PRICES GO UP AT THE GATE
“I HAVE FORESEEN . . . ,” ALICE BEGAN IN AN OMINOUS tone.
Edward threw an elbow toward her ribs, which she neatly dodged.
“Fine,” she grumbled. “Edward is making me do this. But I did foresee that
you would be more difficult if I surprised you.”
We were walking to the car after school, and I was completely clueless as to
what she was talking about.
“In English?” I requested.
“Don’t be a baby about this. No tantrums.”
“Now I’m scared.”
“So you’re — I mean we’re — having a graduation party. It’s no big thing.
Nothing to freak out over. But I saw that you would freak out if I tried to
make it a surprise party” — she danced out of the way as Edward reached
over to muss her hair — “and Edward said I had to tell you. But it’s nothing.
I sighed heavily. “Is there any point in arguing?”
“None at all.”
“Okay, Alice. I’ll be there. And I’ll hate every minute of it. Promise.”
“That’s the spirit! By the way, I love my gift. You shouldn’t have.”
“Alice, I didn’t!”
“Oh, I know that. But you will.”
I racked my brains in panic, trying to remember what I’d ever decided to
get her for graduation that she might have seen.
“Amazing,” Edward muttered. “How can someone so tiny be so annoying?”
Alice laughed. “It’s a talent.”
“Couldn’t you have waited a few weeks to tell me about this?” I asked
petulantly. “Now I’ll just be stressed that much longer.”
Alice frowned at me.
“Bella,” she said slowly. “Do you know what day it is?”
She rolled her eyes. “Yes. It is Monday . . . the fourth.” She grabbed my
elbow, spun me halfway around, and pointed toward a big yellow poster
taped to the gym door. There, in sharp black letters, was the date of
graduation. Exactly one week from today.
“It’s the fourth? Of June? Are you sure?”
Neither one answered. Alice just shook her head sadly, feigning
disappointment, and Edward’s eyebrows lifted.
“It can’t be! How did that happen?” I tried to count backwards in my head,
but I couldn’t figure out where the days had gone.
I felt like someone had kicked my legs out from under me. The weeks of
stress, of worry . . . somehow in the middle of all my obsessing over the
time, my time had disappeared. My space for sorting through it all, for
making plans, had vanished. I was out of time.
And I wasn’t ready.
I didn’t know how to do this. How to say goodbye to Charlie and Renée . . .
to Jacob . . . to being human.
I knew exactly what I wanted, but I was suddenly terrified of getting it.
In theory, I was anxious, even eager to trade mortality for immortality.
After all, it was the key to staying with Edward forever. And then there was
the fact that I was being hunted by known and unknown parties. I’d rather
not sit around, helpless and delicious, waiting for one of them to catch up
In theory, that all made sense.
In practice . . . being human was all I knew. The future beyond that was a
big, dark abyss that I couldn’t know until I leaped into it.
This simple knowledge, today’s date — which was so obvious that I must
have been subconsciously repressing it — made the deadline I’d been
impatiently counting down toward feel like a date with the firing squad.
In a vague way, I was aware of Edward holding the car door for me, of Alice
chattering from the backseat, of the rain hammering against the windshield.
Edward seemed to realize I was only there in body; he didn’t try to pull me
out of my abstraction. Or maybe he did, and I was past noticing.
We ended up at my house, where Edward led me to the sofa and pulled me
down next to him. I stared out the window, into the liquid gray haze, and
tried to find where my resolve had gone. Why was I panicking now? I’d
known the deadline was coming. Why should it frighten me that it was
I don’t know how long he let me stare out the window in silence. But the
rain was disappearing into darkness when it was finally too much for him.
He put his cold hands on either side of my face and fixed his golden eyes on
“Would you please tell me what you are thinking? Before I go mad?”
What could I say to him? That I was a coward? I searched for words.
“Your lips are white. Talk, Bella.”
I exhaled in a big gust. How long had I been holding my breath?
“The date took me off guard,” I whispered. “That’s all.”
