The house seemed empty now. I didn't see or hear any sign of Alice or Esme being in the house as I headed for Edward's room. Everyone else was gone, I was sure of it. And Edward had just left.
I was actually trembling a little. I pulled the computer out of standby after placing it on the bed in front of me, and then, with shaky fingers, I pulled up a new Google window and started typing in key words. I added 'psychic', just to see what would happen. When that netted me nothing new, I typed in 'bad supernatural'.
That didn't help at all.
'Supernatural speed'. Nothing.
'Supernatural speed pale cold'. More vampire stuff! Crap!
Wait. Oh, God. My heart almost burst out of my chest. Was that the answer? Vampire?
Pale skin... check. Cold to the touch… check. Superhuman speed and strength… well, speed. So, check. Drinks blood… liquid diet? So, okay, yeah. Blood is a liquid. Supernatural abilities… Alice was psychic. Did that count? If it did, check.
It was all starting to fit. The only things that didn't were the garlic and the sunlight. But everything else… did.
I felt like I was going to pass out. Then I realized… I was hyperventilating. I took deep purposeful breaths, then stood and started pacing.
I was just about to turn away from the window wall thing, to pace in the opposite direction, when I saw him. He was outside, leaning against a tree a little distance from the house, looking up at me. Our eyes locked.
It felt like centuries were passing at the speed of light. I could scarcely breathe. My heart was literally doing flips. My stomach had dropped to my feet.
He pushed off the tree, still staring at me as he did so, then he turned and stepped slowly towards the forest. He glanced back once.
It was an invitation to follow him, I realized.
I quickly got dressed – I was surprised I could even manage the simple task – threw on my socks and shoes, then ran down the stairs. I grabbed my jacket on the way out the door.
I rounded the house, located Edward's bedroom window, then set out in a straight line away from it into the forest.
I couldn't find him. How far in had he gone? I was bound to get lost if I went too much further.
"Are you afraid?"
I spun around, but I still couldn't find him. He was close, though. I could sense it. Could he also disappear?
"Of you? No. If you were going to kill me, I'd be dead already."
Out of thin air, he dropped in front of me, a few yards away. My heart did horrible things to me. Hard to ignore, but I did try. I took in several shaky breaths as we stared back at one another.
"You're ready to talk." It wasn't a question.
"I – I think so," I stuttered. "I have a question first, though."
He arched an eyebrow, which I found comforting somehow.
"If something was thought to be myth, could some of the facts be wrong?"
"Okay. What happens now?"
"What do you want to happen now?"
"I want to understand better, for starters."
"Before that can happen, I need to know what you've learned."
Saying the words out loud was one of the hardest things I'd ever had to do. It seemed horrifying. Ridiculous. Life changing. I mustered my courage after taking in another shaky breath.
"You're a vampire." I wasn't asking. I knew he was.
He stared back at me for the longest time, like a statue, unblinking, not breathing. I was hyperaware of him, and he definitely wasn't breathing.
"Ask your questions."
Though he didn't outwardly confirm it, I knew he just had.
"How old are you really?"
"Okay, but, for how long have you been seventeen?"
He hesitated. Was he seriously not going to answer? We had just gotten started.
"A while," he finally said. Whispered. He was as nervous about this as I was. Possibly more so.
Okay, so vampires didn't burst into flames in the sunlight.
"Yes. But not in the way you think."
"You don't kill people." Again, I wasn't asking. I just somehow knew.
"No. We survive off the blood of animals."
"No. My family is different from others of our kind."
"So, there are other vampires out there who kill people?"
That was a little unnerving, but since people believed vampires to be myth, they obviously didn't go around slaughtering thousands. If they did, their existence would be a fact.
Or maybe they did. I couldn't wrap my brain around that, so I pushed onward.
"How did you become one?"
"Carlisle. My mother had just died of Spanish Influenza, and I was dying of it. He thought he was saving me."
Thought he was saving him. Okay, Edward obviously didn't think so, or he would have said, 'Carlisle saved me'.
"You don't want to be one?"
"No. But that doesn't matter. I am one."
"Why? Why don't you want to be one?"
"I don't want to be a monster." There was pain in his voice.
"You're not a monster."
He scoffed, and for the first time since our conversation began, since falling out of the sky right in front of me, he moved. Not much. Just a little head turn as he shifted his gaze to the ground. He didn't believe that. He truly thought he was a monster. I took a step towards him, but before I could take a second one, he was gone.
I looked up, and there he was, high up in the tree he had been standing near. So, not only could he move fast, he could jump. Leap. Neither word seemed adequate to describe it. He hadn't climbed the tree, he was just up it in the flash of a second.
"Did I upset you?"
