Jess drove faster than the Chief, so we made it to Port Angeles by four. It had
been a while since I'd had a girls' night out, and the estrogen rush was
invigorating. We listened to whiny rock songs while Jessica jabbered on about
the boys we hung out with. Jessica's dinner with Mike had gone very well, and
she was hoping that by Saturday night they would have progressed to the first kiss
stage. I smiled to myself, pleased. Angela was passively happy to be going
to the dance, but not really interested in Eric. Jess tried to get her to confess who
her type was, but I interrupted with a question about dresses after a bit, to spare
her. Angela threw a grateful glance my way.
Port Angeles was a beautiful little tourist trap, much more polished and quaint
than Forks. But Jessica and Angela knew it well, so they didn't plan to waste
time on the picturesque boardwalk by the bay. Jess drove straight to the one big
department store in town, which was a few streets in from the bay area's visitor friendly
The dance was billed as semi-formal, and we weren't exactly sure what that
meant. Both Jessica and Angela seemed surprised and almost disbelieving when
I told them I'd never been to a dance in Phoenix.
"Didn't you ever go with a boyfriend or something?" Jess asked dubiously as we
walked through the front doors of the store.
"Really," I tried to convince her, not wanting to confess my dancing problems.
"I've never had a boyfriend or anything close. I didn't go out much."
"Why not?" Jessica demanded.
"No one asked me," I answered honestly.
She looked skeptical. "People ask you out here," she reminded me, "and you tell
them no." We were in the juniors' section now, scanning the racks for dress-up
"Well, except for Tyler," Angela amended quietly.
"Excuse me?" I gasped. "What did you say?"
"Tyler told everyone he's taking you to prom," Jessica informed me with
"He said what?" I sounded like I was choking.
"I told you it wasn't true," Angela murmured to Jessica.
I was silent, still lost in shock that was quickly turning to irritation. But we had
found the dress racks, and now we had work to do.
"That's why Lauren doesn't like you," Jessica giggled while we pawed through
I ground my teeth. "Do you think that if I ran him over with my truck he would
stop feeling guilty about the accident? That he might give up on making amends
and call it even?"
"Maybe," Jess snickered. "If that's why he's doing this."
The dress selection wasn't large, but both of them found a few things to try on. I
sat on a low chair just inside the dressing room, by the three-way mirror, trying
to control my fuming.
Jess was torn between two — one a long, strapless, basic black number, the other
a knee-length electric blue with spaghetti straps. I encouraged her to go with the
blue; why not play up the eyes? Angela chose a pale pink dress that draped
around her tall frame nicely and brought out honey tints in her light brown hair. I
complimented them both generously and helped by returning the rejects to their
racks. The whole process was much shorter and easier than similar trips I'd taken
with Renée at home. I guess there was something to be said for limited choices.
We headed over to shoes and accessories. While they tried things on I merely
watched and critiqued, not in the mood to shop for myself, though I did need
new shoes. The girls'-night high was wearing off in the wake of my annoyance at
Tyler, leaving room for the gloom to move back in.
"Angela?" I began, hesitant, while she was trying on a pair of pink strappy heels
— she was overjoyed to have a date tall enough that she could wear high heels at
Jessica had drifted to the jewelry counter and we were alone.
"Yes?" She held her leg out, twisting her ankle to get a better view of the shoe.
I chickened out. "I like those."
"I think I'll get them — though they'll never match anything but the one dress,"
"Oh, go ahead — they're on sale," I encouraged. She smiled, putting the lid back
on a box that contained more practical-looking off-white shoes.
I tried again. "Um, Angela…" She looked up curiously.
"Is it normal for the… Cullens" — I kept my eyes on the shoes — "to be out of
school a lot?" I failed miserably in my attempt to sound nonchalant.
"Yes, when the weather is good they go backpacking all the time — even the
doctor. They're all real outdoorsy," she told me quietly, examining her shoes,
too. She didn't ask one question, let alone the hundreds that Jessica would have
unleashed. I was beginning to really like Angela.
