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Forks, The City That Rains Magic

Chapter Text

Preface

I’d never given much thought to how I would die for the last time – though I’d have reason enough in the last few years – but even if I had, I would not have imagined it like this.
I stared without breathing across the long room, into the dark eyes of the hunter, and he looked curiously at me.
Surely it was a good way too die, in the place of someone else, someone I loved. Noble, even. I needed some nobility after the terrible life I had lived. That ought to count for something.
Right?
I knew that if I’d never gone to Forks, I wouldn’t be facing death right now, at least not in this way. But, terrified as I was, I couldn’t bring myself to regret the decisions that lead me here. When life offers you a gift so far beyond what you had wished for, it’s easy to protect that gift.
The hunter smiled in a familiar way as he sauntered forward to kill me. I closed my eyes and prayed Bella would never be hurt by him. Maybe my death would be enough to protect her.

Chapter Text

1.First Sight

My mother walked me towards the Gate. Her wind rustled in the wind, but mine, so thick compared to her’s, stayed where it was. It was in the high-sixties here, the sky perfect from the exact shade of blue to the rolling clouds in the distance. I was wearing my favorite outfit – loose pants, leather boots molded to my feet, a hand-me-down button-up courtesy of my father, and a thick mammoth cloak. Once I went through the Gate, the cloak would disappear and a hoodie would take its place.
In the green state of Washington of the United States of America lives a small town named Forks. It is absolutely covered by a blanket of clouds that have made it their mission to piss the most amount of rain on this town than any other place in America. Its gloomy, omnipresent shade of ancient trees have made it a great place of refuge for our kind. My mother insisted we stay close via Gate. I visited Dad constantly up until I was fourteen, when I had been put in a training school that my mother insisted that I go to. Since then, I make sure he visits me here in his summer and Christmas.
It was Forks that I now sent myself – an action that I took with great pride. I loved Forks. It was literally the most magical place in the world, which was why there are so many Gates to the fey world there. My training school wanted to send me to Paris or New York, but I reasoned that eccentric people live there. I want to train with the boring. And what better place to go than Forks, the magical capital of the human world, with my father able to take care of me.
As much as I loved the fey land and Titania’s kingdom, I missed my father. I missed being able to embrace the human side of me.
“Bella,” my mom said to me – the last of a thousand times – before I walked through Gate. “I’m so proud of you for doing this.”
My mom looks like me, except with shorter, thinner hair and laugh lines. I felt a spasm of love for one of the two people in the world I loved. I was so thankful that I would be leaving her, but staying close by. She would only be a phone call away. Now with her seat in the Council of Goblins set, she would live perfectly content.
“Thank you,” I said honestly. It was no lie. If I had lied, she would have known because I am a very bad liar. But there was no reason to lie.

 

 

 

“Tell Charlie I said hi.”
“I will. I love you.”
“I love you too, Kitten. I’ll see you soon,” she insisted. “You can come home whenever you want – I’ll only be a phone call away.”
I wanted to laugh at her. Her promises were set in stone, but so were my intentions. I knew that I had become too goblin-like. I wanted to reconnect with my human side. “Don’t worry about me,” I urged. “It’ll be great. I love you.”
She hugged me tightly, her thin and angular body poking into my softer one, and then I stepped through the shimmering Gate, and she was not there anymore. Or more like I was not there anymore. The Gate sent me from the home I knew in the fey world to the human world, Earth.
It was nighttime. It was a problem sometimes. Time was always different in the fey world than in the human world. You might go through a Gate to the fey world and immediately go back to the human world and it be several months later. On the other hand, you could go right back through to the fey world and it be a week ahead. Others before me had worked on it, but I believed I had cracked the secret. In fact, my system was predicting time arrival better than ever before. Obviously, though, by the time of day – or night rather – the system wasn’t perfect.
Daddy had really been nice about the whole thing. He seemed genuinely happy that I was coming to live with him permanently for the first time in…well, the first time. He’d gotten me registered for high school and was going to help me get a car, ignoring the fact that I had never driven one.
But it was sure to be awkward with Dad. It was true that I shared more in common with him than my mother does, given that I’m half human, but I know I do things differently. For one, I act like a cat, particular to the panther sub-clan. I prefer raw, fresh meat rather than the processed food my dad used to feed me. My cat pupils, which are barely noticeable with my dark brown eyes, gave me the ability to see in the darkness of night. I had a sketchy sleep schedule that all goblins follow: one or two hours a night. Since I was half human, though, I had to eat more food to keep up with my activities, which gave to a more soft body.
I knew where my room was, so I hopped the short distance and crawled through the window. I wrote on my mental list for the store a lock for the windows. Even a human could get in here.
Since I had slept a couple hours ago, I was good for a while. I wandered to Daddy’s room and climbed on the dresser. I waited for a couple hours until a white light flashed and a sharp noise protruded from what I knew in theory was an alarm clock but seemed to be a torture device.
Dad turned it off and turned on his lamp. His eyes drifted to my side of the room. He jumped and a large bang followed.
“Ow! That hurt!” I hissed, pulling the bullet out. There was sure to be tiny pieces in there somewhere, so I went to the bathroom and found some tweezers. A minute and a Band-Aid later, I came back to Daddy’s room.
“Bella! I’m so sorry! Don’t…do that!”
“Don’t sit on the dresser and watch you sleep?”
“No. It’s…creepy.” I added “watching people sleep is creepy” to my list of things I learned about humans. Dad rubbed his eyes and finally looked at me.
“It’s good to see you, Bells,” he said, smiling as he took me downstairs. “You haven’t changed much. How’s Renée?”
“Mama’s fine. It’s good to see you too, Dad.”
I had a singular bag still hanging around my shoulder. The interior was made of burlap, but the exterior was what made it. Dragon hide from covered it, making it fireproof, waterproof, and pretty much anything-proof. It was one of three of my most prized possessions. There was only money inside because my clothes, besides my jacket, were of the fey world.
“I found a car for you,” Dad told me after making us breakfast: bacon and scrabbled eggs.
“What kind of car?” I’ve no idea why I asked such a thing, being that I barely knew what a car was in the first place.
“Well, it’s a truck.”
Ah, that cleared up nothing. “Where did you find it?”
“Billy, one of my best friends, he’s in a wheelchair now. He couldn’t get in the truck. His son, Jacob, fixed it up a little for you.”
Billy. Jacob. I had a vague memory of Jacob’s two sisters, but they had thought I was weird. Only Jacob played with me. He was kind.
“Dad, I don’t really know anything about cars. I wouldn’t be able to fix it if it broke down, and Mama says that you don’t have the best paying job…”
Dad rolled his eyes and chomped down on a piece of bacon. “Really, Bella, the thing runs great. They don’t build ‘em like they used to.”
The Thing. A perfect nickname for something I knew nothing about. Maybe I would write it on the side. “How much is it? Mama sent some money with me…”
“Well, honey, I already paid for it. It’s a gift.”
Huh. Free.
“Thank you,” I said, not understanding at the time how much it meant.
“Well, now, you’re welcome,” he mumbled, embarrassed by my thanks.
In the short time before he had to go to work, he reminded me of a few things. Humans let their eyes wander and for longer. Humans were clumsy. Humans had to make friends. Humans did not crouch down on their toes and climb on various objects within a room. He rattled down a list of things I should and should not do. Then, when he had to leave, he sent me to the slow computer in my room.
My room was still mostly the same. The floors were wooden, the walls were a light blue that reminded me of home, and the ceiling was peaked. There were yellow lace curtains around the windows, but I changed them to a pretty grey. Transfiguration was common among goblins and a few other humanoids, though goblins were the best at it. It was discovered, however, that a half-goblin, half-human such as myself could not transfigure natural objects like full-bloods could do, like turning a piece of grass into a tree. However, the half-goblins could transfigure manufactured objects, like a coin into a hundred-dollar bill, something the full-bloods could not manage. That’s why, a year after I was born, half-goblins births were outlawed.
I liked the way my room looked now. The desk was a very nice shade of brown and my bed covers looked warm. The desk held the previously mentioned computer. I turned it on. It felt like hours before the desktop appeared. I knew how to use this devise because my school taught many things to help us blend in in the human world. However, I think it would have been better to teach us the behavior aspect. Anyone can get by by saying, “I never learned how to use that,” as long as they look normal. I knew, though, that this is what my two to eight years here was all about.
While waiting for my browser to load, I found the mouse in the house and decided to cook it instead of eating it raw like I normally wood. I skinned it as best I could and boiled it in the microwave.
It would have been better fresh.
When I returned upstairs, I sat on the rocker, eating my mouse. The browser finally loaded.
For the entire day, I learned new things, like how to cook, to make a bed and fold clothes, and most importantly how to take a bath. There was a singular bathroom in the house and Dad had insisted I use it regularly. I made sure I cleaned in the shower because I wanted to look presentable for my first day of school.
Forks High School had a terrifying total of three hundred and fifty-seven – and now fifty eight – students; there were only seven people in my class back home. All of these kids here probably barely knew each other. Although they had lived here all their lives, I doubt they all knew each other. However, I would be new, fresh meat.
Maybe, if I looked like a human should, I could turn this into an advantage. But physically, I would never fit into either of my worlds: fey or human. If I lived here with Daddy, I should a bit thicker, have lower cheekbones, normal eyes, and less pointed teeth. Thankfully, the teeth weren’t that bad. People only really noticed them when I drew attention to them. The same thing was true for my eyes. This was one reason I chose not to wear makeup.
Instead, I had the pale skin typical of a goblin, despite the genetic help of Dad. I had always been slender, but too soft to be a cat goblin, too thin to be a human. I had the ability to play sports to perfection. That was the problem. When I used to play with Jacob and his friends in La Push, they would always praise me and push me to go to college playing whatever sport we were playing at the time. I had wished that I was clumsy in the human world and graceful in the fey world, but it seemed opposite. I would have to find some way to get out of PE.
When I finished putting away my possessions – the mammoth cloak that turned into a jacket on thought alone, the vile of costly potion that could resurrect, the burlap and dragon hide bag, a few potions that healed humans for Dad – I took out my new knife. Mama had taken me to the Markets, a ten-mile long road of tents and booths filled to the brim with valuable merchandise. It was in the Far East of the fey world. The fey world often reflected the human world many years ago. Before Europe influenced much of the Middle East by killing their population, the East thrived and the Markets showed that.
My mother had taken me to the Markets twice: once when I was sixteen as requested by Dad since a sixteenth birthday is special, and a week ago when I was approved to spend my time in Forks.
We had walked for what seemed like hours going through the beginning of the road where the cheapest things were. Now we were approaching the good stuff: medicine that could fix almost anything, including death, jewels that could change the appearance of the wearer, canteens that would never empty. I was wondering what I needed for the human world when an ancient woman with flowing locks grasped my hand.
“I know what you need.”
The voice surprised me, not because it was crystal clear and sounded very young, but because the woman had no mouth. She had green eyes with more shades than I could decipher, but it seemed that when God had made her, that was all he focused on. She didn’t even have an indent where her nose and mouth should be, just wrinkled skin. She wore a cloak made from an animal I could not recognize.
She brought up a hand to my temple and tapped it twice. “I’m up there, little girl. Now, come. I know just what to get you.”
I followed the ancient humanoid down the thin ally between two tents, not even thinking about the time or telling my mother. The fabric from the tents were rough against my bare arms. On the other end of the ally was a small road, only a couple hundred feet long. It was a far cry from the normal Markets as far as length, but the quality of the merchandise increased tenfold.
As the woman dragged me down the road, I looked at the booths. One had jars of spirits. I could hear them whispering their offers: buy us, let us out, and we will give you new life, more possessions, anything you want. I knew in my mind that spirits killed their owner eventually, but I was starting to believe I could tame one. The old woman dragged me along. I shook away the thoughts and whispers that tried to follow me. The booth after held a single gold lamp on it. As I past, I saw misty blue smoke arise from it and a strange face appeared. Promises were made for three wishes if I paid the price of the death of someone I loved. The old woman yanked me again. Suddenly, I wondered what she wanted.
The last booth made me want to stop and stay forever. Jewels and jewels lay in beautiful materials, some that were not even yet discovered in other parts of the fey and human world. One necklace promised to choke the wearer. A crown provided mind control. A bracelet offered indestructibility. Many pieces promised immortality.
The woman pulled me through the thick curtains of her tent, where I was finally able to break free of the spells that had entrapped me on the small road. I sat down on the closest chair – one of two on either end of a small circular table. I went to sit down, but she picked up the chair and dumped me out. She was very strong, it seemed. I landed on my feet, as always.
“I have a very special trade here,” the woman said as I scrabbled to the other seat. “I read your future, you give me something of value, and I give you what you will need most in the future.”
Too soon, I had accepted her offer. She asked for my true name. Normally, I would never give it out because I hated it. Every fey child had a true name, a name that described who they were. Finally, I offered, “She Who Watches and Does Nothing.”
“Hello. I am called She Who Takes and Weeps for What She Took, so you’re not the only one with a name you don’t like.”
I looked into her eyes and was suddenly lost. I never knew there were so many shades of green. It felt like hours before she even blinked. It felt like years when she said, “We’re done, little girl.”
Knowledge seeped out of her pores. This ancient woman knew who I was, what I am, and what I will be.
She asked for something I never even thought about. She wanted the wall that guarded my heart.
The cat clan are known for not being very good with long relationships. Mama had loved Dad at one point, I’m sure, but not anymore. I saw how it broke him. And I knew my emotions were just as strong as his. So I promised myself I would never fall in love.
My protection from love was gone, but I now held a very powerful knife in my hand. It burned slightly, being that it was magic silver. The woman said it was living, never touched by any other living creature. This ensured it would be loyal to me and me only.
This was the silver that shaped some legends. It was the silver that killed werewolves and burned vampires, some of the creatures without magic that was still considered fey. It was a glitch in the system. They really should have been carried to the fey world, but they weren’t.
I almost felt like a vampire myself. Not able to fit into either world. They were a monster in this world, but a mere inconvenience in the other. I would never be able to relate to other people for this reason. I was between worlds and that is a very hard fence to walk.
But the cause didn’t matter. All that mattered was the effect. And tomorrow would be just the beginning.

 

