I scowled. I didn't like the talk of leaving.
"And it will be harder tomorrow," he continued. "I've had the scent of
you in my head all day, and I've grown amazingly desensitized. If I'm
away from you for any length of time, I'll have to start over again. Not
quite from scratch, though, I think."
"Don't go away, then," I responded, unable to hide the longing in my
"That suits me," he replied, his face relaxing into a gentle smile.
"Bring on the shackles — I'm your prisoner." But his long hands formed
manacles around my wrists as he spoke. He laughed his quiet, musical
laugh. He'd laughed more tonight than I'd ever heard in all the time I'd
spent with him.
"You seem more… optimistic than usual," I observed. "I haven't seen you
like this before."
"Isn't it supposed to be like this?" He smiled. "The glory of first love,
and all that. It's incredible, isn't it, the difference between reading
about something, seeing it in the pictures, and experiencing it?"
"Very different," I agreed. "More forceful than I'd imagined."
"For example" — his words flowed swiftly now, I had to concentrate to
catch it all — "the emotion of jealousy. I've read about it a hundred
thousand times, seen actors portray it in a thousand different plays and
movies. I believed I understood that one pretty clearly. But it shocked
me…" He grimaced. "Do you remember the day that Mike asked you to the
I nodded, though I remembered that day for a different reason. "The day
you started talking to me again."
"I was surprised by the flare of resentment, almost fury, that I felt — I
didn't recognize what it was at first. I was even more aggravated than
usual that I couldn't know what you were thinking, why you refused him.
Was it simply for your friend's sake? Was there someone else? I knew I
had no right to care either way. I tried not to care.
"And then the line started forming," he chuckled. I scowled in the
"I waited, unreasonably anxious to hear what you would say to them, to
watch your expressions. I couldn't deny the relief I felt, watching the
annoyance on your face. But I couldn't be sure.
"That was the first night I came here. I wrestled all night, while
watching you sleep, with the chasm between what I knew was right, moral,
ethical, and what I wanted. I knew that if I continued to ignore you as I
should, or if I left for a few years, till you were gone, that someday
you would say yes to Mike, or someone like him. It made me angry.
"And then," he whispered, "as you were sleeping, you said my name. You
spoke so clearly, at first I thought you'd woken. But you rolled over
restlessly and mumbled my name once more, and sighed. The feeling that
coursed through me then was unnerving, staggering. And I knew I couldn't
ignore you any longer." He was silent for a moment, probably listening to
the suddenly uneven pounding of my heart.
"But jealousy… it's a strange thing. So much more powerful than I would
have thought. And irrational! Just now, when Charlie asked you about that
vile Mike Newton…" He shook his head angrily.
"I should have known you'd be listening," I groaned.
"That made you feel jealous, though, really?"
"I'm new at this; you're resurrecting the human in me, and everything
feels stronger because it's fresh."
"But honestly," I teased, "for that to bother you, after I have to hear
that Rosalie — Rosalie, the incarnation of pure beauty, Rosalie — was
meant for you. Emmett or no Emmett, how can I compete with that?"
"There's no competition." His teeth gleamed. He drew my trapped hands
around his back, holding me to his chest. I kept as still as I could,
even breathing with caution.
"I know there's no competition," I mumbled into his cold skin. "That's
"Of course Rosalie is beautiful in her way, but even if she wasn't like a
sister to me, even if Emmett didn't belong with her, she could never have
one tenth, no, one hundredth of the attraction you hold for me." He was
serious now, thoughtful. "For almost ninety years I've walked among my
kind, and yours… all the time thinking I was complete in myself, not
realizing what I was seeking. And not finding anything, because you
weren't alive yet."
"It hardly seems fair," I whispered, my face still resting on his chest,
listening to his breath come and go. "I haven't had to wait at all. Why
should I get off so easily?"
"You're right," he agreed with amusement. "I should make this harder for
you, definitely." He freed one of his hands, released my wrist, only to
gather it carefully into his other hand. He stroked my wet hair softly,
from the top of my head to my waist. "You only have to risk your life
every second you spend with me, that's surely not much. You only have to
turn your back on nature, on humanity… what's that worth?"
"Very little — I don't feel deprived of anything."
"Not yet." And his voice was abruptly full of ancient grief.
I tried to pull back, to look in his face, but his hand locked my wrists
in an unbreakable hold.
"What —" I started to ask, when his body became alert. I froze, but he
suddenly released my hands, and disappeared. I narrowly avoided falling
on my face.
"Lie down!" he hissed. I couldn't tell where he spoke from in the
I rolled under my quilt, balling up on my side, the way I usually slept.
