you. I want this to happen, because I want you to be safe. And yet, I
want to be with you. The two desires are impossible to reconcile…" He
trailed off, staring at my face. Waiting.
"I'm not running anywhere," I promised.
"We'll see," he said, smiling again.
I frowned at him. "So, go on — Carlisle was swimming to France."
He paused, getting back into his story. Reflexively, his eyes flickered
to another picture — the most colorful of them all, the most ornately
framed, and the largest; it was twice as wide as the door it hung next
to. The canvas overflowed with bright figures in swirling robes, writhing
around long pillars and off marbled balconies. I couldn't tell if it
represented Greek mythology, or if the characters floating in the clouds
above were meant to be biblical.
"Carlisle swam to France, and continued on through Europe, to the
universities there. By night he studied music, science, medicine — and
found his calling, his penance, in that, in saving human lives." His
expression became awed, almost reverent. "I can't adequately describe the
struggle; it took Carlisle two centuries of torturous effort to perfect
his self-control. Now he is all but immune to the scent of human blood,
and he is able to do the work he loves without agony. He finds a great
deal of peace there, at the hospital…" Edward stared off into space for a
long moment. Suddenly he seemed to recall his purpose. He tapped his
finger against the huge painting in front of us.
"He was studying in Italy when he discovered the others there. They were
much more civilized and educated than the wraiths of the London sewers."
He touched a comparatively sedate quartet of figures painted on the
highest balcony, looking down calmly on the mayhem below them. I examined
the grouping carefully and realized, with a startled laugh, that I
recognized the golden-haired man.
"Solimena was greatly inspired by Carlisle's friends. He often painted
them as gods," Edward chuckled. "Aro, Marcus, Caius," he said, indicating
the other three, two black-haired, one snowy-white. "Nighttime patrons of
"What happened to them?" I wondered aloud, my fingertip hovering a
centimeter from the figures on the canvas.
"They're still there." He shrugged. "As they have been for who knows how
many millennia. Carlisle stayed with them only for a short time, just a
few decades. He greatly admired their civility, their refinement, but
they persisted in trying to cure his aversion to 'his natural food
source,' as they called it. They tried to persuade him, and he tried to
persuade them, to no avail. At that point, Carlisle decided to try the
New World. He dreamed of finding others like himself. He was very lonely,
"He didn't find anyone for a long time. But, as monsters became the stuff
of fairy tales, he found he could interact with unsuspecting humans as if
he were one of them. He began practicing medicine. But the companionship
he craved evaded him; he couldn't risk familiarity.
"When the influenza epidemic hit, he was working nights in a hospital in
Chicago. He'd been turning over an idea in his mind for several years,
and he had almost decided to act — since he couldn't find a companion, he
would create one. He wasn't absolutely sure how his own transformation
had occurred, so he was hesitant. And he was loath to steal anyone's life
the way his had been stolen. It was in that frame of mind that he found
me. There was no hope for me; I was left in a ward with the dying. He had
nursed my parents, and knew I was alone. He decided to try…"
His voice, nearly a whisper now, trailed off. He stared unseeingly
through the west windows. I wondered which images filled his mind now,
Carlisle's memories or his own. I waited quietly.
When he turned back to me, a gentle angel's smile lit his expression.
"And so we've come full circle," he concluded.
"Have you always stayed with Carlisle, then?" I wondered.
"Almost always." He put his hand lightly on my waist and pulled me with
him as he walked through the door. I stared back at the wall of pictures,
wondering if I would ever get to hear the other stories.
Edward didn't say any more as we walked down the hall, so I asked,
He sighed, seeming reluctant to answer. "Well, I had a typical bout of
rebellious adolescence — about ten years after I was… born… created,
whatever you want to call it. I wasn't sold on his life of abstinence,
and I resented him for curbing my appetite. So I went off on my own for a
"Really?" I was intrigued, rather than frightened, as I perhaps should
He could tell. I vaguely realized that we were headed up the next flight
of stairs, but I wasn't paying much attention to my surroundings.
