"Dad?" I call out to Charlie, parked as usual on the sofa in front of the television.
"What's up Bella? Its bottom of the ninth, can this wait a few minutes?"
"Sure, no problem. Come into the kitchen when you're done."
I look at the piles of paper thrown haphazardly on the kitchen island. I was supposed to have completed this family tree project two days ago, though my teachers are allowing me to turn it in late. I don't really understand what this project is supposed to connect me to, and it seems like an awful lot of research to recreate accurately. I guess there is always a possibility I could lie and get away with it although that is highly unlikely.
"Bella," a velvet voice whispered in my ear, "why the scowl?"
I turn to face him and am awestruck with the way he looks tonight, creamy pale skin drawn tight over his tapered bone structure, still glistening with raindrops.
"What's all this?" he asks casually, scanning the piles of papers.
"That stupid family tree project. I can't seem to get everything straight, and there are some holes here. I was going to ask Charlie to help me when the game is over."
"It's nearly over now. Why don't I wait for you upstairs?"
"Ok..." I mumble, not wanting him to leave.
"I'll be waiting," he promises with a wink. He turns and takes one last measuring look at me before he disappears from the doorway.
I shake my head to clear my thoughts and begin to flip through another stack of paper, looking for the outline I'd drawn up.
"Whoa, Bells, what's this about?" Charlie saunters in, taking a swig of his root-beer, surveying the tornado of papers.
"Family history thing for school. Can you help me fill in a few blanks? I have you and your brother, and a little bit on your parents, but nothing before them. I also have to pick someone at least two generations back to do a story on, and I don't have a whole lot of information."
Charlie looks at me with something like panic. "Do you need dates and everything? I don't have a whole lot of information on my great grandparents, but I can tell you what I know. You got a pencil?"
I fumble in the junk drawer and pulled out a much abused pencil that still had a nice pointy tip. It reminded me of someone-but in the interest of keeping my head clear of that which is waiting for me upstairs; I force myself to stay in the present.
"Ok, I'm ready. What were your grandparent's names?"
"On my father's side, there was Elizabeth and Alastor Swan, and on my mother's side, Running Elk and Doris Song."
"Running Elk? Are you kidding?" I giggle at the absurdity of such a name. It sounds so native.
"Well, I know it may sound strange to you, but it's just a name, comes from the Quilutes."
"What? I had no idea. Are we related to the Blacks?" my thoughts turn to Jacob and my heart fills with a familiar empty ache. If we are related—maybe things won't be as complicated.
"Actually, we are. Haven't you ever wondered why our family is so close to the Quilute people?"
"I hadn't really thought about it…it just seems so strange. We don't look like them at all."
"No, our blood has been pretty much diluted. The only way I know I'm red is I don't ever get sunburned. I can sit outside fishing all day long and it doesn't make a difference, not that we get much sun anyway. You on the other hand—strange how you stay so pale, even when you lived in Phoenix."
I smile and shrug my shoulders. I am a freak. I decide to continue the interview. The sooner I finish the sooner I can go upstairs.
"So, was Doris also Quilute?"
"No, she was white. It was very interesting, her marrying into the tribe, practically unheard of. But from the moment they got to know her, they opened their hearts and she became one of them."
"Huh. What else do you know about them?"
"Not a whole lot. I bet Billy would know a fair bit though. His people have a long memory…so I've been told. Anyway Bella, isn't it time for you to go to sleep? You've got school bright and early."
I chew on my lip, knowing I need to turn this project in soon. Then again, it's practically unheard of for me to miss turning in homework. Perhaps I could get away with it for a few more days…
"Night Bells. Sweet dreams."
I flip off the kitchen light and run up the stairs to my room; carefully holding onto the railing the entire way. I do not need a repeat of last Wednesday.
I close the door behind me. The room is midnight black and I fumble for the lightswitch. When it comes on, I take in a deep breath; one that relieves the tension I feel whenever I can't see Edward. There he sat, sitting in the rocking chair by the window looking at me intently. I smile at him eagerly, but it seems as though there is something serious on his mind.