Dad came home a little bit later. We ate a quiet dinner before he told me my first day of high school would be tomorrow. Then I helped him clean up, using my skill of washing the dishes. I told him I could drive myself, seeing that I had used simulations at the training school back in the fey world.
He went to bed earlier than I did. I stayed up reading a few books that I was sure would be on the reading list. A few hours before Daddy woke up, I covered up in my mammoth cloak. When mammoth fur is soaked in a simple potion, it regulates a body’s temperature. It’s a fairly common article of clothing in the fey world, but mine was specially made to turn into a type of covering relevant to the time period and back into the regular cloak. It was fairly expensive. I had gotten it for Christmas one year and I was fairly certain the boy who was hinted by many that I would one day be betrothed to got it for me.
I didn’t sleep well that night. The rain was unfamiliar and refused to fade into white noise. I pulled my cloak tighter around me and later pushed a pillow against my ear. It wasn’t until five that I fell asleep. At six-thirty, I woke up hungry. I jumped out the window and realized that thick fog surrounded everything. It was so unlike Titania’s forests. I realized, though, that I could use this to my advantage.
I ran through the forest. Since it was misting now, I got wet quickly, but that didn’t matter to me.
As much as I wanted to take down an elk, I knew that Daddy would be up soon and I didn’t want to upset him. I climbed a few trees and took out some squirrels, two birds, and a raccoon. I got home just as Dad was zombie-walking to the kitchen.
Breakfast was simple. Dad fixed some cereal and I ate some fish he had caught earlier that week. He wished me good luck at school. I thanked him, desperately wishing that his luck was not wasted. Dad left first, off to the police station that probably saved his life after Mama had left.
After he left, I did what I could for him. I washed the dishes, transformed the yellow paint on the cabinet to be new again, and scrubbed the white linoleum floors. Daddy had a few pictures of me in the living room, but they were all when I was little. I would have to see what I could do about getting some new, updated pictures.
There was no sign of another woman in his life, which made me that more scared about the wall I had given up for the intricate knife that changed my future.
I didn’t want to be too early for school, but there wasn’t that much left to do. I put on my cloak and waited for it to turn into a jacket. It had the feel of those science suits that I saw on some videos relating to volcanos.
It had stopped misting and was now drizzling. It wasn’t enough to soak me instantly upon contact, but I hated being wet. I locked the door behind me and stared at the truck.
The Thing.
It was old, I could tell that, and red. Besides that, I really didn’t know that much about trucks. I didn’t even know if it was considered a big or little truck.
I opened the door and shut myself inside. Ah. No more water. I slung my burlap and dragon hide bag to the slide. I took a deep breath. I knew I could drive, I just had to get the courage up. As I breathed, I got the smell of tobacco, gasoline, and peppermint. I got some things for this. Billy used to not smoke, so it must have been a habit after he got put in a wheelchair. The gasoline probably meant it got terrible milage and Billy had kept gasoline in here in case he ran out. The peppermint meant he was getting old.
I jumped when I cranked the keys. It sounded like a beast, perhaps a minotaur. I shuddered at the thought of those creatures. They were once a group of Spartans that had left Sparta. The witches of Sparta were so angry that they cast a spell on them, making their heads and part of their neck and chest of a bull. What they lacked in intelligence, they made up for in strength, which is why they are notorious for raping fey from all around. When they reproduce with fey, they produce a human. It’s thought that the fey’s magic undoes the spell. They can only reproduce once, though, so generally they don’t rape until after their reproduction time.
I realized as I was thinking about the minotaur that I was driving. Driving! I approached the school. However, I was disappointed to see that I was the only student there. In fact, the only other person there was a janitor.
He smiled at me as he got out of his car. “You must be Bella. You got the jitters? Most staff don’t even get here for another thirty minutes.”
I checked the time. It was six-thirty.
“It’s okay, kid. They’ll be there soon.”
“Okay. So what’s your name?”
The janitor looked surprised. “My name is Abraham, but you can call me Abe. Abe Foster.”
“Do you need any help, Abe?”
“No thank you, Bella. It’s my job and I take respect for the work that I have. I know it’s not the most glamorous job in this world, but it’s my job nonetheless and therefor my responsibility.”
I decided I admired Abe.
He told me what class would entail. He said he had been working there for so long that he knew all of the teachers and the students and exactly how they would react.
“All of the students will view you as something new and shiny. The teacher’s interest will be peaked, so they’ll work a little bit harder but not for very long. Oh, and if you have Mr. Banner, just be aware that he’s a creep. He’s never done anything and I doubt he ever will. He’s too scared. But just be aware of him.”
“What’s he scared of?”
“Of all people, Dr. Cullen. He’s a very kind man, in his thirties, I think, but once a girl was rapped by a distant relative visiting, and he and his wife said that if there was any more raping in Forks, they would reign down fire and brimstone. I believe it, too.”
I nodded. A few teachers started to arrive. I hooped down from where I was crouching on a desk.
“You’re a little strange,” Abe said, “But strange is good sometimes. I think you’re a good kid, Bella. Now go along before the teachers think you’re creepy for talking to the janitor.”
A couple minutes later, I found my way to the front desk and asked for the information that was to be given to me.
The secretary, whose plastic name plaque identified her as Shelly, handed me my schedule, a map of the school, and my books. I stored all of them in my burlap and dragon hide bag. She gave me a slip for each teacher to sign and started to take my map and schedule to show me the best route for each.
“I can manage on my own,” I tried to say as sweetly as possible.
She gave a glare and a fake smile. “Okay, dear. Have a wonderful first day here.”
The students started to arrive shortly after that. I was glad I parked in the right place. Most of the cars were older like mine. My truck seemed to be medium-sized. The newest one was a silvery car that I did not like very much. I saw several students leave that one, but ignored them.
I memorized the map and my schedule, devising shortcuts for class if I desperately needed them. I played with the strap on my burlap and dragon hide bag, then took a big breath. I could learn to be human. I exhaled and hopped out of the truck.
Since it was still raining, I pulled my hood over my face as I walked to building three. I was relieved to notice my appearance didn’t stand out. I needed to go shopping, but Dad and I had forgotten. Maybe I would make a friend who would take me.
The classrooms were smaller than I was used to, seeing as how all of my classes used to be outside. The people in front of me hung their coats up, but I kept mine on. The warmth of the mammoth was going to stay with me for a very long time.
I took the slip up to the teacher, a tall, balding man who introduced himself as Mr. Mason. He already knew my name, but called me Isabella.
“Just Bella is fine,” I said.
His eyes crinkled. “Okay, Just Bella.”
He handed me a list of books and literature I would need to read. The only one I knew was Shakespeare, and only because it was common knowledge that his Midnight Summer’s Dream was based off of Queen Titania’s marriage and how it almost fell apart. There were rumors that her daughter, a girl named Tamisin, was being trained to be queen, but I doubted it. Titania may be ready to open her council to the clan leaders of goblins, but I knew no one was ready for her half-human, half-fairy daughter to rule.
When the bell rang – a phenomenon I had been taught about in training school – a gangly boy with skin like a troll’s and oily black hair leaned over the isle to talk to me.
“You’re Isabella Swan, right?” he whispered. He looked cheery and overly helpful, like a pixie fairy. If there’s one creature I hated more than minotaurs, it was pixie fairies.
“Bella,” I said dryly.
“Where’s your next class?”
Without looking, I said, “Government with Jefferson in building six.”
“I could show you the way…”
I put on a fake smile. “Sure.” Friendship with one usually lead to friendship with another. Maybe I would befriend a girl.
After class had ended, we left and he asked, “So, this is a lot different than Phoenix, huh?”
What? Oh, that’s the place we always said I was from. I hardly knew anything about the place besides it was very large and very dry. So yes, a lot different.
“Very.”
He prattled on for a minute about how little rain I’d gotten in my life and how I didn’t have a tan despite the sun, and blah blah blah. He kept reflecting questions back to me, though, some which I could barely answer. I was glad when I reached the door.
The rest of the morning passed in the same fashion. I would go into a class, I would be peppered with questions, then an overly helpful new person would take me to the next class. There was one girl who sat next to be in Trigonometry and Spanish, which was a joke. All goblins need to hear a language only once to understand it. She walked me to lunch, too. She was very short, but made up for it with hair volume. Her dark skin was perfect, without a single bump or blemish in sight. Her name was either Jessica or Jennifer. She talked far more than the Asian boy, Eric, the one who walked with me to Government.
Jennifer sat me down at her table. Eric was in the cafeteria, too, but he just waved. Everyone else had lunches from the cafeteria, but Dad had made me lunch.
It was there, observing the strange dynamics of these teenage humans I would soon call my friends, that I first saw them.
Vampires.
They were sitting in the shadows of the cafeteria. There were five of them. My brain offered me a piece of information: they were the kids that were in the shiny silver car. They were talking quietly. They had no food. They had no need for food except blood. Oh no. My blood was sure to attract them. Fey blood always smelled better to vampires. It was the few things we learned about the creatures left after the split. It was said some fey smelled even better to certain vampires because they would be especially dangerous for them.
They didn’t look anything alike, which didn’t surprise me. Covens were usually formed by need, not genetic relationships. There were three boys. One was huge – at least six foot six and built like a minotaur. Maybe he was part minotaur. He had dark curly hair that was slightly damp from the rain. He seemed to breath with slight labor. The other one with cowboy boots on was honey blonde and was probably six foot. His hair was down to his chin. I thought that his boots might have the Texas star on them. He had thin silvery bite marks across his face and down his neck and his hands. I’m sure humans couldn’t see them, but I could. I shuddered. How dangerous was he?
The third boy looked like he was about to die. He looked dangerously thin and it looked like he was somehow paler than the others. He had dark red that, had he continued as a human, would probably have turned brown. He was the youngest, it was obvious. He was also the shortest boy. He was about five ten or five eleven.
The girls were opposites. The taller one was statuesque. She had a beautiful figure, the kind that sirens wish they had. Her hair was like spun gold, falling in soft curls to the middle of her back. I could see little pink scars along the skin I could see. Her eyes were almost too open, like they had been straining when she died. She must have died in pain. The other girl, the much shorter one, was pixie like, which made me want to hate her on sight, but I held back. I could see that her deep black hair was just enough to cover what looked like a small tattoo of simple circles. I had seen fey with those scars, though, after humans had kidnapped and tortured them.
This poor girl had shock treatment.
All of them were the same in the vampire way. They had pale skin, the palest being the sickly redhead. They all had very dark eyes, signs that they needed to feed soon. I desperately hoped they…fed outside of town. They had dark, dark shadows under their eyes – purplish shadows that made me think they were all in the process of healing a broken nose.
They were beautiful. I could not turn away from their beauty. I now knew why so many fey simply forgot to use magic to combat the vampires. Each one of them had some sort of aliment. The big one labored with every breath as if his lungs had been punctured. The Texan had so many, so many vampire bites that I wondered how he was even alive. The sickly redhead looked as if he would die in the next minute. The blonde looked as if she was recovering from a gang assault. And that poor pixie, she had shock treatment. I prayed to God – and to the Elders, just in case – that she was not fey, not even a drop. Most fey loose all their memories after shock treatment and are unable to make new ones after that.
The poor pixie stood up and left the building. I wanted to follow her, to tell her my true name and see if she responded with hers. It was an automatic reaction. Even a person who lost all their memories knew their true name.
I didn’t, though.
“Who are those guys?”
Jennifer – no, Jessica, I was sure of it now – Jessica looked to see who I was talking about. The redhead looked at her, then his eyes turned towards mine. I stared back. Let him know I wasn’t afraid.
Jessica giggled. “Those are the Cullens. Edward’s the one with the messy red hair. Emmett’s the really big one. Alice is the one that left. And the blonde ones are Jasper and Rosalie Hale. They all live with Dr. Cullen and his wife.”
The redhead was talking, now. Although I heard better than the humans, I could only decipher that he was talking about me.
“Are they friendly?” I asked.
“Eh. They stick together pretty tightly. They’re all together, though. Emmett and Rosalie, Jasper and Alice. And they like, live together. Dr. Cullen adopted all of them. The Hales are actually twins, but the rest of them aren’t related biologically. I think Mrs. Cullen is related to the Hales somehow, like a cousin or an aunt. She got them as foster kids when they were eight.”
“That’s really kind of the doctor and his wife,” I said, “seeing the doctor is so young.”
Jessica admitted, “Yeah, I guess.” A couple seconds past and she said, “But I think Mrs. Cullen can’t have kids or something.”
“Where did they live before they came here?” I asked. Obviously they had to move around if they interacted with humans.
“Alaska, I think. They moved two years ago.”
The sickly redhead glanced at me again. I met his stare with a glare of my own. As much as vampires were physically powerful, they could not stand against fey magic. I will prepare myself. If they try to attack, I will kill them.
The redhead was still staring with a frustrated look on his face. He must have some sort of ability. He was part fey if he did have an ability. Once they became vampires, though, the ability faded in some ways and increased in others. If the abilities weren’t apparent during their life, they would show themselves in a fury. However, those powers would be closed off from the fey.
I smiled. Let the sickly vampire be weak.
“Don’t waste your time with Edward,” Jessica warned. “He doesn’t date. Apparently none of the girls here are good enough for him. He needs someone drop-dead gorgeous, I guess.”
The redhead – Edward, the monster had a name – began to grin at her comment.
The four vampires got up a few minutes later. A minute later, the bell rang and Angela, one of Jessica’s friends, accompanied me in silence. She was quiet, which I liked, but I doubted that she would go shopping with me tonight, as shy as she was. I would go shopping by myself.
I entered the classroom, frustrated. Vampires! Vampires. I was so distracted that I rushed to the table and handed the man my slip. I felt sick when I realized he was Mr. Banner. I didn’t give him a chance to hand it to me, just snapped it right out of his hands. I sat down in the only seat available, in the center of the classroom.
It took me a whole ten minutes to realize who I was sitting next to. The sickly redheaded monster. I wanted to ask him how he died, but the fear pitted in the depths of my stomach made me interrupt class.
“Mr. Banner, may I go to the nurse’s office?”
He waved me off.
I took my bag and bolted from the classroom. I found the nurse in her office.
She smiled sweetly as I sat down on one of the waiting chairs. “I figured you would come, dear.”
“Do all first day students?” I asked as she handed me some water.
“No. But I’ve been working with teenagers my entire carreer. As soon as I saw you coming in before me, I knew you were different. All these teenagers, they’re kind on the inside, but hide it with something, whether it’s a callous attitude or a superiority complex or something else entirely. You wear it on your sleeve, though. Abe spoke highly of you to the other janitors and I.”
I made a mental note to talk to all of the other staff, excluding maybe Mr. Banner. I didn’t even realize there were other janitors. “So you think I’m in here because I show my kindness too much?”
The nurse handed me a cup of water. “No. I think you were an outcast in your old school. Something here spooked you and you’re scared that, somehow, at least some of the people here are going to treat you the same way as they did back where you were.”
Wow. She had a point. I was scared of the vampires, of course, but I was even more scared that people would outcast me here like they did at home. The vampires just pushed me over the edge. “Are you going to send me to class now?”
She shook her head. “No, not until you’re ready. You know, more than half the students that come in here aren’t sick. They either just need a nap, or maybe an hour or so to cool off. So you can stay here.”
The compassion of the woman blew me away. “My name is Bella. What’s yours?”
“Julia. My friends call me Julie. And I’ll tell you a secret.” She staged whispered, “You’re a friend of mine now.”
A tear rolled down my smiling face as I thought that maybe, even with the vampires, I would be okay here.

 

A blonde boy with spikes in his hair that made him look like he was electrified found me after the bell rang. “Hey, I heard you had gym next hour. I have gym too. I can walk you.”
I watched out of the corner of my eye as the vampire stalked off. “Hey, yeah, I’ll walk with you, just give me a minute.”
I ran up to the redhead. He ignored me, which was okay. “Hey. I requested that I get moved to another Biology class. Miss Shelly said that she would tell me by tomorrow and she would try to work it out with Mr. Greene.”
He turned sharply, making me stop. “Why? Are you scared of me or something?” I was suddenly very aware of his teeth, which I could almost imagine ripping through my skin. I also noticed his eyelashes were red, too. What an odd thing to notice when you’re scared.
“A little, yeah,” I admitted, “But I also knew it would be easier on you.”
He was speechless, so I went back to the blonde boy. “Let’s go to gym.”
Mike was just as speechless until we were almost at the gym. “So, did you stab Edward Cullen with a pencil or what? I’ve never seen him act like that. He’s antisocial, sure, but always pretty chill.”
Huh. That wasn’t his usual behavior. He was…chill. Not a vampire behavior for sure. I laughed a little. Stabbing Edward with a pencil made me think of modern day vampire hunters: instead of stakes, they used #2 pencils. “I don’t know. Some people just don’t like each other. I asked for another class.”
“That’s a load of bull,” Mike said. “You shouldn’t move just because some guy was a little mean to you.”
Gym was okay. I mostly watched. They played a game called volleyball. I purposefully didn’t try to understand the game because if I was incompetent in sports, then I wouldn’t be under suspicion for being not human. I had a feeling, though, that if the vampires could blend in somewhat okay, then so could I. I knew that if I really put my mind to it, I could be clumsy here, just like I can occasionally be graceful in the fey world.
The final bell rang. I walked back to the office to give Miss Shelly my work. I had the feeling she didn’t like me that much, but was putting up with me because of Julie. They were friends. The rain had stopped, but the winds were stronger, and colder. I wished I had mammoth pants.
When I walked into the office, I almost turned around and walked out.
Alice Cullen stood at the desk in front of me. I recognized that short spiky hair that barely covered some scars on the back of her head. She turned and gave me a puzzled look.
I thought about what Julie said about being scared and what Mike said about the vampire situation being a load of bull, whatever that is. I shouldn’t be afraid of these vampires.
“Hi Alice.”
“Hey Bella,” she said, turning back to Shelly. “So yeah, Edward was feeling a little short of breath and went to the hospital so Carlisle could give him a scan. It’s been years since he had cancer, but he got panicked. Carlisle will bring a note from him and another doctor tomorrow.”
Shelly nodded. “That’s fine. Tell Esme that we really appreciate what she did for the kids at the church.”
Alice smiled. “I’ll pass it along. Thank you, Miss Shelly.”
I handed Shelly the information she needed. “Everything’s there.” Alice was almost out the door. “Alice!”
I followed her out. “Yes?” she asked with a worried look.
“Um. I don’t know how to ask this, but I don’t have any clothes except these. I have money, I just need to go shop and I’m not very good at picking clothes out. You look amazing, so I was wondering if you would, uh, go shopping with me today. If you don’t have anything else to do.”
Her eyes lit up. “Yeah! Hey, it’s totally okay if you don’t want to, but can you drop the others off near the house? Edward took the car and now we don’t have a ride. They could always walk, but, you know…”
A car ride full of vampires. “Sure, why not? The truck can fit all of us.”
Alice bounced to the other vampires. They seemed to think of her as crazy, but still followed me to my truck.
Rosalie sat next to me in the front. She didn’t look happy about the situation, but I did see her admiring the truck. Jasper, her twin, was squished in between Emmett and Alice. When I made sure everyone had their seatbelts on, I cranked the truck.
Rosalie looked the most upset. “This is a vintage truck. How on Earth did you let it get to this state?”
“This is the first day I drove it. My dad got it from an old friend. I don’t really know a lot about cars…”
“Rosalie does,” Emmett said.
“I could take a look under the hood if you’d like,” Rosalie offered. She looked like she was really speaking to the truck and not to me.
“Um, sure. Though I want to pay for any repairs.” I had been given favors all my life for being a half-goblin. Free tuition to the training school to “enrich the school population”. Special lunches for my human needs, even though it was obvious that my appetite was far more similar to the cat goblins. I hated it. It was going to be different here.
She nodded. “I understand. It’s going to take a while to find a lot of parts, anyways. Maybe a couple months. You and Alice can take my BMW if you want.”
I didn’t know what a BMW was, so I just nodded. “That’s kind of you.”
Emmett refused for there to be a moment of silence. “So Bella, you have an idea where you want to go shopping?”
I shook my head. “Wherever Alice takes me, I guess.”
Jasper snickered, making his first sound that I had heard. “That could be Paris.”
I eyed Alice in the rearview mirror. “Please stay in America.”
She rolled her eyes. “Fine.”
“Remember it’s a school night,” Rosalie said softly. “Bella needs some sleep.”
Huh. Rosalie took into account my human needs. Maybe she didn’t want to be this way. Maybe none of them did.
Emmett nodded. “You probably need to call your dad to tell him.”
Alice shooed away his comment. “We’ll stop by the police station.”
The rest of the car ride passed smoothly, with Emmett and Alice doing most of the talking. I noticed Rosalie and Jasper looking at their significant other with love. I vaguely wondered why Daddy hadn’t at least questioned them for being in a cult.
The shiny car was in the driveway, which I took meant that Edward was here. Rosalie showed me where the garage was. I barely glanced at the house, only to note that it was big which meant the Cullens were probably very rich. I noticed, too, as we went behind the house that the entire south-side of the house was made of glass. Edward was in none of the rooms I could see.
“Esme must be at the hospital,” Jasper said. “She’ll probably be trying to convince Edward not to leave.”
“He’s leaving?” I asked.
Jasper nodded. “Yeah. For…personal reasons.” He gave me a tight-lipped smile.
The other three left, and Alice and I were left with Rosalie’s BMW.
It was red and low. That’s all I really knew how to describe it.
“Do you want to put the top down since it’s not raining?” Alice asked.
I didn’t know what she was talking about, so I just said yes.
When we got in the car, the top of the car did indeed come down. I kept my astonishment to myself. Alice peeled off at a speed I theoretically knew was possible, but I had not yet explored such speed besides running.
“I was thinking Port Angeles if your dad doesn’t mind. We’ll stop by the police station real quick.”
I merely nodded, wishing I had something to pull my hair back with.
When we got to the police station, Daddy was in his office looking over the crime stats. “Hey girls. I’m glad you made a new friend so quickly, Bella.”
“Hi. Alice wanted to know if we could go shopping in Port Angeles,” I asked, crossing my fingers behind me.
“Sure. Have her back before six. I like to see her before I leave,” Dad said. “Hey, on your way out, send in my receptionist. I think there’s a mistake on one of these reports.”
We both nodded. I hugged Daddy and he gave me a kiss on the forehead. “Make sure Alice is safe. She’s so little.”
I made sure Alice was busy with the receptionist before I said, “Well, there’s something you should know about all of the Cullens. I’ll tell you about it when I get back.”
He nodded and shooed me away. He looked tired. I was suddenly very, very thankful for him. He worked hard here. He was tired. Yet he still got up every morning and came back here. And now he had me here and he put on a smile for me.
Alice came back in, dragging the receptionist. We left shortly after that.

