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(Twilight #4) Breaking Dawn Author: Stephenie Meyer

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发表于 2016-8-10 17:16 | 显示全部楼层 |阅读模式

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本帖最后由 慕然回首 于 2016-8-18 16:11 编辑

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BOOK ONE: BELLA

        I'd had more than my fair share of near-death experiences; it wasn't something you ever really got used to.

        It seemed oddly inevitable, though, facing death again. Like I really was marked for disaster. I'd escaped time and time again, but it kept coming back for me.

        Still, this time was so different from the others.

        You could run from someone you feared, you could try to fight someone you hated. All my reactions were geared toward those kinds of killers - the monsters, the enemies.

        When you loved the one who was killing you, it left you no options. How could you run, how could you fight, when doing so would hurt that beloved one? If your life was all you had to give your beloved, how could you not give it?

        If it was someone you truly loved?


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发表于 2016-8-10 17:19 | 显示全部楼层
1. ENGAGED

No one is staring at you,I promised myself. No one is staring at you. No one is staring at you.

But, because I couldn't lie convincingly even to myself, I had to check.

As I sat waiting for one of the three traffic lights in town to turn green, I peeked to the right - in her minivan, Mrs. Weber had turned her whole torso in my direction. Her eyes bored into mine, and I flinched back, wondering why she didn't drop her gaze or look ashamed. It was still considered rude to stare at people, wasn't it? Didn't that apply to me anymore?

Then I remembered that these windows were so darkly tinted that she probably had no idea if it was even me in here, let alone that I'd caught her looking. I tried to take some comfort in the fact that she wasn't really staring at me, just the car.

My car. Sigh.

I glanced to the left and groaned. Two pedestrians were frozen on the sidewalk, missing their chance to cross as they stared. Behind them, Mr. Marshall was gawking through the plate-glass window of his little souvenir shop. At least he didn't have his nose pressed up against the glass. Yet.

The light turned green and, in my hurry to escape, I stomped on the gas pedal without thinking - the normal way I would have punched it to get my ancient Chevy truck moving.

Engine snarling like a hunting panther, the car jolted forward so fast that my body slammed into the black leather seat and my stomach flattened against my spine.

"Arg!" I gasped as I fumbled for the brake. Keeping my head, I merely tapped the pedal. The car lurched to an absolute standstill anyway.

I couldn't bear to look around at the reaction. If there had been any doubt as to who was driving this car before, it was gone now. With the toe of my shoe, I gently nudged the gas pedal down one half millimeter, and the car shot forward again.

I managed to reach my goal, the gas station. If I hadn't been running on vapors, I wouldn't have come into town at all. I was going without a lot of things these days, like Pop-Tarts and shoelaces, to avoid spending time in public.

Moving as if I were in a race, I got the hatch open, the cap off, the card scanned, and the nozzle in the tank within seconds. Of course, there was nothing I could do to make the numbers on the gauge pick up the pace. They ticked by sluggishly, almost as if they were doing it just to annoy me.

It wasn't bright out - a typical drizzly day in Forks, Washington - but I still felt like a spotlight was trained on me, drawing attention to the delicate ring on my left hand. At times like this, sensing the eyes on my back, it felt as if the ring were pulsing like a neon sign: Look at me, look at me.

It was stupid to be so self-conscious, and I knew that. Besides my dad and mom, did it really matter what people were saying about my engagement? About my new car? About my mysterious acceptance into an Ivy League college? About the shiny black credit card that felt red-hot in my back pocket right now?

"Yeah, who cares what they think," I muttered under my breath.

"Urn, miss?" a man's voice called.

I turned, and then wished I hadn't.

Two men stood beside a fancy SUV with brand-new kayaks tied to the top. Neither of them was looking at me; they both were staring at the car.

Personally, I didn't get it. But then, I was just proud I could distinguish between the symbols for Toyota, Ford, and Chevy. This car was glossy black, sleek, and pretty, but it was still just a car to me.

"I'm sorry to bother you, but could you tell me what kind of car you're driving?" the tall one asked.

"Urn, a Mercedes, right?"

"Yes," the man said politely while his shorter friend rolled his eyes at my answer. "I know. But I was wondering, is that... are you driving a Mercedes Guardian?" The man said the name with reverence. I had a feeling this guy would get along well with Edward Cullen, my... my fiance (there really was no getting around that truth with the wedding just days away). "They aren't supposed to be available in Europe yet," the man went on, "let alone here."

While his eyes traced the contours of my car - it didn't look much different from any other Mercedes sedan to me, but what did I know? - I briefly contemplated my issues with words like fiance, wedding, husband, etc.

I just couldn't put it together in my head.

On the one hand, I had been raised to cringe at the very thought of poofy white dresses and bouquets. But more than that, I just couldn't reconcile a staid, respectable, dull concept like husband with my concept of Edward. It was like casting an archangel as an accountant; I couldn't visualize him in any commonplace role.

Like always, as soon as I started thinking about Edward I was caught up in a dizzy spin of fantasies. The stranger had to clear his throat to get my attention; he was still waiting for an answer about the car's make and model.

"I don't know," I told him honestly.

"Do you mind if I take a picture with it?"

It took me a second to process that. "Really? You want to take a picture with the car?"

"Sure - nobody is going to believe me if I don't get proof."

"Urn. Okay. Fine."

I swiftly put away the nozzle and crept into the front seat to hide while the enthusiast dug a huge professional-looking camera out of his backpack. He and his friend took turns posing by the hood, and then they went to take pictures at the back end.

"I miss my truck," I whimpered to myself.

Very, very convenient - too convenient - that my truck would wheeze its last wheeze just weeks after Edward and I had agreed to our lopsided compromise, one detail of which was that he be allowed to replace my truck when it passed on. Edward swore it was only to be expected; my truck had lived a long, full life and then expired of natural causes. According to him. And, of course, I had no way to verify his story or to try to raise my truck from the dead on my own. My favorite mechanic -

I stopped that thought cold, refusing to let it come to a conclusion. Instead, I listened to the men's voices outside, muted by the car walls.

"... went at it with a flamethrower in the online video. Didn't even pucker the paint."

"Of course not. You could roll a tank over this baby. Not much of a market for one over here. Designed for Middle East diplomats, arms dealers, and drug lords mostly."

"Think she's something?" the short one asked in a softer voice. I ducked my head, cheeks flaming.

"Huh," the tall one said. "Maybe. Can't imagine what you'd need missile-proof glass and four thousand pounds of body armor for around here. Must be headed somewhere more hazardous."

Body armor. Four thousand pounds of body armor. And missile-proof glass? Nice. What had happened to good old-fashioned bulletproof?

Well, at least this made some sense - if you had a twisted sense of humor.

It wasn't like I hadn't expected Edward to take advantage of our deal, to weight it on his side so that he could give so much more than he would receive. I'd agreed that he could replace my truck when it needed replacing, not expecting that moment to come quite so soon, of course. When I'd been forced to admit that the truck had become no more than a still-life tribute to classic Chevys on my curb, I knew his idea of a replacement was probably going to embarrass me. Make me the focus of stares and whispers. I'd been right about that part. But even in my darkest imaginings I had not foreseen that he would get me two cars.

The "before" car and the "after" car, he'd explained when I'd flipped out.

This was just the "before" car. He'd told me it was a loaner and promised that he was returning it after the wedding. It all had made absolutely no sense to me. Until now.

Ha ha. Because I was so fragilely human, so accident-prone, so much a victim to my own dangerous bad luck, apparently I needed a tank-resistant car to keep me safe. Hilarious. I was sure he and his brothers had enjoyed the joke quite a bit behind my back.

Or maybe, just maybe,a small voice whispered in my head, it's not a joke, silly. Maybe he's really that worried about you. This wouldn't be the first time he's gone a little overboard trying to protect you.

I sighed.

I hadn't seen the "after" car yet. It was hidden under a sheet in the deepest corner of the Cullens' garage. I knew most people would have peeked by now, but I really didn't want to know.

Probably no body armor on that car - because I wouldn't need it after the honeymoon. Virtual indestructibility was just one of the many perks I was looking forward to. The best parts about being a Cullen were not expensive cars and impressive credit cards.

"Hey," the tall man called, cupping his hands to the glass in an effort to peer in. "We're done now. Thanks a lot!"

"You're welcome," I called back, and then tensed as I started the engine and eased the pedal - ever so gently - down___

No matter how many times I drove down the familiar road home, I still couldn't make the rain-faded flyers fade into the background. Each one of them, stapled to telephone poles and taped to street signs, was like a fresh slap in the face. A well-deserved slap in the face. My mind was sucked back into the thought I'd interrupted so immediately before. I couldn't avoid it on this road. Not with pictures of my favorite mechanic flashing past me at regular intervals.

My best friend. My Jacob.

Thehave you SEENthis boy? posters were not Jacob's father's idea. It had been my father, Charlie, who'd printed up the flyers and spread them all over town. And not just Forks, but Port Angeles and Sequim and Hoquiam and Aberdeen and every other town in the Olympic Peninsula. He'd made sure that all the police stations in the state of Washington had the same flyer hanging on the wall, too. His own station had a whole corkboard dedicated to finding Jacob. A corkboard that was mostly empty, much to his disappointment and frustration.

My dad was disappointed with more than the lack of response. He was most disappointed with Billy, Jacob's father - and Charlie's closest friend.

For Billy's not being more involved with the search for his sixteen-year-old "runaway." For Billy's refusing to put up the flyers in La Push, the reservation on the coast that was Jacob's home. For his seeming resigned to Jacob's disappearance, as if there was nothing he could do. For his saying, "Jacob's grown up now. He'll come home if he wants to."

And he was frustrated with me, for taking Billy's side.

I wouldn't put up posters, either. Because both Billy and I knew where Jacob was, roughly speaking, and we also knew that no one had seen this boy.

The flyers put the usual big, fat lump in my throat, the usual stinging tears in my eyes, and I was glad Edward was out hunting this Saturday. If Edward saw my reaction, it would only make him feel terrible, too.

Of course, there were drawbacks to it being Saturday. As I turned slowly and carefully onto my street, I could see my dad's police cruiser in the driveway of our home. He'd skipped fishing again today. Still sulking about the wedding.

So I wouldn't be able to use the phone inside. But I had to call___

I parked on the curb behind the Chevy sculpture and pulled the cell phone Edward had given me for emergencies out of the glove compartment. I dialed, keeping my finger on the "end" button as the phone rang. Just in case.

"Hello?" Seth Clearwater answered, and I sighed in relief. I was way too chicken to speak to his older sister, Leah. The phrase "bite my head off was not entirely a figure of speech when it came to Leah.

"Hey, Seth, it's Bella."

"Oh, hiya, Bella! How are you?"

Choked up. Desperate for reassurance. "Fine."

"Calling for an update?"

"You're psychic."

"Not hardly. I'm no Alice - you're just predictable," he joked. Among the Quileute pack down at La Push, only Seth was comfortable even mentioning the Cullens by name, let alone joking about things like my nearly omniscient sister-in-law-to-be.

"I know I am." I hesitated for a minute. "How is he?"

Seth sighed. "Same as ever. He won't talk, though we know he hears us. He's trying not to think human, you know. Just going with his instincts."

"Do you know where he is now?"

"Somewhere in northern Canada. I can't tell you which province. He doesn't pay much attention to state lines."

"Any hint that he might..."

"He's not coming home, Bella. Sorry."

I swallowed. "S'okay, Seth. I knew before I asked. I just can't help wishing."

"Yeah. We all feel the same way."

"Thanks for putting up with me, Seth. I know the others must give you a hard time."

"They're not your hugest fans," he agreed cheerfully. "Kind of lame, I think. Jacob made his choices, you made yours. Jake doesn't like their attitude about it. 'Course, he isn't super thrilled that you're checking up on him, either."

I gasped. "I thought he wasn't talking to you?"

"He can't hide everything from us, hard as he's trying."

So Jacob knew I was worried. I wasn't sure how I felt about that. Well, at least he knew I hadn't skipped off into the sunset and forgotten him completely. He might have imagined me capable of that.

"I guess I'll see you at the... wedding," I said, forcing the word out through my teeth.

"Yeah, me and my mom will be there. It was cool of you to ask us."

I smiled at the enthusiasm in his voice. Though inviting the Clearwaters had been Edward's idea, I was glad he'd thought of it. Having Seth there would be nice - a link, however tenuous, to my missing best man. "It wouldn't be the same without you."

"Tell Edward I said hi, 'kay?"

"Sure thing."

I shook my head. The friendship that had sprung up between Edward and Seth was something that still boggled my mind. It was proof, though, that things didn't have to be this way. That vampires and werewolves could get along just fine, thank you very much, if they were of a mind to.

Not everybody liked this idea.

"Ah," Seth said, his voice cracking up an octave. "Er, Leah's home."

"Oh! Bye!"

The phone went dead. I left it on the seat and prepared myself mentally to go inside the house, where Charlie would be waiting.

My poor dad had so much to deal with right now. Jacob-the-runaway was just one of the straws on his overburdened back. He was almost as worried about me, his barely-a-legal-adult daughter who was about to become a Mrs. in just a few days' time.

I walked slowly through the light rain, remembering the night we'd told him___

As the sound of Charlie's cruiser announced his return, the ring suddenly weighed a hundred pounds on my finger. I wanted to shove my left hand in a pocket, or maybe sit on it, but Edward's cool, firm grasp kept it front and center.

"Stop fidgeting, Bella. Please try to remember that you're not confessing to a murder here."

"Easy for you to say."

I listened to the ominous sound of my father's boots clomping up the sidewalk. The key rattled in the already open door. The sound reminded me of that part of the horror movie when the victim realizes she's forgotten to lock herdeadbolt.

"Calm down, Bella," Edward whispered, listening to the acceleration of my heart.

The door slammed against the wall, and I flinched like I'd been Tasered.

"Hey, Charlie," Edward called, entirely relaxed.

"No!" I protested under my breath.

"What?" Edward whispered back.

"Wait till he hangs his gun up!"

Edward chuckled and ran his free hand through his tousled bronze hair.

Charlie came around the corner, still in his uniform, still armed, and tried not to make a face when he spied us sitting together on the loveseat. Lately, he'd been putting forth a lot of effort to like Edward more. Of course, this revelation was sure to end that effort immediately.

"Hey, kids. What's up?"

"We'd like to talk to you," Edward said, so serene. "We have some good news."

Charlie's expression went from strained friendliness to black suspicion in a second.

"Good news?" Charlie growled, looking straight at me.

"Have a seat, Dad."

He raised one eyebrow, stared at me for five seconds, then stomped to the recliner and sat down on the very edge, his back ramrod straight.

"Don't get worked up, Dad," I said after a moment of loaded silence. "Everything's okay."

Edward grimaced, and I knew it was in objection to the word okay. He probably would have used something more like wonderful or perfect or glorious.

"Sure it is, Bella, sure it is. If everything is so great, then why are you sweating bullets?"

"I'm not sweating," I lied.

I leaned away from his fierce scowl, cringing into Edward, and instinctively wiped the back of my right hand across my forehead to remove the evidence.

"You're pregnant!" Charlie exploded. "You're pregnant, aren't you?"

Though the question was clearly meant for me, he was glaring at Edward now, and I could have sworn I saw his hand twitch toward the gun.

"No! Of course I'm not!" I wanted to elbow Edward in the ribs, but I knew that move would only give me a bruise. I'd told Edward that people would immediately jump to this conclusion! What other possible reason would sane people have for getting married at eighteen? (His answer then had made me roll my eyes. Love. Right.)

Charlie's glower lightened a shade. It was usually pretty clear on my face when I was telling the truth, and he believed me now. "Oh. Sorry."

"Apology accepted."

There was a long pause. After a moment, I realized everyone was waiting for me to say something. I looked up at Edward, panic-stricken. There was no way I was going to get the words out.

He smiled at me and then squared his shoulders and turned to my father.

"Charlie, I realize that I've gone about this out of order. Traditionally, I should have asked you first. I mean no disrespect, but since Bella has already said yes and I don't want to diminish her choice in the matter, instead of asking you for her hand, I'm asking you for your blessing. We're getting married, Charlie. I love her more than anything in the world, more than my own life, and - by some miracle - she loves me that way, too. Will you give us your blessing?"

He sounded so sure, so calm. For just an instant, listening to the absolute confidence in his voice, I experienced a rare moment of insight, i could see, fleetingly, the way the world looked to him. For the length of one heartbeat, this news made perfect sense.

And then I caught sight of the expression on Charlie's face, his eyes now locked on the ring.

I held my breath while his skin changed colors - fair to red, red to purple, purple to blue. I started to get up - I'm not sure what I planned to do; maybe use the Heimlich maneuver to make sure he wasn't choking - but Edward squeezed my hand and murmured "Give him a minute" so low that only I could hear.

The silence was much longer this time. Then, gradually, shade by shade, Charlie's color returned to normal. His lips pursed, and his eyebrows furrowed; I recognized his "deep in thought" expression. He studied the two of us for a long moment, and I felt Edward relax at my side.

"Guess I'm not that surprised," Charlie grumbled. "Knew I'd have to deal with something like this soon enough."

I exhaled.

"You sure about this?" Charlie demanded, glaring at me.

"I'm one hundred percent sure about Edward," I told him without missing a beat.

"Getting married, though? What's the rush?" He eyed me suspiciously again.

The rush was due to the fact that I was getting closer to nineteen every stinking day, while Edward stayed frozen in all his seventeen-year-old perfection, as he had for over ninety years. Not that this fact necessitated marriage in my book, but the wedding was required due to the delicate and tangled compromise Edward and I had made to finally get to this point, the brink of my transformation from mortal to immortal.

These weren't things I could explain to Charlie.

"We're going away to Dartmouth together in the fall, Charlie," Edward reminded him. "I'd like to do that, well, the right way. It's how I was raised." He shrugged.

He wasn't exaggerating; they'd been big on old-fashioned morals during World War I.

Charlie's mouth twisted to the side. Looking for an angle to argue from. But what could he say? I'd prefer you live in sin first? He was a dad; his hands were tied.

"Knew this was coming," he muttered to himself, frowning. Then, suddenly, his face went perfectly smooth and blank.

"Dad?" I asked anxiously. I glanced at Edward, but I couldn't read his face, either, as he watched Charlie.

"Ha!" Charlie exploded. I jumped in my seat. "Ha, ha, ha!"

I stared incredulously as Charlie doubled over in laughter; his whole body shook with it.

I looked at Edward for a translation, but Edward had his lips pressed tightly together, like he was trying to hold back laughter himself.

"Okay, fine," Charlie choked out. "Get married." Another roll of laughter shook through him. "But..."

"But what?" I demanded.

"But you have to tell your mom! I'm not saying one word to Renee! That's all yours!" He busted into loud guffaws.

I paused with my hand on the doorknob, smiling. Sure, at the time, Charlie's words had terrified me. The ultimate doom: telling Renee. Early marriage was higher up on her blacklist than boiling live puppies.

Who could have foreseen her response? Not me. Certainly not Charlie. Maybe Alice, but I hadn't thought to ask her.

"Well, Bella," Renee had said after I'd choked and stuttered out the impossible words: /Worn, I'm marrying Edward. Tm a little miffed that you waited so long to tell me. Plane tickets only get more expensive. Oooh," she'd fretted. "Do you think Phil's cast will be off by then? It will spoil the pictures if he's not in a tux - "

"Back up a second, Mom." I'd gasped. "What do you mean, waited so long? I just got en-en . . ." - I'd been unable to force out the word engaged - "things settled, you know, today."

"Today? Really? That is a surprise. I assumed ..."

"What did you assume? When did you assume?"

"Well, when you came to visit me in April, it looked like things were pretty much sewn up, if you know what I mean. You're not very hard to read, sweetie. But I didn't say anything because I knew it wouldn't do any good. You're exactly like Charlie." She'd sighed, resigned. "Once you make up your mind, there is no reasoning with you. Of course, exactly like Charlie, you stick by your decisions, too."

And then she'd said the last thing that I'd ever expected to hear from my mother.

"You're not making my mistakes, Bella. You sound like you're scared silly, and I'm guessing it's because you're afraid of me." She'd giggled. "Of what I'm going to think. And I know I've said a lot of things about marriage and stupidity - and I'm not taking them back - but you need to realize that those things specifically applied to me. You're a completely different person than I am. You make your own kinds of mistakes, and I'm sure you'll have your share of regrets in life. But commitment was never your problem, sweetie. You have a better chance of making this work than most forty-year-olds I know." Renee had laughed again. "My little middle-aged child. Luckily, you seem to have found another old soul."

"You're not... mad? You don't think I'm making a humongous mistake?"

"Well, sure, I wish you'd wait a few more years. I mean, do I look old enough to be a mother-in-law to you? Don't answer that. But this isn't about me. This is about you. Are you happy?"

"I don't know. I'm having an out-of-body experience right now."

Renee had chuckled. "Does he make you happy, Bella?"

"Yes, but - "

"Are you ever going to want anyone else?"

"No, but - "

"But what?"

"But aren't you going to say that I sound exactly like every other infatuated teenager since the dawn of time?"

"You've never been a teenager, sweetie. You know what's best for you."

For the last few weeks, Renee had unexpectedly immersed herself in wedding plans. She'd spent hours every day on the phone with Edward's mother, Esme - no worries about the in-laws getting along. Renee adored Esme, but then, I doubted anyone could help responding that way to my lovable almost-mother-in-law.

It let me right off the hook. Edward's family and my family were taking care of the nuptials together without my having to do or know or think too hard about any of it.

Charlie was furious, of course, but the sweet part was that he wasn't furious at me. Renee was the traitor. He'd counted on her to play the heavy. What could he do now, when his ultimate threat - telling Mom - had turned out to be utterly empty? He had nothing, and he knew it. So he moped around the house, muttering things about not being able to trust anyone in this world___

"Dad?" I called as I pushed open the front door. "I'm home."

"Hold on, Bells, stay right there."

"Huh?" I asked, pausing automatically.

"Gimme a second. Ouch, you got me, Alice."

Alice?

"Sorry, Charlie," Alice's trilling voice responded. "How's that?"

"I'm bleeding on it."

"You're fine. Didn't break the skin - trust me."

"What's going on?" I demanded, hesitating in the doorway.

"Thirty seconds, please, Bella," Alice told me. "Your patience will be rewarded."

"Humph," Charlie added.

I tapped my foot, counting each beat. Before I got to thirty, Alice said, "Okay, Bella, come in!"

Moving with caution, I rounded the little corner into our living room.

"Oh," I huffed. "Aw. Dad. Don't you look - "

"Silly?" Charlie interrupted.

"I was thinking more like debonair"

Charlie blushed. Alice took his elbow and tugged him around into a slow spin to showcase the pale gray tux.

"Now cut that out, Alice. I look like an idiot."

"No one dressed by me ever looks like an idiot."

"She's right, Dad. You look fabulous! What's the occasion?"

Alice rolled her eyes. "It's the final check on the fit. For both of you."

I peeled my gaze off the unusually elegant Charlie for the first time and saw the dreaded white garment bag laid carefully across the sofa.

"Aaah."

"Go to your happy place, Bella. It won't take long."

I sucked in a deep breath and closed my eyes. Keeping them shut, I stumbled my way up the stairs to my room. I stripped down to my underwear and held my arms straight out.

"You'd think I was shoving bamboo splinters under your nails," Alice muttered to herself as she followed me in.

I paid no attention to her. I was in my happy place.

In my happy place, the whole wedding mess was over and done. Behind me. Already repressed and forgotten.

We were alone, just Edward and me. The setting was fuzzy and constantly in flux - it morphed from misty forest to cloud-covered city to arctic night - because Edward was keeping the location of our honeymoon a secret to surprise me. But I wasn't especially concerned about the where part.

Edward and I were together, and I'd fulfilled my side of our compromise perfectly. I'd married him. That was the big one. But I'd also accepted all his outrageous gifts and was registered, however futilely, to attend Dartmouth College in the fall. Now it was his turn.

Before he turned me into a vampire - his big compromise - he had one other stipulation to make good on.

Edward had an obsessive sort of concern over the human things that I would be giving up, the experiences he didn't want me to miss. Most of them - like the prom, for example - seemed silly to me. There was only one human experience I worried about missing. Of course it would be the one he wished I would forget completely.

Here was the thing, though. I knew a little about what I was going to be like when I wasn't human anymore. I'd seen newborn vampires firsthand, and I'd heard all my family-to-be's stories about those wild early days. For several years, my biggest personality trait was going to be thirsty, it would take some time before I could be me again. And even when I was in control of myself, I would never feel exactly the way I felt now.

Human... and passionately in love.

I wanted the complete experience before I traded in my warm, breakable, pheromone-riddled body for something beautiful, strong... and unknown. I wanted a real honeymoon with Edward. And, despite the danger he feared this would put me in, he'd agreed to try.

I was only vaguely aware of Alice and the slip and slide of satin over my skin. I didn't care, for the moment, that the whole town was talking about me. I didn't think about the spectacle I would have to star in much too soon. I didn't worry about tripping on my train or giggling at the wrong moment or being too young or the staring audience or even the empty seat where my best friend should be.

I was with Edward in my happy place.
发表于 2016-8-10 17:23 | 显示全部楼层
2. LONG NIGHT

"I miss you already."

"I don't need to leave. I can stay___"

"Mmm."

It was quiet for a long moment, just the thud of my heart hammering, the broken rhythm of our ragged breathing, and the whisper of our lips moving in synchronization.

Sometimes it was so easy to forget that I was kissing a vampire. Not because he seemed ordinary or human - I could never for a second forget that I was holding someone more angel than man in my arms - but because he made it seem like nothing at all to have his lips against my lips, my face, my throat. He claimed he was long past the temptation my blood used to be for him, that the idea of losing me had cured him of any desire for it. But I knew the smell of my blood still caused him pain - still burned his throat like he was inhaling flames.

