He took a step back and touched a palm-sized digital video camera
balanced carefully on top of the stereo. A small red light indicated that
it was already running. He adjusted it a few times, widened the frame. I
stared at him in horror.
"I'm sorry, but I just don't think he'll be able to resist hunting me
after he watches this. And I wouldn't want him to miss anything. It was
all for him, of course. You're simply a human, who unfortunately was in
the wrong place, at the wrong time, and indisputably running with the
wrong crowd, I might add."
He stepped toward me, smiling. "Before we begin…"
I felt a curl of nausea in the pit of my stomach as he spoke. This was
something I had not anticipated.
"I would just like to rub it in, just a little bit. The answer was there
all along, and I was so afraid Edward would see that and ruin my fun. It
happened once, oh, ages ago. The one and only time my prey escaped me.
"You see, the vampire who was so stupidly fond of this little victim made
the choice that your Edward was too weak to make. When the old one knew I
was after his little friend, he stole her from the asylum where he worked
— I never will understand the obsession some vampires seem to form with
you humans — and as soon as he freed her he made her safe. She didn't
even seem to notice the pain, poor little creature. She'd been stuck in
that black hole of a cell for so long. A hundred years earlier and she
would have been burned at the stake for her visions. In the
nineteen-twenties it was the asylum and the shock treatments. When she
opened her eyes, strong with her fresh youth, it was like she'd never
seen the sun before. The old vampire made her a strong new vampire, and
there was no reason for me to touch her then." He sighed. "I destroyed
the old one in vengeance."
"Alice," I breathed, astonished.
"Yes, your little friend. I was surprised to see her in the clearing. So
I guess her coven ought to be able to derive some comfort from this
experience. I get you, but they get her. The one victim who escaped me,
quite an honor, actually.
"And she did smell so delicious. I still regret that I never got to
taste… She smelled even better than you do. Sorry — I don't mean to be
offensive. You have a very nice smell. Floral, somehow…"
He took another step toward me, till he was just inches away. He lifted a
lock of my hair and sniffed at it delicately. Then he gently patted the
strand back into place, and I felt his cool fingertips against my throat.
He reached up to stroke my cheek once quickly with his thumb, his face
curious. I wanted so badly to run, but I was frozen. I couldn't even
"No," he murmured to himself as he dropped his hand, "I don't
understand." He sighed. "Well, I suppose we should get on with it. And
then I can call your friends and tell them where to find you, and my
I was definitely sick now. There was pain coming, I could see it in his
eyes. It wouldn't be enough for him to win, to feed and go. There would
be no quick end like I'd been counting on. My knees began to shake, and I
was afraid I was going to fall.
He stepped back, and began to circle, casually, as if he were trying to
get a better view of a statue in a museum. His face was still open and
friendly as he decided where to start.
Then he slumped forward, into a crouch I recognized, and his pleasant
smile slowly widened, grew, till it wasn't a smile at all but a
contortion of teeth, exposed and glistening.
I couldn't help myself— I tried to run. As useless as I knew it would be,
as weak as my knees already were, panic took over and I bolted for the
He was in front of me in a flash. I didn't see if he used his hand or his
foot, it was too fast. A crushing blow struck my chest — I felt myself
flying backward, and then heard the crunch as my head bashed into the
mirrors. The glass buckled, some of the pieces shattering and splintering
on the floor beside me.
I was too stunned to feel the pain. I couldn't breathe yet.
He walked toward me slowly.
"That's a very nice effect," he said, examining the mess of glass, his
voice friendly again. "I thought this room would be visually dramatic for
my little film. That's why I picked this place to meet you. It's perfect,
I ignored him, scrambling on my hands and knees, crawling toward the
He was over me at once, his foot stepping down hard on my leg. I heard
the sickening snap before I felt it. But then I did feel it, and I
couldn't hold back my scream of agony. I twisted up to reach for my leg,
and he was standing over me, smiling.
"Would you like to rethink your last request?" he asked pleasantly. His
toe nudged my broken leg and I heard a piercing scream. With a shock, I
realized it was mine.
"Wouldn't you rather have Edward try to find me?" he prompted.
"No!" I croaked. "No, Edward, don't—" And then something smashed into my
face, throwing me back into the broken mirrors.