"Oh." I let the subject drop as Jessica returned to show us the rhinestone jewelry
she'd found to match her silver shoes.
We planned to go to dinner at a little Italian restaurant on the boardwalk, but the
dress shopping hadn't taken as long as we'd expected. Jess and Angela were
going to take their clothes back to the car and then walk down to the bay. I told
them I would meet them at the restaurant in an hour — I wanted to look for a
bookstore. They were both willing to come with me, but I encouraged them to go
have fun — they didn't know how preoccupied I could get when surrounded by
books; it was something I preferred to do alone. They walked off to the car
chattering happily, and I headed in the direction Jess pointed out.
I had no trouble finding the bookstore, but it wasn't what I was looking for. The
windows were full of crystals, dream-catchers, and books about spiritual healing.
I didn't even go inside. Through the glass I could see a fifty-year-old woman
with long, gray hair worn straight down her back, clad in a dress right out of the
sixties, smiling welcomingly from behind the counter. I decided that was one
conversation I could skip. There had to be a normal bookstore in town.
I meandered through the streets, which were filling up with end-of-the-workday
traffic, and hoped I was headed toward downtown. I wasn't paying as much
attention as I should to where I was going; I was wrestling with despair. I was
trying so hard not to think about him, and what Angela had said… and more than
anything trying to beat down my hopes for Saturday, fearing a disappointment
more painful than the rest, when I looked up to see someone's silver Volvo
parked along the street and it all came crashing down on me. Stupid, unreliable
vampire, I thought to myself.
I stomped along in a southerly direction, toward some glass-fronted shops that
looked promising. But when I got to them, they were just a repair shop and a
vacant space. I still had too much time to go looking for Jess and Angela yet, and
I definitely needed to get my mood in hand before I met back up with them. I ran
my fingers through my hair a couple of times and took some deep breaths before
I continued around the corner.
I started to realize, as I crossed another road, that I was going the wrong
direction. The little foot traffic I had seen was going north, and it looked like the
buildings here were mostly warehouses. I decided to turn east at the next corner,
and then loop around after a few blocks and try my luck on a different street on
my way back to the boardwalk.
A group of four men turned around the corner I was heading for, dressed too
casually to be heading home from the office, but they were too grimy to be
tourists. As they approached me, I realized they weren't too many years older
than I was. They were joking loudly among themselves, laughing raucously and
punching each other's arms. I scooted as far to the inside of the sidewalk as I
could to give them room, walking swiftly, looking past them to the corner.
"Hey, there!" one of them called as they passed, and he had to be talking to me
since no one else was around. I glanced up automatically. Two of them had
paused, the other two were slowing. The closest, a heavyset, dark-haired man in
his early twenties, seemed to be the one who had spoken. He was wearing a
flannel shirt open over a dirty t-shirt, cut-off jeans, and sandals. He took half a
step toward me.
"Hello," I mumbled, a knee-jerk reaction. Then I quickly looked away and
walked faster toward the corner. I could hear them laughing at full volume
"Hey, wait!" one of them called after me again, but I kept my head down and
rounded the corner with a sigh of relief. I could still hear them chortling behind
I found myself on a sidewalk leading past the backs of several somber-colored
warehouses, each with large bay doors for unloading trucks, padlocked for the
night. The south side of the street had no sidewalk, only a chain-link fence
topped with barbed wire protecting some kind of engine parts storage yard. I'd
wandered far past the part of Port Angeles that I, as a guest, was intended to see.
It was getting dark, I realized, the clouds finally returning, piling up on the
western horizon, creating an early sunset. The eastern sky was still clear, but
graying, shot through with streaks of pink and orange. I'd left my jacket in the
car, and a sudden shiver made me cross my arms tightly across my chest. A
single van passed me, and then the road was empty.
The sky suddenly darkened further, and, as I looked over my shoulder to glare at
the offending cloud, I realized with a shock that two men were walking quietly
twenty feet behind me.
