kissed slowly down my cheek, stopping just at the corner of my mouth.

"Would I let a tree hurt you?" His lips barely brushed against my trembling lower lip.

"Such a cheater…"Emmett grumbled as Esme and Carlisle smiled.

Everyone else was holding in their laughter as I flushed a tomato red. Edward kissed my throat, I could feel the smile on his lips.

"No," I breathed. I knew there was a second part to my brilliant defense, but I couldn't quite call it back.

"You see," he said, his lips moving against mine. "There's nothing to be afraid of, is there?"

"No," I sighed, giving up.

"I love you Isabella Swan." Edward said with a chuckle in his voice.

I sighed in defeat, "I love you too, Edward Cullen."

Then he took my face in his hands almost roughly, and kissed me in earnest, his unyielding lips moving against mine.

Emmett wolf-whistled as Jasper cat-called, causing me to blush even more.

There really was no excuse for my behavior. Obviously I knew better by now. And yet I couldn't seem to stop from reacting exactly as I had the first time.

Rose and Alice giggled as they remembered the incident by the meadow.

Instead of keeping safely motionless, my arms reached up to twine tightly around his neck, and I was suddenly welded to his stone figure. I sighed, and my lips parted.

He staggered back, breaking my grip effortlessly.

"Oops?" I said, though it came out as a question as I shrugged my shoulders with a smiled. I wasn't sorry for that, not at all. And apparently neither was Edward as he kissed me in earnest, causing me to do exactly what had been read.

Cue more cat-calls and wolf-whistles from the boys and 'awws' from the girls. I blushed when Edward broke us apart and chuckled.

"Damn it, Bella!" he broke off, gasping. "You'll be the death of me, I swear you will."

Esme gave her son a stern look. He looked away from her eyes quickly.

I leaned over, bracing my hands against my knees for support. "You're indestructible," I mumbled, trying to catch my breath.

"I might have believed that before I met you. Now let's get out of here before I do something really stupid," he growled.

Jasper frowned, "You have to many mood swings. I surprised Bella hasn't gotten whiplash yet."

He threw me across his back as he had before, and I could see the extra effort it took for him to be as gentle as he was. I locked my legs around his waist and secured my arms in a choke hold around his neck.

"Don't forget to close your eyes," he warned severely.

"You could be nice about it." Rose said. "You are the one that kissed her in the first place."

Edward sighed, "I wasn't mad at her…I'll explain it."

I quickly tucked my face into his shoulder blade, under my own arm, and squeezed my eyes shut.

And I could hardly tell we were moving. I could feel him gliding along beneath me, but he could have been strolling down the sidewalk, the movement was so smooth. I was tempted to peek, just to see if he was really flying through the forest like before, but I resisted. It wasn't worth that awful dizziness. I contented myself with listening to his breath come and go evenly.

Carlisle nodded, "That was probably the best way to go."

I wasn't quite sure we had stopped until he reached back and touched my hair. "It's over, Bella."

I dared to open my eyes, and, sure enough, we were at a standstill. I stiffly unlocked my stranglehold on his body and slipped to the ground, landing on my backside.

"Oh!" I huffed as I hit the wet ground.

Everyone burst out into laughter at that, I blushed some more as Edward was the loudest.

He stared at me incredulously, evidently not sure whether he was still too mad to find me funny. But my bewildered expression pushed him over the edge, and he broke into a roar of laughter.

I picked myself up, ignoring him as I brushed the mud and bracken off the back of my jacket. That only made him laugh harder. Annoyed, I began to stride off into the forest. I felt his arm around my waist.

"Where are you going, Bella?"

"To watch a baseball game. You don't seem to be interested in playing anymore, but I'm sure the others will have fun without you."

"You were kind of being a jerk." Alice said with a frown. Edward just shook his head and sighed.

"You're going the wrong way."

I turned around without looking at him, and stalked off in the opposite direction. He caught me again.

"Don't be mad, I couldn't help myself. You should have seen your face." He chuckled before he could stop himself.

"Oh, you're the only one who's allowed to get mad?" I asked, raising my eyebrows.