"That doesn't repulse you?"
"I guess… it sounds reasonable."
He barked a laugh, more loudly than before. We were at the top of the
stairs now, in another paneled hallway.
"From the time of my new birth," he murmured, "I had the advantage of
knowing what everyone around me was thinking, both human and non-human
alike. That's why it took me ten years to defy Carlisle — I could read
his perfect sincerity, understand exactly why he lived the way he did.
"It took me only a few years to return to Carlisle and recommit to his
vision. I thought I would be exempt from the… depression… that
accompanies a conscience. Because I knew the thoughts of my prey, I could
pass over the innocent and pursue only the evil. If I followed a murderer
down a dark alley where he stalked a young girl — if I saved her, then
surely I wasn't so terrible."
I shivered, imagining only too clearly what he described — the alley at
night, the frightened girl, the dark man behind her. And Edward, Edward
as he hunted, terrible and glorious as a young god, unstoppable. Would
she have been grateful, that girl, or more frightened than before?
"But as time went on, I began to see the monster in my eyes. I couldn't
escape the debt of so much human life taken, no matter how justified. And
I went back to Carlisle and Esme. They welcomed me back like the
prodigal. It was more than I deserved."
We'd come to a stop in front of the last door in the hall.
"My room," he informed me, opening it and pulling me through.
His room faced south, with a wall-sized window like the great room below.
The whole back side of the house must be glass. His view looked down on
the winding Sol Duc River, across the untouched forest to the Olympic
Mountain range. The mountains were much closer than I would have believed.
The western wall was completely covered with shelf after shelf of CDs.
His room was better stocked than a music store. In the corner was a
sophisticated-looking sound system, the kind I was afraid to touch
because I'd be sure to break something. There was no bed, only a wide and
inviting black leather sofa. The floor was covered with a thick golden
carpet, and the walls were hung with heavy fabric in a slightly darker
"Good acoustics?" I guessed.
He chuckled and nodded.
He picked up a remote and turned the stereo on. It was quiet, but the
soft jazz number sounded like the band was in the room with us. I went to
look at his mind-boggling music collection.
"How do you have these organized?" I asked, unable to find any rhyme or
reason to the titles.
He wasn't paying attention.
"Ummm, by year, and then by personal preference within that frame," he
I turned, and he was looking at me with a peculiar expression in his eyes.
"I was prepared to feel… relieved. Having you know about everything, not
needing to keep secrets from you. But I didn't expect to feel more than
that. I like it. It makes me… happy." He shrugged, smiling slightly.
"I'm glad," I said, smiling back. I'd worried that he might regret
telling me these things. It was good to know that wasn't the case.
But then, as his eyes dissected my expression, his smile faded and his
"You're still waiting for the running and the screaming, aren't you?" I
A faint smile touched his lips, and he nodded.
"I hate to burst your bubble, but you're really not as scary as you think
you are. I don't find you scary at all, actually," I lied casually.
He stopped, raising his eyebrows in blatant disbelief. Then he flashed a
wide, wicked smile.
"You really shouldn't have said that," he chuckled.
He growled, a low sound in the back of his throat; his lips curled back
over his perfect teeth. His body shifted suddenly, half-crouched, tensed
like a lion about to pounce.
I backed away from him, glaring.
I didn't see him leap at me — it was much too fast. I only found myself
suddenly airborne, and then we crashed onto the sofa, knocking it into
the wall. All the while, his arms formed an iron cage of protection
around me — I was barely jostled. But I still was gasping as I tried to
He wasn't having that. He curled me into a ball against his chest,
holding me more securely than iron chains. I glared at him in alarm, but
he seemed well in control, his jaw relaxed as he grinned, his eyes bright
only with humor.
"You were saying?" he growled playfully.
"That you are a very, very terrifying monster," I said, my sarcasm marred
a bit by my breathless voice.