They were from the same group I'd passed at the corner, though neither was the
dark one who'd spoken to me. I turned my head forward at once, quickening my
pace. A chill that had nothing to do with the weather made me shiver again. My
purse was on a shoulder strap and I had it slung across my body, the way you
were supposed to wear it so it wouldn't get snatched. I knew exactly where my
pepper spray was — still in my duffle bag under the bed, never unpacked. I
didn't have much money with me, just a twenty and some ones, and I thought
about "accidentally" dropping my bag and walking away. But a small, frightened
voice in the back of my mind warned me that they might be something worse
I listened intently to their quiet footsteps, which were much too quiet when
compared to the boisterous noise they'd been making earlier, and it didn't sound
like they were speeding up, or getting any closer to me. Breathe, I had to remind
myself. You don't know they're following you. I continued to walk as quickly as
I could without actually running, focusing on the right-hand turn that was only a
few yards away from me now. I could hear them, staying as far back as they'd
been before. A blue car turned onto the street from the south and drove quickly
past me. I thought of jumping out in front of it, but I hesitated, inhibited, unsure
that I was really being pursued, and then it was too late.
I reached the corner, but a swift glance revealed that it was only a blind drive to
the back of another building. I was half-turned in anticipation; I had to hurriedly
correct and dash across the narrow drive, back to the sidewalk. The street ended
at the next corner, where there was a stop sign. I concentrated on the faint
footsteps behind me, deciding whether or not to run. They sounded farther back,
though, and I knew they could outrun me in any case. I was sure to trip and go
sprawling if I tried to go any faster. The footfalls were definitely farther back. I
risked a quick glance over my shoulder, and they were maybe forty feet back
now, I saw with relief. But they were both staring at me.
It seemed to take forever for me to get to the corner. I kept my pace steady, the
men behind me falling ever so slightly farther behind with every step. Maybe
they realized they had scared me and were sorry. I saw two cars going north pass
the intersection I was heading for, and I exhaled in relief. There would be more
people around once I got off this deserted street. I skipped around the corner
with a grateful sigh.
And skidded to a stop.
The street was lined on both sides by blank, doorless, windowless walls. I could
see in the distance, two intersections down, streetlamps, cars, and more
pedestrians, but they were all too far away. Because lounging against the western
building, midway down the street, were the other two men from the group, both
watching with excited smiles as I froze dead on the sidewalk. I realized then that
I wasn't being followed.
I was being herded.
I paused for only a second, but it felt like a very long time. I turned then and
darted to the other side of the road. I had a sinking feeling that it was a wasted
attempt. The footsteps behind me were louder now.
"There you are!" The booming voice of the stocky, dark-haired man shattered
the intense quiet and made me jump. In the gathering darkness, it seemed like he
was looking past me.
"Yeah," a voice called loudly from behind me, making me jump again as I tried
to hurry down the street. "We just took a little detour."
My steps had to slow now. I was closing the distance between myself and the
lounging pair too quickly. I had a good loud scream, and I sucked in air,
preparing to use it, but my throat was so dry I wasn't sure how much volume I
could manage. With a quick movement I slipped my purse over my head,
gripping the strap with one hand, ready to surrender it or use it as weapon as
The thickset man shrugged away from the wall as I warily came to a stop, and
walked slowly into the street.
"Stay away from me," I warned in a voice that was supposed to sound strong and
fearless. But I was right about the dry throat — no volume.
"Don't be like that, sugar," he called, and the raucous laughter started again
I braced myself, feet apart, trying to remember through my panic what little self-defense
I knew. Heel of the hand thrust upward, hopefully breaking the nose or
shoving it into the brain. Finger through the eye socket — try to hook around
and pop the eye out. And the standard knee to the groin, of course. That same
pessimistic voice in my mind spoke up then, reminding me that I probably
wouldn't have a chance against one of them, and there were four. Shut up! I
commanded the voice before terror could incapacitate me. I wasn't going out
without taking someone with me. I tried to swallow so I could build up a decent
Headlights suddenly flew around the corner, the car almost hitting the stocky
one, forcing him to jump back toward the sidewalk. I dove into the road — this
car was going to stop, or have to hit me. But the silver car unexpectedly
fishtailed around, skidding to a stop with the passenger door open just a few feet
"Get in," a furious voice commanded.
