(Twilight #3) Eclipse Author: Stephenie Meyer

发表于 2016-8-8 15:46 | 显示全部楼层 |阅读模式


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Twilight Book 3

Stephenie Meyer

To my husband, Pancho,

for your patience, love, friendship, humor,
and willingness to eat out.

And also to my children, Gabe, Seth, and Eli,
for letting me experience the kind of love that people freely die for.

Fire and Ice

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
Robert Frost



With ice in my heart, I watched him prepare to defend me. His intense concentration betrayed no hint of doubt, though he was outnumbered. I knew that we could expect no help — at this moment, his family was fighting for their lives just as surely as he was for ours.

Would I ever learn the outcome of that other fight? Find out who the winners and the losers were?

Would I live long enough for that?

The odds of that didn’t look so great.

Black eyes, wild with their fierce craving for my death, watched for the moment when my protector’s attention would be diverted. The moment when I would surely die.

Somewhere, far, far away in the cold forest, a wolf howled.

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发表于 2016-8-8 17:34 | 显示全部楼层
Chpater 1. ULTIMATUM


I don’t know why you’re making Charlie carry notes to Billy like we’re in second grade — if I wanted to talk to you I would answer the

You made the choice here, okay? You can’t have it both ways when

What part of ‘mortal enemies’ is too complicated for you to

Look, I know I’m being a jerk, but there’s just no way around

We can’t be friends when you’re spending all your time with a bunch of

It just makes it worse when I think about you too much, so don’t write anymore

Yeah, I miss you, too. A lot. Doesn’t change anything. Sorry.


I ran my fingers across the page, feeling the dents where he had pressed the pen to the paper so hard that it had nearly broken through. I could picture him writing this — scrawling the angry letters in his rough handwriting, slashing through line after line when the words came out wrong, maybe even snapping the pen in his too-big hand; that would explain the ink splatters. I could imagine the frustration pulling his black eyebrows together and crumpling his forehead. If I’d been there, I might have laughed. Don’t give yourself a brain hemorrhage, Jacob, I would have told him. Just spit it out.

Laughing was the last thing I felt like doing now as I reread the words I’d already memorized. His answer to my pleading note — passed from Charlie to Billy to him, just like second grade, as he’d pointed out — was no surprise. I’d known the essence of what it would say before I’d opened it.

What was surprising was how much each crossed-out line wounded me — as if the points of the letters had cutting edges. More than that, behind each angry beginning lurked a vast pool of hurt; Jacob’s pain cut me deeper than my own.

While I was pondering this, I caught the unmistakable scent of a smoking burner rising from the kitchen.

In another house, the fact that someone besides myself was cooking might not be a cause for panicking.

I shoved the wrinkled paper into my back pocket and ran, making it downstairs in the nick of time.

The jar of spaghetti sauce Charlie’d stuck in the microwave was only on its first revolution when I yanked the door open and pulled it out.

“What did I do wrong?” Charlie demanded.

“You’re supposed to take the lid off first, Dad. Metal’s bad for microwaves.” I swiftly removed the lid as I spoke, poured half the sauce into a bowl, and then put the bowl inside the microwave and the jar back in the fridge; I fixed the time and pressed start.

Charlie watched my adjustments with pursed lips. “Did I get the noodles right?”

I looked in the pan on the stove — the source of the smell that had alerted me. “Stirring helps,” I said mildly. I found a spoon and tried to de-clump the mushy hunk that was scalded to the bottom.

Charlie sighed.

“So what’s all this about?” I asked him.

He folded his arms across his chest and glared out the back windows into the sheeting rain. “Don’t know what you’re talking about,” he grumbled.

I was mystified. Charlie cooking? And what was with the surly attitude? Edward wasn’t here yet; usually my dad reserved this kind of behavior for my boyfriend’s benefit, doing his best to illustrate the theme of “unwelcome” with every word and posture. Charlie’s efforts were unnecessary — Edward knew exactly what my dad was thinking without the show.

The word boyfriend had me chewing on the inside of my cheek with a familiar tension while I stirred. It wasn’t the right word, not at all. I needed something more expressive of eternal commitment. . . . But words like destiny and fate sounded hokey when you used them in casual conversation.

Edward had another word in mind, and that word was the source of the tension I felt. It put my teeth on edge just to think it to myself.

Fiancée. Ugh. I shuddered away from the thought.

“Did I miss something? Since when do you make dinner?” I asked Charlie. The pasta lump bobbed in the boiling water as I poked it. “Or try to make dinner, I should say.”

Charlie shrugged. “There’s no law that says I can’t cook in my own house.”

“You would know,” I replied, grinning as I eyed the badge pinned to his leather jacket.

“Ha. Good one.” He shrugged out of the jacket as if my glance had reminded him he still had it on, and hung it on the peg reserved for his gear. His gun belt was already slung in place — he hadn’t felt the need to wear that to the station for a few weeks. There had been no more disturbing disappearances to trouble the small town of Forks, Washington, no more sightings of the giant, mysterious wolves in the ever-rainy woods. . . .

I prodded the noodles in silence, guessing that Charlie would get around to talking about whatever was bothering him in his own time. My dad was not a man of many words, and the effort he had put into trying to orchestrate a sit-down dinner with me made it clear there were an uncharacteristic number of words on his mind.

I glanced at the clock routinely — something I did every few minutes around this time. Less than a half hour to go now.

Afternoons were the hardest part of my day. Ever since my former best friend (and werewolf), Jacob Black, had informed on me about the motorcycle I’d been riding on the sly — a betrayal he had devised in order to get me grounded so that I couldn’t spend time with my boyfriend (and vampire), Edward Cullen — Edward had been allowed to see me only from seven till nine-thirty p.m., always inside the confines of my home and under the supervision of my dad’s unfailingly crabby glare.

This was an escalation from the previous, slightly less stringent grounding that I’d earned for an unexplained three-day disappearance and one episode of cliff diving.

Of course, I still saw Edward at school, because there wasn’t anything Charlie could do about that. And then, Edward spent almost every night in my room, too, but Charlie wasn’t precisely aware of that.

Edward’s ability to climb easily and silently through my second-story window was almost as useful as his ability to read Charlie’s mind.

Though the afternoon was the only time I spent away from Edward, it was enough to make me restless, and the hours always dragged. Still, I endured my punishment without complaining because — for one thing — I knew I’d earned it, and — for another — because I couldn’t bear to hurt my dad by moving out now, when a much more permanent separation hovered, invisible to Charlie, so close on my horizon.

My dad sat down at the table with a grunt and unfolded the damp newspaper there; within seconds he was clucking his tongue in disapproval.

“I don’t know why you read the news, Dad. It only ticks you off.”

He ignored me, grumbling at the paper in his hands. “This is why everyone wants to live in a small town! Ridiculous.”

“What have big cities done wrong now?”

“Seattle’s making a run for murder capital of the country. Five unsolved homicides in the last two weeks. Can you imagine living like that?”

“I think Phoenix is actually higher up the homicide list, Dad. I have lived like that.” And I’d never come close to being a murder victim until after I moved to his safe little town. In fact, I was still on several hit lists. . . . The spoon shook in my hands, making the water tremble.

“Well, you couldn’t pay me enough,” Charlie said.

I gave up on saving dinner and settled for serving it; I had to use a steak knife to cut a portion of spaghetti for Charlie and then myself, while he watched with a sheepish expression. Charlie coated his helping with sauce and dug in. I disguised my own clump as well as I could and followed his example without much enthusiasm. We ate in silence for a moment. Charlie was still scanning the news, so I picked up my much-abused copy of Wuthering Heights from where I’d left it this morning at breakfast, and tried to lose myself in turn-of-the-century England while I waited for him to start talking.

I was just to the part where Heathcliff returns when Charlie cleared his throat and threw the paper to the floor.

“You’re right,” Charlie said. “I did have a reason for doing this.” He waved his fork at the gluey spread.

“I wanted to talk to you.”

I laid the book aside; the binding was so destroyed that it slumped flat to the table. “You could have just asked.”

He nodded, his eyebrows pulling together. “Yeah. I’ll remember that next time. I thought taking dinner off your hands would soften you up.”

I laughed. “It worked — your cooking skills have me soft as a marshmallow. What do you need, Dad?”

“Well, it’s about Jacob.”

I felt my face harden. “What about him?” I asked through stiff lips.

“Easy, Bells. I know you’re still upset that he told on you, but it was the right thing. He was being responsible.”

“Responsible,” I repeated scathingly, rolling my eyes. “Right. So, what about Jacob?”

The careless question repeated inside my head, anything but trivial. What about Jacob? What was I going to do about him? My former best friend who was now . . . what? My enemy? I cringed.

Charlie’s face was suddenly wary. “Don’t get mad at me, okay?”


“Well, it’s about Edward, too.”

My eyes narrowed.

Charlie’s voice got gruffer. “I let him in the house, don’t I?”

“You do,” I admitted. “For brief periods of time. Of course, you might let me out of the house for brief periods now and then, too,” I continued — only jokingly; I knew I was on lockdown for the duration of the school year. “I’ve been pretty good lately.”

“Well, that’s kind of where I was heading with this. . . .” And then Charlie’s face stretched into an unexpected eye-crinkling grin; for a second he looked twenty years younger.

I saw a dim glimmer of possibility in that smile, but I proceeded slowly. “I’m confused, Dad. Are we talking about Jacob, or Edward, or me being grounded?”

The grin flashed again. “Sort of all three.”

“And how do they relate?” I asked, cautious.

“Okay.” He sighed, raising his hands as if in surrender. “So I’m thinking maybe you deserve a parole for good behavior. For a teenager, you’re amazingly non-whiney.”

My voice and eyebrows shot up. “Seriously? I’m free?”

Where was this coming from? I’d been positive I would be under house arrest until I actually moved out, and Edward hadn’t picked up any wavering in Charlie’s thoughts. . . .

Charlie held up one finger. “Conditionally.”

The enthusiasm vanished. “Fantastic,” I groaned.

“Bella, this is more of a request than a demand, okay? You’re free. But I’m hoping you’ll use that freedom . . . judiciously.”

“What does that mean?”

He sighed again. “I know you’re satisfied to spend all of your time with Edward —”

“I spend time with Alice, too,” I interjected. Edward’s sister had no hours of visitation; she came and went as she pleased. Charlie was putty in her capable hands.

“That’s true,” he said. “But you have other friends besides the Cullens, Bella. Or you used to.”

We stared at each other for a long moment.

“When was the last time you spoke to Angela Weber?” he threw at me.

“Friday at lunch,” I answered immediately.

Before Edward’s return, my school friends had polarized into two groups. I liked to think of those groups as good vs. evil. Us and them worked, too. The good guys were Angela, her steady boyfriend Ben Cheney, and Mike Newton; these three had all very generously forgiven me for going crazy when Edward left. Lauren Mallory was the evil core of the them side, and almost everyone else, including my first friend in Forks, Jessica Stanley, seemed content to go along with her anti-Bella agenda.

With Edward back at school, the dividing line had become even more distinct.

Edward’s return had taken its toll on Mike’s friendship, but Angela was unswervingly loyal, and Ben followed her lead. Despite the natural aversion most humans felt toward the Cullens, Angela sat dutifully beside Alice every day at lunch. After a few weeks, Angela even looked comfortable there. It was difficult not to be charmed by the Cullens — once one gave them the chance to be charming.

“Outside of school?” Charlie asked, calling my attention back.

“I haven’t seen anyone outside of school, Dad. Grounded, remember? And Angela has a boyfriend, too.

She’s always with Ben. If I’m really free,” I added, heavy on the skepticism, “maybe we could double.”

“Okay. But then . . .” He hesitated. “You and Jake used to be joined at the hip, and now —”

I cut him off. “Can you get to the point, Dad? What’s your condition — exactly?”

“I don’t think you should dump all your other friends for your boyfriend, Bella,” he said in a stern voice.

“It’s not nice, and I think your life would be better balanced if you kept some other people in it. What happened last September . . .”

I flinched.

“Well,” he said defensively. “If you’d had more of a life outside of Edward Cullen, it might not have been like that.”

“It would have been exactly like that,” I muttered.

“Maybe, maybe not.”

“The point?” I reminded him.

“Use your new freedom to see your other friends, too. Keep it balanced.”

I nodded slowly. “Balance is good. Do I have specific time quotas to fill, though?”

He made a face, but shook his head. “I don’t want to make this complicated. Just don’t forget your friends . . .”

It was a dilemma I was already struggling with. My friends. People who, for their own safety, I would never be able to see again after graduation.

So what was the better course of action? Spend time with them while I could? Or start the separation now to make it more gradual? I quailed at the idea of the second option.

“. . . particularly Jacob,” Charlie added before I could think things through more than that.

A greater dilemma than the first. It took me a moment to find the right words. “Jacob might be . . . difficult.”

“The Blacks are practically family, Bella,” he said, stern and fatherly again. “And Jacob has been a very, very good friend to you.”

“I know that.”

“Don’t you miss him at all?” Charlie asked, frustrated.

My throat suddenly felt swollen; I had to clear it twice before I answered. “Yes, I do miss him,” I admitted, still looking down. “I miss him a lot.”

“Then why is it difficult?”

It wasn’t something I was at liberty to explain. It was against the rules for normal people —human people like me and Charlie — to know about the clandestine world full of myths and monsters that existed secretly around us. I knew all about that world — and I was in no small amount of trouble as a result. I wasn’t about to get Charlie in the same trouble.

“With Jacob there is a . . . conflict,” I said slowly. “A conflict about the friendship thing, I mean.

Friendship doesn’t always seem to be enough for Jake.” I wound my excuse out of details that were true but insignificant, hardly crucial compared to the fact that Jacob’s werewolf pack bitterly hated Edward’s vampire family — and therefore me, too, as I fully intended to join that family. It just wasn’t something I could work out with him in a note, and he wouldn’t answer my calls. But my plan to deal with the werewolf in person had definitely not gone over well with the vampires.

“Isn’t Edward up for a little healthy competition?” Charlie’s voice was sarcastic now.

I leveled a dark look at him. “There’s no competition.”

“You’re hurting Jake’s feelings, avoiding him like this. He’d rather be just friends than nothing.”

Oh, now I was avoiding him ?

“I’m pretty sure Jake doesn’t want to be friends at all.” The words burned in my mouth. “Where’d you get that idea, anyway?”

Charlie looked embarrassed now. “The subject might have come up today with Billy. . . .”

“You and Billy gossip like old women,” I complained, stabbing my fork viciously into the congealed spaghetti on my plate.

“Billy’s worried about Jacob,” Charlie said. “Jake’s having a hard time right now. . . . He’s depressed.”

I winced, but kept my eyes on the blob.

“And then you were always so happy after spending the day with Jake.” Charlie sighed.

“I’m happy now ,” I growled fiercely through my teeth.

The contrast between my words and tone broke through the tension. Charlie burst into laughter, and I had to join in.

“Okay, okay,” I agreed. “Balance.”

“And Jacob,” he insisted.

“I’ll try.”

“Good. Find that balance, Bella. And, oh, yeah, you’ve got some mail,” Charlie said, closing the subject with no attempt at subtlety. “It’s by the stove.”

I didn’t move, my thoughts twisting into snarls around Jacob’s name. It was most likely junk mail; I’d just gotten a package from my mom yesterday and I wasn’t expecting anything else.

Charlie shoved his chair away from the table and stretched as he got to his feet. He took his plate to the sink, but before he turned the water on to rinse it, he paused to toss a thick envelope at me. The letter skidded across the table and thunked into my elbow.

“Er, thanks,” I muttered, puzzled by his pushiness. Then I saw the return address — the letter was from the University of Alaska Southeast. “That was quick. I guess I missed the deadline on that one, too.”

Charlie chuckled.

I flipped the envelope over and then glared up at him. “It’s open.”

“I was curious.”

“I’m shocked, Sheriff. That’s a federal crime.”

“Oh, just read it.”

I pulled out the letter, and a folded schedule of courses.

“Congratulations,” he said before I could read anything. “Your first acceptance.”

“Thanks, Dad.”

“We should talk about tuition. I’ve got some money saved up —”

“Hey, hey, none of that. I’m not touching your retirement, Dad. I’ve got my college fund.” What was left of it — and there hadn’t been much to begin with.

Charlie frowned. “Some of these places are pretty pricey, Bells. I want to help. You don’t have to go to all the way to Alaska just because it’s cheaper.”

It wasn’t cheaper, not at all. But it was far away, and Juneau had an average of three hundred twenty-one overcast days per year. The first was my prerequisite, the second was Edward’s.

“I’ve got it covered. Besides, there’s lots of financial aid out there. It’s easy to get loans.” I hoped my bluff wasn’t too obvious. I hadn’t actually done a lot of research on the subject.

“So . . . ,” Charlie began, and then he pursed his lips and looked away.

“So what?”

“Nothing. I was just . . .” He frowned. “Just wondering what . . . Edward’s plans are for next year?”



Three quick raps on the door saved me. Charlie rolled his eyes and I jumped up.

“Coming!” I called while Charlie mumbled something that sounded like, “Go away.” I ignored him and went to let Edward in.

I wrenched the door out of my way — ridiculously eager — and there he was, my personal miracle.

Time had not made me immune to the perfection of his face, and I was sure that I would never take any aspect of him for granted. My eyes traced over his pale white features: the hard square of his jaw, the softer curve of his full lips — twisted up into a smile now, the straight line of his nose, the sharp angle of his cheekbones, the smooth marble span of his forehead — partially obscured by a tangle of rain-darkened bronze hair. . . .

I saved his eyes for last, knowing that when I looked into them I was likely to lose my train of thought.

They were wide, warm with liquid gold, and framed by a thick fringe of black lashes. Staring into his eyes always made me feel extraordinary — sort of like my bones were turning spongy. I was also a little lightheaded, but that could have been because I’d forgotten to keep breathing. Again.

It was a face any male model in the world would trade his soul for. Of course, that might be exactly the asking price: one soul.

No. I didn’t believe that. I felt guilty for even thinking it, and was glad — as I was often glad — that I was the one person whose thoughts were a mystery to Edward.

I reached for his hand, and sighed when his cold fingers found mine. His touch brought with it the strangest sense of relief — as if I’d been in pain and that pain had suddenly ceased.

“Hey.” I smiled a little at my anticlimactic greeting.

He raised our interlaced fingers to brush my cheek with the back of his hand. “How was your afternoon?”


“For me, as well.”

He pulled my wrist up to his face, our hands still twisted together. His eyes closed as his nose skimmed along the skin there, and he smiled gently without opening them. Enjoying the bouquet while resisting the wine, as he’d once put it.

I knew that the scent of my blood — so much sweeter to him than any other person’s blood, truly like wine beside water to an alcoholic — caused him actual pain from the burning thirst it engendered. But he didn’t seem to shy away from it as much as he once had. I could only dimly imagine the Herculean effort behind this simple gesture.

It made me sad that he had to try so hard. I comforted myself with the knowledge that I wouldn’t be causing him pain much longer.

I heard Charlie approaching then, stamping his feet on the way to express his customary displeasure with our guest. Edward’s eyes snapped open and he let our hands fall, keeping them twined.

“Good evening, Charlie.” Edward was always flawlessly polite, though Charlie didn’t deserve it.

Charlie grunted at him, and then stood there with his arms crossed over his chest. He was taking the idea of parental supervision to extremes lately.

“I brought another set of applications,” Edward told me then, holding up a stuffed manila envelope. He was wearing a roll of stamps like a ring around his littlest finger.

I groaned. How were there any colleges left that he hadn’t forced me to apply to already? And how did he keep finding these loophole openings? It was so late in the year.

He smiled as if he could read my thoughts; they must have been very obvious on my face. “There are still a few open deadlines. And a few places willing to make exceptions.”

I could just imagine the motivations behind such exceptions. And the dollar amounts involved.

Edward laughed at my expression.

“Shall we?” he asked, towing me toward the kitchen table.

Charlie huffed and followed behind, though he could hardly complain about the activity on tonight’s agenda. He’d been pestering me to make a decision about college on a daily basis.

I cleared the table quickly while Edward organized an intimidating stack of forms. When I moved Wuthering Heights to the counter, Edward raised one eyebrow. I knew what he was thinking, but Charlie interrupted before Edward could comment.

“Speaking of college applications, Edward,” Charlie said, his tone even more sullen — he tried to avoid addressing Edward directly, and when he had to, it exacerbated his bad mood. “Bella and I were just talking about next year. Have you decided where you’re going to school?”

Edward smiled up at Charlie and his voice was friendly. “Not yet. I’ve received a few acceptance letters, but I’m still weighing my options.”

“Where have you been accepted?” Charlie pressed.

“Syracuse . . . Harvard . . . Dartmouth . . . and I just got accepted to the University of Alaska Southeast today.” Edward turned his face slightly to the side so that he could wink at me. I stifled a giggle.

“Harvard? Dartmouth?” Charlie mumbled, unable to conceal his awe. “Well that’s pretty . . . that’s something. Yeah, but the University of Alaska . . . you wouldn’t really consider that when you could go Ivy League. I mean, your father would want you to . . .”

“Carlisle’s always fine with whatever I choose to do,” Edward told him serenely.


“Guess what, Edward?” I asked in a bright voice, playing along.

“What, Bella?”

I pointed to the thick envelope on the counter. “I just got my acceptance to the University of Alaska!”

“Congratulations!” He grinned. “What a coincidence.”

Charlie’s eyes narrowed and he glared back and forth between the two of us. “Fine,” he muttered after a minute. “I’m going to go watch the game, Bella. Nine-thirty.”

That was his usual parting command.

“Er, Dad? Remember the very recent discussion about my freedom . . . ?”

He sighed. “Right. Okay, ten -thirty. You still have a curfew on school nights.”

“Bella’s no longer grounded?” Edward asked. Though I knew he wasn’t really surprised, I couldn’t detect any false note to the sudden excitement in his voice.

“Conditionally,” Charlie corrected through his teeth. “What’s it to you?”

I frowned at my dad, but he didn’t see.

“It’s just good to know,” Edward said. “Alice has been itching for a shopping partner, and I’m sure Bella would love to see some city lights.” He smiled at me.

But Charlie growled, “No!” and his face flushed purple.

“Dad! What’s the problem?”

He made an effort to unclench his teeth. “I don’t want you going to Seattle right now.”


“I told you about that story in the paper — there’s some kind of gang on a killing spree in Seattle and I want you to steer clear, okay?”

I rolled my eyes. “Dad, there’s a better chance that I’ll get struck by lightning than that the one day I’m in Seattle —”

“No, that’s fine, Charlie,” Edward said, interrupting me. “I didn’t mean Seattle. I was thinking Portland, actually. I wouldn’t have Bella in Seattle, either. Of course not.”

I looked at him in disbelief, but he had Charlie’s newspaper in his hands and he was reading the front page intently.

He must have been trying to appease my father. The idea of being in danger from even the most deadly of humans while I was with Alice or Edward was downright hilarious.

It worked. Charlie stared at Edward for one second more, and then shrugged. “Fine.” He stalked off toward the living room, in a bit of a hurry now — maybe he didn’t want to miss tip-off.

I waited till the TV was on, so that Charlie wouldn’t be able to hear me.

“What —,” I started to ask.

“Hold on,” Edward said without looking up from the paper. His eyes stayed focused on the page as he pushed the first application toward me across the table. “I think you can recycle your essays for this one. Same questions.”

Charlie must still be listening. I sighed and started to fill out the repetitive information: name, address, social. . . . After a few minutes I glanced up, but Edward was now staring pensively out the window. As I bent my head back to my work, I noticed for the first time the name of the school.

I snorted and shoved the papers aside.


“Be serious, Edward.Dartmouth ?”

Edward lifted the discarded application and laid it gently in front of me again. “I think you’d like New Hampshire,” he said. “There’s a full complement of night courses for me, and the forests are very conveniently located for the avid hiker. Plentiful wildlife.” He pulled out the crooked smile he knew I couldn’t resist.

I took a deep breath through my nose.

“I’ll let you pay me back, if that makes you happy,” he promised. “If you want, I can charge you interest.”

“Like I could even get in without some enormous bribe. Or was that part of the loan? The new Cullen wing of the library? Ugh. Why are we having this discussion again?”

“Will you just fill out the application, please, Bella? It won’t hurt you to apply.”

My jaw flexed. “You know what? I don’t think I will.”

I reached for the papers, planning to crumple them into a suitable shape for lobbing at the trashcan, but they were already gone. I stared at the empty table for a moment, and then at Edward. He didn’t appear to have moved, but the application was probably already tucked away in his jacket.

“What are you doing?” I demanded.

“I sign your name better than you do yourself. You’ve already written the essays.”

“You’re going way overboard with this, you know.” I whispered on the off chance that Charlie wasn’t completely lost in his game. “I really don’t need to apply anywhere else. I’ve been accepted in Alaska. I can almost afford the first semester’s tuition. It’s as good an alibi as any. There’s no need to throw away a bunch of money, no matter whose it is.”

A pained looked tightened his face. “Bella —”

“Don’t start. I agree that I need to go through the motions for Charlie’s sake, but we both know I’m not going to be in any condition to go to school next fall. To be anywhere near people.”

My knowledge of those first few years as a new vampire was sketchy. Edward had never gone into details — it wasn’t his favorite subject — but I knew it wasn’t pretty. Self-control was apparently an acquired skill. Anything more than correspondence school was out of the question.

“I thought the timing was still undecided,” Edward reminded me softly. “You might enjoy a semester or two of college. There are a lot of human experiences you’ve never had.”

“I’ll get to those afterward.”

“They won’t be human experiences afterward. You don’t get a second chance at humanity, Bella.”

I sighed. “You’ve got to be reasonable about the timing, Edward. It’s just too dangerous to mess around with.”

“There’s no danger yet,” he insisted.

I glared at him. No danger? Sure. I only had a sadistic vampire trying to avenge her mate’s death with my own, preferably through some slow and torturous method. Who was worried about Victoria? And, oh yeah, the Volturi — the vampire royal family with their small army of vampire warriors — who insisted that my heart stop beating one way or another in the near future, because humans weren’t allowed to know they existed. Right. No reason at all to panic.

Even with Alice keeping watch — Edward was relying on her uncannily accurate visions of the future to give us advance warning — it was insane to take chances.

Besides, I’d already won this argument. The date for my transformation was tentatively set for shortly after my graduation from high school, only a handful of weeks away.

A sharp jolt of unease pierced my stomach as I realized how short the time really was. Of course this change was necessary — and the key to what I wanted more than everything else in the world put together — but I was deeply conscious of Charlie sitting in the other room enjoying his game, just like every other night. And my mother, Renée, far away in sunny Florida, still pleading with me to spend the summer on the beach with her and her new husband. And Jacob, who, unlike my parents, would know exactly what was going on when I disappeared to some distant school. Even if my parents didn’t grow suspicious for a long time, even if I could put off visits with excuses about travel expenses or study loads or illnesses, Jacob would know the truth.

For a moment, the idea of Jacob’s certain revulsion overshadowed every other pain.

“Bella,” Edward murmured, his face twisting when he read the distress in mine. “There’s no hurry. I won’t let anyone hurt you. You can take all the time you need.”

“I want to hurry,” I whispered, smiling weakly, trying to make a joke of it. “I want to be a monster, too.”

His teeth clenched; he spoke through them. “You have no idea what you’re saying.” Abruptly, he flung the damp newspaper onto the table in between us. His finger stabbed the headline on the front page:


“What does that have to do with anything?”

“Monsters are not a joke, Bella.”

I stared at the headline again, and then up to his hard expression. “A . . . a vampire is doing this?” I whispered.

He smiled without humor. His voice was low and cold. “You’d be surprised, Bella, at how often my kind are the source behind the horrors in your human news. It’s easy to recognize, when you know what to look for. The information here indicates a newborn vampire is loose in Seattle. Bloodthirsty, wild, out of control. The way we all were.”

I let my gaze drop to the paper again, avoiding his eyes.

“We’ve been monitoring the situation for a few weeks. All the signs are there — the unlikely disappearances, always in the night, the poorly disposed-of corpses, the lack of other evidence. . . . Yes, someone brand-new. And no one seems to be taking responsibility for the neophyte. . . .” He took a deep breath. “Well, it’s not our problem. We wouldn’t even pay attention to the situation if wasn’t going on so close to home. Like I said, this happens all the time. The existence of monsters results in monstrous consequences.”

I tried not to see the names on the page, but they jumped out from the rest of the print like they were in bold. The five people whose lives were over, whose families were mourning now. It was different from considering murder in the abstract, reading those names. Maureen Gardiner, Geoffrey Campbell, Grace Razi, Michelle O’Connell, Ronald Albrook. People who’d had parents and children and friends and pets and jobs and hopes and plans and memories and futures. . . .

“It won’t be the same for me,” I whispered, half to myself. “You won’t let me be like that. We’ll live in Antarctica.”

Edward snorted, breaking the tension. “Penguins. Lovely.”

I laughed a shaky laugh and knocked the paper off the table so I wouldn’t have to see those names; it hit the linoleum with a thud. Of course Edward would consider the hunting possibilities. He and his “vegetarian” family — all committed to protecting human life — preferred the flavor of large predators for satisfying their dietary needs. “Alaska, then, as planned. Only somewhere much more remote than Juneau — somewhere with grizzlies galore.”

