There was certainly hell to pay for our latest adventure that brought both Bella and I, along with Alice, to Italy. My parents for all intensive purposes, Carlisle and Esme, were considerably angry about the actions I took, which led them to constantly watching me with concern set deep in their eyes. Exposed to hours of dialogue both out loud and in their thoughts about the actions I had taken. Concern –with my reaction to leaving Bella –filled their thoughts; a situation such as this had never developed before. Feeling less than honorable with myself, having caused them such anxiety and pain, earning their respect back was at the top of my list.
Emmett was angry with me, too. Disappointed with my lack of trust in him, I attempted to explain that I wasn’t able talk to anyone, it wouldn’t have helped, but he couldn’t understand. It would take me awhile to earn back his trust again.
Jasper on the other hand was upset with me for making Alice react the way she had. She felt responsible for my actions in Italy and was left with the need to save me. Really it wasn’t her fault, and I would never blame her, but that wouldn’t have stopped her from trying to rescue me.
Everyone was upset with me, except Rosalie, she attempted everything to earn my forgiveness. Already forgiving her, I thought she should sweat it out a little longer before I actually told her that. She deserved to suffer a little while longer.
Explaining things to my family brought them more understanding. Comprehending why I took the actions I had, they wanted to be certain nothing close to that happened again. Agreeing, I would appease them for now. If Bella got her way, I would never have to think about that again. That was not my desire as I was still attempting to keep her human.
Charlie on the other hand, was extremely angry that I took Bella away from him, yet again. We were gone for three days with no explanation and he had no way of knowing if she was okay. Realizing it would be a long time before anyone would trust me again, I was on my best behavior.
Charlie put strict restrictions on Bella limiting my access to her. She was grounded until further notice and my visitation hours were from 7 to 9:30, which left me a lot of time in between. Time spent gathering application forms for college, off to a late start, with some influences that Carlisle had, and my other persuasions, there were still some schools that would make exceptions. With no doubts, we would be headed to college come fall, even with any arrangements Bella made with my family. College became another priority in my eyes, and I would stop at nothing to get us there.
Remembering the family meeting we had –after arriving back from Italy –made me extremely angry. Carlisle had agreed to change Bella’s human status and that was something I refused to allow. My family going against my wishes –was a day I thought I’d never had to concern myself with –and then they had leaving no resolution to the subject, at that time. Uncertainty swelled within me knowing what Carlisle had done, agreeing to change Bella after graduation, leaving me with time on my hands. Time to change her mind, time to make her see that she was making the biggest mistake of her life, and time to come up with plan B, in case my other plans didn’t work.
My first plan came to me upon returning to Bella’s house that fateful night my family voted on her mortality. To my shock and dismay they voted against me, allowing Bella to join our family. The worse blow came from Carlisle himself, as he looked me straight in the eye and told me he had no other choice. There was another choice and that choice was to leave well enough alone. Understanding Carlisle’s decision was difficult for me since he had only changed people that had no other choice. Always believing that it was his conscience, apparently I was wrong. Hearing him agree with Bella was excruciating leaving my feelings on the subject mixed. I knew only one thing for certain, I was angry, which carried with it tension and resentment in my household. After that horrifying night Carlisle had attempted to explain his position.
“Edward, please try and see my position here. You are not willing to change her and you plan on remaining with her. You can’t have it both ways. You know that,” Carlisle pleaded.
“Why not? Why can’t it be both ways?” I said with chagrin.
“Edward, come on. You know the rules. You know they’ll never allow it,” Carlisle explained.
“By the time they come to check on her, we’ll be gone. I can protect her Carlisle. I will protect her,” I answered.
“I know you think you can protect her Edward, but you can’t. Not from them. You know what they can do; you know you can’t hide her forever. They’ll find you and I don’t even want to think what would happen then. You can’t ask this of me. You can’t ask us to watch over our shoulders for the next seventy years… you can’t ask that of Bella,” Carlisle begged.
“I know what you’re saying. I heard you, now hear me… I will do everything in my power to make certain this does not happen… I will change her mind,” I said angrily.
