Tales From The Void Contest

Pen Name: To Make You Feel My Love

Rating: M

Genre: Sci-Fi / Romance

Word Count: 9,168

Pairing: Bella / Edward

Summary: (255 Character Limit): A deadly discovery makes Bella's life in Phoenix unbearable. She is granted a fresh start, in a new town, but will she ever find someone who can withstand her deadly touch? AU

Disclaimer: Warning: Includes dark themes including vampires doing what vampires will do. I own nothing, neither Twilight nor the other series which helped inspire this story. Thanks must go to a special someone who shall remain nameless for the purposes of anonymity.

~ 0 ~

I never realized just how important touch was until my own ability to connect with people was destroyed. Before, I never knew how lucky I was. I had a relatively normal, happy childhood. I had a mother who loved me and a step-father who loved her. Everything was perfect until I reached puberty in my mid-teens. Most people say this is the time where everything changes; for me, it came with an unwelcome and terrible discovery. I wasn't entirely certain what triggered the change, but I figured it was something to do with my shifting hormones, because my curse first appeared at the same time as my first kiss.

Logan and I started out as just friends. The best of friends, in fact, but life had a way of complicating everything.

When he asked me to go steady, I agreed. Our parents would always comment on how cute we were together, holding hands and passing notes in class. I think our mothers had already started to plan our wedding; they were so certain we would end up together forever.

I wanted to kiss him. I wanted him to want to kiss me. I started to feel strange around him, my skin would have a lingering tingle after we'd touched. I tried talking to my mother, Renee, about it but she told me it was just a natural part of growing up. We must have had the same conversation about the birds and the bees at least half a dozen times, but I never found an explanation.

Was it normal to feel Logan long after we'd touched?

I grew concerned when Logan began to complain of aches, which seemed to appear after he held my hand, but after yet another discussion with my mom, I pushed my worry aside. He was a growing teenager, she'd told me, aches and pains were par for the course.

On the day everything changed, Logan and I were studying at my house after school. We were lying side by side on our stomachs, on my bed. He was telling me something, but I could only focus on the shape of his mouth, not the words it was forming. I licked my lips and suddenly there was a moment between us; almost as if time stopped temporarily.

He leaned toward me and I shifted slightly to reach him. Our mouths met in one wonderful instant and I felt alive, more alive than I had ever been before. My heart beat faster, my breathing quickened and my mind rejoiced in the sensation. I parted my lips slightly in response to the urgent desires that had begun to surge through my body.

It was a perfect moment, one which I knew would be etched into my mind for as long as I lived.

In the next instant, Logan twisted away and began to convulse. Saliva foamed on his pale lips as he struggled for breath. I watched helplessly, screaming as his eyes rolled back into his head and he shook violently. I called desperately for Renee or her husband, Phil, feeling more anxious as each second passed.

After weeks in the hospital and countless tests, the doctors hadn't been able to find a cause for Logan's 'episode'—as they called it—but I knew what had happened. I could still feel his panic. I could hear the whisper of his voice in my head. In that instant, I had been connected to him and through that connection, I had stolen a part of him. I had drawn his life-force into me.

When Renee tried to calm me down, a sliver of her skin had brushed against mine; she'd pulled away in shock and looked at me in disgust. I hadn't been prepared for that look and, although she tried to hide it almost instantly, it revealed the truth to me. I heard her and Phil talking about it later, and I knew what I was—one of the unspeakable ones.

Rumors told of a new breed of humanity—some called them the next step of evolution, others called them freaks. I was one of them. I was a mutant.

I was a monster.

By the time I arrived at school on Monday, my life as I knew it was over. Logan's little sister had told everyone that I'd tried to suck his soul. It didn't matter how fantastical it sounded, there were many people willing to play along. Logan was popular and his sister could spin a wonderful story. It didn't help that I believed it to be true as well.

Before I knew it, I was a centuries-old witch who fed on the life-force of teenage boys to stay young. I spent every afternoon at home in tears, unable to find any comfort in my ever more distant mom.

I began covering almost every inch of my body in material just to be certain I didn't accidentally brush against someone else. The worst part was that I couldn't deny the rumors, especially not when I felt they were, at least in part, true.

My life quickly became an endless torture. I was hot all the time, to the point where I would often faint in class and come to just as a teacher touched me in an attempt to wake me.

In time, even the teachers grew wary of the ill-feeling caused by even a fleeting touch of my skin.

Barely a month had passed—a month spent in purgatory—before I'd finally had enough. I threw my belongings into a duffel bag and tried to run away. I was halfway out the door when mom found me. She didn't even try to convince me to stay. Instead she suggested I move to Forks to live with my dad, Charlie.

"At least your clothes won't look so out of place there," she said.

~ 0 ~

I pressed my face to the cool window of the cruiser, watching as the thick forest of lush green trees lining the road rushed past in a blur.

Charlie and I had barely spoken since he'd picked me up from the airport. We'd shared pleasantries and he'd stood awkwardly, as if uncertain whether to try to hug me or not. I panicked that Renee had told him her suspicions about me—a truth I wanted hidden at all costs. As I watched his growing awkwardness, I remembered that he wasn't much of a hugger. In fact, I couldn't immediately recall sharing an embrace in at least four years.