“Better,” he allowed. “There are polar bears, too. Very fierce. And the wolves get quite large.”

My mouth fell open and my breath blew out in a sharp gust.

“What’s wrong?” he asked. Before I could recover, the confusion vanished and his whole body seemed to harden. “Oh. Never mind the wolves, then, if the idea is offensive to you.” His voice was stiff, formal, his shoulders rigid.

“He was my best friend, Edward,” I muttered. It stung to use the past tense. “Of course the idea offends me.”

“Please forgive my thoughtlessness,” he said, still very formal. “I shouldn’t have suggested that.”

“Don’t worry about it.” I stared at my hands, clenched into a double fist on the table.

We were both silent for a moment, and then his cool finger was under my chin, coaxing my face up. His expression was much softer now.

“Sorry. Really.”

“I know. I know it’s not the same thing. I shouldn’t have reacted that way. It’s just that . . . well, I was already thinking about Jacob before you came over.” I hesitated. His tawny eyes seemed to get a little bit darker whenever I said Jacob’s name. My voice turned pleading in response. “Charlie says Jake is having a hard time. He’s hurting right now, and . . . it’s my fault.”

“You’ve done nothing wrong, Bella.”

I took a deep breath. “I need to make it better, Edward. I owe him that. And it’s one of Charlie’s conditions, anyway —”

His face changed while I spoke, turning hard again, statue-like.

“You know it’s out of the question for you to be around a werewolf unprotected, Bella. And it would break the treaty if any of us cross over onto their land. Do you want us to start a war?”

“Of course not!”

“Then there’s really no point in discussing the matter further.” He dropped his hand and looked away, searching for a subject change. His eyes paused on something behind me, and he smiled, though his eyes stayed wary.

“I’m glad Charlie has decided to let you out — you’re sadly in need of a visit to the bookstore. I can’t believe you’re reading Wuthering Heights again. Don’t you know it by heart yet?”

“Not all of us have photographic memories,” I said curtly.

“Photographic memory or not, I don’t understand why you like it. The characters are ghastly people who ruin each others’ lives. I don’t know how Heathcliff and Cathy ended up being ranked with couples like Romeo and Juliet or Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. It isn’t a love story, it’s a hate story.”

“You have some serious issues with the classics,” I snapped.

“Perhaps it’s because I’m not impressed by antiquity.” He smiled, evidently satisfied that he’d distracted me. “Honestly, though, why do you read it over and over?” His eyes were vivid with real interest now,

trying — again — to unravel the convoluted workings of my mind. He reached across the table to cradle my face in his hand. “What is it that appeals to you?”

His sincere curiosity disarmed me. “I’m not sure,” I said, scrambling for coherency while his gaze unintentionally scattered my thoughts. “I think it’s something about the inevitability. How nothing can keep them apart — not her selfishness, or his evil, or even death, in the end. . . .”

His face was thoughtful as he considered my words. After a moment he smiled a teasing smile. “I still think it would be a better story if either of them had one redeeming quality.”

“I think that may be the point,” I disagreed. “Their love is their only redeeming quality.”

“I hope you have better sense than that — to fall in love with someone so . . . malignant.”

“It’s a bit late for me to worry about who I fall in love with,” I pointed out. “But even without the warning, I seem to have managed fairly well.”

He laughed quietly. “I’m glad you think so.”

“Well, I hope you’re smart enough to stay away from someone so selfish. Catherine is really the source of all the trouble, not Heathcliff.”

“I’ll be on my guard,” he promised.

I sighed. He was so good at distractions.

I put my hand over his to hold it to my face. “I need to see Jacob.”

His eyes closed. “No.”

“It’s truly not dangerous at all,” I said, pleading again. “I used to spend all day in La Push with the whole lot of them, and nothing ever happened.”

But I made a slip; my voice faltered at the end because I realized as I was saying the words that they were a lie. It was not true that nothing had ever happened. A brief flash of memory — an enormous gray wolf crouched to spring, baring his dagger-like teeth at me — had my palms sweating with an echo of remembered panic.

Edward heard my heart accelerate and nodded as if I’d acknowledged the lie aloud. “Werewolves are unstable. Sometimes, the people near them get hurt. Sometimes, they get killed.”

I wanted to deny it, but another image slowed my rebuttal. I saw in my head the once beautiful face of Emily Young, now marred by a trio of dark scars that dragged down the corner of her right eye and left her mouth warped forever into a lopsided scowl.

He waited, grimly triumphant, for me to find my voice.

“You don’t know them,” I whispered.

“I know them better than you think, Bella. I was here the last time.”

“The last time?”

“We started crossing paths with the wolves about seventy years ago. . . . We had just settled near Hoquiam. That was before Alice and Jasper were with us. We outnumbered them, but that wouldn’t have stopped it from turning into a fight if not for Carlisle. He managed to convince Ephraim Black that coexisting was possible, and eventually we made the truce.”

Jacob’s great-grandfather’s name startled me.

“We thought the line had died out with Ephraim,” Edward muttered; it sounded like he was talking to himself now. “That the genetic quirk which allowed the transmutation had been lost. . . .” He broke off and stared at me accusingly. “Your bad luck seems to get more potent every day. Do you realize that your insatiable pull for all things deadly was strong enough to recover a pack of mutant canines from extinction? If we could bottle your luck, we’d have a weapon of mass destruction on our hands.”

I ignored the ribbing, my attention caught by his assumption — was he serious? “But I didn’t bring them back. Don’t you know?”

“Know what?”

“My bad luck had nothing to do with it. The werewolves came back because the vampires did.”

Edward stared at me, his body motionless with surprise.

“Jacob told me that your family being here set things in motion. I thought you would already know. . . .”

His eyes narrowed. “Is that what they think?”

“Edward, look at the facts. Seventy years ago, you came here, and the werewolves showed up. You come back now, and the werewolves show up again. Do you think that’s a coincidence?”

He blinked and his glare relaxed. “Carlisle will be interested in that theory.”

“Theory,” I scoffed.

He was silent for a moment, staring out the window into the rain; I imagined he was contemplating the fact that his family’s presence was turning the locals into giant dogs.

“Interesting, but not exactly relevant,” he murmured after a moment. “The situation remains the same.”

I could translate that easily enough: no werewolf friends.

I knew I must be patient with Edward. It wasn’t that he was unreasonable, it was just that he didn’t understand. He had no idea how very much I owed Jacob Black — my life many times over, and possibly my sanity, too.

I didn’t like to talk about that barren time with anyone, and especially not Edward. He had only been trying to save me when he’d left, trying to save my soul. I didn’t hold him responsible for all the stupid things I’d done in his absence, or the pain I had suffered.

He did.

So I would have to word my explanation very carefully.

I got up and walked around the table. He opened his arms for me and I sat on his lap, nestling into his cool stone embrace. I looked at his hands while I spoke.

“Please just listen for a minute. This is so much more important than some whim to drop in on an old friend. Jacob is in pain .” My voice distorted around the word. “I can’t not try to help him — I can’t give up on him now, when he needs me. Just because he’s not human all the time. . . . Well, he was there for me when I was . . . not so human myself. You don’t know what it was like. . . .” I hesitated. Edward’s arms were rigid around me; his hands were in fists now, the tendons standing out. “If Jacob hadn’t helped me . . . I’m not sure what you would have come home to. I owe him better than this, Edward.”

I looked up at his face warily. His eyes were closed, and his jaw was strained.

“I’ll never forgive myself for leaving you,” he whispered. “Not if I live a hundred thousand years.”

I put my hand against his cold face and waited until he sighed and opened his eyes.

“You were just trying to do the right thing. And I’m sure it would have worked with anyone less mental than me. Besides, you’re here now. That’s the part that matters.”

“If I’d never left, you wouldn’t feel the need to go risk your life to comfort a dog .”

I flinched. I was used to Jacob and all his derogatory slurs —bloodsucker, leech, parasite . . . . Somehow it sounded harsher in Edward’s velvet voice.

“I don’t know how to phrase this properly,” Edward said, and his tone was bleak. “It’s going to sound cruel, I suppose. But I’ve come too close to losing you in the past. I know what it feels like to think I have. I am not going to tolerate anything dangerous.”

“You have to trust me on this. I’ll be fine.”

His face was pained again. “Please, Bella,” he whispered.

I stared into his suddenly burning golden eyes. “Please what?”

“Please, for me. Please make a conscious effort to keep yourself safe. I’ll do everything I can, but I would appreciate a little help.”

“I’ll work on it,” I murmured.

“Do you really have any idea how important you are to me? Any concept at all of how much I love you?” He pulled me tighter against his hard chest, tucking my head under his chin.

I pressed my lips against his snow-cold neck. “I know how much I love you ,” I answered.

“You compare one small tree to the entire forest.”

I rolled my eyes, but he couldn’t see. “Impossible.”

He kissed the top of my head and sighed.

“No werewolves.”

“I’m not going along with that. I have to see Jacob.”

“Then I’ll have to stop you.”

He sounded utterly confident that this wouldn’t be a problem.

I was sure he was right.

“We’ll see about that,” I bluffed anyway. “He’s still my friend.”

I could feel Jacob’s note in my pocket, like it suddenly weighed ten pounds. I could hear the words in his voice, and he seemed to be agreeing with Edward — something that would never happen in reality.

Doesn’t change anything. Sorry.
发表于 2016-8-8 17:56 | 显示全部楼层
Chapter 2. EVASION

IFELT ODDLY BUOYANT AS I WALKED FROM SPANISHtoward the cafeteria, and it wasn’t just because I was holding hands with the most perfect person on the planet, though that was certainly part of it.

Maybe it was the knowledge that my sentence was served and I was a free woman again.

Or maybe it wasn’t anything to do with me specifically. Maybe it was the atmosphere of freedom that hung over the entire campus. School was winding down, and, for the senior class especially, there was a perceptible thrill in the air.

Freedom was so close it was touchable, taste-able. Signs of it were everywhere. Posters crowded together on the cafeteria walls, and the trashcans wore a colorful skirt of spilled-over fliers: reminders to buy yearbooks, class rings, and announcements; deadlines to order graduation gowns, hats, and tassels; neon-bright sales pitches — the juniors campaigning for class office; ominous, rose-wreathed advertisements for this year’s prom. The big dance was this coming weekend, but I had an ironclad promise from Edward that I would not be subjected to that again. After all, I’d already hadthat human experience.

No, it must be my personal freedom that lightened me today. The ending of the school year did not give me the pleasure it seemed to give the other students. Actually, I felt nervous to the point of nausea whenever I thought of it. I tried tonot think of it.

But it was hard to escape such an omnipresent topic as graduation.

“Have you sent your announcements, yet?” Angela asked when Edward and I sat down at our table.

She had her light brown hair pulled back into a sloppy ponytail instead of her usual smooth hairdo, and there was a slightly frantic look about her eyes.

Alice and Ben were already there, too, on either side of Angela. Ben was intent over a comic book, his glasses sliding down his narrow nose. Alice was scrutinizing my boring jeans-and-a-t-shirt outfit in a way that made me self-conscious. Probably plotting another makeover. I sighed. My indifferent attitude to fashion was a constant thorn in her side. If I’d allow it, she’d love to dress me every day — perhaps several times a day — like some oversized three-dimensional paper doll.

“No,” I answered Angela. “There’s no point, really. Renée knows when I’m graduating. Who else is there?”

“How about you, Alice?”

Alice smiled. “All done.”

“Lucky you.” Angela sighed. “My mother has a thousand cousins and she expects me to hand-address one to everybody. I’m going to get carpal tunnel. I can’t put it off any longer and I’m just dreading it.”

“I’ll help you,” I volunteered. “If you don’t mind my awful handwriting.”

Charlie would like that. From the corner of my eye, I saw Edward smile. He must like that, too — me fulfilling Charlie’s conditions without involving werewolves.

Angela looked relieved. “That’s so nice of you. I’ll come over any time you want.”

“Actually, I’d rather go to your house if that’s okay — I’m sick of mine. Charlie un-grounded me last night.” I grinned as I announced my good news.

“Really?” Angela asked, mild excitement lighting her always-gentle brown eyes. “I thought you said you were in for life.”

“I’m more surprised than you are. I was sure I would at least have finished high school before he set me free.”

“Well, this is great, Bella! We’ll have to go out to celebrate.”

“You have no idea how good that sounds.”

“What should we do?” Alice mused, her face lighting up at the possibilities. Alice’s ideas were usually a little grandiose for me, and I could see it in her eyes now — the tendency to take things too far kicking into action.

“Whatever you’re thinking, Alice, I doubt I’mthat free.”

“Free is free, right?” she insisted.

“I’m sure I still have boundaries — like the continental U.S., for example.”

Angela and Ben laughed, but Alice grimaced in real disappointment.

“So what are we doing tonight?” she persisted.

“Nothing. Look, let’s give it a couple of days to make sure he wasn’t joking. It’s a school night, anyway.”

“We’ll celebrate this weekend, then.” Alice’s enthusiasm was impossible to repress.

“Sure,” I said, hoping to placate her. I knew I wasn’t going to do anything too outlandish; it would be safer to take it slow with Charlie. Give him a chance to appreciate how trustworthy and mature I was before I asked for any favors.

Angela and Alice started talking about options; Ben joined the conversation, setting his comics aside.

My attention drifted. I was surprised to find that the subject of my freedom was suddenly not as gratifying as it had been just a moment ago. While they discussed things to do in Port Angeles or maybe Hoquiam, I began to feel disgruntled.

It didn’t take long to determine where my restlessness stemmed from.

Ever since I’d said goodbye to Jacob Black in the forest outside my home, I’d been plagued by a persistent, uncomfortable intrusion of a specific mental picture. It popped into my thoughts at regular intervals like some annoying alarm clock set to sound every half hour, filling my head with the image of Jacob’s face crumpled in pain. This was the last memory I had of him.

As the disturbing vision struck again, I knew exactly why I was dissatisfied with my liberty. Because it was incomplete.

Sure, I was free to go to anywhere I wanted — except La Push; free to do anything I wanted — except see Jacob. I frowned at the table. Therehad to be some kind of middle ground.

“Alice? Alice!”

Angela’s voice yanked me from my reverie. She was waving her hand back and forth in front of Alice’s blank, staring face. Alice’s expression was something I recognized — an expression that sent an automatic shock of panic through my body. The vacant look in her eyes told me that she was seeing something very different from the mundane lunchroom scene that surrounded us, but something that was every bit as real in its own way. Something that was coming, something that would happen soon. I felt the blood slither from my face.

Then Edward laughed, a very natural, relaxed sound. Angela and Ben looked toward him, but my eyes were locked on Alice. She jumped suddenly, as if someone had kicked her under the table.

“Is it naptime already, Alice?” Edward teased.

Alice was herself again. “Sorry, I was daydreaming, I guess.”

“Daydreaming’s better than facing two more hours of school,” Ben said.

Alice threw herself back into the conversation with more animation than before — just a little bit too much. Once I saw her eyes lock with Edward’s, only for a moment, and then she looked back to Angela before anyone else noticed. Edward was quiet, playing absentmindedly with a strand of my hair.

I waited anxiously for a chance to ask Edward what Alice had seen in her vision, but the afternoon passed without one minute of alone time.

It felt odd to me, almost deliberate. After lunch, Edward slowed his pace to match Ben’s, talking about some assignment I knew he’d already finished. Then there was always someone else there between classes, though we usually had a few minutes to ourselves. When the final bell rang, Edward struck up a conversation with Mike Newton of all people, falling into step beside him as Mike headed for the parking lot. I trailed behind, letting Edward tow me along.

I listened, confused, while Mike answered Edward’s unusually friendly queries. It seemed Mike was having car troubles.

“. . . but I just replaced the battery,” Mike was saying. His eyes darted ahead and then back to Edward warily. Mystified, just like I was.

“Perhaps it’s the cables?” Edward offered.

“Maybe. I really don’t know anything about cars,” Mike admitted. “I need to have someone look at it, but I can’t afford to take it to Dowling’s.”

I opened my mouth to suggest my mechanic, and then snapped it shut again. My mechanic was busy these days — busy running around as a giant wolf.

“I know a few things — I could take a look, if you like,” Edward offered. “Just let me drop Alice and Bella at home.”

Mike and I both stared at Edward with our mouths hanging open.

“Er . . . thanks,” Mike mumbled when he recovered. “But I have to get to work. Maybe some other time.”


“See ya.” Mike climbed into his car, shaking his head in disbelief.

Edward’s Volvo, with Alice already inside, was just two cars away.

“What wasthat about?” I muttered as Edward held the passenger door for me.

“Just being helpful,” Edward answered.

And then Alice, waiting in the backseat, was babbling at top speed.

“You’re really notthat good a mechanic, Edward. Maybe you should have Rosalie take a look at it tonight, just so you look good if Mike decides to let you help, you know. Not that it wouldn’t be fun to watch his face ifRosalie showed up to help. But since Rosalie is supposed to be across the country attending college, I guess that’s not the best idea. Too bad. Though I suppose, for Mike’s car, you’ll do.

It’s only within the finer tunings of a good Italian sports car that you’re out of your depth. And speaking of Italy and sports cars that I stole there, you still owe me a yellow Porsche. I don’t know that I want to wait for Christmas. . . .”

I stopped listening after a minute, letting her quick voice become just a hum in the background as I settled into my patient mode.

It looked to me like Edward was trying to avoid my questions. Fine. He would have to be alone with me soon enough. It was only a matter of time.

Edward seemed to realize that, too. He dropped Alice at the mouth of the Cullens’ drive as usual, though by this point I half expected him to drive her to the door and walk her in.

As she got out, Alice threw a sharp look at his face. Edward seemed completely at ease.

“See you later,” he said. And then, ever so slightly, he nodded.

Alice turned to disappear into the trees.

He was quiet as he turned the car around and headed back to Forks. I waited, wondering if he would bring it up himself. He didn’t, and this made me tense. Whathad Alice seen today at lunch? Something he didn’t want to tell me, and I tried to think of a reason why he would keep secrets. Maybe it would be better to prepare myself before I asked. I didn’t want to freak out and have him think I couldn’t handle it, whatever it was.

So we were both silent until we got to back to Charlie’s house.

“Light homework load tonight,” he commented.

“Mmm,” I assented.

“Do you suppose I’m allowed inside again?”

“Charlie didn’t throw a fit when you picked me up for school.”

But I was sure Charlie was going to turn sulky fast when he got home and found Edward here. Maybe I should make something extra-special for dinner.

Inside, I headed up the stairs, and Edward followed. He lounged on my bed and gazed out the window, seeming oblivious to my edginess.

I stowed my bag and turned the computer on. There was an unanswered e-mail from my mom to attend to, and she got panicky when I took too long. I drummed my fingers as I waited for my decrepit computer to wheeze awake; they snapped against the desk, staccato and anxious.

And then his fingers were on mine, holding them still.

“Are we a little impatient today?” he murmured.

I looked up, intending to make a sarcastic remark, but his face was closer than I’d expected. His golden eyes were smoldering, just inches away, and his breath was cool against my open lips. I could taste his scent on my tongue.

I couldn’t remember the witty response I’d been about to make. I couldn’t remember my name.

He didn’t give me a chance to recover.

If I had my way, I would spend the majority of my time kissing Edward. There wasn’t anything I’d experienced in my life that compared to the feeling of his cool lips, marble hard but always so gentle, moving with mine.

I didn’t often get my way.

So it surprised me a little when his fingers braided themselves into my hair, securing my face to his. My arms locked behind his neck, and I wished I was stronger — strong enough to keep him prisoner here.

One hand slid down my back, pressing me tighter against his stone chest. Even through his sweater, his skin was cold enough to make me shiver — it was a shiver of pleasure, of happiness, but his hands began to loosen in response.

I knew I had about three seconds before he would sigh and slide me deftly away, saying something about how we’d risked my life enough for one afternoon. Making the most of my last seconds, I crushed myself closer, molding myself to the shape of him. The tip of my tongue traced the curve of his lower lip;

it was as flawlessly smooth as if it had been polished, and thetaste —

He pulled my face away from his, breaking my hold with ease — he probably didn’t even realize that I was using all my strength.

He chuckled once, a low, throaty sound. His eyes were bright with the excitement he so rigidly disciplined.

“Ah, Bella.” He sighed.

“I’d say I’m sorry, but I’m not.”

“And I should feel sorry that you’re not sorry, but I don’t. Maybe I should go sit on the bed.”

I exhaled a little dizzily. “If you think that’s necessary. . . .”

He smiled crookedly and disentangled himself.

I shook my head a few times, trying to clear it, and turned back to my computer. It was all warmed up and humming now. Well, not as much humming as groaning.

“Tell Renée I said hello.”

“Sure thing.”

I scanned through Renée’s e-mail, shaking my head now and then at some of the dippier things she’d done. I was just as entertained and horrified as the first time I’d read this. It was so like my mother to forget exactly how paralyzed she was by heights until she was already strapped to a parachute and a dive instructor. I felt a little frustrated with Phil, her husband of almost two years, for allowing that one. I would have taken better care of her. I knew her so much better.

You have to let them go their own way eventually, I reminded myself. You have to let them have their own life. . . .

I’d spent most of my life taking care of Renée, patiently guiding her away from her craziest plans, good-naturedly enduring the ones I couldn’t talk her out of. I’d always been indulgent with my mom, amused by her, even a little condescending to her. I saw her cornucopia of mistakes and laughed privately to myself. Scatterbrained Renée.

I was a very different person from my mother. Someone thoughtful and cautious. The responsible one, the grown-up. That’s how I saw myself. That was the person I knew.

With the blood still pounding in my head from Edward’s kiss, I couldn’t help but think of my mother’s most life-altering mistake. Silly and romantic, getting married fresh out of high school to a man she barely knew, then producing me a year later. She’d always promised me that she had no regrets, that I was the best gift her life had ever given her. And yet she’d drilled it into me over and over — smart people took marriage seriously. Mature people went to college and started careers before they got deeply involved in a relationship. She knew I would never be as thoughtless and goofy andsmall-town as she’d been. . . .

I gritted my teeth and tried to concentrate as I answered her letter.

Then I hit her parting line and remembered why I’d neglected to write sooner.

You haven’t said anything about Jacob in a long time, she’d written.What’s he up to these days?

Charlie was prompting her, I was sure.

I sighed and typed quickly, tucking the answer to her question between two less sensitive paragraphs.

Jacob is fine, I guess. I don’t see him much; he spends most of his time with a pack of his friends down at La Push these days.

Smiling wryly to myself, I added Edward’s greeting and hit “send.”

I didn’t realize that Edward was standing silently behind me again until after I’d turned off the computer and shoved away from the desk. I was about to scold him for reading over my shoulder when I realized that he wasn’t paying any attention to me. He was examining a flat black box with wires curling crookedly away from the main square in a way that didn’t look healthy for whatever it was. After a second, I recognized the car stereo Emmett, Rosalie, and Jasper had given me for my last birthday. I’d forgotten about the birthday presents hiding under a growing pile of dust on the floor of my closet.

“What did youdo to this?” he asked in a horrorstruck voice.

“It didn’t want to come out of the dashboard.”

“So you felt the need to torture it?”

“You know how I am with tools. No pain was inflicted intentionally.”

He shook his head, his face a mask of faux tragedy. “You killed it.”

I shrugged. “Oh, well.”

“It would hurt their feelings if they saw this,” he said. “I guess it’s a good thing that you’ve been on house arrest. I’ll have to get another one in place before they notice.”

“Thanks, but I don’t need a fancy stereo.”

“It’s not for your sake that I’m going to replace it.”

I sighed.

“You didn’t get much good out of your birthday presents last year,” he said in a disgruntled voice.

Suddenly, he was fanning himself with a stiff rectangle of paper.

I didn’t answer, for fear my voice would shake. My disastrous eighteenth birthday — with all its far-reaching consequences — wasn’t something I cared to remember, and I was surprised that he would bring it up. He was even more sensitive about it than I was.

“Do you realize these are about to expire?” he asked, holding the paper out to me. It was another present — the voucher for airplane tickets that Esme and Carlisle had given me so that I could visit Renée in Florida.

I took a deep breath and answered in a flat voice. “No. I’d forgotten all about them, actually.”

His expression was carefully bright and positive; there was no trace of any deep emotion as he continued. “Well, we still have a little time. You’ve been liberated . . . and we have no plans this weekend, as you refuse to go to the prom with me.” He grinned. “Why not celebrate your freedom this way?”

I gasped. “By going to Florida?”

“You did say something about the continental U.S. being allowable.”

I glared at him, suspicious, trying to understand where this had come from.

“Well?” he demanded. “Are we going to see Renée or not?”

“Charlie will never allow it.”

“Charlie can’t keep you from visiting your mother. She still has primary custody.”

“Nobody has custody of me. I’m an adult.”

He flashed a brilliant smile. “Exactly.”

I thought it over for a short minute before deciding that it wasn’t worth the fight. Charlie would be furious — not that I was going to see Renée, but that Edward was going with me. Charlie wouldn’t speak to me for months, and I’d probably end up grounded again. It was definitely smarter not to even bring it up.

Maybe in a few weeks, as a graduation favor or something.

But the idea of seeing my mothernow , not weeks from now, was hard to resist. It had been so long since I’d seen Renée. And even longer since I’d seen her under pleasant circumstances. The last time I’d been with her in Phoenix, I’d spent the whole time in a hospital bed. The last time she’d come here, I’d been more or less catatonic. Not exactly the best memories to leave her with.

And maybe, if she saw how happy I was with Edward, she would tell Charlie to ease up.

Edward scrutinized my face while I deliberated.

I sighed. “Not this weekend.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t want to fight with Charlie. Not so soon after he’s forgiven me.”

His eyebrows pulled together. “I think this weekend is perfect,” he muttered.

I shook my head. “Another time.”

“You aren’t the only one who’s been trapped in this house, you know.” He frowned at me.

Suspicion returned. This kind of behavior was unlike him. He was always so impossibly selfless; I knew it was making me spoiled.

“You can go anywhere you want,” I pointed out.

“The outside world holds no interest for me without you.”

I rolled my eyes at the hyperbole.

“I’m serious,” he said.

“Let’s take the outside world slowly, all right? For example, we could start with a movie in Port Angeles. . . .”

He groaned. “Never mind. We’ll talk about it later.”

“There’s nothing left to talk about.”

He shrugged.

“Okay, then, new subject,” I said. I’d almost forgotten my worries about this afternoon — had that been his intention? “What did Alice see today at lunch?”

My eyes were fixed on his face as I spoke, measuring his reaction.

His expression was composed; there was only the slightest hardening of his topaz eyes. “She’s been seeing Jasper in a strange place, somewhere in the southwest, she thinks, near his former . . . family. But he has no conscious intentions to go back.” He sighed. “It’s got her worried.”

“Oh.” That was nothing close to what I’d been expecting. But of course it made sense that Alice would be watching out for Jasper’s future. He was her soul mate, her true other half, though they weren’t as flamboyant about their relationship as Rosalie and Emmett were. “Why didn’t you tell me before?”

“I didn’t realize you’d noticed,” he said. “It’s probably nothing important, in any case.”

My imagination was sadly out of control. I’d taken a perfectly normal afternoon and twisted it until it looked like Edward was going out of his way to keep things from me. I needed therapy.

We went downstairs to work on our homework, just in case Charlie showed up early. Edward finished in minutes; I slogged laboriously through my calculus until I decided it was time to fix Charlie’s dinner.

Edward helped, making faces every so often at the raw ingredients — human food was mildly repulsive to him. I made stroganoff from Grandma Swan’s recipe, because I was sucking up. It wasn’t one of my favorites, but it would please Charlie.

Charlie seemed to already be in a good mood when he got home. He didn’t even go out of his way to be rude to Edward. Edward excused himself from eating with us, as usual. The sound of the nightly news drifted from the front room, but I doubted Edward was really watching.

After forcing down three helpings, Charlie kicked his feet up on the spare chair and folded his hands contentedly across his distended stomach.

“That was great, Bells.”

“I’m glad you liked it. How was work?” He’d been eating with too much concentration for me to make conversation before.

“Sort of slow. Well, dead slow really. Mark and I played cards for a good part of the afternoon,” he admitted with a grin. “I won, nineteen hands to seven. And then I was on the phone with Billy for a while.”

I tried to keep my expression the same. “How is he?”

“Good, good. His joints are bothering him a little.”

“Oh. That’s too bad.”

“Yeah. He invited us down to visit this weekend. He was thinking of having the Clearwaters and the Uleys over too. Sort of a playoff party. . . .”

“Huh,” was my genius response. But what could I say? I knew I wouldn’t be allowed to hit a werewolf party, even with parental supervision. I wondered if Edward would have a problem with Charlie hanging out in La Push. Or would he suppose that, since Charlie was mostly spending time with Billy, who was only human, my father wouldn’t be in danger?

I got up and piled the dishes together without looking at Charlie. I dumped them into the sink and started the water. Edward appeared silently and grabbed a dishtowel.

Charlie sighed and gave up for the moment, though I imagined he would revisit the subject when we were alone again. He heaved himself to his feet and headed for the TV, just like every other night.

“Charlie,” Edward said in a conversational tone.

