Bella drove down the highway that led to the La Push reservation. She was going to warn Jacob that the authorities were on to them, to stop them from killing hapless tourists. Even though she was convinced that he and his cohorts were malicious killers, she still felt like she needed to protect him.
Bella, after me, he is the last person who needs your protection, and for similar reasons. You really think a band of humans is going to wipe them out? Worst case, they leave for a while to protect the others on the res.
When she came back, her first thoughts were of Jacob–still wearing just the same black cut-off sweats he'd worn last night–stretched diagonally across the double bed that took up all of his room but a few inches around the edges. Even on a slant, it wasn't long enough; his feet hung off the one end and his head off the other. He was fast asleep, snoring lightly with his mouth hanging open. Ugh, how attractive. After seeing him like this, you still want to hang with him, Bella?
She and I had a little discussion when she got back. She didn't know it was two-sided; she assumed she was just having second thoughts or something.
You can't continue your relationship with him. Remember what he told you? He's a werewolf, a monster.
Are vampires any less monsters? she answered.
The vampires you're acquainted with don't eat humans. As far as you know, anyway.
Neither do the wolves. A scene from earlier that day flashed through her mind, of her throwing her arms around Jacob, after he told her the wolves weren't the killers.
They're still dangerous to be around. They're vicious animals.
They're enemies to vampires.
See? That's why you should stay away. Vampires and werewolves don't mix. He will be a serious obstacle to being together with Edward. Besides, Jacob himself said that he almost lost control around you last night, that you were in terrible danger. That's a good indicator that you should give up on him.
Jasper really did lose control, and I didn't give up on the Cullens.
Damn. She had an answer for everything.
They don't respect you. I dug out her confrontation with the rest of the pack. "Why can't you just follow the rules, Jacob?" one yelled, throwing his arms in the air. "What the hell are you thinking? Is she more important than everything–than the whole tribe? Than the people getting killed?"
"She can help," Jacob said quietly.
"Help!" the angry boy shouted. "Oh, that's likely! I'm sure the leech-lover is just dying to help us out!"
Jacob stood up for me, said he would protect me.
Do you trust him more than…?
No! He is my friend though, and the only one I can lean on right now.
At least you can count on only two outcomes from hanging with vampires. If you're with the Cullens or Denali folk, you're safe, and with any others, you get a relatively quick death. You hang with the wolves, you get scarred and disfigured for life. I ruthlessly brought out an image of Emily and forced Bella to consider it. The right side of Emily's face was scarred from hairline to chin by three thick, red lines, vivid in color though they were long healed. One line pulled down the corner of her dark, almond-shaped right eye, another twisted the right side of her mouth into a permanent grimace.
But there's so much love there, too. She projected her own image of Sam kissing Emily, disregarding her horrible scars, even paying special attention to them. That didn't seem romantic to me at all. In her situation, that could only serve to remind me of what had been done to me. Did this mean her arguments were getting weaker? Besides, to each other, they're brothers.
No, it's kind of sweet.
No, think about it, girl. The Cullens are all paired up with each other, partly out of convenience and partly because none of us wants to be completely alone. That's why they all live together and move around with each other all the time. That wasn't entirely true, but it worked for this reasoning, and Bella didn't know any different. Who are the wolves pairing up with? You think they're content just to have their "brothers" around them all the time? You think Sam is the only one Emily is "with"? You think-
Stop it! She yelled. In her own head. Then she shied away from thinking about that. Oh, she didn't want to because she was thinking naughty thoughts about her boy-wait, that was wrong! I couldn't let her keep doing that! She was supposed to be all about me! Even if it brought her pain. Even if she wound up curled up in a fetal position when she finally got to sleep, I wanted her thinking about me. My future counted on it.
Remember the Cullens? Remember…? Here I inserted an image of myself, and even fought with her for several minutes to keep it in the forefront of her mind.
She gasped and clutched at her sides. A whimper came out, and then quiet sobs as she slowly drifted off to sleep.
I breathed a sigh of relief.
By the time spring break arrived, Bella had developed a pattern, mostly involving meeting Jacob at the reservation. This was not going well for me. True, she didn't actually spend much time with him, what with him off doing "wolfy" stuff all the time, but the fact that she always went there was a bad sign.
She still went to work, though, and at least I could keep a cursory watch on her there. Jacob followed her on his bike to make sure she arrived safely–and Mike noticed.
"Are you dating that kid from La Push? The sophomore?" He asked, resentment in his tone.