It was amazing how instantaneously the choking fear vanished, amazing how
suddenly the feeling of security washed over me — even before I was off the
street — as soon as I heard his voice. I jumped into the seat, slamming the door
shut behind me.
It was dark in the car, no light had come on with the opening of the door, and I
could barely see his face in the glow from the dashboard. The tires squealed as
he spun around to face north, accelerating too quickly, swerving toward the
stunned men on the street. I caught a glimpse of them diving for the sidewalk as
we straightened out and sped toward the harbor.
"Put on your seat belt," he commanded, and I realized I was clutching the seat
with both hands. I quickly obeyed; the snap as the belt connected was loud in the
darkness. He took a sharp left, racing forward, blowing through several stop
signs without a pause.
But I felt utterly safe and, for the moment, totally unconcerned about where we
were going. I stared at his face in profound relief, relief that went beyond my
sudden deliverance. I studied his flawless features in the limited light, waiting
for my breath to return to normal, until it occurred to me that his expression was
"Are you okay?" I asked, surprised at how hoarse my voice sounded.
"No," he said curtly, and his tone was livid.
I sat in silence, watching his face while his blazing eyes stared straight ahead,
until the car came to a sudden stop. I glanced around, but it was too dark to see
anything beside the vague outline of dark trees crowding the roadside. We
weren't in town anymore.
"Bella?" he asked, his voice tight, controlled.
"Yes?" My voice was still rough. I tried to clear my throat quietly.
"Are you all right?" He still didn't look at me, but the fury was plain on his face.
"Yes," I croaked softly.
"Distract me, please," he ordered.
"I'm sorry, what?"
He exhaled sharply.
"Just prattle about something unimportant until I calm down," he clarified,
closing his eyes and pinching the bridge of his nose with his thumb and
"Um." I wracked my brain for something trivial. "I'm going to run over Tyler
Crowley tomorrow before school?"
He was still squeezing his eyes closed, but the corner of his mouth twitched.
"He's telling everyone that he's taking me to prom — either he's insane or he's
still trying to make up for almost killing me last… well, you remember it, and he
thinks prom is somehow the correct way to do this. So I figure if I endanger his
life, then we're even, and he can't keep trying to make amends. I don't need
enemies and maybe Lauren would back off if he left me alone. I might have to
total his Sentra, though. If he doesn't have a ride he can't take anyone to prom…"
I babbled on.
"I heard about that." He sounded a bit more composed.
"You did?" I asked in disbelief, my previous irritation flaring. "If he's paralyzed
from the neck down, he can't go to the prom, either," I muttered, refining my
Edward sighed, and finally opened his eyes.
I waited, but he didn't speak again. He leaned his head back against the seat,
staring at the ceiling of the car. His face was rigid.
"What's wrong?" My voice came out in a whisper.
"Sometimes I have a problem with my temper, Bella." He was whispering, too,
and as he stared out the window, his eyes narrowed into slits. "But it wouldn't be
helpful for me to turn around and hunt down those…" He didn't finish his
sentence, looking away, struggling for a moment to control his anger again. "At
least," he continued, "that's what I'm trying to convince myself."
"Oh." The word seemed inadequate, but I couldn't think of a better response.
We sat in silence again. I glanced at the clock on the dashboard. It was past six thirty.
"Jessica and Angela will be worried," I murmured. "I was supposed to meet
He started the engine without another word, turning around smoothly and
speeding back toward town. We were under the streetlights in no time at all, still
going too fast, weaving with ease through the cars slowly cruising the
boardwalk. He parallel-parked against the curb in a space I would have thought
much too small for the Volvo, but he slid in effortlessly in one try. I looked out
the window to see the lights of La Bella Italia, and Jess and Angela just leaving,
pacing anxiously away from us.
"How did you know where… ?" I began, but then I just shook my head. I heard
the door open and turned to see him getting out.
"What are you doing?" I asked.