Over the pain of my leg, I felt the sharp rip across my scalp where the
glass cut into it. And then the warm wetness began to spread through my
hair with alarming speed. I could feel it soaking the shoulder of my
shirt, hear it dripping on the wood below. The smell of it twisted my
Through the nausea and dizziness I saw something that gave me a sudden,
final shred of hope. His eyes, merely intent before, now burned with an
uncontrollable need. The blood — spreading crimson across my white shirt,
pooling rapidly on the floor — was driving him mad with thirst. No matter
his original intentions, he couldn't draw this out much longer.
Let it be quick now, was all I could hope as the flow of blood from my
head sucked my consciousness away with it. My eyes were closing.
I heard, as if from underwater, the final growl of the hunter. I could
see, through the long tunnels my eyes had become, his dark shape coming
toward me. With my last effort, my hand instinctively raised to protect
my face. My eyes closed, and I drifted.
23. THE ANGEL
As I drifted, I dreamed.
Where I floated, under the dark water, I heard the happiest sound my mind
could conjure up — as beautiful, as uplifting, as it was ghastly. It was
another snarl; a deeper, wilder roar that rang with fury.
I was brought back, almost to the surface, by a sharp pain slashing my
upraised hand, but I couldn't find my way back far enough to open my eyes.
And then I knew I was dead.
Because, through the heavy water, I heard the sound of an angel calling
my name, calling me to the only heaven I wanted.
"Oh no, Bella, no!" the angel's voice cried in horror.
Behind that longed-for sound was another noise — an awful tumult that my
mind shied away from. A vicious bass growling, a shocking snapping sound,
and a high keening, suddenly breaking off…
I tried to concentrate on the angel's voice instead.
"Bella, please! Bella, listen to me, please, please, Bella, please!" he
Yes, I wanted to say. Anything. But I couldn't find my lips.
"Carlisle!" the angel called, agony in his perfect voice. "Bella, Bella,
no, oh please, no, no!" And the angel was sobbing tearless, broken sobs.
The angel shouldn't weep, it was wrong. I tried to find him, to tell him
everything was fine, but the water was so deep, it was pressing on me,
and I couldn't breathe.
There was a point of pressure against my head. It hurt. Then, as that
pain broke through the darkness to me, other pains came, stronger pains.
I cried out, gasping, breaking through the dark pool.
"Bella!" the angel cried.
"She's lost some blood, but the head wound isn't deep," a calm voice
informed me. "Watch out for her leg, it's broken."
A howl of rage strangled on the angel's lips.
I felt a sharp stab in my side. This couldn't be heaven, could it? There
was too much pain for that.
"Some ribs, too, I think," the methodical voice continued.
But the sharp pains were fading. There was a new pain, a scalding pain in
my hand that was overshadowing everything else.
Someone was burning me.
"Edward." I tried to tell him, but my voice was so heavy and slow. I
couldn't understand myself.
"Bella, you're going to be fine. Can you hear me, Bella? I love you."
"Edward," I tried again. My voice was a little clearer.
"Yes, I'm here."
"It hurts," I whimpered.
"I know, Bella, I know" — and then, away from me, anguished — "can't you
"My bag, please… Hold your breath, Alice, it will help," Carlisle
"Alice?" I groaned.
"She's here, she knew where to find you."
"My hand hurts," I tried to tell him.
"I know, Bella. Carlisle will give you something, it will stop."
"My hand is burning!" I screamed, finally breaking through the last of
the darkness, my eyes fluttering open. I couldn't see his face, something
dark and warm was clouding my eyes. Why couldn't they see the fire and
put it out?
His voice was frightened. "Bella?"
"The fire! Someone stop the fire!" I screamed as it burned me.
"Carlisle! Her hand!"
"He bit her." Carlisle's voice was no longer calm, it was appalled.
I heard Edward catch his breath in horror.
"Edward, you have to do it." It was Alice's voice, close by my head. Cool
fingers brushed at the wetness in my eyes.
"No!" he bellowed.
"Alice," I moaned.
"There may be a chance," Carlisle said.
"What?" Edward begged.