I heard the door crack open, as Charlie peeked in to make sure I was
where I was supposed to be. I breathed evenly, exaggerating the movement.
A long minute passed. I listened, not sure if I'd heard the door close.
Then Edward's cool arm was around me, under the covers, his lips at my
"You are a terrible actress — I'd say that career path is out for you."
"Darn it," I muttered. My heart was crashing in my chest.
He hummed a melody I didn't recognize; it sounded like a lullaby.
He paused. "Should I sing you to sleep?"
"Right," I laughed. "Like I could sleep with you here!"
"You do it all the time," he reminded me.
"But I didn't know you were here," I replied icily.
"So if you don't want to sleep…" he suggested, ignoring my tone. My
"If I don't want to sleep… ?"
He chuckled. "What do you want to do then?"
I couldn't answer at first.
"I'm not sure," I finally said.
"Tell me when you decide."
I could feel his cool breath on my neck, feel his nose sliding along my
"I thought you were desensitized."
"Just because I'm resisting the wine doesn't mean I can't appreciate the
bouquet," he whispered. "You have a very floral smell, like lavender… or
freesia," he noted. "It's mouthwatering."
"Yeah, it's an off day when I don't get somebody telling me how edible I
He chuckled, and then sighed.
"I've decided what I want to do," I told him. "I want to hear more about
"Ask me anything."
I sifted through my questions for the most vital. "Why do you do it?" I
said. "I still don't understand how you can work so hard to resist what
you… are. Please don't misunderstand, of course I'm glad that you do. I
just don't see why you would bother in the first place."
He hesitated before answering. "That's a good question, and you are not
the first one to ask it. The others — the majority of our kind who are
quite content with our lot — they, too, wonder at how we live. But you
see, just because we've been… dealt a certain hand… it doesn't mean that
we can't choose to rise above — to conquer the boundaries of a destiny
that none of us wanted. To try to retain whatever essential humanity we
I lay unmoving, locked in awed silence.
"Did you fall asleep?" he whispered after a few minutes.
"Is that all you were curious about?"
I rolled my eyes. "Not quite."
"What else do you want to know?"
"Why can you read minds — why only you? And Alice, seeing the future… why
does that happen?"
I felt him shrug in the darkness. "We don't really know. Carlisle has a
theory… he believes that we all bring something of our strongest human
traits with us into the next life, where they are intensified — like our
minds, and our senses. He thinks that I must have already been very
sensitive to the thoughts of those around me. And that Alice had some
precognition, wherever she was."
"What did he bring into the next life, and the others?"
"Carlisle brought his compassion. Esme brought her ability to love
passionately. Emmett brought his strength, Rosalie her… tenacity. Or you
could call it pigheadedness." he chuckled. "Jasper is very interesting.
He was quite charismatic in his first life, able to influence those
around him to see things his way. Now he is able to manipulate the
emotions of those around him — calm down a room of angry people, for
example, or excite a lethargic crowd, conversely. It's a very subtle
I considered the impossibilities he described, trying to take it in. He
waited patiently while I thought.
"So where did it all start? I mean, Carlisle changed you, and then
someone must have changed him, and so on…"
"Well, where did you come from? Evolution? Creation? Couldn't we have
evolved in the same way as other species, predator and prey? Or, if you
don't believe that all this world could have just happened on its own,
which is hard for me to accept myself, is it so hard to believe that the
same force that created the delicate angelfish with the shark, the baby
seal and the killer whale, could create both our kinds together?"
"Let me get this straight — I'm the baby seal, right?"
"Right." He laughed, and something touched my hair — his lips?
I wanted to turn toward him, to see if it was really his lips against my
hair. But I had to be good; I didn't want to make this any harder for him
than it already was.
"Are you ready to sleep?" he asked, interrupting the short silence. "Or
do you have any more questions?"
"Only a million or two."
"We have tomorrow, and the next day, and the next…" he reminded me. I
smiled, euphoric at the thought.
"Are you sure you won't vanish in the morning?" I wanted this to be
certain. "You are mythical, after all."
"I won't leave you." His voice had the seal of a promise in it.
"One more, then, tonight…" And I blushed. The darkness was no help — I'm
sure he could feel the sudden warmth under my skin.
"What is it?"
"No, forget it. I changed my mind."
"Bella, you can ask me anything."
I didn't answer, and he groaned.
"I keep thinking it will get less frustrating, not hearing your thoughts.
But it just gets worse and worse."
"I'm glad you can't read my thoughts. It's bad enough that you eavesdrop
on my sleep-talking."