Charlie stopped in the middle of his little kitchen. “Yeah?”

“Did Bella ever tell you that my parents gave her airplane tickets on her last birthday, so that she could visit Renée?”

I dropped the plate I was scrubbing. It glanced off the counter and clattered noisily to the floor. It didn’t break, but it spattered the room, and all three of us, with soapy water. Charlie didn’t even seem to notice.

“Bella?” he asked in a stunned voice.

I kept my eyes on the plate as I retrieved it. “Yeah, they did.”

Charlie swallowed loudly, and then his eyes narrowed as he turned back to Edward. “No, she never mentioned it.”

“Hmm,” Edward murmured.

“Was there a reason you brought it up?” Charlie asked in a hard voice.

Edward shrugged. “They’re about to expire. I think it might hurt Esme’s feelings if Bella doesn’t use her gift. Not that she’d say anything.”

I stared at Edward in disbelief.

Charlie thought for a minute. “It’s probably a good idea for you to visit your mom, Bella. She’d love that. I’m surprised you didn’t say anything about this, though.”

“I forgot,” I admitted.

He frowned. “You forgot that someone gave you plane tickets?”

“Mmm,” I murmured vaguely, and turned back to the sink.

“I noticed that you saidthey’re about to expire, Edward,” Charlie went on. “How many tickets did your parents give her?”

“Just one for her . . . and one for me.”

The plate I dropped this time landed in the sink, so it didn’t make as much noise. I could easily hear the sharp huff as my father exhaled. The blood rushed into my face, fueled by irritation and chagrin. Why was Edward doing this? I glared at the bubbles in the sink, panicking.

“That’s out of the question!” Charlie was abruptly in a rage, shouting the words.

“Why?” Edward asked, his voice saturated with innocent surprise. “You just said it was a good idea for her to see her mother.”

Charlie ignored him. “You’re not going anywhere with him, young lady!” he yelled. I spun around and he was jabbing a finger at me.

Anger pulsed through me automatically, an instinctive reaction to his tone.

“I’m not a child, Dad. And I’m not grounded anymore, remember?”

“Oh yes, you are. Starting now.”

“For what?!”

“Because I said so.”

“Do I need to remind you that I’m a legal adult, Charlie?”

“This is my house — you follow my rules!”

My glare turned icy. “If that’s how you want it. Do you want me to move out tonight? Or can I have a few days to pack?”

Charlie’s face went bright red. I instantly felt horrible for playing the move-out card.

I took a deep breath and tried to make my tone more reasonable. “I’ll do my time without complaining when I’ve done something wrong, Dad, but I’m not going to put up with your prejudices.”

He sputtered, but managed nothing coherent.

“Now, I know thatyou know that I have every right to see Mom for the weekend. You can’t honestly tell me you’d object to the plan if I was going with Alice or Angela.”

“Girls,” he grunted, with a nod.

“Would it bother you if I took Jacob?”

I’d only picked the name because I knew of my father’s preference for Jacob, but I quickly wished I hadn’t; Edward’s teeth clenched together with an audible snap.

My father struggled to compose himself before he answered. “Yes,” he said in an unconvincing voice.

“That would bother me.”

“You’re a rotten liar, Dad.”

“Bella —”

“It’s not like I’m headed off to Vegas to be a showgirl or anything. I’m going to seeMom ,” I reminded him. “She’s just as much my parental authority as you are.”

He threw me a withering look.

“Are you implying something about Mom’s ability to look after me?”

Charlie flinched at the threat implicit in my question.

“You’d better hope I don’t mention this to her,” I said.

“You’d better not,” he warned. “I’m not happy about this, Bella.”

“There’s no reason for you to be upset.”

He rolled his eyes, but I could tell the storm was over.

I turned to pull the plug out of the sink. “So my homework is done, your dinner is done, the dishes are done, and I’m not grounded. I’m going out. I’ll be back before ten-thirty.”

“Where are you going?” His face, almost back to normal, flushed light red again.

“I’m not sure,” I admitted. “I’ll keep it within a ten-mile radius, though. Okay?”

He grunted something that did not sound like approval, and stalked out of the room. Naturally, as soon as I’d won the fight, I began to feel guilty.

“We’re going out?” Edward asked, his voice low but enthusiastic.

I turned to glower at him. “Yes. I think I’d like to speak to youalone .”

He didn’t look as apprehensive as I thought he should.

I waited to begin until we were safely in his car.

“What wasthat ?” I demanded.

“I know you want to see your mother, Bella — you’ve been talking about her in your sleep. Worrying actually.”

“I have?”

He nodded. “But, clearly, you were too much of a coward to deal with Charlie, so I interceded on your behalf.”

“Interceded? You threw me to the sharks!”

He rolled his eyes. “I don’t think you were in any danger.”

“I told you I didn’t want to fight with Charlie.”

“Nobody said that you had to.”

I glowered at him. “I can’t help myself when he gets all bossy like that — my natural teenage instincts overpower me.”

He chuckled. “Well, that’s not my fault.”

I stared at him, speculating. He didn’t seem to notice. His face was serene as he gazed out the windshield. Something was off, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Or maybe it was just my imagination again, running wild like it had this afternoon.

“Does this sudden urge to see Florida have anything to do with the party at Billy’s place?”

His jaw flexed. “Nothing at all. It wouldn’t matter if you were here or on the other side of the world, you still wouldn’t be going.”

It was just like with Charlie before — just like being treated as a misbehaving child. I gritted my teeth together so I wouldn’t start shouting. I didn’t want to fight with Edward, too.

Edward sighed, and when he spoke his voice was warm and velvet again. “So what do you want to do tonight?” he asked.

“Can we go to your house? I haven’t seen Esme in so long.”

He smiled. “She’ll like that. Especially when she hears what we’re doing this weekend.”

I groaned in defeat.

We didn’t stay out late, as I’d promised. I was not surprised to see the lights still on when we pulled up in front of the house — I knew Charlie would be waiting to yell at me some more.

“You’d better not come inside,” I said. “It will only make things worse.”

“His thoughts are relatively calm,” Edward teased. His expression made me wonder if there was some additional joke I was missing. The corners of his mouth twitched, fighting a smile.

“I’ll see you later,” I muttered glumly.

He laughed and kissed the top of my head. “I’ll be back when Charlie’s snoring.”

The TV was loud when I got inside. I briefly considered trying to sneak past him. “Could you come in here, Bella?” Charlie called, sinking that plan.

My feet dragged as I took the five necessary steps.

“What’s up, Dad?”

“Did you have a nice time tonight?” he asked. He seemed ill at ease. I looked for hidden meanings in his words before I answered.

“Yes,” I said hesitantly.

“What did you do?”

I shrugged. “Hung out with Alice and Jasper. Edward beat Alice at chess, and then I played Jasper. He buried me.”

I smiled. Edward and Alice playing chess was one of the funniest things I’d ever seen. They’d sat there nearly motionless, staring at the board, while Alice foresaw the moves he would make and he picked the moves she would make in return out of her head. They played most of the game in their minds; I think they’d each moved two pawns when Alice suddenly flicked her king over and surrendered. It took all of three minutes.

Charlie hit the mute button — an unusual action.

“Look, there’s something I need to say.” He frowned, looking very uncomfortable.

I sat still, waiting. He met my gaze for a second before shifting his eyes to the floor. He didn’t say anything more.

“What is it, Dad?”

He sighed. “I’m not good at this kind of thing. I don’t know how to start. . . .”

I waited again.

“Okay, Bella. Here’s the thing.” He got up from the couch and started pacing back and forth across the room, looking as his feet all the time. “You and Edward seem pretty serious, and there are some things that you need to be careful about. I know you’re an adult now, but you’re still young, Bella, and there are a lot of important things you need to know when you . . . well, when you’re physically involved with —”

“Oh, please,please no!” I begged, jumping to my feet. “Please tell me you are not trying to have a sex talk with me, Charlie.”

He glared at the floor. “I am your father. I have responsibilities. Remember, I’m just as embarrassed as you are.”

“I don’t think that’s humanly possible. Anyway, Mom beat you to the punch about ten years ago. You’re off the hook.”

“Ten years ago you didn’t have a boyfriend,” he muttered unwillingly. I could tell he was battling with his desire to drop the subject. We were both standing up, looking at the floor, and facing away from each other.

“I don’t think the essentials have changed that much,” I mumbled, and my face had to be as red as his.

This was beyond the seventh circle of Hades; even worse was realizing that Edward had known this was coming. No wonder he’d seemed so smug in the car.

“Just tell me that you two are being responsible,” Charlie pled, obviously wishing a pit would open in the floor so that he could fall in.

“Don’t worry about it, Dad, it’s not like that.”

“Not that I don’t trust you, Bella, but I know you don’t want to tell me anything about this, and you know I don’t really want to hear it. I will try to be open-minded, though. I know the times have changed.”

I laughed awkwardly. “Maybe the times have, but Edward is very old-fashioned. You have nothing to worry about.”

Charlie sighed. “Sure he is,” he muttered.

“Ugh!” I groaned. “I really wish you were not forcing me to say this out loud, Dad.Really. But . . . I am a . . . virgin, and I have no immediate plans to change that status.”

We both cringed, but then Charlie’s face smoothed out. He seemed to believe me.

“Can I go to bed, now?Please. ”

“In a minute,” he said.

“Aw, please, Dad? I’m begging you.”

“The embarrassing part’s over, I promise,” he assured me.

I shot a glance at him, and was grateful to see that he looked more relaxed, that his face was back to its regular color. He sank down onto the sofa, sighing with relief that he was past the sex speech.

“What now?”

“I just wanted to know how the balance thing is coming along.”

“Oh. Good, I guess. I made plans with Angela today. I’m going to help her with her graduation announcements. Just us girls.”

“That’s nice. And what about Jake?”

I sighed. “I haven’t figured that one out yet, Dad.”

“Keep trying, Bella. I know you’ll do the right thing. You’re a good person.”

Nice. So if I didn’t figure out some way to make things right with Jacob, then I was abad person? That was below the belt.

“Sure, sure,” I agreed. The automatic response almost made me smile — it was something I’d picked up from Jacob. I even said it in the same patronizing tone he used with his own father.

Charlie grinned and turned the sound back on. He slumped lower into the cushions, pleased with his night’s work. I could tell he would be up with the game for a while.

“’Night, Bells.”

“See you in the morning!” I sprinted for the stairs.

Edward was long gone and he wouldn’t be back until Charlie was asleep — he was probably out hunting or something to pass the time — so I was in no hurry to undress for bed. I wasn’t in the mood to be alone, but I certainly wasn’t going to go back downstairs to hang out with my Dad, just in case he thought of some topic of sex education that he hadn’t touched on before; I shuddered.

So, thanks to Charlie, I was wound up and anxious. My homework was done and I didn’t feel mellow enough for reading or just listening to music. I considered calling Renée with the news of my visit, but then I realized that it was three hours later in Florida, and she would be asleep.

I could call Angela, I supposed.

But suddenly I knew that it wasn’t Angela that I wanted to talk to. That I needed to talk to.

I stared at the blank black window, biting my lip. I don’t know how long I stood there weighing the pros against the cons — doing the right thing by Jacob, seeing my closest friend again, being a good person, versus making Edward furious with me. Ten minutes maybe. Long enough to decide that the pros were valid while the cons were not. Edward was only concerned about my safety, and I knew that there was really no problem on that count.

The phone wasn’t any help; Jacob had refused to answer my phone calls since Edward’s return.

Besides, I needed tosee him — see him smiling again the way he used to. I needed to replace that awful last memory of his face warped and twisted by pain if I was ever going to have any peace of mind.

I had an hour probably. I could make a quick run down to La Push and be back before Edward realized I had gone. It was past my curfew, but would Charlie really care about that when Edward wasn’t involved? One way to find out.

I grabbed my jacket and shoved my arms through the sleeves as I ran down the stairs.

Charlie looked up from the game, instantly suspicious.

“You care if I go see Jake tonight?” I asked breathlessly. “I won’t stay long.”

As soon as I said Jake’s name, Charlie’s expression relaxed into a smug smile. He didn’t seem surprised at all that his lecture had taken effect so quickly. “Sure, kid. No problem. Stay as long as you like.”

“Thanks, Dad,” I said as I darted out the door.

Like any fugitive, I couldn’t help looking over my shoulder a few times while I jogged to my truck, but the night was so black that there really was no point. I had to feel my way along the side of the truck to the handle.

My eyes were just beginning to adjust as I shoved my keys in the ignition. I twisted them hard to the left,

but instead of roaring deafeningly to life, the engine just clicked. I tried it again with the same results.

And then a small motion in my peripheral vision made me jump.

“Gah!” I gasped in shock when I saw that I was not alone in the cab.

Edward sat very still, a faint bright spot in the darkness, only his hands moving as he turned a mysterious black object around and around. He stared at the object as he spoke.

“Alice called,” he murmured.

Alice! Damn. I’d forgotten to account for her in my plans. He must have her watching me.

“She got nervous when your future rather abruptly disappeared five minutes ago.”

My eyes, already wide with surprise, popped wider.

“Because she can’t see the wolves, you know,” he explained in the same low murmur. “Had you forgotten that? When you decide to mingle your fate with theirs, you disappear, too. You couldn’t know that part, I realize that. But can you understand why that might make me a little . . . anxious? Alice saw you disappear, and she couldn’t even tell if you’d come home or not. Your future got lost, just like theirs.

“We’re not sure why this is. Some natural defense they’re born with?” He spoke as if he were talking to himself now, still looking at the piece of my truck’s engine as he twirled it in his hands. “That doesn’t seem entirely likely, since I haven’t had any trouble reading their thoughts. The Blacks’ at least. Carlisle theorizes that it’s because their lives are so ruled by their transformations. It’s more an involuntary reaction than a decision. Utterly unpredictable, and it changes everything about them. In that instant when they shift from one form to the other, they don’t really even exist. The future can’t hold them. . . .”

I listened to his musing in stony silence.

“I’ll put your car back together in time for school, in case you’d like to drive yourself,” he assured me after a minute.

With my lips mashed together, I retrieved my keys and stiffly climbed out of the truck.

“Shut your window if you want me to stay away tonight. I’ll understand,” he whispered just before I slammed the door.

I stomped into the house, slamming that door, too.

“What’s wrong?” Charlie demanded from the couch.

“Truck won’t start,” I growled.

“Want me to look at it?”

“No. I’ll try it in the morning.”

“Want to use my car?”

I wasn’t supposed to drive his police cruiser. Charlie must be really desperate to get me to La Push.

Nearly as desperate as I was.

“No. I’m tired,” I grumbled. “’Night.”

I stamped my way up the stairs, and went straight to my window. I shoved the metal frame roughly — it crashed shut and the glass trembled.

I stared at the shivering black glass for a long moment, until it was still. Then I sighed, and opened the window as wide as it would go.
发表于 2016-8-8 18:56 | 显示全部楼层
Chapter 3. MOTIVES

THE SUN WAS SO DEEPLY BURIED BEHIND THE CLOUDS that there was no way to tell if it had set or not. After the long flight - chasing the sun westward so that it seemed unmoving in the sky - it was especially disorienting; time seemed oddly variable. It took me by surprise when the forest gave way to the first buildings, signaling that we were nearly home.

"You've been very quiet," Edward observed. "Did the plane make you sick?"

"No, I'm okay."

"Are you sad to leave?"

"More relieved than sad, I think."

He raised one eyebrow at me. I knew it was useless and - much as I hated to admit it - unnecessary to ask him to keep his eyes on the road.

"Renée is so much more . . . perceptive than Charlie in some ways. It was making me jumpy."

Edward laughed. "Your mother has a very interesting mind. Almost childlike, but very insightful. She sees things differently than other people."

Insightful. It was a good description of my mother - when she was paying attention. Most of the time Renée was so bewildered by her own life that she didn't notice much else. But this weekend she'd been paying plenty of attention to me.

Phil was busy - the high school baseball team he coached was in the playoffs - and being alone with Edward and me had only sharpened Renée's focus. As soon as the hugs and squeals of delight were out of the way, Renée began to watch. And as she'd watched, her wide blue eyes had become first confused and then concerned.

This morning we'd gone for a walk along the beach. She wanted to show off all the beauties of her new home, still hoping, I think, that the sun might lure me away from Forks. She'd also wanted to talk with me alone, and that was easily arranged. Edward had fabricated a term paper to give himself an excuse to stay indoors during the day.

In my head, I went through the conversation again. . . .

Renée and I ambled along the sidewalk, trying to stay in the range of the infrequent palm tree shadows. Though it was early, the heat was smothering. The air was so heavy with moisture that just breathing in and out was giving my lungs a workout.

"Bella?" my mother asked, looking out past the sand to the lightly crashing waves as she spoke.

"What is it, Mom?"

She sighed, not meeting my gaze. "I'm worried. . . ."

"What's wrong?" I asked, anxious at once. "What can I do?"

"It's not me." She shook her head. "I'm worried about you . . . and Edward."

Renée finally looked at me when she said his name, her face apologetic.

"Oh," I mumbled, fixing my eyes on a pair of joggers as they passed us, drenched with sweat.

"You two are more serious than I'd been thinking," she went on.

I frowned, quickly reviewing the last two days in my head. Edward and I had barely touched - in front of her, at least. I wondered if Renée was about to give me a lecture on responsibility, too. I didn't mind that the way I had with Charlie. It wasn't embarrassing with my mom. After all, I'd been the one giving her that lecture time and time again in the last ten years.

"There's something . . . strange about the way you two are together," she murmured, her forehead creasing over her troubled eyes. "The way he watches you - it's so . . . protective. Like he's about to throw himself in front of a bullet to save you or something."

I laughed, though I was still not able to meet her gaze. "That's a bad thing?"

"No." She frowned as she struggled for the words. "It's just different. He's very intense about you . . . and very careful. I feel like I don't really understand your relationship. Like there's some secret I'm missing. . . ."

"I think you're imagining things, Mom," I said quickly, struggling to keep my voice light. There was a flutter in my stomach. I'd forgotten how much my mother saw. Something about her simple view of the world cut through all the distractions and pierced right to the truth of things. This had never been a problem before. Until now, there had never been a secret I couldn't tell her.

"It's not just him." She set her lips defensively. "I wish you could see how you move around him."

"What do you mean?"

"The way you move - you orient yourself around him without even thinking about it. When he moves, even a little bit, you adjust your position at the same time. Like magnets . . . or gravity. You're like a . . . satellite, or something. I've never seen anything like it."

She pursed her lips and stared down.

"Don't tell me," I teased, forcing a smile. "You're reading mysteries again, aren't you? Or is it sci-fi this time?"

Renée flushed a delicate pink. "That's beside the point."

"Found anything good?"

"Well, there was one - but that doesn't matter. We're talking about you right now."

"You should stick to romance, Mom. You know how you freak yourself out."

Her lips turned up at the corners. "I'm being silly, aren't I?"

For half a second I couldn't answer. Renée was so easily swayed. Sometimes it was a good thing, because not all of her ideas were practical. But it pained me to see how quickly she caved in to my trivializing, especially since she was dead right this time.

She looked up, and I controlled my expression.

"Not silly - just being a mom."

She laughed and then gestured grandly toward the white sands stretching to the blue water.

"And all this isn't enough to get you to move back in with your silly mom?"

I wiped my hand dramatically across my forehead, and then pretended to wring my hair out.

"You get used to the humidity," she promised.

"You can get used to rain, too," I countered.

She elbowed me playfully and then took my hand as we walked back to her car.

Other than her worries about me, she seemed happy enough. Content. She still looked at Phil with goo- goo eyes, and that was comforting. Surely her life was full and satisfying. Surely she didn't miss me that much, even now. . . .

Edward's icy fingers brushed my cheek. I looked up, blinking, coming back to the present. He leaned down and kissed my forehead.

"We're home, Sleeping Beauty. Time to awake."

We were stopped in front of Charlie's house. The porch light was on and the cruiser was parked in the driveway. As I examined the house, I saw the curtain twitch in the living room window, flashing a line of yellow light across the dark lawn.

I sighed. Of course Charlie was waiting to pounce.

Edward must have been thinking the same thing, because his expression was stiff and his eyes remote as he came to get my door for me.

"How bad?" I asked.

"Charlie's not going to be difficult," Edward promised, his voice level with no hint of humor. "He missed you."

My eyes narrowed in doubt. If that was the case, then why was Edward tensed as if for a battle?

My bag was small, but he insisted on carrying it into the house. Charlie held the door open for us.

"Welcome home, kid!" Charlie shouted like he really meant it. "How was Jacksonville?"

"Moist. And buggy."

"So Renée didn't sell you on the University of Florida?"

"She tried. But I'd rather drink water than inhale it."

Charlie's eyes flickered unwillingly to Edward. "Did you have a nice time?"

"Yes," Edward answered in a serene voice. "Renée was very hospitable."

"That's . . . um, good. Glad you had fun." Charlie turned away from Edward and pulled me in for an unexpected hug.

"Impressive," I whispered in his ear.

He rumbled a laugh. "I really missed you, Bells. The food around here sucks when you're gone."

"I'll get on it," I said as he let me go.

"Would you call Jacob first? He's been bugging me every five minutes since six o'clock this morning. I promised I'd have you call him before you even unpacked."

I didn't have to look at Edward to feel that he was too still, too cold beside me. So this was the cause of his tension.

"Jacob wants to talk to me?"

"Pretty bad, I'd say. He wouldn't tell me what it was about - just said it was important."

The phone rang then, shrill and demanding.

"That's him again, I'd bet my next paycheck," Charlie muttered.

"I got it." I hurried to the kitchen.

Edward followed after me while Charlie disappeared into the living room.

I grabbed the phone mid-ring, and twisted around so that I was facing the wall. "Hello?"

"You're back," Jacob said.

His familiar husky voice sent a wave of wistfulness through me. A thousand memories spun in my head, tangling together - a rocky beach strewn with driftwood trees, a garage made of plastic sheds, warm sodas in a paper bag, a tiny room with one too-small shabby loveseat. The laughter in his deep-set black eyes, the feverish heat of his big hand around mine, the flash of his white teeth against his dark skin, his face stretching into the wide smile that had always been like a key to a secret door where only kindred spirits could enter.

It felt sort of like homesickness, this longing for the place and person who had sheltered me through my darkest night.

I cleared the lump from my throat. "Yes," I answered.

"Why didn't you call me?" Jacob demanded.

His angry tone instantly got my back up. "Because I've been in the house for exactly four seconds and your call interrupted Charlie telling me that you'd called."

"Oh. Sorry."

"Sure. Now, why are you harassing Charlie?"

"I need to talk to you."

"Yeah, I figured out that part all by myself. Go ahead."

There was a short pause.

"You going to school tomorrow?"

I frowned to myself, unable to make sense of this question. "Of course I am. Why wouldn't I?"

"I dunno. Just curious."

Another pause.

"So what did you want to talk about, Jake?"

He hesitated. "Nothing really, I guess. I . . . wanted to hear your voice."

"Yeah, I know. I'm so glad you called me, Jake. I . . ." But I didn't know what more to say. I wanted to tell him I was on my way to La Push right now. And I couldn't tell him that.

"I have to go," he said abruptly.


"I'll talk to you soon, okay?"

"But Jake -"

He was already gone. I listened to the dial tone with disbelief.

"That was short," I muttered.

"Is everything all right?" Edward asked. His voice was low and careful.

I turned slowly to face him. His expression was perfectly smooth - impossible to read.

"I don't know. I wonder what that was about." It didn't make sense that Jacob had been hounding Charlie all day just to ask me if I was going to school. And if he'd wanted to hear my voice, then why did he hang up so quickly?

"Your guess is probably better than mine," Edward said, the hint of a smiletugging at the corner of his mouth.

"Mmm," I murmured. That was true. I knew Jake inside and out. It shouldn't be that complicated to figure out his motivations.

With my thoughts miles away - about fifteen miles away, up the road to La Push - I started combing through the fridge, assembling ingredients for Charlie's dinner. Edward leaned against the counter, and I was distantly aware that his eyes were on my face, but too preoccupied to worry about what he saw there.

The school thing seemed like the key to me. That was the only real question Jake had asked. And he had to be after an answer to something, or he wouldn't have been bugging Charlie so persistently.

Why would my attendance record matter to him, though?

I tried to think about it in a logical way. So, if I hadn't been going to school tomorrow, what would be the problem with that, from Jacob's perspective? Charlie had given me a little grief about missing a day of school so close to finals, but I'd convinced him that one Friday wasn't going to derail my studies. Jake would hardly care about that.

My brain refused to come up with any brilliant insights. Maybe I was missing some vital piece of information.

What could have changed in the past three days that was so important that Jacob would break his long streak of refusing to answer my phone calls and contact me? What difference could three days make?

I froze in the middle of the kitchen. The package of icy hamburger in my hands slipped through my numb fingers. It took me a slow second to miss the thud it should have made against the floor.

Edward had caught it and thrown it onto the counter. His arms were already around me, his lips at my ear.

"What's wrong?"

I shook my head, dazed.

Three days could change everything.

Hadn't I just been thinking about how impossible college was? How I couldn't be anywhere near people after I'd gone through the painful three-day conversion that would set me free from mortality, so that I could spend eternity with Edward? The conversion that would make me forever a prisoner to my own thirst. . . .

Had Charlie told Billy that I'd vanished for three days? Had Billy jumped to conclusions? Had Jacob really been asking me if I was still human? Making sure that the werewolves' treaty was unbroken - that none of the Cullens had dared to bite a human . . . bite, not kill . . . ?

But did he honestly think I would come home to Charlie if that was the case?

Edward shook me. "Bella?" he asked, truly anxious now.

"I think . . . I think he was checking," I mumbled. "Checking to make sure. That I'm human, I mean."

Edward stiffened, and a low hiss sounded in my ear.

"We'll have to leave," I whispered. "Before. So that it doesn't break the treaty. We won't ever be able to come back."

His arms tightened around me. "I know."

"Ahem." Charlie cleared his voice loudly behind us.

I jumped, and then pulled free of Edward's arms, my face getting hot. Edward leaned back against the counter. His eyes were tight. I could see worry in them, and anger.

"If you don't want to make dinner, I can call for a pizza," Charlie hinted.

"No, that's okay, I'm already started."

"Okay," Charlie said. He propped himself against the doorframe, folding his arms.

I sighed and got to work, trying to ignore my audience.

"If I asked you to do something, would you trust me?" Edward asked, an edge to his soft voice.

We were almost to school. Edward had been relaxed and joking just a moment ago, and now suddenly his hands were clenched tight on the steering wheel, his knuckles straining in an effort not to snap it into pieces.

I stared at his anxious expression - his eyes were far away, like he was listening to distant voices.

My pulse sped in response to his stress, but I answered carefully. "That depends."

We pulled into the school lot.

"I was afraid you would say that."

"What do you want me to do, Edward?"

"I want you to stay in the car." He pulled into his usual spot and turned the engine off as he spoke. "I want you to wait here until I come back for you."

"But . . . why?"

That was when I saw him. He would have been hard to miss, towering over the students the way he did, even if he hadn't been leaning against his black motorcycle, parked illegally on the sidewalk.


Jacob's face was a calm mask that I recognized well. It was the face he used when he was determined to keep his emotions in check, to keep himself under control. It made him look like Sam, the oldest of the wolves, the leader of the Quileute pack. But Jacob could never quite manage the perfect serenity Sam always exuded.

I'd forgotten how much this face bothered me. Though I'd gotten to know Sam pretty well before the Cullens had come back - to like him, even - I'd never been able to completely shake the resentment I felt when Jacob mimicked Sam's expression. It was a stranger's face. He wasn't my Jacob when he wore it.

"You jumped to the wrong conclusion last night," Edward murmured. "He asked about school because he knew that I would be where you were. He was looking for a safe place to talk to me. A place with witnesses."

So I'd misinterpreted Jacob's motives last night. Missing information, that was the problem. Information like why in the world Jacob would want to talk to Edward.

"I'm not staying in the car," I said.

Edward groaned quietly. "Of course not. Well, let's get this over with."

Jacob's face hardened as we walked toward him, hand in hand.

I noticed other faces, too - the faces of my classmates. I noticed how their eyes widened as they took in all six foot seven inches of Jacob's long body, muscled up the way no normal sixteen-and-a-half-year-old ever had been. I saw those eyes rake over his tight black t-shirt - short-sleeved, though the day was unseasonably cool - his ragged, grease-smeared jeans, and the glossy black bike he leaned against. Their eyes didn't linger on his face - something about his expression had them glancing quickly away. And I noticed the wide berth everyone gave him, the bubble of space that no one dared to encroach on.

With a sense of astonishment, I realized that Jacob looked dangerous to them. How odd.

Edward stopped a few yards away from Jacob, and I could tell that he was uncomfortable having me so close to a werewolf. He drew his hand back slightly, pulling me halfway behind his body.

"You could have called us," Edward said in a steel-hard voice.

"Sorry," Jacob answered, his face twisting into a sneer. "I don't have any leeches on my speed dial."

"You could have reached me at Bella's house, of course."

Jacob's jaw flexed, and his brows pulled together. He didn't answer.

"This is hardly the place, Jacob. Could we discuss this later?"