That was our last conversation on the subject. Carlisle’s thoughts were always compassionate and this was no exception. He hoped I would be able to work something out, something better than ending Bella’s life. He wished he saw another way, but he couldn’t and that bothered him immensely. Knowing Carlisle would consider this a last resort I couldn’t remain angry with him for long, he was thinking about what was best for Bella, and I was unable to hold that against him. His worry was that the Volturi would come looking for us, and then what would happen? The Volturi didn’t concern me –Bella remaining human concerned me more.
The only one who agreed with me was Rosalie, but we did not share the same reasoning. She saw Bella giving up too many opportunities that she wished she could have. Not being fond of her own outcome, Rosalie would have chosen death over what she had become. Rose always wanted children and thought Bella would feel the same if she were to give up her human status. This wouldn’t be Rosalie’s choice if she were given one.
Everyone else in my family was ready to accept Bella with open arms. They all loved her as I did, and wanted her to be one of us. My happy existence with her weighed against the misery I suffered without her influenced their belief that this was the best way for us. Knowing she was just as miserable without me fortified for them that we should remain together forever. That left only one-way possible in their minds –since I couldn’t join her –she would join us. Alice just had to let her opinion be known.
“Edward, stop worrying, everything will work out,” Alice said.
“Alice, stop it. I don’t want to hear it. She’s staying human,” I returned with chagrin.
“Whatever you say.”
Her mocking tone made me angry, but I didn’t speak of this again with her. She avoided this topic whenever we spoke. There remained only one conversation left to have about Bella’s transformation among my family and that was Emmett.
“Edward, why don’t you think about what you would be gaining instead of what you think she would be losing? Do you really hate what you are that much?” Emmett asked.
“Emmett, can’t you see my side at all?” I asked.
“Sure, but I’ve never seen you so happy and I know you can’t live without her. It’s apparent she can’t live without you. So what’s the comprise? What do you plan to do? You can’t become human, so it only makes sense she would become a vampire,” Emmett answered.
“I can’t do that, Emmett. I can’t take a chance on her soul. I won’t,” I said.
“Well, I don’t know how you think this will work, or what you think you can do to stop it. She seems determined.”
“I’m more determined and that’s not going to happen,” I said frustrated.
That ended that conversation and was never brought up again.
After saying my peace to my family about Bella becoming a vampire –wasting my breath as it was –I decided to refocus my energy on the things I could change. Putting all of my efforts into our college status became my obsession. Gathering application forms and checking deadlines became a daily event for me. We would go to college, together, and she would have a wonderful, human college experience.
My priority list was suddenly becoming immense. Priority one now became getting into college, while priority two became keeping Bella from Jacob. Her friendship with Jacob grew to a heightened extend during my time away. While I was thankful that he was able to protect Bella while I was away, allowing this friendship to continue was intolerable. It was far too dangerous for her.
Being a werewolf –and a new werewolf at that –he was dangerous. New werewolves are unable to control their tempers leaving anyone around them at risk. Envisioning Bella being near Jacob when he lost control was too hard. Putting her at risk that way was unacceptable –leaving the only solution –for her not to see him anymore.
So far, that was not a problem, as the vampires and werewolves were mortal enemies. Bella had made her choose leaving Jacob angry and refusing to talk to her. She had not heard one word from him since having our meeting with him in the forest. Their friendship was already strained, so perhaps, it would be easy to keep her away from him. She was upset that he was ignoring her and maybe she was ready to give up on him. Not wanting to make this an issue in our relationship, I was not planning to forbid her to see him, but I would if forced to. Her safety was my first priority and once again was my job, if that meant refusing to allow her to see him then that’s what I would do.
My last job on my list of priorities became getting back into Charlie’s good graces –not that I was ever his favorite person. I was determined to have him accept me as he once had, before the Italy trip. Since returning his thoughts were extremely angry when focused on me. I could hardly blame him, for I had caused so much trouble for his daughter since meeting her. Her safety both emotionally and physically, was his first priority and he couldn’t comprehend that his goals were the same as mine. Together we felt the same way when it came to Bella and there was nothing we wouldn’t do to protect her. So, for now, I would abide by his rules only seeing her during his visitation hours of 7-9:30. Of course, I still spent every night with her, but he had no idea of that and I often felt like a heel being there without his permission. Knowing I couldn’t remain away from her that long, that surpassed everything else.