He waited, his face full of worry and skepticism.
I tried to explain. “I’m not sure what to do . . . what to tell Charlie . . . what
to say . . . how to . . .” My voice trailed off.
“This isn’t about the party?”
I frowned. “No. But thanks for reminding me.”
The rain was louder as he read my face.
“You’re not ready,” he whispered.
“I am,” I lied immediately, a reflex reaction. I could tell he saw through it,
so I took a deep breath, and told the truth. “I have to be.”
“You don’t have to be anything.”
I could feel the panic surfacing in my eyes as I mouthed the reasons.
“Victoria, Jane, Caius, whoever was in my room . . . !”
“All the more reason to wait.”
“That doesn’t make any sense, Edward!”
He pressed his hands more tightly to my face and spoke with slow
“Bella. Not one of us had a choice. You’ve seen what it’s done . . . to
Rosalie especially. We’ve all struggled, trying to reconcile ourselves with
something we had no control over. I won’t let it be that way for you. You
will have a choice.”
“I’ve already made my choice.”
“You aren’t going through with this because a sword is hanging over your
head. We will take care of the problems, and I will take care of you,” he
vowed. “When we’re through it, and there is nothing forcing your hand,
then you can decide to join me, if you still want to. But not because you’re
afraid. You won’t be forced into this.”
“Carlisle promised,” I mumbled, contrary out of habit. “After graduation.”
“Not until you’re ready,” he said in a sure voice. “And definitely not while
you feel threatened.”
I didn’t answer. I didn’t have it in me to argue; I couldn’t seem to find my
commitment at the moment.
“There.” He kissed my forehead. “Nothing to worry about.”
I laughed a shaky laugh. “Nothing but impending doom.”
He was still watching my face, waiting for me to relax.
“Can I ask you something?” I said.
I hesitated, biting my lip, and then asked a different question than the one I
was worried about.
“What am I getting Alice for graduation?”
He snickered. “It looked like you were getting us both concert tickets —”
“That’s right!” I was so relieved, I almost smiled. “The concert in Tacoma. I
saw an ad in the paper last week, and I thought it would be something
you’d like, since you said it was a good CD.”
“It’s a great idea. Thank you.”
“I hope it’s not sold out.”
“It’s the thought that counts. I ought to know.”
“There’s something else you meant to ask,” he said.
I frowned. “You’re good.”
“I have lots of practice reading your face. Ask me.”
I closed my eyes and leaned into him, hiding my face against his chest.
“You don’t want me to be a vampire.”
“No, I don’t,” he said softly, and then he waited for more. “That’s not a
question,” he prompted after a moment.
“Well . . . I was worrying about . . . why you feel that way.”
“Worrying?” He picked out the word with surprise.
“Would you tell me why? The whole truth, not sparing my feelings?”
He hesitated for a minute. “If I answer your question, will you then explain
I nodded, my face still hidden.
He took a deep breath before he answered. “You could do so much better,
Bella. I know that you believe I have a soul, but I’m not entirely convinced
on that point, and to risk yours . . .” He shook his head slowly. “For me to
allow this — to let you become what I am just so that I’ll never have to lose
you — is the most selfish act I can imagine. I want it more than anything,
for myself. But for you, I want so much more. Giving in — it feels criminal.
It’s the most selfish thing I’ll ever do, even if I live forever.
“If there were any way for me to become human for you — no matter what
the price was, I would pay it.”
I sat very still, absorbing this.
Edward thought he was being selfish.
I felt the smile slowly spread across my face.
“So . . . it’s not that you’re afraid you won’t . . . like me as much when I’m
different — when I’m not soft and warm and I don’t smell the same? You
really do want to keep me, no matter how I turn out?”
He exhaled sharply. “You were worried I wouldn’t like you?” he demanded.
Then, before I could answer, he was laughing. “Bella, for a fairly intuitive
person, you can be so obtuse!”