"Sure, sure. I'll stop by your crypt after school." Jacob snorted. "What's wrong with now?"

Edward looked around pointedly, his eyes resting on the witnesses who were just barely out of hearing range. A few people were hesitating on the sidewalk, their eyes bright with expectation. Like they were hoping a fight might break out to alleviate the tedium of another Monday morning. I saw Tyler Crowley nudge Austin Marks, and they both paused on their way to class.

"I already know what you came to say," Edward reminded Jacob in voice so low that I could barely make it out. "Message delivered. Consider us warned."

Edward glanced down at me for a fleeting second with worried eyes.

"Warned?" I asked blankly. "What are you talking about?"

"You didn't tell her?" Jacob asked, his eyes widening with disbelief. "What, were you afraid she'd take our side?"

"Please drop it, Jacob," Edward said in an even voice.

"Why?" Jacob challenged.

I frowned in confusion. "What don't I know? Edward?"

Edward just glared at Jacob as if he hadn't heard me.


Jacob raised his eyebrow at me. "He didn't tell you that his big . . . brother crossed the line Saturday night?" he asked, his tone thickly layered with sarcasm. Then his eyes flickered back to Edward. "Paul was totally justified in -"

"It was no-man's land!" Edward hissed.

"Was not!"

Jacob was fuming visibly. His hands trembled. He shook his head and sucked in two deep lungfuls of air.

"Emmett and Paul?" I whispered. Paul was Jacob's most volatile pack brother. He was the one who'd lost control that day in the woods - the memory of the snarling gray wolf was suddenly vividin my head.

"What happened? Were they fighting?" My voice strained higher in panic. "Why? Did Paul get hurt?"

"No one fought," Edward said quietly, only to me. "No one got hurt. Don't be anxious."

Jacob was staring at us with incredulous eyes. "You didn't tell her anything at all, did you? Is that why you took her away? So she wouldn't know that -?"

"Leave now." Edward cut him off mid-sentence, and his face was abruptly frightening - truly frightening. For a second, he looked like . . . like a vampire. He glared at Jacob with vicious, unveiled loathing.

Jacob raised his eyebrows, but made no other move. "Why haven't you told her?"

They faced each other in silence for a long moment. More students gathered behind Tyler and Austin. I saw Mike next to Ben - Mike had one hand on Ben's shoulder, like he was holding him in place.

In the dead silence, all the details suddenly fell into place for me with a burst of intuition.

Something Edward didn't want me to know.

Something that Jacob wouldn't have kept from me.

Something that had the Cullens and the wolves both in the woods, moving in hazardous proximity to each other.

Something that would cause Edward to insist that I fly across the country.

Something that Alice had seen in a vision last week - a vision Edward had lied to me about.

Something I'd been waiting for anyway. Something I knew would happen again, as much as I might wish it never would. It was never going to end, was it?

I heard the quick gasp, gasp, gasp, gasp of the air dragging through my lips, but I couldn't stop it. It looked like the school was shaking, like there was an earthquake, but I knew it was my own trembling that caused the illusion.

"She came back for me," I choked out.

Victoria was never going to give up till I was dead. She would keep repeating the same pattern - feint and run, feint and run - until she found a hole through my defenders.

Maybe I'd get lucky. Maybe the Volturi would come for me first - they'd kill me quicker, at least.

Edward held me tight to his side, angling his body so that he was still between me and Jacob, and stroked my face with anxious hands. "It's fine," he whispered to me. "It's fine. I'll never let her get close to you, it's fine."

Then he glared at Jacob. "Does that answer your question, mongrel?"

"You don't think Bella has a right to know?" Jacob challenged. "It's her life."

Edward kept his voice muted; even Tyler, edging forward by inches, would be unable to hear. "Why should she be frightened when she was never in danger?"

"Better frightened than lied to."

I tried to pull myself together, but my eyes were swimming in moisture. I could see it behind my lids - I could see Victoria's face, her lips pulled back over her teeth, her crimson eyes glowing with the obsession of her vendetta; she held Edward responsible for the demise of her love, James. She wouldn't stop until his love was taken from him, too.

Edward wiped the tears from my cheek with his fingertips.

"Do you really think hurting her is better than protecting her?" he murmured.

"She's tougher than you think," Jacob said. "And she's been through worse."

Abruptly, Jacob's expression shifted, and he was staring at Edward with an odd, speculative expression. His eyes narrowed like he was trying to do a difficult math problem in his head.

I felt Edward cringe. I glanced up at him, and his face was contorted in what could only be pain. For one ghastly moment, I was reminded of our afternoon in Italy, in the macabre tower room of the Volturi, where Jane had tortured Edward with her malignant gift, burning him with her thoughts alone. . . .

The memory snapped me out of my near hysteria and put everything in perspective. Because I'd rather Victoria killed me a hundred times over than watch Edward suffer that way again.

"That's funny," Jacob said, laughing as he watched Edward's face.

Edward winced, but smoothed his expression with a little effort. He couldn't quite hide the agony in his eyes.

I glanced, wide-eyed, from Edward's grimace to Jacob's sneer.

"What are you doing to him?" I demanded.

"It's nothing, Bella," Edward told me quietly. "Jacob just has a good memory, that's all."

Jacob grinned, and Edward winced again.

"Stop it! Whatever you're doing."

"Sure, if you want." Jacob shrugged. "It's his own fault if he doesn't like the things I remember, though."

I glared at him, and he smiled back impishly - like a kid caught doing something he knows he shouldn't by someone who he knows won't punish him.

"The principal's on his way to discourage loitering on school property," Edward murmured to me. "Let's get to English, Bella, so you're not involved."

"Overprotective, isn't he?" Jacob said, talking just to me. "A little trouble makes life fun. Let me guess, you're not allowed to have fun, are you?"

Edward glowered, and his lips pulled back from his teeth ever so slightly.

"Shut up, Jake," I said.

Jacob laughed. "That sounds like a no. Hey, if you ever feel like having a life again, you could come see me. I've still got your motorcycle in my garage."

This news distracted me. "You were supposed to sell that. You promised Charlie you would." If I hadn't begged on Jake's behalf - after all, he'd put weeks of labor into both motorcycles, and he deserved some kind of payback - Charlie would have thrown my bike in a Dumpster. And possibly set that Dumpster on fire.

"Yeah, right. Like I would do that. It belongs to you, not me. Anyway, I'll hold on to it until you want it back."

A tiny hint of the smile I remembered was suddenly playing around the edges of his lips.

"Jake . . ."

He leaned forward, his face earnest now, the bitter sarcasm fading. "I think I might have been wrong before, you know, about not being able to be friends. Maybe we could manage it, on my side of the line. Come see me."

I was vividly conscious of Edward, his arms still wrapped protectively around me, motionless as a stone. I shot a look at his face - it was calm, patient.

"I, er, don't know about that, Jake."

Jacob dropped the antagonistic faade completely. It was like he'd forgotten Edward was there, or at least he was determined to act that way. "I miss you every day, Bella. It's not the same without you."

"I know and I'm sorry, Jake, I just . . ."

He shook his head, and sighed. "I know. Doesn't matter, right? I guess I'll survive or something. Who needs friends?" He grimaced, trying to cover the pain with a thin attempt at bravado.

Jacob's suffering had always triggered my protective side. It was not entirely rational - Jacob was hardly in need of any physical protection I could offer. But my arms, pinned beneath Edward's, yearned to reach out to him. To wrap around his big, warm waist in a silent promise of acceptance and comfort.

Edward's shielding arms had become restraints.

"Okay, get to class," a stern voice sounded behind us. "Move along, Mr. Crowley."

"Get to school, Jake," I whispered, anxious as soon as I recognized the principal's voice. Jacob went to the Quileute school, but he might still get in trouble for trespassing or the equivalent.

Edward released me, taking just my hand and pulling me behind his body again.

Mr. Greene pushed through the circle of spectators, his brows pressing down like ominous storm clouds over his small eyes.

"I mean it," he was threatening. "Detention for anyone who's still standing here when I turn around again." The audience melted away before he was finished with his sentence.

"Ah, Mr. Cullen. Do we have a problem here?"

"Not at all, Mr. Greene. We were just on our way to class."

"Excellent. I don't seem to recognize your friend." Mr. Greene turned his glower on Jacob. "Are you a new student here?"

Mr. Greene's eyes scrutinized Jacob, and I could see that he'd come to the same conclusion everyone else had: dangerous. A troublemaker.

"Nope," Jacob answered, half a smirk on his broad lips.

"Then I suggest you remove yourself from school property at once, young man, before I call the police."

Jacob's little smirk became a full-blown grin, and I knew he was picturing Charlie showing up to arrest him. This grin was too bitter, too full of mocking to satisfy me. This wasn't the smile I'd been waiting to see.

Jacob said, "Yes, sir," and snapped a military salute before he climbed on his bike and kicked it to a start right there on the sidewalk. The engine snarled and then the tires squealed as he spun it sharply around. In a matter of seconds, Jacob raced out of sight.

Mr. Greene gnashed his teeth together while he watched the performance.

"Mr. Cullen, I expect you to ask your friend to refrain from trespassing again."

"He's no friend of mine, Mr. Greene, but I'll pass along the warning."

Mr. Greene pursed his lips. Edward's perfect grades and spotless record were clearly a factor in Mr. Greene's assessment of the incident. "I see. If you're worried about any trouble, I'd be happy to -"

"There's nothing to worry about, Mr. Greene. There won't be any trouble."

"I hope that's correct. Well, then. On to class. You, too, Miss Swan."

Edward nodded, and pulled me quickly along toward the English building.

"Do you feel well enough to go to class?" he whispered when we were past the principal.

"Yes," I whispered back, not quite sure if this was a lie.

Whether I felt well or not was hardly the most important consideration. I needed to talk to Edward right away, and English class wasn't the ideal place for the conversation I had in mind.

But with Mr. Greene right behind us, there weren't a lot of other options.

We got to class a little late and took our seats quickly. Mr. Berty was reciting a Frost poem. He ignored our entrance, refusing to let us break his rhythm.

I yanked a blank page out of my notebook and started writing, my handwriting more illegible than normal thanks to my agitation.

What happened? Tell me everything. And screw the protecting me crap, please.

I shoved the note at Edward. He sighed, and then began writing. It took him less time than me, though he wrote an entire paragraph in his own personal calligraphy before he slipped the paper back.

Alice saw that Victoria was coming back. I took you out of town merely as a precaution - there was never a chance that she would have gotten anywhere close to you. Emmett and Jasper very nearly had her, but Victoria seems to have some instinct for evasion. She escaped right down the Quileute boundary line as if she were reading it from a map. It didn't help that Alice's abilities were nullified by the Quileutes' involvement. To be fair, the Quileutes might have had her, too, if we hadn't gotten in the way. The big gray one thought Emmett was over the line, and he got defensive. Of course Rosalie reacted to that, and everyone left the chase to protect their companions. Carlisle and Jasper got things calmed down before it got out of hand. But by then, Victoria had slipped away. That's everything.

I frowned at the letters on the page. All of them had been in on it - Emmett, Jasper, Alice, Rosalie, and Carlisle. Maybe even Esme, though he hadn't mentioned her. And then Paul and the rest of the Quileute pack. It might so easily have turned into a fight, pitting my future family and my old friends against each other. Any one of them could have been hurt. I imagined the wolves would be in the most danger, but picturing tiny Alice next to one of the huge werewolves, fighting . . .

I shuddered.

Carefully, I scrubbed out the entire paragraph with my eraser and then I wrote over the top:

What about Charlie? She could have been after him.

Edward was shaking his head before I finished, obviously going to downplay any danger on Charlie's behalf. He held a hand out, but I ignored that and started again.

You can't know that she wasn't thinking that, because you weren't here. Florida was a bad idea.

He took the paper from underneath my hand.

I wasn't about to send you off alone. With your luck, not even the black box would survive.

That wasn't what I'd meant at all; I hadn't thought of going without him. I'd meant that we should have stayed here together. But I was sidetracked by his response, and a little miffed. Like I couldn't fly cross country without bringing the plane down. Very funny.

So let's say my bad luck did crash the plane. What exactly were you going to do about it? Why is the plane crashing?

He was trying to hide a smile now.

The pilots are passed out drunk.

Easy. I'd fly the plane.

Of course. I pursed my lips and tried again.

Both engines have exploded and we're falling in a death spiral toward the earth.

I'd wait till we were close enough to the ground, get a good grip on you, kick out the wall, and jump. Then I'd run you back to the scene of the accident, and we'd stumble around like the two luckiest survivors in history.

I stared at him wordlessly.

"What?" he whispered.

I shook my head in awe. "Nothing," I mouthed.

I scrubbed out the disconcerting conversation and wrote one more line. You will tell me next time.

I knew there would be a next time. The pattern would continue until someone lost.

Edward stared into my eyes for a long moment. I wondered what my face looked like - it felt cold, so the blood hadn't returned to my cheeks. My eyelashes were still wet.

He sighed and then nodded once.


The paper disappeared from under my hand. I looked up, blinkingin surprise, just as Mr. Berty came down the aisle.

"Is that something you'd like to share there, Mr. Cullen?"

Edward looked up innocently and held out the sheet of paper on top of his folder. "My notes?" he asked, sounding confused.

Mr. Berty scanned the notes - no doubt a perfect transcription of his lecture - and then walked away frowning. It was later, in Calculus - my one class without Edward - that I heard the gossip.

"My money's on the big Indian," someone was saying.

I peeked up to see that Tyler, Mike, Austin, and Ben had their heads bent together, deep in conversation.

"Yeah," Mike whispered. "Did you see the size of that Jacob kid? I think he could take Cullen down." Mike sounded pleased by the idea.

"I don't think so," Ben disagreed. "There's something about Edward. He's always so . . . confident. I have a feeling he can take care of himself."

"I'm with Ben," Tyler agreed. "Besides, if that other kid messed Edward up, you know those big brothers of his would get involved."

"Have you been down to La Push lately?" Mike asked. "Lauren and I went to the beach a couple of weeks ago, and believe me, Jacob's friends are all just as big as he is."

"Huh," Tyler said. "Too bad it didn't turn into anything. Guess we'll never know how it would have turned out."

"It didn't look over to me," Austin said. "Maybe we'll get to see."

Mike grinned. "Anyone in the mood for a bet?"

"Ten on Jacob," Austin said at once.

"Ten on Cullen," Tyler chimed in.

"Ten on Edward," Ben agreed.

"Jacob," Mike said.

"Hey, do you guys know what it was about?" Austin wondered. "That might affect the odds."

"I can guess," Mike said, and then he shot a glance at me at the same time that Ben and Tyler did.

From their expressions, none of them had realized I was in easy hearing distance. They all looked away quickly, shuffling the papers on their desks.

"I still say Jacob," Mike muttered under his breath.
发表于 2016-8-8 19:00 | 显示全部楼层
Chapter 4. NATURE


I knew that essentially nothing had changed. Okay, so Victoria had not given up, but had I ever dreamed for one moment that she had? Her reappearance had only confirmed what I'd already known. No reason for fresh panic.

In theory. Not panicking was easier said than done.

Graduation was only a few weeks away, but I wondered if it wasn't a little foolish to sit around, weak and tasty, waiting for the next disaster. It seemed too dangerous to be human - just begging for trouble. Someone like me shouldn't be human. Someone with my luck ought to be a little less helpless.

But no one would listen to me.

Carlisle had said, "There are seven of us, Bella. And with Alice on our side, I don't think Victoria's going to catch us off guard. I think it's important, for Charlie's sake, that we stick with the original plan."

Esme had said, "We'd never allow anything to happen to you, sweetheart. You know that. Please don't be anxious." And then she'd kissed my forehead.

Emmett had said, "I'm really glad Edward didn't kill you. Everything's so much more fun with you around."

Rosalie had glared at him.

Alice had rolled her eyes and said, "I'm offended. You're not honestly worried about this, are you?"

"If it's no big deal, then why did Edward drag me to Florida?" I'd demanded.

"Haven't you noticed yet, Bella, that Edward is just the teeniest bit prone to overreaction?"

Jasper had silently erased all the panic and tension in my body with his curious talent of controlling emotional atmospheres. I'd felt reassured, and let them talk me out of my desperate pleading.

Of course, that calm had worn off as soon as Edward and I had walked out of the room.

So the consensus was that I was just supposed to forget that a deranged vampire was stalking me, intent on my death. Go about my business.

I did try. And surprisingly, there were other things almost as stressful to dwell on besides my status on the endangered species list. . . .

Because Edward's response had been the most frustrating of them all.

"That's between you and Carlisle," he'd said. "Of course, you know that I'm willing to make it between you and me at any time that you wish. You know my condition." And he had smiled angelically.

Ugh. I did know his condition. Edward had promised that he would change me himself whenever I wanted . . . just as long as I was married to him first.

Sometimes I wondered if he was only pretending that he couldn't read my mind. How else had he struck upon the one condition that I would have trouble accepting? The one condition that would slow me down.

All in all, a very bad week. And today was the worst day in it.

It was always a bad day when Edward was away. Alice had foreseen nothing out of the ordinary this weekend, and so I'd insisted that he take the opportunity to go hunting with his brothers. I knew how it bored him to hunt the easy, nearby prey.

"Go have fun," I'd told him. "Bag a few mountain lions for me."

I would never admit to him how hard it was for me when he was gone - how it brought back the abandonment nightmares. If he knew that, it would make him feel horrible and he would be afraid to ever leave me, even for the most necessary reasons. It had been like that in the beginning, when he'd first returned from Italy. His golden eyes had turned black and he'd suffered from his thirst more than it was already necessary that he suffer. So I put on a brave face and all but kicked him out the door whenever Emmett and Jasper wanted to go.

I think he saw through me, though. A little. This morning there had been a note left on my pillow:

I'll be back so soon you won't have time to miss me. Look after my heart - I've left it with you.

So now I had a big empty Saturday with nothing but my morning shift at Newton's Olympic Outfitters to distract me. And, of course, the oh-so-comforting promise from Alice.

"I'm staying close to home to hunt. I'll only be fifteen minutes away if you need me. I'll keep an eye out for trouble."

Translation: don't try anything funny just because Edward is gone.

Alice was certainly just as capable of crippling my truck as Edward was.

I tried to look on the bright side. After work, I had plans to help Angela with her announcements, so that would be a distraction. And Charlie was in an excellent mood due to Edward's absence, so I might as well enjoy that while it lasted. Alice would spend the night with me if I was pathetic enough to ask her to. And then tomorrow, Edward would be home. I would survive.

Not wanting to be ridiculously early for work, I ate my breakfast slowly, one Cheerio at a time. Then, when I'd washed the dishes, I arranged the magnets on the fridge into a perfect line. Maybe I was developing obsessive-compulsive disorder.

The last two magnets - round black utilitarian pieces that were my favorites because they could hold ten sheets of paper to the fridge without breaking a sweat - did not want to cooperate with my fixation. Their polarities were reversed; every time I tried to line the last one up, the other jumped out of place.

For some reason - impending mania, perhaps - this really irritated me. Why couldn't they just play nice? Stupid with stubbornness, I kept shoving them together as if I was expecting them to suddenly give up. I could have flipped one over, but that felt like losing. Finally, exasperated at myself more than the magnets, I pulled them from the fridge and held them together with two hands. It took a little effort - they were strong enough to put up a fight - but I forced them to coexist side-by-side.

"See," I said out loud - talking to inanimate objects, never a good sign - "That's not so horrible, is it?"

I stood there like an idiot for a second, not quite able to admit that I wasn't having any lasting effect against scientific principles. Then, with a sigh, I put the magnets back on the fridge, a foot apart.

"There's no need to be so inflexible," I muttered.

It was still too early, but I decided I'd better get out of the house before the inanimate objects started talking back.

When I got to Newton's, Mike was methodically dry mopping the aisles while his mom arranged a new counter display. I caught them in the middle of an argument, unaware that I had arrived.

"But it's the only time that Tyler can go," Mike complained. "You said after graduation -"

"You're just going to have to wait," Mrs. Newton snapped. "You and Tyler can think of something else to do. You are not going to Seattle until the police stop whatever it is that is going on there. I know Beth Crowley has told Tyler the same thing, so don't act like I'm the bad guy - oh, good morning, Bella," she said when she caught sight of me, brightening her tone quickly. "You're early."

Karen Newton was the last person I'd think to ask for help in an outdoor sports equipment store. Her perfectly highlighted blond hair was always smoothed into an elegant twist on the back of her neck, her fingernails were polished by professionals, as were her toenails - visible through the strappy high heels that didn't resemble anything Newton's offered on the long row of hiking boots.

"Light traffic," I joked as I grabbed my hideous fluorescent orange vest out from under the counter. I was surprised that Mrs. Newton was as worked up about this Seattle thing as Charlie. I'd thought he was going to extremes.

"Well, er . . ." Mrs. Newton hesitated for a moment, playing uncomfortably with a stack of flyers she was arranging by the register.

I stopped with one arm in my vest. I knew that look.

When I'd let the Newtons know that I wouldn't be working here this summer - abandoning them in their busiest season, in effect - they'd started training Katie Marshall to take my place. They couldn't really afford both of us on the payroll at the same time, so when it looked like a slow day . . .

"I was going to call," Mrs. Newton continued. "I don't think we're expecting a ton of business today. Mike and I can probably handle things. I'm sorry you got up and drove out. . . ."

On a normal day, I would be ecstatic with this turn of events. Today . . . not so much.

"Okay," I sighed. My shoulders slumped. What was I going to do now?

"That's not fair, Mom," Mike said. "If Bella wants to work -"

"No, it's okay, Mrs. Newton. Really, Mike. I've got finals to study for and stuff. . . ." I didn't want to be a source of familial discord when they were already arguing.

"Thanks, Bella. Mike, you missed aisle four. Um, Bella, do you mind throwing these flyers in a Dumpster on the way out? I told the girl who left them here that I'd put them on the counter, but I really don't have the room."

"Sure, no problem." I put my vest away, and then tucked the flyers under my arm and headed out into the misty rain.

The Dumpster was around the side of Newton's, next to where we employees were supposed to park. I shuffled along, kicking pebbles petulantly on my way. I was about to fling the stack of bright yellow papers into the trash when the heading printed in bold across the top caught my eye. One word in particular seized my attention.

I clutched the papers in both hands as I stared at the picture beneath the caption. A lump rose in my throat.


Under the words, there was a detailed drawing of a wolf in front of a fir tree, its head thrown back in the act of baying at the moon. It was a disconcerting picture; something about the wolf's plaintive posture made him look forlorn. Like he was howling in grief.

And then I was running to my truck, the flyers still locked in my grip.

Fifteen minutes - that's all I had. But it should be long enough. It was only fifteen minutes to La Push, and surely I would cross the boundary line a few minutes before I hit the town.

My truck roared to life without any difficulty.

Alice couldn't have seen me doing this, because I hadn't been planning it. A snap decision, that was the key! And as long as I moved fast enough, I should be able to capitalize on it.

I'd thrown the damp flyers in my haste and they were scattered in a bright mess across the passenger seat - a hundred bolded captions, a hundred dark howling wolves outlined against the yellow background.

I barreled down the wet highway, turning the windshield wipers on high and ignoring the groan of the ancient engine. Fifty-five was the most I could coax out of my truck, and I prayed it would be enough.

I had no clue where the boundary line was, but I began to feel safer as I passed the first houses outside La Push. This must be beyond where Alice was allowed to follow.

I'd call her when I got to Angela's this afternoon, I reasoned, so that she'd know I was fine. There was no reason for her to get worked up. She didn't need to be mad at me - Edward would be angry enough for two when he got back.

My truck was positively wheezing by the time it grated to a stop in front of the familiar faded red house. The lump came back to my throat as I stared at the little place that had once been my refuge. It had been so long since I'd been here.

Before I could cut the engine, Jacob was standing in the door, his face blank with shock.

In the sudden silence when the truck-roar died, I heard him gasp.


"Hey, Jake!"

"Bella!" he yelled back, and the smile I'd been waiting for stretched across his face like the sun breaking free of the clouds. His teeth gleamed bright against his russet skin. "I can't believe it!"

He ran to the truck and half-yanked me through the open door, and then we were both jumping up and down like kids.

"How did you get here?"

"I snuck out!"


"Hey, Bella!" Billy had rolled himself into the doorway to see what all the commotion was about.

"Hey, Bil -!"

Just then my air choked off - Jacob grabbed me up in a bear hug too tight to breathe and swung me around in a circle.

"Wow, it's good to see you here!"

"Can't . . . breathe," I gasped.

He laughed and put me down.

"Welcome back, Bella," he said, grinning. And the way he said the words made it sound like welcome home.

We started walking, too keyed up to sit still in the house. Jacob was practically bouncing as he moved, and I had to remind him a few times that my legs weren't ten feet long.

As we walked, I felt myself settling into another version of myself, the self I had been with Jacob. A little younger, a little less responsible. Someone who might, on occasion, do something really stupid for no good reason.

Our exuberance lasted through the first few topics of conversation: how we were doing, what we were up to, how long I had, and what had brought me here. When I hesitantly told him about the wolf flyer, his bellowing laugh echoed back from the trees.

But then, as we ambled past the back of the store and shoved through the thick scrub that ringed the far edge of First Beach, we got to the hard parts. All too soon we had to talk about the reasons behind our long separation, and I watched as the face of my friend hardened into the bitter mask that was already too familiar.

"So what's the story, anyway?" Jacob asked me, kicking a piece of driftwood out of his way with too much force. It sailed over the sand and then clattered against the rocks. "I mean, since the last time we . . . well, before, you know . . ." He struggled for the words. He took a deep breath and tried again. "What I'm asking is . . . everything is just back to the way it was before he left? You forgave him for all of that?"

I took a deep breath. "There was nothing to forgive."

I wanted to skip past this part, the betrayals, the accusations, but I knew that we had to talk it through before we'd be able to move on to anything else.

Jacob's face puckered up like he'd just licked a lemon. "I wish Sam had taken a picture when he found you that night last September. It would be exhibit A."

"Nobody's on trial."

"Maybe somebody should be."

"Not even you would blame him for leaving, if you knew the reason why."

He glared at me for a few seconds. "Okay," he challenged acidly. "Amaze me."

His hostility was wearing on me - chafing against the raw; it hurt to have him angry with me. It reminded me of the bleak afternoon, long ago, when - under orders from Sam - he'd told me we couldn't be friends. I took a second to compose myself.

"Edward left me last fall because he didn't think I should be hanging out with vampires. He thought it would be healthier for me if he left."

Jacob did a double take. He had to scramble for a minute. Whatever he'd been planning to say, it clearly no longer applied. I was glad he didn't know the catalyst behind Edward's decision. I could only imagine what he'd think if he knew Jasper had tried to kill me.

"He came back, though, didn't he?" Jacob muttered. "Too bad he can't stick to a decision."

"If you remember, I went and got him."

Jacob stared at me for a moment, and then he backed off. His face relaxed, and his voice was calmer when he spoke.

"That's true. So I never did get the story. What happened?"

I hesitated, biting my lip.

"Is it a secret?" His voice took on a taunting edge. "Are you not allowed to tell me?"

"No," I snapped. "It's just a really long story."

Jacob smiled, arrogant, and turned to walk up the beach, expecting me to follow.

It was no fun being with Jacob if he was going to act like this. I trailed behind him automatically, not sure if I shouldn't turn around and leave. I was going to have to face Alice, though, when I got home. . . . I supposed I wasn't in any rush.

Jacob walked to a huge, familiar piece of driftwood - an entire tree, roots and all, bleached white and beached deep in the sand; it was our tree, in a way.

Jacob sat down on the natural bench, and patted the space next to him.

"I don't mind long stories. Is there any action?"

I rolled my eyes as I sat next to him. "There's some action," I allowed.

"It wouldn't be real horror without action."

"Horror!" I scoffed. "Can you listen, or will you be interrupting me with rude comments about my friends? "

He pretended to lock his lips and then threw the invisible key over his shoulder. I tried not to smile, and failed.

"I'll have to start with the stuff you were already there for," I decided, working to organize the stories in my head before I began.

Jacob raised his hand.

"Go ahead."

"That's good," he said. "I didn't understand much that was going on at the time."

"Yeah, well, it gets complicated, so pay attention. You know how Alice sees things?"

I took his scowl - the wolves weren't thrilled that the legends of vampires possessing supernatural gifts were true - for a yes, and proceeded with the account of my race through Italy to rescue Edward.

I kept it as succinct as possible - leaving out anything that wasn't essential. I tried to read Jacob's reactions, but his face was enigmatic as I explained how Alice had seen Edward plan to kill himself when he'd heard that I was dead. Sometimes Jacob seemed so deep in thought, I wasn't sure if he was listening. He only interrupted one time.

"The fortune-telling bloodsucker can't see us?" he echoed, his face both fierce and gleeful. "Seriously? That's excellent!"

I clenched my teeth together, and we sat in silence, his face expectant as he waited for me to continue. I glared at him until he realized his mistake.

"Oops!" he said. "Sorry." He locked his lips again.

His response was easier to read when I got to the part about the Volturi. His teeth clenched together, goose bumps rose on his arms, and his nostrils flared. I didn't go into specifics, I just told him that Edward had talked us out of trouble, without revealing the promise we'd had to make, or the visit we were anticipating. Jacob didn't need to have my nightmares.