"Edward, what is it?"
His cryptic answer isn't going to cut it. The tension in the room is thick.
"You might as well tell me, I know something is wrong."
He looks at me defiantly and I placed my hands on my hips. I tap my foot for good measure. It becomes clear that I am not going to let this slide. Not knowing is making me nervous.
"Quilute? That is not exactly something I'd ever thought I'd hear. Although it makes a certain twisted logic. Perhaps that's why you feel so close to that dog."
I feel like someone punched me in the stomach.
"That's not fair Edward," I whisper angrily.
"You're right Bella, it isn't. It never is for us."
He searched my stricken face and inhaled deeply.
"I'm sorry Bella. I really didn't expect to hear something like that."
"What difference does it make? It doesn't change anything."
He contemplated that and his alabaster forehead was furrowed.
I don't like it when he looks like this. What difference could this possibly make?
"Bella…" he struggled with his words, "you know about the treaty. We can't cross boundaries and not under any circumstances be friends or more with one of them."
"I'm not one of them, and even if I was, so what? The treaty is pretty clear, and it doesn't say anything about that specifically. Even if it did, it wouldn't matter. No one knows that I have Quilute blood in me. I didn't even know until five minutes ago."
"Ok, but consider-what if you were a carrier?"
"Perhaps I'm not being clear. Bella, if you have Quilute blood in you, you may carry the gene that is responsible for their transmutation. You know what I'm saying, don't you?"
"That is so ridiculous. Even in the impossible circumstance that I am a carrier, I can't turn into a wolf-the last time I checked anyway. I mean, have I suddenly grown two feet and gained a hundred pounds of muscle? Running a fever of 108? I think you're taking this much too seriously."
"Maybe you're right," He sighs, "I'm sorry Bella…it's my job to be aware and on guard when it comes to them. I didn't mean to upset you."
I feel numb. Questions are rolling around my head but all I want to do is stop this conversation.
"I'm going to need a human minute."
"Take your time sweetheart."
I stumble as I turn away and take an unsteady step toward the door. Instantly I feel his cold arms snug around my waist. He turns me gently and leans in, giving me a peck on the nose, and my heart quickened in response.
"Go be girly. I'll be here when you get back."
His eyes grow luminous and dark. "I'll be right here."
I open the door and close it behind me, taking a fortifying breath. This news-if it could even be called that-wasn't helping anything. I feel an overwhelming curiosity that I knew Edward wouldn't approve of. I want to talk to Billy about it, regardless of what Edward might think. I am once again so thankful that he can't hear my thoughts. He doesn't need to know about this.
Damn it. Why the hell does this have to get more and more complicated?
I stare at the impending water stain on Bella's ceiling. Maybe Charlie doesn't know what he's talking about. Bella is as white as snow, as pure as spring rain. She smells so damn good…not like one of those dogs at all. Certainly I would know if it was true!
The only thing that troubles me is the matter of her lineage; what if it is true? But how? Her blood itself sings like a siren for me. It calls to me, lures me in, and I have to struggle every minute to not take it from her. But what does that really prove? She is my singer; I knew it before going to Volterra.
Yet perhaps there is a chance. There is only one bloodline in the Quilute history that holds the mutation, and it is highly unlikely that she shares that line.
I should have kept my mouth closed. I'd alarmed her, and she didn't need that. Not after all that I'd done to her recently. She is still as fragile as glass, and it kills me to know that I have hurt her so badly by leaving. Even if she was one of them, I wouldn't leave her; I couldn't, not now, not ever. She's my reason for existing, my everything.
I listen to her in the bathroom, vigorously brushing her teeth, combing her hair. I fidget as I wait for her to come back to me. I want to hold her so badly it hurts. To kiss away those hurtful things I said; to see her shy smile.
