Disclaimer: The Twilight Saga and its characters are the property of Stephanie Meyer. No copyright infringement intended.
Twilight: Port Angeles
"I'm taking you to dinner." I smiled tightly—it came out as more of a wince—and the anger was still evident in my eyes.
Without waiting for Bella's response, I hopped out of the car, slamming the door with more force than really necessary. The fury had not vanished completely—I wondered if it would vanish at all—and now that I was free from the confinement of my car, the urge to run back to the alley and rip those bastards' heads off was more pressing than ever.
I would have done it, had it not been for Bella stepping out of the car to stand beside me. She looked at me expectantly and I gazed into her eyes, the one window to her thoughts.
I wonder where Bella is . . . I do hope she's alright . . . Angela's anxious stream of thoughts invaded my mind as she and Jessica walked farther and farther away from us, not realizing that my car was parked and that we were standing just a few feet behind them.
Unsurprisingly, Jessica's thoughts were highly contradicting to Angela's and, not for the first time, I wondered what a selfless and kind girl such as Bella would ever see in Jessica, an arrogant and impolite brat—unworthy of Bella's friendship. While Angela was worried about her friend's safety, Jessica was more anxious about what talk would spread about her through town if the Chief's daughter wasn't found after an evening of shopping.
"Go stop Jessica and Angela before I have to track them down, too. I don't think I could restrain myself if I ran into your other friends again." I muttered, my voice low and dangerous.
Bella shuddered once, probably at my expression before turning to gain her friends' attentions. Immediately, they whirled around and sighed in relief when they saw Bella waving at them eagerly. They hurried to her but stopped dead in their tracks when they caught sight of me standing a few feet behind.
I composed my face into a friendly and calm expression, sticking my hands in my pockets and casually joining the circle.
"Where have you been?"
Though Jessica's question was obviously directed at Bella, she kept glancing at me, clearly chagrined. I can't believe this! Edward Cullen, out of all people! That lucky bitch—first, she's got all those admirers in school . . . now this! He never even used to be interested in dating. What exactly does he see in her? I can't believe it; she hasn't even been in this school for a year and she's already so freaking popular! Mingling with the Cullens, I swear . . .
Disgusted, I switched to listening to Angela's thoughts, pleased that her worry for her friend seemed to be the only priority on her mind, though she definitely was curious about my presence in Port Angeles.
"I got lost." Bella smiled timidly, her face darkening. I gulped in quick refills of air, relieved that we weren't restricted to our Biology classroom, filled with innocent classmates. Being outside in fresh air helped with dealing with Bella's tantalizing scent. "And then I ran into Edward."
Right, like I'm going to believe that! Jessica fumed inwardly, keeping her expression innocent and kind. They obviously planned to meet up here. The Cullens never talk to anybody, much less go out. Wonder what is about her that has him eating out her palm —
"Would it be all right if I joined you?" I cut her off, glancing innocently between the girls.
Jessica's mind became all . . . mushy and I immediately pulled away from listening to her thoughts. Though this reaction from females wasn't anything new, it felt more wrong than ever, especially Bella was right here next to me.
"Er . . . sure."
Angela seemed to break off from a similar stupor to Jessica's and glanced at Bella guiltily. "Um, actually, Bella, we already ate while we were waiting—sorry."
"That's fine—I'm not hungry." Bella seemed unconcerned as she waved this off.
I, however, wasn't going to let that deter me. Not only did she need a refreshing doze of humanness for the evening, but I also selfishly craved her company . . . alone.
"I think you should eat something." I announced, begging Bella silently that she wouldn't argue in front of her friends. "Do you mind if I drive Bella home tonight? That way you won't have to wait while she eats."
"Uh, no problem, I guess . . ." Jessica stammered, her eyes darting between Bella and I.
It seemed however that Bella did want an evening with me for she deftly lowered an eye in a wink in Jessica's direction. Suppressing an amused smile, I waited for her friends to finally leave us alone. Bella waved at them as they got into their car and drove away. Jessica's thoughts were bitter and overflowing with jealousy but Angela was excited and genuinely happy for her friend.
"Honestly, I'm not hungry." Bella said stubbornly; she was obviously in shock which was why she was acting so blank. What normal human being would remain calm after an incident such as the one she experienced merely minutes ago?
"Humor me" was all I said as I led her to the front door of the restaurant and with a defeated sigh, she stepped through.
The restaurant didn't seem full and the low buzz of thoughts was pleasant to my inner hearing. Mostly, the tables were filled with middle–aged or elderly couples and apart from the cling–clang of the dishes and utensils, most was quiet.