"Much better," he approved.
"Um." I struggled. "Can I get up now?"
He just laughed.
"Can we come in?" a soft voice sounded from the hall.
I struggled to free myself, but Edward merely readjusted me so that I was
somewhat more conventionally seated on his lap. I could see it was Alice,
then, and Jasper behind her in the doorway. My cheeks burned, but Edward
seemed at ease.
"Go ahead." Edward was still chuckling quietly.
Alice seemed to find nothing unusual in our embrace; she walked — almost
danced, her movements were so graceful — to the center of the room, where
she folded herself sinuously onto the floor. Jasper, however, paused at
the door, his expression a trifle shocked. He stared at Edward's face,
and I wondered if he was tasting the atmosphere with his unusual
"It sounded like you were having Bella for lunch, and we came to see if
you would share," Alice announced.
I stiffened for an instant, until I realized Edward was grinning —
whether at her comment or my response, I couldn't tell.
"Sorry, I don't believe I have enough to spare," he replied, his arms
holding me recklessly close.
"Actually," Jasper said, smiling despite himself as he walked into the
room, "Alice says there's going to be a real storm tonight, and Emmett
wants to play ball. Are you game?"
The words were all common enough, but the context confused me. I gathered
that Alice was a bit more reliable than the weatherman, though.
Edward's eyes lit up, but he hesitated.
"Of course you should bring Bella," Alice chirped. I thought I saw Jasper
throw a quick glance at her.
"Do you want to go?" Edward asked me, excited, his expression vivid.
"Sure." I couldn't disappoint such a face. "Um, where are we going?"
"We have to wait for thunder to play ball — you'll see why," he promised.
"Will I need an umbrella?"
They all three laughed aloud.
"Will she?" Jasper asked Alice.
"No." She was positive. "The storm will hit over town. It should be dry
enough in the clearing."
"Good, then." The enthusiasm in Jasper's voice was catching, naturally. I
found myself eager, rather than scared stiff.
"Let's go see if Carlisle will come." Alice bounded up and to the door in
a fashion that would break any ballerina's heart.
"Like you don't know," Jasper teased, and they were swiftly on their way.
Jasper managed to inconspicuously close the door behind them.
"What will we be playing?" I demanded.
"You will be watching," Edward clarified. "We will be playing baseball."
I rolled my eyes. "Vampires like baseball?"
"It's the American pastime," he said with mock solemnity.
17. THE GAME
It was just beginning to drizzle when Edward turned onto my street. Up
until that moment, I'd had no doubt that he'd be staying with me while I
spent a few interim hours in the real world.
And then I saw the black car, a weathered Ford, parked in Charlie's
driveway — and heard Edward mutter something unintelligible in a low,
Leaning away from the rain under the shallow front porch, Jacob Black
stood behind his father's wheelchair. Billy's face was impassive as stone
as Edward parked my truck against the curb. Jacob stared down, his
Edward's low voice was furious. "This is crossing the line."
"He came to warn Charlie?" I guessed, more horrified than angry.
Edward just nodded, answering Billy's gaze through the rain with narrowed
I felt weak with relief that Charlie wasn't home yet.
"Let me deal with this," I suggested. Edward's black glare made me
To my surprise, he agreed. "That's probably best. Be careful, though. The
child has no idea."
I bridled a little at the word child. "Jacob is not that much younger
than I am," I reminded him.
He looked at me then, his anger abruptly fading. "Oh, I know," he assured
me with a grin.
I sighed and put my hand on the door handle.
"Get them inside," he instructed, "so I can leave. I'll be back around
"Do you want my truck?" I offered, meanwhile wondering how I would
explain its absence to Charlie.
He rolled his eyes. "I could walk home faster than this truck moves."
"You don't have to leave," I said wistfully.
He smiled at my glum expression. "Actually, I do. After you get rid of
them" — he threw a dark glance in the Blacks' direction — "you still have
to prepare Charlie to meet your new boyfriend." He grinned widely,
showing all of his teeth.