I knew he would think it silly, but I was relieved. If he really wanted me, I
could get through the rest . . . somehow. Selfish suddenly seemed like a
“I don’t think you realize how much easier it will be for me, Bella,” he said,
the echo of his humor still there in his voice, “when I don’t have to
concentrate all the time on not killing you. Certainly, there are things I’ll
miss. This for one . . .”
He stared into my eyes as he stroked my cheek, and I felt the blood rush
up to color my skin. He laughed gently.
“And the sound of your heart,” he continued, more serious but still smiling a
little. “It’s the most significant sound in my world. I’m so attuned to it now,
I swear I could pick it out from miles away. But neither of these things
matter. This,” he said, taking my face in his hands. “You. That’s what I’m
keeping. You’ll always be my Bella, you’ll just be a little more durable.”
I sighed and let my eyes close in contentment, resting there in his hands.
“Now will you answer a question for me? The whole truth, not sparing my
feelings?” he asked.
“Of course,” I answered at once, my eyes opening wide with surprise. What
would he want to know?
He spoke the words slowly. “You don’t want to be my wife.”
My heart stopped, and then broke into a sprint. A cold sweat dewed on the
back of my neck and my hands turned to ice.
He waited, watching and listening to my reaction.
“That’s not a question,” I finally whispered.
He looked down, his lashes casting long shadows across his cheekbones,
and dropped his hands from my face to pick up my frozen left hand. He
played with my fingers while he spoke.
“I was worrying about why you felt that way.”
I tried to swallow. “That’s not a question, either,” I whispered.
“The truth?” I asked, only mouthing the words.
“Of course. I can take it, whatever it is.”
I took a deep breath. “You’re going to laugh at me.”
His eyes flashed up to mine, shocked. “Laugh? I cannot imagine that.”
“You’ll see,” I muttered, and then I sighed. My face went from white to
scarlet in a sudden blaze of chagrin. “Okay, fine! I’m sure this will sound
like some big joke to you, but really! It’s just so . . . so . . . so
embarrassing!” I confessed, and I hid my face against his chest again.
There was a brief pause.
“I’m not following you.”
I tilted my head back and glared at him, embarrassment making me lash
“I’m not that girl, Edward. The one who gets married right out of high
school like some small-town hick who got knocked up by her boyfriend! Do
you know what people would think? Do you realize what century this is?
People don’t just get married at eighteen! Not smart people, not
responsible, mature people! I wasn’t going to be that girl! That’s not who I
am. . . .” I trailed off, losing steam.
Edward’s face was impossible to read as he thought through my answer.
“That’s all?” he finally asked.
I blinked. “Isn’t that enough?”
“It’s not that you were . . . more eager for immortality itself than for just
And then, though I’d predicted that he would laugh, I was suddenly the one
“Edward!” I gasped out between the paroxysms of giggles. “And here . . . I
always . . . thought that . . . you were . . . so much . . . smarter than me!”
He took me in his arms, and I could feel that he was laughing with me.
“Edward,” I said, managing to speak more clearly with a little effort,
“there’s no point to forever without you. I wouldn’t want one day without
“Well, that’s a relief,” he said.
“Still . . . it doesn’t change anything.”
“It’s nice to understand, though. And I do understand your perspective,
Bella, truly I do. But I’d like it very much if you’d try to consider mine.”
I’d sobered up by then, so I nodded and struggled to keep the frown off my
His liquid gold eyes turned hypnotic as they held mine.
“You see, Bella, I was always that boy. In my world, I was already a man. I
wasn’t looking for love — no, I was far too eager to be a soldier for that; I
thought of nothing but the idealized glory of the war that they were selling
prospective draftees then — but if I had found . . .” He paused, cocking his
head to the side. “I was going to say if I had found someone, but that won’t
do. If I had found you, there isn’t a doubt in my mind how I would have
proceeded. I was that boy, who would have — as soon as I discovered that
you were what I was looking for — gotten down on one knee and
endeavored to secure your hand. I would have wanted you for eternity,
even when the word didn’t have quite the same connotations.”