Port Angeles was big. It was a lot bigger than Forks, for sure. We only had a couple hours because Alice had took Daddy’s very serious time restraint to be a joke. She wanted me home by eleven or twelve.
At first, we went to a large store with very bright lights and racks of clothes that stretched on for miles. I wandered around for a bit, picking out a couple of soft jeans and a few loose shirts. The material wouldn’t last as long as the clothes I had in the fey world, but they would do for now.
Alice found me. She had piles of dresses and was pulling me towards a dressing room.
“Alice, no,” I said, pulling out of her grip. It wasn’t very hard, but she still looked a little shocked. “That’s the stuff you wear. Can you try not to play doll with me and just help me to develop my own fashion sense?”
She looked even more shocked at this than anything else I had said today. “But Bella! These dresses-”
“Are not for me. I like loose materials and sturdy shoes. Can you work with that, please?”
She looked down in shame. “I should go put these back,” she said. “Will you wait right here?”
I nodded. She came back a few minutes later with a smaller pile of clothes: jeans, a few flowing shirts, a couple t-shirts, and three pair of boots. She sheepishly showed them to me. “You want to go try these on?”
I nodded. “That would be good.”
By the time we were done, I had eight pair of jeans, twelve t-shirts, nine flowing shirts, three pair of chunky boots and one pair of Converse, a rain jacket, a smooth leather jacket, a fishing hat Alice despised but later admitted it looked “kinda okay” on me, and one skirt that I let Alice buy for me. She looked pretty sad as we left the building, so I asked what was wrong.
“Well, I’ve been buying my family clothes for years. They’ve been Barbie and Ken dolls for me. I never thought about what they wanted. I’m so selfish, Bella. I mean, I know that it seems little, but still…”
“Alice, I’m going to tell you what my mom always told me. You can’t let guilt pull you down. You can only use it to help you become a better person. So let’s go back in there and buy some more clothes for your family.”
Alice brightened up as we continued to shop. We only left because the store was closing. She bought Rosalie a similar fashion to mine, but with more clothes she could mess up in the garage. She said that Rosalie would probably still wear the clothes Alice had originally bought her because she likes to always look her best. For Emmett, she bought tons of flannel. Jasper got some clothes that I could only assume a Texan would wear. For Edward, she bought the cheapest t-shirts and a couple button-downs. She explained that out of all of them, he cared about his appearance the least. That surprised me, because I thought he looked the best. I kept that to myself, though. She also bought him a ton of Converse, noting that he had a large collection before, but she threw them out. For Esme, she bought all of the footie-pajamas they had.
“She’s very into new trends,” Alice told me in line.
We stopped by a restaurant where I ate for the both of us. We talked a very long time about how she could treat people differently. It was mostly superficial, mostly clothes. I told her her family probably didn’t even mind that much. On the way home, Alice babbled on and on about how she would improve herself. She would start with this, the new clothes. She would attempt to mend her relationship with Rosalie by planting a garden by her window. I interrupted to suggesting placing climbing roses by her windows. She nodded vigorously. I told her I would bring her a rose plant. I would go to the fey world so the roses would be bigger, more beautiful, and much more tough then Earth roses, just like Rosalie herself. I had a feeling she rarely put up with someone unless she loved them, like Alice. After a while, she got quiet.
“What if I haven’t been treating Jasper right?”
“He loves you. I told you, everything you’ve been doing ‘wrong’ is mostly superficial. What I’ve seen of Jasper and what you’ve told me about him tells me that he’s not very materialistic. I’m sure he doesn’t care that much. Most of your family doesn’t, either, if not all of them. I just pointed it out because I never want to be forced into an awful velvet dress like the one you were trying to force me into. Don’t worry.”
“I think I need to have a talk with him, anyways. Better to make sure than to live life in worry.” For a moment, she closed her eyes, which was concerning because she was driving, then her eyes popped open. “It’ll go good,” she said with a small, sweet smile.
Maybe the little pixie that I was beginning to care for could see into the future.
When we got back to her house, I insisted I help carry some of the bags inside. The inside was beautiful, filled with light and openness. It reminded me more of a fairy forest than the home of a vampire.
Esme was there, Alice said, but she wasn’t up to meet new people. Edward had gone on a little vacation, Rosalie said.
Carlisle came to meet me. He had blonde hair, a strong jawbone, and was a good six inches taller than me. His eyes were golden, which made me wonder if they really drank human blood. “Hi, Bella. I see you and Alice had quiet the trip.”
Alice pulled out an armful of scarfs out of a bag. “I bought you some more scarfs, Carlisle.”
He laughed. “Oh, good. This will last me for another week or so.”
It seemed Alice had Carlisle’s fashion down pat.
Alice insisted on giving me several products, brushes, and various clips and ties for my hair. She smoothed it out from both car trips and promised that she would spend the night at my house and show me how to fix my hair. I graciously accepted.
Rosalie said she wanted to spend a few more hours looking at my “mess of machinery”, so Alice would take me home tonight and one of them would take me to school tomorrow.
“No thank you,” I declined. “You can keep my car and Alice can drive me tonight, but I’ll have Dad take me to school or something.”
Rosalie shrugged. The Cullens minus Esme and Edward all told me goodbye. When Alice dropped me off, she hugged me and thanked me for leading her to a new path.
I called my mom when I got to my room. She asked me about school and I told her some of the things that happened. Finally, she asked if I had made any friends.
I told her about Jessica, the overly talkative queen of gossip. I told her about Angela, the quiet girl who seemed to hide in plain sight and just liked to listen. I told her about Mike, the overeager blonde that told me to be brave. I told her about Eric, the boy who reminded me of a pixie. Then I told her about the other friends I had.
I told her about Alice, the girl I went shopping with. I told her about Rosalie, the girl who was going to check my truck for me. I told her about Emmett, the curly headed boy with a big body build and an even bigger smile. I told her about Jasper, the quiet blonde I felt at ease around.
I did not tell her about Edward, the somehow beautiful sickly monster who I was still a little scared of.
And I did not mention the fact that the Cullens were vampires. They were my friends now. That was enough.

Chapter Text

2.Open Book

The next day was better, marginally better.
It was better because when I woke up, it wasn’t raining yet, though the dense and opaque clouds taunted me. Although I knew the rain showed Forks power, I hated it. Forks was literally rained on by magic, which is why there’s so many Gates and they rarely close. However, the magic droplets turn into water before they hit anything. Knowing this, one would think I would enjoy the rain. I hated the patter against my face, though. I felt each drop and hated them all.
I started my day off by researching how to make a simple breakfast online. Then I made Dad breakfast. I noticed that all of the food was organic and non-GMO. I knew that that meant it was better for you. I also knew it was more expensive. I had a feeling my sensitivity to processed food was why he did this.
Dad came down with a grin on his face. I had made eggs and toast and coffee. He gobbled everything I didn’t eat. We talked for a bit before I told him about the Cullens.
“Dad, I think they’re vampires,” I said. “I didn’t tell Mama because if vampires were here, there would be all sorts of trouble. Council meetings, interviews with the humans and regular memory wipe, things like that. Mama’s fighting for goblin rights and hopefully, eventually, half-goblin rights. Titania is dealing with so much, too. They don’t need to deal with vampires.”
Dad rolled his eyes. “The Cullens…Jeez, okay. They’re a very fine family. I’ll look at some of the records here and in the area, but I don’t think we’ve ever had a blood-draining murder. I’ll check into it.”
“I think they drink blood from something else, though. Their eyes, at least Carlisle’s, are gold. They would be red if they drank human blood.”
“Hm. Well, we’ll both investigate. How are you getting to school? You want me to drive you?”
I grinned. “No. I’m running.”
Running was my passion. Cat goblins are about as fast as a car on the highway, but I have far more stamina. I think it has to do with being half human, but who knows?
“Okay. Don’t be killed by a vampire.”
We linked pinkies, something Daddy said was a confirmation of a promise. A “pinky promise”. I liked them.
I ran to school after he left. On the way, I picked off a lone deer. I ate most of it, seeings as I was very hungry. I left its legs in a tree, tying them in a way so that only I or a very talented human could get to them.
At school, I talked to Abe. He said he always got there early because he was sort of the head of the janitors. There were two others, Debby and Pedro. Debby handled the girls’ bathrooms so the girls could feel more comfortable, and most of the classrooms. Pedro handled almost all of the outdoor work, like keeping the plants and sidewalk clean. He was technically like the groundskeeper, but janitors had better insurance through the school and paid a little bit more.
Angela, the quiet girl in Biology class, was one of the first students at the school. I ran up to her, though slower than my usual running speed, and asked, “Hey, do you know how to braid hair? I normally leave it a mess, but this humidity makes it impossible.”
She gave me a timid smile and a breathy laugh. I couldn’t figure out what ethnicity she was. I would have to ask Daddy when the right time to ask is. In the fey world, you introduce yourself with what species you are right off the bat.
“Yes, I can braid your hair. It’s very thick. I like it.”
We found a proper place to sit. I took out a hairbrush Alice gave me and several hair ties. “Thank you. It’s like my dad’s, except straighter.”
Angela said, “Mhm,” then worked in silence, which I was okay with. When she was done, several more students had arrived and I had two French braids running down my back. I thanked her with a hug. Jessica pounced on Angela to tell her about some town gossip I didn’t understand, so I went to see Julie.
Classes were mostly the same. Mike or Eric(or both)would accompany me to class unless Jessica or Angela would shove them away. Now that people saw I wasn’t enticing as they had hoped, they mostly left me alone. At lunch, I sat at the same table I did yesterday with Mike, Eric, Jessica, and Angela. There were a couple people who were not categorized in the section of my brain of people with names I could remember, but all of them were shocked when Alice sat next to me.
“I thought Cullens don’t talk to people. What’s different about her?” a terrible girl who’s name I thought was Laura asked with the sneer in her voice apparent.
“Well, I remembered how it was to be the new person. Bella kind of broke me out of my shell, a little.”
Laura – or was it Lauren? – sneered again. I wondered if it was her default.
All of my friends adored Alice. I noticed when I looked back at her family that Rosalie didn’t have any makeup on and had her hair in pigtails, though she was still wearing Alice-clothes. Emmett was wearing what had to be the most lumberjack outfit ever. Jasper was wearing mostly the same thing he was yesterday besides a huge cowboy hat. I smiled a little. Good for Alice. Good for them.
On the way to my next class, I took Alice to the side. “Did I ruin everything with Edward?” I asked. For some reason, I wanted the sickly redheaded monster to like me.
Alice looked down at the floor. “Probably not. He’s…moody. He struggles with what – who he is. He’ll be back, I’m sure of it.”
To brighten her mood, I told her I would be going to pick up the roses tonight.
For the next couple of days, I kept looking for Edward to come out of the Cullen’s car. But he kept on defying me. It made me angry, so I decided that I would be angry when we met again. I kept on repeating it to myself.
Last night, Alice had come over as promised. I had the almost-budding roses ready to be planted after a quick after-school trip to the fey world. Because of the time difference, I had stayed for almost two days, but I let that detail get lost in the things I didn’t say. Alice and I went over to her house first to plant the roses.
Rosalie, Jasper, and Esme were gone. I had yet to meet the family “mother”. I had a feeling she was still very upset about Edward’s absence. I assumed they were going to hunt, which is why I told Daddy to be on high alert. Even a disappearance could mean they were preying on humans.
Alice dressed in one of Rosalie’s work clothes even though it was ridiculously large on her. She set to work with her gloved hands. I wanted to tell her that a shovel would have been easier, but she was enjoying this. I whispered to the roses that they should love Rosalie and only bloom for her. They nodded in the wind. They would thrive on the rain. Once the plants absorbed the water, it would turn back into magic, making the blooms twice as big as my palm.
Finally, we planted the roses. We left a couple minutes later after Alice grabbed some clothes.
Alice helped me cook dinner for Daddy. He was over the moon that Alice was my friend, but still a little worried about her being a vampire. He noticed when she declined the steak and potatoes, but I lied for her and said she ate after school because she was so hungry. The next night, I confined that it wasn’t true.
I was a little worried about the sleepover with Alice. Being in the fey world this afternoon had energized me. I knew I wouldn’t sleep for another three days at least. I hoped I could either convince Alice that I just never slept that much or became really good at fake sleeping all of a sudden.
Over dinner, Dad asked us how school was on my first and second day since I had spent the previous night with Alice. Together, Alice and I painted the picture of high school for my dad. I had made friends with Mike, Eric, Jessica, and Angela first. It was only when Edward had left after being sick and Alice had to cover for him that we met. Alice had left out huge chunks of the story after that, like her momentary guilt-fest about her family. We both explained why Rosalie had my truck. Dad grunted at that, then said, “It’s good to see girls interested in cars.”
Then we explained today, about how Alice had ate at lunch with me and how we planted Rosalie roses.
“Those the roses you got from your mom’s?” Dad asked.
“Yeah,” I said, feeling full for once. I had eaten the rest of the deer after school when Alice was preparing for our sleepover and then Mom had stuffed me while I was in the fey world. It was a good day. Or days. Whatever.
Dad turned to Alice. “So I know you’re dad pretty well. He helped me to get over her mom. And your mom always brings us muffins every Tuesday. Nice lady. Now, Rosalie is the blonde girl. Jasper is the other blonde, her twin, right?” When he saw both of our confirmations, he said, “And Emmett is the really big one, I know that. Edwin is that redhead, right?”
“Edward, Daddy.”
He raised an eyebrow at me. “You like him?”
I blushed. “No, you just said his name wrong. He’s the only one that hasn’t said but one word to me.”
“Well, Dr. Cullen did say he’s going to Alaska to see his old cancer doctor. I wouldn’t be talkative in his situation, either.” I was glad he picked up on the lie that Edward had cancer. Maybe that’s how he died, though.
We let the table fall silent. I wondered if Edward really was in Alaska. As much as I knew that he was a vampire capable of surviving any climate, I still worried about him. That frail body surely couldn’t stand the high winds of a blizzard. I wished Emmett or even Jasper was with him.
Finally, dinner was over and we watched a movie that Alice and Daddy had seen, but I hadn’t. It was called The Lion King. I immensely enjoyed seeing those big cats.
The next several hours were spent in my room. Alice taught me several ways to pull my long hair up. She wistfully stared at it more than once. I felt bad for her. I wanted to bring up her scars, but how do you ask that?
Alice didn’t say anything when I didn’t show a sign of falling asleep through the night. She helped me make breakfast for Dad.
“What time do you go to school?” she asked.
I laughed, braiding my hair quickly. “Now, usually. I like to talk to Abe.”
“Who?”
“One of the janitors.”
“Oh. Well, then, let’s go.”
Alice met Abe, but I could tell that she was awkward around him. Maybe she was just comfortable with me because I wasn’t fully human.
The rest of the week was uneventful. If Rosalie did talk to me, it was about my truck. Apparently, a lot of parts were welded together that didn’t need to be. She told me it would run for now, but as soon as all the parts came in, I would have to give it up for however long it took her to fix it.
“And no charge,” she said. “A thank you for the roses.”
Emmett would occasionally join Alice and I at my table. Jasper never did sit at lunch with me unless I sat at their table. I had a feeling he had the most problems controlling his lust for blood. I was still wondering why they weren’t attacking the whole school, or at least people around the area.
They were attacking animals. Daddy said there were no kidnappings, but for the past two years, several park rangers and private owners had reported mostly drained deer, bears, and mountain lions. It wasn’t enough to raise eyebrows. Most owners just thought that an animal had killed it and then got spooked by something bigger and the animal drained, hence the report in fear of a bigger predator.
Daddy worked during the weekend, too, so I spent a lot of time in the fey world. I reported some of the dynamics between teenagers and some things I had learned to my training school. I also bought some seeds to start a garden so Dad wouldn’t have to spend so much money on my food.
On Monday morning, several people greeted me while I waited for school to start. I recognized everyone if I didn’t know their name. It was cold, but it wasn’t raining, which meant actually sitting outside. I even talked to Pedro. In English, we had a quiz on Wuthering Heights. I hated the book, but still understood why other people liked it. I aced it.
It started snowing sometime during English. I liked it more than rain, but I still preferred the sun.
Mike was ecstatic. “We should have a snowball fight!”
“Ug, no. I don’t like this.”
“Why not?”
I tried to poke at a clump of snow floating down. “Aren’t they supposed to be like, flakes? These are globs of cotton.”
Before he could respond, I heard something rushing towards us. I ducked, but Mike got clobbered in the face with snow. I slowly made my retreat inside.
Jessica walked out of Spanish with me to lunch. We talked about how strange it was Alice wasn’t here and whether or not it was ethical to throw a snowball at an unsuspecting person. I was slowly warming up to the idea of a snowball fight, thinking of Jasper on my team competing against Rosalie and Alice with Emmett being a chaotic fighter, throwing snowballs at whoever he wanted. I was just about to call him over when I saw who was with him.
Oh, it’s Edward.
My stomach twisted. Maybe I was still scared of the sickly redheaded monster.
Edward, Emmett, and Jasper were laughing and shaking snow out of their hair. Alice and Rosalie were swatting Emmett away from them.
I wanted to join them. Or at least Alice and Emmett. But what about Edward? Did he even like me a little? Did he want to kill me?
“Bella, what are you staring at?” Jessica intruded, her eyes following my stare.
He looked up. I blushed and turned around. He had looked friendly, but maybe he was just putting on a show for his family. I gulped, wishing that I had told my mom about the whole thing and she knew exactly how to deal with a vampire that probably kills animals that doesn’t like you.
“Edward Cullen is staring at you,” Jessica giggled in my ear.
I buried my face in my hands. “He looks angry, doesn’t he?”
“No…should he be?”
“He hates me,” I moaned.
Jessica tore my face from my hands. “Look, Edward Cullen doesn’t like anyone. Or doesn’t pay enough attention to like someone. Used to, all the Cullens were like that, but you changed everything for them, okay? Just give it a little bit.”
Jessica tried to distract me by talking about how she almost punched a girl in her Biology class, but Mike interrupted us. He was planning an epic snowball fight in the parking lot. My mood was low, though, so the idea of a snowball fight was out of the question now. I would run home and leave my truck here.
Right before the bell rang, it started to rain, and hard. Great. Slush is worse than rain. Could my day get any more worse?
I wanted to cry as I went to Biology through the awful rain. I didn’t even mind Mike complaining. I was right there with him.
My desk was empty, so I hoped that he was not coming today. However, my heart filled with relief when I heard his chair slide back. I remembered that I was supposed to be angry with him because he wasn’t there when I wanted him to be. Class still hadn’t started. I could feel tension building up in my chest on the verge of-
