Lunchtime was sure to be interesting. And then Edward made the probability of that skyrocket.
We stopped off at his car before heading to the cafeteria, to get the bag of blueberry muffins Esme had made for Angela. By that I knew we would be talking to her at some point during the forty-five minute period. But then Edward, once again, surprised me.
After handing her the bag of individually zippy-sealed muffins, he asked Angela if she and Eric would like to join us for lunch. She seemed excited by that and agreed instantly. Eric seemed indifferent and only shrugged.
We had just barely taken our seats at what I was starting to feel was our table, when Jessica approached. She seemed happy, and oblivious as usual.
The tables comfortably sat five, though if you grabbed a chair from another table you could really fit six. Technically, there was plenty of room for Jessica to join us, but I suspected no one wanted her to. I knew Edward didn't, and I was pretty sure Angela wasn't too keen on the idea. Eric, as always, seemed indifferent.
"Hi, Edward! Mind if I join you?"
Edward's eyes darkened, but they didn't meet Jessica's.
"Yes. Our table is full."
I could see Angela watching carefully as she poked at a muffin through its plastic shield. Eric just started mowing through his bologna sandwich.
"There's one seat still available," Jessica said, sickly sweet.
"The fifth chair is being saved."
His tone was very cold. About as cold as I had ever heard it.
"I could join you until they show," she pressed. It wasn't even a question. It was more like a statement of fact.
She didn't seem to have much sense of self-preservation, either. She had no idea how much she was toying with danger.
"No," Edward said flatly. Then his eyes shifted a little to the right. There was a definite ease in his tension.
"Sorry I'm late."
Alice! What the—?
"There was no room in your lunch bag for your cake!"
My shocked eyes left hers and dropped down to the plate she had set in front of me. There, on the fine china, was a huge slab of the cake that had been made for my welcome home party.
I heard a chair scrape the floor, and looked up to see Alice had taken a seat in it. She was all smiles.
Jessica almost slunk away from the table. Edward's eyes softened.
"Um, thanks," I muttered, a bit bewildered.
Edward brushed his finger across the back of my hand, which sort of woke me up from my daze, and then he proceeded to unbag my lunch from the brown paper with his neat pen on it.
"Oh, sorry, um, Angela, Eric, this is Alice. Edward's sister."
Alice gave each of them a slight nod. "Esme hopes you like the muffins," she said to Angela.
Angela seemed as shocked by all that had just happened as I was. She snapped out of it, though, when Alice gave a little head nod towards the still sealed muffin she had been absently poking at.
"Oh, yeah, thanks. I'm sure I will. I was telling Bella the other day, that your mom should open a bakery."
She was back to her happy self by the time she finished the sentence.
"Yes, Bella told us," Alice said brightly. "That made her day."
"Am I allowed to try these fabulous muffins?" Eric asked, his eyes shifting several times from the muffin to Angela and then back again. Angela laughed.
It was then that I finally looked up at Edward. He smiled, then dropped his gaze to the sandwich in front of me.
The conversations that followed were easy and fun. Alice did far more talking than Edward, but both of them were included by Angela and Eric effortlessly. Like the two Cullen siblings had been our friends for years.
I caught Jessica glaring a few times from across the room, but on the third time that I stole a peek, Edward touched my hand, which gained my attention instantly. When our eyes locked, he shook his head. He wanted me to ignore her. So I did, for the rest of the period.
I shared the piece of cake with both Angela and Eric, since it was far too much for me to finish on my own. The idea of wasting it felt like a crime. Eric became another proponent of Esme opening a bakery by the end of lunch.
"I'll see you at home!" Alice chirped when the bell rang. She looked like she was engaging in some kind of interpretive dance as she twirled herself out the door. Edward and I smiled at each other over that.
"Your sister is loads of fun!" Angela commented as we approached the tray stack near the trash cans.
"Yeah, thanks. I know."
I hid a grin. His casual dialect was improving.
Angela and Eric split off from us then. They were holding hands, and Angela smiled back at me as they walked away. It was so great to see them together, finally.
Edward placed the cake plate on the stack of trays as we passed. The cafeteria would be amassing a collection of Esme's dishes, too, it seemed. I didn't question it.
"Did you know she was coming?" I asked.
"Not exactly. I made the decision that I wanted her to."