I groaned. "Thanks a lot."
He smiled the crooked smile that I loved. "I'll be back soon," he
promised. His eyes flickered back to the porch, and then he leaned in to
swiftly kiss me just under the edge of my jaw. My heart lurched
frantically, and I, too, glanced toward the porch. Billy's face was no
longer impassive, and his hands clutched at the armrests of his chair.
"Soon," I stressed as I opened the door and stepped out into the rain.
I could feel his eyes on my back as I half-ran through the light sprinkle
toward the porch.
"Hey, Billy. Hi, Jacob." I greeted them as cheerfully as I could manage.
"Charlie's gone for the day — I hope you haven't been waiting long."
"Not long," Billy said in a subdued tone. His black eyes were piercing.
"I just wanted to bring this up." He indicated a brown paper sack resting
in his lap.
"Thanks," I said, though I had no idea what it could be. "Why don't you
come in for a minute and dry off?"
I pretended to be oblivious to his intense scrutiny as I unlocked the
door, and waved them in ahead of me.
"Here, let me take that," I offered, turning to shut the door. I allowed
myself one last glance at Edward. He was waiting, perfectly still, his
"You'll want to put it in the fridge," Billy noted as he handed me the
package. "It's some of Harry Clearwater's homemade fish fry — Charlie's
favorite. The fridge keeps it drier." He shrugged.
"Thanks," I repeated, but with feeling this time. "I was running out of
new ways to fix fish, and he's bound to bring home more tonight."
"Fishing again?" Billy asked with a subtle gleam in his eye. "Down at the
usual spot? Maybe I'll run by and see him."
"No," I quickly lied, my face going hard. "He was headed someplace new…
but I have no idea where."
He took in my changed expression, and it made him thoughtful.
"Jake," he said, still appraising me. "Why don't you go get that new
picture of Rebecca out of the car? I'll leave that for Charlie, too."
"Where is it?" Jacob asked, his voice morose. I glanced at him, but he
was staring at the floor, his eyebrows pulling together.
"I think I saw it in the trunk," Billy said. "You may have to dig for it."
Jacob slouched back out into the rain.
Billy and I faced each other in silence. After a few seconds, the quiet
started to feel awkward, so I turned and headed to the kitchen. I could
hear his wet wheels squeak against the linoleum as he followed.
I shoved the bag onto the crowded top shelf of the fridge, and spun
around to confront him. His deeply lined face was unreadable.
"Charlie won't be back for a long time." My voice was almost rude.
He nodded in agreement, but said nothing.
"Thanks again for the fish fry," I hinted.
He continued nodding. I sighed and folded my arms across my chest.
He seemed to sense that I had given up on small talk. "Bella," he said,
and then he hesitated.
"Bella," he said again, "Charlie is one of my best friends."
He spoke each word carefully in his rumbling voice. "I noticed you've
been spending time with one of the Cullens."
"Yes," I repeated curtly.
His eyes narrowed. "Maybe it's none of my business, but I don't think
that is such a good idea."
"You're right," I agreed. "It is none of your business."
He raised his graying eyebrows at my tone. "You probably don't know this,
but the Cullen family has an unpleasant reputation on the reservation."
"Actually, I did know that," I informed him in a hard voice. This
surprised him. "But that reputation couldn't be deserved, could it?
Because the Cullens never set foot on the reservation, do they?" I could
see that my less than subtle reminder of the agreement that both bound
and protected his tribe pulled him up short.
"That's true," he acceded, his eyes guarded. "You seem… well informed
about the Cullens. More informed than I expected."
I stared him down. "Maybe even better informed than you are."
He pursed his thick lips as he considered that. "Maybe." he allowed, but
his eyes were shrewd. "Is Charlie as well informed?"
He had found the weak chink in my armor.