Life, pretty much, went back to normal with Alice and me resuming our roles at the high school. Carlisle went back to the hospital as they accepted him back with open arms. Charlie couldn’t do anything about Bella and me seeing each other at school where I resumed all my classes with her. He attempted to change her classes, but was unsuccessful. Bella had no idea of that and I refused to tell her. Charlie’s attitude about me caused tension and stress in their relationship and I refuse to cause anymore then I already had. Loving her dearly was his motivation, which I understood fully.
Armed with applications in hand, as it was coming upon the seven o’clock hour and my allotted time with Bella. Reaching her front door I listened to the conversation she was having with her father, testing the atmosphere in the house.
“Congratulations,” Charlie said. “Your first acceptance.”
“We should talk about tuition. I’ve got some money saved up…”
“Hey, hey, none of that. I’m not touching your retirement, Dad. I’ve got my college fund.”
She had been saving for college, but had depleted that money on stupid things such as the trip to Italy and buying motorcycles. All of these things were her attempt at being with me making it my responsibility to provide money for college, which I would be happy to oblige. She wouldn’t take it willingly as I had already attempted to provide her with tuition money once resulting in a broken window at my house. She was so stubborn, but I would discover a way to pay for it.
Persuading her to attend college was another matter. Having a couple of months left to convince her, I was certain I could think of something. Attending college would mean putting off the transformation and that was something she was unwilling to even discuss. I had my work cut out for me.
“Some of these places are pretty pricey, Bells. I want to help. You don’t have to go all the way to Alaska just because it’s cheaper.”
Alaska was far from cheaper, but she figured it would be a good cover story, so to appease her, I sent our applications to spare the argument. I had to appear as if I accepted her decision, but I was far from accepting it. That would never happen.
“I’ve got it covered. Besides, there’s lots of financial aid out there. It’s easy to get loans.”
“So…” Charlie began.
“Nothing. I was just…” he frowned. “Just wondering what… Edward’s plans are for next year?”
There it was, the subject rarely approached by Charlie. It made him uncomfortable discussing me. His wish was that I would go off to some Ivey league school that Bella had no chance of attending. His desire was that we would be forced to go our separate ways unfortunately for him this would never happen, again.
“Well?” he asked again.
That was my cue to save her from this conversation. If Charlie wanted to know my intentions he would have to ask me himself. I would be happy to share that with him.
Three quick raps on the door spared her from answering him.
“Coming!” Bella called.
The door wrenched opened and as always the sight of her took my breath away. She was stunningly beautiful and looked at me with such hope and amazement, and it worried me that I was much less then she thought of me. She was the one with the strength; she was the one who believed in me. Never doubting her, only myself. She was far too good for me and my sight would never waver, no matter how she looked at me. She was my prize… I was the lucky one here.
The fact that she was willing to trade her soul in order to be with me –a person not worthy of that kind of love –was still a mystery to me. Her delusions of me were something I attempted to live up to. Until now, I haven’t been great at that, but I was still working on it. One day I would earn her love, but for now my efforts have been unworthy of her love.
Reaching for her hand, she sighed, providing me such relief when I touched her. It was like being able to breath after a long period of having no oxygen. Love flowed threw me every time she touched me, without fail. Her eagerness to see me never wavered and she always looked at me with the most loving eyes.
“Hey,” she smiled.
Raising our interlaced fingers, I brushed her cheek with the back of my hand. “How was your afternoon?”
“For me, as well.”
Pulling her wrist up to my face, our hands still twisted together. Closing my eyes I skimmed my nose along her skin, smiling gently. Her scent washed threw me like a wrecking ball –unlike the reaction I use to have from her scent –it was pleasurable instead of painful.
Her scent was something I was immune to now. Never wanting her to change, I would suffer the rest of her life with this scent. Suffering was not the right word after everything we’d been through, it was more like enduring. Pushing my reactions deep down where they could no longer affect me. Bella carried with her two important qualities that were very evident to me –her scent and a beating heart –if either were gone she’d be dead or a vampire. Neither of those were options I wanted, but I really had no choice, one day one of these would happen. My wish was that we would have years to decide or make a choice. A miracle that was my desire.
“Good evening, Charlie,” I said politely.
Charlie grunted at me and stood there with his arms crossed over his chest. He was not pleased with my presence here and wished I would go away forever. But he better get used to me because I wasn’t going anywhere ever again.