Holy crap! Holy crap! HOLY CRAP! Goodness, he must be a model.
The hostess's mind seemed to be yelling at me and for the umpteenth time, I wished for the ability to read minds at will. I was only interested in the hearing the thoughts of one particular human. On the outside, the hostess remained unruffled but her thoughts were unsurprisingly incoherent.
"A table for two?" I inquired, raising my eyebrows when the hostess failed to do the proper welcoming.
The hostess swooned, flipping her blonde hair over her shoulder as she led us to a table in the center of the restaurant, right in the middle of the tables. I frowned internally; what Bella and I needed was privacy, especially since we were going to be discussing certain things that was not normally included in a normal conversation.
Bella seemed to have no qualms about this seating arrangement but at the look on my face, she hesitated. I slipped out my wallet and picked out a random note, handing it to the hostess. "Perhaps something more private?" I requested smoothly.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Bella's eyebrows rise in wonder but the hostess wasn't as composed. More private? It's obvious that they can't be together . . . they're clearly just friends . . . even if they were dating, shouldn't they be holding hands? But why else would he ask for another table?
"Sure." She replied, flustered, but led us around to a small booth, peeking at the dollar in her hand, almost tripping in surprise. Handsome and rich! This is great . . . I wonder if I can slip him my number, since she's obviously not his girlfriend. "How's this?" She asked, gesturing to the small table. It was a safe distance from prying eyes and ears.
"Perfect." I grinned at her, pulling out Bella's chair for her to sit.
"Um . . . your server will be right out." She wobbled her way back to the kitchen, sighing dreamily. What an amazing smile he has . . . and that voice! Oh . . .
Bella frowned at me as I took the seat opposite to her. "You really shouldn't do that to people. It's hardly fair."
My brows furrowed, perplexed at the scolding tone in her voice and her words. What on earth was she talking about? "Do what?"
"Dazzle them like that." She replied, a hint of uncertainty in her tone. "She's probably hyperventilating in the kitchen right now." At my bewildered expression, she let out an exasperated sigh. "Oh, come on. You have to know the effect you have on people."
"I dazzle people?"
She stared at me and I didn't need Jasper's gift or even the ability to read her mind to know that she was suspicious. "You haven't noticed? Do you think everyone gets their way so easily?"
"Do I dazzle you?"
The words slipped out before I could quite call them back but I was insanely curious to know. Her face turned a delicate shade of pink as she nodded shyly. "Frequently."
Before I had time to marvel over that fact that I dazzled Bella, that she reacted similarly to other females, our waitress appeared at our side, smiling brightly at me, her thoughts . . . appreciative.
"Hello. My name is Amber, and I'll be your server tonight. What can I get you to drink?"
I glanced at Bella, gesturing for her to go first but was surprised to find a hint of annoyance in her eyes. "I'll have a coke."
"Two Cokes." I affirmed, my eyes darting to the waitress' and back to the girl in front of me.
"I'll be right back with that." She left, slightly bothered when I didn't acknowledge her any further, but her thoughts were extremely revolting. Hmm, he definitely is better looking up front. But they couldn't be dating . . . she's obviously much too dull for that. They have to be just friends . . . he didn't even look at me . . . next time.
I blocked out her thoughts, focusing on Bella in front of me, who looked quite confused about something. I was about to ask her what she was thinking but she beat me to it.
"How are you feeling?" It was safest question to start with and I needed to know whether she was past her shock–mode.
"I'm fine." She murmured, looking quite bashful under my scrutiny.
"You don't feel dizzy, sick, cold . . . ?" I trailed off, wondering why she wasn't appearing like she was in shock. It was as if the previous occurrences of the evening hadn't even happened.
"Should I?" She asked confused, looking quite adorable.
I snorted softly. She was the most surprising person I'd ever met. After being almost harassed by drunken men in an alley, she still believed that she was fine. "Well, I'm actually waiting for you to go into shock."
"I don't think that will happen. I've always been very good at repressing unpleasant things." She replied.
"Just the same, I'll feel better when you have some sugar and food in you."
Almost as if the waitress had been listening to our conversation, she arrived with the Cokes and some other human food in a basket. Her thoughts were still slightly irritated that my attention was still focused on Bella and she asked for our order.
"Um . . . I'll have the mushroom ravioli." Bella smiled, closing her menu.
The waitress was nothing but eager to turn her attention back to me. Gosh, he is so hot! But I still don't understand what's so interesting about her to him.
I wished I could reply "everything" but that would seem odd if I responded to her silent question.