"I wasn't mad at you."

"'Bella, you'll be the death of me'?" I quoted sourly.

"That was simply a statement of fact."

"That was mean and rude, Edward." Esme said with a sigh, she couldn't believe that Edward could be like that. He was always the most polite…

I tried to turn away from him again, but he held me fast. "You were mad," I insisted.

"Yes."

"But you just said —"

"That I wasn't mad at you. Can't you see that, Bella?" He was suddenly intense, all trace of teasing gone. "Don't you understand?"

"See what?" I demanded, confused by his sudden mood swing as much as his words.

Jasper looked at me with a firm expression, "I have no idea how you deal with him but I applaud you for it." I couldn't help but smile at him.

"It's not without effort, trust me." I said watching Edward mock frown out of the corner of my eye.

"I'm never angry with you — how could I be? Brave, trusting… warm as you are."

"Then why?" I whispered, remembering the black moods that pulled him away from me, that I'd always interpreted as well-justified frustration — frustration at my weakness, my slowness, my unruly human reactions…

Edward looked incredulous at me before sighing, "Bella, I love you. You have never been weak, slow, and of course you are human and you have human reactions but that's part of the reason why I love you. No other human could walk across a flat surface like you do, or blush as you do…there are so many things that I notice that you write off as something I would hate about you, but those reasons are really the reasons that I love you. They're what make you different." I stared at him in shock as he continued to read.

He put his hands carefully on both sides of my face. "I infuriate myself," he said gently. "The way I can't seem to keep from putting you in danger. My very existence puts you at risk. Sometimes I truly hate myself. I should be stronger, I should be able to —"

Carlisle got a thoughtful expression on his face, "You know, I sometimes wonder if all of these things happen to Bella because fate is trying to push her into becoming a vampire." I felt Edward tense behind me before he loosened and continued to read.

I placed my hand over his mouth. "Don't."

He took my hand, moving it from his lips, but holding it to his face."I love you," he said. "It's a poor excuse for what I'm doing, but it's still true." It was the first time he'd said he loved me — in so many words. He might not realize it, but I certainly did.

"Aww!" Alice and Rose cooed before I blushed a bright red.

"Now, please try to behave yourself," he continued, and he bent to softly brush his lips against mine.

I held properly still. Then I sighed. "You promised Chief Swan that you would have me home early, remember? We'd better get going."

"Yes, ma'am."

He smiled wistfully and released all of me but one hand. He led me a few feet through the tall, wet ferns and draping moss, around a massive hemlock tree, and we were there, on the edge of an enormous open field in the lap of the Olympic peaks. It was twice the size of any baseball stadium.

I could see the others all there; Esme, Emmett, and Rosalie, sitting on a bare outcropping of rock, were the closest to us, maybe a hundred yards away. Much farther out I could see Jasper and Alice, at least a quarter of a mile apart, appearing to throw something back and forth, but I never saw any ball.

They all laughed at me and I blushed, "Human, remember? I can't see things that move that quickly!"

It looked like Carlisle was marking bases, but could they really be that far apart?

When we came into view, the three on the rocks rose. Esme started toward us. Emmett followed after a long look at Rosalie's back; Rosalie had risen gracefully and strode off toward the field without a glance in our direction. My stomach quivered uneasily in response.

"I'm sorry." She said with a sad frown. I slowly got up and hugged her, she seemed stiff and shocked at first but melted and hugged me back gently. "Can you forgive me?"

"Of course." I whispered to her. When I moved back to Edward's lap, Esme's face looked as if she would have cried if it were possible.

"Was that you we heard, Edward?" Esme asked as she approached.

"It sounded like a bear choking," Emmett clarified.

"You would know." I grumbled, he looked at me startled before bursting out into laughter.

I smiled hesitantly at Esme. "That was him."

"Bella was being unintentionally funny," Edward explained, quickly settling the score.

Alice had left her position and was running, or dancing, toward us. She hurtled to a fluid stop at our feet. "It's time," she announced. As soon as she spoke, a deep rumble of thunder shook the forest beyond us, and then crashed westward toward town.