His stance reminded me of the goodbye I'd shared with Renee—who most definitely was a hugger. She'd gone to wrap her arms around me, but had stopped herself at the last moment and clasped my shoulder in her hands instead.

"Take care of yourself, Bella," she said, but I heard the words she didn't say just as clearly.

'Don't screw up this chance at a normal life.'

I longed to be able to do something as normal as hug my mother goodbye but it was too great a risk that skin would meet skin: a cheek, a neck, fingertips. There was just too much chance that I could hurt someone I loved, or that I would expose my true nature to those around me.

I was brought back to the present by Charlie's voice.

"I, uh, bought you a car," he said as we turned into a street that was both familiar and not.

I'd spent my summers in Forks when I was a child, and the stretch of road that led to Charlie's house had ingrained itself in my memory and yet nothing had stayed exactly the same. Houses had been painted, trees felled and gardens planted. Old neighbors had moved out, and new ones in.

"She's not much to look at, but the engine is reliable, and I've been assured you won't have any trouble."

I craned my neck toward Charlie's house, seeing a large, mostly red monstrosity parked out front. Car wasn't exactly the word I'd use to describe it, truck was slightly more adequate. It looked like it was in need of a loving touch and I couldn't help but relate to the beast—flawed on the outside but somehow still strong within.

"Thank you," I said.

Charlie blushed slightly but waved me off. "I just want you to be happy here. I thought it would be easier if you didn't have to ride everywhere in the cruiser."

I knew it was probably the time that most people would give their father a hug or a kiss on the cheek to show their appreciation, but I couldn't. I couldn't risk him giving me the same look that Renee had. I couldn't risk having both of my parents thinking I was a freak.

Instead, I nodded and thanked him again.

~ 0 ~

The first day at a new school was always going to be the hardest. That's what I kept telling myself as I drove toward Forks High. I'd never actually experienced being the new person before. I'd always moved up from year to year with the same friends.

Charlie had been worried about me making friends; truthfully I would've been too. I knew how unwelcoming the incumbent student body could be. I would have worried about it, except I figured having no allies amongst a school of strangers would be easier for me than being the enemy of those I'd once called friends.

I just hoped the things that set me apart in Phoenix would be less evident in Forks. The constant rain and cloud cover were supposed to help by allowing me to wear concealing clothing and not look out of place.

But of course, I'd woken to a traitorous day of sunshine on the first day of school. I arrived early and took a seat at a vacant table as far away from the entrance as possible.

"Hi, you must be Isabella? I'm Eric."

A voice broke into my daydream. I squinted into the sunlight in an attempt to see the person talking. A tall, lanky boy with dark, greasy hair stood smiling at me. He offered his hand to help me up. I knew I could have accepted his offer—I was wearing my trusty gloves—but decided against it in the end, knowing how easy it was for the cuff of my long-sleeved shirt to pull up and expose a sliver of my wrist. The risk of his skin coming in contact with mine may have been small, but it was still a risk I couldn't take.

"It's just Bella," I said as I stood and brushed imaginary dirt from myself. I tried to smile as warmly as I could, wary of revealing too much of myself.

"Well, Just Bella," he said, smiling. "Let me show you around Forks High."

To my surprise, almost everyone was incredibly welcoming on my first day. I actually began to allow myself to believe that I could have an almost normal life in Forks—if only I could avoid touching anyone for the rest of my high school career.

I thought my luck was continuing when I walked into a biology class full of partnered tables. There was only one spare desk, and it sat empty which suited me perfectly.

Then the teacher ruined it.

"I've been informed that Edward is absent today, he'll be your lab partner. I hope you don't mind working alone for the moment."

I nodded, glad for the reprieve, however brief it may have been. I breathed a sigh of relief when he dismissed me without asking me to stand in front of the class and introduce myself—which seemed to be all teachers' preferred form of torture.

By the time I drove myself home I was beginning to think that maybe, just maybe, Forks would be the answer to my prayers.

~ 0 ~

The next day dawned blissfully bleak, with the sun hiding beneath the thick grey blanket of clouds. Rain fell sporadically against the window and I knew I would feel comfortable in my clothing for once. Perhaps for the first time since everything changed.

I stopped short when I reached the Biology room. A young man—Edward I presumed—filled the space that had been empty yesterday, the contents of his bag spread out over exactly one-half of the desk. His head was down, and he seemed to be drawing in a notebook. Because of his position, the first thing I noticed was his copper hair. It shone like a penny, even in the artificial light, and stuck out in every direction. It was the sort of style that took either forever or no time at all to create.

As I took another step into the classroom, his demeanor shifted. He sat straighter in his seat and lifted his head slightly. No one else seemed to notice the subtle 'snap' that filled the air as his hands fisted tightly and the pencil he was holding folded in half as if it was nothing more than a twig. He set his shoulders squarely and focused on the desk in front of him, becoming completely motionless. He grew so still that I couldn't even see him breathing.

I moved closer, my eyes locked onto him, my mind trying to examine the unusual presence he seemed to exude. I could see no reason for his sudden tension, nothing had been said to him, and nothing else seemed out of the ordinary.

