"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…" He was lost in thought,
staring past me, seeing things I couldn't imagine.
"I started to drive in circles, still… listening. The sun was finally
setting, and I was about to get out and follow you on foot. And then —"
He stopped, clenching his teeth together in sudden fury. He made an
effort to calm himself.
"Then what?" I whispered. He continued to stare over my head.
"I heard what they were thinking," he growled, his upper lip curling
slightly back over his teeth. "I saw your face in his mind." He suddenly
leaned forward, one elbow appearing on the table, his hand covering his
eyes. The movement was so swift it startled me.
"It was very… hard — you can't imagine how hard — for me to simply take
you away, and leave them… alive." His voice was muffled by his arm. "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," he admitted in a whisper.
I sat quietly, dazed, my thoughts incoherent. My hands were folded in my
lap, and I was leaning weakly against the back of the seat. He still had
his face in his hand, and he was as still as if he'd been carved from the
stone his skin resembled.
Finally he looked up, his eyes seeking mine, full of his own questions.
"Are you ready to go home?" he asked.
"I'm ready to leave," I qualified, overly grateful that we had the
hour-long ride home together. I wasn't ready to say goodbye to him.
The waitress appeared as if she'd been called. Or watching.
"How are we doing?" she asked Edward.
"We're ready for the check, thank you." His voice was quiet, rougher,
still reflecting the strain of our conversation. It seemed to muddle her.
He looked up, waiting.
"S-sure," she stuttered. "Here you go." She pulled a small leather folder
from the front pocket of her black apron and handed it to him.
There was a bill in his hand already. He slipped it into the folder and
handed it right back to her.
"No change." He smiled. Then he stood up, and I scrambled awkwardly to my
She smiled invitingly at him again. "You have a nice evening."
He didn't look away from me as he thanked her. I suppressed a smile.
He walked close beside me to the door, still careful not to touch me. I
remembered what Jessica had said about her relationship with Mike, how
they were almost to the first-kiss stage. I sighed. Edward seemed to hear
me, and he looked down curiously. I looked at the sidewalk, grateful that
he didn't seem to be able to know what I was thinking.
He opened the passenger door, holding it for me as I stepped in, shutting
it softly behind me. I watched him walk around the front of the car,
amazed, yet again, by how graceful he was. I probably should have been
used to that by now — but I wasn't. I had a feeling Edward wasn't the
kind of person anyone got used to.
Once inside the car, he started the engine and turned the heater on high.
It had gotten very cold, and I guessed the good weather was at an end. I
was warm in his jacket, though, breathing in the scent of it when I
thought he couldn't see.
Edward pulled out through the traffic, apparently without a glance,
flipping around to head toward the freeway.
"Now," he said significantly, "it's your turn."
"Can I ask just one more?" I pleaded as Edward accelerated much too
quickly down the quiet street. He didn't seem to be paying any attention
to the road.
"One," he agreed. His lips pressed together into a cautious line.
"Well… you said you knew I hadn't gone into the bookstore, and that I had
gone south. I was just wondering how you knew that."
He looked away, deliberating.
"I thought we were past all the evasiveness," I grumbled.
He almost smiled.
"Fine, then. I followed your scent." He looked at the road, giving me
time to compose my face. I couldn't think of an acceptable response to
that, but I filed it carefully away for future study. I tried to refocus.
I wasn't ready to let him be finished, now that he was finally explaining
"And then you didn't answer one of my first questions…" I stalled.
He looked at me with disapproval. "Which one?"
"How does it work — the mind-reading thing? Can you read anybody's mind,
anywhere? How do you do it? Can the rest of your family… ?" I felt silly,
asking for clarification on make-believe.
"That's more than one," he pointed out. I simply intertwined my fingers
and gazed at him, waiting.
"No, it's just me. And I can't hear anyone, anywhere. I have to be fairly
close. The more familiar someone's… 'voice' is, the farther away I can
hear them. But still, no more than a few miles." He paused thoughtfully.
"It's a little like being in a huge hall filled with people, everyone
talking at once. It's just a hum — a buzzing of voices in the background.
Until I focus on one voice, and then what they're thinking is clear.
"Most of the time I tune it all out — it can be very distracting. And
then it's easier to seem normal" — he frowned as he said the word — "when
I'm not accidentally answering someone's thoughts rather than their
"Why do you think you can't hear me?" I asked curiously.
He looked at me, his eyes enigmatic.
"I don't know," he murmured. "The only guess I have is that maybe your
mind doesn't work the same way the rest of theirs do. Like your thoughts
are on the AM frequency and I'm only getting FM." He grinned at me,
"My mind doesn't work right? I'm a freak?" The words bothered me more
than they should — probably because his speculation hit home. I'd always
suspected as much, and it embarrassed me to have it confirmed.