“I brought another set of applications,” I told Bella holding up a stuffed manila envelope. Wearing a roll of stamps like a ring around my littlest finger, coming prepared to work.
Bella groaned. She was getting tired of these applications. She also wondered how I was able to find schools that were still accepting them. Being so late in the year, I had a lot of people willing to help me and when that didn’t work there was always money. Money I’ve always found could persuade people to do what you wanted, most of the time. Money was a great motivator for most humans.
I smiled at her. “There are still a few open deadlines. And a few places willing to make exceptions.”
Laughing at her expression, I didn’t have to read her mind to know exactly what she was thinking. She knew the motivations behind such exceptions and the dollar amounts involved. Not that she would mention it.
“Shall we?” I asked, towing her toward the kitchen table.
Charlie huffed and followed behind wanting to complain about my presence here, but couldn’t. He was glad I was persuading her to consider college and that I appeared so eager for her to attend. He wanted her to make a decision about school, but she was set on Alaska. He also wanted to know where I would be attending school next year. The question was burning a hole in his head.
She cleared the table while I organized the stack of forms. When she moved Wuthering Heights to the counter, I raised an eyebrow. But, before I could question her about the novel Charlie interrupted.
“Speaking of college applications, Edward,” Charlie said, not happy about having to address me. “Bell and I were just talking about next year. Have you decided where you’re going to school?”
Smiling at Charlie, I knew what he wanted to hear, what he desired happening, but I knew my answer would not please him. My presence here already bothered him. He would not be pleased if Bella and I attended the same school.
“Not yet. I’ve received a few acceptance letters, but I’m still weighting my options.”
“Where have you been accepted?” Charlie pressed.
“Syracuse… Harvard… Dartmouth… and I just got accepted to the University of Alaska Southeast today,” turning my face slightly to the side I winked at Bella.
Even though Charlie hated to admit it, he was impressed. “Harvard? Dartmouth?” Charlie mumbled… he was in awe. “Well that’s pretty… that’s something. Yeah, but the University of Alaska… you wouldn’t really consider that when you could go Ivy League. I mean, your father would want you to…” He had a glint in his eyes hoping I would pick one of those schools.
“Carlisle’s always fine with whatever I choose to do,” I told him serenely.
“Hmph,” Charlie couldn’t fathom that I would turn down these schools. And he wondered what Carlisle was thinking not making me go to an Ivy League school.
“Guess what, Edward?” Bella asked in a bright voice.
“What, Bella?” already knowing what she was about to say.
She pointed to the thick envelope on the counter. “I just got my acceptance to the University of Alaska!”
“Congratulations!” I grinned. “What a coincidence.”
Charlie’s eyes narrowed as he glared back and forth between the two of us. He was not fooled, but more importantly he was extremely angry. He thought we were too young to revolve our lives around each other so tightly. “Fine,” he muttered after a minute. “I’m going to watch the game, Bella. Nine-thirty.”
That was his usual parting command.
“Er, Dad? Remember the very recent discussion about my freedom…?”
Charlie sighed. “Right. Okay, ten-thirty. You still have a curfew on school nights.”
What was this? His mind rested on his decision to lift her house arrest. He wished he could take it back. His purpose was for her to resume former friendships and not spend more time with me.
“Bella’s no longer grounded?” I asked. How had I missed this significant piece of information?
“Conditionally,” Charlie corrected through his teeth. “What’s it to you?”
Bella frowned, without Charlie seeing.
“It’s just good to know,” I said. “Alice had been itching for a shopping partner, and I’m sure Bella would love to see some city lights,” I smiled at her.
Charlie growled, “No!” his face flushed purple.
“Dad! What’s the problem?”
He made an effort to unclench his teeth. “I don’t want you going to Seattle right now.”
“I told you about that story in the paper –there’s some kind of gang on a killing spree in Seattle and I want you to steer clear, okay?”
She rolled her eyes. “Dad, there’s a better chance that I’ll get struck by lightning than that the one day I’m in Seattle…”
“No, that’s fine, Charlie,” I said, interrupting her. “I didn’t mean Seattle. I was thinking Portland, actually. I wouldn’t have Bella in Seattle, either. Of course not.”