“Hello,” said a quiet, musical voice, so unlike the voice that spit at me my first day.
I didn’t move for a second. My hair had provided a sheet in between us so he couldn’t see my stupid grinning face. I stayed still for a moment, putting on my angry face.
“Hi,” I said as angrily as I could.
“My name is Edward Cullen,” he continued. “I didn’t have a chance to introduce myself last week. You must be the Bella Swan that my siblings won’t shut up about.”
I smiled to myself a little about the last comment, but I was still confused by how Edward was acting. Had I made the whole thing up? I decided he was only being nice because I was friends with his siblings.
“They talk about me?” I asked, a little hopeful.
“Oh, nonstop. Thank you for the new wardrobe, by the way. Another day wearing designer jeans and too-crisp Oxfords and I would have gone insane,” he laughed. For a moment, I forget he was a sickly redheaded monster. His laugh was magical, enchanting.
I smiled a little, unable to help myself. “No problem.” I noticed he was dressed in not-designer jeans, a pair of brightly-colored Converse, a grey t-shirt, and a tan leather jacket. He looked good.
Mr. Banner started class before I could disect my own thoughts. I tried to listen to his instructions about the lab we were doing, but Emmett had visisted me with Alice last night and prepared me for this lab. I could do it in my sleep.
I was trying to understand why I had a little crush on someone who was obviously bipolar about me when Edward said, “Ladies first, partner?”
I looked up to see him smiling a crooked smile so beautiful that it totally interrupted my cross-examination on why I liked this sickly redhead. Ah. The lab must have started. “Yeah, sure, totally.”
I lowered my burning face to the microscope, pushing the slide into it’s place. Real smooth, Bella. Yeah, sure, totally. Could I have looked more like an idiot?
“Uh, prophase,” I said, already taking out the next slide.
“Do you mind if I look?” he asked, grabbing my hand that was holding the next slide. I shivered. His hands were colder than Alice’s! Still, it felt nice to get a break from the heat always coursing through my body. It was a second before I pulled away.
I shoved the microscope towards him, looking down at the table. Could I be any worse at talking to a boy?
“Prophase,” he agreed, writing it sloppily on the sheet next to him. I wondered how long he had been living and how, in all that time, he had not improved his handwriting.
He looked at the next slide. “Anaphase,” he muttered, scratching it down as he spoke.
I got my voice. “May I?”
He smirked and pushed the microscope towards me.
To my disappointment, he was right. Maybe he was forced to move from city to city, always in high school. He probably hated this lab. I wondered if he had ever gone to college.
“Slide three?” I held out my hand without looking at him. I would be going to the fey world today to get every book on vampires I could.
He handed it to me without touching me. I wanted to say that he could touch my burning skin, already too hot because of my half-goblin status, but I did not. It seemed like one of the things Dad would call creepy.
I barely looked at it in the hope I would come off as smart. “Interphase.” I passed him the microscope before he could ask for it. He took a peak, then, before he could ruin the page anymore, I stole the paper from him.
“How could you have survived with this handwriting?” I muttered, writing Interphase in a neat script that was required at my training school.
He rolled his eyes which were now golden. “Yeah, like anyone likes it when you have a perfect font belonging on printed paper.”
I glared at him. It was easy to be angry at him. “I’ll have you know, Edward Cullen, that I happen to take pride in my handwriting.”
Mr. Banner came to our table then, to see why we weren’t working. He looked over my shoulder to glance at the completed labs, then stared more intently to check the answers. I felt his breath on my cheek. I fought the urge to break his jaw and have Edward drain him dry.
“Isabella, have you done this lab before?” Mr. Banner asked. It was a funny thing to say, because Edward wrote down most of the answers. I only wrote down one.
“No. Emmett Cullen helped me study,” I said, leaning away from his breath. He straightened up, as if remembering where he was.
“Emmett Cullen…he’s a great science student, although he has a lack of motivation. Very lazy.”
Edward and I both raised an eyebrow at him. Suddenly, we were joined by Emmett.
“I’ll have you know that my brother spends his free time studying many more sciences than biology. His room is filled with textbooks. He’s not lazy, you just never gave him something hard enough to do.”
“Furthermore,” I continued, “He knew far more than the book taught, making me understand much better than you ever have because he cares about what he was talking about. So I would appreciate it if you backed off my friend.”
“Demerits, for both of you,” Mr. Banner said.
“Then we’re both reporting you to the school and the police for violating the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which states that a teacher may not disclose scores or performance with other students,” I said, surprising myself. I knew I had to learn several rules and rights before moving to the human world, but I didn’t think I paid that much attention.
Mr. Banner glared at me, then stalked off.
Edward looked at me, surprised. “Wow. You told a teacher off.”
I didn’t care about how Edward thought of me now. “He shouldn’t talk about other students like that, especially not to other students. Besides, Emmett knows a lot more about science than he does. He shouldn’t call Emmett lazy when he can’t bring himself to even read more than the book and assign the suggested assignments.”
“You’re very passionate about Emmett.” It wasn’t a question.
“About all of them! People make fun of Alice for caring too much about fashion, Rosalie for taking an interest in my truck, Jasper for being quiet, Emmett for being a jock and ‘lazy’. I hate it!”
“It must be difficult for you to face people who don’t understand,” he mused.
“You have no idea,” I muttered darkly.
He looked fascinated by what I said, for some reason I couldn’t imagine. His face was so distracting that I was forgetting what I got so worked up about.
“Why did you choose my family?”
No one had asked me that – not even his family, who was as confused as him.
“I had the feeling Rosalie was going to choke Alice if someone didn’t ease the tension.”
Edward laughed easily. “Yes, there’s tension after…so long.” He waited a beat, then said. “Why did you come here?”
“It’s…complicated.”
“I think I can keep up,” he pressed.
I met his gaze, which was a mistake. His dark golden eyes hypnotized me, and I answered without thinking.
“My mother got a new job.”
“That doesn’t sound as complex as I would have figured. She’s stressed?”
I shook my head. “Not really. She’s a perfect fit for the job, and I still get to stay in contact with her a lot.”
“Why didn’t you stay?” Edward asked, staring intensely.
I couldn’t fathom his interest, but he continued to stare at me with penetrating eyes, as if my story was somehow vitally important to his existence. Maybe it was. Maybe vampires didn’t feed on blood. Maybe they fed on emotions.
I sighed. How to put this without revealing too much? “My mom has a very important job. Some of the people there don’t like that she had me,” I explained.
“You mean she wasn’t married?”
I nodded, even though it wasn’t true. Almost no one else on the Council liked half goblins. My mother was hated for having a half daughter. The only reason she was still there was because Titania was partial to her. Titania had had a half daughter, too. Still, I removed myself from the fey world in order to get her a better liking among the Council of Goblins. I used the training school’s Earth program as a plausible reason.
“Isn’t that a bit…outdated?” Edward asked.
I smiled tightly. “Not with the people my mom works with.”
His eyebrows knit together. “I don’t understand. Why didn’t your mom just lie about it? It’s not like they could pull the records. It’s unethical.”
I sighed. How was I going to explain this to him without revealing anything suspicious?
“They knew my mom when I was born.” This was an outright lie. Besides Targin, the old head of the cat clan and my grandfather, no one else that had worked with the Queen knew my mom when I was born. However, I couldn’t outright say that you could see how I was different and why they would hate me because of it.
I could tell he wanted me to say more, so I said something truthful. “I stayed with her for a bit, but I could see how the people at work were treating her. It made her job that much harder, and she’s working towards a good cause…a cause that could help me in the future. So I decided to come here with my dad. I’m even getting credit at my old school for projects I’m working on here. Because of the, um, plants and stuff here.”
“That doesn’t seem fair. You should be able to stay with your mom,” he pointed out.
I laughed without humor. “Hasn’t anyone ever told you? Life isn’t fair.”
“I believe I have heard that somewhere before,” he agreed dryly. He was frowning, probably wondering why on Earth the people my mother works with are so prejudiced.
“So that’s all,” I insisted, wondering why he even cared.
His gaze became appraising. “You put on a good show,” he said slowly. “But I’d be willing to bet that you’re suffering more than you let anyone see.” The way he said it implied that he wanted me to show him, which was weird. I thought he hated me.
“Am I wrong?”
I frowned, staring at the chalkboard ahead.
He placed his cold hand on my arm. “I’m sorry, Bella. I wish I could help.”
“Why does it matter to you?” I asked, irritated. He moved his hand back to the table, folding his hands neatly. I kept my eyes away, watching Mr. Banner in case he was getting to close to any other students.
“That’s a very good question,” he muttered so quietly that I wondered if he was talking to himself. He must have been, because a normal human couldn’t have heard it. After a few seconds of silence, I decided that was the only answer I was going to get.
I sighed, scowling at Mr. Banner’s turned head.
“Am I annoying you?” The sickly redhead sounded amused.
I glanced at him without thinking and told the truth. “Not exactly. I’m more annoyed at myself for being what I am. It makes it that much harder for my parents.”
“On the contrary, I’ve…spoken to your father. You filled his life with joy, Bella.”
I rolled my eyes. “You must be a good reader, then. I mean, I know my dad puts on a good face for me, but I don’t think I’ve filled his life with joy. He’s still tired from his job. He’s still missing my mom. I don’t think I changed much.”
Edward waited a moment before he spoke. “Bella, I am a very good reader. Trust me, you changed your dad’s life completely. I know he would hold the sky up like Atlas for you. He loves you a lot.”
It took a moment, but finally, I said, “What story do you read on me?”
He frowned, his eyebrows knit together again. “I can’t read you.”
Mr. Banner called the class to order then, and I turned to listen with some relief. Edward had asked too many questions that hurt. Questions about who I was, what made me come here, why I chose his family. I was kind of angry at the bizarre, beautiful redhead who may or may not despise me. He’d seemed engrossed by our conversation, but I could see that he was leaning as far away as he could, gripping the table so hard that little pieces of wood too small for the human eye to see were flying off. He moved his hand slightly. Good. He was laying out his destruction evenly. I knew then that he was doing this for his family, my friends.
I tried to pay attention to Mr. Banner’s presentation, but my mind kept drifting back to our conversation where I had let out more than I had even let myself think about for the past week.
When the bell finally rang, Edward left swiftly and graciously. Either he was terrible at pretending to be a vampire or I was very attentive. It was probably a little of both.
Mike skipped to my side and picked up my books for me. I briefly wondered if he had any dog clan in him. He seemed similar enough to a puppy.
“That was awful,” he groaned. “They all looked exactly the same. You’re lucky you had Cullen as a partner.”
“Actually, Emmett helped me study last night, too.”
Mike nodded. “I wish Emmett was in our grade. Cullen seemed friendly enough today,” he commented. He didn’t seemed overjoyed at the latter statement.
“I wonder what was with him Monday,” I said, trying to sound indifferent. My mind was too clouded with the fey world and their prejudices that it came out sounding like I was torn over Edward on Monday. Which I was, a little. Mike let it go, though, for which I was grateful.
Mike was on my team in volleyball today. I had excellent aim, which I usually used to put in the opposite direction of what it was supposed to. This is why Mike basically did all the work for me. I stood back and let my team pick up the slack.
The rain was just a mist as I walked to the parking lot after Gym. I was much happier when I got in the dry truck. I got the heat running. I fluffed my damp hair out so the heat would attempt to dry it on the way home. I doubted it would, though.
I looked around me to make sure it was clear. That’s when I noticed the dark redheaded pale figure in front of the shiny car. Edward. I swiftly looked away and threw the truck in reverse, almost hitting a rusty grey car behind me. Lucky for the grey car, the truck died.
I immediately started to cry. My truck! The Thing! Rosalie was knocking on my window in the next instant.
“Bella, it’s all right. I’ll fix it,” she said. After a minute, I calmed down enough to climb out of the truck.
“Are you sure you can fix it?” I asked.
She nodded. “Even if I have to reconstruct the thing.”
“It’s called The Thing. With a capital T.”
She nodded seriously. “Of course. The Thing.”
I sniffled and followed her to the shiny car. Edward lifted an eyebrow. “We’re taking her to her house?”
Rosalie glared at him. “No, we’re going to go get a tow truck while Jasper waits here. Then we’re taking her to the house so she can see The Thing is in good care.”
Jasper ruffled my hair as he went to go sit with The Thing. “Rosalie will take good care of it, Bella. Don’t worry.”
I nodded, climbing in the passenger seat. I expected Alice to sit beside me like she always does, but Edward climbed in.
“Why are you driving?” I asked.
He looked a little shocked. “It is my car, Bella.”
“Oh. Rosalie has a cooler car.”
Edward rolled his eyes while Rosalie snickered. He cranked the car and turned on the radio. Even I knew it was the old people station. I kept quiet, though.
Emmett didn’t, though. “Ed, this is old music. Please put on my music.”
Edward glared at Emmett. “I don’t like your music and this is my car.”
While he was saying that, I switched to a different station. I leaned back as the four siblings argued over whether I had rights to do so. Emmett won, claiming since I was friends with everyone else except Edward and he was merely the driver, they could give me the rights to pick what music I wanted. It was a stupid case, but I think Edward just let it drop.
“Do you like this music?” Edward asked.
I shrugged, listening to the music I recognized from my training school as pop. “Not really.”
“What do you like?”
I closed my eyes. “Here? Probably punk, a little classical, some jazz, none of the awful Beatles-”
Edward scoffed. “The Beatles were great, Bella.”
Rosalie and Alice agreed, while Emmett claimed the best singer of the last century was Celine Dion. I didn’t know who she was or any of the nonsense they were talking about after that. I only listened to them, watching their faces, so animated and passionate. I would be so upset if I had to kill them because they killed humans.
Rosalie and I drove the tow truck back to the school where two people I knew were waiting for me: Jasper and Eva.
They were both at the truck, glaring at each other. As soon as I opened the door, Jasper yelled, “Do you know her?”
“Yes, I do,” I said, running up to Eva. She was half undine. Undine are female spirits that inhabit and control the water and have no soul. She was the only half undine known to ever exist. Undine were not known to procreate with any other species or, if they did, they drowned themselves. They were, however, partial to marrying humans before the split because they could share souls with the men. There were no recordings of children produced with these marriages, mostly because they drowned the men as soon as they married them.
Eva had a very slight light blue tint to her skin and dark blue eyes. Her hair was so black it was almost purple. Besides her very fluid movements, she was very easy to pass as a human. She told humans who asked about her gracious movements that she was a dancer.
“Is anything wrong?” I asked her. She was my best friend, the only other half-fey in our training school. She rarely came into the human world, though, because of her ability to control water. It was second nature to her and she had a very hard time controlling it.
“No,” she said, glancing at Jasper and Rosalie, who were hooking the truck on the tow truck. “But it would be best if you let me take you home.”
I nodded, then turned to Jasper and Rosalie, who were already done. “Hey, Eva offered to take me home. She’s a really good friend of mine. Send my wishes to the rest of the family.”
They nodded silently. The Hale twins were definitely not the ones to talk much.
Eva took me to her car. I actually knew this car because she had bought it with her own money and it had been all she talked about for months. It was a midnight blue Enzo Ferrari. She loved it and I suspected that she only came to the human world to drive it places.
As soon as we had left the school far behind, she asked, “Vampires?”
“Yeah. Their eyes aren’t red.”
She nodded. “Probably animal drinkers. Listen, don’t go back to the fey world unless you absolutely have to. It’s a mess. The Sands of Time are all messed up because that stupid Fairy King Titania married is trying to control it. Titania also said that we have to have special requests to use Gates in case the individual Gates start messing up and being out of proportion.”
“You got special permission?” I asked.
She smirked. “No. It takes weeks to get them.”
My face fell. Weeks. “How long has it been on that side?” I asked. I hadn’t kept track of the time differences because it was much harder on this side.
“A couple months. It’s speeding, though, because Oberon is blocking the Sands of Time, trying and succeeding a little to use its power. It messes up the time difference, though. By the time I get back after dinner with you and Charlie, it’ll be at least a week. In some places, though, it’s different because the Sands of Time aren’t flowing like they’re supposed to.”
“Why did you come to tell me?” I asked. “You don’t care about me.”
“I know. I want you to stay alive because if you don’t, your mother will either have to produce another heir to be the next head of the cat clan or there’s going to be a war within the cat clan, which can’t happen now. There’s too much drama picking sides.”
“What side did Mama take?”
“Titania’s, of course.”
“And most everyone else?”
She sighed. “A lot of people say to Titania’s face that she’s the one that they support, but a lot of people are siding with the Fairy King Oberon, who says that we should channel the power of the Sands of Time to close all Gates and remove ourselves from the human world.”
Excellent. Titania would love that.
When we got home, Dad greeted Eva with a hug. “It’s good to see you, darlin’. What brought you our way?”
“There’s basically a war going on and Bella needs to stay here,” Eva said. “Is that fish cooking?”
My dad took the news terribly. He still cared for my mother, a lot. He asked a stream of questions about her all while Eva waited for him to finish. Finally, she said, “I haven’t been in contact with Renée. All I know is she’s in a ton of meetings with the Councils. Now, let’s eat that fish.”
Eva was a calming presence. Her lack of strong emotions made our hysteria recede if only for a little bit. We ate fish while she told some war stories. It was mostly about how she’s been hanging low because of her status as a half-fey. However, she did have some interesting stories about her fight to get through a Gate and how she had to travel from Russia to here to get to me.
Too soon, she had to go. She gave me a hug and kissed me on both cheeks. “Don’t worry. Within a couple of days I’ll come back if your mom doesn’t first. I might be a couple years older, though. Don’t worry. You’ll always have me beat in looks no matter how old we both get.” She was trying to make me laugh because she was forever frozen at this state while I was going to get older unless a spell was cast or immortality was given.
I smiled. “Thanks, Eva. I love you.” I really meant it this time instead of the usual joke. I think she knew this, because she hugged me again and whispered, “You’re my friend.”
Undine never had friends.
She left through a Gate close enough to the house but not the one that lead to my mom’s cave. I wanted to go with her, but I knew that it was important that I stay here. As much as I wanted to be with my mom and Eva, I knew that if I died there there would be a war between my clan. When my mom died, my clan had no choice but to accept me as their new leader. I had to stay alive for the people that despised me because I would one day lead them.
I went back to the house. Dad had already gone to sleep. Even though I knew he said it was creepy, I crouched on top of his dresser and watched over him as he slept.