That was a lie, but I played along. "Then why are you up in a tree?"
"You were coming to me."
"Well, yeah. Is that not okay?"
"Why aren't you scared?"
Did he want me to be? "Should I be?"
"Are you?" I asked. I knew he was. It was written all over his face.
"You don't need to be. Please, come down?"
He dropped out of the tree, stepping off the branch he was standing on like how one might casually do so from a three inch curb. I gasped, instincts telling me that from that height, he would be hurt, but then he landed gracefully in front of me, completely unharmed.
"Why do you think I should be scared?"
"I could potentially end your life."
I shrugged. "So could my dad. He owns a gun, what with him being the police chief and all. I'm not scared of him."
"He's not a wild monster, driven by instincts."
"So, your instincts are telling you to kill me?"
"Yes." He looked determined then. Like he thought that I would finally be scared. I wasn't.
"But you fight against them," I said. "It's not about potential, Edward. It's about actions. You won't hurt me." I truly believed that.
He softened a little, so I tentatively took one step forward. He tensed, but he didn't run away again.
"Why can't I come near you? We've been near each other lots of times."
"That was before you knew what I am."
"I don't care what you are. I mean, I do," I added quickly, "but not in the way you think."
He seemed amused by that. "And what do I think?"
"You think you're a monster. You think I should think that, too. But I don't. I care because you seem so tortured, and it saddens me that you are."
His body language changed. He was almost leaning towards me, like the magnet thing. Like he was drawn to me, but was too nervous to allow himself to be. I took another careful step.
This time, he didn't tense. Progress.
"Alice said I should ask you what you can do," I reminded him.
He hesitated for only a few seconds. He wasn't trying to decide if he should tell me, but how.
"I can read minds."
My heart immediately picked up pace again. It had only eased slightly from before, and now it was dangerously close to killing me.
He could read minds. He could read my mind. And, of course, the first thing that came to me was how many times I had thought about him. How many times I had thought about him in a way that indicated my feelings for him.
Embarrassed wasn't a strong enough word. There would need to be a whole new word invented for what I was feeling. How much adrenalin could a heart take and keep beating?
"Breathe, Bella. I can't read your mind."
I blinked, confused. "You can't?"
"No. You are the exception. The only exception."
Weird. Why was that? "Is there something wrong with me?"
His laugh confused me further. Well, it was more of a chuckle, but still, he obviously found there to be something funny about my question.
And then he explained his reaction. "You're standing here, conversing with a vampire who can read minds, and you think there is something wrong with you?"
He had a point. Why would I just assume the fault was mine? There was probably some kind of psycho-babble about that, but I had far more important things on my mind.
I shrugged. "Was just wondering why that was."
"I don't honestly know. It's very frustrating."
"You wish you could read my mind?"
"Yes. Every day, since the first day I met you. I could hear you inside your house, while your parents spoke with you and you with them, but I couldn't read your thoughts. I could read your parents', Renee's better than Charlie's, but then, with you… nothing. I thought I might be able to with a closer proximity to you, not that I have ever needed that before, but I still couldn't. For the entire drive to my house, I tried."
That was the most he'd ever said at one time, ever. He clearly needed to get that off his chest. I was glad for it. I wanted him to open up to me.
"Does anyone else in your family have… special talents?"
"Jasper can control moods."
"Like, if someone's upset, he can make them… not be?"
"He seems to be afraid of me," I mentioned.
"Jasper is the newest member of our family. A new vegetarian. It's difficult for him to be around humans."
"Vegetarian?" I thought he'd said they survive off the blood of animals.
"That's what we call ourselves."
Oh. Okay. It was just the term they used. I had heard him right before. "Are there very many others like you?"
"No. It's a very difficult lifestyle to maintain."
"It is?" He nodded. "Why?"
It was a simple answer, but I knew what he meant. They were wired to want human blood.
"So, Jasper's killed people before?"
He scowled. "Yes."
That was a bad question to ask. I'd never seen him look so tortured.
"You don't have to answer that," I told him. And he didn't. By the pained look on his face, I already knew the answer. And it was obviously something he regretted deeply.
But he answered the question anyway. "Yes. But never innocents."
Never innocents. "I think I get what you mean…"
"I can read minds, Bella. My victims were always violent criminals."
Victims. Not 'prey', but 'victims'. Yeah, he was guilt-ridden. "So, in a way, you were doing the world a favor."
"No, Bella. No. I had no right to do what I did. I had no right to play God, deciding who should live and who should die."
I could understand that, I really could, but with the instinct to kill… at least he chose the most humane path possible. He chose his victims carefully, only selecting those who probably would have gotten the death penalty for their crimes anyway, depending on the state or country they were in.