"Hi," I said, trying to be cheerful and force the curiosity out of my voice. I didn't want to make a bad impression on someone I would be forced to work with for the remainder of the year. "I'm Bella, you—"

He turned to face me and my words died on my tongue. His obsidian eyes burned with hatred as he looked at me. Deep purple circles colored the smooth skin under his eyes, like eye black smudged across his high cheekbones. The shade stood in stark contrast to his colorless skin; paler even than mine which never saw the sun. His glare was cold and his lips turned up into a slight snarl.

Despite those things, which seemed to mark him as unhealthy, which gave him a dangerous appearance, and could have been considered flaws, he was still fascinating.

I wanted to finish my greeting, but couldn't find my voice amongst the clamor of thoughts in my mind.

Why is he looking at me like that?

He glared at me for a moment more before giving a curt nod and turning away just as the teacher began to call the roll.

Throughout the lesson, he never said another word to me. I grew paranoid, wondering whether the rumors of the freak that had almost killed her boyfriend with a kiss had spread from Phoenix. I felt my eyes starting to well up as I considered that maybe life in Forks wouldn't be any easier than life in Phoenix had been.

The next day, Edward was once again waiting in the biology class before I arrived. As I approached our table, his fingers curled into tight fists and his back grew ramrod straight. I took my seat, and he nodded politely to me. In the brief second when our eyes met, I saw the endless black holes of hatred were gone, replaced with a light honey color. The deep purple circles underneath his eyes had faded to a pale lavender and were barely noticeable. I wondered whether his absence on my first day had been due to illness and that his pale skin and dark circles I'd seen the day before were symptoms.

I must have been wrong, his eyes aren't nearly as dark as I imagined.

I decided to try introducing myself again, hoping we could get off to a better start the second time around.

"Hello, I'm—"

"Hi, I'm—"

We both started to speak at the same time and cut one another off.

He seemed to appraise me carefully for a moment before his eyebrows wrinkled into a frown. He turned away from me without another word.

As the lesson progressed, he shifted further away from me. When we began lab work, it seemed like he was making a concerted effort to avoid my touch. It was impossible, but I began to suspect he knew my secret.

I watched Edward and his family carefully over the next few weeks. There were little things about them that didn't make sense; for one thing, they never ate. They each collected a tray full of food from the cafeteria at the beginning of lunch and deposited it all, untouched, into the bin at the end.

During Biology class, Edward and I began to develop something of an uneasy truce.

During our forth lesson together, we actually got beyond 'hello'. He startled me as I'd been expecting his usual silence.

"You live with your father," he said, more a statement than a question.

I nodded. "Yeah, just the two of us."

"You used to live with your mother?" he asked.

I didn't want to talk about my past.

"How about you?" I asked in return—even though I'd heard all the gossip about the Cullens. "Tell me about your family."

He frowned and turned away. Our conversation was over.

I could never know whether I would get the dark-eyed Edward who was cold and aloof or the golden-eyed one who could be charming and warm. Each time he was willing to talk to me, I took full advantage. I had to if I wanted to figure out how much he knew or suspected about me.

~ 0 ~

As I pondered the mystery of Edward and the Cullens, the weeks slipped by. Winter set in and with it came ice and sleet. The roads grew slippery and dangerous; accidents and near misses became a regular occurrence in the school parking lot.

I stood across the lot from Edward, watching him interact with his family. He seemed more comfortable amongst the other beautiful people than he ever did in a classroom with me.

A loud squealing pulled my attention away for just a moment. I turned to see a blue van skidding toward me. I tried to step out of the way, but there was nowhere to go. I was boxed in by my own truck.

Less than a second later, I felt the impact.

Something hard and cold collided with my body. It took me just an instant to realize that it had come from the wrong direction. Rather than being pinned against my truck, I had been pushed away and had fallen to the ground. My head smacked into the hard bitumen; the point of impact instantly throbbed in agony and a sea of black and red bloomed behind my eyes. I bit my tongue, the red liquid dripping into my throat. I felt myself begin to descend into darkness.

A cold hand brushed against the wound on the back of my head and an explosion of noise brought me back to consciousness. Worried voices shouted at me from all around the wreckage, and other voices seemed to take hold of my brain and bombard me with concern. As the seconds dragged by, I realized I was being held, caressed even. I wanted to relax into the sensation, to live with the feeling of another's hand on my skin. I wanted to weep at how wonderful it felt.

"Blood. She's hurt," a velvet voice—Edward's—whispered somewhere close by—for a moment it sounded like it was right inside my head. "I was trying to save her, and I hurt her more."

I realized that Edward was beside me. It was his hand caressing the wound on my head and I'd never felt anything so invigorating, until I realized it was his life-force I was draining in order to heal. I twisted away from him.

"Don't touch me," I warned quietly.

"Bella," he released my name as a sigh infused with such relief it was palpable.

I opened my eyes and realized he was close—so close. I tried to move myself away, but I was unable to force my shocked body to comply. Edward seemed to realize I was trying to find some space, and moved as far away from me as he was able to. A look of disappointment crossed his features. He seemed to notice a smear of blood left on his fingers from the wound on my head.