Picking up the paper and reading the front page intently. These stories were becoming a daily occurrence in Seattle making my family and I nervous about what was really going on. From all indications this was not some gang of teenagers up to no good, this was clearly something more sinister having to do with our kind. At least that’s the way it appeared to be and I would not allow Bella to be near anything like that.
Charlie stared at me for a second more, and then shrugged. “Fine,” He stalked off toward the living room, in a bit of a hurry now –he didn’t like that I agreed with him. He never believed that he and I wanted what was best for Bella. He thought I was selfish and always did what was best for myself. He didn’t know that my only intention was to make Bella happy and safe. Hopefully one day I could change his mind, make him realize she was the most important thing in my life, and that everything I did was for her happiness.
Having this story on the front page of the paper, staring me right in the face, was a reminder to me of the dangers I brought to Bella’s world. Summarizing the things that could easily happen to her, how unsafe she truly was in my world. Somehow I would make her world safe and if that meant paying closer attention to the world around us, I would.
What went on in the vampire world never really concerned us. Being that this was so close to home and the actions taken here may prompt a visit from the Volturi, it became our responsibility to watch what was happening. The last thing we wanted was a visit from the Volturi so soon.
“What…” Bella began to ask.
“Hold on,” I said without looking up from the paper. My eyes focused on the story as I pushed the first application toward her across the table. “I think you can recycle your essays for this one. Same questions.”
She began filling out the information while I continued reading the last of the story. When finished I stared out the back window. What was happening in Seattle was becoming very concerning and not knowing what was really going on was getting unnerving. Something would have to be done soon… I just wasn’t certain what.
Bella snorted and pushed the papers aside, pulling me from reverie.
“Be serious, Edward. Dartmouth?”
Lifting the discarded application I laid it gently in front of her again. “I think you’d like New Hampshire,” I said. “There’s a full complement of night courses for me, and the forests are very conveniently located for the avid hiker. Plentiful wildlife,” smiling the crooked smile that seemed to persuade her when I used it.
She took a deep breath.
“I’ll let you pay me back, if that makes you happy,” I promised. “If you want, I can charge you interest.”
“Like I could even get in without some enormous bribe. Or was that part of the loan? The new Cullen wing of the library? Ugh. Why are we having this discussion again?”
“Will you just fill out the application, please, Bella? It won’t hurt you to apply.”
Her jaw flexed. “You know what? I don’t think I will.”
Moving quickly –too quickly for her to see –I took the application and tucked into my jacket pocket. She had no intention of filling it out. She reached to take the form, but I smiled back at her. I would fill it out for her at a later time.
“What are you doing?” she demanded.
“I sign your name better than you do yourself. You’ve already written the essays.”
“You’re going way overboard with this, you know,” she whispered in case Charlie was listening. “I really don’t need to apply anywhere else. I’ve been accepted in Alaska. I can almost afford the first semester’s tuition. It’s as good an alibi as any. There’s no need to throw away a bunch of money, no matter whose it is.”
This was painful to discuss and I was still holding out hope that I could change her mind, so these applications were more important than ever. “Bella…”
“Don’t start. I agree that I need to go through the motions for Charlie’s sake, but we both know I’m not going to be in any condition to go to school next fall. To be anywhere near people.”
Hearing about her transformation was not a subject I was pleased to discuss. Wishing to speak of the higher education she would receive at any one of the colleges we could attend. If she would see my point for one moment I was certain she would agree with me. Waiting to become a monster would not be so bad.
“I thought the timing was still undecided,” I reminded her softly. “You might enjoy a semester or two of college. There are a lot of human experiences you’ve never had.”
“I’ll get to those afterward.”
Was she kidding, surely she realized they wouldn’t be the same afterward. That was a point I wished she would understand. She shouldn’t make this decision with such a casual attitude. Permanently changing your human status was not something that should be taken lightly and I’m certain she couldn’t understand.
“They won’t be human experiences afterward. You don’t get a second chance at humanity, Bella.”
She sighed. “You’ve got to be reasonable about the timing, Edward. It’s just too dangerous to mess around with.”
“There’s no danger yet,” I insisted.
That was the truth she was in no danger, not with us around to protect her. She had to know by now how many people were protecting her. Between my family and I, there were plenty, but I also knew of a few more mythical creatures that had her safety in mind. And as much as I hated knowing he was out there, still watching out for her, I was thankful to anything that would warn me of any harm she may face.