He smiled his crooked smile at me.
I stared at him with my eyes frozen wide.
“Breathe, Bella,” he reminded me, smiling.
“Can you see my side, Bella, even a little bit?”
And for one second, I could. I saw myself in a long skirt and a high-necked
lace blouse with my hair piled up on my head. I saw Edward looking
dashing in a light suit with a bouquet of wildflowers in his hand, sitting
beside me on a porch swing.
I shook my head and swallowed. I was just having Anne of Green Gables
“The thing is, Edward,” I said in a shaky voice, avoiding the question, “in
my mind, marriage and eternity are not mutually exclusive or mutually
inclusive concepts. And since we’re living in my world for the moment,
maybe we should go with the times, if you know what I mean.”
“But on the other hand,” he countered, “you will soon be leaving time
behind you altogether. So why should the transitory customs of one local
culture affect the decision so much?”
I pursed my lips. “When in Rome?”
He laughed at me. “You don’t have to say yes or no today, Bella. It’s good
to understand both sides, though, don’t you think?”
“So your condition . . . ?”
“Is still in effect. I do see your point, Bella, but if you want me to change
you myself. . . .”
“Dum, dum, dah-dum,” I hummed under my breath. I was going for the
wedding march, but it sort of sounded like a dirge.
Time continued to move too fast.
That night flew by dreamlessly, and then it was morning and graduation
was staring me in the face. I had a pile of studying to do for my finals that I
knew I wouldn’t get halfway through in the few days I had left.
When I came down for breakfast, Charlie was already gone. He’d left the
paper on the table, and that reminded me that I had some shopping to do.
I hoped the ad for the concert was still running; I needed the phone
number to get the stupid tickets. It didn’t seem like much of a gift now that
all the surprise was gone. Of course, trying to surprise Alice wasn’t the
brightest plan to begin with.
I meant to flip right back to the entertainment section, but the thick black
headline caught my attention. I felt a thrill of fear as I leaned closer to read
the front-page story.
SEATTLE TERRORIZED BY SLAYINGS
It’s been less than a decade since the city of Seattle was the hunting
ground for the most prolific serial killer in U.S. history. Gary Ridgway, the
Green River Killer, was convicted of the murders of 48 women.
And now a beleaguered Seattle must face the possibility that it could be
harboring an even more horrifying monster at this very moment.
The police are not calling the recent rash of homicides and disappearances
the work of a serial killer. Not yet, at least. They are reluctant to believe so
much carnage could be the work of one individual. This killer — if, in fact, it
is one person — would then be responsible for 39 linked homicides and
disappearances within the last three months alone. In comparison,
Ridgway’s 48-count murder spree was scattered over a 21-year period. If
these deaths can be linked to one man, then this is the most violent
rampage of serial murder in American history.
The police are leaning instead toward the theory that gang activity is
involved. This theory is supported by the sheer number of victims, and by
the fact that there seems to be no pattern in the choice of victims.
From Jack the Ripper to Ted Bundy, the targets of serial killings are usually
connected by similarities in age, gender, race, or a combination of the
three. The victims of this crime wave range in age from 15-year-old honor
student Amanda Reed, to 67-year-old retired postman Omar Jenks. The
linked deaths include a nearly even 18 women and 21 men. The victims are
racially diverse: Caucasians, African Americans, Hispanics and Asians.
The selection appears random. The motive seems to be killing for no other
reason than to kill.
So why even consider the idea of a serial killer?
There are enough similarities in the modus operandi to rule out unrelated
crimes. Every victim discovered has been burned to the extent that dental
records were necessary for identification. The use of some kind of
accelerant, like gasoline or alcohol, seems to be indicated in the
conflagrations; however, no traces of any accelerant have yet been found.