"You're bleeding," he murmured, his eyes darker than his tone. He licked his lips slowly before swallowing heavily. I shook my head. "I'm fine."

I closed my eyes as the sounds of concern continued around us. As I opened them again, I could have sworn I saw Edward eyeing his hand carefully and swallowing once more. I wondered if he had felt my influence on his body. In truth, part of me wondered how he was still able to sit and talk—how he hadn't begun to convulse or been rendered unconsciousness, or worse.

Neither Edward nor I spoke while we waited for rescue. He seemed anxious to be away from me and I knew my time of relative peace in Forks was about to come crashing to a halt.

~ 0 ~

"You were released already?" Edward asked as he snuck up behind me while I followed Charlie into the hospital parking lot.

I shrugged. "I told you before you insisted that I take an ambulance that it wasn't that bad."

He shook his head. "You were bleeding, Bella. You hit the ground with such force, I was certain your skull was fractured."

His eyes were full of guilt and while I couldn't tell him why I was okay—I barely understood that myself—I could at least give him some comfort. I stopped and turned to him.

"Thank you for saving me," I said quietly. "I don't know how you reached me as quickly as you did, but thank you."

"I was standing right next to you."

He hadn't been, I was certain of it. I could clearly remember watching him across the lot less than a second earlier. His eyes implored me to understand.

Perhaps he's got secrets which he wants to keep, just like I do.

If playing along with him kept the truth about me hidden for a little longer, I was willing to cooperate.

"That's right," I said with a careful smile. "I remember now, you were standing right next to me. You pulled me out of the way."

His eyes conveyed a 'Thank you'.

"Well…" I cast a significant look over toward Charlie's cruiser. "I have to keep going."

He nodded, but then his face turned thoughtful. "Bella, I have to ask, when we touched—"

"I have to go," I said as I shook my head and backed away slowly. I should have known he would want to know more. I wondered whether he'd already decided I was a freak. I turned and walked to Charlie as quickly as I could.

~ 0 ~

During the week that followed the accident, Edward tried to approach me on several occasions. Each time, he had the same thoughtful look on his face and I knew his questions would turn toward my touch. I avoided him as much as I could, which wasn't much, as he would seemingly just appear out of nowhere whenever I was alone.

I waited for the rumors to start, for the name-calling to begin, for anything that indicated that he had given up my secret. His family would occasionally give me strange looks as they passed by, but thankfully they never said a word.

In the Biology classroom, our mutual unease had frosted into an icy silence. We spoke only as often as was absolutely necessary, but I felt Edward's eyes burning into my skin whenever I was facing Mr. Banner. I would turn toward him to catch him, but his eyes were invariably staring straight ahead. I began to wonder whether I was simply imagining things.

One day, Edward wasn't in class. I thought it was odd considering I'd seen him sitting with his family at lunchtime. From what I'd seen, he was studious, with an almost meticulous attendance record excluding the rare sunny days when his family went hiking.

I put it out of my mind as I waited for the class to begin, but the absence of Edward seemed to leave a hole in the room. It was almost as if I had grown so accustomed to his strange intensity that I missed it when it was gone.

Mr. Banner began handing boxes around the class, instructing everyone to take one of the items from each box. The boxes hadn't even reached me when he began his instructions, taking a micro-lancet and piercing the tip of Mike's finger. The thought of the sharp point piercing his soft skin made my stomach twist sickeningly. I felt faint at the thought of his blood flowing from the tiny wound. I rested my head against the cool surface of the desk and tried to hold down my lunch.

I heard my name and someone asked if I was feeling alright. I shook my head, rolling my forehead from side to side on the desk.

"Can someone please take Bella to the nurse?" I heard Mr. Banner ask. His voice was closer to me when he spoke again. "Can you walk?"

I nodded. I couldn't risk anyone trying to carry me. I stood on shaky legs, trying to get to my feet. Someone grabbed my wrist—fear seized me that they would accidentally shift an item of clothing—and guided my arm over their shoulder.

"I've got you," Mike's voice whispered lowly in my ear.

I tried to support my own weight as he helped me from the room and, as soon as I was free of the classroom, I pulled away from him. I took two steps before slowly sinking to the ground and closing my eyes to get some relief.

"Bella?" A velvet voice—which was absolutely not Mike's—came suddenly from somewhere nearby.

A cool, smooth, hard hand reached out and touched my forehead briefly.

"How can he be so cool around her? Why does he get so much of her attention?" Mike asked.

"It's almost easy to ignore the flowing blood with her sweet scent so close," Edward said.

Mike and Edward spoke at exactly the same time, but neither of their statements made any sense to me. I wondered whether I was delirious.

My eyes flew open and I leapt to my feet, lurching desperately away from Edward. I was instantly better—as if I'd never felt faint in the first place. In fact, I was even better than I'd been before. I felt energised, electricity running through my body which seemed to linger much longer than it had even when I'd kissed Logan. I craved more, a longer touch. I looked up, expecting to see horror-struck faces.

Edward looked down at his hand in shock. I turned away from him so I didn't have to see the expression that would follow—the same one Renee had worn after she'd touched me. Mike looked between Edward and I clearly confused.