Chapter Text

3.Phenomenon

I didn’t sleep, but when Dad was about to wake up, I went to my room to change. I groaned in horror when I looked out the window.
A fine layer of snow covered the yard, dusted the top of Daddy’s car, at whitened the road. But that wasn’t the worst part. All the rain from yesterday had frozen solid. I couldn’t run today. I would have to either have to go through the trees or have Daddy drive me. Or…
I called Rosalie. She picked up on the first ring. “Yes, Bella?”
“Can you or someone pick me up and take me to school since you have my truck?”
She stayed silent for a moment, then said, “I guess Emmett could pick you up.”
“Thanks. Will you have him get my bag from the truck?”
“Sure. Bye.”
“Bye, Rosalie.”
So I got that out of the way. I waited for Dad to get out of bed, but he never did. I checked the calendar and sure enough, he had the day off. Lucky.
I waited for far longer than I normally did. Finally, I was ready to go through the trees. I climbed the closest one. Right as I was about to hop to the next one, I heard Emmett drive.
I dropped forty feet. He was in a Jeep, much higher than my truck. He was about to get up to help me when I jumped in. He was surprised, but just handed me my bag.
“You okay, Bella?” he asked.
“No.” I provided no further explanation.
We were silent for the rest of the trip. When we got to the school, he parked across from Edward’s car. Emmett didn’t say anything for a while, but finally said, “Don’t be late.”
I put my head in my hands after he left. I let a few tears roll down my cheeks. My people, possibly under attack, angry at each other, all against my mom. I didn’t even know how many lives she had left. Cat goblins had nine lives, the most of any goblin. Some only had two, but never one. That was for humans.
A witch told my mother not to worry. I had ten.
I finally told myself to get out of the car. When I did, I saw a flash of blue, then a flash of white as I was pushed down.
The weight in my heart had stripped me of my inhuman senses.
Edward Cullen stood above me. A dent in the shape of his shoulder was in the van in front of me. He had stopped the van from crushing me. I guess he didn’t hate me.
“Bella, are you all right?’
“I’m physically fine,” I said with a strange voice. It sounded like I was still crying. I realized I was. I tried to sit up, and realized he was holding me against the side of his body in his vampire grasp.
“Be careful,” he said softly. “I think you hit your head pretty hard.”
I had, but it had already healed. As the shock of what happened left me, my senses became clear again. I realized that Edward Cullen was on top of me, holding me close to him. I couldn’t care less. I wanted my mom.
Facts. “How did you get here so fast?”
“I was standing right next to you, Bella.”
That was a lie. I glared at him. “I meant I didn’t see you at your car. How fast are you?”
He frowned. “Bella, you must have hit your head very hard.”
I sat up, and this time he let me. He leaned far away from me. Interesting. He could hold me very close when my safety was involved, but as soon as I was okay, he wanted far away from me. I leaned against Emmett’s Jeep and closed my eyes. “I don’t care, Edward,” I said, not caring the tears were flowing again. “Just don’t kill me, okay?”
Very softly, he said, “Not you, Bella. I promise. Never you.”
There was a flurry of people around us trying to get the boy in the van out. I believe his name is Tyler. He’s in my Government class and he seems pushy. I generally avoid him. I didn’t try to get up. I was going to stay here until someone told me I had to move.
Edward laid a hand on my arm the way he did in Biology. “Just stay put for now, Bella. You’ll be out soon.”
I nodded. I knew that my situation wouldn’t change when I got out of the car sandwich – I would still be very anxious and very depressed about the possibility of my mother and best friend dying and having to become the head of my clan – but at least I would be able to breathe a little better.
“What’s wrong, Bella?” he asked. I opened my eyes and looked into his golden ones.
“The truth?” I asked, not really wanting to share it.
He licked his lips. “You can tell me the lie if you want to.”
I gave him a very tight lipped smile. “My mother and a friend of mine have caught a very deadly disease that may or may not kill them. I may not know for several days if they’re okay. I’m very worried for their safety, but also my own. I’ll have to take over my mom’s job if she dies. And you know how the people there feel about me.”
“I have a feeling you’re telling me a half-truth,” Edward sighed. “Which I think is worse than a lie. I’m trying to pick out what’s truth and what’s not, and it’s maddening.”
“You want an actual lie? My boyfriend broke up with me.”
Edward’s eyes widened. “You have a boyfriend? You better tell Mike and all of them. They’ll be very upset.”
Edward Cullen made me laugh, really laugh. I wiped away the sad tears.
“I don’t have a boyfriend, Edward. That was a part of the lie.”
“Oh.” He was laughing, too, when the van finally was moved. It had taken eight people: six people in bright medical clothes and two teachers. The stretchers were brought in. Edward vehemently refused his. I tried to do the same, but as soon as the meds saw my streaming tears and smile, they assumed I was deep in shock. The sickly redheaded traitor told them I had hit my head very hard and probably had a concussion. I almost growled and snapped at the meds when they put on the neck brace. Half the school was there seeing me jump through emotions. The depression about the future and my mother, the happiness I got from talking to Edward, the pure hatred and anger I had for the meds for putting that scratchy neck brace on. Some were somber, but a couple were laughing. I don’t think they were actually enjoying this. They just didn’t know what else to do. They had probably never seen someone like Tyler get hurt like that. They probably never saw someone like me get a little crazy. It was normal for a human to be uneasy when they saw someone that looked human not act human.
Edward rode in the front. I wanted so badly to be up front with him. I realized in the tiny medical transport that I was very claustrophobic. The meds tried to take my vitals, but when they tried to put the light to my eyes, I slapped it away.
“The light hurts my eyes,” I explained softly. “I will let Dr. Cullen do that. Only him.” I trusted him to be able to keep the secret of my cat pupils.
“Bella-”
“I said NO!” I yelled, pushing them both away.
Edward turned around and pushed his arm through the little window. “Bella, it’s okay. We’re almost there. Look at me. It’s okay.”
I grabbed his hand and squeezed his hand. I refused to even blink, trusting in the monster’s eyes. He was my best friend here. Even if he did hate me a little.
We slowed and Edward cooed, “We’re pulling into the hospital. Carlisle may have to get Tyler into surgery, but he’ll check you as soon as he can.”
I said something that shocked myself a little. “Edward, don’t leave me.”
“I won’t. I promise.”
The meds took my stretcher out and pushed it into the emergency room. I actually did hiss softly. Why on Earth did they have to have such bright lights? I squeezed my eyes shut and put my hands over my face. I started to sob. It was only until a second later when I felt Edward’s hand touching mine that I calmed down a bit. They put me in a bed. A nurse tried to take my blood pressure, but I jumped back, burying myself in Edward’s chest. He was frozen.
“I’ll take her blood pressure, Joanne,” he said. “She’s a little freaked out. Please tell Carlisle to come here as soon as he’s finished with Tyler.”
Joanne didn’t look happy about it, but left anyways. I looked longingly at the curtains made for privacy but would probably block out some of the light. As if reading my mind, Edward hopped up and closed them.
“I volunteer here on weekends, so don’t worry. I can do all the things she was going to do. I won’t hurt you, Bella,” he said. He got the black strip used to take my blood pressure. I nodded once. He wrapped the scratchy black material around me.
“This is going to tighten a good bit. Just let it, okay? If you ever get too freaked about it, just tell me, okay?”
“Can I hold your hand?”
He let a moment slither by before giving me his hand. “Just remember to slow down your breathing. In and out.”
“In and out,” I repeated.
The machine started and I instantly winced and squeezed Edward’s hand. He cooed sweet nothings and instructions for breathing in my ear. Finally, the machine released me.
“You did so good, Bella. Now I’m going to take your temperature,” Edward said, lowering my jaw. “Lift up your tongue and now close your mouth.”
I waited until the machine beeped, then spit it out. It tastes like metal and soap. Gross. I took off the neck brace, too. Edward said nothing, just filled things out in my chart.
“Who was your doctor before you moved here?” Edward finally asked. He was still close, close enough for me to hold his jacket like a float in the ocean. He didn’t mention my death grip on his jacket.
“I don’t know,” I said honestly. Besides my birth, I had never gone to the doctor. There was no need. Goblins healed rather fast and could only be killed by a couple things, including drowning, a killing spell that generally killed the caster instead of the target, a knife made of true silver like the one I had, or touching an Elder in its true form. Considering the only person around anymore that could successfully use a killing spell was the person I was promised to marry, I was good there. True silver was the most rare substance in the world and it wouldn’t be used on a lowly half-fey. And there were no more Elders around. As far as drowning, that’s why I avoided deep vessels of water. I wondered about vampire venom. Maybe that’s why they were avoided. As soon as I was allowed back home, I was looking at ALL the books about vampires.
Finally, the sheet between Edward and me and the rest of the world opened. Carlisle was there. He was paler than before and looked far more tired. It must be very tiring, having a human brain and living for so long.
“Hello, Bella. The nurses say you’re giving them quiet some trouble. Would you like to explain why?” He was being playful, I knew, but I really didn’t want to do what he was probably going to ask. X-rays and maybe whatever an MRI was.
“Bright lights hurt my eyes. Loud noises hurt my ears, too. I will hurt someone if you put me in an MRI.”
Dr. Cullen stood close by my bed. I was still grasping Edward’s hand.
“Well, let’s first see about those eyes. This light needs batteries, so it’s not as strong. It’s the best I can give you.” He glanced at Edward and our hands. He added, “You can hold Edward’s hand, if you like.”
I nodded, then braced myself as Carlisle turned on his little light.
It wasn’t as bad as the light in that tiny space, but my eyes still sprung with tears and probably would have cut off Edward’s circulation if he had one.
“That’s…different,” Carlisle muttered. He muttered to himself while doing a couple other things: checking my breathing, listening to my heart, checking my reaction time. When he was done, he left without saying anything.
“Let’s get you home,” Edward said, leading me out the too-bright room.
Once we were outside, I said, “Edward, wait. I have something to tell you.”
“Yes?” he said, turning to me. He was beautiful and I didn’t want to leave him.
I took a deep breath, making sure no one was around. “Look, I know that you aren’t human. And you scare me sometimes. But you saved me not only from that van, but also from a depression that was sure to drown me. You saved my life and my soul. For that, I will never, ever try to hurt you or your family. To the best of my abilities, your family will be safe. That includes not reporting them to people stronger than you. Thank you, Edward.”
He froze for a moment, then his eyes hardened.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Bella.” He let go of my hand. “Just let go of whatever conception you have about me and my family.”
I glared at him. He was gorgeous angry. All of the sickness seemed to melt away and he looked…powerful. “I’ll think about it.”
He sneered and said, “I’m sure I’ll see you soon. Alice have another sweet little shopping trip planned?”
“I’m sure you would know better than me.”
Daddy pulled up then. “Hey Edward. Bella, time to go home.”
Before I got in the car, I spit, “Why did you even bother, Edward?”
He paused, and for a brief moment his stunning face was unexpectedly vulnerable.
“I don’t know, Bella,” he said, shutting my door for me. “Just go, okay?”
Dad drove off with a huff. “What stick is up his butt?” he asked.
“I kind of admitted I knew he was a vampire,” I confessed.
He rolled his eyes. “We have got to work on your tact, Bella. Jeez.”He gave me a little smile and I offered him one.
That was the first night I creeped on Edward Cullen.

 

It was very dark. The only light in the forest was radiating from the Cullens’ house. I couldn’t see Edward’s face because he faced away from the south wall made entirely of glass. Each of the Cullens were placed far apart from each other, but I didn’t doubt that they could hear their soft voices, just like I could hundreds of yards away. This feat may have been the result of taking a potion to enhance my abilities even more, but it was okay. It would wear off after a couple of days. Until then I would stay at home, feigning my head trauma to anyone who asked.
“All of you know about the situation,” Carlisle said, putting his arm around Esme. Although I could not completely see her face as it was hidden by her curls, I knew she was beautiful. She held herself with the grace of someone who had been through hell and back and was still able to smile.
“To recap, though, for those of you who do not know everything,” Carlisle continued, looking at Alice, Emmett, and Rosalie, “Bella Swan is a variable we did not see coming. You all have accepted her into our lives without even questioning me. I thought it might be some phase, being more open with yourselves. I have made friends at the hospital from time to time. However, she told Edward today that she knew we are not human. Now, I’m not blaming anyone, but we must distance ourselves. She claimed that she will not tell anyone as a thanks to Edward for saving her, but we must learn to trust no one but ourselves.
“Also be aware that she is not fully human herself. I checked up on her after the van incident. She has pupils similar to cats and her reflexes are faster than ours. She is not as strong as us, but we don’t know what else she can do. She is sensitive to bright lights. Her blood pressure and temperature are unusually high. Edward cannot read her mind, Jasper cannot feel her emotions, and Alice cannot see her future. Be aware of her, but do not, and I repeat, do not make contact with her again.”
“But Carlisle,” Esme pleaded, “Bella makes Edward happy. Can the children at least not talk to her?” I wondered when she was turned. Now that I saw her face, I saw she looked to be in her mid-forties, but acted much older. She looked good with Carlisle, the thirty-year-old Greek god. A muse, perhaps.
Carlisle set his jaw. “I said no. If you have any problems with what I said, leave. I do this to protect us.”
My sub-clan is the panther, known as a mountain lion here. The female mountain lion has a vocal ability that mimics a screaming woman or child. The mountain lion screams as a mating call. That is not what the goblins use their impressive vocals for.
It was for the deepest of emotions, usually on the bad end of the spectrum. I knew what this one was. Despair. My mother. Eva. Now the Cullens. Now Edward. All of them out of my life as far as I knew.
I screamed, sobs already wracking my body. Edward glanced up. He stared into my eyes.
“A mountain lion calling for her mate,” he mumbled to no one in particular. I ran as far as I could. I didn’t care where I was going, as long as I didn’t stop.

Chapter Text

4.Invitations

 

I was stopped, though. I was stopped by Colter.
“Hey Kitten,” he cooed. “Hey, shhhhh. Let’s get you home.”
I sobbed, having no energy left to scream. Colter was the man I was to marry when my mother died. He must be coming to get me. I cried harder. I wasn’t ready yet.
“I’m not here to bring you back to the fey world,” Colter whispered, brushing my hair out of my face. His blue eyes with the slit pupils like mine were filled with tears. “Your mother isn’t that frail. I heard your cry. I came to bring you back to your father. He said you might be upset.”
I let him pick me up. He walked with a solid rhythm. As much as I hated the concept of him – an immortal that refused to marry until he saw me – I knew he really did care for me. Black hair fell in his eyes. His skin showed no wrinkles. He looked at most nineteen. He was a warlock. Magic flowed through his veins and showed in his smile.
He was my people’s savior. When he saw me at fourteen years of age, he promised my clan that if he married me, he would be able to reverse my infertility and I would have an heir to the head of the cat clan. It was the best decision for my clan. I agreed without much thought.
People had called me Juliet at school because of my age and my willingness to give up my life.
However, I had to admit that Colter cared for me. He had never hid that. Once, when we were forced to attend some dance together, he admitted his real plan. “If I marry you, I can finally let go of my immortality. I’ll be able to use the magic to undo your infertility you half-fey are known for. I’ll die before we can even get to the honeymoon location and you’ll be able to marry whomever you wish. That’s the least I can do for you and my clan.”
Years later, when I was sixteen, he finished his thought. I could tell it was difficult for him to admit this. “Once you get as old as I am, you loose most feelings,” he said. “Perhaps if I had married and passed on my immortality to my children like it was supposed to be, then it would have been different. I care for you, though, because you remind me of my sister. But she’s long gone. I would like to return to her.” He didn’t say anything more for a very long time.
Now it was my time to be silent. I think he understood why. Maybe, long ago, he was heartbroken, too. Maybe, just maybe, he had built a wall like I did. Now he was forced to remember that pain.

Colter made me mouse soup that night. Daddy did not like the smell it produced in his kitchen, but it felt so sentimental and so like home that he didn’t say much. I think Colter also mixed in the antidote for the sense-enhancing potion because once I began eating, the world became softer.
Daddy, who really shouldn’t have been up at midnight, asked Colter, “Shouldn’t you be helping the war effort? I know you’re very powerful.”
Colter smiled a little. “I get most of my power from the Sands of Time. I’m sort of useless as of right now for most people. I think I’ll stay here, if you don’t mind.”
Dad shrugged. “Why not? You’re going to marry my daughter anyways. Just don’t sleep with her.”
“I don’t sleep anymore,” Colter said informatively.
I smirked. “That’s not what he meant, Colter. He means have sex with me.”
Daddy blushed as Colter stammered, “Um, yeah, I don’t think of Bella, uh, like that. She’s, um, pretty, but not my type, you know? It’s a political, uh, marriage. Trust me.”
Daddy rolled his eyes. “Just don’t keep making this gross soup. Try steak tomorrow.”
He finally went upstairs. Colter sat down at the table, still embarrassed. “So your mom is still fine. But a lot of the Gates are messed up. It’s pretty dangerous for a lot of people. Some have died. The Gates that lead to other parts of the world are okay, but still. Titania has stopped Gate passage entirely.”
“And you’re the only exception?” I asked after swallowing the last bit of soup.
He smiled and I wondered what would happen when he did die. I would miss the man I was promised to. He had became like a brother to me. A brother that, as soon as we said I do, would die in my arms as my infertility was reversed.
“She has learned not to say no to me. She learned that a long time ago. Now tell me about everything. Why were you crying?”
I told him about everything. I knew he, Eva, and Daddy were the only people I could trust with the information of the Cullens species status. I would have told Momma, but she would be compelled to tell the Council whether she was for them or against them. The Council generally doesn’t care about the non-magical fey on Earth, but they would kill any unwanted fey near Forks, the magical capital of the world. In history, we learned that Titania and her fairy army almost destroyed the entire fey world to secure her position in the fey world counterpart of Forks.
I wondered what Titania would do now that her precious Gates were being destroyed by her husband. Probably kill him, at least. I wondered why Oberon was doing this. It didn’t matter. Titania would destroy him soon. I just hoped Eva and my mother stayed safe in the process.
Eventually, I wandered upstairs. The next couple of days would be excruciating.
Rosalie brought my truck back. However, it wouldn’t even crank. I cursed, but tried to keep my emotions in check. The last time I cranked it, I leaned my head back and whispered the numbers one through ten in every language I knew. Five minutes later, I stopped counting and fell asleep curled up in the dead truck.
Tyler Crowley was impossible. Along with the entire school – excluding the Cullens – he followed me around in every possible moment he could. He was worse than Mike, which is saying a lot. He offered to make up almost killing me by taking me out on a date. I declined as calmly as I could. I thought about putting in a restraining order.
The Cullens were ignoring me. Edward was by far the worst. The only Cullen family member to notice me was Jasper. I had heard Carlisle say that he couldn’t feel my emotions, but as much as I tried to hide it, Jasper was probably a very good reader of emotions. He would occasionally wave and give a small smile. I would return it.
When Edward sat next to me in class, he seemed totally unaware of my existence, he seemed totally unaware of my existence. Only occasionally, very occasionally, when his fists would suddenly ball up when my heart rate increased did I wonder if he was considering killing me. I didn’t usually, though. He had kept many of my secrets.
The day after the car accident, in the middle of class, I whispered in a very soft voice. “I know you saw me,” I murmured. “It seems I will never stop living in your thanks.”
He turned his head a fraction of an inch toward me without quiet meeting my gaze, let out his breath, blinked, and then looked the other way. That was all he could give me. He had given me so much that I didn’t mind in the slightest. I thought to myself that if it hadn’t been like it was – me a half fey destined to marry, loose Colter, and marry a cat goblin, him a vampire – maybe it would have worked. Maybe I would have fallen in love with the redhead and he might have loved me.
After a week without any word from any fey, Colter and I began to worry. Soon, I started keeping track of the days very carefully.

Monday, March 31st, 2005 – Colter begins to try to contact various people in Titania’s kingdom.

Tuesday, February 1st, 2005
Wednesday, February 2nd, 2005

Thursday, February 3rd, 2005

Friday, February 4th, 2005

Saturday, February 5th, 2005

Sunday, February 6th, 2005

Monday, February 7th, 2005

Tuesday, February 8th, 2005

Wednesday, February 9th, 2005 – Colter returns, saying that no one is giving out information.

Thursday, February 10th, 2005 – Colter buys me a car so I don’t have to drive with Dad to school.

Friday, February 11th, 2005

Saturday, February 12th, 2005 – I stop eating.

Sunday, February 13th, 2005 – I wreck my car into a tree, just to see what will happen. I heal faster than I can die.

Monday, February 14th, 2005 – I catch Edward looking at me during lunch. I eat an apple.

Tuesday, February 15th, 2005 – Colter buys a new car for himself.

Wednesday, February 16th, 2005 – Colter offers to take me to school. I accept. Abe, Pedro, Debby, and Julie all give me hugs and say they’re sorry to hear about my mom. Apparently, Dad said that she has cancer.

Thursday, February 17th, 2005

Friday, February 18th, 2005

Saturday, February 19th, 2005 – Angela comes over to my house. We bake cookies and I feel slightly better.

Sunday, February 20th, 2005 – Jessica comes over and helps me study for Spanish. I already knew Spanish.

Monday, February 21st, 2005

Tuesday, February 21st, 2005 – I start failing Biology and Government.

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2005 – Stuffed in the mailbox was a thick stack of neatly written Biology notes in Emmett’s handwriting and Government notes written in Jasper’s.

Thursday, February 23rd, 2005

Friday, February 24th, 2005 – My phone rang.
I picked it up, not really wanting to listen. It was probably one of my friends trying to make me do something this weekend. I had found out that they had set up a system so I wouldn’t be alone on the weekends. They really should whisper quieter.
“Hi, Kitten.”
I sat up from my spot curled up in the corner of my closet. “Mom!”
She laughed softly; she sounded older. “I take it that you’re worrying about me?”
“…Yes,” I admitted, leaving my dark spot and running downstairs. “So is the war over?”
She huffed. “For now. Oberon has made peace with Titania, but the destruction that he has caused on the Sands of Time may never be fixed. It has messed up Gates that aren’t even dependent on the Sands of Time. I will get to you as soon as possible, Bella. Don’t worry, though. I am safe. Eva is safe. She managed to find an unoccupied Gate. The last I heard, she’s in New York City.”
I smiled. “Of course.”
There was an uncomfortable silence. Finally, “Is Colter there with you?”
“Yes,” I said without thinking.
Momma sighed. “So you finally have fallen in love with him? The marriage will be okay? Because honey, you can step out of it any time you want to.”
I rolled my eyes. “No, Mom, I have not fallen in love with him. I will still marry him, though. Thank you for your concern. If I’m correct, he’s not even here right now. I think he’s going to go get me and Daddy some dinner.”
“Very romantic,” Mom said dryly. “I’ll call you if there’s any news on the Gates. Don’t go through them unless you are being chased by Elders out for your blood, okay?”
I smiled. “Okay. I guess you need to go now?”
“Yeah. Call me tomorrow, okay?”
“Okay. I love you, Momma. I miss you so much.”
I heard the sad smile and tears in her voice. “I love you too, Kitten. Stay safe.”
I waited a whole ten minutes and forty-two seconds for Colter to come home. As soon as he pulled up in his Mercedes, I ran out of the house and jumped onto his car. “Colter! Colter! The war is over!”
He dropped the groceries.
Things were finally looking up.