After a few minutes she comes back and doesn't hesitate as she crawls into bed next to me and curls up against my body. I am so thankful that she's so forgiving. I wrap my arms around her and squeeze her gently.
"I love you Bella Swan," I whisper in her ear.
"I love you too," she giggles.
"Your name is so musical. Mine just seems so cacophonous in comparison," I tell her, thinking flattery is never a bad thing.
"Please-your name is like magic on my tongue," she counters.
Inwardly, I cringe.
"My name is just a name," I respond, "Yours is like a spring rain, a summers wind…"
"Rain and wind. Great. Two things I simply love." Her eyes flash mischievously.
"You know what I love? Everything about you."
"Yes, really. You're an enchantress Bella."
"Actually, the last time I checked I was just a boring human. Not the stuff of fairy tales. You on the other hand…"
"I am not a fairytale either. I wish you wouldn't see me that way." I frown in the dark knowing she can't see me.
"Yes you are, maybe not the conventional fairytale, but you're everything I could ever want. I don't know what I've done to deserve you."
I groan inwardly. Why oh why does she have such a high opinion of me? How is it even possible after all the danger and pain she's been in because of me? I could never deserve her, not if I lived a thousand lifetimes and did nothing but good for humanity.
As she snuggles closer to me I catch a strong whiff of her scent and have to mentally restrain myself. I keep my arms rigid, my fists tightened in control. I concentrate on her heart, the beautiful reassuring rhythm of her heart and with every beat, I feel more in control. I relaxe against her as her breathing begins to slow. This is a magical time, watching her fall asleep. Her face is relaxed, her mouth loosened and her eyelids flutter. She murmurs nonsensical things and if I'm lucky, she calls my name, and tells me that she loves me. I hold her for hours and then freeze as I hear her whisper…
I'd had a rough night. I bolt out of bed…or at least made the attempt. Two white arms secure my waist and keep me in place.
"Edward! Let me up! I'm late! What time is it? I really need to go brush my teeth and get ready."
"Charlie's in there."
"Well, I need to get out of bed at least!"
"Umm, gee, I don't know, to get ready for school!"
"Anything else you want to add?"
I think about that. Saturday. Oh yeah. Why else would Charlie still be in the house? I seriously need a calendar.
"No not really. I think I'll stay here all day." I respond smugly.
"Is that so?" I can't see his face but know that he is smiling.
"Yep. All day long-in bed. With a certain cute vampire I know."
"Any reason to be jealous of said vampire?"
"Oh…lots of reasons. You see, he's beautiful, and smart, and witty, and he has this gorgeous smile…"
"Is that so? What's his name?"
"Oh, I don't think he'd appreciate it if I revealed his secret identity."
"Is that the real reason?" he plays along.
"Well that and he tends to be the possessive type. He wouldn't like it if he knew someone was in bed with me."
"You're damn right about that." He growls and nips my ear affectionately.
"I mean, he'd go berserk if I even held hands with you."
"Really? What do you think he'd do if I kissed you right now?" he replies silkily.
"I'm not sure. He might throw you out of the window…"
"Maybe we should find out" he says seductively.
"Maybe we should…" I murmur.
His lips catch mine and his hand encircles my throat. His fingers sweep tendrils of hair and tuck them behind my ears and I breathe in the sweet elixir that is his breath. I press my lips urgently against his and he responds in turn, pulling my body close. I need to breathe but know I would rather die than extract myself from his embrace.
I pull her close after our little banter and drink in her scent like she is the only drop of water in a world that is eternal desert. I let her aroma waft through my nose, ignoring the burning at the back of my throat, and I let my tongue slip into her mouth. She responds eagerly and presses her body close. I can hear her heart hammering in her chest and I have to fight more than my vampiric desire to end her life…I want her. I want her the way a poor man wants to win the lottery. With deep reluctance I pull back and try to calm the torrential feelings running rampant in my body. She sighs contentedly, but I am far from content. I am aroused…and that makes me dangerous.