I didn't wait for either of them to get their bearings, just turned and made a beeline for my truck. I wasn't walking fast, perhaps deliberately so that Edward would have been able to catch up if he wanted to. He didn't.

Between the rain smashing against my windscreen and the tears flooding my eyes, I had difficulty seeing as I drove home.

As soon as I was safely in my bedroom, I turned on my ancient computer and searched for more information about others like me. Each and every website mentioned a Dr Jean Grey, a scholar who had penned a book on human evolution. There was one word which was repeated over and over. I saw it so much it was burned into my brain. It was the same one Renee had used. One I'd been too scared to look up back then. It was the only word that could describe me now.


~ 0 ~

I considered not going to school the next morning—possibly ever again—but then I wondered where that would get me. As much as I wanted to, I could never run from myself. I would always have my curse.

I decided to brave classes and pretend that nothing had happened. Mike had been so clueless, he put my disappearing act down to feeling unwell. He barely even mentioned it, other than to ask if I was feeling better.

Edward, on the other hand, was avoiding me. It felt like Phoenix all over again. I kept expecting to see huddles of students whispering and laughing as I walked by. I wrapped my arms around myself, dropped my chin to my chest and just tried to avoid everyone. But, by the end of the week, I began to think that Edward still hadn't betrayed my trust. I couldn't understand it—other than the possibility he had his own secrets he wanted kept. I wanted to ask him why he hadn't told anyone what had happened when he touched me—twice now—but to do so would be admitting I knew something happened. Maybe he just hadn't put two and two together. Maybe if I asked him, it would prompt him to talk about it to someone else.

I could still feel his eyes on me, following me wherever I went. I began to live for the procedural talk in Biology—it was the only contact we had and I inexplicably craved so much more.

~ 0 ~

As the weeks went by, I began to relax. Nothing had been said by Edward or his family. In fact, talk had turned almost exclusively to the upcoming girls' choice spring dance. Two of the girls who had befriended me, Jess and Angela, invited me to Port Angeles to go dress shopping. Once, a shopping trip would have once been low on my priority list—I'd endured plenty of hours-long trips with Renee. However, seeing people smile at me again and having friendly conversations instead of hearing hurtful comments, made me willing to endure a few dress shops. I also hoped there would be a bookstore that might complement the woefully inadequate Forks library, whose librarian had never even heard of Dr Jean Grey.

We left for Port Angeles almost immediately after school. It felt almost nice and carefree. My many layers of clothing were the only real reminder of what was wrong with me. I almost felt normal for once.

I'd watched the girls go through dress after dress, critiquing and commenting where I saw fit, but eventually it became too much. They wanted to look at shoes and jewelry, but I was worried it would be starting to get dark soon. We arranged to meet at a restaurant before I asked Jess for directions to the nearest bookstore.

I paced quickly as I followed Jess' directions, but when I found the store she was talking about, I didn't even bother to go inside. The window-dressing was gaudy and full of books about the healing power of crystals. It was all a little too 'New Age' for my liking and I figured they wouldn't have anything I would be interested in.

I still had plenty of time before I was due to meet Jess and Angela for dinner, so I thought I would try a little aimless wondering and see if I could find another bookstore. I followed the heavy foot traffic until it began to thin out. Then, I saw a building that I thought looked promising and headed toward it. At the last moment, I realized it was a bust. I began to turn back around and found I was completely lost.

I increased my pace and pulled my jacket tighter around me. For the first time in as long as I could remember, I felt cold despite my many layers of clothing.

I came to the end of a street and couldn't be certain which way I needed to go. There was a group of people walking together in one direction, which made me think that might be the way to civilization. I walked as fast as I could until I was almost directly behind the group—which I realized was a group consisting solely of young men.

Young, drunk men.

"What have we here?" one asked.

"A pretty thing like you shouldn't be out alone after dark?"

"Maybe we can walk you home?"

I shivered at the menace in their voices.

One of them reached for my jacket and I tried to pull away from him.

"Don't touch me," I warned.

Another one raked his hand down my arm, catching my glove and pulling it loose. His skin brushed softly against mine and his eyes momentarily curled backward into his head. I used the break in my attackers' ranks to push past them.

Arms constricted around my waist, stopping my escape.

"Where do you think you're going?" Foul breath breezed across my cheek.

I struggled to get loose, but he wouldn't release me. I did the only thing I could think of. I reached down with my bare hand and clasped onto his arm. His grip slackened instantly.

I twisted around, continuing to hold onto him, as he fell down to the ground. I released his arm and ran just as he started to convulse. His friends were so concerned with what had happened to him, they didn't pay attention to me. I raced for the main road, desperate to be as far away from the area as possible. I may have been the one under attack, but I knew that wouldn't mean much to the authorities—or the press—if they found out. During my research, I'd seen the way people with extra abilities were treated.

Unthinking in my rush, I leapt into the path of an oncoming car, but the silver Volvo pulled up to a perfect stop inches from me.

"Get in."


I recognized the voice at once. I felt unexpected relief flood through my body as I rushed to the passenger door. I was barely inside before he spoke.

"Bella, how did you do that?"