"Nothing for me." I stated, without so much as a glance in her direction and after assuring me that I could call her in case I changed my mind, she left, more put out than ever. "Drink."
Bella sipped at her glass quickly then seemed surprised when she noticed it empty so soon. Smiling, I pushed my glass towards her. She didn't seem to have as much sugar in her than required. Besides, it wasn't as if I'd be drinking the coke anyway.
"Are you cold?" I asked anxiously when she shivered delicately. She wasn't wearing a jacket and the ivory skin of her bare arms would have distracted me, had I not been worried for her health.
"It's just the Coke." She assured me, sounded unconcerned about herself.
"Don't you have a jacket?" I chided gently. We were in Forks for heaven's sake where it rained all the time and it was already nighttime, not to mention that it was the winter season now.
"Yes. Oh—I must have left it in Jessica's car." She admitted, glancing around her sheepishly.
Thrilled to have an excuse to see her in my jacket, I shrugged mine off, handing it to her. She seemed dazed for a moment before she accepted it with a shy smile. "Thanks."
Now that I was satisfied that she was warm, at least warmer than before, I openly stared at her. I hid my ogling as best as I could but I couldn't fight the delighted smile at seeing her in my clothes, under whatever circumstances . . . not to mention the dark blue color of her blouse contrasted her pale skin perfectly. Above the collar of her shirt, the pearly and frail skin of her neck and throat seemed so inviting . . .
"That color blue looks lovely with your skin." I murmured in appreciation, my eyes darting between her face and her neck.
She glanced down at herself in surprise, her cheeks already coloring beautifully. When she didn't reply, I worried whether I'd offended her somehow or made her uncomfortable. To change the subject, I nudged the breadbasket in her direction, prompting her to eat it.
"Really, I'm not going into shock." She insisted with a roll of her eyes.
"You should be—a normal person would be." I observed her closely. "You don't even look shaken."
"I feel very safe with you." She admitted, staring at the table.
Either there was something wrong with her, or with me. Normally humans drew away from us, their instincts told them we were dangerous . . . which we were. Bella's instincts seemed to be in reverse . . . or she didn't have any instincts. Or maybe Emmett was right; I just wasn't as dangerous as I was supposed to be. God, Emmett was never going to let me live this down. I'd be the laughing stock for the rest of eternity.
"This is more complicated than I planned." I muttered under my breath, groaning inwardly.
Bella stared at me, unblinking. Seeming unaware of her actions, she grabbed a bread stick and chewed thoughtfully. "Usually you're in a better mood when your eyes are so light." She remarked, out of the blue.
"What?" I exclaimed, dumbfounded.
"You're always crabbier when your eyes are black—I expect it then." She explained, seeming amused by my stunned expression. "I have a theory about that."
My eyes tightened and my facial expression hardened. How close to the truth was she now? "More theories?"
She hummed in assertion, looking irrationally cool and casual for this conversation.
"I hope you were more creative this time." I grinned faintly, not too amused by the situation. She needed be wrong with her theories. Now, of course, she didn't know what my family and I were, but once she did, she'd be sorry she'd ever befriended me. "Or are you still stealing from comic books?"
She flushed slightly but I was too occupied on our conversation to be distracted by the sight of her reddened cheeks. "Well, no, I didn't get it from a comic book. But I didn't come up with it on my own, either."
"And?" I prodded.
The waitress strolled in casually, set Bella's plate in front of her before turning her attention to me, hoping I'd rethought about my dinner. After a polite decline, she left with the empty glasses to refill them.
"You were saying?" I asked, trying to keep the annoyance out of my tone. Oh, how I wished to get the conversation done and over with. I needed to know how far or how close Bella was to the truth. She obviously didn't know the truth, for she couldn't be sitting here so calmly, merely inches away from a vampire, but like she'd mentioned that other day in the cafeteria, she believed I was dangerous, not bad.
"I'll tell you about it in the car." She hedged. "If . . . "
"There are conditions?" The words were nothing but a growl, though she didn't flinch back. Yes, there was definitely something wrong with her.
"I do have a few questions, of course." She answered as if it were the most natural thing in the world to be interviewing a monster about the nature, information and theories about the monster himself.
"Of course." I snapped.
The waitress came back with our glasses, placed them on the table and left without a word though her mind was undoubtedly frustrated; I didn't bother to check.
"Well, go ahead." I said impatiently, gesturing for her to start with questions already.
"Why are you in Port Angeles?"
I lifted my chin in the air defensively. "Next."