"I'm taking you to dinner." He smiled slightly, but his eyes were hard. He
stepped out of the car and slammed the door. I fumbled with my seat belt, and
then hurried to get out of the car as well. He was waiting for me on the sidewalk.
He spoke before I could. "Go stop Jessica and Angela before I have to track
them down, too. I don't think I could restrain myself if I ran into your other
I shivered at the threat in his voice.
"Jess! Angela!" I yelled after them, waving when they turned. They rushed back
to me, the pronounced relief on both their faces simultaneously changing to
surprise as they saw who I was standing next to. They hesitated a few feet from
"Where have you been?" Jessica's voice was suspicious.
"I got lost," I admitted sheepishly. "And then I ran into Edward." I gestured
"Would it be all right if I joined you?" he asked in his silken, irresistible voice. I
could see from their staggered expressions that he had never unleashed his
talents on them before.
"Er… sure," Jessica breathed.
"Um, actually, Bella, we already ate while we were waiting — sorry," Angela
"That's fine — I'm not hungry." I shrugged.
"I think you should eat something." Edward's voice was low, but full of
authority. He looked up at Jessica and spoke slightly louder. "Do you mind if I
drive Bella home tonight? That way you won't have to wait while she eats."
"Uh, no problem, I guess…" She bit her lip, trying to figure out from my
expression whether that was what I wanted. I winked at her. I wanted nothing
more than to be alone with my perpetual savior. There were so many questions
that I couldn't bombard him with till we were by ourselves.
"Okay." Angela was quicker than Jessica. "See you tomorrow, Bella… Edward."
She grabbed Jessica's hand and pulled her toward the car, which I could see a
little ways away, parked across First Street. As they got in, Jess turned and
waved, her face eager with curiosity. I waved back, waiting for them to drive
away before I turned to face him.
"Honestly, I'm not hungry," I insisted, looking up to scrutinize his face. His
expression was unreadable.
He walked to the door of the restaurant and held it open with an obstinate
expression. Obviously, there would be no further discussion. I walked past him
into the restaurant with a resigned sigh.
The restaurant wasn't crowded — it was the off-season in Port Angeles. The host
was female, and I understood the look in her eyes as she assessed Edward. She
welcomed him a little more warmly than necessary. I was surprised by how
much that bothered me. She was several inches taller than I was, and unnaturally
"A table for two?" His voice was alluring, whether he was aiming for that or not.
I saw her eyes flicker to me and then away, satisfied by my obvious ordinariness,
and by the cautious, no-contact space Edward kept between us. She led us to a
table big enough for four in the center of the most crowded area of the dining
I was about to sit, but Edward shook his head at me.
"Perhaps something more private?" he insisted quietly to the host. I wasn't sure,
but it looked like he smoothly handed her a tip. I'd never seen anyone refuse a
table except in old movies.
"Sure." She sounded as surprised as I was. She turned and led us around a
partition to a small ring of booths — all of them empty. "How's this?"
"Perfect." He flashed his gleaming smile, dazing her momentarily.
"Um" — she shook her head, blinking — "your server will be right out." She
walked away unsteadily.
"You really shouldn't do that to people," I criticized. "It's hardly fair."
"Dazzle them like that — she's probably hyperventilating in the kitchen right
He seemed confused.
"Oh, come on," I said dubiously. "You have to know the effect you have on
He tilted his head to one side, and his eyes were curious. "I dazzle people?"
"You haven't noticed? Do you think everybody gets their way so easily?"
He ignored my questions. "Do I dazzle you?"
"Frequently," I admitted.
And then our server arrived, her face expectant. The hostess had definitely
dished behind the scenes, and this new girl didn't look disappointed. She flipped
a strand of short black hair behind one ear and smiled with unnecessary warmth.
"Hello. My name is Amber, and I'll be your server tonight. What can I get you to
drink?" I didn't miss that she was speaking only to him.
He looked at me.
"I'll have a Coke." It sounded like a question.
"Two Cokes," he said.
"I'll be right back with that," she assured him with another unnecessary smile.