He took my hand as we strolled out the door and headed for Biology.
Mr. Molina seemed to be the exception to my previous consideration. He didn't seem to dislike Edward at all. Though, in general, he was a very happy person. Maybe that made the difference.
"Ah, yes, Mr. Cullen. I heard you would be joining us today. Very good. But there are no idle hands in my classroom." He glanced over to where I usually sat next to Mike. "Mr. Newton, Mr. Cheney's lab partner is absent today. Why don't you join him this time, so Mr. Cullen and Miss Swan can be partners."
Partners? I almost choked on my own spit.
Mike seemed annoyed, but it appeared mostly due to the fact that he had to relocate.
"Just do your best to follow along," Mr. Molina instructed Edward.
He returned a polite smile and nod. "I'm sure I can keep up."
He led me to my desk – our desk – pulled my chair out, waited for me to take a seat, and then joined me. My heart was racing. I'm not sure why. Maybe it was because I was sharing my world with him in such a unique way. Maybe it was because I was nervous that I would actually be working side-by-side with someone vastly more intelligent. Maybe it was because he was so near to me, I could almost feel the electricity flowing between us.
Or maybe it was a combination of all those things.
Onion roots. That explained the microscopes on the desks. They usually sat on the shelves by the door until we needed them.
"Onion root tip cells, that's what's on your slides right now. Okay? So, separate and label them into the phases of mitosis, and the first partners to get it right are going to win…" He jogged up to his desk, then proudly flourished a spray painted onion for the class to see. "The Golden Onion!"
He was always trying to make learning fun.
When I looked over at Edward, he smiled, then inched the microscope towards me.
Okay, appearing stupid was definitely one of the reasons why my heart had started racing. A new shot of adrenalin coursed through me as I brought the piece of equipment closer and set the first slide in place.
Prophase. I was sure of it. And yet I wasn't. I felt like an idiot under Edward's curious gaze.
"Prophase," I said, committing myself to the answer.
He smiled, then gestured towards the microscope. I knew what he was asking. He wanted to check for himself. I gestured back that he could.
He barely even glanced through the eyepiece. "Prophase," he repeated, smiling. Then he pulled the worksheet towards himself and filled in the first blank.
He seemed… proud of me. That felt good. Like it had been since first meeting him, his approval meant something to me.
He removed the first slide, set the second one in place, then glanced through the eyepiece again.
"Anaphase." His eyes locked with mine as he pushed the microscope towards me. He wanted me to check his work.
Of course he was right. "Anaphase," I repeated.
He smiled again as he jotted the answer down on the second blank line of the worksheet.
Feeling a little more confident, I swapped out the slides and peered into the eyepiece. "Metaphase."
He didn't even look to see if I was right. He just wrote the answer down on the paper in his insanely neat pen.
We won the award – the next team took three times as long to finish – but I really didn't care about that. It was an annoying thing to carry, anyway. We stopped by my locker so I wouldn't have to, and so that I wouldn't stink up my backpack with the smells of onion and polyurethane.
Gym ended up being a lot better than I thought it would be. I had considered that I would make a fool of myself while Edward watched. Trip and fall. Get hit with the ball. Peg some unsuspecting kid as I tried to score a basket.
But none of that happened. Edward intervened. Again. He explained to the coach that I needed a day of rest, because of my illness the day before. The coach didn't even eye me or Edward suspiciously.
There really weren't any rules for what to do if you were sitting out of class. As long as you weren't disruptive and you stayed in the vicinity. Edward and I sat on the bleachers and read Romeo and Juliet – the book we were assigned in English. Mr. Berty wasn't expecting us to actually start reading it until next week, but he was showing the film today in class.
We sat very close together, hips touching, his arm around me, his hand resting on my waist. I could barely concentrate. It was cozy, and exciting, and safe. I was actually disappointed when the bell rang.
Mr. Berty seemed a little annoyed by Edward's presence, but not on the same level that Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Varner exhibited. He just scoffed and gestured widely towards the stack of chairs in the back of the room.
Whenever we watched a movie in class, we were allowed to change the seating around to accommodate being able to see the tiny TV screen. Edward and I sat together at the back of the class. And held hands. I had never been less interested in a movie in all my life.