 

Colter dropped me off at Jessica’s house two weeks later on Tuesday. “Don’t stay out too late,” he said, lowering his sunglasses and winking. He looked a little older now, maybe in his mid-twenties. I wondered if it was because of his connections to the Sands of Time.
I rolled my eyes. “I’ll stay out as late as I want, old man. Don’t eat all the snacks at home.”
“You know I will, sweetness.”
Jessica came out then. “Hi, Colt,” she said shyly, her voice soft and sweet. I noticed she had put on makeup, something she only did if she was going to see someone she liked.
Colt pushed his sunglasses back up and smiled, dimples and all. “Why good afternoon, Jessica. It’s a beautiful day out, isn’t it?”
She gushed. “It really is.”
It was not. It was misting.
“You girls have fun. Call me when you’re done.” He drove off in a flare, leaving Jessica and I breathless for different reasons. That kicked up a lot of dirt.
“You’re sure he’s engaged?” she asked wistfully.
I had told her he was my cousin visiting for a while to help cope with my cancerous mother. Thankfully, she had just made a miraculous recovery and, sadly, he would be leaving soon.
“Yes, I’m sure.” I had almost forgotten how attractive he was. For a moment, I thought about the possibility of convincing him to stay mortal with me. The thought erased as the mental image of kissing him entered my mind. I much preferred redheads.
“Lucky woman,” Jessica sighed.
“Yep,” I said.
As soon as we got in her room, she started blabbering about her newest crush, Mike. How she could like that puppy dog of a boy, I had no idea. She talked for an hour while I ate my way through her dwindling popcorn supply. Finally, after I had started on her chips which would surely make me sick later, she ended with, “So I think I’m going to ask him to the spring dance.”
“Aren’t the boys always supposed to ask the girls?” I asked before taking a sip of water. I put away the chips since I was going to be included in the conversation now.
“No, Bella, it’s girls’ choice. Have you been living under a rock?”
“Basically, yeah. I haven’t been paying much attention.”
Jessica smacked her head. “Right. Cancer mom. So…”
I made a face as if to signify that I didn’t know what she was talking about. After a few awkward seconds, I asked, “So what?”
“Were you planning to ask him?”
My water sprayed into my hand as I spit it out. “Mike? Never in a million years,” I told her in confidence after my laughing fit.
She smiled. “Really? Because I think he likes you – that’s what everyone says, you know – but anyways, I was afraid you liked him too.”
I laughed again, so happy in contrast to the past month. “Have a fun time with him, okay?”
Jessica was very okay with seeing Colter again, so I called very soon afterwards.
The next day, Jessica gave me a big thumbs up when I saw her in the morning. She was nervous by Trig. By Spanish, she looked dead inside and I knew why. I was the last person she would want to tell, though. I understood that.
I was going to kill Mike.
My confirmation of Mike’s death was strengthened during lunch when Jessica sat as far away from Mike as possible. Thankfully, Colter was visiting today. I convinced her to sit with us and to eat the homemade cheese pizza I had become fond of. She was a little happier with Colter sitting with us, but even his handsome face couldn’t lift her spirits.
I almost ran to Biology, hoping to avoid the idiot. I had to find a better time to kill him. Edward didn’t look at me, per usual. I got out my notes from Emmett and started studying them.
“So,” the idiot said from above me, “Jessica asked me to the spring dance.”
“And?” I asked, my voice seething with anger. He was an even bigger idiot because he didn’t detect it.
“Well…I told her I had to think about it. I…I thought you might be planning to ask me.”
He looked down into my glare and moved back a little. Good. Be afraid of me, idiot. “Mike, I am not going to that dance.”
“Why aren’t you?” Mike asked. Maybe his parents dropped him when he was little.
“I’m going out of town. Seattle. That’s where my mother is staying when she comes to this part of the country.” The lie came out easily enough.
“Can’t you go some other weekend?”
I briefly wondered if he had a death wish. “Are you asking me if I can go to see my cancer-surviving mother for the first time on another weekend?”
He blushed, finally realizing his stupidity. “Right. Um. I’m going to tell Jessica yes.”
I handed him a hundred dollar bill. “Here. Go to the closest floral shop and buy her whatever this will buy. I want no change back because you better have spent it all on her. You will take whatever presents and flowers you buy her to her house and beg for her forgiveness. Lie and say that you wanted a big gesture which is why you waited. I better hear her gushing to me as soon as you leave. And if it ever, ever, gets around that you asked me if I was going to ask you, you will not like what happens.”
“Yep, no problem,” he said quietly before leaving.
I looked back down at my notes Emmett had written for me. I made an eighty on a quiz yesterday, so my grades were improving. I would have to find a way to thank him and Jasper.
Class started after that. As soon as I stopped concentrating on my notes, my senses took over. Someone was watching me. Who? I turned. Edward. He was staring with deep and intense curiosity. I noticed his eyes were black. He looked frustrated as well.
I was taken aback, but quickly got over it. The sickly redhead changed his mind about me so often that it almost gave me whiplash. I started taking my own notes, hoping that it would engrain the information deeper into my brain. Surely if I knew the recipe for over a thousand potions I could learn Biology.
“Now, what is the process of regenerating energy in aerobic respiration for most living cells? …Mr. Cullen?”
“The Krebs Cycle,” Edward answered. I glanced over at him. He was still staring at me. I smirked a little. Reaching into my backpack, I took out a list I had been making since I began to live in the human world.

Creepy Things Humans Should Not Do: A Partial List
1. Watch another person sleep.
2. Eat mice.
3. Ask to be touched for the sole purpose of cooling down your body temperature
4. Touch without asking.
5. Stare.
6. Order eighteen pizzas in one night.
7. Eat a friend’s entire stash of popcorn.
8. APPARENTLY eat freshly cut deer meat at the breakfast table even if it is your breakfast.

