a/n: This chapter was aided immeasurably by Bigblueboat and Gigi Scott at Project Team Beta. Any mistakes are my own. Also, I don't own it.
"We do not want to be the arbiter of anyone's sex life. We all have sex problems. We'd hardly be human if we didn't."
The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous
Emmett is a dick for not telling me about the leaves in my cuff, but I decide that the fact that he has to room with Fido is payback enough.
I laugh and pick the leaves out of my cuff. "We were doing a little reconnaissance," I say, flicking the leaves at Emmett's head. "You know, checking out the perimeter, making sure we've got plenty of privacy to hunt." I like using words like "perimeter" and "hunt." I think it makes me sound macho. Especially since I work in movies where I'm more likely to say things like "ambiance," "atmospheric" and "I can't believe that's your entire music budget."
"Oh, good." Carlisle joins us from the kitchen. "Did you happen to see the man who moved into the old cook's house?" The state park Carlisle's property borders used to be owned by a logging company, and this decrepit shack the cook used to live in is one of the only buildings still standing. No one's supposed to be living in it.
"How is there a person living there?" I ask Carlisle. "That's only a few miles from here. It's not safe if we have…thirsty vampires here." I look at Bella. "No offense," I say to her. She waves a forgiving hand at me. I don't apologize to Whitlock.
"I have no idea why he's being allowed to live there," Carlisle says. "We'll just have to make sure everyone steers clear of him." I see a hazy image of the mysterious resident in Carlisle's head. He's older with long grey hair and a beard.
"Is there someplace I can put my stuff?" Bella asks. She shrugs the shoulder holding a grungy army backpack, and then I see that she also has a small black bag at her feet.
"Of course, Bella," Esme says. "I'll show you your room."
"I can show her," I volunteer, like the Boy Scout I am. "Which room is Bella staying in?"
"They're staying in the third floor, the one with the Stickley desk." Esme smiles at Bella. "Bella's a writer."
"Really?" I smile at Bella. "What do you write?"
"Poetry, mostly," she says. Her eyes flicker over to Whitlock in a look I can't read, and she picks up her bag.
"Let me get that for you," I say. I try to take the bag from her, but her grip is firm.
"I'm okay," she says, her jaw clenching as she smiles at me tightly. I hear a throat clear behind me. Whitlock speaks.
"I'd let her get that, sport," he drawls. I look at him. He has an amused smile on his face. The very face upon which I would like to punch him. I look at Bella again. She looks quite determined. I take my hand off the bag.
"Okay" I say. "Shall we?" I gesture for her to follow. As we walk up the stairs, I say over my shoulder, "I'd love to read your poetry." I hear a snort. I realize that Whitlock is following us, and I throw a glare in his direction.
"Bella's a feminist writer," he says. I glance at her. She squares her jaw at me and looks defiant.
"Great," I say. "I was going to vote for the Nineteenth Amendment, but then I died." This is true. Except for the part where I agreed with women's suffrage. When I was alive, I honestly thought that women voting was a terrible idea. And then they voted in the Prohibition, and I knew I was right. But the dying part was true.
We reach the bedroom, and Bella and Whitlock put down their bags. I stand there awkwardly, trying not to look at the bed. I'm irritated that they are sharing a room.
"Thank you for your help," she says to me.
"Yeah," Whitlock butts in between us. "Thanks for all the attention, Eddie." I glare at him. "I know what you're trying to do." His thoughts aren't angry, more amused. "You've got lust seeping off you like stink off a pig."
"You ever hear from Maria?" I ask him, my eyes flickering over to Bella. She's pulling books and papers out of the black case, oblivious to our conversation.
He smiles and nods at me. "That's an interesting tactic. If that's all you got, you might need to go back to the drawing board." He gestures over to Bella with his head. "She's not going to care about some crap that happened before she was born."
"We haven't kept in touch," he says. I nod.