I opened my eyes and found his open, too, staring at my face. It made no sense when he looked at me that way. Like I was the prize rather than the outrageously lucky winner.

Our gazes locked for a moment; his golden eyes were so deep that I imagined I could see all the way into his soul. It seemed silly that this fact - the existence of his soul - had ever been in question, even if he was a vampire. He had the most beautiful soul, more beautiful than his brilliant mind or his incomparable face or his glorious body.

He looked back at me as if he could see my soul, too, and as if he liked what he saw.

He couldn't see into my mind, though, the way he saw into everyone else's. Who knew why - some strange glitch in my brain that made it immune to all the extraordinary and frightening things some immortals could do. (Only my mind was immune; my body was still subject to vampires with abilities that worked in ways other than Edward's.) But I was seriously grateful to whatever malfunction it was that kept my thoughts a secret. It was just too embarrassing to consider the alternative.

I pulled his face to mine again.

"Definitely staying," he murmured a moment later.

"No, no. It's your bachelor party. You have to go."

I said the words, but the fingers of my right hand locked into his bronze hair, my left pressed tighter against the small of his back. His cool hands stroked my face.

"Bachelor parties are designed for those who are sad to see the passing of their single days. I couldn't be more eager to have mine behind me. So there's really no point."

"True." I breathed against the winter-cold skin of his throat.

This was pretty close to my happy place. Charlie slept obliviously in his room, which was almost as good as being alone. We were curled up on my small bed, intertwined as much as it was possible, considering the thick afghan I was swathed in like a cocoon. I hated the necessity of the blanket, but it sort of ruined the romance when my teeth started chattering. Charlie would notice if I turned the heat on in August___

At least, if had to be bundled up, Edward's shirt was on the floor. I never got over the shock of how perfect his body was - white, cool, and polished as marble. I ran my hand down his stone chest now, tracing across the flat planes of his stomach, just marveling. A light shudder rippled through him, and his mouth found mine again. Carefully, I let the tip of my tongue press against his glass-smooth lip, and he sighed. His sweet breath washed - cold and delicious - over my face.

He started to pull away - that was his automatic response whenever he decided things had gone too far, his reflex reaction whenever he most wanted to keep going. Edward had spent most of his life rejecting any kind of physical gratification. I knew it was terrifying to him trying to change those habits now.

"Wait," I said, gripping his shoulders and hugging myself close to him. I kicked one leg free and wrapped it around his waist. "Practice makes perfect."

He chuckled. "Well, we should be fairly close to perfection by this point, then, shouldn't we? Have you slept at all in the last month?"

"But this is the dress rehearsal," I reminded him, "and we've only practiced certain scenes. It's no time for playing safe."

I thought he would laugh, but he didn't answer, and his body was motionless with sudden stress. The gold in his eyes seemed to harden from a liquid to a solid.

I thought over my words, realized what he would have heard in them.

"Bella...," he whispered.

"Don't start this again," I said. "A deal's a deal."

"I don't know. It's too hard to concentrate when you're with me like this. I - I can't think straight. I won't be able to control myself. You'll get hurt."

"I'll be fine."

"Bella . .."

"Shh!" I pressed my lips to his to stop his panic attack. I'd heard it before. He wasn't getting out of this deal. Not after insisting I marry him first.

He kissed me back for a moment, but I could tell he wasn't as into it as before. Worrying, always worrying. How different it would be when he didn't need to worry about me anymore. What would he do with all his free time? He'd have to get a new hobby.

"How are your feet?" he asked.

Knowing he didn't mean that literally, I answered, Toasty warm."

"Really? No second thoughts? It's not too late to change your mind."

"Are you trying to ditch me?"

He chuckled. "Just making sure. I don't want you to do anything you're not sure about."

"I'm sure about you. The rest I can live through."

He hesitated, and I wondered if I'd put my foot in my mouth again.

"Can you?" he asked quietly. "I don't mean the wedding - which I am positive you will survive despite your qualms - but afterward... what about Renee, what about Charlie?"

I sighed. "I'll miss them." Worse, that they would miss me, but I didn't want to give him any fuel.

"Angela and Ben and Jessica and Mike."

"I'll miss my friends, too." I smiled in the darkness. "Especially Mike. Oh, Mike! How will I go on?"

He growled.

I laughed but then was serious. "Edward, we've been through this and through this. I know it will be hard, but this is what I want. I want you, and I want you forever. One lifetime is simply not enough for me."

"Frozen forever at eighteen," he whispered.

"Every woman's dream come true," I teased.

"Never changing... never moving forward."

"What does that mean?"

He answered slowly. "Do you remember when we told Charlie we were getting married? And he thought you were... pregnant?"

"And he thought about shooting you," I guessed with a laugh. "Admit it - for one second, he honestly considered it."

He didn't answer.

"What, Edward?"

"I just wish... well, I wish that he'd been right."

"Gah," I gasped.

"More that there was some way he could have been. That we had that kind of potential. I hate taking that away from you, too."

It took me a minute. "I know what I'm doinq."

"How could you know that, Bella? Look at my mother, look at my sister. It's not as easy a sacrifice as you imagine."

"Esme and Rosalie get by just fine. If it's a problem later, we can do what Esme did - we'll adopt."

He sighed, and then his voice was fierce. "It's not right I don't want you to have to make sacrifices for me. I want to give you things, not take things away from you. I don't want to steal your future. If I were human - "

I put my hand over his lips. "You are my future. Now stop. No moping, or I'm calling your brothers to come and get you. Maybe you need a bachelor party."

"I'm sorry. I am moping, aren't I? Must be the nerves."

"Are your feet cold?"

"Not in that sense. I've been waiting a century to marry you, Miss Swan. The wedding ceremony is the one thing I can't wait - " He broke off mid-thought. "Oh, for the love of all that's holy!"

"What's wrong?"

He gritted his teeth. "You don't have to call my brothers. Apparently Emmett and Jasper are not going to let me bow out tonight."

I clutched him closer for one second and then released him. I didn't have a prayer of winning a tug-of-war with Emmett. "Have fun."

There was a squeal against the window - someone deliberately scraping their steel nails across the glass to make a horrible, cover-your-ears, goose-bumps-down-your-spine noise. I shuddered.

"If you don't send Edward out," Emmett - still invisible in the night - hissed menacingly, "we're coming in after him!"

"Go," I laughed. "Before they break my house."

Edward rolled his eyes, but he got to his feet in one fluid movement and had his shirt back on in another. He leaned down and kissed my forehead.

"Get to sleep. You've got a big day tomorrow."

"Thanks! That's sure to help me wind down."

"I'll meet you at the altar."

"HI be the one in white." I smiled at how perfectly blase I sounded.

He chuckled, said, "Very convincing," and then suddenly sank into a crouch, his muscles coiled like a spring. He vanished - launching himself out my window too swiftly for my eyes to follow.

Outside, there was a muted thud, and I heard Emmett curse.

"You'd better not make him late," I murmured, knowing they could hear.

And then Jaspers face was peering in my window, his honey hair silver in the weak moonlight that worked through the clouds.

"Don't worry, Bella. We'll get him home in plenty of time."

I was suddenly very calm, and my qualms all seemed unimportant. Jasper was, in his own way, just as talented as Alice with her uncannily accurate predictions. Jasper's medium was moods rather than the future, and it was impossible to resist feeling the way he wanted you to feel.

I sat up awkwardly, still tangled in my blanket. "Jasper? What do vampires do for bachelor parties? You're not taking him to a strip club, are you?"

"Don't tell her anything!" Emmett growled from below. There was another thud, and Edward laughed quietly.

"Relax," Jasper told me - and I did. "We Cullens have our own version. Just a few mountain lions, a couple of grizzly bears. Pretty much an ordinary night out."

I wondered if I would ever be able to sound so cavalier about the "vegetarian" vampire diet.

"Thanks, Jasper."

He winked and dropped from sight.

It was completely silent outside. Charlie's muffled snores droned through the walls.

I lay back against my pillow, sleepy now. I stared at the walls of my little room, bleached pale in the moonlight, from under heavy lids.

My last night in my room. My last night as Isabella Swan. Tomorrow night, I would be Bella Cullen. Though the whole marriage ordeal was a thorn in my side, I had to admit that I liked the sound of that.

I let my mind wander idly for a moment, expecting sleep to take me. But, after a few minutes, I found myself more alert, anxiety creeping back into my stomach, twisting it into uncomfortable positions. The bed seemed too soft, too warm without Edward in it. Jasper was far away, and all the peaceful, relaxed feelings were gone with him.

It was going to be a very long day tomorrow.

I was aware that most of my fears were stupid - I just had to get over myself. Attention was an inevitable part of life. I couldn't always blend in with the scenery. However, I did have a few specific worries that were completely valid.

First there was the wedding dress's train. Alice clearly had let her artistic sense overpower practicalities on that one. Maneuvering the Cullens' staircase in heels and a train sounded impossible. I should have practiced.

Then there was the guest list.

Tanya's family, the Denali clan, would be arriving sometime before the ceremony.

It would be touchy to have Tanya's family in the same room with our guests from the Quileute reservation, Jacob's father and the Clearwaters. The Denalis were no fans of the werewolves. In fact, Tanya's sister irina was not coming to the wedding at all. She still nursed a vendetta against the werewolves for killing her friend Laurent (just as he was about to kill me). Thanks to that grudge, the Denalis had abandoned Edward's family in their worst hour of need. It had been the unlikely alliance with the Quileute wolves that had saved all our lives when the horde of newborn vampires had attacked___

Edward had promised me it wouldn't be dangerous to have the Denalis near the Quileutes. Tanya and all her family - besides Irina - felt horribly guilty for that defection. A truce with the werewolves was a small price to make up some of that debt, a price they were prepared to pay.

That was the big problem, but there was a small problem, too: my fragile self-esteem.

I'd never seen Tanya before, but I was sure that meeting her wouldn't be a pleasant experience for my ego. Once upon a time, before I was born probably, she'd made her play for Edward - not that I blamed her or anyone else for wanting him. Still, she would be beautiful at the very least and magnificent at best. Though Edward clearly - if inconceivably - preferred me, I wouldn't be able to help making comparisons.

I had grumbled a little until Edward, who knew my weaknesses, made me feel guilty.

"We're the closest thing they have to family, Bella,'7he'd reminded me. "They still feel like orphans, you know, even after all this time."

So I'd conceded, hiding my frown.

Tanya had a big family now, almost as big as the Cullens. There were five of them; Tanya, Kate, and Irina had been joined by Carmen and Eleazar much the same way the Cullens had been joined by Alice and Jasper, all of them bonded by their desire to live more compassionately than normal vampires did.

For all the company, though, Tanya and her sisters were still alone in one way. Still in mourning. Because a very long time ago, they'd had a mother, too.

I could imagine the hole that loss would leave, even after a thousand years; I tried to visualize the Cullen family without their creator, their center, and their guide - their father, Carlisle. I couldn't see it.

Carlisle had explained Tanya's history during one of the many nights I'd stayed late at the Cullens' home, learning as much as I could, preparing as much as was possible for the future I'd chosen. Tanya's mother's story was one among many, a cautionary tale illustrating just one of the rules I would need to be aware of when I joined the immortal world. Only one rule, actually - one law that broke down into a thousand different facets: Keep the secret.

Keeping the secret meant a lot of things - living inconspicuously like the Cullens, moving on before humans could suspect they weren't aging. Or keeping clear of humans altogether - except at mealtime - the way nomads like James and Victoria had lived; the way Jasper's friends, Peter and Charlotte, still lived. It meant keeping control of whatever new vampires you created, like Jasper had done when he'd lived with Maria. Like Victoria had failed to do with her newborns.

And it meant not creating some things in the first place, because some creations were uncontrollable.

"I don't know Tanya's mother's name," Carlisle had admitted, his golden eyes, almost the exact shade of his fair hair, sad with remembering Tanya's pain. "They never speak of her if they can avoid it, never think of her willingly.

"The woman who created Tanya, Kate, and Irina - who loved them, I believe - lived many years before I was born, during a time of plague in our world, the plague of the immortal children.

"What they were thinking, those ancient ones, I can't begin to understand. They created vampires out of humans who were barely more than infants."

I'd had to swallow back the bile that rose in my throat as I'd pictured what he was describing.

"They were very beautiful," Carlisle had explained quickly, seeing my reaction. "So endearing, so enchanting, you can't imagine. You had but to be near them to love them; it was an automatic thing.

"However, they could not be taught. They were frozen at whatever level of development they'd achieved before being bitten. Adorable two-year-olds with dimples and lisps that could destroy half a village in one of their tantrums. If they hungered, they fed, and no words of warning could restrain them. Humans saw them, stories circulated, fear spread like fire in dry brush___

"Tanya's mother created such a child. As with the other ancients, i cannot fathom her reasons." He'd taken a deep, steadying breath. "The Volturi became involved, of course."

I'd flinched as I always did at that name, but of course the legion of Italian vampires - royalty in their own estimation - was central to this story. There couldn't be a law if there was no punishment; there couldn't be a punishment if there was no one to deliver it. The ancients Aro, Caius, and Marcus ruled the Volturi forces; I'd only met them once, but in that brief encounter, it seemed to me that Aro, with his powerful mind-reading gift - one touch, and he knew every thought a mind had ever held - was the true leader.

"The Volturi studied the immortal children, at home in Volterra and all around the world. Caius decided the young ones were incapable of protecting our secret. And so they had to be destroyed.

"I told you they were loveable. Well, covens fought to the last man - were utterly decimated - to protect them. The carnage was not as widespread as the southern wars on this continent, but more devastating in its own way. Long-established covens, old traditions, friends... Much was lost. In the end, the practice was completely eliminated. The immortal children became unmentionable, a taboo.

"When I lived with the Volturi, I met two immortal children, so I know firsthand the appeal they had. Aro studied the little ones for many years after the catastrophe they'd caused was over. You know his inquisitive disposition; he was hopeful that they could be tamed. But in the end, the decision was unanimous: the immortal children could not be allowed to exist."

I'd all but forgotten the Denali sisters' mother when the story returned to her.

"It is unclear precisely what happened with Tanya's mother," Carlisle had said. "Tanya, Kate, and irina were entirely oblivious until the day the Volturi came for them, their mother and her illegal creation already their prisoners. It was ignorance that saved Tanya's and her sisters' lives. Aro touched them and saw their total innocence, so they were not punished with their mother.

"None of them had ever seen the boy before, or dreamed of his existence, until the day they watched him burn in their mother's arms. I can only guess that their mother had kept her secret to protect them from this exact outcome. But why had she created him in the first place? Who was he, and what had he meant to her that would cause her to cross this most uncrossable of lines? Tanya and the others never received an answer to any of these questions. But they could not doubt their mother's guilt, and I don't think they've ever truly forgiven her.

"Even with Aro's perfect assurance that Tanya, Kate, and Irina were innocent, Caius wanted them to burn. Guilty by association. They were lucky that Aro felt like being merciful that day. Tanya and her sisters were pardoned, but left with unhealing hearts and a very healthy respect for the law___"

I'm not sure where exactly the memory turned into a dream. One moment it seemed that I was listening to Carlisle in my memory, looking at his face, and then a moment later I was looking at a gray, barren field and smelling the thick scent of burning incense in the air. I was not alone there.

The huddle of figures in the center of the field, all shrouded in ashy cloaks, should have terrified me  - they could only be Volturi, and I was, against what they'd decreed at our last meeting, still human. But I knew, as I sometimes did in dreams, that I was invisible to them.

Scattered all around me were smoking heaps. I recognized the sweetness in the air and did not examine the mounds too closely. I had no desire to see the faces of the vampires they had executed, half afraid that I might recognize someone in the smoldering pyres.

The Volturi soldiers stood in a circle around something or someone, and I heard their whispery voices raised in agitation. I edged closer to the cloaks, compelled by the dream to see whatever thing or person they were examining with such intensity. Creeping carefully between two of the tall hissing shrouds, I finally saw the object of their debate, raised up on a little hillock above them.

He was beautiful, adorable, just as Carlisle had described. The boy was a toddler still, maybe two years of age. Light brown curls framed his cherubic face with its round cheeks and full lips. And he was trembling, his eyes closed as if he was too frightened to watch death coming closer every second.

I was struck with such a powerful need to save the lovely, terrified child that the Volturi, despite all their devastating menace, no longer mattered to me. I shoved past them, not caring if they realized my presence. Breaking free of them altogether, I sprinted toward the boy.

Only to stagger to a halt as I got a clear view of the hillock that he sat upon. It was not earth and rock, but a pile of human bodies, drained and lifeless. Too late not to see these faces. I knew them all  - Angela, Ben, Jessica, Mike.... And directly beneath the adorable boy were the bodies of my father and my mother.

The child opened his bright, blood red eyes.
发表于 2016-8-10 17:28 | 显示全部楼层
3. BIG DAY

My own eyes flew open.

I lay shivering and gasping in my warm bed for several minutes, trying to break free of the dream. The sky outside my window turned gray and then pale pink while I waited for my heart to slow.

When I was fully back to the reality of my messy, familiar room, I was a little annoyed with myself. What a dream to have the night before my wedding! That's what I got for obsessing over disturbing stories in the middle of the night.

Eager to shake off the nightmare, I got dressed and headed down to the kitchen long before I needed to. First I cleaned the already tidy rooms, and then when Charlie was up I made him pancakes. I was much too keyed up to have any interest in eating breakfast myself - I sat bouncing in my seat while he ate.

"You're picking up Mr. Weber at three o'clock," I reminded him.

"I don't have that much to do today besides bring the minister, Bells. I'm not likely to forget my only job." Charlie had taken the entire day off for the wedding, and he was definitely at loose ends. Now and then, his eyes flickered furtively to the closet under the stairs, where he kept his fishing gear.

"That's not your only job. You also have to be dressed and presentable."

He scowled into his cereal bowl and muttered the words "monkey suit" under his breath.

There was a brisk tapping on the front door.

"You think you have it bad," I said, grimacing as I rose. "Alice will be working on me all day long."

Charlie nodded thoughtfully, conceding that he did have the lesser ordeal. I ducked in to kiss the top of his head as I passed - he blushed and harrumphed - and then continued on to get the door for my best girlfriend and soon-to-be sister.

Alice's short black hair was not in its usual spiky do - it was smoothed into sleek pin curls around her pixie face, which wore a contrastingly businesslike expression. She dragged me from the house with barely a "Hey, Charlie" called over her shoulder.

Alice appraised me as I got into her Porsche.

"Oh, hell, look at your eyes!" She tsked in reproach. "What did you do? Stay up all night?"

"Almost."

She glowered. "I've only allotted so much time to make you stunning, Bella - you might have taken better care of my raw material."

"No one expects me to be stunning. I think the bigger problem is that I might fall asleep during the ceremony and not be able to say 1 do' at the right part, and then Edward will make his escape."

She laughed. "I'll throw my bouquet at you when it gets close."

"Thanks."

"At least you'll have plenty of time to sleep on the plane tomorrow."

I raised one eyebrow. Tomorrow, I mused. If we were heading out tonight after the reception, and we would still be on a plane tomorrow... well, we weren't going to Boise, Idaho. Edward hadn't dropped a single hint. I wasn't too stressed about the mystery, but it was strange not knowing where I would be sleeping tomorrow night. Or hopefully not sleeping ...

Alice realized that she'd given something away, and she frowned.

"You're all packed and ready," she said to distract me.

It worked. "Alice, I wish you would let me pack my own things!"

"It would have given too much away."

"And denied you an opportunity to shop."

"You'll be my sister officially in ten short hours... it's about time to get over this aversion to new clothes."

I glowered groggily out the windshield until we were almost to the house.

"Is he back yet?" I asked.

"Don't worry, he'll be there before the music starts. But you don't get to see him, no matter when he gets back. We're doing this the traditional way."

I snorted. "Traditional!"

"Okay, aside from the bride and groom."

"You know he's already peeked."

"Oh no - that's why I'm the only one who's seen you in the dress. I've been very careful to not think about it when he's around."

"Well," I said as we turned into the drive, "I see you got to reuse your graduation decorations." Three miles of drive were once again wrapped in hundreds of thousands of twinkle lights. This time, she'd added white satin bows.

"Waste not, want not. Enjoy this, because you don't get to see the inside decorations until it's time." She pulled into the cavernous garage north of the main house; Emmett's big Jeep was still gone.

"Since when is the bride not allowed to see the decorations?" I protested.

"Since she put me in charge. I want you to get the full impact coming down the stairs."

She clapped her hand over my eyes before she let me inside the kitchen. I was immediately assailed by the scent.

"What is that?" I wondered as she guided me into the house.

"Is it too much?" Alice's voice was abruptly worried. "You're the first human in here; I hope I got it right."

"it smells wonderful!" I assured her - almost intoxicating, but not at all overwhelming, the balance of the different fragrances was subtle and flawless. "Orange blossoms... lilac... and something else - am I right?"

"Very good, Bella. You only missed the freesia and the roses."

She didn't uncover my eyes until we were in her oversized bathroom. I stared at the long counter, covered in all the paraphernalia of a beauty salon, and began to feel my sleepless night.

"Is this really necessary? I'm going to look plain next to him no matter what."

She pushed me down into a low pink chair. "No one will dare to call you plain when I'm through with you."

"Only because they're afraid you'll suck their blood," I muttered. I leaned back in the chair and closed my eyes, hoping I'd be able to nap through it. I did drift in and out a little bit while she masked, buffed, and polished every surface of my body.

It was after lunchtime when Rosalie glided past the bathroom door in a shimmery silver gown with her golden hair piled up in a soft crown on top of her head. She was so beautiful it made me want to cry. What was even the point of dressing up with Rosalie around?

"They're back," Rosalie said, and immediately my childish fit of despair passed. Edward was home.

"Keep him out of here!"

"He won't cross you today," Rosalie reassured her. "He values his life too much. Esme's got them finishing things up out back. Do you want some help? I could do her hair."

My jaw fell open. I floundered around in my head, trying to remember how to close it.

I had never been Rosalie's favorite person in the world. Then, making things even more strained between us, she was personally offended by the choice I was making now. Though she had her impossible beauty, her loving family, and her soul mate in Emmett, she would have traded it all to be human. And here I was, callously throwing away everything she wanted in life like it was garbage. It didn't exactly warm her to me.

"Sure," Alice said easily. "You can start braiding. I want it intricate. The veil goes here, underneath." Her hands started combing through my hair, hefting it, twisting it, illustrating in detail what she wanted. When she was done, Rosalie's hands replaced hers, shaping my hair with a feather-light touch. Alice moved back to my face.

Once Rosalie received Alice's commendation on my hair, she was sent off to retrieve my dress and then to locate Jasper, who had been dispatched to pick up my mother and her husband, Phil, from their hotel. Downstairs, I could faintly hear the door opening and closing over and over. Voices began to float up to us.

Alice made me stand so that she could ease the dress over my hair and makeup. My knees shook so badly as she fastened the long line of pearl buttons up my back that the satin quivered in little wavelets down to the floor.

"Deep breaths, Bella/7Alice said. "And try to lower your heart rate. You're going to sweat off your new face."

I gave her the best sarcastic expression I could manage. "I'll get right on that."

"I have to get dressed now. Can you hold yourself together for two minutes?"

"Urn... maybe?"

She rolled her eyes and darted out the door.

I concentrated on my breathing, counting each movement of my lungs, and stared at the patterns that the bathroom light made on the shiny fabric of my skirt. I was afraid to look in the mirror - afraid the image of myself in the wedding dress would send me over the edge into a full-scale panic attack.

Alice was back before I had taken two hundred breaths, in a dress that flowed down her slender body like a silvery waterfall.

"Alice - wow."

"It's nothing. No one will be looking at me today. Not while you're in the room."

"Har har."

"Now, are you in control of yourself, or do I have to bring Jasper up here?"

"They're back? Is my mom here?"

"She just walked in the door. She's on her way up."

Renee had flown in two days ago, and I'd spent every minute I could with her - every minute that I could pry her away from Esme and the decorations, in other words. As far as I could tell, she was having more fun with this than a kid locked inside Disneyland overnight. In a way, I felt almost as cheated as Charlie. All that wasted terror over her reaction...

"Oh, Bella!" she squealed now, gushing before she was all the way through the door. "Oh, honey, you're so beautiful! Oh, I'm going to cry! Alice, you're amazing! You and Esme should go into business as wedding planners. Where did you find this dress? It's gorgeous! So graceful, so elegant. Bella, you look like you just stepped out of an Austen movie." My mother's voice sounded a little distance away, and everything in the room was slightly blurry. "Such a creative idea, designing the theme around Bella's ring. So romantic! To think it's been in Edward's family since the eighteen hundreds!"

Alice and I exchanged a brief conspiratorial look. My mom was off on the dress style by more than a hundred years. The wedding wasn't actually centered around the ring, but around Edward himself.

There was a loud, gruff throat-clearing in the doorway.

"Renee, Esme said it's time you got settled down there," Charlie said.

"Well, Charlie, don't you look dashing!" Renee said in a tone that was almost shocked. That might have explained the crustiness of Charlie's answer.

"Alice got to me."

"Is it really time already?" Renee said to herself, sounding almost as nervous as I felt. "This has all gone so fast. I feel dizzy."

That made two of us.

"Give me a hug before I go down/7Renee insisted. "Carefully now, don't tear anything."

My mother squeezed me gently around the waist, then wheeled for the door, only to complete the spin and face me again.

"Oh goodness, I almost forgot! Charlie, Where's the box?"

My dad rummaged in his pockets for a minute and then produced a small white box, which he handed to Renee. Renee lifted the lid and held it out to me.

"Something blue," she said.

"Something old, too. They were your Grandma Swan's," Charlie added. "We had a jeweler replace the paste stones with sapphires."

Inside the box were two heavy silver hair combs. Dark blue sapphires were clustered into intricate floral shapes atop the teeth.

My throat got all thick. "Mom, Dad... you shouldn't have."