The electricity running through us was strong. At least it was for me. I had to wonder if he felt it in the same way I did, with the same intensity. Maybe he was even in control of it. It wouldn't have surprised me if he was.
Jessica stalked us all the way to his car after school. Even Angela noticed. We met up with her halfway to the parking lot because she was headed in the same direction.
"Jessica has lost her mind," she whispered to me after glancing behind her for the second time.
"You can't lose what you never had," I joked. Okay, it was a mean shot, but I couldn't help but smile when Angela laughed.
"I would uninvite her for tomorrow, but I don't want to stoop to her level of rudeness."
I agreed with her there. "Maybe Mike will keep her occupied. I think he has a crush on her."
Edward's hand tightened around mine. I didn't have time to wonder why for long.
"Possibly, but maybe we should think twice about inviting her on future trips. I don't want to be mean and exclude her, but her behavior lately is a little… odd." She was set to split up from us then, to go to her car. "I guess we can see how things go tomorrow."
"Yeah." And wow.
How had it come to this? While Angela and I had always minimized our socialization with Jessica, she was still considered a member of our group, especially when we would do dinner and movie nights. Now, because of her weird obsession with the Cullens, she was in danger of being excluded?
"I'll see you tomorrow."
I shook those thoughts from my brain and hugged Angela back, then Edward and I approached his car.
He was driving, apparently, because he opened the passenger door for me. As soon as he slipped into his seat, he asked, "What are you thinking?"
I would have to word things carefully. I didn't want him to think he was somehow at fault for how things were. "Jessica. Weird, how she's been acting."
I wasn't asking for him to tell me why she was. Maybe he realized that, because he didn't. I changed the subject.
"I had fun with you today."
He smiled. I took that to mean he had fun, too. Then he offered me his hand. I loved it when he did that. He didn't grab my hand, he offered it. Like it was my decision whether or not to take it. It was yet another gentlemanly thing that made him so special.
Esme was already cooking dinner when we got to his house. It smelled amazing, but since I was still full from lunch, my stomach didn't growl.
When Edward moved to help me with my jacket, to take it off, I stopped him. We had time before dinner, I knew.
"I was wondering something." He quirked his eyebrow, and I couldn't help but grin. "Can we take another trip?"
"Yes. Where would you like to go?"
"I really didn't get a chance to enjoy the view last night," I answered. "It was too dark to see."
He smirked. "Frail little human eyes," he teased.
My grin widened. "Is that a yes?"
His smirk then turned mischievous. He dropped my backpack on the bench, then slung me up onto his back. Before I could even blink twice, we were through his room, out the window wall, and clinging to the tree just outside.
The trip was even more amazing in the daylight. A little bit scary, but I was starting to acclimate to the experience, it seemed. To the blur of color. To the rush of wind. To the sensation that we were about to smack into something at any second. I now knew we wouldn't. He had lightening fast reflexes.
I trusted him unconditionally.
He helped me off his back, and then onto a branch so I could sit. There was never a moment when he let go of me.
And I was right. The view was spectacular. It reminded me of visions I'd had when listening to him play his compositions.
"Do you come here often?" I asked.
"Has this particular spot ever inspired your music?"
His curiosity seemed to pique. "Yes."
I nodded. It didn't surprise me. "Which song? Or songs?"
When he started to hum it, I recognized it instantly. It was the very song that, when he played it, brought visions to my mind that were very much like the scene I was viewing. Mountains in the distance, river nearby, trees all around.
My right hand was gripping the branch just above my head for balance, while his left was ducked under my arm and lying flat against my back. Then I felt it slide upwards.
He started playing with my hair, twirling it around his fingers as I had done with the blades of grass when we were in the meadow. Such a simple thing, but it made my heart rate soar.
"Will you share your thoughts with me?"
I could barely think, let alone speak. His touch was gentle but exciting. His eyes were intense but adoring. He was luring me again.
I shook my head. It was all I could do. His smile in response caused my breathing to turn erratic.
And then a thought occurred to me. It found its way through the haze of my mind and sobered me slightly. I was miles above the ground, feeling completely unstable due to Drug Edward's affect on me.
"I'll die if I fall."
He started to lean in a little, and I found myself being pulled towards him by some unseen force. "You won't fall, Bella. I won't let that happen."
'Soon' was sooner than I thought. When I realized what he was doing, I froze.