"That…was just plain creepy." I admitted remembering back to that day. It was a memory I hadn't revisited in a while.

"Eerie, isn't it?" Emmett said with easy familiarity, winking at me.

I giggled, "I love you big brother." I said with a grin. He just winked at me again.

"Let's go." Alice reached for Emmett's hand and they darted toward the oversized field; she ran like a gazelle. He was nearly as graceful and just as fast — yet Emmett could never be compared to a gazelle.

Said vampire pouted at that. I just rolled my eyes and ignored him, motioning for Edward to continue.

"Are you ready for some ball?" Edward asked, his eyes eager, bright.

I tried to sound appropriately enthusiastic. "Go team!"

Cue more laughter at my expense.

He snickered and, after mussing my hair, bounded off after the other two. His run was more aggressive, a cheetah rather than a gazelle, and he quickly overtook them. The grace and power took my breath away.

"Nice." Jasper said with a snicker. I frowned at him before doing the mature thing and sticking my tongue out at him.

"These are my personal thoughts…how was I supposed to know we'd be reading them?" No one had an answer for me.

"Shall we go down?" Esme asked in her soft, melodic voice, and I realized I was staring openmouthed after him. I quickly reassembled my expression and nodded. Esme kept a few feet between us, and I wondered if she was still being careful not to frighten me. She matched her stride to mine without seeming impatient at the pace.

She smiled at me lovingly. "You didn't need to worry about that, Mom. I don't think I could be afraid of you. You're too kind and gentle.

"Thank you, Bella."

"You don't play with them?" I asked shyly.

"No, I prefer to referee — I like keeping them honest," she explained.

"Do they like to cheat, then?"

"All the time," Esme smiled.

They all pouted, Carlisle included. "Oh yes you do. Especially you." She said turning to glare at her husband. He just looked at her sheepishly. I couldn't hold in my shock, out of all of them Carlisle was the least likely.

"Dad!" I said shocked, he just smiled at me sheepishly and shrugged. Edward just laughed before continuing to read, saving his father from any more embarrassment.

"Oh yes — you should hear the arguments they get into! Actually, I hope you don't, you would think they were raised by a pack of wolves."

"You sound like my mom," I laughed, surprised.

She laughed, too. "Well, I do think of them as my children in most ways. I never could get over my mothering instincts — did Edward tell you I had lost a child?"

Everyone grew solemn at that reminder, that their mother should have been a mother.

"No," I murmured, stunned, scrambling to understand what lifetime she was remembering.

"Yes, my first and only baby. He died just a few days after he was born, the poor tiny thing," she sighed. "It broke my heart — that's why I jumped off the cliff, you know," she added matter-of-factly.

"You scared me with that, Mom." I admitted, "I had already begun to care about you and to hear that scared me." Esme just smiled sadly at me.

"Edward just said you f-fell," I stammered.

"Always the gentleman." She smiled. "Edward was the first of my new sons. I've always thought of him that way, even though he's older than I, in one way at least." She smiled at me warmly. "That's why I'm so happy that he's found you, dear." The endearment sounded very natural on her lips. "He's been the odd man out for far too long; it's hurt me to see him alone."

"You don't mind, then?" I asked, hesitant again. "That I'm… all wrong for him?"

"You're not all wrong for me/him." Esme and Edward said together causing me to blush, yet again. I leaned back into Edward, enjoying his scent coming off of his coat.

"No." She was thoughtful. "You're what he wants. It will work out, somehow," she said, though her forehead creased with worry. Another peal of thunder began.

Esme stopped then; apparently, we'd reached the edge of the field. It looked as if they had formed teams. Edward was far out in left field, Carlisle stood between the first and second bases, and Alice held the ball, positioned on the spot that must be the pitcher's mound.

Emmett was swinging an aluminum bat; it whistled almost untraceably through the air.

I waited for him to approach home plate, but then I realized, as he took his stance, that he was already there — farther from the pitcher's mound than I would have thought possible.

Jasper stood several feet behind him, catching for the other team. Of course, none of them had gloves.