"Alice wouldn't let us do anything else," Renee said. "Every time we tried, she all but ripped our throats out."

A hysterical giggle burst through my lips.

Alice stepped up and quickly slid both combs into my hair under the edge of the thick braids. "That's something old and something blue," Alice mused, taking a few steps back to admire me. "And your dress is new... so here - "

She flicked something at me. I held my hands out automatically, and the filmy white garter landed in my palms.

"That's mine and I want it back," Alice told me.

I blushed.

"There," Alice said with satisfaction. "A little color - that's all you needed. You are officially perfect." With a little self-congratulatory smile, she turned to my parents. "Renee, you need to get downstairs."

"Yes, ma'am." Renee blew me a kiss and hurried out the door.

"Charlie, would you grab the flowers, please?"

While Charlie was out of the room, Alice hooked the garter out of my hands and then ducked under my skirt. I gasped and tottered as her cold hand caught my ankle; she yanked the garter into place.

She was back on her feet before Charlie returned with the two frothy white bouquets. The scent of roses and orange blossom and freesia enveloped me in a soft mist.

Rosalie - the best musician in the family next to Edward - began playing the piano downstairs. Pachelbel's Canon. I began hyperventilating.

"Easy, Bells," Charlie said. He turned to Alice nervously. "She looks a little sick. Do you think she's going to make it?"

His voice sounded far away. I couldn't feel my legs.

"She'd better."

Alice stood right in front of me, on her tiptoes to better stare me in the eye, and gripped my wrists in her hard hands.

"Focus, Bella. Edward is waiting for you down there."

1 took a deep breath, willing myself into composure.

The music slowly morphed into a new song. Charlie nudged me. "Bells, we're up to bat."

"Bella?" Alice asked, still holding my gaze.

"Yes," I squeaked. "Edward. Okay." I let her pull me from the room, with Charlie tagging along at my elbow.

The music was louder in the hall. It floated up the stairs along with the fragrance of a million flowers. I concentrated on the idea of Edward waiting below to get my feet to shuffle forward.

The music was familiar, Wagner's traditional march surrounded by a flood of embellishments.

"It's my turn," Alice chimed. "Count to five and follow me." She began a slow, graceful dance down the staircase. I should have realized that having Alice as my only bridesmaid was a mistake. I would look that much more uncoordinated coming behind her.

A sudden fanfare trilled through the soaring music. I recognized my cue.

"Don't let me fall, Dad," I whispered. Charlie pulled my hand through his arm and then grasped it tightly.

One step ata time, I told myself as we began to descend to the slow tempo of the march. I didn't lift my eyes until my feet were safely on the flat ground, though I could hear the murmurs and rustling of the audience as I came into view. Blood flooded my cheeks at the sound; of course I could be counted on to be the blushing bride.

As soon as my feet were past the treacherous stairs, I was looking for him. For a brief second, I was distracted by the profusion of white blossoms that hung in garlands from everything in the room that wasn't alive, dripping with long lines of white gossamer ribbons. But I tore my eyes from the bowery canopy and searched across the rows of satin-draped chairs - blushing more deeply as I took in the crowd of faces all focused on me - until I found him at last, standing before an arch overflowing with more flowers, more gossamer.

I was barely conscious that Carlisle stood by his side, and Angela's father behind them both. I didn't see my mother where she must have been sitting in the front row, or my new family, or any of the guests  - they would have to wait till later.

All I really saw was Edward's face; it filled my vision and overwhelmed my mind. His eyes were a buttery, burning gold; his perfect face was almost severe with the depth of his emotion. And then, as he met my awed gaze, he broke into a breathtaking smile of exultation.

Suddenly, it was only the pressure of Charlie's hand on mine that kept me from sprinting headlong down the aisle.

The march was too slow as I struggled to pace my steps to its rhythm. Mercifully, the aisle was very short. And then, at last, at last, I was there. Edward held out his hand. Charlie took my hand and, in a symbol as old as the world, placed it in Edward's. I touched the cool miracle of his skin, and I was home.

Our vows were the simple, traditional words that had been spoken a million times, though never by a couple quite like us. We'd asked Mr. Weber to make only one small change. He obligingly traded the line "till death do us part" for the more appropriate "as long as we both shall live."

In that moment, as the minister said his part, my world, which had been upside down for so long now, seemed to settle into its proper position. I saw just how silly I'd been for fearing this - as if it were an unwanted birthday gift or an embarrassing exhibition, like the prom. I looked into Edward's shining, triumphant eyes and knew that I was winning, too. Because nothing else mattered but that I could stay withhim.

I didn't realize I was crying until it was time to say the binding words.

"I do," I managed to choke out in a nearly unintelligible whisper, blinking my eyes clear so I could see his face.

When it was his turn to speak, the words rang clear and victorious.

"I do," he vowed.

Mr. Weber declared us husband and wife, and then Edward's hands reached up to cradle my face, carefully, as if it were as delicate as the white petals swaying above our heads. I tried to comprehend, through the film of tears blinding me, the surreal fact that this amazing person was mine. His golden eyes looked as if they would have tears, too, if such a thing were not impossible. He bent his head toward mine, and I stretched up on the tips of my toes, throwing my arms - bouquet and all - around his neck.

He kissed me tenderly, adoringly; I forgot the crowd, the place, the time, the reason... only remembering that he loved me, that he wanted me, that I was his.

He began the kiss, and he had to end it; I clung to him, ignoring the titters and the throat-clearing in the audience. Finally, his hands restrained my face and he pulled back - too soon - to look at me. On the surface his sudden smile was amused, almost a smirk. But underneath his momentary entertainment at my public exhibition was a deep joy that echoed my own.

The crowd erupted into applause, and he turned our bodies to face our friends and family. I couldn't look away from his face to see them.

My mother's arms were the first to find me, her tear-streaked face the first thing I saw when I finally tore my eyes unwillingly from Edward. And then I was handed through the crowd, passed from embrace to embrace, only vaguely aware of who held me, my attention centered on Edward's hand clutched tightly in my own. I did recognize the difference between the soft, warm hugs of my human friends and the gentle, cool embraces of my new family.

One scorching hug stood out from all the others - Seth Clearwater had braved the throng of vampires to stand in for my lost werewolf friend.
发表于 2016-8-10 17:36 | 显示全部楼层
4. GESTURE

The wedding flowed into the reception party smoothly - proof of Alice's flawless planning. It was just twilight over the river; the ceremony had lasted exactly the right amount of time, allowing the sun to set behind the trees. The lights in the trees glimmered as Edward led me through the glass back doors, making the white flowers glow. There were another ten thousand flowers out here, serving as a fragrant, airy tent over the dance floor set up on the grass under two of the ancient cedars.

Things slowed down, relaxed as the mellow August evening surrounded us. The little crowd spread out under the soft shine of the twinkle lights, and we were greeted again by the friends we'd just embraced. There was time to talk now, to laugh.

"Congrats, guys," Seth Clearwater told us, ducking his head under the edge of a flower garland. His mother, Sue, was tight by his side, eyeing the guests with wary intensity. Her face was thin and fierce, an expression that was accented by her short, severe hairstyle; it was as short as her daughter Leah's - I wondered if she'd cut it the same way in a show of solidarity. Billy Black, on Seth's other side, was not as tense as Sue.

When I looked at Jacob's father, I always felt like I was seeing two people rather than just one. There was the old man in the wheelchair with the lined face and the white smile that everyone else saw. And then there was the direct descendant of a long line of powerful, magical chieftains, cloaked in the authority he'd been born with. Though the magic had - in the absence of a catalyst - skipped his generation, Billy was still a part of the power and the legend. It flowed straight through him. It flowed to his son, the heir to the magic, who had turned his back on it. That left Sam Uley to act as the chief of legends and magic now___

Billy seemed oddly at ease considering the company and the event - his black eyes sparkled like he'd just gotten some good news. I was impressed by his composure. This wedding must have seemed a very bad thing, the worst thing that could happen to his best friend's daughter, in Billy's eyes.

I knew it wasn't easy for him to restrain his feelings, considering the challenge this event foreshadowed to the ancient treaty between the Cullens and the Quileutes - the treaty that prohibited the Cullens from ever creating another vampire. The wolves knew a breach was coming, but the Cullens had no idea how they would react. Before the alliance, it would have meant an immediate attack. A war. But now that they knew each other better, would there be forgiveness instead?

As if in response to that thought, Seth leaned toward Edward, arms extended. Edward returned the hug with his free arm.

I saw Sue shudder delicately.

"It's good to see things work out for you, man," Seth said. "I'm happy for you."

"Thank you, Seth. That means a lot to me." Edward pulled away from Seth and looked at Sue and Billy. "Thank you, as well. For letting Seth come. For supporting Bella today."

"You're welcome," Billy said in his deep, gravelly voice, and I was surprised at the optimism in his tone. Perhaps a stronger truce was on the horizon.

A bit of a line was forming, so Seth waved goodbye and wheeled Billy toward the food. Sue kept one hand on each of them.

Angela and Ben were the next to claim us, followed by Angela's parents and then Mike and Jessica  - who were, to my surprise, holding hands. I hadn't heard that they were together again. That was nice.

Behind my human friends were my new cousins-in-law, the Denali vampire clan. I realized I was holding my breath as the vampire in front - Tanya, I assumed from the strawberry tint in her blond curls - reached out to embrace Edward. Next to her, three other vampires with golden eyes stared at me with open curiosity. One woman had long, pale blond hair, straight as corn silk. The other woman and the man beside her were both black-haired, with a hint of an olive tone to their chalky complexions.

And they were all four so beautiful that it made my stomach hurt.

Tanya was still holding Edward.

"Ah, Edward," she said. "I've missed you."

Edward chuckled and deftly maneuvered out of the hug, placing his hand lightly on her shoulder and stepping back, as if to get a better look at her. "It's been too long, Tanya. You look well."

"So do you."

"Let me introduce you to my wife." It was the first time Edward had said that word since it was officially true; he seemed like he would explode with satisfaction saying it now. The Denalis all laughed lightly in response. "Tanya, this is my Bella."

Tanya was every bit as lovely as my worst nightmares had predicted. She eyed me with a look that was much more speculative than it was resigned, and then reached out to take my hand.

"Welcome to the family, Bella." She smiled, a little rueful. "We consider ourselves Carlisle's extended family, and I am sorry about the, er, recent incident when we did not behave as such. We should have met you sooner. Can you forgive us?"

"Of course," I said breathlessly. "It's so nice to meet you."

"The Cullens are all evened up in numbers now. Perhaps it will be our turn next, eh, Kate?" She grinned at the blonde.

"Keep the dream alive," Kate said with a roll of her golden eyes. She took my hand from Tanya's and squeezed it gently. "Welcome, Bella."

The dark-haired woman put her hand on top of Kate's. "I'm Carmen, this is Eleazar. We're all so very pleased to finally meet you."

"M-me, too," I stuttered.

Tanya glanced at the people waiting behind her - Charlie's deputy, Mark, and his wife. Their eyes were huge as they took in the Denali clan.

"We'll get to know each other later. We'll have eons of time for that!" Tanya laughed as she and her family moved on.

All the standard traditions were kept. I was blinded by flashbulbs as we held the knife over a spectacular cake - too grand, I thought, for our relatively intimate group of friends and family. We took turns shoving cake in each other's faces; Edward manfully swallowed his portion as I watched in disbelief. I threw my bouquet with atypical skill, right into Angela's surprised hands. Emmett and Jasper howled with laughter at my blush while Edward removed my borrowed garter - which I'd shimmied down nearly to my ankle - verycarefully with his teeth. With a quick wink at me, he shot it straight into Mike Newton's face.

And when the music started, Edward pulled me into his arms for the customary first dance; I went willingly, despite my fear of dancing - especially dancing in front of an audience - just happy to have him holding me. He did all the work, and I twirled effortlessly under the glow of a canopy of lights and the bright flashes from the cameras.

"Enjoying the party, Mrs. Cullen?" he whispered in my ear.

I laughed. "That will take a while to get used to."

"We have a while," he reminded me, his voice exultant, and he leaned down to kiss me while we danced.

Cameras clicked feverishly.

The music changed, and Charlie tapped on Edward's shoulder.

It wasn't nearly as easy to dance with Charlie. He was no better at it than I was, so we moved safely from side to side in a tiny square formation. Edward and Esme spun around us like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

"I'm going to miss you at home, Bella. I'm already lonely."

I spoke through a tight throat, trying to make a joke of it. "I feel just horrible, leaving you to cook for yourself - it's practically criminal negligence. You could arrest me."

He grinned. "I suppose I'll survive the food. Just call me whenever you can."

"I promise."

It seemed like I danced with everyone. It was good to see all my old friends, but I really wanted to be with Edward more than anything else. I was happy when he finally cut in, just half a minute after a new dance started.

"Still not that fond of Mike, eh?" I commented as Edward whirled me away from him.

"Not when I have to listen to his thoughts. He's lucky I didn't kick him out. Or worse."

"Yeah, right."

"Have you had a chance to look at yourself?"

"Urn. No, I guess not. Why?"

"Then I suppose you don't realize how utterly, heart-breakingly beautiful you are tonight. I'm not surprised Mike's having difficulty with improper thoughts about a married woman. I am disappointed that Alice didn't make sure you were forced to look in a mirror."

"You are very biased, you know."

He sighed and then paused and turned me around to face the house. The wall of glass reflected the party back like a long mirror. Edward pointed to the couple in the mirror directly across from us.

"Biased, am I?"

I caught just a glimpse of Edward's reflection - a perfect duplicate of his perfect face - with a dark-haired beauty at his side. Her skin was cream and roses, her eyes were huge with excitement and framed with thick lashes. The narrow sheath of the shimmering white dress flared out subtly at the train almost like an inverted calla lily, cut so skillfully that her body looked elegant and graceful - while it was motionless, at least.

Before I could blink and make the beauty turn back into me, Edward suddenly stiffened and turned automatically in the other direction, as if someone had called his name.

"Oh!" he said. His brow furrowed for an instant and then smoothed out just as quickly.

Suddenly, he was smiling a brilliant smile.

"What is it?" I asked.

"A surprise wedding gift."

"Huh?"

He didn't answer; he just started dancing again, spinning me the opposite way we'd been headed before, away from the lights and then into the deep swath of night that ringed the luminous dance floor.

He didn't pause until we reached the dark side of one of the huge cedars. Then Edward looked straight into the blackest shadow.

"Thank you," Edward said to the darkness. "This is very... kind of you."

"Kind is my middle name," a husky familiar voice answered from the black night. "Can i cut in?"

My hand flew up to my throat, and if Edward hadn't been holding me I would have collapsed.

"Jacob!" I choked as soon as I could breathe. "Jacob!"

"Hey there, Bells."

I stumbled toward the sound of his voice. Edward kept his grip under my elbow until another set of strong hands caught me in the darkness. The heat from Jacob's skin burned right through the thin satin dress as he pulled me close. He made no effort to dance; he just hugged me while I buried my face in his chest. He leaned down to press his cheek to the top of my head.

"Rosalie won't forgive me if she doesn't get her official turn on the dance floor," Edward murmured, and I knew he was leaving us, giving me a gift of his own - this moment with Jacob.

"Oh, Jacob." I was crying now; I couldn't get the words out clearly. "Thank you."

"Stop blubbering,Bella. You'll ruin your dress. It's just me."

"Just? Oh, Jake! Everything is perfect now."

Hesnorted. "Yeah - the party can start. The best man finally made it."

"Now everyone I love is here."

I felthis lips brush my hair. "SorryI'm late, honey."

"I'm just so happy you came!"

"That was the idea."

I glanced toward the guests, but I couldn't see through the dancers to the spot where I'd last seen Jacob's father. I didn't know if he'd stayed. "DoesBilly know you're here?" As soon as I asked, I knew that he must have - it was the only way to explain his uplifted expression before.

"I'm sure Sam's told him. I'll go see him when... when the party's over."

"He'll beso glad you're home."

Jacob pulled back a little bit and straightened up.He left one hand on the small of my back and grabbed my right hand with the other. He cradled our hands to his chest; I could feel his heart beat under my palm, and I guessed that he hadn't placed my hand there accidentally.

"I don't know if I get more than just this one dance," he said, and he began pulling me around in a slow circle that didn't match the tempo of the music coming from behind us. "I'd better make the best of it."

We moved to the rhythm of his heart under my hand.

"I'm glad Icame," Jacob said quietly after a moment. "I didn't think I would be. But it's good to see you... one more time. Not as sad as I'd thought it would be."

"I don't want you to feel sad."

"I know that. And I didn't come tonight to make you feel guilty."

"No - it makes me very happy that you came. It's the best gift you could have given me."

He laughed. "That's good, because I didn't have time to stop for a real present."

My eyes were adjusting, and I could see his face now, higher up than I expected. Was it possible that he was still growing? He had to be closer to seven feet than to six. It was a relief to see his familiar features again after all this time - his deep-set eyes shadowed under his shaggy black brows, his high cheekbones, his full lips stretched over his bright teeth in the sarcastic smile that matched his tone. His eyes were tight around the edges - careful; I could see that he was being very careful tonight. He was doing all he could to make me happy, to not slip and show how much this cost him.

I'd never done anything good enough to deserve a friend like Jacob.

"When did you decide to come back?"

"Consciously or subconsciously?" He took a deep breath before he answered his own question. "I don't really know. I guess I've been wandering back this direction for a while, and maybe it's because I was headed here. But it wasn't until this morning that I really started running. I didn't know if I could make it." He laughed. "You wouldn't believe how weird this feels - walking around on two legs again. And clothes! And then it's more bizarre because it feels weird. I didn't expect that. I'm out of practice with the whole human thing."

We revolved steadily.

"It would have been a shame to miss seeing you like this, though. That's worth the trip right there. You

look unbelievable, Bella. So beautiful."

"Alice invested a lot of time in me today. The dark helps, too."

"It's not so dark for me, you know."

"Right." Werewolf senses. It was easy to forget all the things he could do, he seemed so human. Especially right now.

"You cut your hair," I noted.

"Yeah. Easier, you know. Thought I'd better take advantage of the hands."

"It looks good," I lied.

He snorted. "Right. I did it myself, with rusty kitchen shears." He grinned widely for a moment, and then his smile faded. His expression turned serious. "Are you happy, Bella?"

"Yes."

"Okay." I felt his shoulders shrug. "That's the main thing, I guess."

"How are you, Jacob? Really?"

"I'm fine, Bella, really. You don't need to worry about me anymore. You can stop bugging Seth."

"I'm not just bugging him because of you. I like Seth."

"He's a good kid. Better company than some. I tell you, if I could get rid of the voices in my head, being a wolf would be about perfect."

I laughed at the way it sounded. "Yeah, I can't get mine to shut up, either."

"In your case, that would mean you're insane. Of course, I already knew that you were insane," he teased.

"Thanks."

"Insanity is probably easier than sharing a pack mind. Crazy people's voices don't send babysitters to watch them."

"Huh?"

"Sam's out there. And some of the others. Just in case, you know."

"In case of what?"

"In case I can't keep it together, something like that. In case I decide to trash the party." He flashed a quick

smile at what was probably an appealing thought to him. "But I'm not here to ruin your wedding, Bella.

I'm here to .. ." He trailed off.

"To make it perfect."

"That's a tall order."

"Good thing you're so tall."

He groaned at my bad joke and then sighed. "I'm just here to be your friend. Your best friend, one last time."

"Sam should give you more credit."

"Well, maybe I'm being oversensitive. Maybe they'd be here anyway, to keep an eye on Seth. There are a lot of vampires here. Seth doesn't take that as seriously as he should."

"Seth knows that he's not in any danger. He understands the Cullens better than Sam does."

"Sure, sure," Jacob said, making peace before it could turn into a fight.

It was strange to have him being the diplomat.

"Sorry about those voices," I said. "Wish I could make it better." In so many ways.

"It's not that bad. I'm just whining a little."

"You're... happy?"

"Close enough. But enough about me. You're the star today." He chuckled. "I bet you're just loving that. Center of attention."

"Yeah. Can't get enough attention."

He laughed and then stared over my head. With pursed lips, he studied the shimmering glow of the reception party, the graceful whirl of the dancers, the fluttering petals falling from the garlands; I looked with him. It all seemed very distant from this black, quiet space. Almost like watching the white flurries swirling inside a snow globe.

"I'll give them this much," he said. "They know how to throw a party."

"Alice is an unstoppable force of nature."

He sighed. "Song's over. Do you think 1 get another one? Or is that asking too much?"

I tightened my hand around his. "You can have as many dances as you want."

He laughed. "That would be interesting. I think I'd better stick with two, though. Don't want to start talk."

We turned in another circle.

"You'd think I'd be used to telling you goodbye by now," he murmured.

I tried to swallow the lump in my throat, but I couldn't force it down.

Jacob looked at me and frowned. He wiped his fingers across my cheek, catching the tears there.

"You're not supposed to be the one crying, Bella."

"Everyone cries at weddings," I said thickly.

"This is what you want, right?"

"Right."

"Then smile."

I tried. He laughed at my grimace.

Tm going to try to remember you like this. Pretend that..."

"That what?That I died?"

He clenched his teeth. He was struggling with himself - with his decision to make his presence here a gift and not a judgment. I could guess what he wanted to say.

"No," he finally answered. "But I'll see you this way in my head. Pink cheeks. Heartbeat. Two left feet. All of that."

I deliberately stomped on his foot as hard as I could.

He smiled. "That's my girl."

He started to say something else and then snapped his mouth closed. Struggling again, teeth gritted against the words he didn't want to say.

My relationship with Jacob used to be so easy. Natural as breathing. But since Edward had come back into my life, it was a constant strain. Because - in Jacob's eyes - by choosing Edward, I was choosing a fate that was worse than death, or at least equivalent to it.

"What is it, Jake? Just tell me. You can tell me anything."

"I - I... I don't have anything to tell you."

"Oh please. Spit it out."

"It's true.It's not... it's - it's a question. It's something I want you to tell me"

"Ask me."

He struggled for another minute and then exhaled. "I shouldn't. It doesn't matter. I'm just morbidly curious."

Because I knew him so well, I understood.

"It's not tonight, Jacob," I whispered.

Jacob was even more obsessed with my humanity than Edward. He treasured every one of my heartbeats, knowing that they were numbered.

"Oh," he said, trying to smother his relief. "Oh."

A new song started playing, but he didn't notice the change this time.

"When?" he whispered.

"I don't know for sure. A week or two, maybe."

His voice changed, took on a defensive, mocking edge. "What's the holdup?"

"I just didn't want to spend my honeymoon writhing in pain."

"You'd rather spend it how? Playing checkers? Ha ha."

"Very funny."

"Kidding, Bells. But, honestly, I don't see the point. You can't have a real honeymoon with your vampire, so why go through the motions? Call a spade a spade. This isn't the first time you've put this off. That's a good thing, though," he said, suddenly earnest. "Don't be embarrassed about it."

"I'm not putting anything off," I snapped. "And yes I can have a real honeymoon! I can do anything I want! Butt out!"

He stopped our slow circling abruptly. For a moment, I wondered if he'd finally noticed the music change, and I scrambled in my head for a way to patch up our little tiff before he said goodbye to me. We shouldn't part on this note.

And then his eyes bulged wide with a strange kind of confused horror.

"What?" he gasped. "What did you say?"

"About what... ? Jake? What's wrong?"

"What do you mean? Have a real honeymoon? While you're still human? Are you kidding? That's a sick joke, Bella!"

I glared at him. "I said butt out, Jake. This is so not your business. I shouldn't have... we shouldn't even be talking about this. It's private - "

His enormous hands gripped the tops of my arms, wrapping all the way around, fingers overlapping.

"Ow, Jake! Let go!"

He shook me.

"Bella! Have you lost your mind? You can't be that stupid! Tell me you're joking!"

He shook me again. His hands, tight as tourniquets, were quivering, sending vibrations deep into my bones.

"Jake - stop!"

The darkness was suddenly very crowded.

"Take your hands off her!" Edward's voice was cold as ice, sharp as razors.

Behind Jacob, there was a low snarl from the black night, and then another, overlapping the first.

"Jake, bro, back away," I heard Seth Clearwater urge. "You're losing it."

Jacob seemed frozen as he was, his horrified eyes wide and staring.

"You'll hurt her," Seth whispered. "Let her go."

"Now!" Edward snarled.

Jacob's hands dropped to his sides, and the sudden gush of blood through my waiting veins was almost painful. Before I could register more than that, cold hands replaced the hot ones, and the air was suddenly whooshing past me.

I blinked, and I was on my feet a half dozen feet away from where I'd been standing. Edward was tensed in front of me. There were two enormous wolves braced between him and Jacob, but they did not seem aggressive to me. More like they were trying to prevent the fight.

And Seth - gangly, fifteen-year-old Seth - had his long arms around Jacob's shaking body, and he was tugging him away. If Jacob phased with Seth so close...

"C'mon, Jake. Let's go."

"I'll kill you," Jacob said, his voice so choked with rage that it was low as a whisper. His eyes, focused on Edward, burned with fury. "I'll kill you myself! I'll do it now!" He shuddered convulsively.

The biggest wolf, the black one, growled sharply.

"Seth, get out of the way," Edward hissed.

Seth tugged on Jacob again. Jacob was so bewildered with rage that Seth was able to yank him a few feet farther back. "Don't do it, Jake. Walk away. C'mon."

Sam - the bigger wolf, the black one - joined Seth then. He put his massive head against Jacob's chest and shoved.

The three of them - Seth towing, Jake trembling, Sam pushing - disappeared swiftly into the darkness.

The other wolf stared after them. I wasn't sure, in the weak light, about the color of his fur - chocolate brown, maybe? Was it Quil, then?

"I'm sorry," I whispered to the wolf.

"It's all right now, Bella," Edward murmured.

