Author's note: ARRRGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.
So. Friday morning I sat down to update this, and my laptop died. I can pick it up on Thursday; it's probably not fixable, but I'm hoping they'll at least be able to recover my files. INCLUDING THE NEXT THREE CHAPTERS OF THIS, which are written in rough draft. AARRGGH. But at least this chapter was safely in the hands of my beta, so here it is. And with any luck I'll be updating again by Thursday night.
I don't know how long we stayed like that, with me clinging to him almost desperately, lost in the sheer pleasure of kissing him. It was Edward who pulled away, holding me at arm's length and looking down at me affectionately. "We should get you back," he said. "You need sleep."
We walked back quietly, and Edward unlocked the gates. I waited for him, reluctant to leave his side until I absolutely had to. When we reached the entrance to building two I asked, impulsively, "Did you leave a note in my room for me?"
"No," he said, looking puzzled. "Note? Was I supposed to?"
Now I kind of wished I hadn't brought it up. He'd been being so honest with me all night that I'd thought maybe he'd laugh and confess to the prank, or tell me this was something his family did to all new members or something. "It was nothing, really," I said lamely. "Someone left a couple of notes in my room. I thought it might have been some kind of prank or hazing ritual or whatever."
He grabbed me by the shoulders, hard. "Do you still have the notes?" he asked, sounding way more serious than this warranted. I wondered if he was playing along, pretending the notes were real, but there was no trace of dishonesty in his expression. I couldn't believe he was lying to me.
The alternative was worse, though. He had that insane gleam in his eyes again, a real true-believer look. Which meant someone else had planted the notes, and he was falling for it.
I sighed. "Yes," I said. I didn't know whether to feel sorry for him, or angry that someone I wanted so badly-someone I suspected I was falling in love with-should be so obviously barking mad.
"Will you show me?" he asked.
My heart thumped at the prospect of bringing him up to my room. "Yes," I said, gulping. "Absolutely. You bet."
Mad or not, he had a power over me that I couldn't resist. I didn't even want to anymore.
Once we were in my room I retrieved the notes and handed them over. I sat on my bed, silently willing him to join me, while he stood by the desk and read them. I hadn't even read the second one myself yet, but I didn't care. Even though I thought he was deranged, I felt as if I could trust him to deal with it.
I felt as if I could trust him to deal with everything.
I felt like putting my whole life in his hands, and trusting him to take care of me, and to make decisions for me.
Which wasn't good at all. The small part of me that remembered my old life and missed it was jumping up and down, trying to get my attention and snap me out of this romantic daze I'd fallen into. He's crazy, I told myself: beautiful and desirable, but crazy. Lust after him if you must, but for heaven's sake, try to assert some initiative and common sense here.
I forced myself to stand up from the half-lounging position I'd assumed and to walk to his side and reach for the second note. This one, I saw at a glance, was written in mock-mobster style and purported to warn me that the man I'd gotten involved with was in trouble with the law. If only. That would actually be easier to deal with than a cult leader who thought we belonged together because multiple fictional universes said so, or...whatever it was Edward believed.
"This is all my fault," Edward said, and I couldn't help nodding. He wasn't watching, anyway; he was staring into space. Maybe there were invisible enemies in my room. "I chose the texts you're all using right now on purpose: I thought I could put you in the right frame of mind to accept me. But all I've done is give the Enemy a framework for attacking you."
He sounded so miserable that I rushed to reassure him. "They're only notes, Edward. They can't hurt me. I'm not even going to pay any attention to them." I stopped just short of blurting out that I suspected his family of planting them.
His voice was ominous. "You need to take this seriously. It won't stop with notes. Across the worlds, they've tried to rip you from my side. In some universes they suceeded, Bella; they've separated us, driven us to wrongly embrace other people, even killed to keep us apart. They'll try the same thing here." He ran a hand through his already-disordered hair, standing the reddish-bronze waves on end. "It's why I tried to drive you away in the beginning. It almost destroys me, warning you away when all I want to do is pull you closer. But it would be better to drive you off, and live an empty ruin of a life, than to be responsible for your death yet again. I can't take seeing you die again, Bella."
My own hair felt like it was standing on end from sheer terror. How could he believe something so insane? Was this some kind of garbled threat? Was he trying to warn me he'd kill me?
I shivered, and against all sense of self-preservation I crept close, pushing myself into his arms. In his embrace I felt safe. Perhaps I was the crazy one.