"But that's the easiest one." She exclaimed in disbelief. Of course, the question was easy for her, the answers were hard for me.
She scowled at me, obviously annoyed and I waited eagerly for her next question. She was quiet for a moment, looking thoughtful, before speaking. "Okay, then." She began. "Let's say, hypothetically of course, that . . . someone . . . could know what people are thinking, read minds, you know—with a few exceptions."
I carefully hid my horror, knowing that she was dead on. She knew that I could read minds . . . goodness, she was so observant for her own good. I wondered what the theories she'd come up with were.
"Just one exception." I amended, scowling. This conversation kept on reminding me about how frustrated I was by the walls blocking her mind. "Hypothetically."
"All right, with one exception, then." She agreed. "How does that work? What are the limitations? How would . . . that someone . . . find someone else at exactly the right time? How would he know if she was in trouble?"
The questions seemed to be never ending and the bright curiosity was clear in her eyes.
"Hypothetically?" I raised an eyebrow.
She fought a smile. "Sure."
"Well, if . . . that someone . . . " I began but Bella interrupted me.
"Let's call him, 'Joe'." She proposed.
It was my turn to fight an amused smile. "Joe, then." I agreed. "If Joe had been paying attention, the timing wouldn't have needed to be quite so exact. Only you could get into trouble in a town this small. You would have devastated their crime rate statistics for a decade, you know."
"We were speaking of a hypothetical case." She warned me harshly and I couldn't quite call back the peal of laughter from my mouth.
"Yes, we were." I chuckled softly. "Shall we call you 'Jane'?"
She leaned forward, eyes burning into mine. "How did you know?" At my wavering silence and hesitation, she lifted her hand as if to place them on mine but I jerked my arm away. She didn't need to touch my cold skin and become revolted by it again. Trying to conceal her disappointment, she added, "You can trust me, you know."
Of course I could trust her. I could trust her to keep my secret from everyone; she'd proven to be trustworthy during the one month of our separation. She hadn't expressed her views about my odd nature and the strange behavior of saving her from the van. I knew that she was reliable, but I couldn't rely on her to be calm and cool once she found out who—or rather, what—I was. As soon as the truth was out, she would run away . . . from me. I didn't want her to.
"I don't know if I have a choice anymore." I mumbled, not sure whether she could even hear my words or not. "I was wrong—you're much more observant than I gave you credit for."
Apparently, she'd heard me, crystal clear. To my surprise, she seemed to smirking. "I thought you were always right."
"I used to be." I muttered miserably. "I was wrong about you on one other thing, as well. You're not a magnet for accidents—that's not a broad enough classification. You are a magnet for trouble. If there is anything dangerous within a ten–mile radius, it will invariably find you."
"And you put yourself into that category?"
My face turned into stone, no pun intended. "Unequivocally."
I watched as her hands reached across the table once more, and before I could do anything, her hand covered my mine. I tensed, waiting for her to yank her hand back at the freezing temperature and was pleasantly surprised when she continued to brush her soft fingertips against my hand, the feeling exquisite . . . beyond words.
"Thank you." She whispered shyly, eyes lifting up to meet mine. "That's twice now."
I smiled at her softly. "Let's not try for three, agreed?" I teased, pulling my hands away gently hoping not to offend her or startle her.
Now, confession time.
"I followed you to Port Angeles." Once the words were out, I could stop them from overflowing. "I've never tried to keep a specific person alive before, and it's much more troublesome than I would have believed. But that's probably just because it's you. Ordinary people seem to make it through the day without so many catastrophes."
I paused with baited breath, expecting her to go into shock now, at least. I couldn't expect her reaction but since I'd all but admitted to pursuing her, she needed to be horrified.
I watched incredulously as her pink lips curved upwards and there was a certain light in her eyes.
I'd all but confessed to stalking her and the silly girl looking happy about it?
"Did you ever think that maybe my number was up the first time, with the van, and that you've been interfering with fate?" She questioned suddenly, probably trying to distract me from the quizzical and disbelieving expression on my face.
"That wasn't the first time." I disagreed. "Your number was up the first time I met you. You remember?"
I flinched at the memory of our first 'meeting' in the Biology classroom, where I'd practically cut off all my senses to keep from leaping at her jugular.
"And yet here you sit."
She nodded slowly. "Yes, here I sit . . . because of you. Because somehow you knew how to find me today . . ."
I glowered at her. How on earth was she so collected about this? I'd practically confessed that I could read minds, I was superhuman—saving her from all sorts of dangerous accidents including myself, I'd tracked her down to a completely different town on a normal day of shopping with her friends . . .