The wolf looked at Edward. His gaze was not friendly. Edward gave him one cold nod.The wolf huffed and then turned to follow the others, vanishing as they had.

"All right," Edward said to himself, and then he looked at me. "Let's get back."

"But Jake - "

"Sam has him in hand. He's gone."

"Edward, I'm so sorry. Iwas stupid - "

"You did nothing wrong - "

"I have such a big mouth! Why would I... I shouldn't have let him get to me like that. What was I thinking?"

"Don't worry." He touched my face. "We need to get back to the reception before someone notices our absence."

I shook my head, trying to reorient myself. Before someone noticed? Had anyone missed that?

Then, as I thought about it, I realized the confrontation that had seemed so catastrophic to me had, in reality, been very quiet and short here in the shadows.

"Give me two seconds," I pleaded.

My insides were chaotic with panic and grief, but that didn't matter - only the outside mattered right now. Putting on a good show was something I knew I had to master.

"My dress?"

"You look fine. Not a hair out of place."

I took two deep breaths. "Okay. Let's go."

He put his arms around me and led me back to the light. When we passed under the twinkle lights, he spun me gently onto the dance floor. We melted in with the other dancers as if our dance had never been interrupted.

I glanced around at the guests, butno one seemed shocked or frightened. Only the very palest faces there showed any signs of stress, and they hid it well. Jasper and Emmett were on the edge of the floor, close together,

and I guessed that they had been nearby during the confrontation.

"Are you - "

"I'm fine," I promised. "I can't believe I did that. What's wrong with me?"

"Nothing is wrong with you."

I'd been so glad to see Jacob here. I knew the sacrifice it had taken him. And then I'd ruined it, turned his gift into a disaster. I should be quarantined.

But my idiocy would not ruin anything else tonight. I would put this away, shove it in a drawer and lock it up to deal with later. There would be plenty of time to flagellate myself for this, and nothing I could do now would help.

"It's over," I said. "Let's not think of it again tonight."

I expected a quick agreement from Edward, but he was silent.

"Edward?"

He closed his eyes and touched his forehead to mine. "Jacob is right," he whispered. "What am I thinking?"

"He is not." I tried to keep my face smooth for the watching crowd of friends. "Jacob is way too prejudiced to see anything clearly."

He mumbled something low that sounded almost like "should let him kill me for even thinking ..."

"Stop it," I said fiercely. I grabbed his face in my hands and waited until he opened his eyes. "You and me. That's the only thing that matters. The only thing you're allowed to think about now. Do you hear me?"

"Yes," he sighed.

"Forget Jacob came." I could do that. I would 60 that. "For me. Promise that you'll let this go."

He stared into my eyes for a moment before answering. "I promise."

"Thank you. Edward, I'm not afraid."

"I am," he whispered.

"Don't be." I took deep breath and smiled. "By the way, I love you."

He smiled just a little in return. "That's why we're here."

"You're monopolizing the bride," Emmett said, coming up behind Edward's shoulder. "Let me dance with my little sister. This could be my last chance to make her blush." He laughed loudly, as unaffected as he usually was by any serious atmosphere.

It turned out there were actually lots of people I hadn't danced with yet, and that gave me a chance to truly compose and resolve myself. When Edward claimed me again, I found that the Jacob-drawer was shut nice and tight. As he wrapped his arms around me, I was able to unearth my earlier sense of joy, my certainty that everything in my life was in the right place tonight. I smiled and laid my head against his chest. His arms tightened.

"I could get used to this," I said.

"Don't tell me you've gotten over your dancing issues?"

"Dancing isn't so bad - with you. But I was thinking more of this," - and I pressed myself to him even tighter - "of never having to let you go."

"Never," he promised, and he leaned down to kiss me.

It was a serious kind of kiss - intense, slow but building....

I'd pretty much forgotten where I was when I heard Alice call, "Bella! It's time!"

I felt a brief flicker of irritation with my new sister for the interruption.

Edward ignored her; his lips were hard against mine, more urgent than before. My heart broke into a sprint and my palms were slick against his marble neck.

"Do you want to miss your plane?" Alice demanded, right next to me now. "I'm sure you'll have a lovely honeymoon camped out in the airport waiting for another flight."

Edward turned his face slightly to murmur, "Go away, Alice," and then pressed his lips to mine again.

"Bella, do you want to wear that dress on the airplane?" she demanded.

I wasn't really paying much attention. At the moment, I simply didn't care.

Alice growled quietly. "I'll tell her where you're taking her, Edward. So help me, I will."

He froze. Then he lifted his face from mine and glared at his favorite sister. "You're awfully small to be so hugelyirritating."

"I didn't pick out the perfect going-away dress to have it wasted," she snapped back, taking my hand. "Come with me, Bella."

I tugged against her hold, stretching up on my toes to kiss him one more time. She jerked my arm impatiently, hauling me away from him. There were a few chuckles from the watching guests. I gave up then and let her lead me into the empty house.

She looked annoyed.

"Sorry, Alice," I apologized.

"I don't blame you, Bella." She sighed. "You don't seem to be able help yourself."

I giggled at her martyred expression, and she scowled.

"Thank you, Alice. It was the most beautiful wedding anyone ever had," I told her earnestly. "Everything was exactly right. You're the best, smartest, most talented sister in the whole world."

That thawed her out; she smiled a huge smile. "I'm glad you liked it."

Renee and Esme were waiting upstairs. The three of them quickly had me out of my dress and into Alice's deep blue going-away ensemble. I was grateful when someone pulled the pins out of my hair and let it fall loose down my back, wavy from the braids, saving me from a hairpin headache later. My mother's tears streamed without a break the entire time.

"I'll call you when I know where I'm going," I promised as I hugged her goodbye. I knew the honeymoon secret was probably driving her crazy; my mother hated secrets, unless she was in on them.

"I'll tell you as soon as she's safely away," Alice outdid me, smirking at my wounded expression. How unfair, for me to be the last to know.

"You have to visit me and Phil very, very soon. It's your turn to go south - see the sun for once," Renee said.

"It didn't rain today," I reminded her, avoiding her request

"A miracle."

"Everything's ready," Alice said. "Your suitcases are in the car - Jasper's bringing it around." She pulled me back toward the stairs with Renee following, still halfway embracing me.

"I love you, Mom," I whispered as we descended. Tm so glad you have Phil. Take care of each other."

"I love you, too, Bella, honey."

"Goodbye, Mom. I love you," I said again, my throat thick.

Edward was waiting at the bottom of the stairs. I took his outstretched hand but leaned away, scanning the little crowd that was waiting to see us off.

"Dad?" I asked, my eyes searching.

"Over here," Edward murmured. He pulled me through the guests; they made a pathway for us. We found Charlie leaning awkwardly against the wall behind everyone else, looking a little like he was hiding. The red rims around his eyes explained why.

"Oh, Dad!"

I hugged him around the waist, tears streaming again - I was crying so much tonight. He patted my back.

"There, now. You don't want to miss your plane."

It was hard to talk about love with Charlie - we were so much alike, always reverting to trivial things to avoid embarrassing emotional displays. But this was no time for being self-conscious.

"I love you forever, Dad," I told him. "Don't forget that."

"You, too, Bells. Always have, always will."

I kissed his cheek at the same time that he kissed mine.

"Call me," he said.

"Soon," I promised, knowing this was all I could promise. Just a phone call. My father and my mother could not be allowed to see me again; I would be too different, and much, much too dangerous.

"Go on, then," he said gruffly. "Don't want to be late."

The guests made another aisle for us. Edward pulled me close to his side as we made our escape.

"Are you ready?" he asked.

"I am," I said, and I knew that it was true.

Everyone applauded when Edward kissed me on the doorstep. Then he rushed me to the car as the rice storm began. Most of it went wide, but someone, probably Emmett, threw with uncanny precision, and I caught a lot of the ricochets off Edward's back.

The car was decorated with more flowers that trailed in streamers along its length, and long gossamer ribbons that were tied to a dozen shoes - designer shoes that looked brand-new - dangling behind the bumper.

Edward shielded me from the rice while I climbed in, and then he was in and we were speeding away as I waved out the window and called "I love you" to the porch, where my families waved back.

The last image I registered was one of my parents. Phil had both arms wrapped tenderly around Renee. She had one arm tight around his waist but had her free hand reached out to hold Charlie's. So many different kinds of love, harmonious in this one moment. It seemed a very hopeful picture to me.

Edward squeezed my hand.

"I love you," he said.

I leaned my head against his arm. 'That's why we're here," I quoted him.

He kissed my hair.

As we turned onto the black highway and Edward really hit the accelerator, I heard a noise over the purr of the engine, coming from the forest behind us. If I could hear it, then he certainly could. But he said nothing as the sound slowly faded in the distance. I said nothing, either.

The piercing, heartbroken howling grew fainter and then disappeared entirely.
发表于 2016-8-10 18:08 | 显示全部楼层
5. ISLE ESME

"Houston?" I asked, raising my eyebrows when we reached the gate in Seattle.

"Just a stop along the way," Edward assured me with a grin.

It felt like I'd barely fallen asleep when he woke me. I was groggy as he pulled me through the terminals, struggling to remember how to open my eyes after every blink. It took me a few minutes to catch up with what was going on when we stopped at the international counter to check in for our next flight.

"Rio de Janeiro?" I asked with slightly more trepidation.

"Another stop," he told me.

The flight to South America was long but comfortable in the wide first-class seat, with Edward's arms cradled around me. I slept myself out and awoke unusually alert as we circled toward the airport with the light of the setting sun slanting through the plane's windows.

We didn't stay in the airport to connect with another flight as I'd expected. Instead we took a taxi through the dark, teeming, living streets of Rio. Unable to understand a word of Edward's Portuguese instructions to the driver, I guessed that we were off to find a hotel before the next leg of our journey. A sharp twinge of something very close to stage fright twisted in the pit of my stomach as I considered that. The taxi continued through the swarming crowds until they thinned somewhat, and we appeared to be nearing the extreme western edge of the city, heading into the ocean.

We stopped at the docks.

Edward led the way down the long line of white yachts moored in the night-blackened water. The boat he stopped at was smaller than the others, sleeker, obviously built for speed instead of space. Still luxurious, though, and more graceful than the rest. He leaped in lightly, despite the heavy bags he carried. He dropped those on the deck and turned to help me carefully over the edge.

I watched in silence while he prepared the boat for departure, surprised at how skilled and comfortable he seemed, because he'd never mentioned an interest in boating before. But then again, he was good at just about everything.

As we headed due east into the open ocean, I reviewed basic geography in my head. As far as I could remember, there wasn't much east of Brazil... until you got to Africa.

But Edward sped forward while the lights of Rio faded and ultimately disappeared behind us. On his face was a familiar exhilarated smile, the one produced by any form of speed. The boat plunged through the waves and I was showered with sea spray.

Finally the curiosity I'd suppressed so long got the best of me.

"Are we going much farther?" I asked.

It wasn't like him to forget that I was human, but I wondered if he planned for us to live on this small craft for any length of time.

"About another half hour." His eyes took in my hands, clenched on the seat, and he grinned.

Oh well, I thought to myself. He was a vampire, after all. Maybe we were going to Atlantis.

Twenty minutes later, he called my name over the roar of the engine.

"Bella, look there." He pointed straight ahead.

I saw only blackness at first, and the moon's white trail across the water. But I searched the space where he pointed until I found a low black shape breaking into the sheen of moonlight on the waves. As I squinted into the darkness, the silhouette became more detailed. The shape grew into a squat, irregular triangle, with one side trailing longer than the other before sinking into the waves. We drew closer, and I could see the outline was feathery, swaying to the light breeze.

And then my eyes refocused and the pieces all made sense: a small island rose out of the water ahead of us, waving with palm fronds, a beach glowing pale in the light of the moon.

"Where are we?" I murmured in wonder while he shifted course, heading around to the north end of the island.

He heard me, despite the noise of the engine, and smiled a wide smile that gleamed in the moonlight.

"This is Isle Esme."

The boat slowed dramatically, drawing with precision into position against a short dock constructed of wooden planks, bleached into whiteness by the moon. The engine cut off, and the silence that followed was profound. There was nothing but the waves, slapping lightly against the boat, and the rustle of the breeze in the palms. The air was warm, moist, and fragrant - like the steam left behind after a hot shower.

"Isle Esme?" My voice was low, but it still sounded too loud as it broke into the quiet night.

"A gift from Carlisle - Esme offered to let us borrow it."

A gift. Who gives an island as a gift? I frowned. I hadn't realized that Edward's extreme generosity was a learned behavior.

He placed the suitcases on the dock and then turned back, smiling his perfect smile as he reached for me.

Instead of taking my hand, he pulled me right up into his arms.

"Aren't you supposed to wait for the threshold?'71 asked, breathless, as he sprung lightly out of the boat.

He grinned. "I'm nothing if not thorough."

Gripping the handles of both huge steamer trunks in one hand and cradling me in the other arm, he carried me up the dock and onto a pale sand pathway through the dark vegetation.

For a short while it was pitch black in the jungle-like growth, and then I could see a warm light ahead. It was about at the point when I realized the light was a house - the two bright, perfect squares were wide windows framing a front door - that the stage fright attacked again, more forcefully than before, worse than when I'd thought we were headed for a hotel.

My heart thudded audibly against my ribs, and my breath seemed to get stuck in my throat. I felt Edward's eyes on my face, but I refused to meet his gaze. I stared straight ahead, seeing nothing.

He didn't ask what I was thinking, which was out of character for him. I guessed that meant that he was just as nervous as I suddenly was.

He set the suitcases on the deep porch to open the doors - they were unlocked.

Edward looked down at me, waiting until I met his gaze before he stepped through the threshold.

He carried me through the house, both of us very quiet, flipping on lights as he went. My vague impression of the house was that it was quite large for a tiny island, and oddly familiar. I'd gotten used to the pale-on-pale color scheme preferred by the Cullens; it felt like home. I couldn't focus on any specifics, though. The violent pulse beating behind my ears made everything a little blurry.

Then Edward stopped and turned on the last light.

The room was big and white, and the far wall was mostly glass - standard decor for my vampires. Outside, the moon was bright on white sand and, just a few yards away from the house, glistening waves. But I barely noted that part. I was more focused on the absolutely huge white bed in the center of the room, hung with billowy clouds of mosquito netting.

Edward set me on my feet.

"I'll... go get the luggage."

The room was too warm, stuffier than the tropical night outside. A bead of sweat dewed up on the nape of my neck. I walked slowly forward until I could reach out and touch the foamy netting. For some reason I felt the need to make sure everything was real.

I didn't hear Edward return. Suddenly, his wintry finger caressed the back of my neck, wiping away the drop of perspiration.

"It's a little hot here," he said apologetically. "I thought... that would be best."

"Thorough," I murmured under my breath, and he chuckled. It was a nervous sound, rare for Edward.

"I tried to think of everything that would make this... easier," he admitted.

I swallowed loudly, still facing away from him. Had there ever been a honeymoon like this before?

I knew the answer to that. No. There had not.

"I was wondering,'7Edward said slowly, "if... first... maybe you'd like to take a midnight swim with me?" He took a deep breath, and his voice was more at ease when he spoke again. "The water will be very warm. This is the kind of beach you approve of."

"Sounds nice." My voice broke.

"I'm sure you'd like a human minute or two.... It was a long journey."

I nodded woodenly. I felt barely human; maybe a few minutes alone would help.

His lips brushed against my throat, just below my ear. He chuckled once and his cool breath tickled my overheated skin. "Don't take too long, Mrs. Cullen."

I jumped a little at the sound of my new name.

His lips brushed down my neck to the tip of my shoulder. "I'll wait for you in the water."

He walked past me to the French door that opened right onto the beach sand. On the way, he shrugged out of his shirt, dropping it on the floor, and then slipped through the door into the moonlit night. The sultry, salty air swirled into the room behind him.

Did my skin burst into flames? I had to look down to check. Nope, nothing was burning. At least, not visibly.

I reminded myself to breathe, and then I stumbled toward the giant suitcase that Edward had opened on top of a low white dresser. It must be mine, because my familiar bag of toiletries was right on top, and there was a lot of pink in there, but I didn't recognize even one article of clothing. As I pawed through the neatly folded piles - looking for something familiar and comfortable, a pair of old sweats maybe - it came to my attention that there was an awful lot of sheer lace and skimpy satin in my hands. Lingerie. Very lingerie-ish lingerie, with French tags.

I didn't know how or when, but someday, Alice was going to pay for this.

Giving up, I went to the bathroom and peeked out through the long windows that opened to the same beach as the French doors. I couldn't see him; I guessed he was there in the water, not bothering to come up for air. In the sky above, the moon was lopsided, almost full, and the sand was bright white under its shine. A small movement caught my eye - draped over a bend in one of the palm trees that fringed the beach, the rest of his clothes were swaying in the light breeze.

A rush of heat flashed across my skin again.

I took a couple of deep breaths and then went to the mirrors above the long stretch of counters. I looked exactly like I'd been sleeping on a plane all day. I found my brush and yanked it harshly through the snarls on the back of my neck until they were smoothed out and the bristles were full of hair. I brushed my teeth meticulously, twice. Then I washed my face and splashed water on the back of my neck, which was feeling feverish. That felt so good that I washed my arms as well, and finally I decided to just give up and take the shower. I knew it was ridiculous to shower before swimming, but I needed to calm down, and hot water was one reliable way to do that.

Also, shaving my legs again seemed like a pretty good idea.

When I was done, I grabbed a huge white towel off the counter and wrapped it under my arms.

Then I was faced with a dilemma I hadn't considered. What was I supposed to put on? Not a swimsuit, obviously. But it seemed silly to put my clothes back on, too. I didn't even want to think about the things Alice had packed for me.

My breathing started to accelerate again and my hands trembled - so much for the calming effects of the shower. I started to feel a little dizzy, apparently a full-scale panic attack on the way. I sat down on the cool tile floor in my big towel and put my head between my knees. I prayed he wouldn't decide to come look for me before I could pull myself together. I could imagine what he would think if he saw me going to pieces this way. It wouldn't be hard for him to convince himself that we were making a mistake.

And I wasn't freaking out because I thought we were making a mistake. Not atall. I was freaking out because I had no idea how to do this, and I was afraid to walk out of this room and face the unknown. Especially in French lingerie. I knew I wasn't ready for that yet

This felt exactly like having to walk out in front of a theater full of thousands with no idea what my lines were.

How did people do this - swallowall their fears and trust someone else so implicitly with every imperfection and fear they had - with less than the absolute commitment Edward had given me? if it weren't Edward out there, if I didn't know in every cell of my body that he loved me as much as I loved him - unconditionally and irrevocably and, to be honest, irrationally - I'd never be able to get up off this floor.

But it was Edward out there, so I whispered the words "Don't be a coward" under my breath and scrambled to my feet. I hitched the towel tighter under my arms and marched determinedly from the bathroom. Past the suitcase full of lace and the big bed without looking at either. Out the open glass door onto the powder-fine sand.

Everything was black-and-white, leached colorless by the moon. I walked slowly across the warm powder, pausing beside the curved tree where he had left his clothes. I laid my hand against the rough bark and checked my breathing to make sure it was even. Or even enough.

I looked across the low ripples, black in the darkness, searching for him.

He wasn't hard to find. He stood, his back to me, waist deep in the midnight water, staring up at the oval moon. The pallid light of the moon turned his skin a perfect white, like the sand, like the moon itself, and made his wet hair black as the ocean. He was motionless, his hands resting palms down against the water; the low waves broke around him as if he were a stone. I stared at the smooth lines of his back, his shoulders, his arms, his neck, theflawless shape of him....

The fire was no longer a flash burn across my skin - it was slow and deep now; it smoldered away all my awkwardness, my shy uncertainty. I slipped the towel off without hesitation, leaving it on the tree with his clothes, and walked out into the white light; it made me pale as the snowy sand, too.

I couldn't hear the sound of my footsteps as I walked to the water's edge, but I guessed that he could. Edward did not turn. I let the gentle swells break over my toes, and found that he'd been right about the temperature - it was very warm, like bath water. I stepped in, walking carefully across the invisible ocean floor, but my care was unnecessary; the sand continued perfectly smooth, sloping gently toward Edward. I waded through the weightless current till I was at his side, and then I placed my hand lightly over his cool hand lying on the water.

"Beautiful," I said, looking up at the moon, too.

"It's all right," he answered, unimpressed. He turned slowly to face me; little waves rolled away from his movement and broke against my skin. His eyes looked silver in his ice-colored face. He twisted his hand up so that he could twine our fingers beneath the surface of the water. It was warm enough that his cool skin did not raise goose bumps on mine.

"But I wouldn't use the word beautiful" he continued. "Not with you standing here in comparison."

I half-smiled, then raised my free hand - it didn't tremble now - and placed it over his heart. White on white; we matched, for once. He shuddered the tiniest bit at my warm touch. His breath came rougher now.

"I promised we would try" he whispered, suddenly tense. "If... if I do something wrong, if I hurt you, you must tell me at once."

I nodded solemnly, keeping my eyes on his. I took another step through the waves and leaned my head against his chest.

"Don't be afraid," I murmured. "We belong together."

I was abruptly overwhelmed by the truth of my own words. This moment was so perfect, so right, there was no way to doubt it.

His arms wrapped around me, holding me against him, summer and winter. It felt like every nerve ending in my body was a live wire.

"Forever," he agreed, and then pulled us gently into deeper water.

The sun, hot on the bare skin of my back, woke me in the morning. Late morning, maybe afternoon, I wasn't sure. Everything besides the time was clear, though; I knew exactly where I was - the bright room with the big white bed, brilliant sunlight streaming through the open doors. The clouds of netting would soften the shine.

I didn't open my eyes. I was too happy to change anything, no matter how small. The only sounds were the waves outside, our breathing, my heartbeat...

I was comfortable, even with the baking sun. His cool skin was the perfect antidote to the heat. Lying across his wintry chest, his arms wound around me, felt very easy and natural. I wondered idly what I'd been so panicky about last night. My fears all seemed silly now.

His fingers softly trailed down the contours of my spine, and I knew that he knew I was awake. I kept my eyes shut and tightened my arms around his neck, holding myself closer to him.

He didn't speak; his fingers moved up and down my back, barely touching it as he lightly traced patterns on my skin.

I would have been happy to lie here forever, to never disturb this moment, but my body had other ideas. I laughed at my impatient stomach. It seemed sort of prosaic to be hungry after all that had passed last night. Like being brought back down to earth from some great height.

"What's funny?" he murmured, still stroking my back. The sound of his voice, serious and husky, brought with it a deluge of memories from the night, and I felt a blush color my face and neck.

To answer his question, my stomach growled. I laughed again. "You just can't escape being human for very long."

I waited, but he did not laugh with me. Slowly, sinking through the many layers of bliss that clouded my head, came the realization of a different atmosphere outside my own glowing sphere of happiness.

I opened my eyes; the first thing I saw was the pale, almost silvery skin of his throat, the arc of his chin above my face. His jaw was taut. I propped myself up on my elbow so I could see his face.

He was staring at the frothy canopy above us, and he didn't look at me as I studied his grave features. His expression was a shock - it sent a physical jolt through my body.

"Edward," I said, a strange little catch in my throat, "what is it? What's wrong?"

"You have to ask?" His voice was hard, cynical.

My first instinct, the product of a lifetime of insecurities, was to wonder what I had done wrong. I thought through everything that had happened, but I couldn't find any sour note in the memory. It had all been simpler than I'd expected; we'd fit together like corresponding pieces, made to match up. This had given me a secret satisfaction - we were compatible physically, as well as all the other ways. Fire and ice, somehow existing together without destroying each other. More proof that I belonged with him.

I couldn't think of any part that would make him look like this - so severe and cold. What had I missed?

His finger smoothed the worried lines on my forehead.

"What are you thinking?" he whispered.

"You're upset. I don't understand. Did I... ?" I couldn't finish.

His eyes tightened. "How badly are you hurt, Bella? The truth - don't try to downplay it."

"Hurt?" I repeated; my voice came out higher than usual because the word took me so by surprise.

He raised one eyebrow, his lips a tight line.

I made a quick assessment, stretching my body automatically, tensing and flexing my muscles. There was stiffness, and a lot of soreness, too, it was true, but mostly there was the odd sensation that my bones all had become unhinged at the joints, and I had changed halfway into the consistency of a jellyfish. It was not an unpleasant feeling.

And then I was a little angry, because he was darkening this most perfect of all mornings with his pessimistic assumptions.

"Why would you jump to that conclusion? I've never been better than I am now."

His eyes closed. "Stop that."

"Stop what?"

"Stop acting like I'm not a monster for having agreed to this."

"Edward!" I whispered, really upset now. He was pulling my bright memory through the darkness, staining it. "Don't ever say that."

He didn't open his eyes; it was like he didn't want to see me.

"Look at yourself, Bella. Then tell me I'm not a monster."

Wounded, shocked, I followed his instruction unthinkingly and then gasped.

What had happened to me? I couldn't make sense of the fluffy white snow that clung to my skin. I shook my head, and a cascade of white drifted out of my hair.

I pinched one soft white bit between my fingers. It was a piece of down.

"Why am I covered in feathers?" I asked, confused.

He exhaled impatiently. "I bit a pillow. Or two. That's not what I'm talking about."

"You... bit a pillow? Why?"

"Look, Bella!" he almost growled. He took my hand - very gingerly - and stretched my arm out. "Look at that"

This time, I saw what he meant.

Under the dusting of feathers, large purplish bruises were beginning to blossom across the pale skin of my arm. My eyes followed the trail they made up to my shoulder, and then down across my ribs. I pulled my hand free to poke at a discoloration on my left forearm, watching it fade where I touched and then reappear. It throbbed a little.

So lightly that he was barely touching me, Edward placed his hand against the bruises on my arm, one at a time, matching his long fingers to the patterns.

"Oh," I said.