"My love. I need to take a trip home. I'll be back soon…I promise."
She pouts and it takes every modicum of strength I have not to pull her close again.
"I don't want you to leave." She whimpers pathetically.
"I have to sweetheart. Don't worry; I'll be back before you've finished your cereal."
She smiles sweetly. "Ok. Be safe."
I nearly laugh but I feel a tender warmth swim through me at her concern.
Then he is gone. I stare at the fluttering curtain, the only reminder, save his sweet scent that still lingers in the air, that he had spent the night.
I think about my dream guiltily. I really hope that he hadn't heard me say anything incriminating. All I could dream about was going to La Push, and seeing Jacob again. He too had left a hole in my heart…I just didn't realize how big it was until recently. More and more I find myself thinking about him. I try not to…honestly, it hurts. But the more I ignore it, the more I feel lost. Edward is my path…but Jacob was meant to be on a parallel path with mine, not just an intersecting one. He is my best friend, and come hell or high water, I am going to get him back.
Finally I can breathe. Well…figuratively speaking. Sometimes it is too much for me to handle. Would it be easier if I was human? I doubt it. I am feeling drained but can't help but wonder what it would be like if I was human too-would she still want me the same way? Would she have been attracted to me? Or would I have been like every other guy in school…hopelessly lost in her eyes and rejected by her tongue? I can only imagine the truth.
She'd never allowed herself to get close to anyone else…except for that dog. My teeth begin to drip venom as I think of him…so young, out of control. Vile…my mind hisses. I think of Bella laughing with him, smiling at him, and it makes me sick. I am responsible for bringing them together. Old family friends or not-she wouldn't have gone down there and become so close to him if I hadn't left. It is my fault. I can never escape that. Now she is dreaming about him-whispering his name in too familiar a way. I wish I can trust her to forget him, but something tells me that Bella will do as she wants to do. She pretends that being Quilute doesn't matter-and I'd warned her to stay away from the entire pack at La Push but something tells me that she won't listen. I decide to consult Alice.
"Edward!" I laugh as his scowling face peeks around the door.
"What?" he grimaces.
Don't worry so much…ok? I know what you're here for…seriously…Bella will be fine.
"How do you know? What is she planning on doing?"
She hasn't totally made up her mind…but it looks like all she's going to do is call Billy Black.
"That's it? You swear Alice?"
Why would I lie to you?
"I can think of a few reasons."
Yeah well…you shouldn't be so suspicious. I care about her too you know. If she was going to do anything stupid, I'd let you know.
"All right Alice. Well, keep me apprised of the situation. I don't want her down there, alone and vulnerable. If those damn dogs hurt her I swear I will kill every single one of them."
I know Edward…calm down.
"Thanks. I'm going to change my clothes and then get back to her."
You look a little…peckish. You might want to go hunting soon…ok? I'd love to come with.
"Sounds like a plan. Tonight, after Bella is asleep."
It's a date.
I need to call Billy. Even if I can't get down there to see any of them-I need to know more about my ancestry and not only for the sake of my project. Something is nagging at me and I can't quite put a finger on it. I sigh and then decided to get dressed.
I pull open my closet and survey the wreckage inside. I really need to do laundry. All that is clean is this old sundress that my mother bought for me to wear back in Phoenix. I hadn't the heart to tell her that it was much too old fashioned and so it continued to collect dust in the back of my closet. I pull it out and yank the tags off of it. I smooth the wrinkles with my fingers and slip it on. I grab a scrunchie off of my desk and pull my hair back. I trip lightly down the stairs and into the kitchen. I take a clean bowel out of the sink and rummage in the drawer for a spoon. Just as I am pouring my cereal, I look up and Edward is here.
He looks dashing, wearing a green cardigan and tight fitted jeans. My heart skips a beat as I look into his dark ochre eyes. His eyes roam over my figure appreciatively and I roll my eyes.