"Please?" His voice was so persuasive, so impossible to resist.
I shook my head.
"If you don't tell me, I'll just assume it's something much worse than it
is," he threatened darkly. "Please?" Again, that pleading voice.
"Well," I began, glad that he couldn't see my face.
"You said that Rosalie and Emmett will get married soon… Is that…
marriage… the same as it is for humans?"
He laughed in earnest now, understanding. "Is that what you're getting
I fidgeted, unable to answer.
"Yes, I suppose it is much the same," he said. "I told you, most of those
human desires are there, just hidden behind more powerful desires."
"Oh," was all I could say.
"Was there a purpose behind your curiosity?"
"Well, I did wonder… about you and me… someday…"
He was instantly serious, I could tell by the sudden stillness of his
body. I froze, too, reacting automatically.
"I don't think that… that… would be possible for us."
"Because it would be too hard for you, if I were that… close?"
"That's certainly a problem. But that's not what I was thinking of. It's
just that you are so soft, so fragile. I have to mind my actions every
moment that we're together so that I don't hurt you. I could kill you
quite easily, Bella, simply by accident." His voice had become just a
soft murmur. He moved his icy palm to rest it against my cheek. "If I was
too hasty… if for one second I wasn't paying enough attention, I could
reach out, meaning to touch your face, and crush your skull by mistake.
You don't realize how incredibly breakable you are. I can never, never
afford to lose any kind of control when I'm with you."
He waited for me to respond, growing anxious when I didn't. "Are you
scared?" he asked.
I waited for a minute to answer, so the words would be true. "No. I'm
He seemed to deliberate for a moment. "I'm curious now, though," he said,
his voice light again. "Have you ever… ?" He trailed off suggestively.
"Of course not." I flushed. "I told you I've never felt like this about
anyone before, not even close."
"I know. It's just that I know other people's thoughts. I know love and
lust don't always keep the same company."
"They do for me. Now, anyway, that they exist for me at all," I sighed.
"That's nice. We have that one thing in common, at least." He sounded
"Your human instincts…" I began. He waited. "Well, do you find me
attractive, in that way, at all?"
He laughed and lightly rumpled my nearly dry hair.
"I may not be a human, but I am a man," he assured me.
I yawned involuntarily.
"I've answered your questions, now you should sleep," he insisted.
"I'm not sure if I can."
"Do you want me to leave?"
"No!" I said too loudly.
He laughed, and then began to hum that same, unfamiliar lullaby; the
voice of an archangel, soft in my ear.
More tired than I realized, exhausted from the long day of mental and
emotional stress like I'd never felt before, I drifted to sleep in his
15. THE CULLENS
The muted light of yet another cloudy day eventually woke me. I lay with
my arm across my eyes, groggy and dazed. Something, a dream trying to be
remembered, struggled to break into my consciousness. I moaned and rolled
on my side, hoping more sleep would come. And then the previous day
flooded back into my awareness.
"Oh!" I sat up so fast it made my head spin.
"Your hair looks like a haystack… but I like it." His unruffled voice
came from the rocking chair in the corner.
"Edward! You stayed!" I rejoiced, and thoughtlessly threw myself across
the room and into his lap. In the instant that my thoughts caught up with
my actions, I froze, shocked by my own uncontrolled enthusiasm. I stared
up at him, afraid that I had crossed the wrong line.
But he laughed.
"Of course," he answered, startled, but seeming pleased by my reaction.
His hands rubbed my back.
I laid my head cautiously against his shoulder, breathing in the smell of
"I was sure it was a dream."
"You're not that creative," he scoffed.
"Charlie!" I remembered, thoughtlessly jumping up again and heading to
"He left an hour ago — after reattaching your battery cables, I might
add. I have to admit I was disappointed. Is that really all it would take
to stop you, if you were determined to go?"
I deliberated where I stood, wanting to return to him badly, but afraid I
might have morning breath.
"You're not usually this confused in the morning," he noted. He held his
arms open for me to return. A nearly irresistible invitation.
"I need another human minute," I admitted.
I skipped to the bathroom, my emotions unrecognizable. I didn't know
myself, inside or out. The face in the mirror was practically a stranger
— eyes too bright, hectic spots of red across my cheekbones. After I
brushed my teeth, I worked to straighten out the tangled chaos that was
my hair. I splashed my face with cold water, and tried to breathe
normally, with no noticeable success. I half-ran back to my room.
It seemed like a miracle that he was there, his arms still waiting for
me. He reached out to me, and my heart thumped unsteadily.