"See if you can suck the venom back out. The wound is fairly clean." As
Carlisle spoke, I could feel more pressure on my head, something poking
and pulling at my scalp. The pain of it was lost in the pain of the fire.
"Will that work?" Alice's voice was strained.
"I don't know," Carlisle said. "But we have to hurry."
"Carlisle, I…" Edward hesitated. "I don't know if I can do that." There
was agony in his beautiful voice again.
"It's your decision, Edward, either way. I can't help you. I have to get
this bleeding stopped here if you're going to be taking blood from her
I writhed in the grip of the fiery torture, the movement making the pain
in my leg flare sickeningly.
"Edward!" I screamed. I realized my eyes were closed again. I opened
them, desperate to find his face. And I found him. Finally, I could see
his perfect face, staring at me, twisted into a mask of indecision and
"Alice, get me something to brace her leg!" Carlisle was bent over me,
working on my head. "Edward, you must do it now, or it will be too late."
Edward's face was drawn. I watched his eyes as the doubt was suddenly
replaced with a blazing determination. His jaw tightened. I felt his
cool, strong fingers on my burning hand, locking it in place. Then his
head bent over it, and his cold lips pressed against my skin.
At first the pain was worse. I screamed and thrashed against the cool
hands that held me back. I heard Alice's voice, trying to calm me.
Something heavy held my leg to the floor, and Carlisle had my head locked
in the vise of his stone arms.
Then, slowly, my writhing calmed as my hand grew more and more numb. The
fire was dulling, focusing into an ever-smaller point.
I felt my consciousness slipping as the pain subsided. I was afraid to
fall into the black waters again, afraid I would lose him in the darkness.
"Edward," I tried to say, but I couldn't hear my voice. They could hear
"He's right here, Bella."
"Stay, Edward, stay with me…"
"I will." His voice was strained, but somehow triumphant.
I sighed contentedly. The fire was gone, the other pains dulled by a
sleepiness seeping through my body.
"Is it all out?" Carlisle asked from somewhere far away.
"Her blood tastes clean," Edward said quietly. "I can taste the morphine."
"Bella?" Carlisle called to me.
I tried to answer. "Mmmmm?"
"Is the fire gone?"
"Yes," I sighed. "Thank you, Edward."
"I love you," he answered.
"I know," I breathed, so tired.
I heard my favorite sound in the world: Edward's quiet laugh, weak with
"Bella?" Carlisle asked again.
I frowned; I wanted to sleep. "What?"
"Where is your mother?"
"In Florida," I sighed. "He tricked me, Edward. He watched our videos."
The outrage in my voice was pitifully frail.
But that reminded me.
"Alice." I tried to open my eyes. "Alice, the video — he knew you, Alice,
he knew where you came from." I meant to speak urgently, but my voice was
feeble. "I smell gasoline," I added, surprised through the haze in my
"It's time to move her," Carlisle said.
"No, I want to sleep," I complained.
"You can sleep, sweetheart, I'll carry you," Edward soothed me.
And I was in his arms, cradled against his chest — floating, all the pain
"Sleep now, Bella" were the last words I heard.
24. AN IMPASSE
My eyes opened to a bright, white light. I was in an unfamiliar room, a
white room. The wall beside me was covered in long vertical blinds; over
my head, the glaring lights blinded me. I was propped up on a hard,
uneven bed — a bed with rails. The pillows were flat and lumpy. There was
an annoying beeping sound somewhere close by. I hoped that meant I was
still alive. Death shouldn't be this uncomfortable.
My hands were all twisted up with clear tubes, and something was taped
across my face, under my nose. I lifted my hand to rip it off.
"No, you don't." And cool fingers caught my hand.
"Edward?" I turned my head slightly, and his exquisite face was just
inches from mine, his chin resting on the edge of my pillow. I realized
again that I was alive, this time with gratitude and elation. "Oh,
Edward, I'm so sorry!"
"Shhhh," he shushed me. "Everything's all right now."
"What happened?" I couldn't remember clearly, and my mind rebelled
against me as I tried to recall.
"I was almost too late. I could have been too late," he whispered, his
"I was so stupid, Edward. I thought he had my mom."
"He tricked us all."
"I need to call Charlie and my mom," I realized through the haze.