I couldn't believe she was still sitting firmly in her seat, unflinching and unwavering as she discussed the open nature of my mind reading. God, she was . . . incredible.
For the past few minutes of talking, I'd realized that she'd hadn't take any more bites of her food. "You eat, I'll talk." Satisfied that she had a bit more nutrition in her, I began my story. "It's harder than it should be—keeping track of you. Usually I can find someone very easily, once I've heard their mind before."
She stared at me, still as a statue. I frowned at her worriedly but she quickly scooped up another bite of her pasta.
"I was keeping tabs on Jessica, not carefully—like I said, only you could find trouble in Port Angeles—and at first I didn't notice when you took off on your own. Then, when I realized that you weren't with her anymore, I went looking for you at the bookstore I saw in her head. I could tell that you hadn't gone in, and that you'd gone south . . . and I knew you would have to turn around soon. So I was just waiting for you, randomly searching through the thoughts of people on the street—to see if anyone had noticed you so I would know where you were. I had no reason to be worried . . . but I was strangely anxious . . . "
My mind wandered back to those fearful and panicked moments when I'd hadn't seen Bella's face in anyone's thoughts.
"I started to drive in circles, still . . . listening." The words seemed to be pouring out of my mouth in a monotonous tone. I was barely aware of where I was right now, my thoughts kept drifting back to that horrid memory. "The sun was finally setting, and I was about to get out and follow you on foot. And then—"
My mouth froze as I thought back, fury flooding through myself, as a snarl almost erupted from my lips.
"Then what?" Bella's quiet and hesitant voice snapped me back to the present but not out of my fuming.
"I heard what they were thinking." Unthinkingly, a growl rumbled deep in my chest and my face twisted up into a sneer. "I saw your face in his mind."
I dropped my head on my hands over the table, unable to allow Bella to look at me any longer. I couldn't imagine how terrified she would be if I proceeded to destroy the entire restaurant in my anger. "It was very . . . hard—you can't imagine how hard—for me to simply take you away, and leave them . . . alive."
Oh, how very much I wanted to rip their heads off their heads, those ungrateful, vile, repulsive miserable and pathetic excuses for men.
"I could have let you go with Jessica and Angela, but I was afraid if you left me alone, I would go looking for them." I confessed quietly to the table, hoping to be as silent as possible.
The memory of hunting similar men, snapping their necks and drinking their fresh blood . . . men who preyed on innocent, young girls. Before, I'd only wanted to hunt those bastards in a way of quenching my thirst and punishing them for their crimes, but the men who'd almost raped Bella . . . I wanted to torture them. The impulse to torment them, to put them through immense suffering was almost uncontrollable.
We sat in silence for a few moments, maybe hours, and I kept my attention on Bella's heartbeat and breathing. Both seemed to be under control and calm; counting her labored breaths helped me to cool down, just a bit.
Finally, I lifted my head to stare at her. Her expression was oddly blank, void of any emotion, but not fearful either . . . of course not. "Are you ready to go home?" I whispered, straightening myself in my seat.
"I'm ready to leave." She corrected, making my dead heart warm.
The waitress appeared quite out of nowhere. "How are we doing?" She asked cheerfully.
"We're ready for the check, thank you." I murmured, gazing at Bella's dainty and beautiful face.
The waitress's mood fell. What? He's leaving so soon? I wonder if I can slip my number . . . She handed me the leather pocket but I already slipped the money to her, aware that her telephone number had been on the back of the bill. "No change."
"You have a nice evening." She desperately called after me as Bella and I started towards the door.
Bella stayed by my side, seeming to keep close proximity intentionally and I automatically was careful enough to keep a few inches between us. I was getting used to being close to her; my love for her overpowered any urges to drink her blood but I still needed to remain cautious and on alert at all times. In any second, I could drain her dry. Even if I could resist the alluring scent of her delicious blood, I always had to be careful around her; I could easily crush her if I couldn't control my actions and movements.
I opened the door of the Volvo for her, waited till she sat, before closing the door after her. Once inside the car, I breathed in deeply, smiling at Bella's scent filling the car. I desperately hoped that the fragrance of Bella's blood would be less tempting as I didn't want to constantly appear as a threat for her.
That thought made me pause and I narrowed my eyes. So far, she'd discovered that I had the ability to read minds; that didn't mean she was aware of what kind of a creature I was. I needed to know her theories. Adjusting the heater to a more comfortable level for her, I spoke in a hushed tone, glancing at her meaningfully.
"Now, it's your turn."