Stay very still. Stay very still. Stay very still.
And once again, the anticipation was unreal. But knowing what I knew, I wasn't about to make things any harder on him. I needed to wait for him to bridge the gap. I needed to wait for his lips to touch mine.
Stay. Very. Still.
I couldn't watch. I couldn't bear to see the expression of severe concentration on his face, knowing it was, in part, due to pain.
I could feel his breath. His nose brushed mine. And then finally, our lips met. The first kiss was brief. Experimental. But the second kiss…
I didn't know anything could be that perfect. His lips were harder than mine, but softer than I remembered. He kissed both of my lips separately and together. He kissed the corners of my mouth. The hand that had been playing with my hair was suddenly up in it, cradling my head.
It never became frenzied, but that didn't make it any less passionate. He was adoring me.
I never moved. I only followed his lead. I didn't want the perfect moment to stop.
My head was spinning yet lucid, all at the same time. My heart was racing, but in a stable, steady rhythm. My lips adapted to his every move.
To stop myself from touching him, my right hand death-gripped the tree branch above my head, and my left dug into my thigh. I began to tremble from the effort.
An eternity later, I felt his lips leave me and his forehead touch mine.
"My dearest Bella…" He sounded winded as he whispered. "You are my life now."
Good thing he had a hold of me. I would have fallen out of the tree to my death if he hadn't.
How does one respond to something like that? I was his life now. The feeling was mutual.
After only eight days, I knew beyond any doubt that I would want for no one else, ever in my life.
It would be tricky as I got older, but we could work something out. Maybe people would think I was robbing the cradle, but it didn't matter if they did. I would know the truth. He was, and would always be, way older than I am, even though he wouldn't appear so outwardly.
Maybe people would think he was my son. Or, later, grandson. We could find a secluded area to live in. Limit our physical contact while out in public. What we did behind closed doors wasn't anyone else's business anyway.
My friends and parents might start to wonder, though. Why he didn't appear to be aging. At first, we could just play it off that he holds his age well. But that would only last for so long. We could say he was too sick for social gatherings at some point, but even that would draw attention after a few years.
Maybe we could use makeup or something. They made Tyler look like he was eighty in that play last year. But, then again, it only looked believable at a distance. Close up, it looked like he was wearing makeup. Could makeup even adhere to vampire skin?
Maybe we could even use his rumored skin condition in some way.
Whatever the solution, or solutions, we would find a way. I was his life now, and he was mine.
And I had yet to acknowledge his words. I had just drifted off into thought.
"You're my life now, too," I whispered. Choked out, really. I sounded just as winded as he had.
This obviously pleased him. He tilted his head up to kiss my forehead, and then his lips were all over my face. My cheeks, my chin, the tip of my nose. Then he kissed a path towards my neck.
"Don't be afraid," he whispered.
I wasn't. How could I be?
I could feel his nose caressing my skin. Feel his cool breath. Hear his deep inhales. He was smelling me. He was tasting me. Maybe I was like a drug to him, like he was to me. That was a heady thought.
I fought to remain conscious.
His lips, feather soft against me, dragged slowly upwards, and then he was nuzzling my hair just behind my ear.
I reminded myself to breathe.
The descent took place one slow, gentle kiss at a time.
Staying very still wasn't possible any longer. I reached out, fisted the material of his shirt at his waist, and then attempted to pull him in my direction. He didn't budge in the slightest. I may as well have been trying to push a six ton boulder up a steep mountain.
I could feel his smile against my skin.
Right at the spot where my racing pulse felt especially strong, his kisses changed. They were deeper. Penetrating. His lips were parted slightly. I could feel his tongue flicking across my skin, wetting it.
And then I felt his teeth.
The next thing I knew, I was lying on the ground, amongst the bracken, staring up at Edward.
He was lying next to me, propped up on his elbow, my body gathered against him.
Okay, this was getting ridiculous. I had blacked out again!
Edward looked like he was in the absolute fires of hell. I lifted my hand, shakily, and cupped his face.
"I'm okay," I promised him.
His anguish intensified.
I was alright, wasn't I? I took a quick mental assessment.
Yeah, I was alright.
"What's wrong?" I asked. Maybe I was missing something.
"My sick and twisted desires should not be fulfilled at your expense."
Huh? "What sick and twisted desires?"
