a/n: Thank you so much for the reviews for last chapter!
"Are you OK?" I asked her a few hours later.
Bella turned to look at me, a weak smile on her heart-shaped face. "I'm fine," she answered, obviously lying. When her father's flight departed, her mood had instantly sobered.
"You miss him when he goes," I commented.
She tore her gaze away from the taxi window as it pulled away from the curb at LaGuardia Airport and turned to me, then shrugged. "I never really saw him that much until I moved in with him, and then…" she sighed looking out the window again. "It just went by too fast," she muttered.
"Do you ever go home to Forks?" I asked.
"Not very often," she admitted, ashamed by the fact.
"Why not?" I pressed.
"Charlie's…busy. I don't want him to have to…rearrange his life to accommodate me," she insisted.
I laughed softly, surprised by her unselfishness. I'd been wrong in guessing that life in Forks had become too mundane for the celebrity lifestyle I'd assumed she'd been living. "He's your father, Bella. I think he'd rearrange Heaven and Earth if you told him you wanted to come for a visit."
Bella chewed her lower lip thoughtfully. "Maybe," she said, her gaze moving toward the sky as yet another plane departed.
I hadn't noticed it in the taxi; I'd been too preoccupied with my dad leaving. But now that we were back at my apartment, I was extremely aware that Edward and I were alone. I'd never before realized what a powerful presence he had…or how small my apartment was. I desperately needed to get away from the man who'd been invading my dreams since I was sixteen years old.
"Ummm…I'm gonna go call Jacob," I said, pulling my cell phone out of the pocket of my black hoodie.
"Who's Jacob?" Edward asked.
"A friend from home," I answered. "He lives on the reservation. I just wanna fill him in on what's going on."
I nodded. "Mmm hmm." I headed for my bedroom and gasped when Edward appeared in front of me as if from nowhere—a maneuver he'd somehow managed to perfect in high school. I turned around and looked back to where he'd just been standing. "Wha—"
He snagged the phone from my hand. "You can't call Jacob," he said firmly.
I could feel my gaze harden, and I laughed in disbelief. "Why not?" I asked, reaching for it. But he was quick to pull it out of my grasp. "Give me my phone!"
"Well, you can call him, but you can't tell him what's going on," Edward informed me firmly, holding my phone back out to me.
"Oh, what? You think Jacob is in on this?" I asked with a laugh as I took it back.
Edward shook his head. "I didn't say that. But the fact of the matter…is that we don't know who is in on this. Or who isn't."
"Well I know Jacob isn't," I insisted.
"Bella," Edward said softly. "If you're going to be defiant every step of the way, this is going to be incredibly difficult."
"But it's Jacob," I whispered.
"I'm not saying Jacob is in on this," he told me. "But…he might know the person who is and if he said something to them, even without meaning to…"
I sighed. "I know," I finally conceded, stuffing my cell phone back into the pocket of my hoodie. "I won't say anything to him."
"But it might be a good idea to tell him we're dating."
"What?" I asked in surprise, my eyes full of shock, I was sure.
"Are you two close?" Edward asked.
"Don't you think he'll find it odd if you suddenly start dating someone you went to high school with and didn't tell him about it?"
"It's just…awkward," I admitted, my cheeks turning bright red. "Jacob has a little bit of a…crush on me," I muttered. "We don't usually talk about who I date." OK, so I didn't ever date, but Edward certainly didn't need to know that.
"It's either you or the tabloids, Bella," he told me.
Bella took a deep breath and I noticed for the first time how lifeless her eyes looked, how sunken in her cheek bones were. She wasn't as immune to what was going on as she was pretending. "Right. It'll be better…and more believable coming from me."
"Bella, are you sure you're OK with this?" I asked, concerned.
"Pretending that we're a couple?"
I nodded. "We could find another way if that's what you want," I told her.
"I just…" She shook her head. "I know it shouldn't bother me. But…the tabloids print enough lies about me without me intentionally giving them one to print."
"It's for a good reason," I reminded her.
"I know," she agreed. "And…thanks, Edward. If I…seem to be a little resistant at first, just call me on it. I've just…lost a lot of freedom to the press and now this…person is taking even more of it away." She laughed bitterly. "Whoever he is."
"It won't be forever, Bella."
"I won't let anyone hurt you," I said fiercely.
Relief flooded her eyes before she smiled weakly. "I believe you," she said before disappearing into her room.
I'd tried to convince myself that nothing was going on, and it had been easy to believe that when my dad was here. But I was quickly realizing that it was Charlie who made me feel safe, and while I believed Edward when he said he wouldn't let anyone hurt me, it wasn't quite the same as having Charlie here.
I pulled a spare set of blankets and sheets from the walk in closet in my bedroom and returned to the living room. "I just need to strip the bed in the guest room. My dad slept in it last night, so I want to put a fresh set of bedding on it for you."
"Thank you," Edward said as he looked up from his laptop. He'd spread his things out on the coffee table in my living room.
I nodded, and then made my way into the guest room to get it ready for him.
After finishing up, I made my way into the kitchen and was looking through the refrigerator to see what I had that could be used for supper. I sighed as I closed the door and then returned to the living room. "Are you hungry?" I asked.
"Not really," Edward answered, barely looking up.
"Well, I am. I'm going to the produce stand down on the corner to get some fresh vegetables."
Edward closed his laptop. "Great," he said, standing. "You can debut me."
"Debut you?" I asked in confusion.
"As your new boyfriend," he reminded me.
"Right," I said, suddenly rethinking the vegetable stand idea.
When I laced my fingers with hers, Bella gasped and would have pulled away if I hadn't tightened my grip. "Your hands are freezing," she said breathlessly.
"Poor circulation," I told her as the elevator doors slid open, thankful that I didn't have the same human reaction a mere mortal would have. Otherwise, my own heart would have been racing. For as long as I could remember, I'd wanted to touch her.
Bella laughed nervously as the stepped off the elevator. "More like no circulation," she informed me.
I chuckled as we made our way onto the sidewalk and into the sunlight. It was a good thing I'd had human blood before I'd made the trip. It was the only thing that kept me from glimmering in the sunlight. I was going to have to contact Carlisle so I could find a way to get more. "So, you like New York?" I asked.
"I like the fact that there are hundreds of people on the sidewalk at any given time," she explained. "It makes me harder to spot."
I nodded. "As opposed to Los Angeles?"
"It's not as easy to go incognito in L.A.," she told me. "So I sold my place there and rented the apartment here. I only go back to California for appearances and shoots."
"It makes sense," I agreed as I stopped at the crosswalk, waiting for the sign to indicate that it was OK for us cross. I heard a shutter and clenched Bella's hand tighter in mine, using my strength to pull her against my chest.
She gave me a questioning look, but didn't say anything.
"Camera," I answered her unasked question softly.
When I lifted my fingertips to her cheek and bent to kiss her on the forehead, I heard her heartbeat accelerate and felt her hands clench mine ever so slightly tighter.
Maybe this was going to go better than I thought.