But I didn't share my thoughts with him on that. It was obviously a difficult subject for him, and he didn't appear to want absolution. He wanted to feel guilty. Penance, maybe.
He was definitely not a monster.
"What are you thinking?"
I was honest, but careful. "I think you're too hard on yourself. But I think you feel you need to be. You hold onto your guilt and self-hatred as a self-inflicted punishment."
That time, he took a step towards me. Okay, so, we were going to inch our way to each other. I could handle that, as long as the end result was being near him.
"Why does Rosalie hate me?"
I threw an incredulous expression at him, letting him know I wasn't buying that lie.
"You're not wrong, but it's not hate. One of the reasons has more to do with me than you, and neither reason is mine to share with you."
Right. I would have to ask Rosalie myself. Well, maybe after she stopped shooting daggers at me from her eyes.
"Is she and Emmett a couple?"
"Yes, as are Alice and Jasper."
Yeah, I had that figured out. "So, you're the only one who's alone?"
It was a subtle way of asking if he had a girlfriend, but I seriously doubted he did. With the way he looked at me, and with some of the ambiguous comments he made, I was of the distinct impression that he wanted me to be his girlfriend. Which suited me just fine. I wanted to be.
Now, seriously, I expected something along the lines of, 'I just haven't met the right girl yet', but what I got instead nearly floored me.
"I hadn't met you yet."
I felt weak-kneed. They almost gave out from under me. I swayed a little, and poof, I was in Edward's arms.
I looked up at him – I think I was planning on saying thank you – but when our eyes locked, no words came. Thoughts spiraled and blurred. My entire body felt like it was going to implode in on itself.
"You don't know for how long I've waited for you."
Okay, maybe he was trying to kill me. How much emotion could a heart hold, especially when it was trying to explode? Or maybe that was why it was trying to explode.
Okay, but how? I couldn't remember.
I had thought that knowing Edward Cullen's secrets would make things simpler. I had been a fool. This was anything but simple.
And this was far more than 'like'. Love at first sight, like vampires, does exist. Both are very real, and I was dealing with them both at the same time, in the same moment.
Suddenly, I was completely off the ground, scooped up into his arms. He cradled me to his chest protectively. Comfortingly.
"Hold on, and close your eyes."
Sure, okay. Why not? I did so, and immediately, I felt movement. Movement I didn't understand. There was a wind chill factor involved, like a tornado fan was blowing right on us. Then, as quickly as it had started, it stopped.
"You can open your eyes now."
I did, and literally startled. Hard. Edward just held me tighter to him, which was the best feeling in the whole world, I had decided.
We were in his room. He was lightening fast, I knew, but to be part of the experience was a little jarring. Why had he asked me to close my eyes? I would have liked to have seen that.
Or maybe not. With the way I was feeling, that might have been too much for my heart to take. Maybe he knew that.
Maybe he could hear it trying to race out of my chest.
"Do you have super hearing, too?"
He smiled down on me as he set me gently, effortlessly, onto the bed.
"Yes," he whispered.
That made sense. The little ear perks. Hearing my stomach growl.
I struggled to keep up with him. One moment he was hovering over me, the next he was gone. I didn't even have time to find him. Two rapid blinks later, and he was back.
And then, as his music filled the room, he joined me. He had gone to the stereo, I realized.
We were in a similar position to what we had been in the night before, but closer. I wanted him to touch me, but I think he sensed that it would have been too much for me to handle. If he did, he sensed right.
The combination of the soothing melody and Edward's calm measured breathing started to relax me after a while. It seemed he was breathing in that manner for that very purpose, like he was trying to lead me by example. I was pretty sure he didn't need to breathe at all.
I decided to ask him. I wanted to know everything about him. But it wasn't in a, 'wow, you're vampire' kind of way. I had wanted to know everything I could long before I ever learned that. If I was being honest with myself, since I had first met him.
"You don't need to breathe, do you?"
He smiled. He was enjoying sharing with me. "No."
Maybe this was all new to him. Maybe the only people who really knew him were the other six occupants of this house. Well, and maybe others like him. I couldn't help feeling a little honored that I was, quite possibly, the first human he had ever trusted with this secret.
"Where did your family go?"
"Out. They are allowing us some privacy."
I was feeling far more human, as my heart rate slowed to almost normal and my breaths came naturally to me again.
"Who is it that might harm me because I know this? Is it other vampires?" Obviously, but I asked to see what his answer would be.
Pain laced into his expression. "Yes."
He offered nothing else, but I didn't press. We had covered so much ground already. I probably should have been scared, but I wasn't. I knew Edward, and most likely his family, too, would protect me.
And then my strange and wonderful new reality took a turn, to include my old reality.
To be continued…
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