I tried to remember this - to remember pain - but I couldn't. I couldn't recall a moment when his hold had been too tight, his hands too hard against me. I only remembered wanting him to hold me tighter, and being pleased when he did....

"I'm... so sorry, Bella," he whispered while I stared at the bruises. "I knew better than this. I should not have - " He made a low, revolted sound in the back of his throat. "I am more sorry than I can tell you."

He threw his arm over his face and became perfectly still.

I sat for one long moment in total astonishment, trying to come to terms - now that I understood it - with his misery. It was so contrary to the way that I felt that it was difficult to process.

Theshock wore off slowly, leaving nothing in its absence. Emptiness. My mind was blank. I couldn't think of what to say. How could I explain it to him in the right way? How could I make him as happy as I was - or as I had been, a moment ago?

I touched his arm, and he didn't respond. I wrapped my fingers around his wrist and tried to pry his arm off his face, but I could have been yanking on a sculpture for all the good it did me.

"Edward."

He didn't move.

"Edward?"

Nothing. So, this would be a monologue, then.

"I'mnot sorry, Edward. I'm... I can't even tell you. I'm so happy. That doesn't cover it. Don't be angry. Don't. I'm really f - "

"Do not say the word fine." His voice was ice cold. "If you value my sanity, do not say that you are fine."

"But I am." I whispered.

"Bella," he almost moaned. "Don't."

"No. You don't, Edward."

He moved his arm; his gold eyes watched me warily.

"Don't ruin this," I told him. "I. Am. Happy."

"I've already ruined this," he whispered.

"Cut it out," I snapped.

I heard his teeth grind together.

"Ugh!" I groaned. "Why can't you just read my mind already? It's so inconvenient to be a mental mute!"

His eyes widened a little bit, distracted in spite of himself.

"That's a new one. You love that I can't read your mind."

"Not today."

He stared at me. "Why?"

I threw my hands up in frustration, feeling an ache in my shoulder that I ignored. My palms fell back against his chest with a sharp smack. "Because all this angst would be completely unnecessary if you could see how I feel right now! Or five minutes ago, anyway. I was perfectly happy. Totally and completely blissed out. Now - well, I'm sort of pissed, actually."

"You should be angry at me."

"Well, I am. Does that make you feel better?"

He sighed. "No. I don't think anything could make me feel better now."

"That," I snapped. "That right there is why I'm angry. You are killing my buzz, Edward."

He rolled his eyes and shook his head.

I took a deep breath. I was feeling more of the soreness now, but it wasn't that bad. Sort of like the day after lifting weights. I'd done that with Renee during one of her fitness obsessions. Sixty-five lunges with ten pounds in each hand. I couldn't walk the next day. This was not as painful as that had been by half.

I swallowed my irritation and tried to make my voice soothing. "We knew this was going to be tricky. I thought that was assumed. And then - well, it was a lot easier than I thought it would be. And this is really nothing." I brushed my fingers along my arm. "I think for a first time, not knowing what to expect, we did amazing. With a little practice - "

His expression was suddenly so livid that I broke off mid-sentence.

"Assumed? Did you expect this, Bella? Were you anticipating that I would hurt you? Were you thinking it would be worse? Do you consider the experiment a success because you can walk away from it? No broken bones - that equals a victory?"

I waited, letting him get it all out. Then I waited some more while his breathing went back to normal. When his eyes were calm, I answered, speaking with slow precision.

"I didn't know what to expect - but I definitely did not expect how... how... just wonderful and perfect it was." My voice dropped to a whisper, my eyes slipped from his face down to my hands. "I mean, I don't know how it was for you, but it was like that for me."

A cool finger pulled my chin back up.

"Is that what you're worried about?" he said through his teeth. "That I didn't enjoy myself?"

My eyes stayed down. "I know it's not the same. You're not human. I just was trying to explain that, for a human, well, I can't imagine that life gets any better than that."

He was quiet for so long that, finally, I had to look up. His face was softer now, thoughtful.

"It seems that I have more to apologize for." He frowned. "I didn't dream that you would construe the way I feel about what I did to you to mean that last night wasn't... well, the best night of my existence. But I don't want to think of it that way, not when you were ..."

My lips curved up a little at the edges. "Really? The best ever?" I asked in a small voice.

He took my face between his hands, still introspective. "I spoke to Carlisle after you and I made our bargain, hoping he could help me. Of course he warned me that this would be very dangerous for you."

A shadow crossed his expression. "He had faith in me, though - faith I didn't deserve."

I started to protest, and he put two fingers over my lips before I could comment.

"I also asked him what should expect. I didn't know what it would be for me... what with my being a vampire." He smiled halfheartedly. "Carlisle told me it was a very powerful thing, like nothing else. He told me physical love was something I should not treat lightly. With our rarely changing temperaments, strong emotions can alter us in permanent ways. But he said I did not need to worry about that part  - you had already altered me so completely." This time his smile was more genuine.

"I spoke to my brothers, too. They told me it was a very great pleasure. Second only to drinking human blood." A line creased his brow. "But I've tasted your blood, and there could be no blood more potent than that... I don't think they were wrong, really. Just that it was different for us. Something more."

"It was more. It was everything."

"That doesn't change the fact that it was wrong. Even if it were possible that you really did feel that way."

"What does that mean? Do you think I'm making this up? Why?"

"To ease my guilt. I can't ignore the evidence, Bella. Or your history of trying to let me off the hook when I make mistakes."

I grabbed his chin and leaned forward so that our faces were inches apart. "You listen to me, Edward Cullen. I am not pretending anything for your sake, okay? I didn't even know there was a reason to make you feel better until you started being all miserable. I've never been so happy in all my life - I wasn't this happy when you decided that you loved me more than you wanted to kill me, or the first morning I woke up and you were there waiting for me.... Not when I heard your voice in the ballet studio" - he flinched at the old memory of my close call with a hunting vampire, but I didn't pause - "or when you said i do' and I realized that, somehow, I get to keep you forever. Those are the happiest memories I have, and this is better than any of it. So just deal with it."

He touched the frown line between my eyebrows. Tm making you unhappy now. I don't want to do that."

"Then don't you be unhappy. That's the only thing that's wrong here."

His eyes tightened, then he took a deep breath and nodded. "You're right. The past is past and I can't do anything to change it. There's no sense in letting my mood sour this time for you. HI do whatever I can to make you happy now."

I examined his face suspiciously, and he gave me a serene smile.

"Whatever makes me happy?"

My stomach growled at the same time that I asked.

"You're hungry," he said quickly. He was swiftly out of the bed, stirring up a cloud of feathers. Which reminded me.

"So, why exactly did you decide to ruin Esme's pillows?" I asked, sitting up and shaking more down from my hair.

He had already pulled on a pair of loose khaki pants, and he stood by the door, rumpling his hair, dislodging a few feathers of his own.

"I don't know if I decided to do anything last night," he muttered. "We're just lucky it was the pillows and not you." He inhaled deeply and then shook his head, as if shaking off the dark thought. A very authentic-looking smile spread across his face, but I guessed it took a lot of work to put it there.

I slid carefully off the high bed and stretched again, more aware, now, of the aches and sore spots. I heard him gasp. He turned away from me, and his hands balled up, knuckles white.

"Do I look that hideous?" I asked, working to keep my tone light. His breath caught, but he didn't turn, probably to hide his expression from me. I walked to the bathroom to check for myself.

I stared at my naked body in the full-length mirror behind the door.

I'd definitely had worse. There was a faint shadow across one of my cheekbones, and my lips were a little swollen, but other than that, my face was fine. The rest of me was decorated with patches of blue and purple. I concentrated on the bruises that would be the hardest to hide - my arms and my shoulders. They weren't so bad. My skin marked up easily. By the time a bruise showed I'd usually forgotten how I'd come by it. Of course, these were just developing. I'd look even worse tomorrow. That would not make things any easier.

I looked at my hair, then, and groaned.

"Bella?" He was right there behind me as soon as I'd made a sound.

"I'll never get this all out of my hair!" I pointed to my head, where it looked like a chicken was nesting. I started picking at the feathers.

"You would be worried about your hair," he mumbled, but he came to stand behind me, pulling out the feathers much more quickly.

"How did you keep from laughing at this? I look ridiculous."

He didn't answer; he just kept plucking. And I knew the answer anyway - there was nothing that would be funny to him in this mood.

'This isn't going to work," I sighed after a minute. "It's all dried in. I'm going to have to try to wash it out." I turned around, wrapping my arms around his cool waist. "Do you want to help me?"

"I'd better find some food for you," he said in a quiet voice, and he gently unwound my arms. I sighed as he disappeared, moving too fast.

It looked like my honeymoon was over. The thought put a big lump in my throat.

When I was mostly feather-free and dressed in an unfamiliar white cotton dress that concealed the worst of the violet blotches, I padded off barefoot to where the smell of eggs and bacon and Cheddar cheese was coming from.

Edward stood in front of the stainless steel stove, sliding an omelet onto the light blue plate waiting on the counter. The scent of the food overwhelmed me. I felt like I could eat the plate and the frying pan, too; my stomach snarled.

"Here," he said. He turned with a smile on his face and set the plate on a small tiled table.

I sat in one of the two metal chairs and started snarfing down the hot eggs. They burned my throat, but I didn't care.

He sat down across from me. "I'm not feeding you often enough."

I swallowed and then reminded him, "I was asleep. This is really good, by the way. Impressive for someone who doesn't eat."

"Food Network," he said, flashing my favorite crooked smile.

I was happy to see it, happy that he seemed more like his normal self.

"Where did the eggs come from?"

"I asked the cleaning crew to stock the kitchen. A first, for this place. I'll have to ask them to deal with the feathers.... " He trailed off, his gaze fixed on a space above my head. I didn't respond, trying to avoid saying anything that would upset him again.

I ate everything, though he'd made enough for two.

"Thank you," I told him. I leaned across the table to kiss him. He kissed me back automatically, and then suddenly stiffened and leaned away.

I gritted my teeth, and the question I meant to ask came out sounding like an accusation. "You aren't going to touch me again while we're here, are you?"

He hesitated, then half-smiled and raised his hand to stroke my cheek. His fingers lingered softly on my skin, and I couldn't help leaning my face into his palm.

"You know that's not what I meant."

He sighed and dropped his hand. "I know. And you're right." He paused, lifting his chin slightly. And then he spoke again with firm conviction.  "I will not make love with you until you've been changed. I will never hurt you again."
发表于 2016-8-11 10:44 | 显示全部楼层
6. DISTRACTIONS

My entertainment became the number-one priority on isle Esme. We snorkeled (well, I snorkeled while he flaunted his ability to go without oxygen indefinitely). We explored the small jungle that ringed the rocky little peak. We visited the parrots that lived in the canopy on the south end of the island. We watched the sunset from the rocky western cove. We swam with the porpoises that played in the warm, shallow waters there. Or at least I did; when Edward was in the water, the porpoises disappeared as if a shark was near.

I knew what was going on. He was trying to keep me busy, distracted, so I that wouldn't continue badgering him about the sex thing. Whenever I tried to talk him into taking it easy with one of the million DVDs under the big-screen plasma TV, he would lure me out of the house with magic words like coral reefs and submerged caves and sea turtles. We were going, going, going all day, so that I found myself completely famished and exhausted when the sun eventually set.

I drooped over my plate after I finished dinner every night; once I'd actually fallen asleep right at the table and he'd had to carry me to bed. Part of it was that Edward always made too much food for one, but I was so hungry after swimming and climbing all day that I ate most of it. Then, full and worn out, I could barely keep my eyes open. All part of the plan, no doubt.

Exhaustion didn't help much with my attempts at persuasion. But I didn't give up. I tried reasoning, pleading, and grouching, all to no avail. I was usually unconscious before I could really press my case far. And then my dreams felt so real - nightmares mostly, made more vivid, I guessed, by the too-bright colors of the island - that I woke up tired no matter how long I slept.

About a week or so after we'd gotten to the island, I decided to try compromise. It had worked for us in the past.

I was sleeping in the blue room now. The cleaning crew wasn't due until the next day, and so the white room still had a snowy blanket of down. The blue room was smaller, the bed more reasonably proportioned. The walls were dark, paneled in teak, and the fittings were all luxurious blue silk.

I'd taken to wearing some of Alice's lingerie collection to sleep in at night - which weren't so revealing compared to the scanty bikinis she'd packed for me when it came right down to it. I wondered if she'd seen a vision of why I would want such things, and then shuddered, embarrassed by that thought.

I'd started out slow with innocent ivory satins, worried that revealing more of my skin would be the opposite of helpful, but ready to try anything. Edward seemed to notice nothing, as if I were wearing the same ratty old sweats I wore at home.

The bruises were much better now - yellowing in some places and disappearing altogether in others - so tonight I pulled out one of the scarier pieces as I got ready in the paneled bathroom. It was black, lacy, and embarrassing to look at even when it wasn't on. I was careful not to look in the mirror before I went back to the bedroom. I didn't want to lose my nerve.

I had the satisfaction of watching his eyes pop open wide for just a second before he controlled his expression.

"What do you think?" I asked, pirouetting so that he could see every angle.

He cleared his throat. "You look beautiful. You always do."

"Thanks," I said a bit sourly.

I was too tired to resist climbing quickly into the soft bed. He put his arms around me and pulled me against his chest, but this was routine - it was too hot to sleep without his cool body close.

"I'll make you a deal," I said sleepily.

"I will not make any deals with you," he answered.

"You haven't even heard what I'm offering."

"It doesn't matter."

I sighed. "Dang it. And I really wanted... Oh well."

He rolled his eyes.

I closed mine and let the bait sit there. I yawned.

It took only a minute - not long enough for me to zonk out.

"All right. What is it you want?"

I gritted my teeth for a second, fighting a smile. If there was one thing he couldn't resist, it was an opportunity to give me something.

"Well, I was thinking... I know that the whole Dartmouth thing was just supposed to be a cover story, but honestly, one semester of college probably wouldn't kill me," I said, echoing his words from long ago, when he'd tried to persuade me to put off becoming a vampire. "Charlie would get a thrill out of Dartmouth stories, I bet. Sure, it might be embarrassing if I can't keep up with all the brainiacs. Still... eighteen, nineteen. It's really not such a big difference. It's not like I'm going to get crow's feet in the next year."

He was silent for a long moment. Then, in a low voice, he said, "You would wait. You would stay human."

I held my tongue, letting the offer sink in.

"Why are you doing this to me?" he said through his teeth, his tone suddenly angry. "Isn't it hard enough without all of this?" He grabbed a handful of lace that was ruffled on my thigh. For a moment, I thought he was going to rip it from the seam. Then his hand relaxed. "It doesn't matter. I won't make any deals with you."

"I want to go to college."

"No, you don't. And there is nothing that is worth risking your life again. That's worth hurting you."

"But I do want to go. Well, it's not college as much as it's that I want - I want to be human a little while longer."

He closed his eyes and exhaled through his nose. "You are making me insane, Bella. Haven't we had this argument a million times, you always begging to be a vampire without delay?"

"Yes, but... well, I have a reason to be human that I didn't have before."

"What's that?"

"Guess," I said, and I dragged myself off the pillows to kiss him.

He kissed me back, but not in a way that made me think I was winning. It was more like he was being careful not to hurt my feelings; he was completely, maddeningly in control of himself. Gently, he pulled me away after a moment and cradled me against his chest.

"You are so human, Bella. Ruled by your hormones." He chuckled.

"That's the whole point, Edward. I like this part of being human. I don't want to give it up yet. I don't want to wait through years of being a blood-crazed newborn for some part of this to come back to me."

I yawned, and he smiled.

"You're tired. Sleep, love." He started humming the lullaby he'd composed for me when we first met.

"I wonder why I'm so tired," I muttered sarcastically. "That couldn't be part of your scheme or anything."

He just chuckled once and went back to humming.

"For as tired as I've been, you'd think I'd sleep better."

The song broke off. "You've been sleeping like the dead, Bella. You haven't said a word in your sleep since we got here. If it weren't for the snoring, I'd worry you were slipping into a coma."

I ignored the snoring jibe; I didn't snore. "I haven't been tossing? That's weird. Usually I'm all over the bed when I'm having nightmares. And shouting."

"You've been having nightmares?"

"Vivid ones. They make me so tired." I yawned. "I can't believe I haven't been babbling about them all night."

"What are they about?"

"Different things - but the same, you know, because of the colors."

"Colors?"

"It's all so bright and real. Usually, when I'm dreaming, I know that I am. With these, I don't know I'm asleep. It makes them scarier."

He sounded disturbed when he spoke again. "What is frightening you?"

I shuddered slightly. "Mostly ..." I hesitated.

"Mostly?" he prompted.

I wasn't sure why, but I didn't want to tell him about the child in my recurring nightmare; there was something private about that particular horror. So, instead of giving him the full description, I gave him just one element. Certainly enough to frighten me or anyone else.

"The Volturi," I whispered.

He hugged me tighter. "They aren't going to bother us anymore. You'll be immortal soon, and they'll have no reason."

I let him comfort me, feeling a little guilty that he'd misunderstood. The nightmares weren't like that, exactly. It wasn't that I was afraid for myself - I was afraid for the boy.

He wasn't the same boy as that first dream - the vampire child with the bloodred eyes who sat on a pile of dead people I loved. This boy I'd dreamed of four times in the last week was definitely human; his cheeks were flushed and his wide eyes were a soft green. But just like the other child, he shook with fear and desperation as the Volturi closed in on us.

In this dream that was both new and old, I simply had to protect the unknown child. There was no other option. At the same time, I knew that I would fail.

He saw the desolation on my face. "What can I do to help?"

I shook it off. "They're just dreams, Edward."

"Do you want me to sing to you? Ill sing all night if it will keep the bad dreams away."

"They're not all bad. Some are nice. So... colorful. Underwater, with the fish and the coral. It all seems like it's really happening - I don't know that I'm dreaming. Maybe this island is the problem. It's really bright here."

"Do you want to go home?"

"No. No, not yet. Can't we stay awhile longer?"

"We can stay as long as you want, Bella," he promised me.

"When does the semester start? I wasn't paying attention before."

He sighed. He may have started humming again, too, but I was under before I could be sure.

Later, when I awoke in the dark, it was with shock. The dream had been so very real... so vivid, so sensory.... I gasped aloud, now, disoriented by the dark room. Only a second ago, it seemed, I had been under the brilliant sun.

"Bella?" Edward whispered, his arms tight around me, shaking me gently. "Are you all right, sweetheart?"

"Oh," I gasped again. Just a dream. Not real. To my utter astonishment, tears overflowed from my eyes without warning, gushing down my face.

"Bella!" he said - louder, alarmed now. "What's wrong?" He wiped the tears from my hot cheeks with cold, frantic fingers, but others followed.

"It was only a dream." I couldn't contain the low sob that broke in my voice. The senseless tears were disturbing,

but I couldn't get control of the staggering grief that gripped me. I wanted so badly for the dream to be real.

"It's okay, love, you're fine. I'm here." He rocked me back and forth, a little too fast to soothe. "Did you have another nightmare? It wasn't real, it wasn't real."

"Not a nightmare." I shook my head, scrubbing the back of my hand against my eyes. "It was a good dream." My voice broke again.

"Then why are you crying?" he asked, bewildered.

"Because I woke up," I wailed, wrapping my arms around his neck in a chokehold and sobbing into his throat.

He laughed once at my logic, but the sound was tense with concern.

"Everything's all right, Bella. Take deep breaths."

"It was so real," I cried. "I wanted it to be real."

"Tell me about it," he urged. "Maybe that will help."

"We were on the beach. ..." I trailed off, pulling back to look with tear-filled eyes at his anxious angel's face, dim in the darkness. I stared at him broodingly as the unreasonable grief began to ebb.

"And?" he finally prompted.

I blinked the tears out of my eyes, torn. "Oh, Edward ..."

"Tell me, Bella," he pleaded, eyes wild with worry at the pain in my voice.

But I couldn't. Instead I clutched my arms around his neck again and locked my mouth with his feverishly. It wasn't desire at all - it was need, acute to the point of pain. His response was instant but quickly followed by his rebuff.

He struggled with me as gently as he could in his surprise, holding me away, grasping my shoulders.

"No, Bella," he insisted, looking at me as if he was worried that I'd lost my mind.

My arms dropped, defeated, the bizarre tears spilling in a fresh torrent down my face, a new sob rising in my throat. He was right - I must be crazy.

He stared at me with confused, anguished eyes.

"I'm s-s-s-orry," I mumbled.

But he pulled me to him then, hugging me tightly to his marble chest.

"I can't, Bella, I can't!" His moan was agonized.

"Please," I said, my plea muffled against his skin. "Please, Edward?"

I couldn't tell if he was moved by the tears trembling in my voice, or if he was unprepared to deal with the suddenness of my attack, or if his need was simply as unbearable in that moment as my own. But whatever the reason, he pulled my lips back to his, surrendering with a groan.

And we began where my dream had left off.

I stayed very still when I woke up in the morning and tried to keep my breathing even. I was afraid to open my eyes.

I was lying across Edward's chest, but he was very still and his arms were not wrapped around me. That was a bad sign. I was afraid to admit I was awake and face his anger - no matter whom it was directed at today.

Carefully, I peeked through my eyelashes. He was staring up at the dark ceiling, his arms behind his head. I pulled myself up on my elbow so that I could see his face better. It was smooth, expressionless.

"How much trouble am I in?" I asked in a small voice.

"Heaps," he said, but turned his head and smirked at me.

I breathed a sigh of relief. "I am sorry," I said. "I didn't mean... Well, I don't know exactly what that was last night." I shook my head at the memory of the irrational tears, the crushing grief.

"You never did tell me what your dream was about."

"I guess I didn't - but I sort of showed you what it was about." I laughed nervously.

"Oh," he said. His eyes widened, and then he blinked. "Interesting."

"It was a very good dream," I murmured. He didn't comment, so a few seconds later I asked, "Am I forgiven?"

"I'm thinking about it."

I sat up, planning to examine myself - there didn't seem to be any feathers, at least. But as I moved, an odd wave of vertigo hit. I swayed and fell back against the pillows.

"Whoa... head rush."

His arms were around me then. "You slept for a long time. Twelve hours."

"Twelve?" How strange.

I gave myself a quick once-over while I spoke, trying to be inconspicuous about it. I looked fine. The bruises on my arms were still a week old, yellowing. I stretched experimentally. I felt fine, too. Well, better than fine, actually.

"Is the inventory complete?"

I nodded sheepishly. "The pillows all appear to have survived."

"Unfortunately, I can't say the same for your, er, nightgown." He nodded toward the foot of the bed, where several scraps of black lace were strewn across the silk sheets.

"That's too bad," I said. "I liked that one."

"I did, too."

"Were there any other casualties?" I asked timidly.

"I'll have to buy Esme a new bed frame," he confessed, glancing over his shoulder. I followed his gaze and was shocked to see that large chunks of wood had apparently been gouged from the left side of the headboard.

"Hmm." I frowned. "You'd think I would have heard that."

"You seem to be extraordinarily unobservant when your attention is otherwise involved."

"I was a bit absorbed," I admitted, blushing a deep red.

He touched my burning cheek and sighed. "I'm really going to miss that."

I stared at his face, searching for any signs of the anger or remorse I feared. He gazed back at me evenly, his expression calm but otherwise unreadable.

"How are you feeling?'7

He laughed.

"What?" I demanded.

"You look so guilty - like you've committed a crime."

"I feel guilty," I muttered.

"So you seduced your all-too-willing husband. That's not a capital offense."

He seemed to be teasing.

My cheeks got hotter. "The word seduced implies a certain amount of premeditation."

"Maybe that was the wrong word," he allowed.

"You're not angry?"

He smiled ruefully. Tm not angry."

"Why not?"

"Well. . ." He paused. "I didn't hurt you, for one thing. It was easier this time, to control myself, to channel the excesses." His eyes flickered to the damaged frame again. "Maybe because I had a better idea of what to expect."

A hopeful smile started to spread across my face. "I told you that it was all about practice."

He rolled his eyes.

My stomach growled, and he laughed. "Breakfast time for the human?" he asked.

"Please," I said, hopping out of bed. I moved too quickly, though, and had to stagger drunkenly to regain my balance. He caught me before I could stumble into the dresser.

"Are you all right?"

"If I don't have a better sense of equilibrium in my next life, I'm demanding a refund."

I cooked this morning, frying up some eggs - too hungry to do anything more elaborate. Impatient, I flipped them onto a plate after just a few minutes.

"Since when do you eat eggs sunny-side up?" he asked.

"Since now."

"Do you know how many eggs you've gone through in the last week?" He pulled the trash bin out from under the sink - it was full of empty blue cartons.

"Weird," I said after swallowing a scorching bite. "This place is messing with my appetite." And my dreams, and my already dubious balance. "But I like it here. Well probably have to leave soon, though, won't we, to make it to Dartmouth in time? Wow, I guess we need to find a place to live and stuff, too."

He sat down next to me. "You can give up the college pretense now - you've gotten what you wanted. And we didn't agree to a deal, so there are no strings attached."

I snorted. "It wasn't a pretense, Edward. I don't spend my free time plotting like some people do. What can we do to wear Bella out today?" I said in a poor impression of his voice. He laughed, unashamed. "I really do want a little more time being human." I leaned over to run my hand across his bare chest. "I have not had enough."

He gave me a dubious look. "For this?" he asked, catching my hand as it moved down his stomach. "Sex was the key all along?" He rolled his eyes. "Why didn't I think of that?" he muttered sarcastically. "I could have saved myself a lot of arguments."

I laughed. "Yeah, probably."

"You are so human," he said again.

"I know."

A hint of a smile pulled at his lips. "We're going to Dartmouth? Really?"

"I'll probably fail out in one semester."

"I'll tutor you." The smile was wide now. "You're going to love college."

"Do you think we can find an apartment this late?"

He grimaced, looking guilty. "Well, we sort of already have a house there. You know, just in case."

"You bought a house?"