I swallowed hard. I knew exactly what he meant, but wanted to play dumb, to pretend I hadn't just fought off an attacker with nothing more than a light grip.

He frowned but didn't say more.

I was surprised when we pulled up in front of the restaurant where I'd agreed to meet Jessica and Angela.

"How did you know to come here?" I asked him.

He raised his eyebrow and I understood. I had my secrets, he had his.

"I have to find Jessica and Angela. They must be worried about me."

A wry smile formed on his lips.

I tilted my head in confusion, but he just climbed from the car before opening my door a moment later. He indicated silently that I should follow and I clambered from the car, trying to stop my head from spinning as I struggled to process everything that had happened.

Edward led me into the restaurant and I saw Jessica and Angela calmly eating dinner and discussing their purchases. I brushed past the hostess, ignoring her pleas to stop, and walked straight to Jessica and Angela.

"Sorry," I murmured. "I ran into Edward and we got talking."

Jess looked around eagerly for Edward. Angela looked surprised.

Edward touched my elbow. "I got us a table. We can continue our conversation there. I'll give you a ride home later too, if you like."

"You don't mind, do you?" I asked the girls even as I nodded to Edward.

I wasn't entirely certain I wanted to continue our talk, but I didn't want to allow our silence to fester any longer. There was little to say unless we were both willing to give up our secrets.

I bid Jessica and Angela goodnight, certain I would be facing an interrogation at school.

I followed Edward to a quiet table in a secluded part of the restaurant.

"How were you able to fight off those monsters?" he asked quietly when we were alone.

A shiver ran down my spine at his question. I shrugged my shoulders, hoping to avoid telling him my secret.

He leaned forward and whispered fervently. "It hurt him to touch you, didn't it? And when you touched him, I've never seen anything like it before."

There was almost a reverence in his voice. I bit my lip to stop myself from telling him everything, and to stop myself from crying. I knew if he discovered the truth, I would be a freak again.

But he hasn't shared your secrets yet. He knows, or at least suspects, enough to make you a laughing stock already.

"How did you know to come to this restaurant?" I asked.

He leaned back, a ghost of a smile lifting the corner of his mouth. "I'll tell you mine if you tell me yours."

I glanced surreptitiously over my shoulder, making sure we were out of earshot of anybody else. I leaned over the table, and Edward mimicked my position.

"I don't know how I do it," I said honestly.

A flash of disappointment crossed his features; he thought I was refusing to tell him my secret.

"I don't know how, but I do know what happens."

My stomach twisted in knots as I thought about admitting the truth to him. He was still able to destroy my new life in Forks with a single word.

"When I touch someone, the smallest touch, my skin absorbs their…essence."

He frowned and looked down at his fingers as if remembering the feeling when he'd touched my forehead.

"I knew I felt something," he whispered. "That's why you were okay, even though I know you fractured your skull. You were bleeding."

His eyes met mine and I was pinned in place.

His finger reached for my naked hand. I was tempted to pull away, but I couldn't. I wanted him to touch me. I needed to feel his skin again. Ever so slowly, the smooth, cool tip of his finger stroked softly along the top of my hand.

My skin tingled with life and vitality as he brushed it gently, a cold thrill following the same path as his finger.

He gently rested his palm on the back of my hand, the chill enveloping me at the same time. I wanted to warn him not to; he risked being hospitalized after such prolonged exposure.

A cacophony of sound erupted in my mind. Voices—sounding like they were being blasted at me through a metal funnel—spoke words that I couldn't understand. I clenched my eyes tightly as I tried to make sense of the din.

The voices battled for dominance in my mind, cutting across one another until I could begin to understand fragments of conversation. 'I wonder… She always… We're splitting three… Remembered to tape… He paying her any attention… Why do we always… She's just like me… Never seen someone that attractive...'


I yanked my hand away from Edward and the final word reverberated through my mind. It was clearer and louder than anything else I'd heard and Edward's voice had been unmistakable. I stood quickly, pushing the chair away from the table, and ran. I had no idea how I was going to get home. Part of me worried about stumbling across the men from earlier. I didn't worry for my safety; I just didn't want their deaths on my conscience.

"Bella!" a voice called from behind me as I reached the road—the same, unmistakable honey voice that I'd heard utter the F-word only moments earlier. "Bella, please wait."

I wrapped my arms around myself and put my head down, speeding up my pace to escape from my 'date'. I walked for at least three blocks, continuing as fast as I could with my head down, until I was almost certain he would have given up the pursuit.

I turned to confirm he wasn't following me and startled when I realized he was right beside me, his stride matching mine perfectly.

"I can do this all night, but eventually you are going to have to stop," he said.

I frowned and tugged my jacket tighter, quickening my pace again.

"Please Bella, let me explain."

He grabbed my arm lightly and I slowed. I twisted around so he could see me, so he could see the tears that his words had caused.

"I think I know what upset you, and I want you to know I wasn't referring to you."

He moved his hand, reaching for my uncovered fingers and entwining them with his own. A silent understanding seemed to pass between us moments before the sound of his voice filled my mind.

'I can read minds.' His voice was clear in my mind, even though his lips weren't moving. 'If I am right, you should be able to hear my thoughts now.'

My eyes widened as I realized his secret.