"Charlie likes the Cullens a lot," I hedged. He clearly understood my
evasion. His expression was unhappy, but unsurprised.
"It's not my business," he said. "But it may be Charlie's."
"Though it would be my business, again, whether or not I think that it's
Charlie's business, right?"
I wondered if he even understood my confused question as I struggled not
to say anything compromising. But he seemed to. He thought about it while
the rain picked up against the roof, the only sound breaking the silence.
"Yes," he finally surrendered. "I guess that's your business, too."
I sighed with relief. "Thanks, Billy."
"Just think about what you're doing, Bella," he urged.
"Okay," I agreed quickly.
He frowned. "What I meant to say was, don't do what you're doing."
I looked into his eyes, filled with nothing but concern for me, and there
was nothing I could say.
Just then the front door banged loudly, and I jumped at the sound.
"There's no picture anywhere in that car." Jacob's complaining voice
reached us before he did. The shoulders of his shirt were stained with
the rain, his hair dripping, when he rounded the corner.
"Hmm," Billy grunted, suddenly detached, spinning his chair around to
face his son. "I guess I left it at home."
Jacob rolled his eyes dramatically. "Great."
"Well, Bella, tell Charlie" — Billy paused before continuing — "that we
stopped by, I mean."
"I will," I muttered.
Jacob was surprised. "Are we leaving already?"
"Charlie's gonna be out late," Billy explained as he rolled himself past
"Oh." Jacob looked disappointed. "Well, I guess I'll see you later, then,
"Sure," I agreed.
"Take care," Billy warned me. I didn't answer.
Jacob helped his father out the door. I waved briefly, glancing swiftly
toward my now-empty truck, and then shut the door before they were gone.
I stood in the hallway for a minute, listening to the sound of their car
as it backed out and drove away. I stayed where I was, waiting for the
irritation and anxiety to subside. When the tension eventually faded a
bit, I headed upstairs to change out of my dressy clothes.
I tried on a couple of different tops, not sure what to expect tonight.
As I concentrated on what was coming, what had just passed became
insignificant. Now that I was removed from Jasper's and Edward's
influence, I began to make up for not being terrified before. I gave up
quickly on choosing an outfit — throwing on an old flannel shirt and
jeans — knowing I would be in my raincoat all night anyway.
The phone rang and I sprinted downstairs to get it. There was only one
voice I wanted to hear; anything else would be a disappointment. But I
knew that if he wanted to talk to me, he'd probably just materialize in
"Hello?" I asked, breathless.
"Bella? It's me," Jessica said.
"Oh, hey, Jess." I scrambled for a moment to come back down to reality.
It felt like months rather than days since I'd spoken to Jess. "How was
"It was so much fun!" Jessica gushed. Needing no more invitation than
that, she launched into a minute-by-minute account of the previous night.
I mmm'd and ahh'd at the right places, but it wasn't easy to concentrate.
Jessica, Mike, the dance, the school — they all seemed strangely
irrelevant at the moment. My eyes kept flashing to the window, trying to
judge the degree of light behind the heavy clouds.
"Did you hear what I said, Bella?" Jess asked, irritated.
"I'm sorry, what?"
"I said, Mike kissed me! Can you believe it?"
"That's wonderful, Jess," I said.
"So what did you do yesterday?" Jessica challenged, still sounding
bothered by my lack of attention. Or maybe she was upset because I hadn't
asked for details.
"Nothing, really. I just hung around outside to enjoy the sun."
I heard Charlie's car in the garage.
"Did you ever hear anything more from Edward Cullen?"
The front door slammed and I could hear Charlie banging around under the
stairs, putting his tackle away.
"Um." I hesitated, not sure what my story was anymore.
"Hi there, kiddo!" Charlie called as he walked into the kitchen. I waved
Jess heard his voice. "Oh, your dad's there. Never mind — we'll talk
tomorrow. See you in Trig."
"See ya, Jess." I hung up the phone.