But he didn't see it. He was watching me.
"What?" I asked when she left.
His eyes stayed fixed on my face. "How are you feeling?"
"I'm fine," I replied, surprised by his intensity.
"You don't feel dizzy, sick, cold… ?"
He chuckled at my puzzled tone.
"Well, I'm actually waiting for you to go into shock." His face twisted up into
that perfect crooked smile.
"I don't think that will happen," I said after I could breathe again. "I've always
been very good at repressing unpleasant things."
"Just the same, I'll feel better when you have some sugar and food in you."
Right on cue, the waitress appeared with our drinks and a basket of breadsticks.
She stood with her back to me as she placed them on the table.
"Are you ready to order?" she asked Edward.
"Bella?" he asked. She turned unwillingly toward me.
I picked the first thing I saw on the menu. "Um… I'll have the mushroom
"And you?" She turned back to him with a smile.
"Nothing for me," he said. Of course not.
"Let me know if you change your mind." The coy smile was still in place, but he
wasn't looking at her, and she left dissatisfied.
"Drink," he ordered.
I sipped at my soda obediently, and then drank more deeply, surprised by how
thirsty I was. I realized I had finished the whole thing when he pushed his glass
"Thanks," I muttered, still thirsty. The cold from the icy soda was radiating
through my chest, and I shivered.
"Are you cold?"
"It's just the Coke," I explained, shivering again.
"Don't you have a jacket?" His voice was disapproving.
"Yes." I looked at the empty bench next to me. "Oh — I left it in Jessica's car," I
Edward was shrugging out of his jacket. I suddenly realized that I had never
once noticed what he was wearing — not just tonight, but ever. I just couldn't
seem to look away from his face. I made myself look now, focusing. He was
removing a light beige leather jacket now; underneath he wore an ivory
turtleneck sweater. It fit him snugly, emphasizing how muscular his chest was.
He handed me the jacket, interrupting my ogling.
"Thanks," I said again, sliding my arms into his jacket. It was cold — the way
my jacket felt when I first picked it up in the morning, hanging in the drafty
hallway. I shivered again. It smelled amazing. I inhaled, trying to identify the
delicious scent. It didn't smell like cologne. The sleeves were much too long; I
shoved them back so I could free my hands.
"That color blue looks lovely with your skin," he said, watching me. I was
surprised; I looked down, flushing, of course.
He pushed the bread basket toward me.
"Really, I'm not going into shock," I protested.
"You should be — a normal person would be. You don't even look shaken." He
seemed unsettled. He stared into my eyes, and I saw how light his eyes were,
lighter than I'd ever seen them, golden butterscotch.
"I feel very safe with you," I confessed, mesmerized into telling the truth again.
That displeased him; his alabaster brow furrowed. He shook his head, frowning.
"This is more complicated than I'd planned," he murmured to himself.
I picked up a breadstick and began nibbling on the end, measuring his
expression. I wondered when it would be okay to start questioning him.
"Usually you're in a better mood when your eyes are so light," I commented,
trying to distract him from whatever thought had left him frowning and somber.
He stared at me, stunned. "What?"
"You're always crabbier when your eyes are black — I expect it then," I went on.
"I have a theory about that."
His eyes narrowed. "More theories?"
"Mm-hm." I chewed on a small bite of the bread, trying to look indifferent.
"I hope you were more creative this time… or are you still stealing from comic
books?" His faint smile was mocking; his eyes were still tight.
"Well, no, I didn't get it from a comic book, but I didn't come up with it on my
own, either," I confessed.
"And?" he prompted.
But then the waitress strode around the partition with my food. I realized we'd
been unconsciously leaning toward each other across the table, because we both
straightened up as she approached. She set the dish in front of me — it looked
pretty good — and turned quickly to Edward.
"Did you change your mind?" she asked. "Isn't there anything I can get you?" I
may have been imagining the double meaning in her words.
"No, thank you, but some more soda would be nice." He gestured with a long
white hand to the empty cups in front of me.
"Sure." She removed the empty glasses and walked away.