"Yeah, I guess that was pretty awkward," I say. "You know, the way you abandoned her." I glance at Bella, who doesn't seem to be paying us any attention. But who can tell? It's not like I can read her mind.
"I don't want to keep you any longer," Whitlock says. He starts nudging me toward the door. Which means that no matter what he says, Bella may care that he's been a total asshole to some women. I mean, there has to be some kind of girl solidarity thing, right?
I decide that this was a minor victory and to retreat.
"Let me know if you need anything." I sidle up to Bella on the way out. She looks up from her arranging a stack of papers and nods.
"Thanks," she says, with the subtlest, tiniest smile in the world.
I strut down the stairs, planning my next move. I'll have to get Bella alone so I can fill her in on what a world-class scumbag Whitlock is without his interference. I figure I can also make myself ultra-useful to her, perhaps with my excellent animal stalking skills. The writing thing could also be handy, as much as I think it's silly to write feminist poetry. I mean, who reads that stuff? Women's Studies professors? Lesbians? Graduate students? Goofy.
I wonder what's up with all that grunginess. It's so Pearl Jam—disaffected youth.
Carlisle interrupts me in the process of looking for Seth so I can claim my room.
"I think we should have Bella and Jasper feed as soon as possible," he says to me. "If they're full, it seems like they'd be less likely to slip up."
"I agree," I say, shocking Carlisle. I don't think I've admitted to agreeing with him since 1982. "I'll take Bella. I'd be happy to show her the ropes."
"I appreciate that," he says. "However, I'm having Esme help Bella. I thought you could entertain Jasper until they get back. I don't think it's a good idea to have both of them out at the same time."
I make a face at him. "Can't Emmett babysit Whitlock?"
"It's almost four o'clock!" Emmett yells from the living room. "Eclipse is on!" Emmett's a total weirdo.
"Edward, you know how much this means to me," Carlisle says in his best guilt-inducing voice. I stuff my hands in my pockets and shrug.
"Fine," I say. "But Emmett gets redneck-sitting duty next time." Carlisle nods agreeably.
"Tell Colonel Sanders I'll be in the living room," I say over my shoulder and go to join Emmett on the couch. The annoying theme song for Eclipse is on, and I know better than to launch straight into complaining. Emmett's obsessed with this show. He's humming along with the intro.
I just sit there, alternately brooding about Whitlock and planning how to get into Bella's filthy jeans until the dirtbag himself comes in and starts talking.
"Edward, just what do you think…"
"SHHH!" we both hiss at him, and oddly enough, he complies and sits down. He's quiet until the next commercial.
"What are you two watching?" he asks. He is looking at us with a mixture of disgust and amusement. Understandable.
"Eclipse," Emmett answers him. "It's this great show about these four teenage girls who are witches. They live in this…"
"It was a rhetorical question." Whitlock cuts him off. "Emmett, right?"
"Emmett, I am just a little surprised," Whitlock drawls. I can see he's about to imply that Emmett is…well…less than heterosexual. What Twitlock doesn't know is that no one is allowed to make fun of Emmett but me.
"Emmett likes Rosalie Hale," I say. "The blonde one with the big—"
"Edward!" Emmett interrupts me this time. "Be respectful."
"I know who Rosalie Hale is," Whitlock says. "I heard she had a major drug problem. Totally Lohan-ed out, you know? Also, there was that tape going around…"
"None of that stuff is true," Emmett says. "There are tons of vicious rumors going around since she split with Royce King, but it's all just tabloid nonsense." I almost felt sorry for Whitlock. Emmett's easy-going about almost everything but the rumors about Rosalie Hale. It's the weirdest thing. He can talk about abortion, the Middle East, Lady Gaga, whatever. No issues. But you impugn the reputation of Rosalie Hale, and he gets all intense.
"I'm just saying…" Whitlock tries to talk, but Emmett shushes him again.
"It's back on," he says primly.
So we sit there quietly for eight more minutes; Whitlock deliciously out of his depth and Emmett soothing himself with his favorite Disney show.