"I hear voices in my mind and you're worried that you're the freak," he
laughed. "Don't worry, it's just a theory…" His face tightened. "Which
brings us back to you."
I sighed. How to begin?
"Aren't we past all the evasions now?" he reminded me softly.
I looked away from his face for the first time, trying to find words. I
happened to notice the speedometer.
"Holy crow!" I shouted. "Slow down!"
"What's wrong?" He was startled. But the car didn't decelerate.
"You're going a hundred miles an hour!" I was still shouting. I shot a
panicky glance out the window, but it was too dark to see much. The road
was only visible in the long patch of bluish brightness from the
headlights. The forest along both sides of the road was like a black wall
— as hard as a wall of steel if we veered off the road at this speed.
"Relax, Bella." He rolled his eyes, still not slowing.
"Are you trying to kill us?" I demanded.
"We're not going to crash."
I tried to modulate my voice. "Why are you in such a hurry?"
"I always drive like this." He turned to smile crookedly at me.
"Keep your eyes on the road!"
"I've never been in an accident, Bella — I've never even gotten a
ticket." He grinned and tapped his forehead. "Built-in radar detector."
"Very funny." I fumed. "Charlie's a cop, remember? I was raised to abide
by traffic laws. Besides, if you turn us into a Volvo pretzel around a
tree trunk, you can probably just walk away."
"Probably," he agreed with a short, hard laugh. "But you can't." He
sighed, and I watched with relief as the needle gradually drifted toward
"I hate driving slow," he muttered.
"This is slow?"
"Enough commentary on my driving," he snapped. "I'm still waiting for
your latest theory."
I bit my lip. He looked down at me, his honey eyes unexpectedly gentle.
"I won't laugh," he promised.
"I'm more afraid that you'll be angry with me."
"Is it that bad?"
"Pretty much, yeah."
He waited. I was looking down at my hands, so I couldn't see his
"Go ahead." His voice was calm.
"I don't know how to start," I admitted.
"Why don't you start at the beginning… you said you didn't come up with
this on your own."
"What got you started — a book? A movie?" he probed.
"No — it was Saturday, at the beach." I risked a glance up at his face.
He looked puzzled.
"I ran into an old family friend —Jacob Black," I continued. "His dad and
Charlie have been friends since I was a baby."
He still looked confused.
"His dad is one of the Quileute elders." I watched him carefully. His
confused expression froze in place. "We went for a walk —" I edited all
my scheming out of the story "— and he was telling me some old legends —
trying to scare me, I think. He told me one…" I hesitated.
"Go on," he said.
"About vampires." I realized I was whispering. I couldn't look at his
face now. But I saw his knuckles tighten convulsively on the wheel.
"And you immediately thought of me?" Still calm.
"No. He… mentioned your family."
He was silent, staring at the road.
I was worried suddenly, worried about protecting Jacob.
"He just thought it was a silly superstition," I said quickly. "He didn't
expect me to think anything of it." It didn't seem like enough; I had to
confess. "It was my fault, I forced him to tell me."
"Lauren said something about you — she was trying to provoke me. And an
older boy from the tribe said your family didn't come to the reservation,
only it sounded like he meant something different. So I got Jacob alone
and I tricked it out of him," I admitted, hanging my head.
He startled me by laughing. I glared up at him. He was laughing, but his
eyes were fierce, staring ahead.
"Tricked him how?" he asked.
"I tried to flirt — it worked better than I thought it would." Disbelief
colored my tone as I remembered.
"I'd like to have seen that." He chuckled darkly. "And you accused me of
dazzling people — poor Jacob Black."
I blushed and looked out my window into the night.
"What did you do then?" he asked after a minute.
"I did some research on the Internet."
"And did that convince you?" His voice sounded barely interested. But his
hands were clamped hard onto the steering wheel.
"No. Nothing fit. Most of it was kind of silly. And then…" I stopped.
"I decided it didn't matter," I whispered.
"It didn't matter?" His tone made me look up — I had finally broken
through his carefully composed mask. His face was incredulous, with just
a hint of the anger I'd feared.
"No," I said softly. "It doesn't matter to me what you are."
A hard, mocking edge entered his voice. "You don't care if I'm a monster?
If I'm not human!"
He was silent, staring straight ahead again. His face was bleak and cold.
"You're angry," I sighed. "I shouldn't have said anything."
"No," he said, but his tone was as hard as his face. "I'd rather know
what you're thinking — even if what you're thinking is insane."
"So I'm wrong again?" I challenged.
"That's not what I was referring to. 'It doesn't matter'!" he quoted,
gritting his teeth together.
"I'm right?" I gasped.
"Does it matter?"
I took a deep breath.
"Not really." I paused. "But I am curious." My voice, at least, was
He was suddenly resigned. "What are you curious about?"
"How old are you?"