"Now you know the whole story," I concluded. "So it's your turn to talk. What happened while I was with my mom this weekend?" I knew Jacob would give me more details than Edward had. He wasn't afraid of scaring me.

Jacob leaned forward, instantly animated. "So Embry and Quil and I were running patrol on Saturday night, just routine stuff, when out of nowhere - bam!" He threw his arms out, impersonating an explosion. "There it is - a fresh trail, not fifteen minutes old. Sam wanted us to wait for him, but I didn't know you were gone, and I didn't know if your bloodsuckers were keeping an eye on you or not. So we took off after her at full speed, but she'd crossed the treaty line before we caught up. We spread out along the line, hoping she'd cross back over. It was frustrating, let me tell you." He wagged his head and his hair - growing out from the short crop he'd adopted when he'd joined the pack - flopped into his eyes. "We ended up too far south. The Cullens chased her back to our side just a few miles north of us. Would have been the perfect ambush if we'd known where to wait."

He shook his head, grimacing now. "That's when it got dicey. Sam and the others caught up to her before we did, but she was dancing right along the line, and the whole coven was right there on the other side. The big one, what's-his-name -"


"Yeah, him. He made a lunge for her, but that redhead is fast! He flew right behind her and almost rammed into Paul. So, Paul . . . well, you know Paul."


"Lost his focus. Can't say that I blame him - the big bloodsucker was right on top of him. He sprang - hey, don't give me that look. The vampire was on our land."

I tried to compose my face so that he would go on. My nails were digging into my palms with the stress of the story, even though I knew it had turned out fine.

"Anyway, Paul missed, and the big one got back on his side. But by then the, er, well the, uh, blonde . . ." Jacob's expression was a comical mix of disgust and unwilling admiration as he tried to come up with a word to describe Edward's sister.


"Whatever. She got real territorial, so Sam and I fell back to get Paul's flanks. Then their leader and the other blond male -"

"Carlisle and Jasper."

He gave me an exasperated look. "You know I don't really care. Anyway, so Carlisle spoke to Sam, trying to calm things down. Then it was weird, because everyone got really calm really fast. It was that other one you told me about, messing with our heads. But even though we knew what he was doing, we couldn't not be calm."

"Yeah, I know how it feels."

"Really annoying, that's how it feels. Only you can't be annoyed until afterwards." He shook his head angrily. "So Sam and the head vamp agreed that Victoria was the priority, and we started after her again. Carlisle gave us the line, so that we could follow the scent properly, but then she hit the cliffs just north of Makah country, right where the line hugs the coast for a few miles. She took off into the water again. The big one and the calm one wanted permission to cross the line to go after her, but of course we said no."

"Good. I mean, you were being stupid, but I'm glad. Emmett's never cautious enough. He could have gotten hurt."

Jacob snorted. "So did your vampire tell you we attacked for no reason and his totally innocent coven -"

"No," I interrupted. "Edward told me the same story, just without quite as many details."

"Huh," Jacob said under his breath, and he bent over to pick up a rock from among the millions of pebbles at our feet. With a casual flick, he sent it flying a good hundred meters out into the bay. "Well, she'll be back, I guess. We'll get another shot at her."

I shuddered; of course she would be back. Would Edward really tell me next time? I wasn't sure. I'd have to keep an eye on Alice, to look for the signs that the pattern was about to repeat. . . .

Jacob didn't seem to notice my reaction. He was staring across the waves with a thoughtful expression on his face, his broad lips pursed.

"What are you thinking about?" I asked after a long, quiet time.

"I'm thinking about what you told me. About when the fortune-teller saw you cliff jumping and thought you'd committed suicide, and how it all got out of control. . . . Do you realize that if you had just waited for me like you were supposed to, then the bl - Alice wouldn't have been able to see you jump? Nothing would have changed. We'd probably be in my garage right now, like any other Saturday. There wouldn't be any vampires in Forks, and you and me . . ." He trailed off, deep in thought.

It was disconcerting the way he said this, like it would be a good thing to have no vampires in Forks. My heart thumped unevenly at the emptiness of the picture he painted.

"Edward would have come back anyway."

"Are you sure about that?" he asked, belligerent again as soon as I spoke Edward's name.

"Being apart . . . It didn't work out so well for either of us."

He started to say something, something angry from his expression, but he stopped himself, took a breath, and began again.

"Did you know Sam is mad at you?"

"Me?" It took me a second. "Oh. I see. He thinks they would have stayed away if I wasn't here."

"No. That's not it."

"What's his problem then?"

Jacob leaned down to scoop up another rock. He turned it over and over in his fingers; his eyes were riveted on the black stone while he spoke in a low voice.

"When Sam saw . . . how you were in the beginning, when Billy told them how Charlie worried when you didn't get better, and then when you started jumping off cliffs . . ."

I made a face. No one was ever going to let me forget that.

Jacob's eyes flashed up to mine. "He thought you were the one person in the world with as much reason to hate the Cullens as he does. Sam feels sort of . . . betrayed that you would just let them back into your life like they never hurt you."

I didn't believe for a second that Sam was the only one who felt that way. And the acid in my voice now was for both of them.

"You can tell Sam to go right to -"

"Look at that," Jacob interrupted me, pointing to an eagle in the act of plummeting down toward the ocean from an incredible height. It checked itself at the last minute, only its talons breaking the surface of the waves, just for an instant. Then it flapped away, its wings straining against the load of the huge fish it had snagged.

"You see it everywhere," Jacob said, his voice suddenly distant. "Nature taking its course - hunter and prey, the endless cycle of life and death."

I didn't understand the point of the nature lecture; I guessed that he was just trying to change the subject. But then he looked down at me with dark humor in his eyes.

"And yet, you don't see the fish trying to plant a kiss on the eagle. You never see that." He grinned a mocking grin.

I grinned back tightly, though the acid taste was still in my mouth. "Maybe the fish was trying," I suggested. "It's hard to tell what a fish is thinking. Eagles are good-looking birds, you know."

"Is that what it comes down to?" His voice was abruptly sharper. "Good looks?"

"Don't be stupid, Jacob."

"Is it the money, then?" he persisted.

"That's nice," I muttered, getting up from the tree. "I'm flattered that you think so much of me." I turned my back on him and paced away.

"Aw, don't get mad." He was right behind me; he caught my wrist and spun me around. "I'm serious! I'm trying to understand here, and I'm coming up blank."

His eyebrows pushed together angrily, and his eyes were black in their deep shadow.

"I love him. Not because he's beautiful or because he's rich!" I spat the word at Jacob. "I'd much rather he weren't either one. It would even out the gap between us just a little bit - because he'd still be the most loving and unselfish and brilliant and decent person I've ever met. Of course I love him. How hard is that to understand?"

"It's impossible to understand."

"Please enlighten me, then, Jacob." I let the sarcasm flow thick. "What is a valid reason for someone to love someone else? Since apparently I'm doing it wrong."

"I think the best place to start would be to look within your own species. That usually works."

"Well, that just sucks!" I snapped. "I guess I'm stuck with Mike Newton after all."

Jacob flinched back and bit his lip. I could see that my words had hurt him, but I was too mad to feel bad about that yet. He dropped my wrist and folded his arms across his chest, turning from me to glare toward the ocean.

"I'm human," he muttered, his voice almost inaudible.

"You're not as human as Mike," I continued ruthlessly. "Do you still think that's the most important consideration?"

"It's not the same thing." Jacob didn't look away from the gray waves. "I didn't choose this."

I laughed once in disbelief. "Do you think Edward did? He didn't know what was happening to him any more than you did. He didn't exactly sign up for this."

Jacob was shaking his head back and forth with a small, quick movement.

"You know, Jacob, you're awfully self-righteous - considering that you're a werewolf and all."

"It's not the same," Jacob repeated, glowering at me.

"I don't see why not. You could be a bit more understanding about the Cullens. You have no idea how truly good they are - to the core, Jacob."

He frowned more deeply. "They shouldn't exist. Their existence goes against nature."

I stared at him for a long moment with one eyebrow raised incredulously. It was a while before he noticed.


"Speaking of unnatural . . . ," I hinted.

"Bella," he said, his voice slow and different. Aged. I realized that he sounded suddenly older than me - like a parent or a teacher. "What I am was born in me. It's a part of who I am, who my family is, who we all are as a tribe - it's the reason why we're still here.

"Besides that" - he looked down at me, his black eyes unreadable - "I am stillhuman."

He picked up my hand and pressed it to his fever-warm chest. Through his t-shirt, I could feel the steady beating of his heart under my palm.

"Normal humans can't throw motorcycles around the way you can."

He smiled a faint, half-smile. "Normal humans run away from monsters, Bella. And I never claimed to be normal. Just human."

Staying angry with Jacob was too much work. I started to smile as I pulled my hand away from his chest.

"You look plenty human to me," I allowed. "At the moment."

"I feel human." He stared past me, his face far away. His lower lip trembled, and he bit down on it hard.

"Oh, Jake," I whispered, reaching for his hand.

This was why I was here. This was why I would take whatever reception waited for me when I got back. Because, underneath all the anger and the sarcasm, Jacob was in pain. Right now, it was very clear in his eyes. I didn't know how to help him, but I knew I had to try. It was more than that I owed him. It was because his pain hurt me, too. Jacob had become a part of me, and there was no changing that now.
发表于 2016-8-8 19:03 | 显示全部楼层
Chapter 5. IMPRINT

"ARE YOU OKAY, JAKE? CHARLIE SAID YOU WERE HAVING a hard time. . . . Isn't it getting any better?"

His warm hand curled around mine. "'S not so bad," he said, but he wouldn't meet my eyes.

He walked slowly back to the driftwood bench, staring at the rainbow-colored pebbles, and pulling me along at his side. I sat back down on our tree, but he sat on the wet, rocky ground rather than next to me. I wondered if it was so that he could hide his face more easily. He kept my hand.

I started babbling to fillthe silence. "It's been so long since I was here. I've probably missed a ton of things. How are Sam and Emily? And Embry? Did Quil -?"

I broke off mid-sentence, remembering that Jacob's friend Quil had been a sensitive subject.

"Ah, Quil," Jacob sighed.

So then it must have happened - Quil must have joined the pack.

"I'm sorry," I mumbled.

To my surprise, Jacob snorted. "Don't say that to him."

"What do you mean?"

"Quil's not looking for pity. Just the opposite - he's jazzed. Totally thrilled."

This made no sense to me. All the other wolves had been so depressed at the idea of their friend sharing their fate. "Huh?"

Jacob tilted his head back to look at me. He smiled and rolled his eyes.

"Quil thinks it's the coolest thing that's ever happened to him. Part of it is finally knowing what's going on. And he's excited to have his friends back - to be part of the 'in crowd.'" Jacob snorted again. "Shouldn't be surprised, I guess. It's so Quil."

"He likes it?"

"Honestly . . . most of them do," Jacob admitted slowly. "There are definitely good sides to this - the speed, the freedom, the strength . . . the sense of - of family. . . . Sam and I are the only ones who ever felt really bitter. And Sam got past that a long time ago. So I'm the crybaby now." Jacob laughed at himself.

There were so many things I wanted to know. "Why are you and Sam different? What happened to Sam anyway? What's his problem?" The questions tumbled out without room to answer them, and Jacob laughed again.

"That's a long story."

"I told you a long story. Besides, I'm not in any hurry to get back," I said, and then I grimaced as I thought of the trouble I would be in.

He looked up at me swiftly, hearing the double edge in my words. "Will he be mad at you?"

"Yes," I admitted. "He really hates it when I do things he considers . . . risky."

"Like hanging out with werewolves."


Jacob shrugged. "So don't go back. I'll sleep on the couch."

"That's a great idea," I grumbled. "Because then he would come looking for me."

Jacob stiffened, and then smiled bleakly. "Would he?"

"If he was afraid I was hurt or something - probably."

"My idea's sounding better all the time."

"Please, Jake. That really bugs me."

"What does?"

"That you two are so ready to kill each other!" I complained. "It makes me crazy. Why can't you both just be civilized?"

"Is he ready to kill me?" Jacob asked with a grim smile, unconcerned by my anger.

"Not like you seem to be!" I realized I was yelling. "At least he can be a grown-up about this. He knows that hurting you would hurt me - and so he never would. You don't seem to care about that at all!"

"Yeah, right," Jacob muttered. "I'm sure he's quite the pacifist."

"Ugh!" I ripped my hand out of his and shoved his head away. Then I pulled my knees up to my chest and wrapped my arms tightly around them.

I glared out toward the horizon, fuming.

Jacob was quiet for a few minutes. Finally, he got up off the ground and sat beside me, putting his arm around my shoulders. I shook it off.

"Sorry," he said quietly. "I'll try to behave myself."

I didn't answer.

"Do you still want to hear about Sam?" he offered.

I shrugged.

"Like I said, it's a long story. And very . . . strange. There're so many strange things about this new life. I haven't had time to tell you the half of it. And this thing with Sam - well, I don't know if I'll even be able to explain it right."

His words pricked my curiosity in spite of my irritation.

"I'm listening," I said stiffly.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the side of his face pull up in a smile.

"Sam had it so much harder than the rest of us. Because he was the first, and he was alone, and he didn't have anyone to tell him what was happening. Sam's grandfather died before he was born, and his father has never been around. There was no one there to recognize the signs. The first time it happened - the first time he phased - he thought he'd gone insane. It took him two weeks to calm down enough to change back.

"This was before you came to Forks, so you wouldn't remember. Sam's mother and Leah Clearwater had the forest rangers searching for him, the police. People thought there had been an accident or something. . . ."

"Leah?" I asked, surprised. Leah was Harry's daughter. Hearing her name sent an automatic surge of pity through me. Harry Clearwater, Charlie's life-long friend, had died of a heart attack this past spring.

His voice changed, became heavier. "Yeah. Leah and Sam were high school sweethearts. They started dating when she was just a freshman. She was frantic when he disappeared."

"But he and Emily -"

"I'll get to that - it's part of the story," he said. He inhaled slowly, and then exhaled in a gust.

I supposed it was silly for me to imagine that Sam had never loved anyone before Emily. Most people fall in and out of love many times in their lives. It was just that I'd seen Sam with Emily, and I couldn't imagine him with someone else. The way he looked at her . . . well, it reminded me of a look I'd seen sometimes in Edward's eyes - when he was looking at me.

"Sam came back," Jacob said, "but he wouldn't talk to anyone about where he'd been. Rumors flew - that he was up to no good, mostly. And then Sam happened to run in to Quil's grandfather one afternoon when Old Quil Ateara came to visit Mrs. Uley. Sam shook his hand. Old Quil just about had a stroke." Jacob paused to laugh.


Jacob put his hand on my cheek and pulled my face around to look at him - he was leaning toward me, his face was just a few inches away. His palm burned my skin, like he had a fever.

"Oh, right," I said. It was uncomfortable, having my face so close to his with his hand hot against my skin. "Sam was running a temperature."

Jacob laughed again. "Sam's hand felt like he'd left it sitting on a hot stovetop."

He was so close, I could feel his warm breath. I reached up casually, to take his hand away and free my face, but wound my fingers through his so that I wouldn't hurt his feelings. He smiled and leaned back, undeceived by my attempt at nonchalance.

"So Mr. Ateara went straight to the other elders," Jacob went on. "They were the only ones left who still knew, who remembered. Mr. Ateara, Billy, and Harry had actually seen their grandfathers make the change.

When Old Quil told them, they met with Sam secretly and explained. "It was easier when he understood - when he wasn't alone anymore. They knew he wouldn't be the only one affected by the Cullens' return" - he pronounced the name with unconscious bitterness - "but no one else was old enough. So Sam waited for the rest of us to join him. . . ."

"The Cullens had no idea," I said in a whisper. "They didn't think that werewolves still existed here. They didn't know that coming here would change you."

"It doesn't change the fact that it did."

"Remind me not to get on your bad side."

"You think I should be as forgiving as you are? We can't all be saints and martyrs."

"Grow up, Jacob."

"I wish I could," he murmured quietly.

I stared at him, trying to make sense of his response. "What?"

Jacob chuckled. "One of those many strange things I mentioned."

"You . . . can't . . . grow up?" I said blankly. "You're what? Not . . . aging? Is that a joke?"

"Nope." He popped his lips on the P.

I felt blood flood my face. Tears - tears of rage - filled my eyes. My teeth mashed together with an audible grinding sound.

"Bella? What did I say?"

I was on my feet again, my hands balled up into fists, my whole frame shaking.

"You. Are. Not. Aging," I growled through my teeth.

Jacob tugged my arm gently, trying to make me sit. "None of us are. What's wrong with you?"

"Am I the only one who has to get old? I get older every stinking day!" I nearly shrieked, throwing my hands in the air. Some little part of me recognized that I was throwing a Charlie-esque fit, but that rational part was greatly overshadowed by the irrational part. "Damn it! What kind of world is this? Where's the justice?"

"Take it easy, Bella."

"Shut up, Jacob. Just shut up! This is so unfair!"

"Did you seriously just stamp your foot? I thought girls only did that on TV."

I growled unimpressively.

"It's not as bad as you seem to think it is. Sit down and I'll explain."

"I'll stand."

He rolled his eyes. "Okay. Whatever you want. But listen, I will get older . . . someday."


He patted the tree. I glowered for a second, but then sat; my temper had burned out as suddenly as it had flared and I'd calmed down enough to realize that I was making a fool of myself.

"When we get enough control to quit . . . ," Jacob said. "When we stop phasing for a solid length of time, we age again. It's not easy." He shook his head, abruptly doubtful. "It's gonna take a really long time to learn that kind of restraint, I think. Even Sam's not there yet. 'Course it doesn't help that there's a huge coven of vampires right down the road. We can't even think about quitting when the tribe needs protectors. But you shouldn't get all bent out of shape about it, anyway, because I'm already older than you, physically at least."

"What are you talking about?"

"Look at me, Bells. Do I look sixteen?"

I glanced up and down his mammoth frame, trying to be unbiased. "Not exactly, I guess."

"Not at all. Because we reach full growth inside of a few months when the werewolf gene gets triggered. It's one hell of a growth spurt." He made a face. "Physically, I'm probably twenty-five or something. So there's no need for you to freak out about being too old for me for at least another seven years."

Twenty-five or something. The idea messed with my head. But I remembered that growth spurt - I remembered watching him shoot up and fill out right before my eyes. I remembered how he would look different from one day to the next. . . . I shook my head, feeling dizzy.

"So, did you want to hear about Sam, or did you want to scream at me some more for things that are out of my control?"

I took a deep breath. "Sorry. Age is a touchy subject for me. That hit a nerve."

Jacob's eyes tightened, and he looked as if he were trying to decide how to word something.

Since I didn't want to talk about the truly touchy stuff - my plans for the future, or treaties that might be broken by said plans, I prompted him. "So once Sam understood what was going on, once he had Billy and Harry and Mr. Ateara, you said it wasn't so hard anymore. And, like you also said, there are the cool parts. . . ." I hesitated briefly. "Why does Sam hate them so much? Why does he wish I would hate them?"

Jacob sighed. "This is the really weird part."

"I'm a pro at weird."

"Yeah, I know." He grinned before he continued. "So, you're right. Sam knew what was going on, and everything was almost okay. In most ways, his life was back to, well, not normal. But better." Then Jacob's expression tightened, like something painful was coming. "Sam couldn't tell Leah. We aren't supposed to tell anyone who doesn't have to know. And it wasn't really safe for him to be around her - but he cheated, just like I did with you. Leah was furious that he wouldn't tell her what was going on - where he'd been, where he went at night, why he was always so exhausted - but they were working it out. They were trying. They really loved each other."

"Did she find out? Is that what happened?"

He shook his head. "No, that wasn't the problem. Her cousin, Emily Young, came down from the Makah reservation to visit her one weekend."

I gasped. "Emily is Leah's cousin?"

"Second cousins. They're close, though. They were like sisters when they were kids."

"That's . . . horrible. How could Sam . . . ?" I trailed off, shaking my head.

"Don't judge him just yet. Did anyone ever tell you . . . Have you ever heard of imprinting?"

"Imprinting?" I repeated the unfamiliar word. "No. What's that mean?"

"It's one of those bizarre things we have to deal with. It doesn't happen to everyone. In fact, it's the rare exception, not the rule. Sam had heard all the stories by then, the stories we all used to think were legends. He'd heard of imprinting, but he never dreamed . . ."

"What is it?" I prodded.

Jacob's eyes strayed to the ocean. "Sam did love Leah. But when he saw Emily, that didn't matter anymore. Sometimes . . . we don't exactly know why . . . we find our mates that way." His eyes flashed back to me, his face reddening. "I mean . . . our soul mates."

"What way? Love at first sight?" I snickered.

Jacob wasn't smiling. His dark eyes were critical of my reaction. "It's a little bit more powerful than that. More absolute."

"Sorry," I muttered. "You're serious, aren't you?"

"Yeah, I am."

"Love at first sight? But more powerful?" My voice still sounded dubious, and he could hear that.

"It's not easy to explain. It doesn't matter, anyway." He shrugged indifferently. "You wanted to know what happened to Sam to make him hate the vampires for changing him, to make him hate himself. And that's what happened. He broke Leah's heart. He went back on every promise he'd ever made her. Every day he has to see the accusation in her eyes, and know that she's right."

He stopped talking abruptly, as if he'd said something he hadn't meant to.

"How did Emily deal with this? If she was so close to Leah . . . ?" Sam and Emily were utterly right together, two puzzle pieces, shaped for each other exactly. Still . . . how had Emily gotten past the fact that he'd belonged to someone else? Her sister, almost.

"She was real angry, in the beginning. But it's hard to resist that level of commitment and adoration." Jacob sighed. "And then, Sam could tell her everything. There are no rules that can bind you when you find your other half. You know how she got hurt?"

"Yeah." The story in Forks was that she was mauled by a bear, but I was in on the secret.

Werewolves are unstable, Edward had said. The people near them get hurt.

"Well, weirdly enough, that was sort of how they resolved things. Sam was so horrified, so sickened by himself, so full of hate for what he'd done. . . . He would have thrown himself under a bus if it would have made her feel better. He might have anyway, just to escape what he'd done. He was shattered. . . . Then, somehow, she was the one comforting him, and after that. . . ."

Jacob didn't finish his thought, and I sensed the story had gotten too personal to share.

"Poor Emily," I whispered. "Poor Sam. Poor Leah. . . ."

"Yeah, Leah got the worst end of the stick," he agreed. "She puts on a brave face. She's going to be a bridesmaid."

I gazed away, toward the jagged rocks that rose from the ocean like stubby broken-off fingers on the south rim of the harbor, while I tried to make sense of it all. I could feel his eyes on my face, waiting for me to say something.

"Did it happen to you?" I finally asked, still looking away. "This love-at-first-sight thing?"

"No," he answered briskly. "Sam and Jared are the only ones."

"Hmm," I said, trying to sound only politely interested. I was relieved, and I tried to explain my reaction to myself. I decided I was just glad he didn't claim there was some mystical, wolfy connection between the two of us. Our relationship was confusing enough as it was. I didn't need any more of the supernatural than I already had to deal with.

He was quiet, too, and the silence felt a little awkward. My intuition told me that I didn't want to hear what he was thinking.

"How did that work out for Jared?" I asked to break the silence.

"No drama there. It was just a girl he'd sat next to in school every day for a year and never looked at twice. And then, after he changed, he saw her again and never looked away. Kim was thrilled. She'd had a huge crush on him. She'd had his last name tacked on to the end of hers all over in her diary." He laughed mockingly.

I frowned. "Did Jared tell you that? He shouldn't have."

Jacob bit his lip. "I guess I shouldn't laugh. It was funny, though."

"Some soul mate."

He sighed. "Jared didn't tell us anything on purpose. I already told you this part, remember?"

"Oh, yeah. You can hear each other's thoughts, but only when you're wolves, right?"

"Right. Just like your bloodsucker." He glowered.

"Edward," I corrected.

"Sure, sure. That's how come I know so much about how Sam felt. It's not like he would have told us all that if he'd had a choice. Actually, that's something we all hate." The bitterness was abruptly harsh in his voice. "It's awful. No privacy, no secrets. Everything you're ashamed of, laid out for everyone to see." He shuddered.

"It sounds horrible," I whispered.

"It is sometimes helpful when we need to coordinate," he said grudgingly. "Once in a blue moon, when some bloodsucker crosses into our territory. Laurent was fun. And if the Cullens hadn't gotten in our way last Saturday . . . ugh!" he groaned. "We could have had her!" His fists clenched into angry balls.

I flinched. As much as I worried about Jasper or Emmett getting hurt, it was nothing like the panic I felt at the idea of Jacob going up against Victoria. Emmett and Jasper were the closest thing to indestructible I could imagine. Jacob was still warm, still comparatively human. Mortal. I thought of Jacob facing Victoria, her brilliant hair blowing around her oddly feline face . . . and shuddered.

Jacob looked up at me with a curious expression. "But isn't it like that for you all the time? Having him in your head?"

"Oh, no. Edward's never in my head. He only wishes."

Jacob's expression became confused.

"He can't hear me," I explained, my voice a tiny bit smug from old habit. "I'm the only one like that, for him. We don't know why he can't."

"Weird," Jacob said.

"Yeah." The smugness faded. "It probably means there's something wrong with my brain," I admitted.

"I already knew there was something wrong with your brain," Jacob muttered.


The sun broke through the clouds suddenly, a surprise I hadn't been expecting, and I had to narrow my eyes against the glare off the water. Everything changed color - the waves turned from gray to blue, the trees from dull olive to brilliant jade, and the rainbow-hued pebbles glittered like jewels.

We squinted for a moment, letting our eyes adjust. There were no sounds besides the hollow roar of the waves that echoed from every side of the sheltered harbor, the soft grinding of the stones against each other under the water's movement, and the cry of gulls high overhead. It was very peaceful.

Absentmindedly, I twisted my right hand to the side, and watched the sunlight glitter subtly off the scar James had left there.

"What are you thinking about?" he murmured.

"The sun."

"Mmm. It's nice."

"What are you thinking about?" I asked.

He chuckled to himself. "I was remembering that moronic movie you took me to. And Mike Newton puking all over everything."

I laughed, too, surprised by how time had changed the memory. It used to be one of stress, of confusion. So much had changed that night. . . . And now I could laugh. It was the last night Jacob and I had had before he'd learned the truth about his heritage. The last human memory. An oddly pleasant memory now.

"I miss that," Jacob said. "The way it used to be so easy . . . uncomplicated. I'm glad I've got a good memory." He sighed.

He felt the sudden tension in my body as his words triggered a memory of my own.

"What is it?" he asked.

"About that good memory of yours . . ." I pulled away from him so that I could read his face. At the moment, it was confused. "Do you mind telling me what you were doing Monday morning? You were thinking something that bothered Edward." Bothered wasn't quite the word for it, but I wanted an answer, so I thought it was best not to start out too severely.

Jacob's face brightened with understanding, and he laughed. "I was just thinking about you. Didn't like that much, did he?"

"Me? What about me?"

Jacob laughed, with a harder edge this time. "I was remembering the way you looked that night Sam found you - I've seen it in his head, and it's like I was there; that memory has always haunted Sam, you know. And then I remembered how you looked the first time you came to my place. I bet you don't even realize what a mess you were then, Bella. It was weeks before you started to look human again. And I remembered how you always used to have your arms wrapped around yourself, trying to hold yourself together. . . ." Jacob winced, and then shook his head. "It's hard for me to remember how sad you were, and it wasn't my fault. So I figured it would be harder for him. And I thought he ought to get a look at what he'd done."

I smacked his shoulder. It hurt my hand. "Jacob Black, don't you ever do that again! Promise me you won't."

"No way. I haven't had that much fun in months."

"So help me, Jake -"

"Oh, get a grip, Bella. When am I ever going to see him again? Don't worry about it."

I got to my feet, and he caught my hand as I started to walk away. I tried to tug free.

"I'm leaving, Jacob."

"No, don't go yet," he protested, his hand tightening around mine. "I'm sorry. And . . . okay, I won't do it again. Promise."

I sighed. "Thanks, Jake."

"Come on, we'll go back to my house," he said eagerly.

"Actually, I think I really do need to go. Angela Weber is expecting me, and I know Alice is worried. I don't want to upset her too much."

"But you just got here!"

"It feels that way," I agreed. I glared up at the sun, somehow already directly overhead. How had the time passed so quickly?

His eyebrows pulled down over his eyes. "I don't know when I'll see you again," he said in a hurt voice.

"I'll come back the next time he's away," I promised impulsively.

"Away?" Jacob rolled his eyes. "That's a nice way to describe what he's doing. Disgusting parasites."

"If you can't be nice, I won't come back at all!" I threatened, trying to pull my hand free. He refused to let go.

"Aw, don't be mad," he said, grinning. "Knee-jerk reaction."

"If I'm going to try to come back again, you're going to have to get something straight, okay?"

He waited.

"See," I explained. "I don't care who's a vampire and who's a werewolf. That's irrelevant. You are Jacob, and he is Edward, and I am Bella. And nothing else matters."