The next commercial break starts.
"The girl in the video is not Rosalie Hale," Emmett says before Whitlock can say anything. "You can tell from the tattoo on her…posterior. Rosalie only has two tattoos: a horseshoe on her ankle to commemorate her grandfather who bred horses and a dolphin on her shoulder she got when she passed the GED."
"What does a dolphin have to do with passing the GED?" Whitlock asks.
"Tattoos don't have to be literal," Emmett responds, sneering as if Whitlock had just blown his nose in his hand or something. "What was she supposed to get? A test booklet? A #2 pencil?"
"Plus, dolphins are pretty smart," I add.
"So, a dolphin could pass the GED?" Whitlock asks.
"Don't be stupid." Emmett rolls his eyes. "It's not like they could hold a pencil. They have fins. What's wrong with you?"
Whitlock's eyes have gone wide, and he has clearly lost track of why he came in here. Then he looks at me and remembers.
"Edward, we need to talk about…"
"It's back on," I say. I smile at him and shrug as Emmett's stupid Disney show continues. Whitlock sits through the last part of the show anxiously. At one point, he starts to tap his foot restlessly, but Emmett glares at him and he stops.
When the credits roll, he turns to me again.
"Isn't there some kind of vampire code that you don't try to pick up someone else's mate?" he asks me.
"There's no vampire code," I respond. "The only rules are don't get caught by humans and don't tell Aro he looks like Iggy Pop."
"Yeah, especially that second one," Emmett adds. "Trust me. You won't like the consequences." Emmett shudders.
"Yeah, that was my bad," I say apologetically.
"What did he do?" Whitlock asks.
"He made me…Wait!" He suddenly looks at me. "You don't think that this whole thing is Aro's way of…"
I cut him off. "No. This is legit. I could tell from how nervous he got."
"But, one of the names was J. Volturi. She's totally coming here." Emmett had real fear in his eyes. Whitlock just shifted his head back and forth like he was watching a tennis match.
"Don't worry," I reassure Emmett again. "We'll manage it."
"Anyway…" Whitlock tried to get us back on track. "What do you think you're doing with my mate?"
"She's not your mate, Whitlock," I say.
"How do you know?" he asks.
"Because when I look at the minds of vampires who are mated, when they think of their mate or see them, there's a…thing their brain does. It's like it lights up, like one of those things you snap in half and shake?"
"Like a glow stick," Emmett says helpfully.
I nod. "Yeah, like a glow stick. Your brain doesn't do that with her."
"What about her?" Whitlock asks.
"Edward can't read her…" I cut Emmett off with a look. The look that says "I'm going to tear your arm off and hide it." I do not want Whitlock knowing about that. Any information gives him leverage, as far as I'm concerned.
"You can't read her mind?" Whitlock confirms with a smile. Emmett mouths "sorry" at me.
"That's why you're hot for her!" Whitlock stands up and crows at me, that maddening smile on his face. I don't respond. He points his finger at me. Rude.
"You're just chasing her because having to hear a girl's thoughts ruins it for you," he accuses. "If that's the case, why wouldn't you go for Ramada, or whatever that Italian woman's name is?"
"Renata?" I say, shuddering. "She's creepy."
"She smells like cold cream and garlic," Emmett confirms.
"Yeah," I say to Emmett, nodding furiously. "Why would she smell like that? That makes no sense."
"Can you two stay on topic?" Whitlock throws his hands up. We look at him.
"Anyway, you're not going to get this one." Whitlock crosses his arms.
"I figured I could just pick up the pieces when you leave," I say mildly.
But then I realize where I'd made a mistake. Because by admitting that I wanted something he had, I'd made it automatically more attractive to him. He would never let me have the satisfaction of winning.
I'm going to have to get more creative. And maybe call in some favors. I wonder if Aro has figured out how to answer his cell phone yet.'
a/n: Thanks for all the patience and reviews and reading and stuff. Xoxo JuJu