His eyes left mine, and then he dropped his head in… Shame? Yeah. He was feeling ashamed.
"Please tell me?" I asked.
He released a pained scoffing sound. "I would never hurt you..."
"I know that."
"But the desire to—"
He stopped his explanation abruptly, but enough was said that I could piece it together.
"You have a desire to hurt me?"
The most heartwrenching expression flashed onto his face. That was a yes.
Or maybe not. "I'm confused."
He took forever to answer. I knew he was going to, so I traced the features of his face while I waited. That seemed to ease his suffering slightly.
"Your scent is like a drug to me. I have never wanted a human's blood so much in my life."
Okay, two things…
First, I was like a drug to him, like he was to me.
And second… Well, there was a part of him – and I wasn't exactly sure how dominant that part of him was – that thirsted for my blood. Beyond what would be considered normal for a being of his kind.
"Are you afraid?"
Okay, truthfully, I was a little unnerved by the thought of that, but I wouldn't have really categorized it as 'afraid'. I was more concerned about what that must feel like to him. We really were like the lion and the lamb. And not just that, but the lion had been starved to the brink of death, and the lamb was the last morsel of food in existence.
The lion would refuse to eat the lamb, simply because he was in love with her, and would then subsequently live in agony.
It made my guilt soar.
"No. I'm not afraid of you. I'm sorry."
"You're sorry for not being afraid?" he asked. His expression changed to confusion.
"No. I'm sorry that you're going through this. I wish there was a way I could fix it." And then a thought occurred to me. "What if I were to… I don't know, cut my finger, and then you could—?"
That was obviously a very bad suggestion. I flinched when he yelled.
He noticed, of course. He sighed as he pulled me tighter against him. Protectively.
"I'm sorry for raising my voice." He sighed again. Heavily. "Bella, I can never allow myself that. Do you remember what I said to you, when explaining the difficulty Carlisle faced when changing me?"
It took a second to access the memory.
"When we taste human blood, a sort of frenzy begins. It's almost impossible to stop."
Oh. If he even just tasted my blood…
"Yeah. Okay. I see your point."
"I would never hurt you, Bella, but I must be cautious. I can never lose control with you."
"You won't. I trust you."
He laughed as he flattened himself to the forest floor. "Yes. I know. Fragile, trusting little human."
I shifted up onto my elbow and smiled down on him. It was good to hear him laugh, even if it was a little bit at my expense.
"Unbreakable, self-loathing little vampire," I teased back.
That really got him laughing. The sound of it gave me a newfound ounce of courage.
I kissed the tip of my finger, then placed it to his lips for a moment before tracing along them. He liked that. His laughter died, his smile eased, and then his expression changed. It was like this sexy, smoldering kind of thing that instantly set me on fire.
I was being lured. Invited. I was being given permission.
I leaned in and touched my lips to his, tentatively.
I learned something about myself in that moment. I have little sense of self control. I mimicked his earlier attentions – I wasn't exactly sure what to do beyond that – but then as the kiss became passionate, I found myself climbing on top of him. Straddling him.
Then we were sitting up, me in his lap, and things became frenzied. Desperate.
Our hands were in each other's hair. Grabbing. Fisting. Tugging.
Our kissing was no longer gentle. It was almost bruising, though it wasn't at all painful.
Our bodies were pressed together as much as could be possible, and yet I still wanted to be closer.
And then suddenly, there was distance.
To be continued…
I really want to thank everyone for the encouragement, not only with this story, but with my struggles to quit smoking. It's been nine days since my last cigarette, and three since I ran out of patches. The last three days have been the hardest.
Okay, chapter not beta-ed, blah, blah, blah.
Now, Bella might seem a bit more OOC than usual in this chapter, with her reasoning that as she gets older, they could just hide away, and who cares if people think she's robbing the cradle…
Just wait. She is far from the journey's end at this point. Everything she thinks and feels is explained as the story progresses, I promise.
Now that it's obvious that I'm planning to show their physical/sexual relationship as well, I'd like to mention that I have kept the content of that on a PG-13 rating level throughout the fic. Hopefully, it's descriptive enough to satisfy those who enjoy such scenes, but carefully vague enough so that it won't offend people who don't.
I babble a lot. Sorry.
Anyway… please review, and MTLBYAKY