'I think I'm right, judging by the look on her face, but I still can't hear her. 'I hope I can make her understand but I'm worried she'll see me as a freak.'

As I watched, his eyes shifted from honey-gold to deep charcoal.

'I wish she would talk to me. I want her to trust me.'

"I do," I croaked. My voice was harsh and full of emotion, but I meant the two simple words.

A wide smile broke out on his face. 'Maybe I can trust her with my secret too, she's so intriguing. I want to get to know her better.'

He smiled as he realized he'd said, or thought, more than he'd meant to.

'I'm not used to people being able to hear me.'

Deep black circles began to form under his eyes and his skin grew paler. I realized it was me. He was still holding my hand and I was draining his life away. I pulled away from him.

"I don't want to hurt you," I said.

He laughed loudly. "You won't."

"You don't understand. When I touch people, they get hurt."

"Trust me, it's impossible for you to hurt me. I've been extraordinarily worried about hurting you. though."

"Why?" Even as I asked I realized it was something to do with his family's secret.

He raised his hand and stroked one finger gently along my face.

'How do I even begin to explain what I am to her? How could she even begin to believe in vampires?'

"Vampire?" I choked on the word. It didn't want to come out. For a moment, images from movies and books flashed through my head. None of them fit, and yet I believed him. I should have been afraid, and yet I trusted him not to harm me.

"It's definitely going to take some time getting used to having someone read my mind."

He moved closer, his eyes holding secrets and concerns that were muted as the effects of his touch wore off.

"Are you afraid?" he asked, his breath cold as it blew across my cheeks.

I closed my eyes at the subtle intimacy of his proximity. I'd never understood how powerful not touching someone could be.

I took a deep breath, my body shaking, not with fear but with need. "Edward, I…"

In the next instant, Edward cupped my cheek in his hand, and I had forgotten what I was going to say. Ever so softly, he pressed his lips to mine and stole my breath away.

His lips caressed mine for less than half a minute, but in that time I felt everything more clearly than I ever had before. My body burned with desire, a burn that centered in my throat until it felt like flames were going to erupt at the back of my mouth. I hungered for something, something unknown, something that pulsed nearby.

A throbbing, thudding, wetness.

'Her blood would soothe the burn, but it'll hurt her.'

Edward's other hand touched my waist.

'She's too important.'

He pushed me away gently.

'I can't hurt her.'

His arm circled me and he pulled me closer.

'Oh God, she smells so perfect.'

I could see what he wanted from his thoughts, and it scared me. I was terrified it would hurt when his teeth lacerated my skin, but a tiny part of me also worried what my blood might do to him if even my skin was deadly.

His desire—his need—was so strong I wasn't sure he would be able to fight it for even a minute more. I grabbed his hips, to steady myself, but also to prepare to push him away. My touch had drained his reserves and he was swiftly being reduced to nothing more than a natural killer.

'I want it. I want to feed. No one can stop me.'

His battle for control was being lost with each extra second of contact. I wanted to pull away and run, but heard his mental warning to be still—the sight of a fleeing prey would unleash the beast within him.

My heart fluttered frantically as I listened to his battle for control.

'Listen to the heartbeat. It's inviting yo. Iit wants you.'

The fingers that had rested against my cheek pressed firmly into my skin as he tried to both push me away and pull me closer still.

He was starved and depleted to the point of being crazed, before the prolonged contact with my skin proved too much. As I heard his intention, I felt awash with a strange calm. I knew my touch could be fatal to others—I never suspected it would cause my death as well.

The pressure of his fingernails against my skin was too much and I felt a sharp pain where they pierced, droplets of blood oozing forward onto his fingers. Instantly, his mouth had left mine and his tongue was caressing the soft flow, eagerly lapping up the liquid ambrosia.

My first reaction to his movement was disgust, but it quickly shifted to something else.

'So good. Perfect.'

All I could feel was the overpowering sensation of euphoria as that taste soothed the burn in the back of my throat. I knew what I was feeling were Edward's emotions fed to me through his touch, but they were so overpowering, so overwhelming, that there was little room in my body for any other sensation. I felt no pain, nothing but the delirium that accompanied Edward's loss of control.

Caught in a frenzy caused by the few tiny drops he'd consumed, his teeth eagerly searched out my throat, slicing into my jugular and drinking deeply of the liquid within. War raged within my mind as what was right battled against what felt good. I should have been revolted by his actions. I should have been screaming and shouting, flailing against him to make him release me. Instead, my hands slipped further around his waist so I could slip my fingers under his shirt and touch more of his skin.

I didn't feel the pain of the laceration in my throat, which had already begun to heal—I was absorbing Edward's energy even as he was consuming mine.

I wanted to strip him bare and cover his body with my own. With each passing second, I grew less concerned with his wellbeing and wanted only to claim him, to fuse together until it was impossible to ascertain where he ended and I began. I wanted nothing more than to hold onto the dizzying feeling of euphoria that accompanied his touch while he consumed my blood. My fingers tingled as energy pulsed between us. I shuddered with pleasure as I imagined feeling his essence stroking every part of my body while he absorbed my life.

He misinterpreted my movement. 'I'm hurting her.'