All of the bodies have been carelessly dumped with no attempt at
More gruesome yet, most of the remains show evidence of brutal violence
— bones crushed and snapped by some kind of tremendous pressure —
which medical examiners believe occurred before the time of death, though
these conclusions are difficult to be sure of, considering the state of the
Another similarity that points to the possibility of a serial: every crime is
perfectly clean of evidence, aside from the remains themselves. Not a
fingerprint, not a tire tread mark nor a foreign hair is left behind. There
have been no sightings of any suspect in the disappearances.
Then there are the disappearances themselves — hardly low profile by any
means. None of the victims are what could be viewed as easy targets. None
are runaways or the homeless, who vanish so easily and are seldom
reported missing. Victims have vanished from their homes, from a fourthstory
apartment, from a health club, from a wedding reception. Perhaps the
most astounding: 30-year-old amateur boxer Robert Walsh entered a movie
theater with a date; a few minutes into the movie, the woman realized that
he was not in his seat. His body was found only three hours later when fire
fighters were called to the scene of a burning trash Dumpster, twenty miles
Another pattern is present in the slayings: all of the victims disappeared at
And the most alarming pattern? Acceleration. Six of the homicides were
committed in the first month, 11 in the second. Twenty-two have occurred
in the last 10 days alone. And the police are no closer to finding the
responsible party than they were after the first charred body was
The evidence is conflicting, the pieces horrifying. A vicious new gang or a
wildly active serial killer? Or something else the police haven’t yet
Only one conclusion is indisputable: something hideous is stalking Seattle.
It took me three tries to read the last sentence, and I realized the problem
was my shaking hands.
Focused as I was, Edward’s voice, though quiet and not totally unexpected,
made me gasp and whirl.
He was leaning in the doorway, his eyebrows pulled together. Then he was
suddenly at my side, taking my hand.
“Did I startle you? I’m sorry. I did knock. . . .”
“No, no,” I said quickly. “Have you seen this?” I pointed to the paper.
A frown creased his forehead.
“I hadn’t seen today’s news yet. But I knew it was getting worse. We’re
going to have to do something . . . quickly.”
I didn’t like that. I hated any of them taking chances, and whatever or
whoever was in Seattle was truly beginning to frighten me. But the idea of
the Volturi coming was just as scary.
“What does Alice say?”
“That’s the problem.” His frown hardened. “She can’t see anything . . .
though we’ve made up our minds half a dozen times to check it out. She’s
starting to lose confidence. She feels like she’s missing too much these
days, that something’s wrong. That maybe her vision is slipping away.”
My eyes were wide. “Can that happen?”
“Who knows? No one’s ever done a study . . . but I really doubt it. These
things tend to intensify over time. Look at Aro and Jane.”
“Then what’s wrong?”
“Self-fulfilling prophecy, I think. We keep waiting for Alice to see something
so we can go . . . and she doesn’t see anything because we won’t really go
until she does. So she can’t see us there. Maybe we’ll have to do it blind.”
I shuddered. “No.”
“Did you have a strong desire to attend class today? We’re only a couple of
days from finals; they won’t be giving us anything new.”
“I think I can live without school for a day. What are we doing?”
“I want to talk to Jasper.”
Jasper, again. It was strange. In the Cullen family, Jasper was always a
little on the fringe, part of things but never the center of them. It was my
unspoken assumption that he was only there for Alice. I had the sense that
he would follow Alice anywhere, but that this lifestyle was not his first
choice. The fact that he was less committed to it than the others was
probably why he had more difficulty keeping it up.
At any rate, I’d never seen Edward feel dependent on Jasper. I wondered
again what he’d meant about Jasper’s expertise. I really didn’t know much
about Jasper’s history, just that he had come from somewhere in the south
before Alice found him. For some reason, Edward had always shied away
from any questions about his newest brother. And I’d always been too
intimidated by the tall, blond vampire who looked like a brooding movie star
to ask him outright.
When we got to the house, we found Carlisle, Esme, and Jasper watching
the news intently, though the sound was so low that it was unintelligible to
me. Alice was perched on the bottom step of the grand staircase, her face
in her hands and her expression discouraged. As we walked in, Emmett
ambled through the kitchen door, seeming perfectly at ease. Nothing ever
“Hey, Edward. Ditching, Bella?” He grinned at me.