His eyes narrowed slightly. "But I am a werewolf," he said unwillingly. "And he is a vampire," he added with obvious revulsion.

"And I'm a Virgo!" I shouted, exasperated.

He raised his eyebrows, measuring my expression with curious eyes. Finally, he shrugged.

"If you can really see it that way . . ."

"I can. I do."

"Okay. Just Bella and Jacob. None of those freaky Virgos here." He smiled at me, the warm, familiar smile that I had missed so much. I felt the answering smile spread across my face.

"I've really missed you, Jake," I admitted impulsively.

"Me, too," his smile widened. His eyes were happy and clear, free for once of the angry bitterness. "More than you know. Will you come back soon?"

"As soon as I can," I promised.
发表于 2016-8-8 19:07 | 显示全部楼层

AS I DROVE HOME, I WASN'T PAYING MUCH ATTENTION TO the road that shimmered wetly in the sun. I was thinking about the flood of information Jacob had shared with me, trying to sort it out, to force it all to make sense. Despite the overload, I felt lighter. Seeing Jacob smile, having all the secrets thrashed out . . . it didn't make things perfect, but it made them better. I was right to have gone. Jacob needed me. And obviously, I thought as I squinted into the glare, there was no danger.

It came out of nowhere. One minute there was nothing but bright highway in my rearview mirror. The next minute, the sun was glinting off a silver Volvo right on my tail.

"Aw, crap," I whimpered.

I considered pulling over. But I was too much of a coward to face him right away. I'd been counting on some prep time . . . and having Charlie nearby as a buffer. At least that would force him to keep his voice down.

The Volvo followed inches behind me. I kept my eyes on the road ahead.

Chicken through and through, I drove straight to Angela's without once meeting the gaze I could feel burning a hole in my mirror.

He followed me until I pulled to the curb in front of the Webers' house. He didn't stop, and I didn't look up as he passed. I didn't want to see the expression on his face. I ran up the short concrete walk to Angela's door as soon as he was out of sight.

Ben answered the door before I could finish knocking, like he'd been standing right behind it.

"Hey, Bella!" he said, surprised.

"Hi, Ben. Er, is Angela here?" I wondered if Angela had forgotten our plans, and cringed at the thought of going home early.

"Sure," Ben said just as Angela called, "Bella!" and appeared at the top of the stairs.

Ben peered around me as we both heard the sound of a car on the road; the sound didn't scare me - this engine stuttered to a stop, followed by the loud pop of a backfire. Nothing like the purr of the Volvo. This must be the visitor Ben had been waiting for.

"Austin's here," Ben said as Angela reached his side.

A horn honked on the street.

"I'll see you later," Ben promised. "Miss you already."

He threw his arm around Angela's neck and pulled her face down to his height so that he could kiss her enthusiastically. After a second of this, Austin honked again.

"'Bye, Ang! Love you!" Ben shouted as he dashed past me.

Angela swayed, her face slightly pink, then recovered herself and waved until Ben and Austin were out of sight. Then she turned to me and grinned ruefully.

"Thank you for doing this, Bella," she said. "From the bottom of my heart. Not only are you saving my hands from permanent injury, you also just spared me two long hours of a plot-less, badly dubbed martial arts film." She sighed in relief.

"Happy to be of service." I was feeling a bit less panicked, able to breathe a little more evenly. It felt so ordinary here. Angela's easy human dramas were oddly reassuring. It was nice to know that life was normal somewhere.

I followed Angela up the stairs to her room. She kicked toys out of the way as she went. The house was unusually quiet.

"Where's your family?"

"My parents took the twins to a birthday party in Port Angeles. I can't believe you're really going to help me with this. Ben's pretending he has tendonitis." She made a face.

"I don't mind at all," I said, and then I walked into Angela's room and saw the stacks of waiting envelopes.

"Oh!" I gasped. Angela turned to look at me, apologies in her eyes. I could see why she'd been putting this off, and why Ben had weaseled out.

"I thought you were exaggerating," I admitted.

"I wish. Are you sure you want to do this?"

"Put me to work. I've got all day."

Angela divided a pile in half and put her mother's address book between us on her desk. For a while we concentrated, and there was just the sound of our pens scratching quietly across the paper.

"What's Edward doing tonight?" she asked after a few minutes.

My pen dug into the envelope I was working on. "Emmet's home for the weekend. They're supposed to be hiking."

"You say that like you're not sure."

I shrugged.

"You're lucky Edward has his brothers for all the hiking and camping. I don't know what I'd do if Ben didn't have Austin for the guy stuff."

"Yeah, the outdoors thing is not really for me. And there's no way I'd ever be able to keep up."

Angela laughed. "I prefer the indoors myself."

Angela rolled her eyes at me.

"See you at school," I said with a nervous laugh.

She sighed. "See you."

I was jumpy on the way out to my truck, but the street was empty. I spent the whole drive glancing anxiously in all my mirrors, but there was never any sign of the silver car.

His car was not in front of the house, either, though that meant little.

"Bella?" Charlie called when I opened the front door.

"Hey, Dad."

I found him in the living room, in front of the TV.

"So, how was your day?"

"Good," I said. Might as well tell him everything - he'd hear it from Billy soon enough. Besides, it would make him happy. "They didn't need me at work, so I went down to La Push."

There wasn't enough surprise in his face. Billy had already talked to him.

"How's Jacob?" Charlie asked, attempting to sound indifferent.

"Good," I said, just as casual.

"You get over to the Webers'?"

"Yep. We got all her announcements addressed."

"That's nice." Charlie smiled a wide smile. He was strangely focused, considering that there was a game on. "I'm glad you spent some time with your friends today."

"Me, too."

I ambled toward the kitchen, looking for busy work. Unfortunately, Charlie had already cleaned up his lunch. I stood there for a few minutes, staring at the bright patch of light the sun made on the floor. But I knew I couldn't delay this forever.

"I'm going to go study," I announced glumly as I headed up the stairs.

"See you later," Charlie called after me.

If I survive, I thought to myself.

I shut my bedroom door carefully before I turned to face my room.

Of course he was there. He stood against the wall across from me, in the shadow beside the open window. His face was hard and his posture tense. He glared at me wordlessly.

I cringed, waiting for the torrent, but it didn't come. He just continued to glare, possibly too angry to speak.

"Hi," I finally said.

His face could have been carved from stone. I counted to a hundred in my head, but there was no change.

"Er . . . so, I'm still alive," I began.

A growl rumbled low in his chest, but his expression didn't change.

"No harm done," I insisted with a shrug.

He moved. His eyes closed, and he pinched the bridge of his nose between the fingers of his right hand.

"Bella," he whispered. "Do you have any idea how close I came to crossing the line today? To breaking the treaty and coming after you? Do you know what that would have meant?"

I gasped and his eyes opened. They were as cold and hard as night.

"You can't!" I said too loudly. I worked to modulate the volume of my voice so Charlie wouldn't hear, but I wanted to shout the words. "Edward, they'd use any excuse for a fight. They'd love that. You can't ever break the rules!"

"Maybe they aren't the only ones who would enjoy a fight."

"Don't you start," I snapped. "You made the treaty - you stick to it."

"If he'd hurt you -"

"Enough!" I cut him off. "There's nothing to worry about. Jacob isn't dangerous."

"Bella." He rolled his eyes. "You aren't exactly the best judge of what is or isn't dangerous."

"I know I don't have to worry about Jake. And neither do you."

He ground his teeth together. His hands were balled up in fists at his sides. He was still standing against the wall, and I hated the space between us.

I took a deep breath, and crossed the room. He didn't move when I wrapped my arms around him. Next to the warmth of the last of the afternoon sun streaming through the window, his skin felt especially icy. He seemed like ice, too, frozen the way he was.

"I'm sorry I made you anxious," I muttered.

He sighed, and relaxed a little. His arms wound around my waist.

"Anxious is a bit of an understatement," he murmured. "It was a very long day."

"You weren't supposed to know about it," I reminded him. "I thought you'd be hunting longer."

I looked up at his face, at his defensive eyes; I hadn't noticed in the stress of the moment, but they were too dark. The rings under them were deep purple. I frowned in disapproval.

"When Alice saw you disappear, I came back," he explained.

"You shouldn't have done that. Now you'll have to go away again." My frown intensified.

"I can wait."

"That's ridiculous. I mean, I know she couldn't see me with Jacob, but you should have known -"

"But I didn't," he broke in. "And you can't expect me to let you -"

"Oh, yes, I can," I interrupted him. "That's exactly what I expect -"

"This won't happen again."

"That's right! Because you're not going to overreact next time."

"Because there isn't going to be a next time."

"I understand when you have to leave, even if I don't like it -"

"That's not the same. I'm not risking my life."

"Neither am I."

"Werewolves constitute a risk."

"I disagree."

"I'm not negotiating this, Bella."

"Neither am I."

His hands were in fists again. I could feel them against my back.

The words popped out thoughtlessly. "Is this really just about my safety?"

"What do you mean?" he demanded.

"You aren't . . ." Angela's theory seemed sillier now than before. It was hard to finish the thought. "I mean, you know better than to be jealous, right?"

He raised one eyebrow. "Do I?"

"Be serious."

"Easily - there's nothing remotely humorous about this."

I frowned suspiciously. "Or . . . is this something else altogether? Some vampires-and-werewolves-are- always-enemies nonsense? Is this just a testosterone-fueled -"

His eyes blazed. "This is only about you. All I care is that you're safe."

The black fire in his eyes was impossible to doubt.

"Okay," I sighed. "I believe that. But I want you to know something - when it comes to all this enemies nonsense, I'm out. I am a neutral country. I am Switzerland. I refuse to be affected by territorial disputes between mythical creatures. Jacob is family. You are . . . well, not exactly the love of my life, because I expect to love you for much longer than that. The love of my existence. I don't care who's a werewolf and who's a vampire. If Angela turns out to be a witch, she can join the party, too."

He stared at me silently through narrowed eyes.

"Switzerland," I repeated again for emphasis.

He frowned at me, and then sighed. "Bella . . . ," he began, but he paused, and his nose wrinkled in disgust.

"What now?"

"Well . . . don't be offended, but you smell like a dog," he told me.

And then he smiled crookedly, so I knew the fight was over. For now.

Edward had to make up for the missed hunting trip, and so he was leaving Friday night with Jasper, Emmett, and Carlisle to hit some reserve in Northern California with a mountain lion problem.

We'd come to no agreement on the werewolf issue, but I didn't feel guilty calling Jake - during my brief window of opportunity when Edward took the Volvo home before climbing back in through my window - to let him know I'd be coming over on Saturday again. It wasn't sneaking around. Edward knew how I felt. And if he broke my truck again, then I'd have Jacob pick me up. Forks was neutral, just like Switzerland - just like me.

So when I got off work Thursday and it was Alice rather than Edward waiting for me in the Volvo, I was not suspicious at first. The passenger door was open, and music I didn't recognize was shaking the frame when the bass played.

"Hey, Alice," I shouted over the wailing as I climbed in. "Where's your brother?"

She was singing along to the song, her voice an octave higher than the melody, weaving through it with a complicated harmony. She nodded at me, ignoring my question as she concentrated on the music.

I shut my door and put my hands over my ears. She grinned, and turned the volume down until it was just background. Then she hit the locks and the gas in the same second.

"What's going on?" I asked, starting to feel uneasy. "Where is Edward?"

She shrugged. "They left early."

"Oh." I tried to control the absurd disappointment. If he left early, that meant he'd be back sooner, I reminded myself.

"All the boys went, and we're having a slumber party!" she announced in a trilling, singsong voice.

"A slumber party?" I repeated, the suspicion finally settling in.

"Aren't you excited?" she crowed.

I met her animated gaze for a long second.

"You're kidnapping me, aren't you?"

She laughed and nodded. "Till Saturday. Esme cleared it with Charlie; you're staying with me two nights, and I will drive you to and from school tomorrow."

I turned my face to the window, my teeth grinding together.

"Sorry," Alice said, not sounding in the least bit penitent. "He paid me off."

"How?" I hissed through my teeth.

"The Porsche. It's exactly like the one I stole in Italy." She sighed happily. "I'm not supposed to drive it around Forks, but if you want, we could see how long it takes to get from here to L.A. - I bet I could have you back by midnight."

I took a deep breath. "I think I'll pass," I sighed, repressing a shudder.

We wound, always too fast, down the long drive. Alice pulled around to the garage, and I quickly looked over the cars. Emmett's big jeep was there, with a shiny canary yellow Porsche between it and Rosalie's red convertible.

Alice hopped out gracefully and went to stroke her hand along the length of her bribe. "Pretty, isn't it?"

"Pretty over-the-top," I grumbled, incredulous. "He gave you that just for two days of holding me hostage?"

Alice made a face.

A second later, comprehension came and I gasped in horror. "It's for every time he's gone, isn't it?"

She nodded.

I slammed my door and stomped toward the house. She danced along next to me, still unrepentant.

"Alice, don't you think this is just a little bit controlling? Just a tiny bit psychotic, maybe?"

"Not really." She sniffed. "You don't seem to grasp how dangerous a young werewolf can be. Especially when I can't see them. Edward has no way to know if you're safe. You shouldn't be so reckless."

My voice turned acidic. "Yes, because a vampire slumber party is the pinnacle of safety conscious behavior."

Alice laughed. "I'll give you a pedicure and everything," she promised.

It wasn't so bad, except for the fact that I was being held against my will. Esme brought Italian food - the good stuff, all the way from Port Angeles - and Alice was prepared with my favorite movies. Even Rosalie was there, quietly in the background. Alice did insist on the pedicure, and I wondered if she was working from a list - maybe something she'd compiled from watching bad sitcoms.

"How late do you want to stay up?" she asked when my toenails were glistening a bloody red. Her enthusiasm remained untouched by my mood.

"I don't want to stay up. We have school in the morning."

She pouted.

"Where am I supposed to sleep, anyway?" I measured the couch with my eyes. It was a little short. "Can't you just keep me under surveillance at my house?"

"What kind of a slumber party would that be?" Alice shook her head in exasperation. "You're sleeping in Edward's room."

I sighed. His black leather sofa was longer than this one. Actually, the gold carpet in his room was probably thick enough that the floor wouldn't be half bad either.

"Can I go back to my place to get my things, at least?"

She grinned. "Already taken care of."

"Am I allowed to use your phone?"

"Charlie knows where you are."

"I wasn't going to call Charlie." I frowned. "Apparently, I have some plans to cancel."

"Oh." She deliberated. "I'm not sure about that."

"Alice!" I whined loudly. "C'mon!"

"Okay, okay," she said, flitting from the room. She was back in half a second, cell phone in hand. "He didn't specifically prohibit this . . . ," she murmured to herself as she handed it to me.

I dialed Jacob's number, hoping he wasn't out running with his friends tonight. Luck was with me - Jacob was the one to answer.


"Hey, Jake, it's me." Alice watched me with expressionless eyes for a second, before she turned and went to sit between Rosalie and Esme on the sofa.

"Hi, Bella," Jacob said, suddenly cautious. "What's up?"

"Nothing good. I can't come over Saturday after all."

It was silent for a minute. "Stupid bloodsucker," he finally muttered. "I thought he was leaving. Can't you have a life when he's gone? Or does he lock you in a coffin?"

I laughed.

"I don't think that's funny."

"I'm only laughing because you're close," I told him. "But he's going to be here Saturday, so it doesn't matter."

"Will he be feeding there in Forks, then?" Jacob asked cuttingly.

"No." I didn't let myself get irritated with him. I wasn't that far from being as angry as he was. "He left early."

"Oh. Well, hey, come over now, then," he said with sudden enthusiasm. "It's not that late. Or I'll come up to Charlie's."

"I wish. I'm not at Charlie's," I said sourly. "I'm kind of being held prisoner."

He was silent as that sunk in, and then he growled. "We'll come and get you," he promised in a flat voice, slipping automatically into a plural.

A chill slid down my spine, but I answered in a light and teasing voice. "Tempting. I have been tortured - Alice painted my toenails."

"I'm serious."

"Don't be. They're just trying to keep me safe."

He growled again.

"I know it's silly, but their hearts are in the right place."

"Their hearts!" he scoffed.

"Sorry about Saturday," I apologized. "I've got to hit the sack" - the couch, I corrected mentally - "but I'll call you again soon."

"Are you sure they'll let you?" he asked in a scathing tone.

"Not completely." I sighed. "'Night, Jake."

"See you around."

Alice was abruptly at my side, her hand held out for the phone, but I was already dialing. She saw the number.

"I don't think he'll have his phone on him," she said.

"I'll leave a message."

The phone rang four times, followed by a beep. There was no greeting.

"You are in trouble," I said slowly, emphasizing each word. "Enormous trouble. Angry grizzly bears are going to look tame next to what is waiting for you at home."

I snapped the phone shut and placed it in her waiting hand. "I'm done."

She grinned. "This hostage stuff is fun."

"I'm going to sleep now," I announced, heading for the stairs. Alice tagged along.

"Alice," I sighed. "I'm not going to sneak out. You would know if I was planning to, and you'd catch me if I tried."

"I'm just going to show you where your things are," she said innocently.

Edward's room was at the farthest end of the third floor hallway, hard to mistake even when the huge house had been less familiar. But when I switched the light on, I paused in confusion. Had I picked the wrong door?

Alice giggled.

It was the same room, I realized quickly; the furniture had just been rearranged. The couch was pushed to the north wall and the stereo shoved up against the vast shelves of CDs - to make room for the colossal bed that now dominated the central space.

The southern wall of glass reflected the scene back like a mirror, making it look twice as bad.

It matched. The coverlet was a dull gold, just lighter than the walls; the frame was black, made of intricately patterned wrought iron. Sculpted metal roses wound in vines up the tall posts and formed a bowery lattice overhead. My pajamas were folded neatly on the foot of the bed, my bag of toiletries to one side. "What the hell is all this?" I spluttered.

"You didn't really think he would make you sleep on the couch, did you?"

I mumbled unintelligibly as I stalked forward to snatch my things off the bed.

"I'll give you some privacy," Alice laughed. "See you in the morning."

After my teeth were brushed and I was dressed, I grabbed a puffy feather pillow off the huge bed and dragged the gold cover to the couch. I knew I was being silly, but I didn't care. Porsches as bribes and king- sized beds in houses where nobody slept - it was beyond irritating. I flipped off the lights and curled up on the sofa, wondering if I was too annoyed to sleep.

In the dark, the glass wall was no longer a black mirror, doubling the room. The light of the moon brightened the clouds outside the window. As my eyes adjusted, I could see the diffused glow highlighting the tops of the trees, and glinting off a small slice of the river. I watched the silver light, waiting for my eyes to get heavy.

There was a light knock on the door.

"What, Alice?" I hissed. I was on the defensive, imagining her amusement when she saw my makeshift bed.

"It's me," Rosalie said softly, opening the door enough that I could see the silver glow touch her perfect face. "Can I come in?"
发表于 2016-8-8 19:10 | 显示全部楼层

I WASN'T SURE WHAT THE HELL I WAS DOING HERE Was I trying to push myself back into the zombie stupor? Had I turned masochistic - developed a taste for torture? I should have gone straight down to La Push I felt much, much healthier around Jacob This was not a healthy thing to do.

But I continued to drive slowly down the overgrown lane, twisting through the trees that arched over me like a green, living tunnel My hands were shaking, so I tightened my grip on the steering wheel.

I knew that part of the reason I did this was the nightmare, now that I was really awake, the nothingness of the dream gnawed on my nerves, a dog worrying a bone.

There was something to search for. Unattainable and impossible, uncaring and distracted... but he was out there, somewhere. I had to believe that.

The other part was the strange sense of repetition I'd felt at school today, the coincidence of the date. The feeling that I was starting over - perhaps the way my first day would have gone if I'd really been the most unusual person in the cafeteria that afternoon.

The words ran through my head, tonelessly, like I was reading them rather than hearing them spoken:

It will be as if I'd never existed.

I was lying to myself by splitting my reason for coming here into just two parts. I didn't want to admit the strongest motivation. Because it was mentally unsound.

The truth was that I wanted to hear his voice again, like I had in the strange delusion Friday night. For that brief moment, when his voice came from some other part of me than my conscious memory, when his voice was perfect and honey smooth rather than the pale echo my memories usually produced, I was able to remember without pain. It hadn't lasted; the pain had caught up with me, as I was sure it would for this fool's errand. But those precious moments when I could hear him again were an irresistible lure. I had to find some way to repeat the experience... or maybe the better word was episode.

I was hoping that déjà vu was the key. So I was going to his home, a place I hadn't been since my ill-fated birthday party, so many months ago.

The thick, almost jungle-like growth crawled slowly past my windows. The drive wound on and on. I started to go faster, getting edgy. How long had I been driving? Shouldn't I have reached the house yet? The lane was so overgrown that it did not look familiar.

What if I couldn't find it? I shivered. What if there was no tangible proof at all?

Then there was the break in the trees that I was looking for, only it was not so pronounced as before. The flora here did not wait long to reclaim any land that was left unguarded. The tall ferns had infiltrated the meadow around the house, crowding against the trunks of the cedars, even the wide porch. It was like the lawn had been flooded - waist-high - with green, feathery waves.

And the house was there, but it was not the same. Though nothing had changed on the outside, the emptiness screamed from the blank windows. It was creepy. For the first time since I'd seen the beautiful house, it looked like a fitting haunt for vampires.

I hit the brakes, looking away. I was afraid to go farther.

But nothing happened. No voice in my head.

So I left the engine running and jumped out into the fern sea. Maybe, like Friday night, if I walked forward...

I approached the barren, vacant face slowly, my truck rumbling out a comforting roar behind me. I stopped when I got to the porch stairs, because there was nothing here. No lingering sense of their presence... of his presence. The house was solidly here, but it meant little. Its concrete reality would not counteract the nothingness of the nightmares.

I didn't go any closer. I didn't want to look in the windows. I wasn't sure which would be harder to see. If the rooms were bare, echoing empty from floor to ceiling, that would certainly hurt. Like my grandmother's funeral, when my mother had insisted that I stay outside during the viewing. She had said that I didn't need to see Gran that way, to remember her that way, rather than alive.

But wouldn't it be worse if there were no change? If the couches sat just as I'd last seen them, the paintings on the walls - worse still, the piano on its low platform? It would be second only to the house disappearing all together, to see that there was no physical possession that tied them in anyway. That everything remained, untouched and forgotten, behind them.

Just like me.

I turned my back on the gaping emptiness and hurried to my truck. I nearly ran. I was anxious to be gone, to get back to the human world. I felt hideously empty, and I wanted to see Jacob. Maybe I was developing a new kind of sickness, another addiction, like the numbness before. I didn't care. I pushed my truck as fast as it would go as I barreled toward my fix.

Jacob was waiting for me. My chest seemed to relax as soon as I saw him, making it easier to breathe.

"Hey, Bella," he called.

I smiled in relief. "Hey, Jacob," I waved at Billy, who was looking out the window.

"Let's get to work," Jacob said in a low but eager voice.

I was somehow able to laugh. "You seriously aren't sick of me yet?" I wondered. He must be starting to ask himself how desperate I was for company.

Jacob led the way around the house to his garage.

"Nope. Not yet."

"Please let me know when I start getting on your nerves. I don't want to be a pain."

"Okay." He laughed, a throaty sound. "I wouldn't hold your breath for that, though."

When I walked into the garage, I was shocked to see the red bike standing up, looking like a motorcycle rather than a pile of jagged metal.

"Jake, you're amazing," I breathed.

He laughed again. "I get obsessive when I have a project." He shrugged. "If I had any brains I'd drag it out a little bit."


He looked down, pausing for so long that I wondered if he hadn't heard my question. Finally, he asked me, "Bella, if I told you that I couldn't fix these bikes, what would you say?"

I didn't answer right away, either, and he glanced up to check my expression.

"I would say... that's too bad, but I'll bet we could figure out something else to do. If we got really desperate, we could even do homework."

Jacob smiled, and his shoulders relaxed. He sat down next to the bike and picked up a wrench. "So you think you'll still come over when I'm done, then?"

"Is that what you meant?" I shook my head. "I guess I am taking advantage of your very underpriced mechanical skills. But as long as you let me come over, I'll be here."

"Hoping to see Quil again?" he teased.

"You caught me."

He chuckled. "You really like spending time with me?" he asked, marveling.

"Very, very much. And I'll prove it. I have to work tomorrow, but Wednesday we'll do something nonmechanical."

"Like what?"

"I have no idea. We can go to my place so you won't be tempted to be obsessive. You could bring your schoolwork - you have to be getting behind, because I know I am."

"Homework might be a good idea." He made a face, and I wondered how much he was leaving undone to be with me.

"Yes," I agreed. "We'll have to start being responsible occasionally, or Billy and Charlie aren't going to be so easygoing about this." I made a gesture indicating the two of us as a single entity. He liked that - he beamed.

"Homework once a week?" he proposed.

"Maybe we'd better go with twice," I suggested, thinking of the pile I'd just been assigned today.

He sighed a heavy sigh. Then he reached over his toolbox to a paper grocery sack. He pulled out two cans of soda, cracking one open and handing it to me. He opened the second, and held it up ceremoniously.

"Here's to responsibility," he toasted. "Twice a week."

"And recklessness every day in between," I emphasized.

He grinned and touched his can to mine.

I got home later than I'd planned and found Charlie had ordered a pizza rather than wait for me. He wouldn't let me apologize.

"I don't mind," he assured me. "You deserve a break from all the cooking, anyway."

I knew he was just relieved that I was still acting like a normal person, and he was not about to rock the boat.

I checked my e-mail before I started on my homework, and there was a long one from Renee. She gushed over every detail I'd provided her with, so I sent back another exhaustive description of my day. Everything but the motorcycles. Even happy-go-lucky Renee was likely to be alarmed by that.

School Tuesday had its ups and downs. Angela and Mike seemed ready to welcome me back with open arms - to kindly overlook my few months of aberrant behavior. Jess was more resistant. I wondered if she needed a formal written apology for the Port Angeles incident.

Mike was animated and chatty at work. It was like he'd stored up the semester's worth of talk, and it was all spilling out now. I found that I was able to smile and laugh with him, though it wasn't as effortless as it was with Jacob. It seemed harmless enough, until quitting time.

Mike put the closed sign in the window while I folded my vest and shoved it under the counter.

"This was fun tonight," Mike said happily.

"Yeah," I agreed, though I'd much rather have spent the afternoon in the garage.

"It's too bad that you had to leave the movie early last week."

I was a little confused by his train of thought. I shrugged. "I'm just a wimp, I guess."

"What I mean is, you should go to a better movie, something you'd enjoy," he explained.

"Oh," I muttered, still confused.

"Like maybe this Friday. With me. We could go see something that isn't scary at all."

I bit my lip.

I didn't want to screw things up with Mike, not when he was one of the only people ready to forgive me for being crazy. But this, again, felt far too familiar. Like the last year had never happened. I wished I had Jess as an excuse this time.

"Like a date?" I asked. Honesty was probably the best policy at this point. Get it over with.

He processed the tone of my voice "If you want. But it doesn't have to be like that."

"I don't date," I said slowly, realizing how true that was. That whole world seemed impossibly distant.

"Just as friends?" he suggested. His clear blue eyes were not as eager now. I hoped he really meant that we could be friends anyway.

"That would be fun. But I actually have plans already this Friday, so maybe next week?"

"What are you doing?" he asked, less casually than I think he wanted to sound.

"Homework. I have a... study session planned with a friend."

"Oh. Okay. Maybe next week."

He walked me to my car, less exuberant than before. It reminded me so clearly of my first months in Forks. I'd come full circle, and now everything felt like an echo - an empty echo, devoid of the interest it used to have.

The next night, Charlie didn't seem the smallest bit surprised to find Jacob and me sprawled across the living room floor with our books scattered around us, so I guessed that he and Billy were talking behind our backs.

"Hey, kids," he said, his eyes straying to the kitchen. The smell of the lasagna I'd spent the afternoon making - while Jacob watched and occasionally sampled - wafted down the hall; I was being good, trying to atone for all the pizza.

Jacob stayed for dinner, and took a plate home for Billy. He grudgingly added another year to my negotiable age for being a good cook.

Friday was the garage, and Saturday, after my shift at Newton's, was homework again. Charlie felt secure enough in my sanity to spend the day fishing with Harry. When he got back, we were all done - feeling very sensible and mature about it, too - and watching Monster Garage on the Discovery Channel.

"I probably ought to go." Jacob sighed. "It's later than I thought."

"Okay, fine," I grumbled. "I'll take you home."

He laughed at my unwilling expression - it seemed to please him.

"Tomorrow, back to work," I said as soon as we were safe in the truck. "What time do you want me to come up?"

There was an unexplained excitement in his answering smile. "I'll call you first, okay?"

"Sure." I frowned to myself, wondering what was up. His smile widened.

I cleaned the house the next morning - waiting for Jacob to call and trying to shake off the Litest nightmare. The scenery had changed. Last night I'd wandered in a wide sea of ferns interspersed with huge hemlock trees. There was nothing else there, and I was lost, wandering aimless and alone, searching for nothing. I wanted to kick myself for the stupid field trip last week. I shoved the dream out of my conscious mind, hoping it would stay locked up somewhere and not escape again.