I slid the paper to Edward and tapped number five. He looked away what I thought looked like blushing without the color.
I spent the rest of class wondering if I would ever get back my rules on how to not be a creepy human. I needed those!
When the bell rang at lsat, I turned my back to him, figuring that I would never get it back and I would have to start over.
“Bella?”
His voice was soft like when he was talking to me while we were trapped behind the van. I liked this voice much better than his angry voice.
“Are you speaking to me again?” I asked, turning to face him.
He smirked, his lips twitching to release a grin. “No, not really,” he admitted.
I motioned for him to follow. Mike could survive not walking me to Gym. He had an apology speech to plan, anyways. “So what’s up, you sickly redhead?”
“Sickly redhead? Why call me that when there’s so many better options? Savior. The Almighty Savior of Your Life.”
“I like sickly redhead,” I said, smiling a little for finally admitting his nickname to someone.
He grumbled, “Stupid nickname…”
I raised an eyebrow. “Oh, come on, like you’re the first person to get a nickname you don’t like from a friend.”
His face instantly hardened. I could tell he was thinking about Carlisle’s instructions. “It’s better that we’re not friends. Remember?”
My eyes narrowed. “It’s too bad you didn’t think about this earlier, Edward Cullen. You could have saved yourself a lot of trouble by just letting the stupid van crush me.” Well, really, if I had died, I would have just regenerated, but I wasn’t going to mention that.
I heard a snarl trapped in his throat. “You don’t know anything, you…brunette…not-human.” He was angry, but I just wanted to laugh at his awful comeback.
“Very smooth, Cullen,” I said before entering the gym. He’s…attractive.
Gym was brutal. Basketball was now on the agenda. I wanted nothing more than to play with that reddish ball for hours on end, but I had to remember that I was Clumsy Human Bella here, not Suave and Smooth Cat-Goblin-Human Bella. Although I’m not really suave or smooth when I’m myself. I’m better than that idiot redhead, though.
Colter was waiting for me in the parking lot. He was eating what appeared to be the last of Dad’s fish. I was going to fight him for it later, but for now Eric approached me with determination.
“Hey, Bella?”
“Yes?” I said, a little distracted by the speed of which Colter was eating the fish.
“Uh, I was wondering if, um, you would go to the spring dance with me?” His voice broke on the last word, destroying any confidence I thought might have accompanied his determination.
“It’s girls’ choice,” I said, still mostly concentrated on my food currently being taken by someone who was willing to give up their eternal life so their clan can continue in peace. He couldn’t eat something else to continue OUR peace?
“Yeah,” he admitted, shame covering his face in red blotches.
“Thank you for asking, but I’ll be visiting my mom in Seattle that day,” I informed him.
His face brightened. “How is your mom? Is she still improving?”
I smiled a little. His mother had obviously taught him respect unlike MIKE. “She’s doing great. Thank you, Eric. I hope some other girl asks you to the dance.”
He gave me a little smile before turning away. His eyes sort of disappeared when he smiled big, but I was very aware of his irises now. He was hurt. I frowned. “Hey, again, I’m sorry.”
“No problem, Bella. I know being with your mom is important.” I realized with a start that Eric’s sister had died of cancer. I felt sick as I walked down to Colter’s car.
I passed Edward’s car. His family wasn’t there yet. He was slack-mouthed. I pushed myself past his car. I had to get home. I was going to see my mom today.
I hopped into Colter’s car, not even fighting for the fish. When we didn’t move, I looked up. Edward’s car was blocking us from leaving. I was surprised to see smoke rising from the hood. It was green. I looked over at Colter. Magic was obviously the cause of the shiny car’s problem.
“I assume you want to go see your mom.” I nodded. “This gives me a few more minutes to talk to you about it. Look, Bella, I want you to see your mom, but the Sands of Time are all messed up. Look, I’m back to looking your age! I like looking nineteen, Bella!”
I bit my upper lip. “Look, my mom is in a very dangerous position. Cancer might be a better option for her. Just let me go see her.”
Colter opened his mouth to say something else, but someone knocked on my window. I lowered it to see Tyler Crowley.
“I’m sorry, Tyler, we’re stuck behind Cullen. We’re about to turn around to go out the back way. You should do the same.”
“Oh, I know. I just wanted to ask you something while you’re trapped between me and Cullen.” He grinned.
My mood turned sour. Mike was a blind idiot who needed some guiding. Eric was a boy with good intentions in the wrong place. Tyler was in a completely different league than Mike and Eric. His league wasn’t a great one.
“Will you ask me to the spring dance?” he continued.
Before I could answer, Colter leaned over. “Hi, Tyler. Bella has rejected you more than once and has made it clear she doesn’t want to be with you. This dance is supposed to be girls’ choice, so I think that you have no right to do that. If she did want to go with you, she would ask you. She’s already told two other people that she wasn’t going.”
“I thought she was letting them down easy,” Tyler said, not seeming to care about what Colter said.
I took a deep breath. “No, Tyler, I wasn’t. My plans are to see my mom. I can’t change that.”
He grinned. “That’s cool. We still have prom.”
I bit down on my cheeks as he left. I was definitely going to talk about the logistics of filing for a restraining order.
When I got home, I went through the Gate behind my dad’s house without waiting for Colter. Mom wasn’t home. I went in the doorway anyways. It smelled like home. The ceiling was a little too low for my gangly human stature, the space in the hollowed-out tree was very small, and none of the furniture was particularly comfortable, but it was my home.
Something was wrong with the Gates, that was certain. I felt sick to my stomach, so I went to the little hole I called my room and slept for a good twenty minutes. When I woke up, Mom was looking at me. Her eyes were widen and yellowed, something I wished I could do. They turned that color when extreme emotions were experienced by the cat goblin.
“You came back home.”
I nodded. “Just for a little bit.”
She nodded. “The Sands of Time are still being withheld because if they were released all at the same time, it would be millennium before the human and fey world aligned again. Titania is working with fey from around the world to try to figure out a way to release the Sand on her terms.”
I hugged Momma quickly. She looked mostly the same. I bet that meant she died at some point and returned to a younger age. I kissed her cheek. “I love you, Momma.”
“I love you more, Kitten.”
Sheepishly, I said, “Can I go to the library while I’m here?”
She rolled her eyes. “Always one to burry your nose in a book. Go on. Just meet me in an hour for dinner.”
I had a skip in my step as I left Momma’s house. The fey world was so very beautiful. Because magic was our energy source, pollution was very low. The skies were a rolling blue that was shifting to reds and greens and oranges at the horizon. Soon it would be dark and I would be able to see all of the stars.
The library was a couple miles away, but I got there within five minutes with my extra speed. This part of the world was dominated by goblins, so I felt at ease here. The town that held the library was one of comfort. I grew up here. Not everyone liked me or my existence as a half-fey, but everyone here was friendly.
The librarian, an elf that was unnaturally tall, greeted me with a smile. “Hi, Bella. Long time, no see. Which I would have hated for you to be here during the war.”
“Was it awful?” I asked her. I had never actually learned her name. Elves held the superstition that humans were killers and would be able to track and kill them if they knew their names. Only the protection of their names kept them safe. I didn’t care, though. She liked me enough.
“Still is, sweetness. Oberon brought over a lot of creatures that don’t belong here. That fiancé of yours keeps this part of the kingdom protected, but his powers are weak. In other places, it’s bad.”
I frowned. “I didn’t know Colter did that.”
She pursed her lips. “Mhm. He’s a good man, Bella. You should be proud to be his. Now, what are you looking for now?”
“Any books you have on vampires.”
She nodded once, then lead me through the library. The ancient pages gave off an aroma of dried ink and papyrus. It was a scent I loved. Technically, we had access to modern day printing, but it was said that this way was more magical. I didn’t care for whatever reason it was, I just loved it.
The elf handed me a thick book with old pages bound with a scrap of leather. “That’s like Vampire 101. It was made before the split, so it’s considered to be that of truth. There are other books, but this one is considered the most accurate. No one ever uses it. Go ahead and keep it.”
“Thank you,” I said, giving my friend a hug. I slipped my new book into my dragon hide and burlap bag.
She ruffled my hair. “Good seeing you, Bella.”
I still had some time before I went back home, so I stopped by one of the taverns: The Smokey Bird. The sign depicted a phoenix whose flames were put out. The place was crowded, so I went up to the bar where the only available seats were.
A lizard goblin with a forked tongue and small teeth smiled. “What can I do you for, Miss? Our most popular drink is dragon’s breath. For cat goblins, we have mice meat pie with a simple rice filling.”
“I’ll have the mice meat pie with spring water, please.”
“I’ll have that right out.”
Someone poked me in the stomach. I hissed and turned to my neighbor.
Oh.
“Hi, Bella,” Christopher said.
“Hi.” I considered just leaving. But I wanted some of that mice meat pie. So, even though I didn’t want to be with Christopher, I stayed put.
“What brings you to this world?” Christopher asked. His teeth were far sharper than mine. He was a bobcat goblin, close enough to my own subclan but enough to give us some differences. Generally, the panthers were stronger than the bobcats, but since I was half human, I was slightly weaker. I made up for it with stamina, something that was apparently lacking with all other goblins.
“I came to see my mother.”
He nodded, taking a sip of what I thought might be bone marrow. “How’s the human world treating you?” I thought about how he treated me before I left for my training school. We were best friends. There was tension now, though.
“I’ve had better times. It seems like you have, too,” I said, eyeing a new scar running across his cheek.
He smirked. “Yeah. The war sucked. Are you going to be staying a while?”
“Probably not,” I said, thinking about how it would look if I came back to school the next day looking three years older.
He took a swig of his drink, then stared into my eyes. His were a deep brown not unlike mine. “Bella, I need you to know that I was a jerk for treating you like I did. You were my best friend and I wanted you to stay with me.”
I nodded quickly as the server dropped down my meal. I started to tear apart the mice meat pie with my fingers. “I know. I forgave you a long time ago.”
We didn’t look at each other as we picked at our meals. Christopher was my first crush. Then I went to training school where I was introduced to Colter at the New Years’ Ball. After that, Christopher would barely even look at me when I passed by him in town.
He got up suddenly and planted a kiss on my cheek. His lips were dry and his crooked fangs stuck out. The little part of me that still thought about him died a little. This was a goodbye kiss. A kiss given so Christopher could let go.
Then he was walking away. I turned to watch him leave. I knew if we met each other again, it wouldn’t be nearly as awkward. He had let go.
I left soon after that. I decided to go the back way home, seeing it was quicker and it was already dark enough. The woods were thick and filled with life. Wild moss hung from trees. Leaves up above made an almost perfect canopy that only allowed a few drops of water and green-filtered light. Flowers here were vibrant and filled to the brim with magical properties. I picked a few flowers and started an intricate braid that would result in a flower crown.
By the time I got home, it was pitch black outside besides the bright stars and the two moons. The small hollowed out tree I called home was emitting the scent of a good meal.
Mom smiled when she saw the nearly completed flower crown in my hands. “If you want, I’ll braid it into your hair.”
I nodded. It was a special treat for Momma to braid my hair. She didn’t have much time after she became the clan leader and before that I was in training school. For a while, from ages eight to almost thirteen, I didn’t want Momma to do anything. I used to throw a fit. Now I realized that I was just full of anger about my situation and tried to blame my mom for it.
By the time she had finished the braid, the food was almost done. She had made pottage filled with a variety of meats, but a good amount of tuna. She gave me some apple juice while we waited on the pottage to finish.
“I hope you don’t mind if someone eats with us,” Momma said after a few minutes. She looked ashamed.
“It’s no problem, Momma. Who’s eating with us?”
“Oberon.”
I gulped. Why was the fairy king eating with us? And why did Momma make such a small meal? For the KING?
“Calm down. He’ll be fine, Kitten.”
Before I could have a proper anxiety attack, there was already a knock on the door.
Oberon was everything I thought he was: tall, handsome, and glorious. His hair was dark and matched his complexion. He had flecks of golden freckles splashed on his face like water. His teeth were perfectly straight. His eyes were spring grass green splashed with the same golden sparkles in his skin. His wings were stunning. They were the same color as his eyes with the veins reflecting of the sky above. I now knew that there was a reason he was called King of the Skies: the sky ran through his blood. Despite all that I knew about him, his glory still stunned me.
“Hello, Renée,” Oberon said with a silky voice that somehow remained deep. It reminded me of dark chocolate from the Deep South. “This must be your daughter, Isabella. I’ve been told you prefer Bella. Is that correct?”
“Yes, Your Majesty,” I said, falling into a deep bow.
“Please, call me Oberon,” he said, lifting me up. “The food smells delicious. Shall we sit?”
Oberon broke the flatbread already laid at the table. Momma started to put the pottage in dishes. Oberon gave me a smile. “You’re probably wondering why I’m here. I’ve been going to each clan leader of the goblins and apologizing for the havoc I’ve caused. Thankfully, your fiancé’s magic saved this part of my kingdom. I will forever be grateful for that kindness. I know it wasn’t meant to be received by me, but it was.”
“I’ll, um, pass the message along.”
“Thank you.” The food was distributed and we prayed. I was surprised. Faith in God was controversial. It was shocking, but refreshing, to hear the King stand up for what he believed in.
“You can ask me, you know,” Oberon said, smirking at me. “It’s written all over your face.”
“Why did you start the war?”
“My wife’s daughter, Tamisin, is like you. She’s half fey. She’s extraordinary. Even though she is not of my blood, I think of her as my own. However, she wanted to live in the human world, where she grew up. For a time, I used my magic to make her forget her yearning to live with her family and friends, but it ended up causing more trouble.
“I wanted to spend time with my daughter without disrupting her human life. With the method of measuring the Sands of Time you came up with, I was able to measure when I could see her. However, there were times when I would have to wait years to see my precious daughter again even if it was only a day for her. Angry, I decided that I would control the Sands. It failed and is now causing a great deal of stress for my wife and me.”
I could understand that. He wanted to do for Princess Tamisin what Momma wanted to do for me.
“So now here we are. I am trying to make amends with my people. Your mother is working with my wife to fix my mistakes. And you, you’re just trying to make it in a world unknown to you. You’re faced with things you never thought about. Am I right?”
I nodded. He knew.
Oberon let a small smile dangle on his lips. “You remind me of Tamisin so much, Bella. Caught in between this world and the next. Your inner beauty reflects both of them, but is something of its own altogether. I believe your kind is the future.”
My face burned red. “I don’t,” I said quietly.
Oberon and my mother were taken back. “Why?” Oberon breathed.
“Without Colter’s magic, I will never have children. It’s that way for a lot of half-fey. We are an abomination,” I said. I stood up. “I apologize, Your Majesty, but I must leave.”
As I slipped past him, he grabbed my arm. I felt as if he had electrified me. “Bella. You may leave, but let me tell you something. You are not an abomination, just something we do not understand yet. I’m sure that anyone that knows and loves you understands that.” He let go. I was dismissed.
The Gate sparkled, then I was in front of Colter. Only a few seconds had passed, it seemed.
“Are you done being reckless?” he asked, narrowing his eyes.
I nodded. “For now.”
He rolled his eyes, then his face softened. “I think I am going to go back home now.”
Tears stung my eyes, betrayers of how I felt about him. Although I would never love him enough to actually marry him for love and life, I felt strangely connected to him. “Yeah, that’s okay. Just go.”
He stayed silent for a moment, his eyes completely dry, then went through the Gate.
Wanting a distraction from the multiple emotions that were threatening to wrap around my heart like thorns and choke me, I decided to cook.
I only knew how to make traditional Titanian goblin food, but I was sure that I could learn something new. I called Angela and waited patiently for her to come over.
She smiled when she came in with a bag full of groceries. “Hey, Bella. I was thinking chicken enchiladas? My abuela used to make them for me. I thought you might like it. I followed your instructions about the organic stuff. It was expensive, though!”
I handed her a couple bills. My supply of money from Mama was nowhere near the end, so I was more than okay with letting her have the change.
“It’s nearly sixty dollars!”
I rolled my eyes, putting the groceries away. “It’s fine.” If it ever came to it, I could always turn trash into money, but I hated to do that because I could ruin an economy doing that.
Angela told me that enchiladas was a long process, but I didn’t really care. I needed something to take my mind off of everything. I chopped what she told me to while I listened to her talk about her abuela. Her abuela had moved here when she was only fifteen. She worked as a laundry lady and got pennies compared to the white women who did the same thing.
She smirked. “It all changed, though, when the mayor started to want something…spicier than what he was used to. One day, when she was going to buy some bread, he caught her hand and asked her to an official dinner that the town was putting on.” She put the chopped vegetables in the pan and they began to simmer. “She turned him down and married my grandpapa. However, things got better here. She got a better job and started a family. She died a couple years ago, but not before passing down all of her knowledge to me, like how to make the best enchiladas!”
The phone rang then, almost perfect timing. I wanted to talk about her abuela more, but Angela nodded to the phone. I picked it up. It was Jessica. I put it on speaker.
She was jubilant. Mike had went to her house as it was raining with a dozen roses. He accepted her invitation as long as she accepted his: to go to dinner with him that night. I thought to myself that he better be taking her to Italy with all the money I gave him.
Angela congratulated her, and I did the same. Jessica was getting ready then, but promised to call us as soon as she got home that night. I noted some bitterness in her voice when she said, “I’ll call you both when I get home.” Maybe she was angry that Angela was here with me and I didn’t invite her. I would make sure to invite her over to spend the night later this week.
Jessica hung up a few minutes later.
“Crazy that Jess is going with Mike. She’s had a crush on him for, like, ever. Do you know who you’re going to the dance with?”
“I’m not going. I think I’m to go see my mom that day.”
Her eyes brightened. “Yeah, you said she was better. Have you talked to her lately?”
“Yeah, today.” I felt a pang. I should have stayed and listened to Oberon. He said that half-fey were okay. Why couldn’t I see myself as he sees me?
“She’s doing okay?”
“Yeah, but the conversation was kind of abrupt. Work stuff. Do you mind if I call her real quick?”
“No problem. Take as long as you need, Bella.” I left Angela to simmer more vegetables. With the amount she was cooking, she was going to feed an army. I had the appetite of an army, though, so it was okay.
I went to the porch behind the house. A few feet, the Gate was waiting. I hopped to the swingset a few feet. I flipped open my phone and typed in the too long number. No one really knew how phones worked over the Gates, but they did. In the fey world, phones were charged through a special magic charger of sorts, but almost no other human gadget worked there. It was weird.
Mama picked up. “Kitten.”
“Hi Mama. I wanted to apologize for leaving like that. It was very rude of me and I’m sorry. Pass my apologies to Oberon if you see him again.”
“Sweetness, it’s okay. I explained to him why you thought of yourself that way and he’s not upset at all.”
“Thanks. I love you.”
“I love you too, Kitten. More than anything.”
Angela was dicing the chicken now. “It’s all good now?”
I nodded. “Yeah.” I needed to get my mind off of my being a terrible, barren creature. “Do you think Edward likes me?” I asked. “Like at all? ‘Cause he keeps on saying it’s better that we’re not friends.”
Angela rolled her eyes. “Please, Bella. He adores you. Edward didn’t talk to anyone, not even his family that much. Then you came and suddenly he can speak without raising his hand. It’s crazy.” She grinned. “We’re all wondering when you two are going to get together.”
I blushed, hard. “You’re crazy, Angela.”
“So are you, Bella. That’s why the Cullens like you. They’re weird. You’re weird, just in a more normal way.”
I rolled my eyes. “Gee, thanks.”
“He’ll probably ask you to prom.”
What’s in it for a vampire to go to prom? “I hope not. I’m no dancer.” I was, but I’ve been told cat goblins and even half cat goblins are far too graceful to be considered human, especially when doing something like dancing, fighting, or running, which is why I always avoid those activities around humans.
Dad got home a bit later. He was pleased to see I was fitting in so well here. I really loved it here. I just wish that I wasn’t so separated from the rest of my world.
Dad seemed suspicious of the enchiladas, but when Angela told him it was her abuela’s recipe, he happily chomped down on the spicy food.
Angela stayed over for a little while longer before announcing that she had procrastinated on an upcoming project. I offered her some help, but she declined. “Eric’s going to help me.” She didn’t seem to excited about that, but I had a feeling she was going to ask him to the spring dance out of peer pressure. I didn’t know what to do, so I just blurted out, “Ya know Jasper’s really good at history, too. You’re not confined to Eric at all.”
Angela snorted. “I’ll keep that in mind.”
After she left, I explained to Daddy why I wasn’t going to the dance. “I probably will go see Mom, but I was thinking about going to Seattle, too. Despite there being tons of Gates here, most of Titania’s people use there and Port Angeles to meet up and stuff. Forks is really only supposed to be used for the leaders and stuff because using the Gates too much can cause a Gate to collapse for a couple hours, which is fine, but if there’s a Gate close by it will also collapse. Also, the Gate might not open in the exact same place. It’s rare, but it does happen.”
“Like a domino effect. And Titania wants these Gates open for her and her leaders for easy travel within her kingdom.”
I nodded. “Exactly. Except I don’t know what a domino effect is.”
Dad smirked. “Go get a shower and I’ll show you when you get out.”
When I got out of the dreaded shower, fresh and clean, I went downstairs. Dad had set up a series of white tiles with little black dots on them. The cat part of me told me to knock them all down, but I resisted.
“The domino effect is generally showing how one event can lead to another. These tiles are dominos. Now, if I touch this one,” he explained, pointing at the first one in line, “What will happen?”
“They’ll all fall over.”
He petted my hair. “Exactly, Bella. Now, this first tile could represent being nice to someone. What do you think that last tile could represent?”
I shrugged. “Being friends?”
“That could represent it, but it can also lead to other things. It could lead to someone trying to rape you. Has your mom ever taught you about that?”
I shook my head. “Not really. She said some people are bad, but she said that I could always defend myself.”
Dad sighed. “Did you ever learn how to fight in that training school of yours?”
“A little, but not much. They wanted me to focus on politics.”
Dad rolled his eyes a little. “I’m going to start teaching you how to fight and defend yourself, okay? Maybe even get you in a gym if you’re up to it. Although it’s hard to stop the domino effect, it’s possible, especially when you’re well trained. Fighting is one of the ways you can stop those dominos.”
I smiled. “Thank you.” I touched the first domino. Reacting quickly, I stopped the second to last domino from falling. The grin I got from Dad was proud.
That night, at around three in the morning, my cat senses sparked. My dad had compared it to Spiderman’s spider sense. All I knew was something was coming. I ran silently out of my room and to the bathroom. It was the quietest window to open, but it took longer to move the thick curtains. Still. I opened it and breathed in the air. It was a vampire. I could tell that much. I thought about the book in my room. It could have told me how to kill one if I needed to.
I crawled to the other side of the house, the side with the window to my room. I held my breath. I willed my heartbeat to slow. I couldn’t do this if I were running, but when I was still like this, it was possible.
It was Edward. He was looking in my room, gazing at my bed which had my mammoth cape on it. I used it as a blanket when I slept, but that wouldn’t be until tomorrow because of the nap I took at Mom’s house.
Quietly, I whispered, “Edward, do you still have that list I gave you?”
He whipped around. He rubbed his golden eyes, then when I was still attached to the side of the house, he looked back at my bed. Then he noticed it wasn’t moving and I was here.
“Um, yes.” He pulled it out of his coat. I wondered why he had a coat on. He was a vampire.
“Rule number one, Eddie boy, watching people sleep is creepy.”
If vampires could blush, he would have been bright red. “You’re a little creepy, writing this list for me. I mean, only the fifth one and now the first one really applied.”
I ripped a loose string off of my pants and turned it into a pen and wrote down “crawl on your own house’s walls” and “give people personal lists”. “It was for me, actually.”
It was silent for a minute, then Edward said, “I can fix your truck. I know what Rose was going to do.” This confirmed a bit more that he was a mind reader, even though I basically got confirmation from Carlisle. It was interesting, still.
I narrowed my eyes. “Okay. But I have to watch you.”
“Don’t you have to sleep?”
I shook my head. “Not for a while.”
We were both gathering information about each other. I smiled, glad that I knew what he was. I wondered how he was feeling, not being able to read my mind and wondering what I was.
I noticed he was wearing a leather jacket that Alice had not given to him. It was old and worn. The band shirt was something I recognized. Daddy had listened to that band a lot when I was little. AC/DC. I had never really liked it much, but it was interesting to see that Edward liked it.
“So you like rock music?” I asked as he disappeared beneath the truck. I sat on the hood.
I could hear his grin. “Oh, yeah, I do. This shirt’s vintage, ya know.”
I bet it was. “My dad likes that music. He says that’s the last good music.”
“Psh. Not true. Green Day is one of the best bands out there. And how could he not love Smashing Pumpkins? That’s a good band. And who could forget the Spice Girls, while we’re at it?”
“So you like music.”
He hummed in response. He had almost entirely disappeared beneath the truck. The only thing that was sticking out was the end of his frayed jeans and his ratty Converse. I wondered if this was really his style and he was beginning to learn it again after Alice had let go of his wardrobe.
“So you like rock and pop. Anything else?”
“Everything else. You should see my music collection. It probably has more music than I can listen to in my lifetime, and I’m always adding to it.”
I snorted. He had forever to listen to them. If I was right, I felt like he had listened to the entire collection eight times at least.
He jingled around for some tool, then started humming something. It was slow, and obviously some sort of classical piece. “What’s that?” I asked before the torch was turned on full blast.
After he was content with the heat, he said, “Just something I was making up. A silly tune.” He suddenly stuck his head out from the side. He had oil on his face and stuck in his hair, which made me want to laugh. “Hey, where’s that Colt guy?”
“He went home today.”
“Jessica will be heartbroken. Good thing she has Mike to console her broken heart.”
I snorted. “Oh, yeah. Hm. She didn’t call me back. I’ll see her tomorrow. I’ll ask her then.”
“What was she going to call you about? Dinner with Mike?”
“Yeah.” I was excited to see how casual he was about his mind reading without actually saying anything. “I gave him a lot of money, so it better be nice.”
“He will. He’s an idiot, but he’s a good guy underneath it.”
Edward slide out. “You wanna test it out?”
I nodded, getting the keys out of my pocket. I grinned. It was loud and it was mine. The Thing lived!
I turned to Edward after I turned it off. “Can I hug you?”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“A high five? You don’t even have to move your hand.”
He grinned and held out his hand. In the night, he still looked sickly, but he looked happier. The pale moonlight almost erased the shadows that made him look close to death. He looked young and happy.
I slammed my hand against his. I actually moved it! My hand was shattered, but I moved it. I flexed my hand, the bones already shifted and healing.
“Did you break it?” Edward asked, worry plastering his face like a mask.
I flexed my hand once more. “Nope. Perfect.” And it was, now.
“I’ll see you tomorrow, Bella. Or later today, really.”
I saluted him as he disappeared into the woods. I hopped back in through the bathroom window and closed it. I bit my lip to contain my smile. I really liked Edward Cullen.
The next morning, when I pulled into the parking lot, only a few of the staff were there. I talked to Abe, Pedro, and Debby first because they were there first. I learned Pedro was Angela’s older cousin. Abe said he knew her abuela because she used to come to all of the school meetings and she would bring the entire staff desserts. Debby said her favorite was the rich brownies she made.
Julie and Shelly must have argued about something because neither would talk to each other. I didn’t try to make them be friends again, just gave them each a muffin I had transfigured from some coins I found in the laundry this morning. They both thanked me.
I needed to get my dragon hide and burlap bag from my car, so I started the journey down the slippery wet slope in between the buildings and the parking lot. It had rained about an hour before. It was going to rain later today. Dark clouds hung in the distance with impending doom laced with the opportunity of electricity.
Wonderful. More rain.
I got out my car keys, but they slipped from my hands and dropped in a puddle. I leaned down to save it from drowning and causing despair in its family, but a white blur caught it up. I jerked upright. Edward, that sickly redheaded monster, was leaning against The Thing, smirking as if he was being paid.
“I didn’t see you there,” I mumbled, snatching the keys from him.
“Bella, it’s not my fault if you are exceptionally unobservant.” His voice was quiet, velvet, but flirtatious. I bit down on the sides of my cheeks to stop from smiling. I think Edward Cullen liked me a little.
Edward’s eyes were still light, a golden honey color. It reminded me of the honeycomb Christopher gave me once. I didn’t like the waxy texture.
“Why the traffic jam yesterday?” I asked. I had meant to ask him last night, but I had gotten caught up in talking about music. Today, he was wearing the same jacket, but he was wearing dark red boots, some dark jeans cut around the knees, and wearing a shirt that said My Chemical Romance. I figured it was a band t-shirt. “I thought you were supposed to be pretending I don’t exist, not irritating me to death.” Several cars were around now.
“Ah, yes, fixing someone’s car is highly correlated with pretending they don’t exist. If only Voldemort had fixed Cedric’s broom to make some money on the side, maybe Harry wouldn’t be where he was.”
“I assume that’s some pop culture reference I don’t understand,” I said. “I’m still wondering why you stopped traffic.”
His eyes were smiling, but he kept his smirk down. “That was for Tyler’s sake, not mine. I had to give him a chance.”
I rolled my eyes. I searched for his shiny car. If I was talking to him, I could talk to the rest of them. What I found was something I never expected.
“Now THAT is a sexy car,” I said, pointing to another equally new and shiny car.
Edward turned to see where my pointed finger led. “Oh, THAT car. That’s my special occasion car. Aston Martin V12 Vanquish. Expensive, it is.”
“I would die for that car,” I admitted. I didn’t even like cars that much. I was almost drooling over it.
“Bella, you are utterly absurd. You don’t know how precious life is.” His voice was cold. Anger was set in his tawny eyes. His lips were sealed into a hard line, all signs of humor gone with the wind. My hair got in my face, so I pushed it back to stare at him more intensely.
I wanted to tell him that as of right now, with ten lives under my belt, dying for a car didn’t seem that unreasonable. For me, I think you should die for someone you love or something you want. Sometimes those are one in the same. “It’s my life, Edward. I spend it how I want.” I turned my back and walked away before remembering that I still didn’t get my bag.
He was reaching out to me when I turned back around. “I forgot my bag,” I said, frowning a little.
“Bella, I’m sorry. That was rude,” he said as I grabbed my bag from inside the still warm cab. I shivered as I faced the wind again. “I’m not implying that it isn’t true,” he continued as we walked, “but it was rude to say it, anyway.”
“Thanks,” I mumbled.
“I wanted to ask you something, Bella.” He laughed a little when I purposefully slid on the wet grass. He caught me by the hood of my hoodie. Good. If I can fool a vampire, I can fool a human.
“Okay. What is it that you so desperately need to ask of me?”
“Well, I was wondering that if, on the day of the spring dance-”
“Are you trying to be funny?” I interrupted him. It began to rain, hard, despite the blackest of the clouds being far away. I wondered if I was like Titania or her daughter, the weather reflecting my mood. I grinned wickedly as thunder ominously boomed. Angela passed us, her hair drenched and a foul frown on her face.
Edward’s eyes were wickedly amused. “Bella, dear, please allow me the opportunity to finish.”
I raised an eyebrow, signaling him to speak.
“Thank you. I heard you were going to Seattle to see your mom, and I would love to drive you if you needed a ride.”
“What?”
He grinned mischievously. “Would you like a ride to Seattle?”
“With who?” I asked, completely forgetting what I was planning to do in Seattle.
“Myself, obviously.” He gave a small bow.
I was still in a state of wonder. “Why?”
“Well, I was planning to go to Seattle soon, anyways, and although I worked very hard on your truck, I don’t think the poor thing will make it.”
He called it the thing! Not as cool as The Thing, but I’ll take it. “I think my truck will do just fine.”
“But can your truck make it on one tank of gas?” Edward asked, shaking some of the water out of his hair and skipping in front of me so I was forced to pay attention to him.
“I don’t see how that is any of your business.” Stupid, shiny Aston Martin V12 Vanquish owner. Oh, and a sickly redheaded monster. Almost forgot about that.
“The wasting of finite resources is everyone’s business, Isabella.” He enunciated every syllable of my name, like Izz-A-Bell-A. It was quiet infuriating.
“I don’t get it, Edward. I thought you didn’t want to be friends.”
He tapped my nose. Nothing would damper his mood. “I said it was better that we weren’t friends, not that I didn’t want to be friends.”
I rolled my eyes. “Thanks for the clarification, Edward.” We had walked under the shelter of the cafeteria. He was his own kind of beautiful. It was the kind of beauty you were supposed to admire from far away, not the kind you flirt with.
He grinned. “That’s what I’m here for, Bella. Just…I think it would be prudent for you not to be my friend,” he explained further. Then his eyes were vulnerable, just for a second. “I’m tired of trying to stay away from such a smart, funny, and probably not human girl.”
I smirked. “Thanks for the compliments. My mom probably isn’t going to be in Seattle now, but we can still go.”
His smile was soft. “Okay. You know, you really should stay away from me.” He started to walk away.
“You should probably stay away from me, Edward Cullen.”
We both knew that wasn’t going to happen.