"Real estate is a good investment."

I raised one eyebrow and then let it go. "So we're ready, then."

"I'll have to see if we can keep your 'before' car for a little longer___"

"Yes, heaven forbid I not be protected from tanks."

He grinned.

"How much longer can we stay?" I asked.

"We're fine on time. A few more weeks, if you want. And then we can visit Charlie before we go to New Hampshire. We could spend Christmas with Renee___"

His words painted a very happy immediate future, one free of pain for everyone involved. The Jacob-drawer, all but forgotten, rattled, and i amended the thought - for almost everyone.

This wasn't getting any easier. Now that I'd discovered exactly how good being human could be, it was tempting to let my plans drift. Eighteen or nineteen, nineteen or twenty... Did it really matter? I wouldn't change so much in a year. And being human with Edward... The choice got trickier every day.

"A few weeks," I agreed. And then, because there never seemed to be enough time, I added, "So I was thinking - you know what I was saying about practice before?"

He laughed. "Can you hold on to that thought? I hear a boat. The cleaning crew must be here."

He wanted me to hold on to that thought. So did that mean he was not going to give me any more trouble about practicing? I smiled.

"Let me explain the mess in the white room to Gustavo, and then we can go out. There's a place in the jungle on the south - "

"I don't want to go out. i am not hiking all over the island today. I want to stay here and watch a movie."

He pursed his lips, trying not to laugh at my disgruntled tone. "All right, whatever you'd like. Why don't you pick one out while I get the door?"

"I didn't hear a knock."

He cocked his head to the side, listening. A half second later, a faint, timid rap on the door sounded. He grinned and turned for the hallway.

I wandered over to the shelves under the big TV and started scanning through the titles. It was hard to decide where to begin. They had more DVDs than a rental store.

I could hear Edward's low, velvet voice as he came back down the hall, conversing fluidly in what I assumed was perfect Portuguese. Another, harsher, human voice answered in the same tongue.

Edward led them into the room, pointing toward the kitchen on his way. The two Brazilians looked incredibly short and dark next to him. One was a round man, the other a slight female, both their faces creased with lines. Edward gestured to me with a proud smile, and I heard my name mixed in with a flurry of unfamiliar words. I flushed a little as I thought of the downy mess in the white room, which they would soon encounter. The little man smiled at me politely.

But the tiny coffee-skinned woman didn't smile. She stared at me with a mixture of shock, worry, and most of all, wide-eyed fear. Before I could react, Edward motioned for them to follow him toward the chicken coop, and they were gone.

When he reappeared, he was alone. He walked swiftly to my side and wrapped his arms around me.

"What's with her?" I whispered urgently, remembering her panicked expression.

He shrugged, unperturbed. "Kaure's part Ticuna Indian. She was raised to be more superstitious - or you could call it more aware - than those who live in the modern world. She suspects what I am, or close enough." He still didn't sound worried. "They have their own legends here. The Libishomen - a blood-drinking demon who preys exclusively on beautiful women." He leered at me.

Beautiful women only? Well, that was kind of flattering.

"She looked terrified," I said.

"She is - but mostly she's worried about you."

"Me?"

"She's afraid of why I have you here, all alone." He chuckled darkly and then looked toward the wall of movies. "Oh well, why don't you choose something for us to watch? That's an acceptably human thing to do."

"Yes, I'm sure a movie will convince her that you're human." I laughed and clasped my arms securely around his neck, stretching up on my tiptoes. He leaned down so that I could kiss him, and then his arms tightened around me, lifting me off the floor so he didn't have to bend.

"Movie, schmovie," I muttered as his lips moved down my throat, twisting my fingers in his bronze hair.

Then I heard a gasp, and he put me down abruptly. Kaure stood frozen in the hallway, feathers in her black hair, a large sack of more feathers in her arms, an expression of horror on her face. She stared at me, her eyes bugging out, as I blushed and looked down. Then she recovered herself and murmured something that, even in an unfamiliar language, was clearly an apology. Edward smiled and answered in a friendly tone. She turned her dark eyes away and continued down the hall.

"She was thinking what I think she was thinking, wasn't she?" I muttered.

He laughed at my convoluted sentence. "Yes."

"Here," I said, reaching out at random and grabbing a movie. "Put this on and we can pretend to watch it."

It was an old musical with smiling faces and fluffy dresses on the front.

"Very honeymoonish," Edward approved.

While actors on the screen danced their way through a perky introduction song, I lolled on the sofa, snuggled into Edward's arms.

"Will we move back into the white room now?" I wondered idly.

"I don't know.... I've already mangled the headboard in the other room beyond repair - maybe if we limit the destruction to one area of the house, Esme might invite us back someday."

I smiled widely. "So there will be more destruction?"

He laughed at my expression. "I think it might be safer if it's premeditated, rather than if I wait for you to assault me again."

"It would only be a matter of time," I agreed casually, but my pulse was racing in my veins.

"Is there something the matter with your heart?"

"Nope. Healthy as a horse." I paused. "Did you want to go survey the demolition zone now?"

"Maybe it would be more polite to wait until we're alone. You may not notice me tearing the furniture apart, but it would probably scare them."

In truth, I'd already forgotten the people in the other room. "Right. Drat."

Gustavo and Kaure moved quietly through the house while I waited impatiently for them to finish and tried to pay attention to the happily-ever-after on the screen. I was starting to get sleepy - though, according to Edward, I'd slept half the day - when a rough voice startled me. Edward sat up, keeping me cradled against him, and answered Gustavo in flowing Portuguese. Gustavo nodded and walked quietly toward the front door.

"They're finished," Edward told me.

"So that would mean that we're alone now?"

"How about lunch first?" he suggested.

I bit my lip, torn by the dilemma. I was pretty hungry.

With a smile, he took my hand and led me to the kitchen. He knew my face so well, it didn't matter that he couldn't read my mind.

"This is getting out of hand," I complained when I finally felt full.

"Do you want to swim with the dolphins this afternoon - burn off the calories?" he asked.

"Maybe later. I had another idea for burning calories."

"And what was that?"

"Well, there's an awful lot of headboard left - "

But I didn't finish. He'd already swept me up into his arms, and his lips silenced mine as he carried me with in human speed to the blue room.
发表于 2016-8-11 11:13 | 显示全部楼层
7. UNEXPECTED

The line of black advanced on me through the shroud-like mist. I could see their dark ruby eyes glinting with desire, lusting for the kill. Their lips pulled back over their sharp, wet teeth - some to snarl, some to smile.

I heard the child behind me whimper, but I couldn't turn to look at him. Though I was desperate to be sure that he was safe, I could not afford any lapse in focus now.

They ghosted closer, their black robes billowing slightly with the movement. I saw their hands curl into bone-colored claws. They started to drift apart, angling to come at us from all sides. We were surrounded. We were going to die.

And then, like a burst of light from a flash, the whole scene was different. Yet nothing changed - the Volturi still stalked toward us, poised to kill. All that really changed was how the picture looked to me. Suddenly, I was hungry for it. I tvanfec/them to charge. The panic changed to bloodlust as I crouched forward, a smile on my face, and a growl ripped through my bared teeth.

I jolted upright, shocked out of the dream.

The room was black. It was also steamy hot. Sweat matted my hair at the temples and rolled down my throat.

I groped the warm sheets and found them empty.

"Edward?"

Just then, my fingers encountered something smooth and flat and stiff. One sheet of paper, folded in half. I took the note with me and felt my way across the room to the light switch.

The outside of the note was addressed to Mrs. Cullen.

I'm hoping you won't wake and notice my absence, but, if you should, I'll be back very soon. I've just gone to the mainland to hunt Go back to sleep and I'll be here when you wake again. I love you.

I sighed. We'd been here about two weeks now, so I should have been expecting that he would have to leave, but I hadn't been thinking about time. We seemed to exist outside of time here, just drifting along in a perfect state.

I wiped the sweat off my forehead. I felt absolutely wide awake, though the clock on the dresser said it was after one. I knew i would never be able to sleep as hot and sticky as I felt. Not to mention the fact that if I shut off the light and closed my eyes, I was sure to see those prowling black figures in my head.

I got up and wandered aimlessly through the dark house, flipping on lights. It felt so big and empty without Edward there. Different.

I ended up in the kitchen and decided that maybe comfort food was what I needed.

I poked around in the fridge until I found all the ingredients for fried chicken. The popping and sizzling of the chicken in the pan was a nice, homey sound; I felt less nervous while it filled the silence.

It smelled so good that I started eating it right out of the pan, burning my tongue in the process. By the fifth or sixth bite, though, it had cooled enough for me to taste it. My chewing slowed. Was there something off about the flavor? I checked the meat, and it was white all the way through, but I wondered if it was completely done. I took another experimental bite; I chewed twice. Ugh - definitely bad. I jumped up to spit it into the sink. Suddenly, the chicken-and-oil smell was revolting. I took the whole plate and shook it into the garbage, then opened the windows to chase away the scent. A coolish breeze had picked up outside. It felt good on my skin.

I was abruptly exhausted, but i didn't want to go back to the hot room. So I opened more windows in the TV room and lay on the couch right beneath them. I turned on the same movie we'd watched the other day and quickly fell asleep to the bright opening song.

When I opened my eyes again, the sun was halfway up the sky, but it was not the light that woke me. Cool arms were around me, pulling me against him. At the same time, a sudden pain twisted in my stomach, almost like the aftershock of catching a punch in the gut.

Tm sorry," Edward was murmuring as he wiped a wintry hand across my clammy forehead. "So much for thoroughness. I didn't think about how hot you would be with me gone. I'll have an air conditioner installed before I leave again."

I couldn't concentrate on what he was saying. "Excuse me!" I gasped, struggling to get free of his arms.

He dropped his hold automatically. "Bella?"

I streaked for the bathroom with my hand clamped over my mouth. I felt so horrible that I didn't even care - at first - that he was with me while I crouched over the toilet and was violently sick.

"Bella? What's wrong?"

I couldn't answer yet. He held me anxiously, keeping my hair out of my face, waiting till I could breathe again.

"Damn rancid chicken," I moaned.

"Are you all right?" His voice was strained.

"Fine," I panted. "It's just food poisoning. You don't need to see this. Go away."

"Not likely,Bella."

"Go away," I moaned again, struggling to get up so I could rinse my mouth out. He helped me gently, ignoring the weak shoves I aimed at him.

After my mouth was clean, he carried me to the bed and sat me down carefully, supporting me with his arms.

"Food poisoning?"

"Yeah," I croaked. "I made some chicken last night. It tasted off, so I threw it out. But I ate a few bites first."

He put a cold hand on my forehead. It felt nice. "How do you feel now?"

I thought about that for a moment. The nausea had passed as suddenly as it had come, and I felt like I did any other morning. "Pretty normal. A little hungry, actually."

He made me wait an hour and keep down a big glass of water before he fried me some eggs. I felt perfectly normal, just a little tired from being up in the middle of the night. He put onCNN - we'd been so out of touch, world war three could have broken out and we wouldn't have known - and I lounged drowsily across his lap.

I got bored with the news and twisted around to kiss him. Just like this morning, a sharp pain hit my stomach when I moved. I lurched away from him, my hand tight over my mouth. I knew I'd never make it to the bathroom this time, so I ran to the kitchen sink.

He held my hair again.

"Maybe we should go back to Rio, see a doctor," he suggested anxiously when I was rinsing my mouth afterward.

I shook my head and edged toward the hallway. Doctors meant needles. "I'll be fine right after I brush my teeth."

When my mouth tasted better, I searched through my suitcase for the little first-aid kit Alice had packed for me, full of human things like bandages and painkillers and - my object now - Pepto-Bismol. Maybe I could settle my stomach and calm Edward down.

But before I found the Pepto, I happened across something else that Alice had packed for me. I picked up the small blue box and stared at it in my hand for a long moment, forgetting everything else.

Then I started counting in my head. Once. Twice. Again.

Theknock startled me; the little box fell back into the suitcase.

"Are you well?" Edward asked through the door. "Did you get sick again?"

"Yes and no," I said, but my voice sounded strangled.

"Bella? Can I please come in?" Worriedly now.

"O... kay?"

He came in and appraised my position, sitting cross-legged on the floor by the suitcase, and my expression, blank and staring. He sat next to me, his hand going to my forehead at once.

"What's wrong?"

"How many days has it been since the wedding?" I whispered.

"Seventeen," he answered automatically. "Bella, what is it?"

I was counting again. I held up a finger, cautioning him to wait, and mouthed the numbers to myself. I'd been wrong about the days before. We'd been here longer than I'd thought. I started over again.

"Bella!" he whispered urgently. "I'm losing my mind over here."

I tried to swallow. It didn't work. So I reached into the suitcase and fumbled around until I found the little blue box of tampons again. I held them up silently.

He stared at me in confusion. "What? Are you trying to pass this illness off as PMS?"

"No," I managed to choke out. "No, Edward. I'm trying to tell you that my period is five days late."

His facial expression didn't change. It was like I hadn't spoken.

"I don't think I have food poisoning," I added.

He didn't respond. He had turned into a sculpture.

"The dreams," I mumbled to myself in a flat voice. "Sleeping so much. The crying. All that food. Oh. Oh. Oh"

Edward's stare seemed glassy, as if he couldn't see me anymore.

Reflexively, almost involuntarily, my hand dropped to my stomach.

"Oh!" I squeaked again.

I lurched to my feet, slipping out of Edward's unmoving hands. I'd never changed out of the little silk shorts and camisole I'd worn to bed. I yanked the blue fabric out of the way and stared at my stomach.

"Impossible," I whispered.

I had absolutely no experience with pregnancy or babies or any part of that world, but I wasn't an idiot. I'd seen enough movies and TV shows to know that this wasn't how it worked. I was only five days late. If I was pregnant, my body wouldn't even have registered that fact. I would not have morning sickness. I would not have changed my eating or sleeping habits.

And I most definitely would not have a small but defined bump sticking out between my hips.

I twisted my torso back and forth, examining it from every angle, as if it would disappear in exactly the right light. I ran my fingers over the subtle bulge, surprised by how rock hard it felt under my skin.

"Impossible," I said again, because, bulge or no bulge, period or no period (and there was definitely no period, though I'd never been late a day in my life), there was no way I could be pregnant The only person I'd ever had sex with was a vampire, for crying out loud.

A vampire who was still frozen on the floor with no sign of ever moving again.

So there had to be some other explanation, then. Something wrong with me. A strange South American disease with all the signs of pregnancy, only accelerated...

And then I remembered something - a morning of internet research that seemed a lifetime ago now. Sitting at the old desk in my room at Charlie's house with gray light glowing dully through the window, staring at my ancient, wheezing computer, reading avidly through a web-site called "Vampires A-Z."

It had been less than twenty-four hours since Jacob Black, trying to entertain me with the Quileute legends he didn't believe in yet, had told me that Edward was a vampire.

I'd scanned anxiously through the first entries on the site, which was dedicated to vampire myths around the world. The Filipino Danag, the Hebrew Estrie, the Romanian Varacolaci, the Italian Stregoni benefici (a legend actually based on my new father-in-law's early exploits with the Volturi, not that I'd known anything about that at the time)...

I'd paid less and less attention as the stories had grown more and more implausible.

I only remembered vague bits of the later entries. They mostly seemed like excuses dreamed up to explain things like infant mortality rates - and infidelity.

No, honey, I'm not having an affair! That sexy woman you saw sneaking out of the house was an evil succubus. I'm lucky I escaped with my life! (Of course, with what I knew now about Tanya and her sisters, I suspected that some of those excuses had been nothing but fact.)

There had been one for the ladies, too. How can you accuse me of cheating on you - just because you've come home from a two-year sea voyage and I'm pregnant? It was the incubus. He hypnotized me with his mystical vampire powers....

That had been part of the definition of the incubus - the ability to father children with his hapless prey.

I shook my head, dazed. But...

I thought of Esme and especially Rosalie. Vampires couldn't have children. If it were possible, Rosalie would have found a way by now. The incubus myth was nothing but a fable.

Except that... well, there was a difference. Of course Rosalie could not conceive a child, because she was frozen in the state in which she passed from human to inhuman. Totally unchanging. And human women's bodies had to change to bear children. The constant change of a monthly cycle for one thing, and then the bigger changes needed to accommodate a growing child. Rosalie's body couldn't change.

But mine could. Mine did. I touched the bump on my stomach that had not been there yesterday.

And human men - well, they pretty much stayed the same from puberty to death. I remembered a random bit of trivia, gleaned from who knows where: Charlie Chaplin was in his seventies when he fathered his youngest child. Men had no such thing as child-bearing years or cycles of fertility.

Of course, how would anyone know if vampire men could father children, when their partners were not able? What vampire on earth would have the restraint necessary to test the theory with a human woman? Or the inclination?

I could think of only one.

Part of my head was sorting through fact and memory and speculation, while the other half - the part that controlled the ability to move even the smallest muscles - was stunned beyond the capacity for normal operations. I couldn't move my lips to speak, though I wanted to ask Edward to please explain to me what was going on. I needed to go back to where he sat, to touch him, but my body wouldn't follow instructions. I could only stare at my shocked eyes in the mirror, my fingers gingerly pressed against the swelling on my torso.

And then, like in my vivid nightmare last night, the scene abruptly transformed. Everything I saw in the mirror looked completely different, though nothing actually was different.

What happened to change everything was that a soft little nudge bumped my hand - from inside my body.

In the same moment, Edward's phone rang, shrill and demanding. Neither of us moved. It rang again and again. I tried to tune it out while I pressed my fingers to my stomach, waiting. In the mirror my expression was no longer bewildered - it was wondering now. I barely noticed when the strange, silent tears started streaming down my cheeks.

The phone kept ringing. I wished Edward would answer it - I was having a moment. Possibly the biggest of my life.

Ring! Ring! Ring!

Finally, the annoyance broke through everything else. I got down on my knees next to Edward - I found myself moving more carefully, a thousand times more aware of the way each motion felt - and patted his pockets until I found the phone. I half-expected him to thaw out and answer it himself, but he was perfectly still.

I recognized the number, and I could easily guess why she was calling.

"Hi, Alice," I said. My voice wasn't much better than before. I cleared my throat.

"Bella? Bella, areyou okay?"

"Yeah. Urn. Is Carlisle there?"

"He is. What's the problem?"

"I'm not... one hundred percent... sure___"

"Is Edward all right?" she asked warily. She called Carlisle's name away from the phone and then demanded, "Why didn't he pick up the phone?" before I could answer her first question.

"I'm not sure."

"Bella,what's going on? I just saw - "

"What did you see?"

There was a silence. "Here's Carlisle," she finally said.

It felt like ice water had been injected in my veins. If Alice had seen a vision of me with a green-eyed, angel-faced child in my arms, she would have answered me, wouldn't she?

While I waited through the split second it took for Carlisle to speak, the vision I'd imagined for Alice danced behind my lids. A tiny, beautiful little baby, even more beautiful than the boy in my dream - a tiny Edward in my arms. Warmth shot through my veins, chasing the ice away.

"Bella, it's Carlisle. What's going on?"

"I - " I wasn't sure how to answer. Would he laugh at my conclusions, tell me I was crazy? Was I just having another colorful dream? "I'm a little worried about Edward.... Can vampires go into shock?"

"Has he been harmed?" Carlisle's voice was suddenly urgent.

"No, no," I assured him. "Just... taken by surprise."

"I don't understand, Bella."

"I think... well, I think that... maybe... I might be ..." I took a deep breath. "Pregnant."

As if to back me up, there was another tiny nudge in my abdomen. My hand flew to my stomach.

After a long pause, Carlisle's medical training kicked in.

"When was the first day of your last menstrual cycle?"

"Sixteen days before the wedding." I'd done the mental math thoroughly enough just before to be able to answer with certainty.

"How do you feel?"

"Weird," I told him, and my voice broke. Another trickle of tears dribbled down my cheeks. "This is going to sound crazy - look, I know it's way too early for any of this. Maybe I am crazy. But I'm having bizarre dreams and eating all the time and crying and throwing up and... and... I swear something moved inside me just now."

Edward's head snapped up.

I sighed in relief.

Edward held his hand out for the phone, his face white and hard.

"Urn, I think Edward wants to talk to you."

"Put him on," Carlisle said in a strained voice.

Not entirely sure that Edward could talk, I put the phone in his outstretched hand.

He pressed it to his ear. "Is it possible?" he whispered.

He listened for a long time, staring blankly at nothing.

"And Bella?" he asked. His arm wrapped around me as he spoke, pulling me close into his side.

He listened for what seemed like a long time and then said, "Yes. Yes, I will."

He pulled the phone away from his ear and pressed the "end" button. Right away, he dialed a new number.

"What did Carlisle say?" I asked impatiently.

Edward answered in a lifeless voice. "He thinks you're pregnant."

The words sent a warm shiver down my spine. The little nudger fluttered inside me.

"Who are you calling now?" I asked as he put the phone back to his ear.

"The airport. We're going home."

Edward was on the phone for more than an hour without a break. I guessed that he was arranging our flight home, but I couldn't be sure because he wasn't speaking English. It sounded like he was arguing; he spoke through his teeth a lot.

While he argued, he packed. He whirled around the room like an angry tornado, leaving order rather than destruction in his path. He threw a set of my clothes on the bed without looking at them, so I assumed it was time for me to get dressed. He continued with his argument while I changed, gesturing with sudden, agitated movements.

When I could no longer bear the violent energy radiating out of him, I quietly left the room. His manic concentration made me sick to my stomach - not like the morning sickness, just uncomfortable. I would wait somewhere else for his mood to pass. I couldn't talk to this icy, focused Edward who honestly frightened me a little.

Once again, I ended up in the kitchen. There was a bag of pretzels in the cupboard. I started chewing on them absently, staring out the window at the sand and rocks and trees and ocean, everything glittering in the sun.

Someone nudged me.

"I know," I said. "I don't want to go, either."

I stared out the window for a moment, but the nudger didn't respond.

"I don't understand," i whispered. "What is wrong here?"

Surprising, absolutely. Astonishing, even. But wrong?

No.

So why was Edward so furious? He was the one who had actually wished out loud for a shotgun wedding.

I tried to reason through it.

Maybe it wasn't so confusing that Edward wanted us to go home right away. He'd want Carlisle to check me out, make sure my assumption was right - though there was absolutely no doubt in my head at this point. Probably they'd want to figure out why I was already so pregnant, with the bump and the nudging and all of that. That wasn't normal.

Once I thought of this, I was sure I had it. He must be so worried about the baby. I hadn't gotten around to freaking out yet. My brain worked slower than his - it was still stuck marveling over the picture it had conjured up before: the tiny child with Edward's eyes - green, as his had been when he was human - lying fair and beautiful in my arms. I hoped he would have Edward's face exactly, with no interference from mine.

It was funny how abruptly and entirely necessary this vision had become. From that first little touch, the whole world had shifted. Where before there was just one thing i could not live without, now there were two. There was no division - my love was not split between them now; it wasn't like that. It was more like my heart had grown, swollen up to twice its size in that moment. All that extra space, already filled. The increase was almost dizzying.

I'd never really understood Rosalie's pain and resentment before. I'd never imagined myself a mother, never wanted that. It had been a piece of cake to promise Edward that I didn't care about giving up children for him, because I truly didn't. Children, in the abstract, had never appealed to me. They seemed to be loud creatures, often dripping some form of goo. I'd never had much to do with them. When I'd dreamed of Renee providing me with a brother, I'd always imagined an older brother. Someone to take care of me, rather than the other way around.

This child, Edward's child, was a whole different story.

I wanted him like I wanted air to breathe. Not a choice - a necessity.

Maybe I just had a really bad imagination. Maybe that was why I'd been unable to imagine that I would like being married until after I already was - unable to see that I would want a baby until after one was already coming....

As I put my hand on my stomach, waiting for the next nudge, tears streaked down my cheeks again.

"Bella?"

I turned, made wary by the tone of his voice. It was too cold, too careful. His face matched his voice, empty and hard.

And then he saw that I was crying.

"Bella!" Hecrossed the room in a flash and put his hands on my face. "Are you in pain?"

"No, no - "

He pulled me against his chest. "Don't be afraid. We'll be home in sixteen hours. You'll be fine. Carlisle will be ready when we get there. We'll take care of this, and you'll be fine, you'll be fine."

"Take care of this? What do you mean?"

He leaned away and looked me in the eye. "We're going to get that thing out before it can hurt any part of you. Don't be scared. I wont let it hurt you."

"That thing?" Igasped.

He looked sharply away from me, toward the front door. "Dammit! I forgot Gustavo was due today. HI get rid of him and be right back." He darted out of the room.

I clutched the counter for support. My knees were wobbly.

Edward had just called my little nudger a thing. He said Carlisle would get it out.

"No," I whispered.

I'd gotten it wrong before. He didn't care about the baby atall. He wanted to hurt him. The beautiful picture in my head shifted abruptly, changed into something dark. My pretty baby crying, my weak arms not enough to protect him....

What could I do? Would I be able to reason with them? What if I couldn't? Did this explain Alice's strange silence on the phone? Is that what she'd seen? Edward and Carlisle killing that pale, perfect child before he could live?

"No," I whispered again, my voice stronger. That could not be. I would not allow it.

I heard Edward speaking Portuguese again. Arguing again. His voice got closer, and I heard him grunt in exasperation. Then I heard another voice, low and timid. A woman's voice.

He came into the kitchen ahead of her and went straight to me. He wiped the tears from my cheeks and murmured in my ear through the thin, hard line of his lips.

"She's insisting on leaving the food she brought - she made us dinner." If he had been less tense, less furious, I knew he would have rolled his eyes. "It's an excuse - she wants to make sure I haven't killed you yet." His voice went ice cold at the end.

Kaure edged nervously around the corner with a covered dish in her hands. I wished I could speak Portuguese, or that my Spanish was less rudimentary, so that I could try to thank this woman who had dared to anger a vampire just to check on me.