Alice was keeping careful watch for Victoria and also watching for anything that might occur with the Volturi. The rest of my family was keeping an eye on the town of Forks for any out of the ordinary happening there. And with the wolf’s watching their part of town, there left no room for anyone to get to Bella. All the bases were covered.
There was no hurry for her to join me in becoming a monster. There would be no way I would allow this to happen because she was scared. If she had to make this decision, it would be of her free will, with nothing persuading her decision. She would not make it under duress, she would have the choice no of us had, and it would remain her choice. It always had to be her choice.
“Bella,” I murmured seeing she was distressed. “There’s no hurry. I won’t let anyone hurt you. You can take all the time you need.”
“I want to hurry,” she whispered, smiling weakly attempting to make jokes. “I want to be a monster, too.”
Clenching my teeth and speaking threw them. “You have no idea what you’re saying.” Abruptly I flung the newspaper down on the table between us. My finger stabbing the headline on the front page:
DEATH TOLL ON THE RISE,
POLICE FEAR GANG ACTIVITY
“What does that have to do with anything?”
“Monsters are not a joke, Bella.”
She stared at the headline and back at my expression as comprehension set in.
“A… a vampire is doing this?” she whispered.
Smiling without humor. My voice was low and cold. “You’d be surprised, Bella, at how often my kind are the source behind the horrors in your human news. It’s easy to recognize, when you know what to look for. The information here indicates a newborn vampire is loose in Seattle. Bloodthirsty, wild, out of control. The way we all were.”
To avoid eye contact with me she dropped her gaze to the paper again.
“We’ve been monitoring the situation for a few weeks. All the signs are there –the unlikely disappearances, always in the night, the poorly disposed-of corpses, and the lack of other evidence… Yes, someone brand-new. And no one seems to be taking responsibility for the neophyte…” taking a deep breath. “Well, it’s not our problem. We wouldn’t even pay attention to the situation if it wasn’t going on so close to home. Like I said, this happens all the time. The existence of monsters results in monstrous consequences.”
Hoping my little speech would give her things to think about before she made her choice. Although, I knew she already had her mind set, she was so stubborn, I wanted to give her reasons to reconsider and hopefully buy myself some time to come up with a plan. This was the last thing I desired and would do anything to stop it from happening.
“It won’t be the same for me,” she whispered. “You won’t let me be like that. We’ll live in Antarctic.”
I snorted humorously. “Penguins. Lovely,” saying attempting to relieve some of the tension.
She laughed shakily and knocked the paper off the table.
“Alaska, then, as planned. Only somewhere much more remote than Juneau –somewhere with grizzles galore.”
“Better,” I allowed. “There are polar bears, too. Very fierce. And the wolves get quite large.”
Her mouth fell open and her breath blew out in a sharp gust.
“What’s wrong?” I asked. Comprehension set in before I finished asking. “Oh. Never mind the wolves, then, if the idea is offensive to you,” my voice was stiff, formal and my shoulders rigid. Knowing that when she was a monster, this would no longer be her feeling, for now, she felt strongly about the wolves.
“He was my best friend, Edward,” she muttered. “Of course the idea offends me.”
“Please forgive my thoughtlessness,” I said. “I shouldn’t have suggested that.”
“Don’t worry about it,” she stared at her hands, which were clenched into double fists.
We sat in silence for a moment. It was wrong of me to suggest such a thing and I felt bad for having done it, but I did know that they were not the same. The wolves there were different than Jacob’s pack, but I suppose she wouldn’t see it that way. Putting my finger under her chin and pulling her face to mine. My expression much softer now.
“I know. I know it’s not the same thing. I shouldn’t have reacted that way. It’s just that… well, I was already thinking about Jacob before you came over,” she hesitated. She began pleading to me. “Charlie says Jake is having a hard time. He’s hurting right now, and… it’s my fault.”
“You’ve done nothing wrong, Bella.”
She took a deep breath. “I need to make it better, Edward. I owe him that. And it’s one of Charlie’s conditions, anyway…”
Tension rising in me, the only reason that Charlie wanted her to make amends with Jacob was to get her away from me. He much preferred Jacob to me, and I couldn’t really blame him. Jacob brought her back from the misery I appeared to have caused.
