Edward was going to kill me.

That is, if I don't get the job done myself first, I thought sourly, wincing as a thorny vine wrapped around my leg. I lost my balance and went down, stifling a sob as my abused knees protested.

How could I have been so stupid? I wondered, forcing myself up again. My legs screamed out a protest as I stumbled on. It had been dark for a good hour, and I could barely see my hand in front of my face.

I used to know these woods so well. Wonder what happened?

I shook my head at my own lack of sense. "Years did, Bella," I said, then promptly wondered if I was going insane.

To make matters worse, Charlie wouldn't even know to look for me until morning. He was on a fishing trip with his friend Billy Black, and they wouldn't be back until ten tomorrow, at the earliest. And the entire Cullen family, with the exception of Edward's dad, was on a hunting trip miles away.

I was on my own for this one.

A few drops of rain pelted my exposed face. I shivered and buttoned my jacket all the way up – not that it would help matters in a downpour. I'll have to come out on a road somewhere, if I just keep going, I reassured myself. As I fought my way through the undergrowth, praying the rain would hold off, I remembered Edward's parting words to me:

"Bella, love, I shouldn't be gone more than a week. Do you think you can stay out of trouble until then?" he'd asked, genuinely concerned.

"Way to be insulting," I'd groused, but he had only laughed and kissed me tenderly.

"I just want you to be safe," he had said, aiming those melting eyes on my face. "I couldn't live with you, Bells. You know that, don't you? Now promise me you'll be careful."

I could never stay mad at him. "I promise," I'd said, already feeling lonely as he and the rest of the clan prepared to leave.

"Oh, and Bella," he'd called back, at the last minute, "I know Charlie's going to be gone, so if you need anything, Carlisle will be here."

"Thanks," I called back half-heartedly. Edward's family intimidated me a little. I wanted so badly for them to like me, but I'd already struck out with Rosalie.

"I love you," I had called, but he'd already disappeared from sight.

A thin, whippy branch snapped across my face, jerking me back to my present situation. What had started out as a relaxing walk in the woods had turned into a nightmare.

All at once, my groping hands broke free of the underbrush, and I stumbled out of the grasping confines of the woods.

Unable to stop, I landed on my hands and knees again, nearly sobbing with relief as I saw the highway not too far from where I lay. The trouble was, I had no idea which direction I needed to go. I wasn't known for my navigation abilities anyway, and being lost for so long had turned whatever inner compass I might have had all around.

I thought about waiting for someone to come along, so I could flag them down…but then every warning my cop father had drilled into my head started running through my mind again.

Before I could make up my mind, headlights flashed around the bend, catching me square in the face. The car slowed, before finally coming to a complete stop.

So this was how it would end. I, Bella Swan, was about to become a statistic. Funny, I always thought I would go out falling down a staircase, or tripping on a rock right next to the Grand Canyon.

But I couldn't see what other choice I had, so I levered myself off my hands and knees with as much dignity as I could muster and limped towards the car.

"Bella? Is that you?" the softly inquiring voice was honey-smooth – and very familiar.

"Dr. Cullen?" I stammered, mortified.

He came around the hood of the car, moving faster now. "Bella? What are you doing out here so late? Are you all right?"

Something warm settled over my shoulders – his coat, I realized. "I'm okay," I assured him, thankful beyond belief that it was him and not some ax-murderer.

He moved me into the light, tipping my chin back so he could study my face. "You're freezing, Bella. Here, get in, I have the heat on."

Before I could protest, he ushered me into the passenger seat, closing the door firmly before moving around to the other side and climbing in himself.

I was so embarrassed, because now this would most assuredly get back around to Edward – if Alice hadn't told him already.

Dr. Cullen switched on the dome light. "Bella, are you hurt?" he asked again, brow creased.

"I don't think so," I assured him again, "maybe a few scratches. Mostly I just feel stupid."

"I'm glad it was me that found you, and not someone with…worse intentions," he said, scolding slightly.

I sniffled a little; the cold was making my nose run. I nearly wiped it on my sleeve but remembered whose jacket I was wearing. Boy, that would've made a great impression on your future father-in-law, I thought, disgusted.

"Me, too," I answered.

"Can I drive you home?"

"Um…Char – I mean Dad's not home," I explained. "He's fishing with Billy."

"I see," he said, putting the car into gear. "I'll just take you over to our place then. You need to get warmed up."

I didn't dare protest. I wasn't scared of him, not really, I just didn't quite know what to say or do around him.

It looks like we're about to get better acquainted.

This is just the first chapter, but I won't post another one unless I get ten (good or bad) reviews, so if you want more, speak up!