"You were saying?" he asked.
"I'll tell you about it in the car. If…" I paused.
"There are conditions?" He raised one eyebrow, his voice ominous.
"I do have a few questions, of course."
The waitress was back with two more Cokes. She sat them down without a word
this time, and left again.
I took a sip.
"Well, go ahead," he pushed, his voice still hard.
I started with the most undemanding. Or so I thought. "Why are you in Port
He looked down, folding his large hands together slowly on the table. His eyes
flickered up at me from under his lashes, the hint of a smirk on his face.
"But that's the easiest one," I objected.
"Next," he repeated.
I looked down, frustrated. I unrolled my silverware, picked up my fork, and
carefully speared a ravioli. I put it in my mouth slowly, still looking down,
chewing while I thought. The mushrooms were good. I swallowed and took
another sip of Coke before I looked up.
"Okay, then." I glared at him, and continued slowly. "Let's say, hypothetically of
course, that… someone… could know what people are thinking, read minds, you
know — with a few exceptions."
"Just one exception," he corrected, "hypothetically."
"All right, with one exception, then." I was thrilled that he was playing along,
but I tried to seem casual.
"How does that work? What are the limitations? How would… that someone…
find someone else at exactly the right time? How would he know she was in
trouble?" I wondered if my convoluted questions even made sense.
"Hypothetically?" he asked.
"Well, if… that someone…"
"Let's call him 'Joe,'" I suggested.
He smiled wryly. "Joe, then. If Joe had been paying attention, the timing
wouldn't have needed to be quite so exact." He shook his head, rolling his eyes.
"Only you could get into trouble in a town this small. You would have
devastated their crime rate statistics for a decade, you know."
"We were speaking of a hypothetical case," I reminded him frostily.
He laughed at me, his eyes warm.
"Yes, we were," he agreed. "Shall we call you 'Jane'?"
"How did you know?" I asked, unable to curb my intensity. I realized I was
leaning toward him again.
He seemed to be wavering, torn by some internal dilemma. His eyes locked with
mine, and I guessed he was making the decision right then whether or not to
simply tell me the truth.
"You can trust me, you know," I murmured. I reached forward, without thinking,
to touch his folded hands, but he slid them away minutely, and I pulled my hand
"I don't know if I have a choice anymore." His voice was almost a whisper. "I
was wrong — you're much more observant than I gave you credit for."
"I thought you were always right."
"I used to be." He shook his head again. "I was wrong about you on one other
thing, as well. You're not a magnet for accidents — that's not a broad enough
classification. You are a magnet for trouble. If there is anything dangerous
within a ten-mile radius, it will invariably find you."
"And you put yourself into that category?" I guessed.
His face turned cold, expressionless. "Unequivocally."
I stretched my hand across the table again — ignoring him when he pulled back
slightly once more — to touch the back of his hand shyly with my fingertips. His
skin was cold and hard, like a stone.
"Thank you." My voice was fervent with gratitude. "That's twice now."
His face softened. "Let's not try for three, agreed?"
I scowled, but nodded. He moved his hand out from under mine, placing both of
his under the table. But he leaned toward me.
"I followed you to Port Angeles," he admitted, speaking in a rush. "I've never
tried to keep a specific person alive before, and it's much more troublesome than
I would have believed. But that's probably just because it's you. Ordinary people
seem to make it through the day without so many catastrophes." He paused. I
wondered if it should bother me that he was following me; instead I felt a strange
surge of pleasure. He stared, maybe wondering why my lips were curving into an
"Did you ever think that maybe my number was up the first time, with the van,
and that you've been interfering with fate?" I speculated, distracting myself.
"That wasn't the first time," he said, and his voice was hard to hear. I stared at
him in amazement, but he was looking down. "Your number was up the first
time I met you."
I felt a spasm of fear at his words, and the abrupt memory of his violent black
glare that first day… but the overwhelming sense of safety I felt in his presence
stifled it. By the time he looked up to read my eyes, there was no trace of fear in
"You remember?" he asked, his angel's face grave.
"Yes." I was calm.