“We both are,” Edward reminded him.
Emmett laughed. “Yes, but it’s her first time through high school. She might
Edward rolled his eyes, but otherwise ignored his favorite brother. He
tossed the paper to Carlisle.
“Did you see that they’re considering a serial killer now?” he asked.
Carlisle sighed. “They’ve had two specialists debating that possibility on
CNN all morning.”
“We can’t let this go on.”
“Let’s go now,” Emmett said with sudden enthusiasm. “I’m dead bored.”
A hiss echoed down the stairway from upstairs.
“She’s such a pessimist,” Emmett muttered to himself.
Edward agreed with Emmett. “We’ll have to go sometime.”
Rosalie appeared at the top of the stairs and descended slowly. Her face
was smooth, expressionless.
Carlisle was shaking his head. “I’m concerned. We’ve never involved
ourselves in this kind of thing before. It’s not our business. We aren’t the
“I don’t want the Volturi to have to come here,” Edward said. “It gives us so
much less reaction time.”
“And all those innocent humans in Seattle,” Esme murmured. “It’s not right
to let them die this way.”
“I know,” Carlisle sighed.
“Oh,” Edward said sharply, turning his head slightly to look at Jasper. “I
didn’t think of that. I see. You’re right, that has to be it. Well, that changes
I wasn’t the only one who stared at him in confusion, but I might have been
the only one who didn’t look slightly annoyed.
“I think you’d better explain to the others,” Edward said to Jasper. “What
could be the purpose of this?” Edward started to pace, staring at the floor,
lost in thought.
I hadn’t seen her get up, but Alice was there beside me. “What is he
rambling about?” she asked Jasper. “What are you thinking?”
Jasper didn’t seem to enjoy the spotlight. He hesitated, reading every face
in the circle — for everyone had moved in to hear what he would say — and
then his eyes paused on my face.
“You’re confused,” he said to me, his deep voice very quiet.
There was no question in his assumption. Jasper knew what I was feeling,
what everyone was feeling.
“We’re all confused,” Emmett grumbled.
“You can afford the time to be patient,” Jasper told him. “Bella should
understand this, too. She’s one of us now.”
His words took me by surprise. As little as I’d had to do with Jasper,
especially since my last birthday when he’d tried to kill me, I hadn’t realize
that he thought of me that way.
“How much do you know about me, Bella?” Jasper asked.
Emmett sighed theatrically, and plopped down on the couch to wait with
“Not much,” I admitted.
Jasper stared at Edward, who looked up to meet his gaze.
“No,” Edward answered his thought. “I’m sure you can understand why I
haven’t told her that story. But I suppose she needs to hear it now.”
Jasper nodded thoughtfully, and then started to roll up the arm of his ivory
I watched, curious and confused, trying to figure out what he was doing. He
held his wrist under the edge of the lampshade beside him, close to the
light of the naked bulb, and traced his finger across a raised crescent mark
on the pale skin.
It took me a minute to understand why the shape looked strangely familiar.
“Oh,” I breathed as realization hit. “Jasper, you have a scar exactly like
I held out my hand, the silvery crescent more prominent against my cream
skin than against his alabaster.
Jasper smiled faintly. “I have a lot of scars like yours, Bella.”
Jasper’s face was unreadable as he pushed the sleeve of his thin sweater
higher up his arm. At first my eyes could not make sense of the texture
that was layered thickly across the skin. Curved half-moons crisscrossed in
a feathery pattern that was only visible, white on white as it was, because
the bright glow of the lamp beside him threw the slightly raised design into
relief, with shallow shadows outlining the shapes. And then I grasped that
the pattern was made of individual crescents like the one on his wrist . . .
the one on my hand.
I looked back at my own small, solitary scar — and remembered how I’d
received it. I stared at the shape of James’s teeth, embossed forever on my
And then I gasped, staring up at him. “Jasper, what happened to you?”
saya naman XD