"Welcome back," he murmured, taking me into his arms.
He rocked me for a while in silence, until I noticed that his clothes
were changed, his hair smooth.
"You left?" I accused, touching the collar of his fresh shirt.
"I could hardly leave in the clothes I came in — what would the neighbors
"You were very deeply asleep; I didn't miss anything." His eyes gleamed.
"The talking came earlier."
I groaned. "What did you hear?"
His gold eyes grew very soft. "You said you loved me."
"You knew that already," I reminded him, ducking my head.
"It was nice to hear, just the same."
I hid my face against his shoulder.
"I love you," I whispered.
"You are my life now," he answered simply.
There was nothing more to say for the moment. He rocked us back and forth
as the room grew lighter.
"Breakfast time," he said eventually, casually — to prove, I'm sure, that
he remembered all my human frailties.
So I clutched my throat with both hands and stared at him with wide eyes.
Shock crossed his face.
"Kidding!" I snickered. "And you said I couldn't act!"
He frowned in disgust. "That wasn't funny."
"It was very funny, and you know it." But I examined his gold eyes
carefully, to make sure that I was forgiven. Apparently, I was.
"Shall I rephrase?" he asked. "Breakfast time for the human."
He threw me over his stone shoulder, gently, but with a swiftness that
left me breathless. I protested as he carried me easily down the stairs,
but he ignored me. He sat me right side up on a chair.
The kitchen was bright, happy, seeming to absorb my mood.
"What's for breakfast?" I asked pleasantly.
That threw him for a minute.
"Er, I'm not sure. What would you like?" His marble brow puckered.
I grinned, hopping up.
"That's all right, I fend for myself pretty well. Watch me hunt."
I found a bowl and a box of cereal. I could feel his eyes on me as I
poured the milk and grabbed a spoon. I sat my food on the table, and then
"Can I get you anything?" I asked, not wanting to be rude.
He rolled his eyes. "Just eat, Bella."
I sat at the table, watching him as I took a bite. He was gazing at me,
studying my every movement. It made me self-conscious. I cleared my mouth
to speak, to distract him.
"What's on the agenda for today?" I asked.
"Hmmm…" I watched him frame his answer carefully. "What would you say to
meeting my family?"
"Are you afraid now?" He sounded hopeful.
"Yes," I admitted; how could I deny it — he could see my eyes.
"Don't worry." He smirked. "I'll protect you."
"I'm not afraid of them," I explained. "I'm afraid they won't… like me.
Won't they be, well, surprised that you would bring someone… like me…
home to meet them? Do they know that I know about them?"
"Oh, they already know everything. They'd taken bets yesterday, you know"
— he smiled, but his voice was harsh — "on whether I'd bring you back,
though why anyone would bet against Alice, I can't imagine. At any rate,
we don't have secrets in the family. It's not really feasible, what with
my mind reading and Alice seeing the future and all that."
"And Jasper making you feel all warm and fuzzy about spilling your guts,
don't forget that."
"You paid attention," he smiled approvingly.
"I've been known to do that every now and then." I grimaced. "So did
Alice see me coming?"
His reaction was strange. "Something like that," he said uncomfortably,
turning away so I couldn't see his eyes. I stared at him curiously.
"Is that any good?" he asked, turning back to me abruptly and eyeing my
breakfast with a teasing look on his face. "Honestly, it doesn't look
"Well, it's no irritable grizzly…" I murmured, ignoring him when he
glowered. I was still wondering why he responded that way when I
mentioned Alice. I hurried through my cereal, speculating.
He stood in the middle of the kitchen, the statue of Adonis again,
staring abstractedly out the back windows.
Then his eyes were back on me, and he smiled his heartbreaking smile.
"And you should introduce me to your father, too, I think."
"He already knows you," I reminded him.
"As your boyfriend, I mean."
I stared at him with suspicion. "Why?"
"Isn't that customary?" he asked innocently.
"I don't know," I admitted. My dating history gave me few reference
points to work with. Not that any normal rules of dating applied here.
"That's not necessary, you know. I don't expect you to… I mean, you don't
have to pretend for me."
His smile was patient. "I'm not pretending."
I pushed the remains of my cereal around the edges of the bowl, biting my
"Are you going to tell Charlie I'm your boyfriend or not?" he demanded.
"Is that what you are?" I suppressed my internal cringing at the thought
of Edward and Charlie and the word boy friend all in the same room at the
"It's a loose interpretation of the word 'boy,' I'll admit."
"I was under the impression that you were something more, actually," I
confessed, looking at the table.
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