"I'm glad you're back to fully appreciate my eighties flashback." I say sarcastically.
"It looks more like the forties…but what do I know? I only lived through them." He responds with a smirk.
"Eighties, forties, what's the difference?" I scowl, "It's old and it's ugly."
"I think you're completely wrong Bella. You look stunning. That dress fits you in all the right places-believe me, I know what I'm talking about."
I blush furiously.
"You better eat before that gets soggy." He nods toward my cereal, drowning in milk.
"Yay. Captain Crunch again," I respond tonelessly.
"What would you prefer?" he asks.
"No. Nothing. This is fine," I say hurriedly.
"Maybe I should take you out this morning-maybe Duke's? I hear they have good food."
"Oh-who'd you hear that from? I know it's not experience speaking."
"I've heard it around. Why don't we get into the car?"
"You sure? I mean, I'm fine with cereal, really."
"Well, it looks like its past it's prime, if you know what I mean."
I look down at the soggy mush the cereal has become. Eating out really would be nice. I mentally count how much money I have in my purse….it is enough for breakfast.
"Ok, let's go."
I couldn't believe that she didn't argue with me. It was amazing really. I love being able to take her out, love it when people look at us and smile in that they recognize true love when they see it. I love showing her off. She obviously doesn't realize how appealing she looks. The dress is low cut, yet conservative at the same time. It is snug around her bust and abdomen but flares out a little as it reaches her hips. It fell in smooth pleats just past her knees. Perhaps it was nostalgia that was hard hitting, but I miss seeing women in dresses. It is a rarity to see someone looking so feminine, and Bella-she looks like a princess, whether she cares to admit it or not. I decide then and there to buy her some new dresses. Hopefully she won't take that as an insult.
She flounces up the stairs and comes back down with her purse. My eyes narrow when I see the disgusting thing. She's had it for years, that was obvious, and whenever she brought it, she would always try to pay for things. I don't want to tell her but it wounds my pride a bit that she won't accept things from me. I want to spend money on her, want to show her how much I appreciate her in as many ways as possible-but she always has to make it difficult.
I open the door for her and she momentarily stuns me with her smile. I whisk her toward my car and open the door for her. She slides in and I close it. I walk to the driver's side door and slide behind the wheel.
"Put on your seatbelt, sweetheart," I remind her gently.
"Oh…sorry," She pulls the band across her tiny waist and it clicks as it locks.
I put the car in reverse and speed down the street, only reaching out to take her hand when she relaxes the death grip she has on the center console.
"You really shouldn't worry Bella. I'd never let anything happen to you."
I look over at him speculatively.
"Why do you drive so fast?" I ask exasperated.
"Haven't we already gone over this?" he replies smoothly.
"Yes-and I'm still waiting for an answer that makes sense."
"Look-have you noticed, all vampires drive fast. We do everything fast. It's in our nature, and you're perfectly safe. Really Bella, there are a myriad of reasons for you to be scared by being with me, but my driving is not one of them." He sighs.
"Edward? I think you missed the turn."
"Oh." He whips the car around, the tires squealing on the pavement.
"Now was that really necessary?" I chide.
"No, but it was fun," he laughs.
He makes the correct turn and before I have time to really think of anything to say, we are in front of Dukes.
It is always crowded on Saturday morning and today is no exception. Edward opens the door for me, (always the gentleman) and we walk inside. It was a twenty minute wait. I hear the hostess tell a couple that walked in ahead of us.
Edward smiles crookedly at me and then walks over to the podium-I assume to put our names in. Instead, he speaks to the hostess who blushes and then Edward nods his head, indicating that I should follow him. I am confused, but realize I shouldn't be. He could charm the fangs off of a cobra, I'd bet.
The hostess leads us to a private table that has a wonderful view of the forest.
"Here are your menus. Today's special is a corned beef hash with biscuits and country gravy for 10.95. If you have any questions, feel free to ask Pam. I'll go ahead and take your drink orders. What can I get you?" she practically coos at Edward.