"And yet here you sit." There was a trace of disbelief in his voice; he raised one
"Yes, here I sit… because of you." I paused. "Because somehow you knew how
to find me today… ?" I prompted.
He pressed his lips together, staring at me through narrowed eyes, deciding
again. His eyes flashed down to my full plate, and then back to me.
"You eat, I'll talk," he bargained.
I quickly scooped up another ravioli and popped it in my mouth.
"It's harder than it should be — keeping track of you. Usually I can find someone
very easily, once I've heard their mind before." He looked at me anxiously, and I
realized I had frozen. I made myself swallow, then stabbed another ravioli and
tossed it in.
"I was keeping tabs on Jessica, not carefully — like I said, only you could find
trouble in Port Angeles — and at first I didn't notice when you took off on your
own. Then, when I realized that you weren't with her anymore, I went looking
for you at the bookstore I saw in her head. I could tell that you hadn't gone in,
and that you'd gone south… and I knew you would have to turn around soon. So
I was just waiting for you, randomly searching through the thoughts of people on
the street — to see if anyone had noticed you so I would know where you were. I
had no reason to be worried… but I was strangely anxious…" He was lost in
thought, staring past me, seeing things I couldn't imagine.
"I started to drive in circles, still… listening. The sun was finally setting, and I
was about to get out and follow you on foot. And then —" He stopped, clenching
his teeth together in sudden fury. He made an effort to calm himself.
"Then what?" I whispered. He continued to stare over my head.
"I heard what they were thinking," he growled, his upper lip curling slightly back
over his teeth. "I saw your face in his mind." He suddenly leaned forward, one
elbow appearing on the table, his hand covering his eyes. The movement was so
swift it startled me.
"It was very… hard — you can't imagine how hard — for me to simply take you
away, and leave them… alive." His voice was muffled by his arm. "I could have
let you go with Jessica and Angela, but I was afraid if you left me alone, I would
go looking for them," he admitted in a whisper.
I sat quietly, dazed, my thoughts incoherent. My hands were folded in my lap,
and I was leaning weakly against the back of the seat. He still had his face in his
hand, and he was as still as if he'd been carved from the stone his skin resembled.
Finally he looked up, his eyes seeking mine, full of his own questions.
"Are you ready to go home?" he asked.
"I'm ready to leave," I qualified, overly grateful that we had the hour-long ride
home together. I wasn't ready to say goodbye to him.
The waitress appeared as if she'd been called. Or watching.
"How are we doing?" she asked Edward.
"We're ready for the check, thank you." His voice was quiet, rougher, still
reflecting the strain of our conversation. It seemed to muddle her. He looked up,
"S-sure," she stuttered. "Here you go." She pulled a small leather folder from the
front pocket of her black apron and handed it to him.
There was a bill in his hand already. He slipped it into the folder and handed it
right back to her.
"No change." He smiled. Then he stood up, and I scrambled awkwardly to my
She smiled invitingly at him again. "You have a nice evening."
He didn't look away from me as he thanked her. I suppressed a smile.
He walked close beside me to the door, still careful not to touch me. I
remembered what Jessica had said about her relationship with Mike, how they
were almost to the first-kiss stage. I sighed. Edward seemed to hear me, and he
looked down curiously. I looked at the sidewalk, grateful that he didn't seem to
be able to know what I was thinking.
He opened the passenger door, holding it for me as I stepped in, shutting it softly
behind me. I watched him walk around the front of the car, amazed, yet again, by
how graceful he was. I probably should have been used to that by now — but I
wasn't. I had a feeling Edward wasn't the kind of person anyone got used to.
Once inside the car, he started the engine and turned the heater on high. It had
gotten very cold, and I guessed the good weather was at an end. I was warm in
his jacket, though, breathing in the scent of it when I thought he couldn't see.
Edward pulled out through the traffic, apparently without a glance, flipping
around to head toward the freeway.
"Now," he said significantly, "it's your turn."
saya naman XD
Oh, one of the sweetest..ever..
Writing. . .and rewriting. ☆.