"Hey, Dad," I said. He was scrubbing his hands in the sink. "Where's the
"I put it out in the freezer."
"I'll go grab a few pieces before they freeze — Billy dropped off some of
Harry Clearwater's fish fry this afternoon." I worked to sound
"He did?" Charlie's eyes lit up. "That's my favorite."
Charlie cleaned up while I got dinner ready. It didn't take long till we
were sitting at the table, eating in silence. Charlie was enjoying his
food. I was wondering desperately how to fulfill my assignment,
struggling to think of a way to broach the subject.
"What did you do with yourself today?" he asked, snapping me out of my
"Well, this afternoon I just hung out around the house…" Only the very
recent part of this afternoon, actually. I tried to keep my voice upbeat,
but my stomach was hollow. "And this morning I was over at the Cullens'."
Charlie dropped his fork.
"Dr. Cullen's place?" he asked in astonishment.
I pretended not to notice his reaction. "Yeah."
"What were you doing there?" He hadn't picked his fork back up.
"Well, I sort of have a date with Edward Cullen tonight, and he wanted to
introduce me to his parents… Dad?"
It appeared that Charlie was having an aneurysm.
"Dad, are you all right?"
"You are going out with Edward Cullen?" he thundered.
Uh-oh. "I thought you liked the Cullens."
"He's too old for you," he ranted.
"We're both juniors," I corrected, though he was more right than he
"Wait…" He paused. "Which one is Edwin?"
"Edward is the youngest, the one with the reddish brown hair." The
beautiful one, the godlike one…
"Oh, well, that's" — he struggled — "better, I guess. I don't like the
look of that big one. I'm sure he's a nice boy and all, but he looks too…
mature for you. Is this Edwin your boyfriend?"
"It's Edward, Dad."
"Sort of, I guess."
"You said last night that you weren't interested in any of the boys in
town." But he picked up his fork again, so I could see the worst was over.
"Well, Edward doesn't live in town, Dad."
He gave me a disparaging look as he chewed.
"And, anyways," I continued, "it's kind of at an early stage, you know.
Don't embarrass me with all the boyfriend talk, okay?"
"When is he coming over?"
"He'll be here in a few minutes."
"Where is he taking you?"
I groaned loudly. "I hope you're getting the Spanish Inquisition out of
your system now. We're going to play baseball with his family."
His face puckered, and then he finally chuckled. "You're playing
"Well, I'll probably watch most of the time."
"You must really like this guy," he observed suspiciously.
I sighed and rolled my eyes for his benefit.
I heard the roar of an engine pull up in front of the house. I jumped up
and started cleaning my dishes.
"Leave the dishes, I can do them tonight. You baby me too much."
The doorbell rang, and Charlie stalked off to answer it. I was half a
step behind him.
I hadn't realized how hard it was pouring outside. Edward stood in the
halo of the porch light, looking like a male model in an advertisement
"Come on in, Edward."
I breathed a sigh of relief when Charlie got his name right.
"Thanks, Chief Swan," Edward said in a respectful voice.
"Go ahead and call me Charlie. Here, I'll take your jacket."
"Have a seat there, Edward."
Edward sat down fluidly in the only chair, forcing me to sit next to
Chief Swan on the sofa. I quickly shot him a dirty look. He winked behind
"So I hear you're getting my girl to watch baseball." Only in Washington
would the fact that it was raining buckets have no bearing at all on the
playing of outdoor sports.
"Yes, sir, that's the plan." He didn't look surprised that I'd told my
father the truth. He might have been listening, though.
"Well, more power to you, I guess."
Charlie laughed, and Edward joined in.
"Okay." I stood up. "Enough humor at my expense. Let's go." I walked back
to the hall and pulled on my jacket. They followed.
"Not too late, Bell."
"Don't worry, Charlie, I'll have her home early," Edward promised.
"You take care of my girl, all right?"
I groaned, but they ignored me.
"She'll be safe with me, I promise, sir."
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