Her eyes flickered between the two of us. I saw her measuring thecolor in my face, the moisture in my eyes. Mumbling something I didn't understand, she put the dish on the counter.

Edward snapped something at her; I'd never heard him be so impolite before. She turned to go, and the whirling motion of her long skirt wafted the smell of the food into my face. It was strong - onions and fish. I gagged and whirled for the sink. I felt Edward's hands on my forehead and heard his soothing murmur through the roaring in my ears. His hands disappeared for a second, and I heard the refrigerator slam shut. Mercifully, the smell disappeared with the sound, and Edward's hands were cooling my clammy face again. It was over quickly.

I rinsed my mouth in the tap while he caressed the side of my face.

There was a tentative little nudge in my womb.

It's okay. We're okay,I thought toward the bump.

Edward turned me around, pulling me into his arms. I rested my head on his shoulder. My hands, instinctively, folded over my stomach.

I heard a little gasp and I looked up.

The woman was still there, hesitating in the doorway with her hands half-outstretched as if she had been looking for some way to help. Her eyes were locked on my hands, popping wide with shock. Her mouth hung open.

Then Edward gasped, too, and he suddenly turned to face the woman, pushing me slightly behind his body. His arm wrapped across my torso, like he was holding me back.

Suddenly, Kaure was shouting at him - loudly, furiously, her unintelligible words flying across the room like knives. She raised her tiny fist in the air and took two steps forward, shaking it at him. Despite her ferocity, it was easy to see the terror in her eyes.

Edward stepped toward her, too, and I clutched at his arm, frightened for the woman. But when he interrupted her tirade, his voice took me by surprise, especially considering how sharp he'd been with her when she wasn't screeching at him. It was low now; it was pleading. Not only that, but the sound was different, more guttural, the cadence off. I didn't think he was speaking Portuguese anymore.

For a moment, the woman stared at him in wonder, and then her eyes narrowed as she barked out a long question in the same alien tongue.

I watched as his face grew sad and serious, and he nodded once. She took a quick step back and crossed herself.

He reached out to her, gesturing toward me and then resting his hand against my cheek. She replied angrily again, waving her hands accusingly toward him, and then gestured to him. When she finished, he pleaded again with the same low, urgent voice.

Her expression changed - she stared at him with doubt plain on her face as he spoke, her eyes repeatedly flashing to my confused face. He stopped speaking, and she seemed to be deliberating something. She looked back and forth between the two of us, and then, unconsciously it seemed, took a step forward.

She made a motion with her hands, miming a shape like a balloon jutting out from her stomach. I started  - did her legends of the predatory blood-drinker include this? Could she possibly know something about what was growing inside me?

She walked a few steps forward deliberately this time and asked a few brief questions, which he responded to tensely. Then he became the questioner - one quick query. She hesitated and then slowly shook her head. When he spoke again, his voice was so agonized that I looked up at him in shock. His face was drawn with pain.

In answer, she walked slowly forward until she was close enough to lay her small hand on top of mine, over my stomach. She spoke one word in Portuguese.

"Morte,"she sighed quietly. Then she turned, her shoulders bent as if the conversation had aged her, and left the room.

I knew enough Spanish for that one.

Edward was frozen again, staring after her with the tortured expression fixed on his face. A few moments later, I heard a boat's engine putter to life and then fade into the distance.

Edward did not move until I started for the bathroom. Then his hand caught my shoulder.

"Where are you going?" His voice was a whisper of pain.

"To brush my teeth again."

"Don't worry about what she said. It's nothing but legends, old lies for the sake of entertainment."

"I didn't understand anything," I told him, though it wasn't entirely true. As if I could discount something because it was a legend. My life was circled by legend on every side. They were all true.

"I packed your toothbrush. I'll get it for you."

He walked ahead of me to the bedroom.

"Are we leaving soon?" I called after him.

"As soon as you're done."

He waited for my toothbrush to repack it, pacing silently around the bedroom. I handed it to him when I was finished.

"I'll get the bags into the boat."

"Edward - "

He turned back. "Yes?"

I hesitated, trying to think of some way to get a few seconds alone. "Could you... pack some of the food? You know, in case I get hungry again."

"Of course," he said, his eyes suddenly soft. "Don't worry about anything. We'll get to Carlisle in just a few hours, really. This will all be over soon."

I nodded, not trusting my voice.

He turned and left the room, one big suitcase in each hand.

I whirled and scooped up the phone he'd left on the counter. It was very unlike him to forget things - to forget that Gustavo was coming, to leave his phone lying here. He was so stressed he was barely himself.

I flipped it open and scrolled through the preprogrammed numbers. I was glad he had the sound turned off, afraid that he would catch me. Would he be at the boat now? Or back already? Would he hear me from the kitchen if I whispered?

I found the number I wanted, one I had never called before in my life. I pressed the "send" button and crossed my fingers.

"Hello?" the voice like golden wind chimes answered.

"Rosalie?" I whispered. "It's Bella. Please. You have to help me."
发表于 2016-8-11 11:21 | 显示全部楼层
BOOK TWO: JACOB

8. WAITING FOR THE DAMN FIGHT TO START ALREADY

"Jeez, Paul, don't you freaking have a home of your own?"

Paul, lounging across my whole couch, watching some stupid baseball game on my crappy TV, just grinned at me and then - real slow - he lifted one Dorito from the bag in his lap and wedged it into his mouth in one piece.

"You betterVe brought those with you."

Crunch. "Nope," he said while chewing. "Your sister said to go ahead and help myself to anything I wanted."

I tried to make my voice sound like I wasn't about to punch him. "Is Rachel here now?"

It didn't work. He heard where I was going and shoved the bag behind his back. The bag crackled as he smashed it into the cushion. The chips crunched into pieces. Paul's hands came up in fists, close to his face like a boxer.

"Bring it, kid. I don't need Rachel to protect me."

I snorted. "Right. Like you wouldn't go crying to her first chance."

He laughed and relaxed into the sofa, dropping his hands. "I'm not going to go tattle to a girl. If you got in a lucky hit, that would be just between the two of us. And vice versa, right?"

Nice of him to give me an invitation. I made my body slump like I'd given up. "Right."

His eyes shifted to the TV.

I lunged.

His nose made a very satisfying crunching sound of its own when my fist connected. He tried to grab me, but I danced out of the way before he could find a hold, the ruined bag of Doritos in my left hand.

"You broke my nose, idiot."

"Just between us, right, Paul?"

I went to put the chips away. When I turned around, Paul was repositioning his nose before it could set crooked.

The blood had already stopped; it looked like it had no source as it trickled down his lips and off his chin. He cussed, wincing as he pulled at the cartilage.

"You are such a pain, Jacob. I swear, I'd rather hang out with Leah."

"Ouch. Wow, I bet Leah's really going to love to hear that you want to spend some quality time with her. It'll just warm the cockles of her heart."

"You're going to forget I said that."

"Of course. I'm sure it won't slip out."

"Ugh," he grunted, and then settled back into the couch, wiping the leftover blood on the collar of his t-shirt. "You're fast, kid.I'll give you that." He turned his attention back to the fuzzy game.

I stood there for a second, and then I stalked off to my room, muttering about alien abductions.

Back in the day, you could count on Paul for a fight pretty much whenever. You didn't have to hit him then - any mild insult would do. It didn't take a lot to flip him out of control. Now, of course, when I really wanted a good snarling, ripping, break-the-trees-down match, he had to be all mellow.

Wasn't it bad enough that yet another member of the pack had imprinted - because, really, that made four of ten now! When would it stop? Stupid myth was supposed to be rare, for crying out loud! All this mandatory love-at-first-sight was completely sickening!

Did it have to be my sister? Did it have to be Paul?

When Rachel'd come home from Washington State at the end of the summer semester - graduated early, the nerd - my biggest worry'd been that it would be hard keeping the secret around her. I wasn't used to covering things up in my own home. It made me real sympathetic to kids like Embry and Collin, whose parents didn't know they were werewolves. Embry's mom thought he was going through some kind of rebellious stage. He was permanently grounded for constantly sneaking out, but, of course, there wasn't much he could do about that. She'd check his room every night, and every night it would be empty again. She'd yell and he'd take it in silence, and then go through it all again the next day. We'd tried to talk Sam into giving Embry a break and letting his mom in on the gig, but Embry'd said he didn't mind. The secret was too important.

So I'd been all geared up to be keeping that secret. And then, two days after Rachel got home, Paul ran into her on the beach. Bada bing, bada boom - true love! No secrets necessary when you found your other half, and all that imprinting werewolf garbage.

Rachel got the whole story. And I got Paul as a brother-in-law someday. I knew Billy wasn't much thrilled about it, either. But he handled it better than I did. 'Course, he did escape to the Clearwaters' more often than usual these days. I didn't see where that was so much better. No Paul, but plenty of Leah.

I wondered - would a bullet through my temple actually kill me or just leave a really big mess for me to clean up?

I threw myself down on the bed. I was tired - hadn't slept since my last patrol - but I knew I wasn't going to sleep. My head was too crazy. The thoughts bounced around inside my skull like a disoriented swarm of bees. Noisy. Now and then they stung. Must be hornets, not bees. Bees died after one sting. And the same thoughts were stinging me again and again.

This waiting was driving me insane. It had been almost four weeks. I'd expected, one way or another, the news would have come by now. I'd sat up nights imagining what form it would take.

Charlie sobbing on the phone - Bella and her husband lost in an accident. A plane crash? That would be hard to fake. Unless the leeches didn't mind killing a bunch of bystanders to authenticate it, and why would they? Maybe a small plane instead. They probably had one of those to spare.

Or would the murderer come home alone, unsuccessful in his attempt to make her one of them? Or not even getting that far. Maybe he'd smashed her like a bag of chips in his drive to get some? Because her life was less important to him than his own pleasure...

The story would be so tragic - Bella lost in a horrible accident. Victim of a mugging gone wrong. Choking to death at dinner. A car accident, like my mom. So common. Happened all the time.

Would he bring her home? Bury her here for Charlie? Closed-casket ceremony, of course. My mom's coffin had been nailed shut...

I could only hope that he'd come back here, within my reach.

Maybe there would be no story at all. Maybe Charlie would call to ask my dad if he'd heard anything from Dr. Cullen, who just didn't show up to work one day. The house abandoned. No answer on any of the Cullens' phones. The mystery picked up by some second-rate news program, foul play suspected...

Maybe the big white house would burn to the ground, everyone trapped inside. Of course, they'd need bodies for that one. Eight humans of roughly the right size. Burned beyond recognition - beyond the help of dental records.

Either of those would be tricky - for me, that is. It would be hard to find them if they didn't want to be found. Of course, I had forever to look. If you had forever, you could check out every single piece of straw in the haystack, one by one, to see if it was the needle.

Right now, I wouldn't mind dismantling a haystack. At least that would be something to do. I hated knowing that I could be losing my chance. Giving the bloodsuckers the time to escape, if that was their plan.

We could go tonight. We could kill every one of them that we could find.

I liked that plan because I knew Edward well enough to know that, if I killed any one of his coven, I would get my chance at him, too. He'd come for revenge. And I'd give it to him - I wouldn't let my brothers take him down as a pack. It would be just him and me. May the better man win.

But Sam wouldn't hear of it. We're not going to break the treaty. Let them make the breach. Just because we had no proof that the Cullens had done anything wrong. Yet. You had to add the yet, because we all knew it was inevitable. Bella was either coming back one of them, or not coming back. Either way, a human life had been lost. And that meant game on.

In the other room, Paul brayed like a mule. Maybe he'd switched to a comedy. Maybe the commercial was funny. Whatever. It grated on my nerves.

I thought about breaking his nose again. But it wasn't Paul I wanted to fight with. Not really.

I tried to listen to other sounds, the wind in the trees, it wasn't the same, not through human ears. There were a million voices in the wind that I couldn't hear in this body.

But these ears were sensitive enough. I could hear past the trees, to the road, the sounds of the cars coming around that last bend where you could finally see the beach - the vista of the islands and the rocks and the big blue ocean stretching to the horizon. The La Push cops liked to hang out right around there. Tourists never noticed the reduced speed limit sign on the other side of the road.

I could hear the voices outside the souvenir shop on the beach. I could hear the cowbell clanging as the door opened and closed. I could hear Embry's mom at the cash register, printing out a receipt.

I could hear the tide raking across the beach rocks. I could hear the kids squeal as the icy water rushed in too fast for them to get out of the way. I could hear the moms complain about the wet clothes. And I could hear a familiar voice....

I was listening so hard that the sudden burst of Paul's donkey laugh made me jump half off the bed.

"Get out of my house," I grumbled. Knowing he wouldn't pay any attention, I followed my own advice. I wrenched open my window and climbed out the back way so that I wouldn't see Paul again. It would be too tempting. I knew I would hit him again, and Rachel was going to be pissed enough already. She'd see the blood on his shirt, and she'd blame me right away without waiting for proof. Of course, she'd be right, but still.

I paced down to the shore, my fists in my pockets. Nobody looked at me twice when I went through the dirt lot by First Beach. That was one nice thing about summer - no one cared if you wore nothing but shorts.

I followed the familiar voice I'd heard and found Quil easy enough. He was on the south end of the crescent, avoiding the bigger part of the tourist crowd. He kept up a constant stream of warnings.

"Keep out of the water, Claire. C'mon. No, don't. Oh! Nice, kid. Seriously, do you want Emily to yell at me? I'm not bringing you back to the beach again if you don't - Oh yeah? Don't - ugh. You think that's funny, do you? Hah! Who's laughing now, huh?"

He had the giggling toddler by the ankle when I reached them. She had a bucket in one hand, and her jeans were drenched. He had a huge wet mark down the front of his t-shirt.

"Five bucks on the baby girl," I said.

"Hey, Jake."

Claire squealed and threw her bucket at Quil's knees. "Down, down!"

He set her carefully on her feet and she ran to me. She wrapped her arms around my leg.

"UncaJay!"

"How's it going, Claire?"

She giggled. "Qwil aaaaawl wet now."

"I can see that. Where's your mama?"

"Gone, gone, gone," Claire sang, "Cwaire pway wid Qwil aaaawl day. Cwaire nebber gowin home." She let go of me and ran to Quil. He scooped her up and slung her onto his shoulders.

"Sounds like somebody's hit the terrible twos."

"Threes actually," Quil corrected. "You missed the party. Princess theme. She made me wear a crown, and then Emily suggested they all try out her new play makeup on me."

"Wow, I'm really sorry I wasn't around to see that."

"Don't worry, Emily has pictures. Actually, I look pretty hot."

"You're such a patsy."

Quil shrugged. "Claire had a great time. That was the point."

I rolled my eyes. It was hard being around imprinted people. No matter what stage they were in - about to tie the knot like Sam or just a much-abused nanny like Quil - the peace and certainty they always radiated was downright puke-inducing.

Claire squealed on his shoulders and pointed at the ground. "Pity wock, Qwil! For me, for me!"

"Which one, kiddo? The red one?"

"No wed!"

Quil dropped to his knees - Claire screamed and pulled his hair like a horse's reigns.

"This blue one?"

"No, no, no...," the little girl sang, thrilled with her new game.

The weird part was, Quil was having just as much fun as she was. He didn't have that face on that so many of the tourist dads and moms were wearing - the when-is-nap-time? face. You never saw a real parent so jazzed to play whatever stupid kiddie sport their rugrat could think up. I'd seen Quil play peekaboo for an hour straight without getting bored.

And I couldn't even make fun of him for it - I envied him too much.

Though I did think it sucked that he had a good fourteen years of monkitude ahead of him until Claire was his age - for Quil, at least, it was a good thing werewolves didn't get older. But even all that time didn't seem to bother him much.

"Quil, you ever think about dating?" I asked.

"Huh?"

"No, no yewwo!" Claire crowed.

"You know. A real girl. I mean, just for now, right? On your nights off babysitting duty."

Quil stared at me, his mouth hanging open.

"Pity wock! Pity wock!" Claire screamed when he didn't offer her another choice. She smacked him on the head with her little fist.

"Sorry, Claire-bear. How about this pretty purple one?"

"No," she giggled. "No poopoh."

"Give me a clue. I'm begging, kid."

Claire thought it over. "Gween," she finally said.

Quil stared at the rocks, studying them. He picked four rocks in different shades of green, and offered them to her.

"Did I get it?'

"Yay!"

"Which one?"

Vlaaaaw/obdem!!"

She cupped her hands and he poured the small rocks into them. She laughed and immediately clunked him on the head with them. He winced theatrically and then got to his feet and started walking back up toward the parking lot. Probably worried about her getting cold in her wet clothes. He was worse than any paranoid, overprotective mother.

"Sorry if I was being pushy before, man, about the girl thing," I said.

"Naw, that's cool," Quil said. "It kind of took me by surprise is all. I hadn't thought about it."

"I bet she'd understand. You know, when she's grown up. She wouldn't get mad that you had a life while she was in diapers."

"No, I know. I'm sure she'd understand that."

He didn't say anything else.

"But you won't do that, will you?" I guessed.

"I can't see it," he said in a low voice. "I can't imagine. I just don't... see anyone that way. I don't notice girls anymore, you know. I don't see their faces."

"Put that together with the tiara and makeup, and maybe Claire will have a different kind of competition to worry about."

Quil laughed and made kissing noises at me. "You available this Friday, Jacob?"

"You wish," I said, and then I made a face. "Yeah, guess I am, though."

He hesitated a second and then said, "You ever think about dating?"

I sighed. Guess I'd opened myself up for that one.

"You know, Jake, maybe you should think about getting a life."

He didn't say it like a joke. His voice was sympathetic. That made it worse.

"I don't see them, either, Quil. I don't see their faces."

Quil sighed, too.

Far away, too low for anyone but just us two to hear it over the waves, a howl rose out of the forest.

"Dang, that's Sam," Quil said. His hands flew up to touch Claire, as if making sure she was still there. "I don't know where her mom's at!"

Til see what it is. If we need you, HI let you know." I raced through the words. They came out all slurred together. "Hey, why don't you take her up to the Clearwaters'? Sue and Billy can keep an eye on her if they need to. They might know what's going on, anyway."

"Okay - get outta here, Jake!"

I took off running, not for the dirt path through the weedy hedge, but in the shortest line toward the forest. I hurdled the first line of driftwood and then ripped my way through the briars, still running. I felt the little tears as the thorns cut into my skin, but I ignored them. Their sting would be healed before I made the trees.

I cut behind the store and darted across the highway. Somebody honked at me. Once in the safety of the trees, I ran faster, taking longer strides. People would stare if I was out in the open. Normal people couldn't run like this. Sometimes I thought it might be fun to enter a race - you know, like the Olympic trials or something. It would be cool to watch the expressions on those star athletes' faces when I blew by them. Only I was pretty sure the testing they did to make sure you weren't on steroids would probably turn up some really freaky crap in my blood.

As soon as I was in the true forest, unbound by roads or houses, I skidded to a stop and kicked my shorts off. With quick, practiced moves, I rolled them up and tied them to the leather cord around my ankle. As I was still pulling the ends tight, I started shifting. The fire trembled down my spine, throwing tight spasms out along my arms and legs. It only took a second. The heat flooded through me, and I felt the silent shimmer that made me something else. I threw my heavy paws against the matted earth and stretched my back in one long, rolling extension.

Phasing was very easy when I was centered like this. I didn't have issues with my temper anymore. Except when it got in the way.

For one half second, I remembered the awful moment at that unspeakable joke of a wedding. I'd been so insane with fury that I couldn't make my body work right. I'd been trapped, shaking and burning, unable to make the change and kill the monster just a few feet away from me. It had been so confusing. Dying to kill him. Afraid to hurt her. My friends in the way. And then, when I was finally able to take the form I wanted, the order from my leader. The edict from the Alpha. If it had been just Embry and Quil there that night without Sam... would I have been able to kill the murderer, then?

I hated it when Sam laid down the law like that. I hated the feeling of having no choice. Of having to obey.

And then I was conscious of an audience. I was not alone in my thoughts.

So self-absorbed all the time, Leah thought.

Yeah, no hypocrisy there, Leah, I thought back.

Can it, guys, Sam told us.

We fell silent, and I felt Leah's wince at the word guys. Touchy, like always.

Sam pretended not to notice. Where's Quil andJared?

Quit's got Claire. He's taking her to the Clearwaters'.

Good. Sue will take her.

Jared was going to Kim's,Embry thought. Good chance he didn't hear you.

There was a low grumble through the pack. I moaned along with them. When Jared finally showed up, no doubt he'd still be thinking about Kim. And nobody wanted a replay of what they were up to right now.

Sam sat back on his haunches and let another howl rip into the air. It was a signal and an order in one.

The pack was gathered a few miles east of where I was. I loped through the thick forest toward them. Leah,

Embry, and Paul all were working in toward them, too. Leah was close - soon I could hear her footfalls not far into the woods. We continued in a parallel line, choosing not to run together.

Well, we're not waiting all day for him. He'll just have to catch up later.

'Sup, boss?Paul wanted to know.

We need to talk. Something's happened.

I felt Sam's thoughts flicker to me - and not just Sam's, but Seth's and Collin's and Brady's as well. Collin and Brady - the new kids - had been running patrol with Sam today, so they would know whatever he knew. I didn't know why Seth was already out here, and in the know. It wasn't his turn.

Seth, tell them what you heard.

I sped up, wanting to be there. I heard Leah move faster, too. She hated being outrun. Being the fastest was the only edge she claimed.

Claimthis, moron, she hissed, and then she really kicked it into gear. I dug my nails into the loam and shot myself forward.

Sam didn't seem in the mood to put up with our usual crap. Jake, Leah, give it a rest.

Neither of us slowed.

Sam growled, but let it go. Seth?

Charlie called around till he found Billy at my house.

Yeah, I talked to him,Paul added.

I felt a jolt go through me as Seth thought Charlie's name. This was it. The waiting was over. I ran faster, forcing myself to breathe, though my lungs felt kinda stiff all of a sudden.

Which story would it be?

So he's all flipped out. Guess Edward and Bella got home last week, and...

My chest eased up.

She was alive. Or she wasn't dead dead, at least.

I hadn't realized how much difference it would make to me. I'd been thinking of her as dead this whole time, and I only saw that now. I saw that I'd never believed that he would bring her back alive. It shouldn't matter, because I knew what was coming next.

Yeah, bro, and here's the bad news. Charlie talked to her, said she sounded bad. She told him she's sick. Carlisle got on and told Charlie that Bella picked up some rare disease in South America. Said she's quarantined. Charlie's going crazy, 'cause even he's not allowed to see her. He says he doesn't care if he gets sick, but Carlisle wouldn't bend. No visitors. Told Charlie it was pretty serious, but that he's doing everything he can. Charlie's been stewing about it for days, but he only called Billy now. He said she sounded worse today.

The mental silence when Seth finished was profound. We all understood.

So she would die of this disease, as far as Charlie knew. Would they let him view the corpse? The pale, perfectly still, unbreathing white body? They couldn't let him touch the cold skin - he might notice how hard it was.

They'd have to wait until she could hold still, could keep from killing Charlie and the other mourners. How long would that take?

Would they bury her? Would she dig herself out, or would the bloodsuckers come for her?

The others listened to my speculating in silence. I'd put a lot more thought into this than any of them.

Leah and I entered the clearing at nearly the same time. She was sure her nose led the way, though. She dropped onto her haunches beside her brother while I trotted forward to stand at Sam's right hand. Paul circled and made room for me in my place.

Beatcha again,Leah thought, but I barely heard her.

I wondered why I was the only one on my feet. My fur stood up on my shoulders, bristling with impatience.

Well, what are we waiting for?I asked.

No one said anything, but I heard their feelings of hesitation.

Oh, come on! The treaty's broken!

We have no proof - maybe sheis sick....

OH, PLEASE!

Okay, so the circumstantial evidence is pretty strong. Still... Jacob.Sam's thought came slow, hesitant. Are you sure this is what you want? Is it really the right thing? We all know what she wanted.

The treaty doesn't mention anything about victim preferences, Sam!

Is she really a victim? Would you label her that way?

Yes!

Jake,Seth thought, they aren't our enemies.

Shut up, kid! Just 'cause you've got some kind of sick hero worship thing going on with that bloodsucker, it doesn't change the law. They are our enemies. They are in our territory. We take them out. I don't care if you had fun fighting alongside Edward Cullen once upon a time.

So what are you going to do when Bella fights with them, Jacob? Huh?Seth demanded.

She's not Bella anymore.

You gonna be the one to take her down?

I couldn't stop myself from wincing.

No, you're not. So, what? You gonna make one of us do it? And then hold a grudge against whoever it is forever?

I wouldn't...

Sure you won't. You're not ready for this fight, Jacob.

Instinct took over and I crouched forward, snarling at the gangly sand-colored wolf across the circle.

Jacob!Sam cautioned. Seth, shut up for a second.

Seth nodded his big head.

Dang, what'd I miss? Quthought. He was running for the gathering place full-out. Heard about Charlie's call....

Were getting ready to go,I told him. Why don't you swing by Kim's and drag Jared out with your teeth? We're going to need everyone.

Come straight here, Quil,Sam ordered. We've decided nothing yet.

I growled.

Jacob, I have to think about what's best for this pack. I have to choose the course that protects you all best. Times have changed since our ancestors made that treaty. I... well, I don't honestly believe that the Cullens are a danger to us. And we know that they will not be here much longer. Surely once they've told their story, they will disappear. Our lives can return to normal.

Normal?

If we challenge them, Jacob, they will defend themselves well.

Are you afraid?

Are you so ready to losea brother? He paused. Or a sister? he tacked on as an afterthought.

I'm not afraid to die.

I know that, Jacob. It's one reason I question your judgment on this.

I stared into his black eyes. Do you intend to honor our fathers' treaty or not?

I honor my pack. I do what's best for them.

Coward.

His muzzle tensed, pulling back over his teeth.