Charlie was outside washing the cruiser, so when the phone rang, I dropped the toilet brush and ran downstairs to answer it.

"Hello?" I asked breathlessly.

"Bella," Jacob said, a strange, formal tone to his voice.

"Hey, Jake."

"I believe that... we have a date" he said, his tone thick with implications.

It took me a second before I got it. "They're done? I can't believe it!" What perfect timing. I needed something to distract me from nightmares and nothingness.

"Yeah, they run and everything."

"Jacob, you are absolutely, without a doubt, the most talented and wonderful person I know. You get ten years for this one."

"Cool! I'm middle-aged now."

I laughed. "I'm on my way up!"

I threw the cleaning supplies under the bathroom counter and grabbed my jacket.

"Headed to see Jake," Charlie said when I ran past him. It wasn't really a question.

"Yep," I replied as I jumped in my truck.

"I'll be at the station later," Charlie called after me.

"Okay," I yelled back, turning the key.

Charlie said something else, but I couldn't hear him clearly over the roar of the engine. It sounded sort of like, "Where's the fire?"

I parked my truck off to the side of the Blacks' house, close to the trees, to make it easier for us to sneak the bikes out. When I got out, a splash of color caught my eye - two shiny motorcycles, one red, one black, were hidden under a spruce, invisible from the house. Jacob was prepared.

There was a piece of blue ribbon tied in a small bow around each of the handlebars. I was laughing at that when Jacob ran out of the house.

"Ready?" he asked in a low voice, his eyes sparkling.

I glanced over his shoulder, and there was no sign of Billy.

"Yeah," I said, but I didn't feel quite as excited as before; I was trying to imagine myself actually on the motorcycle.

Jacob loaded the bikes into the bed of the truck with ease, laying them carefully on their sides so they didn't show.

"Let's go," he said, his voice higher than usual with excitement. "I know the perfect spot - no one will catch us there."

We drove south out of town. The dirt road wove in and out of the forest - sometimes there was nothing but trees, and then there would suddenly be a breathtaking glimpse of the Pacific Ocean, reaching to the horizon, dark gray under the clouds. We were above the shore, on top of the cliffs that bordered the beach here and the view seemed to stretch on forever.

I was driving slowly, so that I could safely stare out across the ocean now and then, as the road wound closer to the sea cliffs. Jacob was talking about finishing the bikes, but his descriptions were getting technical, so I wasn't paying close attention.

That was when I noticed four figures standing on a rocky ledge, much too close to the precipice. I couldn't tell from the distance how old they were, but I assumed they were men. Despite the chill in the air today, they seemed to be wearing only shorts.

As I watched, the tallest person stepped closer to the brink. I slowed automatically, my foot hesitating over the brake pedal.

And then he threw himself off the edge.

"No!" I shouted, stomping down on the brake.

"What's wrong?" Jacob shouted back, alarmed.

"That guy - he just jumped off the cliff! Why didn't they stop him? We've got to call an ambulance!" I threw open my door and started to get out, which made no sense at all. The fastest way to a phone was to drive back to Billy's. But I couldn't believe what I'd just seen. Maybe, subconsciously, I hoped I would see something different without the glass of the windshield in the way.

Jacob laughed, and I spun to stare at him wildly. How could he be so calloused, so cold-blooded?

"They're just cliff diving, Bella. Recreation. La Push doesn't have a mall, you know." He was teasing, but there was a strange note of irritation in his voice.

"Cliff diving?" I repeated, dazed. I stared in disbelief as a second figure stepped to the edge, paused, and then very gracefully leaped into space. He fell for what seemed like an eternity to me, finally cutting smoothly into the dark gray waves below.

"Wow. It's so high." I slid back into my seat, still staring wide-eyed at the two remaining divers. "It must be a hundred feet."

"Well, yeah, most of us jump from lower down, that rock that juts out from the cliff about halfway." He pointed out his window. The place he indicated did seem much more reasonable. "Those guys are insane.

Probably showing off how tough they are. I mean, really, it's freezing today. That water can't feel good." He made a disgruntled face, as if the stunt personally offended him. It surprised me a little. I would have thought Jacob was nearly impossible to upset.

"You jump off the cliff?" I hadn't missed the "us."

"Sure, sure." He shrugged and grinned. "It's fun. A little scary, kind of a rush."

I looked back at the cliffs, where the third figure was pacing the edge. I'd never witnessed anything so reckless in all my life. My eyes widened, and I smiled. "Jake, you have to take me cliff diving."

He frowned back at me, his face disapproving. "Bella, you just wanted to call an ambulance for Sam," he reminded me. I was surprised that he could tell who it was from this distance.

"I want to try," I insisted, start ing to get out of the car again.

Jacob grabbed my wrist. "Not today, all right? Can we at least wait for a warmer day?"

"Okay, fine," I agreed. With the door open, the glacial breeze was raising goose bumps on my arm. "But I want to go soon."

"Soon." He rolled his eyes. "Sometimes you're a little strange, Bella. Do you know that?"

I sighed. "Yes."

"And we're not jumping off the top."

I watched, fascinated, as the third boy made a running start and flung himself farther into the empty air than the other two. He twisted and cartwheeled through space as he fell, like he was skydiving. He looked absolutely free - unthinking and utterly irresponsible.

"Fine," I agreed. "Not the first time, anyway."

Now Jacob sighed.

"Are we going to try out the bikes or not?" he demanded.

"Okay, okay," I said, tearing my eyes away from the last person waiting on the cliff. I put my seat belt back on and closed the door. The engine was still running, roaring as it idled. We started down the road again.

"So who were those guys - the crazy ones?" I wondered.

He made a disgusted sound in the back of his throat. "The La Push gang."

"You have a gang?" I asked. I realized that I sounded impressed.

He laughed once at my reaction. "Not like that. I swear, they're like hall monitors gone bad. They don't start fights, they keep the peace." He snorted. "There was this guy from up somewhere by the Makah rez, big guy too, scary-looking. Well, word got around that he was selling meth to kids, and Sam Uley and his disciples ran him off our land. They're all about our land, and tribe pride... it's getting ridiculous. The worst part is that the council takes them seriously. Embry said that the council actually meets with Sam." He shook his head, face full of resentment. "Embry also heard from Leah Clearwater that they call themselves 'protectors' or something like that."

Jacob's hands were clenched into fists, as if he'd like to hit something. I'd never seen this side of him.

I was surprised to hear Sam Uley's name. I didn't want it to bring back the images from my nightmare, so I made a quick observation to distract myself. "You don't like them very much."

"Does it show?" he asked sarcastically.

"Well... It doesn't sound like they're doing anything bad." I tried to soothe him, to make him cheerful again. "Just sort of annoyingly goody-two-shoes for a gang."

"Yeah. Annoying is a good word. They're always showing off - like the cliff thing. They act like... like, I don't know. Like tough guys. I was hanging out at the store with Embry and Quil once, last semester, and Sam came by with his followers, Jared and Paul. Quil said something, you know how he's got a big mouth, and it pissed Paul off. His eyes got all dark, and he sort of smiled - no, he showed his teeth but he didn't smile - and it was like he was so mad he was shaking or something. But Sam put his hand against Paul's chest and shook his head. Paul looked at him for a minute and calmed down. Honestly, it was like Sam was holding him back - like Paul was going to tear us up if Sam didn't stop him." He groaned. "Like a bad western. You know, Sam's a pretty big guy, he's twenty. But Paul's just sixteen, too, shorter than me and not as beefy as Quil. I think any one of us could take him."

"Tough guys," I agreed. I could see it in my head as he described it, and it reminded me of something... a trio of tall, dark men standing very still and close together in my father's living room. The picture was sideways, because my head was lying against the couch while Dr. Gerandy and Charlie leaned over me... Had that been Sam's gang?

I spoke quickly again to divert myself from the bleak memories. "Isn't Sam a little too old for this kind of thing?"

"Yeah. He was supposed to go to college, but he stayed. And no one gave him any crap about it, either. The whole council pitched a fit when my sister turned down a partial scholarship and got married. But, oh no, Sam Uley can do no wrong."

His face was set in unfamiliar lines of outrage - outrage and something else I didn't recognize at first.

"It all sounds really annoying and... strange. But I don't get why you're taking it so personally." I peeked over at his face, hoping I hadn't offended him. He was suddenly calm, staring out the side window.

"You just missed the turn," he said in an even voice.

I executed a very wide U-turn, nearly hitting a tree as my circle ran the truck halfway off the road.

"Thanks for the heads-up," I muttered as I started up the side road.

"Sorry, I wasn't paying attention."

It was quiet for a brief minute.

"You can stop anywhere along here," he said softly.

I pulled over and cut the engine. My ears rang in the silence that followed. We both got out, and Jacob headed around to the back to get the bikes. I tried to read his expression. Something more was bothering him. I'd hit a nerve.

He smiled halfheartedly as he pushed the red bike to my side. "Happy late birthday. Are you ready for this?"

"I think so." The bike suddenly looked intimidating, frightening, as I realized I would soon be astride it.

"We'll take it slow," he promised. I gingerly leaned the motorcycle against the truck's fender while he went to get his.

"Jake..."I hesitated as he came back around the truck.


"What's really bothering you? About the Sam thing, I mean? Is there something else?" I watched his face. He grimaced, but he didn't seem angry. He looked at the dirt and kicked his shoe against the front tire of his bike again and again, like he was keeping time.

He sighed. "It's just... the way they treat me. It creeps me out." The words started to rush out now. "You know, the council is supposed to be made up of equals, but if there was a leader, it would be my dad. I've never been able to figure out why people treat him the way they do. Why his opinion counts the most. It's got something to do with his father and his father's father. My great-grandpa, Ephraim Black, was sort of the last chief we had, and they still listen to Billy, maybe because of that.

"But I'm just like everyone else. Nobody treats me special... until now."

That caught me off guard. "Sam treats you special?"

"Yeah," he agreed, looking up at me with troubled eyes. "He looks at me like he's waiting for something... like I'm going to join his stupid gang someday. He pays more attention to me than any of the other guys. I hate it."

"You don't have to join anything." My voice was angry. This was really upsetting Jacob, and that infuriated me. Who did these "protectors" think they were?

"Yeah." His foot kept up its rhythm against the tire.

"What?" I could tell there was more.

He frowned, his eyebrows pulling up in a way that looked sad and worried rather than angry. "It's Embry. He's been avoiding me lately."

The thoughts didn't seem connected, but I wondered if I was to blame for the problems with his friend. "You've been hanging out with me a lot," I reminded him, feeling selfish. I'd been monopolizing him.

"No, that's not it. It's not just me - it's Quil, too, and everyone. Embry missed a week of school, but he was never home when we tried to see him. And when he came back, he looked... he looked freaked out. Terrified. Quil and I both tried to get him to tell us what was wrong, but he wouldn't talk to either one of us."

I stared at Jacob, biting my lip anxiously - he was really frightened. But he didn't look at me. He watched his own foot kicking the rubber as if it belonged to someone else. The tempo increased.

"Then this week, out of nowhere, Embry's hanging out with Sam and the rest of them. He was out on the cliffs today." His voice was low and tense.

He finally looked at me. "Bella, they bugged him even more than they bother me. He didn't want anything to do with them. And now Embry's following Sam around like he's joined a cult.

"And that's the way it was with Paul. Just exactly the same. He wasn't friends with Sam at all. Then he stopped coming to school for a few weeks, and, when he came back, suddenly Sam owned him. I don't know what it means. I can't figure it out, and I feel like I have to, because Embry's my friend and... Sam's looking at me funny . . and..." He trailed off.

"Have you talked to Billy about this?" I asked. His horror was spreading to me. I had chills running on the back of my neck.

Now there was anger on his face. "Yes," he snorted. "That was helpful."

"What did he say?"

Jacob's expression was sarcastic, and when he spoke, his voice mocked the deep tones of his father's voice. "It's nothing you need to worry about now, Jacob. In a few years, if you don't... well, I'll explain later." And then his voice was his own. "What am I supposed to get from that? Is he trying to say it's some stupid puberty, coming-of-age thing? This is something else. Something wrong."

He was biting his lower lip and clenching his hands. He looked like he was about to cry.

I threw my arms around him instinctively, wrapping them around his waist and pressing my face against his chest. He was so big, I felt like I was a child hugging a grown-up.

"Oh, Jake, it'll be okay!" I promised. "If it gets worse you can come live with me and Charlie. Don't be scared, we'll think of something!"

He was frozen for a second, and then his long arms wrapped hesitantly around me. "Thanks, Bella." His voice was huskier than usual.

We stood like that for a moment, and it didn't upset me; in fact, I felt comforted by the contact. This didn't feel anything like the last time someone had embraced me this way. This was friendship. And Jacob was very warm.

It was strange for me, being this close - emotionally rather than physically, though the physical was strange for me, too - to another human being. It wasn't my usual style. I didn't normally relate to people so easily, on such a basic level.

Not human beings.

"If this is how you're going to react, I'll freak out more often." Jacob's voice was light, normal again, and his laughter rumbled against my ear. His fingers touched my hair, soft and tentative.

Well, it was friendship for me.

I pulled away quickly, laughing with him, but determined to put things back in perspective at once.

"It's hard to believe I'm two years older than you," I said, emphasizing the word older. "You make me feel like a dwarf." Standing this close to him, I really had to crane my neck to see his face.

"You're forgetting I'm in my forties, of course."

"Oh, that's right."

He patted my head. "You're like a little doll," he teased. "A porcelain doll."

I rolled my eyes, taking another step away. "Let's not start with the albino cracks."

"Seriously, Bella, are you sure you're not?" He stretched his russet arm out next to mine. The difference wasn't flattering. "I've never seen anyone paler than you... well, except for - " He broke off, and I looked away, trying to not understand what he had been about to say.

"So are we going to ride or what?"

"Let's do it," I agreed, more enthusiastic than I would have been half a minute ago. His unfinished sentence reminded me of why I was here.
发表于 2016-8-8 19:15 | 显示全部楼层
Chapter 8. TEMPER

WE ENDED UP ON THE BEACH AGAIN, WANDERING AIMlessly. Jacob was still full of himself for engineering my escape.

"Do you think they'll come looking for you?" he asked, sounding hopeful.

"No." I was certain about that. "They're going to be furious with me tonight, though."

He picked up a rock and chucked it into the waves. "Don't go back, then," he suggested again.

"Charlie would love that," I said sarcastically.

"I bet he wouldn't mind."

I didn't answer. Jacob was probably right, and that made me grind my teeth together. Charlie's blatant preference for my Quileute friends was so unfair. I wondered if he would feel the same if he knew the choice was really between vampires and werewolves.

"So what's the latest pack scandal?" I asked lightly.

Jacob skidded to a halt, and he stared down at me with shocked eyes.

"What? That was a joke."

"Oh." He looked away.

I waited for him to start walking again, but he seemed lost in thought.

"Is there a scandal?" I wondered.

Jacob chuckled once. "I forget what it's like, not having everyone know everything all the time. Having a quiet, private place inside my head."

We walked along the stony beach quietly for a few minutes.

"So what is it?" I finally asked. "That everyone in your head already knows?"

He hesitated for a moment, as if he weren't sure how much he was going to tell me. Then he sighed and said, "Quil imprinted. That's three now. The rest of us are starting to get worried. Maybe it's more common than the stories say. . . ." He frowned, and then turned to stare at me. He gazed into my eyes without speaking, his eyebrows furrowed in concentration.

"What are you staring at?" I asked, feeling self-conscious.

He sighed. "Nothing."

Jacob started walking again. Without seeming to think about it, he reached out and took my hand. We paced silently across the rocks.

I thought of how we must look walking hand and hand down the beach - like a couple, certainly - and wondered if I should object. But this was the way it had always been with Jacob. . . . No reason to get worked up about it now.

"Why is Quil's imprinting such a scandal?" I asked when it didn't look like he was going to go on. "Is it because he's the newest one?"

"That doesn't have anything to do with it."

"Then what's the problem?"

"It's another one of those legend things. I wonder when we're going to stop being surprised that they're all true?" he muttered to himself.

"Are you going to tell me? Or do I have to guess?"

"You'd never get it right. See, Quil hasn't been hanging out with us, you know, until just recently. So he hadn't been around Emily's place much."

"Quil imprinted on Emily, too?" I gasped.

"No! I told you not to guess. Emily had her two nieces down for a visit . . . and Quil met Claire."

He didn't continue. I thought about that for a moment.

"Emily doesn't want her niece with a werewolf? That's a little hypocritical," I said.

But I could understand why she of all people might feel that way. I thought again of the long scars that marred her face and extended all the way down her right arm. Sam had lost control just once when he was standing too close to her. Once was all it took. . . . I'd seen the pain in Sam's eyes when he looked at what he'd done to Emily. I could understand why Emily might want to protect her niece from that.

"Would you please stop guessing? You're way off. Emily doesn't mind that part, it's just, well, a little early."

"What do you mean early?"

Jacob appraised me with narrowed eyes. "Try not to be judgmental, okay?"

I nodded cautiously.

"Claire is two," Jacob told me.

Rain started to fall. I blinked furiously as the drops pelted my face.

Jacob waited in silence. He wore no jacket, as usual; the rain left a spatter of dark spots on his black T-shirt, and dripped through his shaggy hair. His face was expressionless as he watched mine.

"Quil . . . imprinted . . . with a two-year-old?" I was finally able to ask.

"It happens." Jacob shrugged. He bent to grab another rock and sent it flying out into the bay. "Or so the stories say."

"But she's a baby," I protested.

He looked at me with dark amusement. "Quil's not getting any older," he reminded me, a bit of acid in his tone. "He'll just have to be patient for a few decades."

"I . . . don't know what to say."

I was trying my hardest not to be critical, but, in truth, I was horrified. Until now, nothing about the werewolves had bothered me since the day I'd found out they weren't committing the murders I'd suspected them of.

"You're making judgments," he accused. "I can see it on your face."

"Sorry," I muttered. "But it sounds really creepy."

"It's not like that; you've got it all wrong," Jacob defended his friend, suddenly vehement. "I've seen what it's like, through his eyes. There's nothing romantic about it at all, not for Quil, not now." He took a deep breath, frustrated. "It's so hard to describe. It's not like love at first sight, really. It's more like . . . gravity moves. When you see her, suddenly it's not the earth holding you here anymore. She does. And nothing matters more than her. And you would do anything for her, be anything for her. . . . You become whatever she needs you to be, whether that's a protector, or a lover, or a friend, or a brother.

"Quil will be the best, kindest big brother any kid ever had. There isn't a toddler on the planet that will be more carefully looked after than that little girl will be. And then, when she's older and needs a friend, he'll be more understanding, trustworthy, and reliable than anyone else she knows. And then, when she's grown up, they'll be as happy as Emily and Sam." A strange, bitter edge sharpened his tone at the very end, when he spoke of Sam.

"Doesn't Claire get a choice here?"

"Of course. But why wouldn't she choose him, in the end? He'll be her perfect match. Like he was designed for her alone."

We walked in silence for a moment, till I paused to toss a rock toward the ocean. It fell to the beach several meters short. Jacob laughed at me.

"We can't all be freakishly strong," I muttered.

He sighed.

"When do you think it will happen for you?" I asked quietly.

His answer was flat and immediate. "Never."

"It's not something you can control, is it?"

He was silent for a few minutes. Unconsciously, we both walked slower, barely moving at all.

"It's not supposed to be," he admitted. "But you have to see her - the one that's supposedly meant for you."

"And you think that if you haven't seen her yet, then she's not out there?" I asked skeptically. "Jacob, you haven't really seen much of the world - less than me, even."

"No, I haven't," he said in a low voice. He looked at my face with suddenly piercing eyes. "But I'll never see anyone else, Bella. I only see you. Even when I close my eyes and try to see something else. Ask Quil or Embry. It drives them all crazy."

I dropped my eyes to the rocks.

We weren't walking anymore. The only sound was of the waves beating against the shore. I couldn't hear the rain over their roar.

"Maybe I'd better go home," I whispered.

"No!" he protested, surprised by this conclusion.

I looked up at him again, and his eyes were anxious now.

"You have the whole day off, right? The bloodsucker won't be home yet."

I glared at him.

"No offense intended," he said quickly.

"Yes, I have the whole day. But, Jake . . ."

He held up his hands. "Sorry," he apologized. "I won't be like that anymore. I'll just be Jacob."

I sighed. "But if that's what you're thinking . . ."

"Don't worry about me," he insisted, smiling with deliberate cheer, too brightly. "I know what I'm doing. Just tell me if I'm upsetting you."

"I don't know. . . ."

"C'mon, Bella. Let's go back to the house and get our bikes. You've got to ride a motorcycle regularly to keep it in tune."

"I really don't think I'm allowed."

"By who? Charlie or the blood - or him?"


Jacob grinned my grin, and he was suddenly the Jacob I missed the most, sunny and warm.

I couldn't help grinning back.

The rain softened, turned to mist.

"I won't tell anyone," he promised.

"Except every one of your friends."

He shook his head soberly and raised his right hand. "I promise not to think about it."

I laughed. "If I get hurt, it was because I tripped."

"Whatever you say."

We rode our motorcycles on the back roads around La Push until the rain made them too muddy and Jacob insisted that he was going to pass out if he didn't eat soon. Billy greeted me easily when we got to the house, as if my sudden reappearance meant nothing more complicated than that I'd wanted to spend the day with my friend. After we ate the sandwiches Jacob made, we went out to the garage and I helped him clean up the bikes. I hadn't been here in months - since Edward had returned - but there was no sense of import to it. It was just another afternoon in the garage.

"This is nice," I commented when he pulled the warm sodas from the grocery bag. "I've missed this place."

He smiled, looking around at the plastic sheds bolted together over our heads. "Yeah, I can understand that. All the splendor of the Taj Mahal, without the inconvenience and expense of traveling to India."

"To Washington's little Taj Mahal," I toasted, holding up my can.

He touched his can to mine.

"Do you remember last Valentine's Day? I think that was the last time you were here - the last time when things were still . . . normal, I mean."

I laughed. "Of course I remember. I traded a lifetime of servitude for a box of conversation hearts. That's not something I'm likely to forget."

He laughed with me. "That's right. Hmm, servitude. I'll have to think of something good." Then he sighed. "It feels like it was years ago. Another era. A happier one."

I couldn't agree with him. This was my happy era now. But I was surprised to realize how many things I missed from my own personal dark ages. I stared through the opening at the murky forest. The rain had picked up again, but it was warm in the little garage, sitting next to Jacob. He was as good as a furnace. His fingers brushed my hand. "Things have really changed."

"Yeah," I said, and then I reached out and patted the back tire of my bike. "Charlie used to like me. I hope Billy doesn't say anything about today. . . ." I bit my lip.

"He won't. He doesn't get worked up about things the way Charlie does. Hey, I never did apologize officially for that stupid move with the bike. I'm real sorry about ratting you out to Charlie. I wish I hadn't."

I rolled my eyes. "Me, too."

"I'm really, really sorry."

He looked at me hopefully, his wet, tangled black hair sticking up in every direction around his pleading face.

"Oh, fine! You're forgiven."

"Thanks, Bells!"

We grinned at each other for a second, and then his face clouded over.

"You know that day, when I brought the bike over . . . I've been wanting to ask you something," he said slowly. "But also . . . not wanting to."

I held very still - a reaction to stress. It was a habit I'd picked up from Edward.

"Were you just being stubborn because you were mad at me, or were you really serious?" he whispered.

"About what?" I whispered back, though I was sure I knew what he meant.

He glared at me. "You know. When you said it was none of my business . . . if - if he bit you." He cringed visibly at the end.

"Jake . . ." My throat felt swollen. I couldn't finish.

He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. "Were you serious?"

He was trembling just slightly. His eyes stayed closed.

"Yes," I whispered.

Jacob inhaled, slow and deep. "I guess I knew that."

I stared at his face, waiting for his eyes to open.

"You know what this will mean?" He demanded suddenly. "You do understand that, don't you? What will happen if they break the treaty?"

"We'll leave first," I said in a small voice.

His eyes flashed open, their black depths full of anger and pain. "There wasn't a geographic limit to the treaty, Bella. Our great-grandfathers only agreed to keep the peace because the Cullens swore that they were different, that humans weren't in danger from them. They promised they would never kill or change anyone ever again. If they go back on their word, the treaty is meaningless, and they are no different than any other vampires. Once that's established, when we find them again -"

"But, Jake, didn't you break the treaty already?" I asked, grasping at straws. "Wasn't part of it that you not tell people about the vampires? And you told me. So isn't the treaty sort of moot, anyhow?"

Jacob didn't like the reminder; the pain in his eyes hardened into animosity. "Yeah, I broke the treaty - back before I believed any of it. And I'm sure they were informed of that." He glared sourly at my forehead, not meeting my shamed gaze. "But it's not like that gives them a freebie or anything. There's no fault for a fault. They have only one option if they object to what I did. The same option we'll have when they break the treaty: to attack. To start the war."

He made it sound so inevitable. I shuddered.

"Jake, it doesn't have to be that way."

His teeth ground together. "It is that way."

The silence after his declaration felt very loud.

"Will you never forgive me, Jacob?" I whispered. As soon as I said the words, I wished I hadn't. I didn't want to hear his answer.

"You won't be Bella anymore," he told me. "My friend won't exist. There'll be no one to forgive."

"That sounds like a no," I whispered.

We faced each other for an endless moment.

"Is this goodbye then, Jake?"

He blinked rapidly, his fierce expression melting in surprise. "Why? We still have a few years. Can't we be friends until we're out of time?"

"Years? No, Jake, not years." I shook my head, and laughed once without humor. "Weeks is more accurate."

I was not expecting his reaction.

He was suddenly on his feet, and there was a loud pop as the soda can exploded in his hand. Soda flew everywhere, soaking me, like it was spraying from a hose.

"Jake!" I started to complain, but I fell silent when I realized that his whole body was quivering with anger. He glared at me wildly, a growling sound building in his chest.

I froze in place, too shocked to remember how to move.

The shaking rolled through him, getting faster, until it looked like he was vibrating. His shape blurred. . . .

And then Jacob gritted his teeth together, and the growling stopped. He squeezed his eyes tight in concentration; the quivering slowed until only his hands were shaking.

"Weeks," Jacob said in a flat monotone.

I couldn't respond; I was still frozen.

He opened his eyes. They were beyond fury now.

"He's going to change you into a filthy bloodsucker in just a few weeks!" Jacob hissed through his teeth.

Too stunned to take offense at his words, I just nodded mutely.

His face turned green under the russet skin.

"Of course, Jake," I whispered after a long minute of silence. "He's seventeen, Jacob. And I get closer to nineteen every day. Besides, what's the point in waiting? He's all I want. What else can I do?"

I'd meant that as a rhetorical question.

His words cracked like snaps of a whip. "Anything. Anything else. You'd be better off dead. I'd rather you were."

I recoiled like he'd slapped me. It hurt worse than if he had.

And then, as the pain shot through me, my own temper burst into flame.

"Maybe you'll get lucky," I said bleakly, lurching to my feet. "Maybe I'll get hit by a truck on my way back."

I grabbed my motorcycle and pushed it out into the rain. He didn't move as I passed him. As soon as I was on the small, muddy path, I climbed on and kicked the bike to life. The rear tire spit a fountain of mud toward the garage, and I hoped that it hit him.

I got absolutely soaked as I sped across the slick highway toward the Cullens' house. The wind felt like it was freezing the rain against my skin, and my teeth were chattering before I was halfway there.

Motorcycles were too impractical for Washington. I would sell the stupid thing first chance I got.

I walked the bike into the Cullens' cavernous garage and was unsurprised to find Alice waiting for me, perched lightly on the hood of her Porsche. Alice stroked the glossy yellow paint.

"I haven't even had a chance to drive it." She sighed.

"Sorry," I spit through my rattling teeth.

"You look like you could use a hot shower," she said, offhand, as she sprang lightly to her feet.


She pursed her lips, taking in my expression carefully. "Do you want to talk about it?"


She nodded in assent, but her eyes were raging with curiosity.

"Do you want to go to Olympia tonight?"

"Not really. Can't I go home?"

She grimaced.

"Never mind, Alice," I said. "I'll stay if it makes things easier for you."

"Thanks," she sighed in relief.

I went to bed early that night, curling up on his sofa again.

It was still dark when I woke. I was groggy, but I knew it wasn't near morning yet. My eyes closed, and I stretched, rolling over. It took me a second before I realized that the movement should have dumped me onto the floor. And that I was much too comfortable.

I rolled back over, trying to see. It was darker than last night - the clouds were too thick for the moon to shine through.

"Sorry," he murmured so softly that his voice was part of the darkness. "I didn't mean to wake you."

I tensed, waiting for the fury - both his and mine - but it was only quiet and calm in the darkness of his room. I could almost taste the sweetness of reunion in the air, a separate fragrance from the perfume of his breath; the emptiness when we were apart left its own bitter aftertaste, something I didn't consciously notice until it was removed.

There was no friction in the space between us. The stillness was peaceful - not like the calm before the tempest, but like a clear night untouched by even the dream of a storm.