He crushed my body against his as he drank, the sickening crack of my pelvis shattering in his grip filled the air. Instantly, my body began to heal, the pieces of bone knitting together. I felt no pain, only the stab of revulsion that ran through him.

'I have to stop.'

His resolve to push me away strengthened with every ounce of blood he drained.

He wanted more, he wanted it all and I wanted him to have it, but he was already gaining control. I tried to spur on the monster inside of him; the feeling of pure bliss I was experiencing was too much to just give up.

The glorious cycle spun ever onward: consumption and renewal.

His lips left my throat and were on my mouth again, kissing, licking and sucking. I could taste my blood on his breath, feel the warm wetness on his lips as they met my own. It should have repulsed me, but I could only think of the dizzying satisfaction swirling between us.

I wanted him to touch me, to bite me all over, to consume me.

I wanted to be broken and healed by him; to feel his pleasure as he took me into him and rejuvenate as he touched my bare skin.

The spiral of pleasure building within me released suddenly, springing through every inch of my being. Bright stars burst behind my eyelids and my body convulsed as Edward's strong arms surrounded me. He held me securely as I rode through the waves of pleasure coursing through me. As my pleasure spiked, he fought the monster within him for control.

His thoughts turned to releasing me and ensuring there was no venom left in my wounds. He finally found the strength within himself to push me away. I was left confused by the emotions racing through my body and panting for breath.

"Bella, I am sorry," he said, backing away slowly. His eyes were a dark burgundy, verging on black. "I am so, so sorry."

His eyes fell to my neck, to the place where I should have been bleeding profusely, but which was already healed. His tongue traced over his lips as he ran his finger lightly over the injury. As soon as his skin touched mine his thoughts filled my mind; the regret and doubt he felt was palpable.

'Was that real? Or did I just imagine that? I didn't believe anything could taste that good. I can't believe she's not injured. I can't believe I'm already thirsty again.'

"Are you alright?" he asked, withdrawing his hand as the last of the red faded from his eyes.

I nodded. Truthfully, I didn't have words to describe how I felt. Blood was still pounding in my ears and rushing through my body. My hands tingled and I felt the lingering presence of Edward in my mind. I wanted more, I craved it. I was eager to stretch out my arms and embrace him, holding him to me until we were joined together permanently.

"I should get you home," he said after a moment.

I nodded, feeling suddenly deflated. I worried he would drop me off and I would never see him again. I had heard his struggle for control, had felt his guilt. I had to find a way to let him know I wasn't hurt, that I'd enjoyed it. That my body was singing for more of his touch.

The drive from Port Angeles was silent. I watched Edward from the corner of my eye, anxious for the moment he told me it was over. My fingers twitched with desire to touch him, just so I could get a glimpse of what he was thinking. I wanted to know so many things about him, I wondered how he was able to think with the constant stream of voices in his mind. I wanted to know why he couldn't hear me.

By the time he pulled up in front of Charlie's house, I felt desperate.

"I'm sorry, Edward," I said, tears finding their way to my eyes involuntarily.

He ground his teeth together. "I'm the one who should be apologising Bella. I let myself lose control. I would never forgive myself if I'd hurt you."

"But you didn't," I said.

"But I could have."

I could feel him pulling away from me, distancing himself emotionally. I'd only just found him, I wasn't ready to give him up. "But you didn't."

I brushed my hand along his cheek.

'I wish I didn't have to leave her.'

I smiled, relishing the insight into his mind granted by my touch. He reached for my hand, guiding it gently to my lap before letting go. Just before did though, I heard his thoughts and saw my new worst nightmare: Edward leaving.

He wanted to protect me and thought disappearing was the only way he could. I felt the undercurrent of excitement, which had burned through me most of the evening, fade. I had to convince him to stay.

"It's almost surreal having to go to school tomorrow," I laughed, although my concern over Edward's thought made it come out sounding stilted and forced. "Can we go somewhere afterward to talk?"

He frowned and I thought he was going to refuse. I worried that his mind was made up and I couldn't convince him to say. I ran my finger along his cheek again trying to get some information.

His eyes burned into mine, imploring me to understand.

Images of him giving way to his hunger flashed through his mind.

"I can't stay," he said, but he didn't sound convinced.

I placed my hand on his leg, losing the skin to skin contact, but keeping a connection. "I want to know more about you, Edward. I want to know everything about you."

He shook his head slowly. "I don't want to hurt you."

"I think it's impossible for you to hurt me," I said, throwing his words back at him.

"I don't want to leave," he murmured.

"Then don't." I moved closer to him.

"I can't hurt you." It was almost as if he was trying to convince himself. He frowned. "We'll talk after school tomorrow. I know a place."

I breathed a sigh of relief and pressed my lips gently to his. Images of a sunlit meadow full of purple wildflowers flooded my mind.

"Tomorrow," I breathed.

His eyes betrayed his fear and his excitement as he looked at me through dark lashes.

I felt like I was holding my breath while I waited for his confirmation.

He nodded. "Tomorrow."

I climbed from the car and watched as he drove away. I had no idea what the world held in store for a mutant and a vampire, but in that instant I didn't care.

We had tomorrow.

~ 0 ~