"Seventeen," he answered promptly.
"And how long have you been seventeen?"
His lips twitched as he stared at the road. "A while," he admitted at
"Okay." I smiled, pleased that he was still being honest with me. He
stared down at me with watchful eyes, much as he had before, when he was
worried I would go into shock. I smiled wider in encouragement, and he
"Don't laugh — but how can you come out during the daytime?"
He laughed anyway. "Myth."
"Burned by the sun?"
"Sleeping in coffins?"
"Myth." He hesitated for a moment, and a peculiar tone entered his voice.
"I can't sleep."
It took me a minute to absorb that. "At all?"
"Never," he said, his voice nearly inaudible. He turned to look at me
with a wistful expression. The golden eyes held mine, and I lost my train
of thought. I stared at him until he looked away.
"You haven't asked me the most important question yet." His voice was
hard now, and when he looked at me again his eyes were cold.
I blinked, still dazed. "Which one is that?"
"You aren't concerned about my diet?" he asked sarcastically.
"Oh," I murmured, "that."
"Yes, that." His voice was bleak. "Don't you want to know if I drink
I flinched. "Well, Jacob said something about that."
"What did Jacob say?" he asked flatly.
"He said you didn't… hunt people. He said your family wasn't supposed to
be dangerous because you only hunted animals."
"He said we weren't dangerous?" His voice was deeply skeptical.
"Not exactly. He said you weren't supposed to be dangerous. But the
Quileutes still didn't want you on their land, just in case."
He looked forward, but I couldn't tell if he was watching the road or not.
"So was he right? About not hunting people?" I tried to keep my voice as
even as possible.
"The Quileutes have a long memory," he whispered.
I took it as a confirmation.
"Don't let that make you complacent, though," he warned me. "They're
right to keep their distance from us. We are still dangerous."
"I don't understand."
"We try," he explained slowly. "We're usually very good at what we do.
Sometimes we make mistakes. Me, for example, allowing myself to be alone
"This is a mistake?" I heard the sadness in my voice, but I didn't know
if he could as well.
"A very dangerous one," he murmured.
We were both silent then. I watched the headlights twist with the curves
of the road. They moved too fast; it didn't look real, it looked like a
video game. I was aware of the time slipping away so quickly, like the
black road beneath us, and I was hideously afraid that I would never have
another chance to be with him like this again — openly, the walls between
us gone for once. His words hinted at an end, and I recoiled from the
idea. I couldn't waste one minute I had with him.
"Tell me more," I asked desperately, not caring what he said, just so I
could hear his voice again.
He looked at me quickly, startled by the change in my tone. "What more do
you want to know?"
"Tell me why you hunt animals instead of people," I suggested, my voice
still tinged with desperation. I realized my eyes were wet, and I fought
against the grief that was trying to overpower me.
"I don't want to be a monster." His voice was very low.
"But animals aren't enough?"
He paused. "I can't be sure, of course, but I'd compare it to living on
tofu and soy milk; we call ourselves vegetarians, our little inside joke.
It doesn't completely satiate the hunger — or rather thirst. But it keens
us strong enough to resist. Most of the time." His tone turned ominous.
"Sometimes it's more difficult than others."
"Is it very difficult for you now?" I asked.
He sighed. "Yes."
"But you're not hungry now," I said confidently — stating, not asking.
"Why do you think that?"
"Your eyes. I told you I had a theory. I've noticed that people — men in
particular — are crabbier when they're hungry."
He chuckled. "You are observant, aren't you?"
I didn't answer; I just listened to the sound of his laugh, committing it
"Were you hunting this weekend, with Emmett?" I asked when it was quiet
"Yes." He paused for a second, as if deciding whether or not to say
something. "I didn't want to leave, but it was necessary. It's a bit
easier to be around you when I'm not thirsty."
"Why didn't you want to leave?"
"It makes me… anxious… to be away from you." His eyes were gentle but
intense, and they seemed to be making my bones turn soft. "I wasn't
joking when I asked you to try not to fall in the ocean or get run over
last Thursday. I was distracted all weekend, worrying about you. And
after what happened tonight, I'm surprised that you did make it through a
whole weekend unscathed." He shook his head, and then seemed to remember
something. "Well, not totally unscathed."
"Your hands," he reminded me. I looked down at my palms, at the
almost-healed scrapes across the heels of my hands. His eyes missed
"I fell," I sighed.
"That's what I thought." His lips curved up at the corners. "I suppose,
being you, it could have been much worse — and that possibility tormented
me the entire time I was away. It was a very long three days. I really
got on Emmett's nerves." He smiled ruefully at me.
"Three days? Didn't you just get back today?"
"No, we got back Sunday."
"Then why weren't any of you in school?" I was frustrated, almost angry
as I thought of how much disappointment I had suffered because of his
"Well, you asked if the sun hurt me, and it doesn't. But I can't go out
in the sunlight — at least, not where anyone can see."