"Of course!" They all said together, somewhat freaking me out.

"All right," Esme called in a clear voice, which I knew even Edward would hear, as far out as he was. "Batter up."

Alice stood straight, deceptively motionless. Her style seemed to be stealth rather than an intimidating windup. She held the ball in both hands at her waist, and then, like the strike of a cobra, her right hand flicked out and the ball smacked into Jasper's hand.

"Was that a strike?" I whispered to Esme.

"If they don't hit it, it's a strike," she told me.

"Thank you for explaining strange vampire baseball to me, Mom. I didn't understand it in the first place but I somewhat understand it now."

Jasper hurled the ball back to Alice's waiting hand. She permitted herself a brief grin. And then her hand spun out again.

This time the bat somehow made it around in time to smash into the invisible ball. The crack of impact was shattering, thunderous; it echoed off the mountains — I immediately understood the necessity of the thunderstorm.

We all chuckled at my naivety.

The ball shot like a meteor above the field, flying deep into the surrounding forest.

"Home run," I murmured.

"Wait," Esme cautioned, listening intently, one hand raised. Emmett was a blur around the bases, Carlisle shadowing him. I realized Edward was missing.

Said vampire/boyfriend smiled widely.

"Out!"

Esme cried in a clear voice. I stared in disbelief as Edward sprang from the fringe of the trees, ball in his upraised hand, his wide grin visible even to me.

"Emmett hits the hardest," Esme explained, "but Edward runs the fastest."

Emmett pouted and grumbled something unintelligible. All of the vampires, besides Edward, laughed. I just looked around confused, had no idea what was going on.

The inning continued before my incredulous eyes. It was impossible to keep up with the speed at which the ball flew, the rate at which their bodies raced around the field.

I learned the other reason they waited for a thunderstorm to play when Jasper, trying to avoid Edward's infallible fielding, hit a ground ball toward Carlisle. Carlisle ran into the ball, and then raced Jasper to first base. When they collided, the sound was like the crash of two massive falling boulders. I jumped up in concern, but they were somehow unscathed.

I rolled my eyes and sighed, "I know, vampire strength." There were a few chuckles at that.

"Safe," Esme called in a calm voice.

Emmett's team was up by one — Rosalie managed to flit around the bases after tagging up on one of Emmett's long flies — when Edward caught the third out. He sprinted to my side, sparkling with excitement.

"What do you think?" he asked.

"One thing's for sure, I'll never be able to sit through dull old Major League Baseball again."

"But…you didn't do that in the first place…" Emmett said confused.

"And it sounds like you did so much of that before," he laughed.

Emmett looked at Edward in shock before fake gagging and *fainting*. I just giggled at him while Edward rolled his eyes and Rose pulled Emmett's ear until he sat back into his seat.

"I am a little disappointed," I teased.

"Why?" he asked, puzzled.

"Well, it would be nice if I could find just one thing you didn't do better than everyone else on the planet."

He flashed his special crooked smile, leaving me breathless. "I'm up," he said, heading for the plate.

He played intelligently, keeping the ball low, out of the reach of Rosalie's always-ready hand in the outfield, gaining two bases like lightning before Emmett could get the ball back in play. Carlisle knocked one so far out of the field — with a boom that hurt my ears — that he and Edward both made it in. Alice slapped them dainty high fives.

Alice giggled at my comment but didn't say much. Everyone was trying not to hit that sensitive spot called 'James'.

The score constantly changed as the game continued, and they razzed each other like any street ballplayers as they took turns with the lead. Occasionally Esme would call them to order. The thunder rumbled on, but we stayed dry, as Alice had predicted.

"Of course! No one bets against me unless they have a death wish." She glanced at Edward for a fleeting second before smiling at me. I tried not to think too much about what that look could mean.

Carlisle was up to bat, Edward catching, when Alice suddenly gasped.

The tension in the air was palpable as Edward stiffened and continued to read through gritted teeth.

My eyes were on Edward, as usual, and I saw his head snap up to look at her. Their eyes met and something flowed between them in an instant. He was at my side before the others could ask Alice what was wrong.