She paused. "Not in the technical sense of the word. I do spend most of my time with Jacob,though. He's my best friend."
"Don't kid yourself, Bella. The guy's head over heels for you."
"I know," she sighed. "Life is complicated."
"And girls are cruel," Mike said under his breath. Hey, now, Mike, that's not a very nice thing to say. It's not true either. Now, if you were to say "Bella Swan is cruel," I would not argue with you. She's a cold-hearted bitch, it's true.
She supposed that was an easy assumption to make, too. Easy to be arrogant to a guy crushing on you, I guess. Soooo glad I'm not in his shoes. Not crushing on her, anyway. Dependent? Oh yeah, though that was due to my own foolishness. And scared. Getting more scared by the day.
She came home one night with a horrifying plan for the next morning: she and Jacob were planning to go cliff diving. Oh, no. No way this could end up well.
She awoke the next morning and waited expectantly for Jacob to meet her at the house. He didn't come, and I was elated. Maybe he'd realized what a foolhardy venture that would be, as clumsy as Bella apparently was. She would find a way to smash herself on the rocks, no matter how hard she ran or jumped, I was sure of it.
So the stupid girl decided to go to lover boy instead. She couldn't wait to fling herself off a precipice, it seemed.
She came out again shortly, and traveled back to the cliffs where they first saw the boys jumping into the ocean. A storm was brewing far out to sea as she got out and started walking along the shore.
The waves picked up as she paced, beginning to crash against the rocks, but there was still no wind. Everything swirled around her, but it was perfectly still where she stood. Maybe I was just that focused on her. The air had a faint electric charge–I could feel the static in the air.
Farther out, the waves were angrier than they were along the shore. I could see the evidence of their battering against the line of the cliffs, spraying big white clouds of sea foam into the sky. There was still no movement in the air, though the clouds roiled more quickly now. It was eerie looking–like the clouds were moving by their own will. She shivered, and I hoped she was having second thoughts.
The cliffs were a black knife edge against the livid sky. Staring at them, Bella remembered theday Jacob had told her about Sam and his "gang." She thought of the boys–the werewolves–throwing themselves into the empty air. The image of the falling, spiraling figures was still vivid in her mind. She imagined the utter freedom of the fall… imagined the way my voice would have sounded in her head–furious, velvet, perfect (thank you)…
Rain started falling as she walked to the edge of the cliff and leaned over to look down.
Yes? She didn't answer out loud, and for a moment I was startled. Had she figured out what I was doing? No, she still thought I was a hallucination. She had just decided to play along. You wanted me to be human. Well, watch me.
Please. For me.
But you won't stay with me any other way.
Please. I knew I was pleading now, but there was really nothing I could do beyond that.
She took a few steps back to get a running start.
No, Bella! I put every ounce of anger I could into the sending, hoping that might divert her, or at least overwhelm her enough to make her unconscious or something. No such luck.
She smiled and raised her arms straight out, as if she were going to dive. She leaned forward, crouching to get more spring, and ran toward the cliff. The pelting of her shoes against the rocky cliff seemed to me to be counting down the remaining time of any freedom I may have once possessed.
She flung herself outward off the cliff.
She screamed on the way down-or I did, I wasn't certain. She hit the water, and I was sure it was over.
Wait, the fall didn't kill her! I felt hope surge up from some place inside me.
Then the current caught her. Connecting with her senses made me feel dizzy as she was tossed about by the angry waters. She wasn't strong enough to fight ocean currents. She was drowning.
Keep swimming! I begged urgently.
Where? All she could see was the darkness. There was no place for her to swim to.
Stop that! I ordered. Don't you dare give up!
The cold of the water was numbing her arms and legs. But she listened. She continued reaching with her arms, kicked her legs harder, though every second she was facing a new direction. It couldn't be doing any good.
What's the point?
Fight! I yelled. Damn it, Bella, keep fighting.
In that instant she saw me. I couldn't explain it, and I really didn't know how. Maybe it was because she was near death, but she saw me watching her. It wasn't her imagination; it might have been some untapped ability she already possessed, but I could tell that she saw me truly. In her mind I was standing exactly where I was for real-out on the rocks of the sea cliff. She had never seen me there, and probably couldn't have dredged the image from her imagination.
However she saw me, it soon became a moot point when I sensed that she was ready to let go, to just let the ocean have her.
No, Bella! No!
Impact. The waves crashed her up against a rock, dazing her. She drifted then, sinking slowly to the ocean floor.
Goodbye, I love you, she thought to my image, and gave herself up to the sea.