And I didn't care that I was supposed to be angry with him. I didn't care that I was supposed to be angry with everyone. I reached out for him, found his hands in the darkness, and pulled myself closer to him. His arms encircled me, cradling me to his chest. My lips searched, hunting along his throat, to his chin, till I finally found his lips.

Edward kissed me softly for a moment, and then he chuckled.

"I was all braced for the wrath that was going to put grizzlies to shame, and this is what I get? I should infuriate you more often."

"Give me a minute to work up to it," I teased, kissing him again.

"I'll wait as long as you want," he whispered against my lips. His fingers knotted in my hair.

My breath was becoming uneven. "Maybe in the morning."

"Whatever you prefer."

"Welcome home," I said while his cold lips pressed under my jaw. "I'm glad you came back."

"That's a very good thing."

"Mmm," I agreed, tightening my arms around his neck.

His hand curved around my elbow, moving slowly down my arm, across my ribs and over my waist, tracing along my hip and down my leg, around my knee. He paused there, his hand curling around my calf. He pulled my leg up suddenly, hitching it around his hip.

I stopped breathing. This wasn't the kind of thing he usually allowed. Despite his cold hands, I felt suddenly warm. His lips moved in the hollow at the base of my throat.

"Not to bring on the ire prematurely," he whispered, "but do you mind telling me what it is about this bed that you object to?"

Before I could answer, before I could even concentrate enough to make sense of his words, he rolled to the side, pulling me on top of him. He held my face in his hands, angling it up so that his mouth could reach my throat. My breathing was too loud - it was almost embarrassing, but I couldn't care quite enough to be ashamed.

"The bed?" he asked again. "I think it's nice."

"It's unnecessary," I managed to gasp.

He pulled my face back to his, and my lips shaped themselves around his. Slowly this time, he rolled till he hovered over me. He held himself carefully so that I felt none of his weight, but I could feel the cool marble of his body press against mine. My heart was hammering so loudly that it was hard to hear his quiet laughter.

"That's debatable," he disagreed. "This would be difficult on a couch."

Cold as ice, his tongue lightly traced the shape of my lips.

My head was spinning - the air was coming too fast and shallow.

"Did you change your mind?" I asked breathlessly. Maybe he'd rethought all his careful rules. Maybe there was more significance to this bed than I'd originally guessed. My heart pounded almost painfully as I waited for his answer.

Edward sighed, rolling back so that we were on our sides again.

"Don't be ridiculous, Bella," he said, disapproval strong in his voice - clearly, he understood what I meant. "I was just trying to illustrate the benefits of the bed you don't seem to like. Don't get carried away."

"Too late," I muttered. "And I like the bed," I added.

"Good." I could hear the smile in his voice as he kissed my forehead. "I do, too."

"But I still think it's unnecessary," I continued. "If we're not going to get carried away, what's the point?"

He sighed again. "For the hundredth time, Bella - it's too dangerous."

"I like danger," I insisted.

"I know." There was a sour edge to his voice, and I realized that he would have seen the motorcycle in the garage.

"I'll tell you what's dangerous," I said quickly, before he could move to a new topic of discussion. "I'm going to spontaneously combust one of these days - and you'll have no one but yourself to blame."

He started to push me away.

"What are you doing?" I objected, clinging to him.

"Protecting you from combustion. If this too much for you. . . ."

"I can handle it," I insisted.

He let me worm myself back into the circle of his arms.

"I'm sorry I gave you the wrong impression," he said. "I didn't mean to make you unhappy. That wasn't nice."

"Actually, it was very, very nice."

He took a deep breath. "Aren't you tired? I should let you sleep."

"No, I'm not. I don't mind if you want to give me the wrong impression again."

"That's probably a bad idea. You're not the only one who gets carried away."

"Yes, I am," I grumbled.

He chuckled. "You have no idea, Bella. It doesn't help that you are so eager to undermine my self- control, either."

"I'm not going to apologize for that."

"Can I apologize?"

"For what?"

"You were angry with me, remember?"

"Oh, that."

"I'm sorry. I was wrong. It's much easier to have the proper perspective when I have you safely here."

His arms tightened around me. "I go a little berserk when I try to leave you. I don't think I'll go so far again. It's not worth it."

I smiled. "Didn't you find any mountain lions?"

"Yes, I did, actually. Still not worth the anxiety. I'm sorry I had Alice hold you hostage, though. That was a bad idea."

"Yes," I agreed.

"I won't do it again."

"Okay," I said easily. He was already forgiven. "But slumber parties do have their advantages. . . ." I curled myself closer to him, pressing my lips into the indentation over his collarbone. "You can hold me hostage any time you want."

"Mmm," he sighed. "I may take you up on that."

"So is it my turn now?"

"Your turn?" his voice was confused.

"To apologize."

"What do you have to apologize for?"

"Aren't you mad at me?" I asked blankly.


It sounded like he really meant it.

I felt my eyebrows pull together. "Didn't you see Alice when you got home?"

"Yes - why?"

"Are you going to take her Porsche back?"

"Of course not. It was a gift."

I wished I could see his expression. His voice sounded as if I'd insulted him.

"Don't you want to know what I did?" I asked, starting to be puzzled by his apparent lack of concern.

I felt him shrug. "I'm always interested in everything you do - but you don't have to tell me unless you want to."

"But I went to La Push."

"I know."

"And I ditched school."

"So did I."

I stared toward the sound of his voice, tracing his features with my fingers, trying to understand his mood.

"Where did all this tolerance come from?" I demanded.

He sighed.

"I decided that you were right. My problem before was more about my . . . prejudice against werewolves than anything else. I'm going to try to be more reasonable and trust your judgment. If you say it's safe, then I'll believe you."


"And . . . most importantly . . . I'm not willing to let this drive a wedge between us."

I rested my head against his chest and closed my eyes, totally content.

"So," he murmured in a casual tone. "Did you make plans to go back to La Push again soon?"

I didn't answer. His question brought back the memory of Jacob's words, and my throat was suddenly tight.

He misread my silence and the tension in my body.

"Just so that I can make my own plans," he explained quickly. "I don't want you to feel like you have to hurry back because I'm sitting around waiting for you."

"No," I said in a voice that sounded strange to me. "I don't have plans go back."

"Oh. You don't have to do that for me."

"I don't think I'm welcome anymore," I whispered.

"Did you run over someone's cat?" he asked lightly. I knew he didn't want to force the story out of me, but I could hear the curiosity burning behind his words.

"No." I took a deep breath, and then mumbled quickly through the explanation. "I thought Jacob would have realized . . . I didn't think it would surprise him."

Edward waited while I hesitated.

"He wasn't expecting . . . that it was so soon."

"Ah," Edward said quietly.

"He said he'd rather see me dead." My voice broke on the last word.

Edward was too still for a moment, controlling whatever reaction he didn't want me to see.

Then he crushed me gently to his chest. "I'm so sorry."

"I thought you'd be glad," I whispered.

"Glad over something that's hurt you?" he murmured into my hair. "I don't think so, Bella."

I sighed and relaxed, fitting myself to the stone shape of him. But he was motionless again, tense.

"What's wrong?" I asked.

"It's nothing."

"You can tell me."

He paused for a minute. "It might make you angry."

"I still want to know."

He sighed. "I could quite literally kill him for saying that to you. I want to."

I laughed halfheartedly. "I guess it's a good thing you've got so much self-control."

"I could slip." His tone was thoughtful.

"If you're going to have a lapse in control, I can think of a better place for it." I reached for his face, trying to pull myself up to kiss him. His arms held me tighter, restraining.

He sighed. "Must I always be the responsible one?"

I grinned in the darkness. "No. Let me be in charge of responsibility for a few minutes . . . or hours."

"Goodnight, Bella."

"Wait - there was something else I wanted to ask you about."

"What's that?"

"I was talking to Rosalie last night. . . ."

His body tensed again. "Yes. She was thinking about that when I got in. She gave you quite a lot to consider, didn't she?"

His voice was anxious, and I realized that he thought I wanted to talk about the reasons Rosalie'd given me for staying human. But I was interested in something much more pressing.

"She told me a little bit . . . about the time your family lived in Denali."

There was a short pause; this beginning took him by surprise. "Yes?"

"She mentioned something about a bunch of female vampires . . . and you."

He didn't answer, though I waited for a long moment.

"Don't worry," I said, after the silence had grown uncomfortable. "She told me you didn't . . . show any preference. But I was just wondering, you know, if any of them had. Shown a preference for you, I mean."

Again he said nothing.

"Which one?" I asked, trying to keep my voice casual, and not quite managing. "Or was there more than one?"

No answer. I wished I could see his face, so I could try to guess what this silence meant.

"Alice will tell me," I said. "I'll go ask her right now."

His arms tightened; I was unable to squirm even an inch away.

"It's late," he said. His voice had a little edge to it that was something new. Sort of nervous, maybe a little embarrassed. "Besides, I think Alice stepped out. . . ."

"It's bad," I guessed. "It's really bad, isn't it?" I started to panic, my heart accelerating as I imagined the gorgeous immortal rival I'd never realized I had.

"Calm down, Bella," he said, kissing the tip of my nose. "You're being absurd."

"Am I? Then why won't you tell me?"

"Because there's nothing to tell. You're blowing this wildly out of proportion."

"Which one?" I insisted.

He sighed. "Tanya expressed a little interest. I let her know, in a very courteous, gentlemanly fashion, that I did not return that interest. End of story."

I kept my voice as even as possible. "Tell me something - what does Tanya look like?"

"Just like the rest of us - white skin, gold eyes," he answered too quickly.

"And, of course, extraordinarily beautiful."

I felt him shrug.

"I suppose, to human eyes," he said, indifferent. "You know what, though?"

"What?" My voice was petulant.

He put his lips right to my ear; his cold breath tickled. "I prefer brunettes."

"She's a blonde. That figures."

"Strawberry blonde - not at all my type."

I thought about that for a while, trying to concentrate as his lips moved slowly along my cheek, down my throat, and back up again. He made the circuit three times before I spoke.

"I guess that's okay, then," I decided.

"Hmm," he whispered against my skin. "You're quite adorable when you're jealous. It's surprisingly enjoyable."

I scowled into the darkness.

"It's late," he said again, murmuring, almost crooning now, his voice smoother than silk. "Sleep, my Bella. Dream happy dreams. You are the only one who has ever touched my heart. It will always be yours. Sleep, my only love."

He started to hum my lullaby, and I knew it was only a matter of time till I succumbed, so I closed my eyes and snuggled closer into his chest.
发表于 2016-8-8 19:18 | 显示全部楼层
Chapter 9. TARGET

ALICE DROPPED ME OFF IN THE MORNING, IN KEEPING with the slumber party charade. It wouldn't be long until Edward showed up, officially returning from his "hiking" trip. All of the pretenses were starting to wear on me. I wouldn't miss this part of being human.

Charlie peeked through the front window when he heard me slam the car door. He waved to Alice, and then went to get the door for me.

"Did you have fun?" Charlie asked.

"Sure, it was great. Very . . . girlie."

I carried my stuff in, dumped it all at the foot of the stairs, and wandered into the kitchen to look for a snack.

"You've got a message," Charlie called after me.

On the kitchen counter, the phone message pad was propped up conspicuously against a saucepan.

Jacob called, Charlie had written.

He said he didn't mean it, and that he's sorry. He wants you to call him. Be nice and give him a break. He sounded upset.

I grimaced. Charlie didn't usually editorialize on my messages.

Jacob could just go ahead and be upset. I didn't want to talk to him. Last I'd heard, they weren't big on allowing phone calls from the other side. If Jacob preferred me dead, then maybe he should get used to the silence.

My appetite evaporated. I turned an about face and went to put my things away.

"Aren't you going to call Jacob?" Charlie asked. He was leaning around the living room wall, watching me pick up.


I started up the stairs.

"That's not very attractive behavior, Bella," he said. "Forgiveness is divine."

"Mind your own business," I muttered under my breath, much too low for him to hear.

I knew the laundry was building up, so after I put my toothpaste away and threw my dirty clothes in the hamper, I went to strip Charlie's bed. I left his sheets in a pile at the top of the stairs and went to get mine.

I paused beside the bed, cocking my head to the side.

Where was my pillow? I turned in a circle, scanning the room. No pillow. I noticed that my room looked oddly tidy. Hadn't my gray sweatshirt been draped over the low bedpost on the footboard? And I would swear there had been a pair of dirty socks behind the rocking chair, along with the red blouse I'd tried on two mornings ago, but decided was too dressy for school, hanging over the arm. . . . I spun around again. My hamper wasn't empty, but it wasn't overflowing, the way I thought it had been.

Was Charlie doing laundry? That was out of character.

"Dad, did you start the wash?" I shouted out my door.

"Um, no," he shouted back, sounding guilty. "Did you want me to?"

"No, I got it. Were you looking for something in my room?"

"No. Why?"

"I can't find . . . a shirt. . . ."

"I haven't been in there."

And then I remembered that Alice had been here to get my pajamas. I hadn't noticed that she'd borrowed my pillow, too - probably since I'd avoided the bed. It looked like she had cleaned while she was passing through. I blushed for my slovenly ways.

But that red shirt really wasn't dirty, so I went to save it from the hamper.

I expected to find it near the top, but it wasn't there. I dug through the whole pile and still couldn't find it. I knew I was probably getting paranoid, but it seemed like something else was missing, or maybe more than one something. I didn't even have half a load here.

I ripped my sheets off and headed for the laundry closet, grabbing Charlie's on the way. The washing machine was empty. I checked the dryer, too, half-expecting to find a washed load waiting for me, courtesy of Alice. Nothing. I frowned, mystified.

"Did you find what you were looking for?" Charlie yelled.

"Not yet."

I went back upstairs to search under my bed. Nothing but dust bunnies. I started to dig through my dresser. Maybe I'd put the red shirt away and forgotten.

I gave up when the doorbell rang. That would be Edward.

"Door," Charlie informed me from the couch as I skipped past him.

"Don't strain yourself, Dad."

I pulled the door open with a big smile on my face.

Edward's golden eyes were wide, his nostrils flared, his lips pulled back over his teeth.

"Edward?" My voice was sharp with shock as I read his expression. "What -?"

He put his finger to my lips. "Give me two seconds," he whispered. "Don't move."

I stood frozen on the doorstep and he . . . disappeared. He moved so quickly that Charlie wouldn't even have seen him pass.

Before I could compose myself enough to count to two, he was back. He put his arm around my waist and pulled me swiftly toward the kitchen. His eyes darted around the room, and he held me against his body as if he were shielding me from something. I threw a glance toward Charlie on the couch, but he was studiously ignoring us.

"Someone's been here," he murmured in my ear after he pulled me to the back of the kitchen. His voice was strained; it was difficult to hear him over the thumping of the washing machine.

"I swear that no werewolves -" I started to say.

"Not one of them," he interrupted me quickly, shaking his head. "One of us."

His tone made it clear that he didn't mean a member of his family.

I felt the blood empty from my face.

"Victoria?" I choked.

"It's not a scent I recognize."

"One of the Volturi," I guessed.



"That's why I think it must have been them - it wasn't long ago, early this morning while Charlie was sleeping. And whoever it was didn't touch him, so there must have been another purpose."

"Looking for me."

He didn't answer. His body was frozen, a statue.

"What are you two hissing about in here?" Charlie asked suspiciously, rounding the corner with an empty popcorn bowl in his hands.

I felt green. A vampire had been in the house looking for me while Charlie slept. Panic overwhelmed me, closed my throat. I couldn't answer, I just stared at him in horror.

Charlie's expression changed. Abruptly, he was grinning. "If you two are having a fight . . . well, don't let me interrupt."

Still grinning, he put his bowl in the sink and sauntered out of the room.

"Let's go," Edward said in a low hard voice.

"But Charlie!" The fear was squeezing my chest, making it hard to breathe.

He deliberated for a short second, and then his phone was in his hand.

"Emmett," he muttered into the receiver. He began talking so fast that I couldn't understand the words. It was over in half a minute. He started pulling me toward the door.

"Emmett and Jasper are on their way," he whispered when he felt my resistance. "They'll sweep the woods. Charlie is fine."

I let him drag me along then, too panicked to think clearly. Charlie met my frightened eyes with a smug grin, which suddenly turned to confusion. Edward had me out the door before Charlie could say anything.

"Where are we going?" I couldn't stop whispering, even after we were in the car.

"We're going to talk to Alice," he told me, his volume normal but his voice bleak.

"You think maybe she saw something?"

He stared at the road through narrowed eyes. "Maybe."

They were waiting for us, on alert after Edward's call. It was like walking into a museum, everyone still as statues in various poses of stress.

"What happened?" Edward demanded as soon as we were through the door. I was shocked to see that he was glowering at Alice, his hands fisted in anger.

Alice stood with her arms folded tight across her chest. Only her lips moved. "I have no idea. I didn't see anything."

"How is that possible?" he hissed.

"Edward," I said, a quiet reproof. I didn't like him talking to Alice this way.

Carlisle interrupted in a calming voice. "It's not an exact science, Edward."

"He was in her room, Alice. He could have still been there - waiting for her."

"I would have seen that."

Edward threw his hands up in exasperation. "Really? You're sure?"

Alice's voice was cold when she answered. "You've already got me watching the Volturis' decisions, watching for Victoria's return, watching Bella's every step. You want to add another? Do I just have to watch Charlie, or Bella's room, or the house, or the whole street, too? Edward, if I try to do too much, things are going to start slipping through the cracks."

"It looks like they already are," Edward snapped.

"She was never in any danger. There was nothing to see."

"If you're watching Italy, why didn't you see them send -"

"I don't think it's them," Alice insisted. "I would have seen that."

"Who else would leave Charlie alive?"

I shuddered.

"I don't know," Alice said.


"Stop it, Edward," I whispered.

He turned on me, his face still livid, his teeth clenched together. He glared at me for half a second, and then, suddenly, he exhaled. His eyes widened and his jaw relaxed.

"You're right, Bella. I'm sorry." He looked at Alice. "Forgive me, Alice. I shouldn't be taking this out on you. That was inexcusable."

"I understand," Alice assured him. "I'm not happy about it, either."

Edward took a deep breath. "Okay, let's look at this logically. What are the possibilities?"

Everyone seemed to thaw out at once. Alice relaxed and leaned against the back of the couch. Carlisle walked slowly toward her, his eyes far away. Esme sat on the sofa in front of Alice, curling her legs up on the seat. Only Rosalie remained unmoving, her back to us, staring out the glass wall.

Edward pulled me to the sofa and I sat next to Esme, who shifted to put her arm around me. He held one of my hands tightly in both of his.

"Victoria?" Carlisle asked.

Edward shook his head. "No. I didn't know the scent. He might have been from the Volturi, someone I've never met. . . ."

Alice shook her head. "Aro hasn't asked anyone to look for her yet. I will see that. I'm waiting for it."

Edward's head snapped up. "You're watching for an official command."

"You think someone's acting on their own? Why?"

"Caius's idea," Edward suggested, his face tightening again.

"Or Jane's . . . ," Alice said. "They both have the resources to send an unfamiliar face. . . ."

Edward scowled. "And the motivation."

"It doesn't make sense, though," Esme said. "If whoever it was meant to wait for Bella, Alice would have seen that. He - or she - had no intention of hurting Bella. Or Charlie, for that matter."

I cringed at my father's name.

"It's going to be fine, Bella," Esme murmured, smoothing my hair.

"But what was the point then?" Carlisle mused.

"Checking to see if I'm still human?" I guessed.

"Possible," Carlisle said.

Rosalie breathed out a sigh, loud enough for me to hear. She'd unfrozen, and her face was turned expectantly toward the kitchen. Edward, on the other hand, looked discouraged.

Emmett burst through the kitchen door, Jasper right behind him.

"Long gone, hours ago," Emmett announced, disappointed. "The trail went East, then South, and disappeared on a side road. Had a car waiting."

"That's bad luck," Edward muttered. "If he'd gone west . . . well, it would be nice for those dogs to make themselves useful."

I winced, and Esme rubbed my shoulder.

Jasper looked at Carlisle. "Neither of us recognized him. But here." He held out something green and crumpled. Carlisle took it from him and held it to his face. I saw, as it exchanged hands, that it was a broken fern frond. "Maybe you know the scent."

"No," Carlisle said. "Not familiar. No one I've ever met."

"Perhaps we're looking at this the wrong way. Maybe it's a coincidence . . . ," Esme began, but stopped when she saw everyone else's incredulous expressions. "I don't mean a coincidence that a stranger happened to pick Bella's house to visit at random. I meant that maybe someone was just curious. Our scent is all around her. Was he wondering what draws us there?"

"Why wouldn't he just come here then? If he was curious?" Emmett demanded.

"You would," Esme said with a sudden, fond smile. "The rest of us aren't always so direct. Our family is very large - he or she might be frightened. But Charlie wasn't harmed. This doesn't have to be an enemy."

Just curious. Like James and Victoria had been curious, in the beginning? The thought of Victoria made me tremble, though the one thing they seemed certain of was that it had not been her. Not this time. She would stick to her obsessed pattern. This was just someone else, a stranger.

I was slowly realizing that vampires were much bigger participants in this world than I'd once thought. How many times did the average human cross paths with them, completely unaware? How many deaths, obliviously reported as crimes and accidents, were really due to their thirst? How crowded would this new world be when I finally joined it?

The shrouded future sent a shiver down my spine.

The Cullens pondered Esme's words with varying expressions. I could see that Edward did not accept her theory, and that Carlisle very much wanted to.

Alice pursed her lips. "I don't think so. The timing of it was too perfect. . . . This visitor was so careful to make no contact. Almost like he or she knew that I would see. . . ."

"He could have other reasons for not making contact," Esme reminded her.

"Does it really matter who it was?" I asked. "Just the chance that someone was looking for me . . . isn't that reason enough? We shouldn't wait for graduation."

"No, Bella," Edward said quickly. "It's not that bad. If you're really in danger, we'll know."

"Think of Charlie," Carlisle reminded me. "Think of how it would hurt him if you disappeared."

"I am thinking of Charlie! He's the one I'm worried about! What if my little guest had happened to be thirsty last night? As long as I'm around Charlie, he's a target, too. If anything happened to him, it would be all myfault!"

"Hardly, Bella," Esme said, patting my hair again. "And nothing will happen to Charlie. We're just going to have to be more careful."

"More careful?" I repeated in disbelief.

"It's all going to be fine, Bella," Alice promised; Edward squeezed my hand.

And I could see, looking at all of their beautiful faces one by one, that nothing I could say was going to change their minds.

It was a quiet ride home. I was frustrated. Against my better judgment, I was still human.

"You won't be alone for a second," Edward promised as he drove me to Charlie's. "Someone will always be there. Emmett, Alice, Jasper . . ."

I sighed. "This is ridiculous. They'll get so bored, they'll have to kill me themselves, just for something to do."

Edward gave me a sour look. "Hilarious, Bella."

Charlie was in a good mood when we got back. He could see the tension between me and Edward, and he was misinterpreting it. He watched me throw together his dinner with a smug smile on his face. Edward had excused himself for a moment, to do some surveillance, I assumed, but Charlie waited till he was back to pass on my messages.

"Jacob called again," Charlie said as soon as Edward was in the room. I kept my face empty as I set the plate in front of him.

"Is that a fact?"

Charlie frowned. "Don't be petty, Bella. He sounded really low."

"Is Jacob paying you for all the P.R., or are you a volunteer?"

Charlie grumbled incoherently at me until the food cut off his garbled complaint.

Though he didn't realize it, he'd found his mark.

My life was feeling a lot like a game of dice right now - would the next roll come up snake eyes? What if something did happen to me? It seemed worse than petty to leave Jacob feeling guilty about what he'd said. But I didn't want to talk to him with Charlie around, to have to watch my every word so I didn't let the wrong thing slip. Thinking about this made me jealous of Jacob and Billy's relationship. How easy it must be when you had no secrets from the person you lived with.

So I would wait for the morning. I most likely wasn't going to die tonight, after all, and it wouldn't hurt him to feel guilty for twelve more hours. It might even be good for him.

When Edward officially left for the evening, I wondered who was out in the downpour, keeping an eye on Charlie and me. I felt awful for Alice or whoever else it might be, but still comforted. I had to admit it was nice, knowing I wasn't alone. And Edward was back in record time.

He sang me to sleep again and - aware even in unconsciousness that he was there - I slept free of nightmares.

In the morning, Charlie left to go fishing with Deputy Mark before I was up. I decided to use this lack of supervision to be divine.

"I'm going to let Jacob off the hook," I warned Edward after I'd eaten breakfast.

"I knew you'd forgive him," he said with an easy smile. "Holding grudges is not one of your many talents."

I rolled my eyes, but I was pleased. It seemed like Edward really was over the whole anti-werewolf thing. I didn't look at the clock until after I'd dialed. It was a little early for calls, and I worried that I would wake Billy and Jake, but someone picked up before the second ring, so he couldn't have been too far from the phone.

"Hello?" a dull voice said.


"Bella!" he exclaimed. "Oh, Bella, I'm so sorry!" he tripped over the words as he hurried to get them out.

"I swear I didn't mean it. I was just being stupid. I was angry - but that's no excuse. It was the stupidest thing I've ever said in my life and I'm sorry. Don't be mad at me, please? Please. Lifetime of servitude up for grabs - all you have to do is forgive me."

"I'm not mad. You're forgiven."

"Thank you," he breathed fervently. "I can't believe I was such a jerk."

"Don't worry about that - I'm used to it."

He laughed, exuberant with relief. "Come down to see me," he begged. "I want to make it up to you."

I frowned. "How?"

"Anything you want. Cliff diving," he suggested, laughing again.

"Oh, there's a brilliant idea."

"I'll keep you safe," he promised. "No matter what you want to do."

I glanced at Edward. His face was very calm, but I was sure this was not the time.

"Not right now."

"He's not thrilled with me, is he?" Jacob's voice was ashamed, rather than bitter, for once.

"That's not the problem. There's . . . well, there's this other problem that's slightly more worrisome than a bratty teenage werewolf. . . ." I tried to keep my tone joking, but I didn't fool him.

"What's wrong?" he demanded.

"Um." I wasn't sure what I should tell him.

Edward held his hand out for the phone. I looked at his face carefully. He seemed calm enough.

"Bella?" Jacob asked.

Edward sighed, holding his hand closer.

"Do you mind speaking to Edward?" I asked apprehensively. "He wants to talk to you."

There was a long pause.

"Okay," Jacob finally agreed. "This should be interesting."

I handed the phone to Edward; I hoped he could read the warning in my eyes.

"Hello, Jacob," Edward said, perfectly polite.

There was a silence. I bit my lip, trying to guess how Jacob would answer.

"Someone was here - not a scent I know," Edward explained. "Has your pack come across anything new?"

Another pause, while Edward nodded to himself, unsurprised.

"Here's the crux, Jacob. I won't be letting Bella out of my sight till I get this taken care of. It's nothing personal -"

Jacob interrupted him then, and I could hear the buzz of his voice from the receiver. Whatever he was saying, he was more intense than before. I tried unsuccessfully to make out the words.

"You might be right -," Edward began, but Jacob was arguing again. Neither of them sounded angry, at least.

"That's an interesting suggestion. We're quite willing to renegotiate. If Sam is amenable."

Jacob's voice was quieter now. I started chewing on my thumbnail as I tried to read Edward's expression.

"Thank you," Edward replied.

Then Jacob said something that caused a surprised expression to flicker across Edward's face.

"I'd planned to go alone, actually," Edward said, answering the unexpected question. "And leave her with the others."

Jacob's voice rose in pitch, and it sounded to me like he was trying to be persuasive.

"I'll try to consider it objectively," Edward promised. "As objectively as I'm capable of."

The pause was shorter this time.

"That's not a half-bad idea. When? . . . No, that's fine. I'd like a chance to follow the trail personally, anyway. Ten minutes . . . Certainly," Edward said. He held the phone out to me. "Bella?"

I took it slowly, feeling confused.

"What was that all about?" I asked Jacob, my voice peeved. I knew it was juvenile, but I felt excluded.

"A truce, I think. Hey, do me a favor," Jacob suggested. "Try to convince your bloodsucker that the safest place for you to be - especially when he leaves - is on the reservation. We're well able to handle anything."

"Is that what you were trying to sell him?"

"Yes. It makes sense. Charlie's probably better off here, too. As much as possible."

"Get Billy on it," I agreed. I hated that I was putting Charlie within the range of the crosshairs that always seemed to be centered on me. "What else?"

"Just rearranging some boundaries, so we can catch anyone who gets too near Forks. I'm not sure if Sam will go for it, but until he comes around, I'll keep an eye on things."

"What do you mean by 'keep an eye on things'?"

"I mean that if you see a wolf running around your house, don't shoot at it."

"Of course not. You really shouldn't do anything . . . risky, though."

He snorted. "Don't be stupid. I can take care of myself."

I sighed.

"I also tried to convince him to let you visit. He's prejudiced, so don't let him give you any crap about safety. He knows as well as I do that you'd be safe here."

"I'll keep that in mind."

"See you in a few," Jacob said.

"You're coming up?"

"Yeah. I'm going to get the scent of your visitor so we can track him if he comes back."

"Jake, I really don't like the idea of you tracking -"

"Oh please, Bella," he interrupted. Jacob laughed, and then hung up.

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