"Alice?" Esme's voice was tense.

"I didn't see — I couldn't tell," she whispered.

All the others were gathered by this time.

"What is it, Alice?" Carlisle asked with the calm voice of authority.

"They were traveling much quicker than I thought. I can see I had the perspective wrong before," she murmured.

Jasper leaned over her, his posture protective. "What changed?" he asked.

"They heard us playing, and it changed their path," she said, contrite, as if she felt responsible for whatever had frightened her.

Seven pairs of quick eyes flashed to my face and away.

I sighed, this was the one part of reading I wasn't looking forward to.

"How soon?" Carlisle said, turning toward Edward.

A look of intense concentration crossed his face. "Less than five minutes. They're running — they want to play." He scowled.

"Can you make it?" Carlisle asked him, his eyes flicking toward me again.

"No, not carrying —" He cut short. "Besides, the last thing we need is for them to catch the scent and start hunting."

"How many?" Emmett asked Alice.

"Three," she answered tersely.

"Three!" he scoffed. "Let them come." The steel bands of muscle flexed along his massive arms.

Carlisle sighed at that. "It probably would have been better if we did just finish it there." Everyone looked at him in shock but no one said nothing against him, they all had thought something similar at some point in time.

For a split second that seemed much longer than it really was, Carlisle deliberated. Only Emmett seemed unperturbed; the rest stared at Carlisle's face with anxious eyes.

"Let's just continue the game," Carlisle finally decided. His voice was cool and level. "Alice said they were simply curious."

Edward growled and mumbled unintelligibly, and even Esme didn't say anything about it. I carefully and slowly took the book out of his hand and continued to read myself, it would do no good if he tore the book in half.

All this was said in a flurry of words that lasted only a few seconds. I had listened carefully and caught most of it, though I couldn't hear what Esme now asked Edward with a silent vibration of her lips. I only saw the slight shake of his head and the look of relief on her face.

"You catch, Esme," he said. "I'll call it now." And he planted himself in front of me. The others returned to the field, warily sweeping the dark forest with their sharp eyes. Alice and Esme seemed to orient themselves around where I stood.

"Of course. We love you as much as Edward does." Alice said with a small smile.

"Take your hair down," Edward said in a low, even voice.

I obediently slid the rubber band out of my hair and shook it out around me. I stated the obvious. "The others are coming now."

"Yes, stay very still, keep quiet, and don't move from my side, please." He hid the stress in his voice well, but I could hear it. He pulled my long hair forward, around my face.

"That won't help," Alice said softly. "I could smell her across the field."

"I know." A hint of frustration colored his tone. Carlisle stood at the plate, and the others joined the game halfheartedly.

"What did Esme ask you?" I whispered.

He hesitated for a second before he answered. "Whether they were thirsty," he muttered unwillingly.

"Like that would matter." Rose hissed, she was angry at herself for the way she handled things and I could see her torn face.

The seconds ticked by; the game progressed with apathy now. No one dared to hit harder than a bunt, and Emmett, Rosalie, and Jasper hovered in the infield. Now and again, despite the fear that numbed my brain, I was aware of Rosalie's eyes on me. They were expressionless, but something about the way she held her mouth made me think she was angry.

She sighed, "I was mad at you for endangering my family…but I see now that you are a part of my family. I don't think I would be able to deal if anything happened to you now…you are my sister Bella." I couldn't keep the tears in anymore as I ran over and hugged her tightly, I had always hoped she wouldn't hate me forever.

Edward paid no attention to the game at all, eyes and mind ranging the forest. "I'm sorry, Bella," he muttered fiercely. "It was stupid, irresponsible, to expose you like this. I'm so sorry."

I heard his breath stop, and his eyes zeroed in on right field. He took a half step, angling himself between me and what was coming.

Carlisle, Emmett, and the others turned in the same direction, hearing sounds of passage much too faint for my ears.

There was silence as I handed the book to Rose. "The Hunt"

~oOo~

Don't hate me! *hides under the bed*