Enough, Jacob. You're overruled.Sam's mental voice changed, took on that strange double timbre that we could not disobey. The voice of the Alpha. He met the gaze of every wolf in the circle.

The pack is not attacking the Cullens without provocation. The spirit of the treaty remains. They are nota danger to our people, nor are they a danger to the people of Forks. Bella Swan made an informed choice, and we are not going to punish our former allies for her choice.

Hear, hear, Seth thought enthusiastically. thought I told you to shut it, Seth.

Oops. Sorry, Sam.

Jacob, where do you think you're going?

I left the circle, moving toward the west so that I could turn my back on him. I'm going to tell my father goodbye. Apparently there was no purpose in me sticking around this long.

Aw, Jake - don't do that again!

Shut up, Seth,several voices thought together.

We don't want you to leave,Sam told me, his thought softer than before.

So force me to stay, Sam. Take away my will. Make me a slave.

You know I won't do that

Then there's nothing more to say.

I ran away from them, trying very hard not to think about what was next. Instead, I concentrated on my memories of the long wolf months, of letting the humanity bleed out of me until I was more animal than man. Living in the moment, eating when hungry, sleeping when tired, drinking when thirsty, and running  - running just to run. Simple desires, simple answers to those desires. Pain came in easily managed forms. The pain of hunger. The pain of cold ice under your paws. The pain of cutting claws when dinner got feisty. Each pain had a simple answer, a clear action to end that pain.

Not like being human.

Yet, as soon as I was in jogging distance of my house, I shifted back into my human body. I needed to be able to think in privacy.

I untied my shorts and yanked them on, already running for the house.

I'd done it. I'd hidden what I was thinking and now it was too late for Sam to stop me. He couldn't hear me now.

Sam had made a very clear ruling. The pack would not attack the Cullens. Okay.

He hadn't mentioned an individual acting alone.

Nope, the pack wasn't attacking anyone today.

But I was.
发表于 2016-8-11 11:35 | 显示全部楼层
9. SURE AS HELL DIDN'T SEE THAT ONE COMING

I didn't really plan to say goodbye to my father.

After all, one quick call to Sam and the game would be up. They'd cut me off and push me back. Probably try to make me angry, or even hurt me - somehow force me to phase so that Sam could lay down a new law.

But Billy was expecting me, knowing I'd be in some kind of state. He was in the yard, just sitting there in his wheelchair with his eyes right on the spot where I came through the trees. I saw him judge my direction - headed straight past the house to my homemade garage.

"Got a minute, Jake?"

I skidded to a stop. I looked at him and then toward the garage.

"C'mon kid. At least help me inside."

I gritted my teeth but decided that he'd be more likely to cause trouble with Sam if I didn't lie to him for a few minutes.

"Since when do you need help, old man?"

He laughed his rumbling laugh. "My arms are tired. I pushed myself all the way here from Sue's."

"It's downhill. You coasted the whole way."

I rolled his chair up the little ramp I'd made for him and into the living room.

"Caught me. Think I got up to about thirty miles per hour. It was great."

"You're gonna wreck that chair, you know. And then you'll be dragging yourself around by your elbows."

"Not a chance. It'll be your job to carry me."

"You won't be going many places."

Billy put his hands on the wheels and steered himself to the fridge. "Any food left?"

"You got me. Paul was here all day, though, so probably not."

Billy sighed. "Have to start hiding the groceries if we're gonna avoid starvation."

"Tell Rachel to go stay at his place."

Billy's joking tone vanished, and his eyes got soft. "We've only had her home a few weeks. First time she's been here in a long time. It's hard - the girls were older than you when your mom passed. They have more trouble being in this house."

"I know."

Rebecca hadn't been home once since she got married, though she did have a good excuse. Plane tickets from Hawaii were pretty pricey. Washington State was close enough that Rachel didn't have the same defense. She'd taken classes straight through the summer semesters, working double shifts over the holidays at some cafe on campus. If it hadn't been for Paul, she probably would have taken off again real quick. Maybe that was why Billy wouldn't kick him out.

"Well, I'm going to go work on some stuff___"I started for the back door.

"Wait up, Jake. Aren't you going to tell me what happened? Do I have to call Sam for an update?"

I stood with my back to him, hiding my face.

"Nothing happened. Sam's giving them a bye. Guess we're all just a bunch of leech lovers now."

"Jake..."

"I don't want to talk about it."

"Are you leaving, son?"

The room was quiet for a long time while I decided how to say it.

"Rachel can have her room back. I know she hates that air mattress."

"She'd rather sleep on the floor than lose you. So would I."

I snorted.

"Jacob, please. If you need... a break. Well, take it. But not so long again. Come back."

"Maybe. Maybe my gig will be weddings. Make a cameo at Sam's, then Rachel's. Jared and Kim might come first, though. Probably ought to have a suit or something."

"Jake, look at me."

I turned around slowly. "What?"

He stared into my eyes for a long minute. "Where are you going?"

"I don't really have a specific place in mind."

He cocked his head to the side, and his eyes narrowed. "Don't you?"

We stared each other down. The seconds ticked by.

"Jacob," he said. His voice was strained. "Jacob, don't. It's not worth it."

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"Leave Bella and the Cullens be. Sam is right."

I stared at him for a second, and then I crossed the room in two long strides, i grabbed the phone and disconnected the cable from the box and the jack. I wadded the gray cord up in the palm of my hand.

"Bye, Dad."

"Jake, wait - ,'7he called after me, but I was out the door, running.

The motorcycle wasn't as fast as running, but it was more discreet. I wondered how long it would take Billy to wheel himself down to the store and then get someone on the phone who could get a message to Sam. I'd bet Sam was still in his wolf form. The problem would be if Paul came back to our place anytime soon. He could phase in a second and let Sam know what I was doing....

I wasn't going to worry about it. I would go as fast as I could, and if they caught me, I'd deal with that when I had to.

I kicked the bike to life and then I was racing down the muddy lane. I didn't look behind me as I passed the house.

The highway was busy with tourist traffic; I wove in and out of the cars, earning a bunch of honks and a few fingers. I took the turn onto the 101 at seventy, not bothering to look. I had to ride the line for a minute to avoid getting smeared by a minivan. Not that it would have killed me, but it would have slowed me down. Broken bones - the big ones, at least - took days to heal completely, as I had good cause to know.

The freeway cleared up a little, and I pushed the bike to eighty. I didn't touch the brake until I was close to the narrow drive; I figured I was in the clear then. Sam wouldn't come this far to stop me. It was too late.

It wasn't until that moment - when I was sure that I'd made it - that I started to think about what exactly I was going to do now. I slowed down to twenty, taking the twists through the trees more carefully than I needed to.

I knew they would hear me coming, bike or no bike, so surprise was out. There was no way to disguise my intentions. Edward would hear my plan as soon as I was close enough. Maybe he already could. But I thought this would still work out, because I had his ego on my side. He'd want to fight me alone.

So I'd just walk in, see Sam's precious evidence for myself, and then challenge Edward to a duel.

I snorted. The parasite'd probably get a kick out of the theatrics of it.

When I finished with him, I'd take as many of the rest of them as I could before they got me. Huh - I wondered if Sam would consider my death provocation. Probably say I got what I deserved. Wouldn't want to offend his bloodsucker BFFs.

The drive opened up into the meadow, and the smell hit me like a rotten tomato to the face. Ugh. Reeking vampires. My stomach started churning. The stench would be hard to take this way - undiluted by the scent of humans as it had been the other time I'd come here - though not as bad as smelling it through my wolf nose.

I wasn't sure what to expect, but there was no sign of life around the big white crypt. Of course they knew I was here.

I cut the engine and listened to the quiet. Now I could hear tense, angry murmurs from just the other side of the wide double doors. Someone was home. I heard my name and I smiled, happy to think I was causing them a little stress.

I took one big gulp of air - it would only be worse inside - and leaped up the porch stairs in one bound.

The door opened before my fist touched it, and the doctor stood in the frame, his eyes grave.

"Hello, Jacob," he said, calmer than I would have expected. "How are you?"

I took a deep breath through my mouth. The reek pouring through the door was overpowering.

I was disappointed that it was Carlisle who answered. I'd rather Edward had come through the door, fangs out. Carlisle was so... just human or something. Maybe it was the house calls he made last spring when I got busted up. But it made me uncomfortable to look into his face and know that I was planning to kill him if I could.

"I heard Bella made it back alive," I said.

"Er, Jacob, it's not really the best time." The doctor seemed uncomfortable, too, but not in the way I expected. "Could we do this later?"

I stared at him, dumbfounded. Was he asking to post-pone the death match for a more convenient time?

And then I heard Bella's voice, cracked and rough, and I couldn't think about anything else.

"Why not?" she asked someone. "Are we keeping secrets from Jacob, too? What's the point?"

Her voice was not what I was expecting. I tried to remember the voices of the young vampires we'd fought in the spring, but all I'd registered was snarling. Maybe those newborns hadn't had the piercing, ringing sound of the older ones, either. Maybe all new vampires sounded hoarse.

"Come in, please, Jacob," Bella croaked more loudly.

Carlisle's eyes tightened.

I wondered if Bella was thirsty. My eyes narrowed, too.

"Excuse me," I said to the doctor as I stepped around him. It was hard - it went against all my instincts to turn my back to one of them. Not impossible, though. If there was such a thing as a safe vampire, it was the strangely gentle leader.

I would stay away from Carlisle when the fight started. There were enough of them to kill without including him.

I sidestepped into the house, keeping my back to the wall. My eyes swept the room - it was unfamiliar. The last time I'd been in here it had been all done up for a party. Everything was bright and pale now. Including the six vampires standing in a group by the white sofa.

They were all here, all together, but that was not what froze me where I stood and had my jaw dropping to thefloor.

It was Edward. It was the expression on his face.

I'd seen him angry, and I'd seen him arrogant, and onceI'd seen him in pain. But this - this was beyond agony. His eyes were half-crazed. He didn't look up to glare at me. He stared down at the couch beside him with an expression like someone had lit him on fire. His hands were rigid claws at his side.

I couldn't even enjoy his anguish. I could only think of one thing that would make him look like that, and my eyes followed his.

I saw her at the same moment that I caught her scent.

Her warm, clean, human scent.

Bella was half-hidden behind the arm of the sofa, curled up in a loose fetal position, her arms wrapped around her knees. For a long second I could see nothing except that she was still the Bella that I loved, her skin still a soft, pale peach, her eyes still the same chocolate brown. My heart thudded a strange, broken meter, and I wondered if this was just some lying dream that I was about to wake up from.

Then I really saw her.

There were deep circles under her eyes, dark circles that jumped out because her face was all haggard. Was she thinner? Her skin seemed tight - like her cheekbones might break right through it. Most of her dark hair was pulled away from her face into a messy knot, but a few strands stuck limply to her forehead and neck, to the sheen of sweat that covered her skin. There was something about her fingers and wrists that looked so fragile it was scary.

She was sick. Very sick.

Not a lie. The story Charlie'd told Billy was not a story. While I stared, eyes bugging, her skin turned light green.

The blond bloodsucker - the showy one, Rosalie - bent over her, cutting into my view, hovering in a strange, protective way.

This was wrong. I knew how Bella felt about almost everything - her thoughts were so obvious; sometimes it was like they were printed on her forehead. So she didn't have to tell me every detail of a situation for me to get it. I knew that Bella didn't like Rosalie. I'd seen it in the set of her lips when she talked about her. Not just that she didn't like her. She was afraid of Rosalie. Or she had been.

There was no fear as Bella glanced up at her now. Her expression was... apologetic or something. Then Rosalie snatched a basin from the floor and held it under Bella's chin just in time for Bella to throw up noisily into it.

Edward fell to his knees by Bella's side - his eyes all tortured-looking - and Rosalie held out her hand, warning him to keep back.

None of it made sense.

When she could raise her head, Bella smiled weakly at me, sort of embarrassed. "Sorry about that," she whispered to me.

Edward moaned real quiet. His head slumped against Bella's knees. She put one of her hands against his cheek. Like she was comforting him.

I didn't realize my legs had carried me forward until Rosalie hissed at me, suddenly appearing between me and the couch. She was like a person on a TV screen. I didn't care she was there. She didn't seem real.

"Rose, don't," Bella whispered. "It's fine."

Blondie moved out of my way, though I could tell she hated to do it. Scowling at me, she crouched by Bella's head, tensed to spring. She was easier to ignore than I ever would have dreamed.

"Bella, what's wrong?" I whispered. Without thinking about it, I found myself on my knees, too, leaning over the back of the couch across from her... husband. He didn't seem to notice me, and I barely glanced at him. I reached out for her free hand, taking it in both of mine. Her skin was icy. "Are you all right?"

It was a stupid question. She didn't answer it.

"I'm so glad you came to see me today, Jacob," she said.

Even though I knew Edward couldn't hear her thoughts, he seemed to hear some meaning I didn't. He moaned again, into the blanket that covered her, and she stroked his cheek.

"What is it, Bella?" I insisted, wrapping my hands tight around her cold, fragile fingers.

Instead of answering, she glanced around the room like she was searching for something, both a plea and a warning in her look. Six pairs of anxious yellow eyes stared back at her. Finally, she turned to Rosalie.

"Help me up, Rose?" she asked.

Rosalie's lips pulled back over her teeth, and she glared up at me like she wanted to rip my throat out. I was sure that was exactly the case.

"Please, Rose."

The blonde made a face, but leaned over her again, next to Edward, who didn't move an inch. She put her arm carefully behind Bella's shoulders.

"No," I whispered. "Don't get up___" She looked so weak.

"I'm answering your question," she snapped, sounding a little bit more like the way she usually talked to me.

Rosalie pulled Bella off the couch. Edward stayed where he was, sagging forward till his face was buried in the cushions. The blanket fell to the ground at Bella's feet.

Bella's body was swollen, her torso ballooning out in a strange, sick way. It strained against the faded gray sweatshirt that was way too big for her shoulders and arms. The rest of her seemed thinner, like the big bulge had grown out of what it had sucked from her. It took me a second to realize what the deformed part was - I didn't understand until she folded her hands tenderly around her bloated stomach, one above and one below. Like she was cradling it.

I saw it then, but I still couldn't believe it. I'd seen her just a month ago. There was no way she could be pregnant. Not that pregnant.

Except that she was.

I didn't want to see this, didn't want to think about this. I didn't want to imagine him inside her. I didn't want to know that something I hated so much had taken root in the body I loved. My stomach heaved, and I had to swallow back vomit.

But it was worse than that, so much worse. Her distorted body, the bones jabbing against the skin of her face. I could only guess that she looked like this - so pregnant, so sick - because whatever was inside her was taking her life to feed its own....

Because it was a monster. Just like its father.

I always knew he would kill her.

His head snapped up as he heard the words inside mine. One second we were both on our knees, and then he was on his feet, towering over me. His eyes were flat black, the circles under them dark purple.

"Outside, Jacob," he snarled.

I was on my feet, too. Looking down on him now. This was why I was here.

"Let's do this," I agreed.

The big one, Emmett, pushed forward on Edward's other side, with the hungry-looking one, Jasper, right behind him. I really didn't care. Maybe my pack would clean up the scraps when they finished me off. Maybe not. It didn't matter.

For the tiniest part of a second my eyes touched on the two standing in the back. Esme. Alice. Small and distractingly feminine. Well, I was sure the others would kill me before I had to do anything about them. I didn't want to kill girls... even vampire girls.

Though I might make an exception for that blonde.

"No," Bella gasped, and she stumbled forward, out of balance, to clutch at Edward's arm. Rosalie moved with her, like there was a chain locking them to each other.

"I just need to talk to him, Bella," Edward said in a low voice, talking only to her. He reached up to touch her face, to stroke it. This made the room turn red, made me see fire - that, after all he'd done to her, he was still allowed to touch her that way. "Don't strain yourself," he went on, pleading. "Please rest. We'll both be back in just a few minutes."

She stared at his face, reading it carefully. Then she nodded and drooped toward the couch. Rosalie helped lower her back onto the cushions. Bella stared at me, trying to hold my eyes.

"Behave," she insisted. "And then come back."

I didn't answer. I wasn't making any promises today. I looked away and then followed Edward out the front door.

A random, disjointed voice in my head noted that separating him from the coven hadn't been so difficult, had it?

He kept walking, never checking to see if I was about to spring at his unprotected back. I supposed he didn't need to check. He would know when I decided to attack. Which meant I'd have to make that decision very quickly.

"I'm not ready for you to kill me yet, Jacob Black," he whispered as he paced quickly away from the house. "You'll have to have a little patience."

Like I cared about his schedule. I growled under my breath. "Patience isn't my specialty."

He kept walking, maybe a couple hundred yards down the drive away from the house, with me right on his heels. I was all hot, my fingers trembling. On the edge, ready and waiting.

He stopped without warning and pivoted to face me. His expression froze me again.

For a second I was just a kid - a kid who had lived all of his life in the same tiny town. Just a child. Because I knew I would have to live a lot more, suffer a lot more, to ever understand the searing agony in Edward's eyes.

He raised a hand as if to wipe sweat from his forehead, but his fingers scraped against his face like they were going to rip his granite skin right off. His black eyes burned in their sockets, out of focus, or seeing things that weren't there. His mouth opened like he was going to scream, but nothing came out.

This was the face a man would have if he were burning at the stake.

For a moment I couldn't speak. It was too real, this face - I'd seen a shadow of it in the house, seen it in her eyes and his, but this made it final. The last nail in her coffin.

"It's killing her, right? She's dying." And I knew when I said it that my face was a watered-down echo of his. Weaker, different, because I was still in shock. I hadn't wrapped my head around it yet - it was happening too fast. He'd had time to get to this point. And it was different because I'd already lost her so many times, so many ways, in my head. And different because she was never really mine to lose.

And different because this wasn't my fault.

"My fault," Edward whispered, and his knees gave out. He crumpled in front of me, vulnerable, the easiest target you could imagine.

But I felt cold as snow - there was no fire in me.

"Yes," he groaned into the dirt, like he was confessing to the ground. "Yes, it's killing her."

His broken helplessness irritated me. I wanted a fight, not an execution. Where was his smug superiority now?

"So why hasn't Carlisle done anything?" I growled. "He's a doctor, right? Get it out of her."

He looked up then and answered me in a tired voice. Like he was explaining this to a kindergartener for the tenth time. "She won't let us."

It took a minute for the words to sink in. Jeez, she was running true to form. Of course, die for the monster spawn. It was so Bella.

"You know her well," he whispered. "How quickly you see.... I didn't see. Not in time. She wouldn't talk to me on the way home, not really. I thought she was frightened - that would be natural. I thought she was angry with me for putting her through this, for endangering her life. Again. I never imagined what she was really thinking, what she was resolving. Not until my family met us at the airport and she ran right into Rosalie's arms. Rosalie's! And then I heard what Rosalie was thinking. I didn't understand until I heard that. Yet you understand after one second. . . ." He half-sighed, half-groaned.

"Just back up a second. She won't let you." The sarcasm was acid on my tongue. "Did you ever notice that she's exactly as strong as a normal hundred-and-ten-pound human girl? How stupid are you vamps? Hold her down and knock her out with drugs."

"I wanted to," he whispered. "Carlisle would have___"

What, too noble were they?

"No. Not noble. Her bodyguard complicated things."

Oh. His story hadn't made much sense before, but it fit together now. So that's what Blondie was up to.

What was in it for her, though? Did the beauty queen want Bella to die so bad?

"Maybe," he said. "Rosalie doesn't look at it quite that way."

"So take the blonde out first. Your kind can be put back together, right? Turn her into a jigsaw and take care of Bella."

"Emmett and Esme are backing her up. Emmett would never let us... and Carlisle won't help me with Esme against it___" He trailed off, his voice disappearing.

"You should have left Bella with me."

"Yes."

It was a bit late for that, though. Maybe he should have thought about all this before he knocked her up with the life-sucking monster.

He stared up at me from inside his own personal hell, and I could see that he agreed with me.

"We didn't know," he said, the words as quiet as a breath. "I never dreamed. There's never been anything like Bella and I before. How could we know that a human was able conceive a child with one of us - "

"When the human should get ripped to shreds in the process?"

"Yes," he agreed in a tense whisper. "They're out there, the sadistic ones, the incubus, the succubus. They exist. But the seduction is merely a prelude to the feast. No one survives" He shook his head like the idea revolted him. Like he was any different.

"I didn't realize they had a special name for what you are," I spit.

He stared up at me with a face that looked a thousand years old.

"Even you, Jacob Black, cannot hate me as much as I hate myself.'7

Wrong, I thought, too enraged to speak.

"Killing me now doesn't save her," he said quietly.

"So what does?"

"Jacob, you have to do something for me."

"The hell I do, parasite!"

He kept staring at me with those half-tired, half-crazy eyes. "For her?"

I clenched my teeth together hard. "I did everything I could to keep her away from you. Every single thing. It's too late."

"You know her, Jacob. You connect to her on a level that I don't even understand. You are part of her, and she is part of you. She won't listen to me, because she thinks I'm underestimating her. She thinks she's strong enough for this___" He choked and then swallowed. "She might listen to you."

"Why would she?"

He lurched to his feet, his eyes burning brighter than before, wilder. I wondered if he was really going crazy. Could vampires lose their minds?

"Maybe," he answered my thought. "I don't know. It feels like it." He shook his head. "I have to try to hide this in front of her, because stress makes her more ill. She can't keep anything down as it is. I have to be composed; I can't make it harder. But that doesn't matter now. She has to listen to you!"

"I can't tell her anything you haven't. What do you want me to do? Tell her she's stupid? She probably already knows that. Tell her she's going to die? I bet she knows that, too."

"You can offer her what she wants."

He wasn't making any sense. Part of the crazy?

"I don't care about anything but keeping her alive," he said, suddenly focused now. "If it's a child she wants, she can have it. She can have half a dozen babies. Anything she wants." He paused for one beat. "She can have puppies, if that's what it takes."

He met my stare for a moment and his face was frenzied under the thin layer of control. My hard scowl crumbled as I processed his words, and I felt my mouth pop open in shock.

"But not this way!" he hissed before I could recover. "Not this thing that's sucking the life from her while I stand there helpless! Watching her sicken and waste away. Seeing it hurting her." He sucked in a fast breath like someone had punched him in the gut. "You have to make her see reason, Jacob. She won't listen to me anymore. Rosalie's always there, feeding her insanity - encouraging her. Protecting her. No, protecting it Bella's life means nothing to her."

The noise coming from my throat sounded like I was choking.

What was he saying? That Bella should, what? Have a baby? With me? What? How? Was he giving her up? Or did he think she wouldn't mind being shared?

"Whichever. Whatever keeps her alive."

"That'sthe craziest thing you've said yet," I mumbled.

"She loves you."

"Not enough."

"She's ready to die to have a child. Maybe she'd accept something less extreme."

"Don't you know her at all?"

"I know, I know.It's going to take a lot of convincing. That's why I need you. You know how she thinks. Make hersee sense."

I couldn't think about what he was suggesting. It was too much. Impossible. Wrong. Sick. Borrowing Bella for the weekends and then returning her Monday morning like a rental movie? So messed up.

So tempting.

I didn't want to consider, didn't want to imagine, but the images came anyway. I'd fantasized about Bella that way too many times, back when there was still a possibility of us, and then long after it was clear that the fantasies would only leave festering sores because there was no possibility, none at all. I hadn't been able to help myself then. I couldn't stop myself now. Bella in my arms, Bella sighing my name...

Worse still, this new image I'd never had before, one that by all rights shouldn't have existed for me. Not yet. An image I knew I wouldn't have suffered over for years if he hadn't shoved it in my head now. But it stuck there, winding threads through my brain like a weed - poisonous and unkillable. Bella, healthy and glowing, so different than now, but something the same: her body, not distorted, changed in a more natural way. Round with my child.

I tried to escape the venomous weed in my mind. "Make Bella see sense? What universe do you live in?"

"At least try."

I shook my head fast. He waited, ignoring the negative answer because he could hear the conflict in my thoughts.

"Where is this psycho crap coming from? Are you making this up as you go?"

"I've been thinking of nothing but ways to save her since I realized what she was planning to do. What she would die to do. But I didn't know how to contact you. I knew you wouldn't listen if I called. I would have come to find you soon, if you hadn't come today. But it's hard to leave her, even for a few minutes. Her condition... it changes so fast. The thing is... growing. Swiftly. I can't be away from her now."

"What is it?"

"None of us have any idea. But it is stronger than she is. Already."

I could suddenly see it then - see the swelling monster in my head, breaking her from the inside out.

"Help me stop it," he whispered. "Help me stop this from happening."

"How? By offering my stud services?" He didn't even flinch when I said that, but I did. "You're really sick. She'll never listen to this."

"Try. There's nothing to lose now. How will it hurt?"

It would hurt me. Hadn't I taken enough rejection from Bella without this?

"A little pain to save her? Is it such a high cost?"

"But it won't work."

"Maybe not. Maybe it will confuse her, though. Maybe she'll falter in her resolve. One moment of doubt is all I need."

"And then you pull the rug out from under the offer? 'Just kidding, Bella'?"

"If she wants a child, that's what she gets. I won't rescind."

I couldn't believe I was even thinking about this. Bella would punch me - not that I cared about that, but it would probably break her hand again. I shouldn't let him talk to me, mess with my head. I should just kill him now.

"Not now," he whispered. "Not yet. Right or wrong, it would destroy her, and you know it. No need to be hasty. If she won't listen to you, you'll get your chance. The moment Bella's heart stops beating, I will be begging for you to me."

"You won't have to beg long."

The hint of a worn smile tugged at the corner of his mouth. "I'm very much counting on that."

"Then we have a deal."

He nodded and held out his cold stone hand.

Swallowing my disgust, I reached out to take his hand. My fingers closed around the rock, and I shook it once.

"We have a deal," he agreed.

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