"Alice called them. Renée is here — well, here in the hospital. She's
getting something to eat right now."
"She's here?" I tried to sit up, but the spinning in my head accelerated,
and his hand pushed me gently down onto the pillows.
"She'll be back soon," he promised. "And you need to stay still."
"But what did you tell her?" I panicked. I had no interest in being
soothed. My mom was here and I was recovering from a vampire attack. "Why
did you tell her I'm here?"
"You fell down two flights of stairs and through a window." He paused.
"You have to admit, it could happen."
I sighed, and it hurt. I stared down at my body under the sheet, the huge
lump that was my leg.
"How bad am I?" I asked.
"You have a broken leg, four broken ribs, some cracks in your skull,
bruises covering every inch of your skin, and you've lost a lot of blood.
They gave you a few transfusions. I didn't like it — it made you smell
all wrong for a while."
"That must have been a nice change for you."
"No, I like how you smell."
"How did you do it?" I asked quietly. He knew what I meant at once.
"I'm not sure." He looked away from my wondering eyes, lifting my
gauze-wrapped hand from the bed and holding it gently in his, careful not
to disrupt the wire connecting me to one of the monitors.
I waited patiently for the rest.
He sighed without returning my gaze. "It was impossible… to stop," he
whispered. "Impossible. But I did." He looked up finally, with half a
smile. "I must love you."
"Don't I taste as good as I smell?" I smiled in response. That hurt my
"Even better — better than I'd imagined."
"I'm sorry," I apologized.
He raised his eyes to the ceiling. "Of all the things to apologize for."
"What should I apologize for?"
"For very nearly taking yourself away from me forever."
"I'm sorry," I apologized again.
"I know why you did it." His voice was comforting. "It was still
irrational, of course. You should have waited for me, you should have
"You wouldn't have let me go."
"No," he agreed in a grim tone, "I wouldn't."
Some very unpleasant memories were beginning to come back to me. I
shuddered, and then winced.
He was instantly anxious. "Bella, what's wrong?"
"What happened to James?"
"After I pulled him off you, Emmett and Jasper took care of him." There
was a fierce note of regret in his voice.
This confused me. "I didn't see Emmett and Jasper there."
"They had to leave the room… there was a lot of blood."
"But you stayed."
"Yes, I stayed."
"And Alice, and Carlisle…" I said in wonder.
"They love you, too, you know."
A flash of painful images from the last time I'd seen Alice reminded me
of something. "Did Alice see the tape?" I asked anxiously.
"Yes." A new sound darkened his voice, a tone of sheer hatred.
"She was always in the dark, that's why she didn't remember."
"I know. She understands now." His voice was even, but his face was black
I tried to reach his face with my free hand, but something stopped me. I
glanced down to see the IV pulling at my hand.
"Ugh." I winced.
"What is it?" he asked anxiously — distracted, but not enough. The
bleakness did not entirely leave his eyes.
"Needles," I explained, looking away from the one in my hand. I
concentrated on a warped ceiling tile and tried to breathe deeply despite
the ache in my ribs.
"Afraid of a needle," he muttered to himself under his breath, shaking
his head. "Oh, a sadistic vampire, intent on torturing her to death,
sure, no problem, she runs off to meet him. An IV, on the other hand…"
I rolled my eyes. I was pleased to discover that this reaction, at least,
was pain-free. I decided to change the subject.
"Why are you here?" I asked.
He stared at me, first confusion and then hurt touching his eyes. His
brows pulled together as he frowned. "Do you want me to leave?"
"No!" I protested, horrified by the thought. "No, I meant, why does my
mother think you're here? I need to have my story straight before she
"Oh," he said, and his forehead smoothed back into marble. "I came to
Phoenix to talk some sense into you, to convince you to come back to
Forks." His wide eyes were so earnest and sincere, I almost believed him
myself. "You agreed to see me, and you drove out to the hotel where I was
staying with Carlisle and Alice — of course I was here with parental
supervision," he inserted virtuously, "but you tripped on the stairs on
the way to my room and… well, you know the rest. You don't need to
remember any details, though; you have a good excuse to be a little
muddled about the finer points."
I thought about it for a moment. "There are a few flaws with that story.