"I'll show you sometime," he promised.
I thought about it for a moment.
"You might have called me," I decided.
He was puzzled. "But I knew you were safe."
"But I didn't know where you were. I —" I hesitated, dropping my eyes.
"What?" His velvety voice was compelling.
"I didn't like it. Not seeing you. It makes me anxious, too." I blushed
to be saying this out loud.
He was quiet. I glanced up, apprehensive, and saw that his expression was
"Ah," he groaned quietly. "This is wrong."
I couldn't understand his response. "What did I say?"
"Don't you see, Bella? It's one thing for me to make myself miserable,
but a wholly other thing for you to be so involved." He turned his
anguished eyes to the road, his words flowing almost too fast for me to
understand. "I don't want to hear that you feel that way." His voice was
low but urgent. His words cut me. "It's wrong. It's not safe. I'm
dangerous, Bella — please, grasp that."
"No." I tried very hard not to look like a sulky child.
"I'm serious," he growled.
"So am I. I told you, it doesn't matter what you are. It's too late."
His voice whipped out, low and harsh. "Never say that."
I bit my lip and was glad he couldn't know how much that hurt. I stared
out at the road. We must be close now. He was driving much too fast.
"What are you thinking?" he asked, his voice still raw. I just shook my
head, not sure if I could speak. I could feel his gaze on my face, but I
kept my eyes forward.
"Are you crying?" He sounded appalled. I hadn't realized the moisture in
my eyes had brimmed over. I quickly rubbed my hand across my cheek, and
sure enough, traitor tears were there, betraying me.
"No," I said, but my voice cracked.
I saw him reach toward me hesitantly with his right hand, but then he
stopped and placed it slowly back on the steering wheel.
"I'm sorry." His voice burned with regret. I knew he wasn't just
apologizing for the words that had upset me.
The darkness slipped by us in silence.
"Tell me something," he asked after another minute, and I could hear him
struggle to use a lighter tone.
"What were you thinking tonight, just before I came around the corner? I
couldn't understand your expression — you didn't look that scared, you
looked like you were concentrating very hard on something."
"I was trying to remember how to incapacitate an attacker — you know,
self-defense. I was going to smash his nose into his brain." I thought of
the dark-haired man with a surge of hate.
"You were going to fight them?" This upset him. "Didn't you think about
"I fall down a lot when I run," I admitted.
"What about screaming for help?"
"I was getting to that part."
He shook his head. "You were right — I'm definitely fighting fate trying
to keep you alive."
I sighed. We were slowing, passing into the boundaries of Forks. It had
taken less than twenty minutes.
"Will I see you tomorrow?" I demanded.
"Yes — I have a paper due, too." He smiled. "I'll save you a seat at
It was silly, after everything we'd been through tonight, how that little
promise sent flutters through my stomach, and made me unable to speak.
We were in front of Charlie's house. The lights were on, my truck in its
place, everything utterly normal. It was like waking from a dream. He
stopped the car, but I didn't move.
"Do you promise to be there tomorrow?"
I considered that for a moment, then nodded. I pulled his jacket off,
taking one last whiff.
"You can keep it — you don't have a jacket for tomorrow," he reminded me.
I handed it back to him. "I don't want to have to explain to Charlie."
"Oh, right." He grinned.
I hesitated, my hand on the door handle, trying to prolong the moment.
"Bella?" he asked in a different tone — serious, but hesitant.
"Yes?" I turned back to him too eagerly.
"Will you promise me something?"
"Yes," I said, and instantly regretted my unconditional agreement. What
if he asked me to stay away from him? I couldn't keep that promise.
"Don't go into the woods alone."
I stared at him in blank confusion. "Why?"
He frowned, and his eyes were tight as he stared past me out the window.
"I'm not always the most dangerous thing out there. Let's leave it at
I shuddered slightly at the sudden bleakness in his voice, but I was
relieved. This, at least, was an easy promise to honor. "Whatever you
"I'll see you tomorrow," he sighed, and I knew he wanted me to leave now.
"Tomorrow, then." I opened the door unwillingly.
"Bella?" I turned and he was leaning toward me, his pale, glorious face
just inches from mine. My heart stopped beating.
"Sleep well," he said. His breath blew in my face, stunning me. It was
the same exquisite scent that clung to his jacket, but in a more
concentrated form. I blinked, thoroughly dazed. He leaned away.
I was unable to move until my brain had somewhat unscrambled itself. Then
I stepped out of the car awkwardly, having to use the frame for support.
I thought I heard him chuckle, but the sound was too quiet for me to be
He waited till I had stumbled to the front door, and then I heard his
engine quietly rev. I turned to watch the silver car disappear around the
corner. I realized it was very cold.
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