“You know it’s out of the question for you to be around a werewolf unprotected, Bella. And it would break the treaty if any of us cross over onto their land. Do you want us to start a war?”
“Of course not!”
“Then there’s really no point in discussing the matter further,” dropping my hand I looked away from her. Needing to change this subject, I hated saying no to her about anything, but this was unavoidable. There was no way I could allow her to be anywhere near new werewolves, she could be hurt and I wouldn’t be there to protect her. Seeing her copy of Wuthering Heights on the counter brought a new subject my way.
“I’m glad Charlie has decided to let you out –you’re sadly in need of a visit to the bookstore. I can’t believe you’re reading Wuthering Heights again. Don’t you know it by heart yet?”
“Not all of us have photographic memories,” she said curtly.
“Photographic memory or not, I don’t understand why you like it. The characters are ghastly people who ruin each other’s lives. I don’t know how Heathcliff and Cathy ended up being ranked with couples like Romeo and Juliet or Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. It isn’t a love story, it’s a hate story.”
“You have some serious issues with the classics,” she snapped.
“Perhaps it’s because I’m not impressed by antiquity.”
Smiling I was pleased with the distraction I’d created. “Honestly, though, why do you read it over and over?” Speaking with real interest in the answer, attempting to gain some insight to her mind. Reaching across the table to cradle her face in my hand. “What is it that appeals to you?”
Stunningly she replied. “I’m not sure,” she scrambled for coherency while I gazed unintentionally waiting for her thoughts. “I think it’s something about the inevitability. How nothing can keep them apart –not her selfishness, or his evil, or even death, in the end…”
Considering her words thoughtfully I gave her a teasing smile. “I still think it would be a better story if either of them had one redeeming quality.”
“I think that may be the point,” she disagreed. “Their love is their only redeeming quality.”
“I hope you have better sense than that –to fall in love with someone so… malignant.”
“It’s a bit late for me to worry about who I fall in love with,” she pointed out. “But even without the warning, I seem to have managed fairly well.”
Laughing quietly. “I’m glad you think so.”
“Well, I hope you’re smart enough to stay away from someone so selfish. Catherine is really the source of all the trouble, not Heathcliff.”
“I’ll be on my guard,” I promised.
She sighed obviously she wasn’t as distracted as I believed. She put her hand over mine and held it to her face. “I need to see Jacob.”
I closed my eyes. “No.”
“It’s truly not dangerous at all,” she said, pleading with me again. “I used to spend all day in La Push with the whole lot of them, and nothing ever happened.”
Her voice faltering and her expression changing, I could tell that was not the truth; she was such a bad liar. Her heart began accelerating and I nodded at her acknowledging her mistruth. “Werewolves are unstable. Sometimes, the people near them get hurt. Sometimes, they get killed.”
She thought about that statement for a moment, while I waited, grimly triumphant, for her to find her voice.
“You don’t know them,” she whispered.
“I know them better than you think, Bella. I was here the last time.”
“The last time?”
“We started crossing paths with the wolves about seventy years ago… We had just settled near Hoquiam. That was before Alice and Jasper were with us. We outnumbered them, but that wouldn’t have stopped it from turning into a fight if not for Carlisle. He managed to convince Ephraim Black that coexisting was possible, and eventually we made the truce.”
That name startled her; she didn’t think I knew about them.
“We thought the line had died out with Ephraim,” I muttered, taking to myself now. “That the genetic quirk which allowed the transmutation had been lost…” I broke off staring at her accusingly. “Your bad luck seems to get more potent every day. Do you realize that your insatiable pull for all things deadly was strong enough to recover a pack of mutant canines from extinction? If we could bottle your luck, we’d have weapon of mass destruction on our hands.”
She ignored my rubbing and was surprised by my assumptions. “But I didn’t bring them back. Don’t you know?”
“My bad luck had nothing to do with it. The werewolves came back because the vampires did.”
Staring at her I was shocked.
“Jacob told me that your family being here set things in motion. I thought you would already know…”
My eyes narrowed. “Is that what they think?”
“Edward, look at the facts. Seventy years ago, you came here, and the werewolves showed up. You come back now, and the werewolves show up again. Do you think that’s a coincidence?”