Like no broken windows."
"Not really," he said. "Alice had a little bit too much fun fabricating
evidence. It's all been taken care of very convincingly — you could
probably sue the hotel if you wanted to. You have nothing to worry
about," he promised, stroking my cheek with the lightest of touches.
"Your only job now is to heal."
I wasn't so lost to the soreness or the fog of medication that I didn't
respond to his touch. The beeping of the monitor jumped around
erratically — now he wasn't the only one who could hear my heart
"That's going to be embarrassing," I muttered to myself.
He chuckled, and a speculative look came into his eye. "Hmm, I wonder…"
He leaned in slowly; the beeping noise accelerated wildly before his lips
even touched me. But when they did, though with the most gentle of
pressure, the beeping stopped altogether.
He pulled back abruptly, his anxious expression turning to relief as the
monitor reported the restarting of my heart.
"It seems that I'm going to have to be even more careful with you than
usual." He frowned.
"I was not finished kissing you," I complained. "Don't make me come over
He grinned, and bent to press his lips lightly to mine. The monitor went
But then his lips were taut. He pulled away.
"I think I hear your mother," he said, grinning again.
"Don't leave me," I cried, an irrational surge of panic flooding through
me. I couldn't let him go — he might disappear from me again.
He read the terror in my eyes for a short second. "I won't," he promised
solemnly, and then he smiled. "I'll take a nap."
He moved from the hard plastic chair by my side to the turquoise
faux-leather recliner at the foot of my bed, leaning it all the way back,
and closing his eyes. He was perfectly still.
"Don't forget to breathe," I whispered sarcastically. He took a deep
breath, his eyes still closed.
I could hear my mother now. She was talking to someone, maybe a nurse,
and she sounded tired and upset. I wanted to jump out of the bed and run
to her, to calm her, promise that everything was fine. But I wasn't in
any sort of shape for jumping, so I waited impatiently.
The door opened a crack, and she peeked through.
"Mom!" I whispered, my voice full of love and relief.
She took in Edward's still form on the recliner, and tiptoed to my
"He never leaves, does he?" she mumbled to herself.
"Mom, I'm so glad to see you!"
She bent down to hug me gently, and I felt warm tears falling on my
"Bella, I was so upset!"
"I'm sorry, Mom. But everything's fine now, it's okay," I comforted her.
"I'm just glad to finally see your eyes open." She sat on the edge of my
I suddenly realized I didn't have any idea when it was. "How long have
they been closed?"
"It's Friday, hon, you've been out for a while."
"Friday?" I was shocked. I tried to remember what day it had been when…
but I didn't want to think about that.
"They had to keep you sedated for a while, honey — you've got a lot of
"I know." I could feel them.
"You're lucky Dr. Cullen was there. He's such a nice man… very young,
though. And he looks more like a model than a doctor…"
"You met Carlisle?"
"And Edward's sister Alice. She's a lovely girl."
"She is," I agreed wholeheartedly.
She glanced over her shoulder at Edward, lying with his eyes closed in
the chair. "You didn't tell me you had such good friends in Forks."
I cringed, and then moaned.
"What hurts?" she demanded anxiously, turning back to me. Edward's eyes
flashed to my face.
"It's fine," I assured them. "I just have to remember not to move." He
lapsed back into his phony slumber.
I took advantage of my mother's momentary distraction to keep the subject
from returning to my less-than-candid behavior. "Where's Phil?" I asked
"Florida — oh, Bella! You'll never guess! Just when we were about to
leave, the best news!"
"Phil got signed?" I guessed.
"Yes! How did you guess! The Suns, can you believe it?"
"That's great, Mom," I said as enthusiastically as I could manage, though
I had little idea what that meant.
"And you'll like Jacksonville so much," she gushed while I stared at her
vacantly. "I was a little bit worried when Phil started talking about
Akron, what with the snow and everything, because you know how I hate the
cold, but now Jacksonville! It's always sunny, and the humidity really
isn't that bad. We found the cutest house, yellow, with white trim, and a
porch just like in an old movie, and this huge oak tree, and it's just a
few minutes from the ocean, and you'll have your own bathroom —"
Documents you may be interested
Documents you may be interested