"I'll have water, thanks. Bella, honey, what would you like?" he smiles at me.
"Um. Do you have hot chocolate?"
She glances at me. "Uh, sure honey. You want whipped cream on that?"
"Ok, one water, one hot chocolate. Pam will be with you in a minute."
She sashays away, waving her ass at Edward. As I watch her walk away I turn to look at Edward, who is staring at me.
"What?" I ask, embarrassed.
"Why are you threatened by people who couldn't even hold a candle to you?"
"I'm not threatened." I stammer.
"I see that certain look on your face and it drives me crazy that I don't know exactly what you're thinking."
"Trust me Edward-I'm glad that you can't."
"Why is that?"
"Because I think that you wouldn't have been drawn to me in the first place if it hadn't been for that inability," I nearly choke as the words flee the sanctity of my mind.
The look on his face is both gruesome and incomprehensible at the same time. "You can't possibly think that Bella!"
I shrug and pick up the menu, studying it. The pancakes look good, and they are only 5.99. So does an omelet though. Charlie always gets the Denver omelet special.
She can't be serious. How in the world could she come up with such an asinine conclusion? Yes-the fact that her mind was closed to me was a mystery, and it was intriguing. But there is so much more to her.
Her eyes scan the menu in front of her as she tries to ignore me. I keep my patience, an acquired skill.
Finally she looks up. "I think I'm going to get the pancakes."
"You should have some eggs too." I say.
She looks a little surprised by my allowing her to change the subject. I let her keep the illusion, for now. This conversation is not over but now is not the best time to discuss it.
"Hi there, my name's Pam and I will be your server today."
A glass of water is placed in front of me and a mug of steaming hot cocoa in front of Bella.
"Did Amy tell ya'll our special this morning?"
I clear my throat. "She sure did and it sounds good…but I think I'll just have your Denver special."
She eyes me appreciatively. "You want sausage or bacon?"
I think about that for a second. What would Bella prefer?
"Bacon." I respond confidently.
"Ok, and would you rather have breakfast potatoes or hash browns?"
"Err…" I am stumped. I've never seen her eat either.
"Breakfast potatoes?" I look over at Bella questioningly.
"Ok. And for you?" she indicated Bella.
Bella is looking at me strangely.
"I'll have the pancakes."
"Okie dokie. I'll go put in that order."
Pam scurries away, sensing the tension at the table.
"Since when do you order food?" Bella asks incredulously.
"It's not for me," I respond calmly.
"I ordered for myself."
"I'm aware of that. But seriously, you don't eat enough. Plus, it would look strange if I didn't get anything in a place like this. The waitress would have seen to it, trust me."
"Oh. Ok." She stares down at her hands which are folded on top of the table. I lean over and capture them, unlocking her entwined fingers. I hold hands with her and stare at her, trying to convey in that look what she means to me.
"You're doing it again," She says breathlessly.
I smile as I feel the boost to my ego.
"That's my job." I grin.
She cracks a smile, and the entire place seemed to light up. Out of the corner of my eye I see a rabbit hop from the safety of the bushes onto the grass.
"Look Bella." I point out the window.
"Oh, he's so cute." I watch her as the excitement makes her eyes sparkle.
"I love you Bella."
She looks over at me and seems surprised, but recovers fairly well.
"I love you too."
"Drink your chocolate before it gets cold." I order.
I laugh and she giggles.
This moment is perfect.
Until I hear something which sounds like it is coming from far away. I tune myself in and hear something that fills me with anger.
I sit alert and scan the trees, looking as far into them as possible. It is hard to see through the gloom but eventually I find him, russet-colored, standing behind a tree, his eyes murderous.
Instantly, my senses are on alert. I glance at Bella, but she is drinking her chocolate and staring out the window at the rabbit. I force myself to say calm, but can't stop from clenching my hands in aggravation. What the hell is he doing here? Shouldn't he be in La Push?