Blinking I relaxed. “Carlisle will be interested in that theory.”
“Theory,” she scoffed.
Remaining in silence for a moment, staring out the window into the rain. That gave me plenty to think about, to know we were the cause of the wolves being here, to know it was our fault they existed. So, I was to blame for what happened to Jacob, again. First I took Bella away from him, and then to know he changed into a monster because of my presence here, his hatred for me was justified. But that changed nothing from my point of view.
“Interesting, but not exactly relevant,” I murmured after a moment. “The situation remains the same.”
It was an impossibility to have her remain friends with a wolf while I was around. We were mortal enemies; we couldn’t even be in the same place at the same time. And, with Victoria still on the loose, there was no way I would allow her out of my sight, especially to visit him. He was too dangerous right now.
Alice had shown me a glimpse into the relationship they had shared when I was away. It had not gone any further than friendship, but the intention was still clear and I could not allow it to continue any longer. She had to understand my position; she couldn’t think I was wrong.
She got up and walked around the table. Opening my arms she sat on my lap, nestling into my stone embrace. She looked at my hands while she spoke.
“Please just listen for a minute. This is so much more important than some whim to drop in on an old friend. Jacob is in pain,” her voice distorted around the word. “I cannot try to help him –I can’t give up on him now, when he needs me. Just because he’s not human all the time… Well, he was there for me when I was… not so human myself. You don’t know what it was like…” she hesitated. My arms went rigid; my hands were in fists now, the tendons standing out. “If Jacob hadn’t helped me… I’m not sure what you would have come home to. I owe him better this, Edward.”
Closing my eyes I wanted to die. Knowing the pain and anguish it caused her after I left was something I’d never forgive myself for. Knowing that I sent her straight into the arms of my mortal enemy, that he shielded her from the danger I’d left behind, was excruciating.
“I’ll never forgive myself for leaving you,” I whispered. “Not if I live a hundred thousand years.”
She placed her hand against my face; I sighed then opened my eyes.
“You were just trying to do the right thing. And I’m sure it would have worked with anyone less mental than me. Besides, you’re here now. That’s the part that matters.”
“If I’d never left, you wouldn’t feel the need to go risk your life to comfort a dog.”
She flinched; she didn’t like me taking this tone when it came to him.
“I don’t know how to phrase this properly,” I said with a bleak tone. “It’s going to sound cruel, I suppose. But I’ve come too close loosing you in the past. I know what it feels like to think I have. I am not going to tolerate anything dangerous.”
That was the truth; I couldn’t tolerate her in any kind of danger. And when she wasn’t with me, she was in danger. There was still much out there that was part of my world that was a danger to her. Things I needed to protect her from and if she was away from me I wouldn’t be able to protect her.
“You have to trust me on this. I’ll be fine.”
Pain spread across my face. “Please, Bella,” I whispered.
She stared into my eyes. “Please what?”
“Please, for me. Please make a conscious effort to keep yourself safe. I’ll do everything I can, but I would appreciate a little help.”
Needing that… I needed her help. Needing her to see my point of view. How dangerous this time was for her. We had to consider Victoria, not to mention the Volturi. She must see that, she must have some idea what this was doing to me.
“I’ll work on it,” she murmured.
“Do you really have any idea how important you are to me? Any concept at all of how much I love you?” Pulling her tighter against my chest, tucking her head under my chin.
She pressed her lips against my neck. “I know how much I love you,” she answered.
“You compare one small tree to the entire forest.”
Kissing the top of her head I sighed. Hopefully that got my point across, although I was never quite certain, as I couldn’t hear her thoughts to know for sure. Having one advantage on my side, my sort of secret weapon, this was Alice who was already watching her for danger. She would inform me if there were anything I needed to worry about.
“I’m not going along with that. I have to see Jacob.”
“Then I’ll have to stop you.”
Okay I was off base; she didn’t understand the dangers the wolves could bring with them. But that was all right I was confident I could protect her.
“We’ll see about that,” she bluffed. “He’s still my friend.”
That spread pain throughout me, to know that they were friends. To know I did that, I made that happen –there was nothing I could do about that –but there was certainly something I could do about what happened now. And I would do anything. She needed to realize that it couldn’t have both ways. It was either him or me. It would be her decision and when the time came I would give her the choice.