And that was when my world came to an abrupt, halting end.
"Guess what, Edward?" Carlisle! He was suddenly behind me. Where did he come from? And how did he always do that? He whispered the next words triumphantly in my ear, speaking slowly and enunciating with devastating clarity. "You lose."
"No," I whispered. "She's not dead, she could still-" We heard another splash that didn't fit in with the rhythm of the waves. "S-see? She's being rescued already, you can't-"
"Poor Edward." Alice! She was standing behind and to the right of us. "It looks like this was the scene of my vision after all." She had that gleam in her eyes again. She was in her manic/evil phase; she was beautiful and terrifying.
"What are you doing here?" I asked her.
"Watching the show. How do you think Carlisle knew where to be?"
I stared incredulously at her. "You told him. You saw this would happen and you told him." I wanted to cry.
"It was too delicious to keep to myself." She flashed a pointy-toothed grin.
"As for you, Edward," Carlisle said, pressing the length of his body against the back of mine, "I have many amusing plans for us-well, amusing to me, anyway." And he chuckled. Shit. Carlisle grasped my upper arms, pulling me tighter against him. "I've looked forward to this," he murmured. A myriad of images flowed past my mind's eye, one after the other: me, shackled to a stone wall, facing the room, then in the same position facing the wall, playing sick and twisted games like "pin the tail on Edward's…donkey" (which was painted on my ass, courtesy of Carlisle's sense of humor); or more overtly sexual images, such as one that featured me bent forward over Carlisle's desk-oh! Oh, seriously? No, oh, fuck no! Each was more humiliating and terrifying than the last, and Oh shiii—fuck. Shitfuck. He intends to get everyone in on this. He's even scheming to get Esme to play along!
"Now Edward, I thought we'd start with-"
I was miles away almost before I'd consciously decided to start running.
I ran somewhat mindlessly for maybe an hour before I realized I had to make a plan. If I just ran like this, I would be easy to track down. I would have to disappear, and to do that I would need a stash of cold hard cash. I remember talking about this with Emmett and Jasper once; none of us were planning to actually do it at the time, it was just a mental exercise: in this day and age, what would it take to disappear from the radar? One thing we all agreed on was the need for a supply of cash; that way, there would be no paper trail and authorities couldn't track you through credit or debit transactions.
I traveled to the nearest city and systematically withdrew as much cash as was allowed from the ATMs of every bank in town-multiple ATMs, when allowed. I was on the last bank when I saw those fateful words: Invalid transaction. I tried again. The message was different this time: Invalid card. Please try again. Two possibilities immediately came to mind:
I had withdrawn the limit of ATM transaction cash available to me from our accounts.
Carlisle had closed the accounts, or at least cancelled my card.
It might have been the first, but I couldn't take that chance, because if it was the second, it meant that Carlisle could potentially find out where I was now. If he could, he had probably already figured it out. I had to assume he was already on his way.
I ran on to Chicago. There was a large airport there, where I counted on getting lost in the crowd until I could board a flight out to somewhere else in the country. That would at least temporarily confuse my scent trail and, I hoped, give me some breathing room, so to speak.
When I got to the airport, I scoured the destination charts, looking for a promising flight to a rural location where I could hide out for a month, or a week, or even a couple days, Carlisle-free.
I felt a touch of nostalgia as my gaze lit on one to the far north, a flight with a connection in Los Angeles. I hurried to the nearest ticket counter.
"Excuse me. Is there still a seat available for flight 1485?"
"The one to Anchorage? Let me check." She patiently tapped some information into her computer and read the information it gave her. "It looks like there are some seats still available. The flight leaves in twenty minutes." She looked around me, perhaps for my absent luggage. "Are you…sure this is the flight you want? Will you be ready by then?"
"Sure. All I have to do is get my luggage out of the airport locker."
"Oh. Ok." Satisfied by my answer, she smiled and continued. "How do you intend to pay?"
"Cash." I took out a small stack of Benjamins.
"Th-the whole ticket? That's a little irregular, but-"
"I'm from Canada. Traveling. Cash is just easier to use, since I don't like keeping track of checks." I gave her my most winning smile, and she bought it. Damn it, she'd remember me. With any luck, she would be on break or something when Carlisle came a-calling.
Several uncomfortable hours of flight and about one more on foot later, I arrived at my destination. I paused uncertainly, took a deep breath, and knocked on the door.
The door opened. The person at the door stared for a moment. "Edward?"
I smiled sheepishly. "Hello, Tanya."