Chapter Text

5. Blood Type

On my way to English, Rosalie grabbed my hand. “Hey, why’d you let my brother fix your car?”
I shrugged. “He came to my house last night and offered. Also, you haven’t been offering.”
“You didn’t ask him to come?” she asked.
“No, but don’t tell Carlisle that if it’ll get Edward in trouble.”
Rosalie frowned. “I’ll consider it.”
I almost jumped a full eight feet when the bell rang. I managed to keep it down to a foot. I quietly cursed under my breath in fey. The language wasn’t used very often as the people in an area usually spoke the Earth counterpart, but it was still used when communicating with other people. Everyone born as a half-fey or fey is born knowing the language. It’s sometimes also used when being very personal.
Mr. Mason looked disapprovingly at me. “Thank you for joining us, Miss Swan.”
“Sorry.”
Mike wasn’t sitting in his normal seat next to me. I felt a pang of guilt. However, in the middle of class I was passed a note. Well, actually, a picture. It was of Jessica and Mike with Seattle under them. They had gone to that restaurant in Seattle…the Space Pin or something like that. I passed it back. Good.
Mike and Eric walked with me, so I figured Mike wasn’t upset with me. He was very happy. He didn’t mention the date with Jessica. He mostly talked about the weather this weekend. He had been planning it for a while and the weather was supposed to let go of some sun.
I filed that information away. Whenever it rained more, the Sands of Time weren’t as concentrated, making time go faster in the fey world. I had proposed in my training school that the magic from the Sands of Time were being transferred to the human world, making it rain more. I was not taken seriously.
The rest of the morning past in a blur. It was a difficult to realize that some of the Cullens, especially Edward, were talking to me again. Maybe it was just a very convincing dream that I had made up to distract me from Colter leaving and the reoccurring thoughts of me being an abomination in the sight of fey and human alike. That seemed more probable than Edward Cullen flirting with me.
I was impatient and a little scared as Jessica and I entered the cafeteria. She was keeping me distracted, though, by chattering nonstop about her date. Then she started talking about Lauren, this girl I kind of did not like at all, and how she didn’t like me because Tyler liked me. It seemed kind of petty. However, Lauren had gotten Tyler as the date to the dance. Angela had snagged Eric, though my theory remained that she didn’t want to snag him, much less throw out a line for him. I smirked, happy that I could think of such a metaphor since talking with Dad.
Disappointment flooded my every cell as I looked at his table. Maybe I was making everything up. Maybe I was actually in an insane asylum. Maybe I was Alice and this was my way to cope. As I bought a bottle of lemonade and set my lunch box on the table, I thought about the conversations I’ve had with Edward. There didn’t seem to be anything different about those memories, so it probably wasn’t a skin shifter. Skin shifters were common all around the world. They didn’t prey on humans unless absolutely necessary. They generally stayed around Gates and waited for fey. Then they would shape shift into whoever that fey desired most. If the skin shifter touched lips with their prey, they would feed on their soul and then their flesh. There was usually signs, like your vision being really light-sensitive and their eyes being almost completely black. However, it was very hard to kill them because other people couldn’t see them.
“Edward is staring at you again,” Jessica said, finally breaking through my fantasy of me being in a hospital, strapped down and being tested on because I was the last goblin on the human and fey world. “I wonder why he’s sitting alone.”
My head snapped up and I searched the room for his red hair. I followed Jessica’s gaze to see Edward, smiling crookedly at me. He sat at a table across the cafeteria, away from his family. He caught my eye and raised his hand. With his index finger, he motioned for me to join him. I stared in disbelief. He met my stare with a smirk and a wink.
I slumped against Jessica.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
“Just passed out for a second. He might need help on his homework.” I got up. She snorted.
When I reached his table, I stood behind the chair across from him, still a little unsure if I was really there.
“Why don’t you sit with me today?” he asked, a cocky grin hanging on his lips. He barely looked sick now. Maybe confidence was everything.
I sat down, watching him with caution. I took out my lunch, which was the rest of the enchiladas and some raw fish. I hoped Edward didn’t notice.
“Sushi and enchiladas?” Of course.
I decided to use the best tactic I could think of: pretending that I didn’t hear a word he said. “This is different,” I said. Ah, yes, great start. Ignore what he says and state the obvious.
“Well…” He paused, taking time to let me soak in that singular word, then let the rest of his words fall like the rush of a waterfall. “I decided as long as I was going to hell, I might as well do it thoroughly.”
I waited for him to clarify. I assumed that he meant he was damned in some way, but I didn’t quiet understand how flirting with a girl was sealing his apparent fate. The seconds ticked by.
“You know I don’t understand half of what you say,” I eventually pointed out. I also didn’t understand half of what he did, but I would leave that point for another day.
“I know.” He smirked, his eyes alive with mischief, and then he changed the subject. “I think you’re friends are angry with me for stealing you.”
“They’ll survive.” I could feel their stares boring into my back. I had a feeling that I would be hounded later today.
“I may not give you back, though,” he said with a wicked glint in his eyes.
I rolled my eyes. “Their survival is not dependent on my return.”
Edward burst out laughing, still quieter than most people but loud enough to make the table closest to us turn.
“What brought all of this on? Just a few days ago it seemed you had bloodlust for me embedded into your heart and soul.” His mouth gapped open for a moment at my bloodlust comment, but he recovered.
“I told you – I got tired of trying to stay away from you. So I’m giving up.”
“Just like that?”
He held his breath, then puffed his cheeks out. “Well, yesterday had something to do with it.”
“About when you came to fix my truck?”
“Well…” He did the thing again where he held this singular word out, but this time his words fell out even faster. “ItwasmainlybecauseIgotalittlejealous. Ya know. Causeofallthoseguysaskingyouout.”
“Right…” I tried doing the same thing, to see if he would catch the joke. “Sobasicallywhatyou’resayingisthatyoucareaboutme. Right? SoIguessthatmeanswecanbefreinds.”
He did not pick up on the fact I was making fun of him a little. “Friends…,” he mused, dubious despite his confident claims that he was going to hell for talking to me.
“Or not,” I muttered.
He grinned. “Well, we can try, I suppose. But I’m warning you now that I’m not a good friend for you.” Behind his smile, the warning was real. I thought about the book about vampires in my room. What if it told me that his ocher eyes were those of a monster, a true monster?
“You say that a lot,” I noted, trying to ignore the sudden trembling in my stomach and desperately trying to keep my voice even. I stuffed an enchilada in my mouth.
“Yes, because you’re not listening to me. I’m still waiting for you to believe it. If you’re smart, you’ll avoid me.”
A beat as I swallowed my food. “Oh, I believe it, Edward,” I said. I lowered my voice so low that only he could hear. “I know you could kill me. I also know you saved me. You’re capable of not being a killer.”
He was speechless for several minutes. I used this time to cram some more food down my throat. I wasn’t very good at holding a conversation while I ate, which is why I normally just listened to the chatter at the lunch table. Now, though, it was one-on-one. I had to be active, except these not very rare moments when Edward was speechless.
Finally, he said, “You’re not very smart about making friends.”
I rolled my eyes. “So, as long as I’m being not smart, we’ll try to be friends?” I struggled to sum up this conversation.
“That sounds about right.”
I looked down at my bottle of lemonade and took a small sip. When I looked up, he was staring at me in confusion.
“What are you thinking?” I asked curiously.
His jaw tightened, but he plastered a smile on his face with some effort. “I’m trying to figure out what you are.”
I chuckled to myself. Now THIS was a conversation I could get behind. “Are you having any luck with that?” I asked, trying to keep my tone offhand-ish.
“Not too much,” he admitted.
“What are your theories?” I asked. I wanted to know everything this bizarre redhead thought about me.
He looked bashful and shook his head at me. He began to play with the zipper on my lunchbox.
“Won’t you tell me?” I asked, tilting my head to one side with a smile I learned from Lauren when she was flirting with Tyler.
He shook his head, even though he returned the flirty smile. “Too embarrassing.”
“This is so frustrating!” I complained. I have one person interested in what I am and they refuse to play along!
“No,” Edward disagreed, his eyes narrowing, “I can’t imagine why that would be frustrating at all – just because someone refuses to tell you what they’re thinking, even if all the while they’re making me doubt my entire existence with a few little remarks…now, why would that be frustrating?”
I grimaced. He sure had an opinion.
“Or better,” he continued, getting angry now, “say that person also did a wide range of bizarre things, from befriending your untouchable family to not sleeping and still staying fresh as a rose, and she never explained any of that, either, even when she definitely knows what you are. That, also, would be very non-frustrating.”
“You’ve got a bit of a temper.” His accent had hopped out a bit in his rant. I would think the Midwest. Maybe Chicago. I filed that away for later.
“I don’t like double standards, Bella.”
We stared at each other, unsmiling.
He glanced over my shoulder, and then, unexpectedly, he snickered.
“What?”
“Your boyfriend seems to think I’m being unpleasant to you – he’s debating whether or not to come break up our fight.” He snickered again.
I turned, looking for Colter. Why was he here? Then I realized he was talking about Mike, who was waving awkwardly.
“Oh,” I said, turning back around. “I’m sure you’re wrong.” It was probably stupid to argue with a mind reader over what someone was thinking, but I wanted to distract myself.
“I’m not. I told you, most people are easy to read.”
“Except me,” I said.
“And Colt.” His mood shifted suddenly; his eyes turned brooding. I wondered if it was because of Colter or our silent minds. Surely if he was jealous of Mike for asking me to a dance, he was jealous of Colter. My husband to be.
I had to look away from the intensity of his stare. I concentrated on unscrewing the lid of my lemonade. I took a swig, staring at the table without seeing it. All I saw was my impending future. As much as I liked this funny, charming monster of a redhead, I would never get to be with him even if he wasn’t a vampire.
“You sure were hungry,” he said, distracted.
“Yeah. Are you…hungry?” I asked.
“No, I’m not hungry.” He smiled like he was enjoying some private joke.
“Thirsty?”
He caught my eye. “Always. But I’m in control.”
I nodded. “Hey, next time you get in a bad mood, have one of your siblings tell me, okay? I don’t want to be heartbroken every two weeks.”
He nodded. “I think I can do that.” He paused for a second, then asked, “Can I ask a favor of you?”
“It depends on what you ask.”
“Stay safe. Your safety is far more important than most anything else. If you’re ever scared in my presence, run and never look back.”
“That sounds…fair.”
He sighed. “Thank you.”
I inwardly smiled. “Then can I have one in return?”
He smiled. “One.”
“Tell me one theory.”
The corners of his beautiful lips turned down into a sour frown. “Not that one.”
“You didn’t qualify, you just promised one answer,” I gently reminded him. “Although you’ve broken promises before.”
“Like what?” he asked angrily.
“You promised you would stay with me when we were at the hospital and then you treated me terribly for weeks.”
He paused for a moment, contemplating, then said, “I’ll keep that promise. And radioactive spider.”
“What?”
He shrugged, sinking into his seat. “A radioactive spider bit you. You know, like Spiderman.”
I cracked a smile. I assumed Spiderman was a superhero. “A bit more supernatural than that, Eddie.”
He scowled at the name. “Werewolf.”
“Nope.”
“Some sort of demon.”
“Do you think so little of me, Eddie?”
“Fairy?” he guessed.
I laughed. “If only I was that vain.”
“Fairies are vain?” I knew he was trying to get some sort of clue, but I wouldn’t give him too much.
“Yes, most are. I’ve met a couple WHAT WAS THAT?” I barely kept the feline hiss from escaping my mouth as I rubbed my head. I looked at my hand. Fairy dust coated my hand. Humans couldn’t see it, so I’m sure Edward couldn’t see it. I could see it, though. It would be on me for days. Just one more thing that’s annoying about fairies.
“What’s wrong?” Edward asked.
“Something…hit my head,” I said, looking around. I glared at Lauren. It would be just like her to end up being a fairy.
“Bad luck just follows bad people around,” Edward sighed. “I’m talking about myself, not you,” he clarified quickly.
I rolled my eyes. “You’re not bad, Edward. At least, I’m like 99% sure about that.”
Edward dropped his head and guffawed. “99%. Okay. Yeah. Okay.” He took a moment to change subjects in his mind. “You know, I’ll figure it out eventually.”
“I wish you wouldn’t try,” I said glumly, twirling my bottle cap.
“Why not?” Edward asked.
I sighed. “Okay, let’s just put it this way. You know those people my mom works for? Although I don’t like how they would like to treat me, I understand why they want that because they’re right. If I were in their position, I would probably do the same thing. I’m an abomination.”
He scoffed. “You’re telling me you’re an abomination? Bella, if either one of us is an abomination, it’s me. I am the bad guy. It’s absolutely absurd to think that an angel like you-”
I laughed dryly. “An angel. Hah. Edward, you have a place in this world, even if it is with the damned. I’m a freak of nature. I’m caught in between worlds, worlds that were separated for a reason, because they cannot coexist.” My rant was interrupted by the bell. I summed it up with a singular sentence. “I believe that I will never belong because I shouldn’t exist. Let’s go. We’re going to be late.” I got up and threw my empty lemonade into the trash a few feet away. Edward had stolen the cap at some point and was now making it twirl.
“I’m not going to class today,” he said, throwing the cap in the air so high that it hit the hanging light above. It started to swing violently. Edward caught the cap and jumped up to steady the light.
“Why not?”
“It’s healthy to ditch class now and then.” He smiled down at me, holding onto the light so hard that the metal guard he clung to bent a little.
“Well, I can’t argue with that. I’m going, though,” I told him. I was going to save up my time out in case I had to go to the fey world.
He turned his attention back to his new toy. “I’ll see you later, then.”
I left quickly but ran into Emmett. He grinned at me. “I guess since Edward’s breaking the rules, I can, too. How’ve you been, shorty?”
“Pretty bad, but I’m doing a bit better. You?”
“Alright. What’s this pink crap in your hair?”
I took a double take. “You can see it?”
“Chill, it’s not that bad. I’ll see you later, dweeb.”
From the terrible slang to the possibility of Emmett Cullen being fey, that singular conversation left me in total shock. The totality of the shock caused me to be late to Biology. Thankfully, Mr. Banner wasn’t in the room yet when I arrived. I settled into my seat, very aware that people were staring at me. Mike was resentful. Angela was surprised, awed, and curious.
Mr. Banner came into the room then. I got out a pen, ready to take notes and then compare them to Emmett’s far superior notes. Then I noticed Mr. Banner was struggling with several cardboard boxes. Mike helped him and they collectively dumped them on Mike’s desk. He instructed Mike to start passing the content of the boxes. As soon as his back was turned, Mike looked at Mr. Banner with distain, but did as he bid.
“Okay, guys, I want you to take one piece from each box,” he said as he produced a pair of rubber gloves from the pocket of his stupid lab jacket he insisted on wearing most days despite never really using it for any experiment. The sharp snap of those gloves sounded ominous. It took a moment to realize why. It’s what I heard at the hospital where the lights were too bright and the noises too loud. I took a deep, shaky breath. I wished for Edward to be here with me. Why did he have to leave when I needed him most?
“The first should be an indicator card,” he went on, grabbing a white card with four squares marked on it. “The second is a four-pronged applicator and the third is a sterile micro-lancet.” My heart skipped a beat. I knew what a lancet was.
Cut to when I was three. Some fey, especially goblins, are very susceptible to human diseases. Unlike our injuries, that heal faster than we can even notice them sometimes, diseases ravage our bodies. Thankfully, a combination of isolating themselves from humans and using some sort of magic remedy kept most goblins safe.
I am not most goblins. The magic did not seem to like my human immune system. I got terribly sick and almost died about eight times.
Since I’m half human, my body produces white blood cells. Yay! However, they’re not nearly enough to defend me against a cold. My dad had the bright idea to give me vaccines. It probably would have been a great idea if I had made it to the doctor. I had waited in a stuffy office. One of the kids waiting had the flu. She did not have a mask on. I got the flu, suddenly and violently. I had to be rushed to the fey world where many fey had to take care of me. Finally, a witch basically said, “Idiots, she has white blood cells. Make more of them.” So that’s what they did. I was given a binding spell that forced my body to produce more white blood cells.
My dad took me back to the doctor’s office. My body put up another fight. When the doctor tried to inject me or draw blood, my body would push whatever needle trying to get inside my skin out. They had to use a scalpel to force my skin open and push whatever shot into my veins.
I have long-since hated needles, scalpels, and anything resembling a medical tool to open your skin. Lancets included.
“I’ll be coming around with a dropper of water to prepare your cards, so please don’t start until I get to you.” He began at Mike’s table, carefully putting one drop of water in each of the four squares. I looked at the squares on my card. It reminded me of the game Christopher, Eva, and Colter would play with me. They would not play with each other because they all hated each other for separate reasons. The game involved the bit of magic everyone in Titania’s kingdom was taught: projection. The idea was you could make a projection of yourself, give it a message to say, then send it somewhere to deliver the message. The projection couldn’t do much besides that. However, the game we played was much more fun. We would draw something on a piece of paper, then manipulate it to become a 3D projection. It was hard, but it strengthened my magic skills. Or at least the few that I was taught.
Mr. Banner interrupted my trip down memory lane by saying, “Then, I want you to carefully prick your finger with the lancet.” He grabbed Mike’s hand and jabbed the spike into the tip of Mike’s middle finger. Why would Mr. Banner need our blood? Clammy moisture broke across my forehead. Maybe he was more of a freak than I knew. I mean, he had hurt Mike without his permission. Maybe I would have Mama get a council together with Titania to combat this problem. Titania wanted Forks safe for herself and her court. If Mr. Banner was going to be such a creep, it might scare off the population of Forks and he might hurt someone. That would bring investigation, and fey did not like investigation.
“Put a small drop of blood on each of the prongs.” He demonstrated with a soft smile, squeezing Mike’s finger until the droplet of blood flowed into many. I swallowed convulsively. What in Oberon’s name was Mr. Banner doing?
“And then apply it to the card,” he finished, holding up the dripping red card for all to see. I wanted to heave up the fish and enchiladas. Blood was sacred. It was what bound us to what we were. Why on Earth would he be taking it? I covered my mouth, holding in a cry.
I felt something like a shock of electricity. I knew what that was. It was a spell. A magic spell. It wasn’t powdery, it was like energy. Either my fairy was half human or I had a full-on witch in this classroom. I turned, looking for the culprit.
Angela was putting back a small wand into her inside jacket pocket. I barely heard Mr. Banner explain that the Red Cross was having a blood drive out of town. Apparently, it was common among humans to give away blood.
Under her breath so that I could only hear it, Angela muttered, “You’ll feel better the farther away you get. You don’t have human blood.”
I didn’t understand what she meant until I started to actually feel sick. My stomach really did heave. Pain pounded into my skull. My muscles tightened around my bones. With too much effort, I raised my hand. “Mr. Banner, I don’t feel well. May I go to the nurse?” Stupid witch, giving me sickness. Stupid witch, watching out for me. Ug.
“Are you feeling faint?” he asked.
“Yes, sir,” I muttered, wondering what I would be doing if I had taken Edward’s offer to ditch. Probably lounging at his huge house.
“Can someone take Bella to the nurse, please?” he called to the class like a general asking who would take a dead body away.
Mike volunteered. Surprise!
“Can you walk?” Mike asked, half picking me up anyways.
“Yes,” I whispered. I would crawl to get away from Angela’s spell.
Mike eagerly dragged me out of the classroom with one arm around my waist. At the moment, I didn’t care. My vision was blurry and the air didn’t feel right.
Mike towed me slowly across campus. When we were around the edge of the cafeteria, out of sight of the science building just in case Angela decided to torture me more, I stopped.
“Just let me sit for a moment, please?” I begged.
He helped me sit on the edge of the walk. I pushed away from it and laid down in the grass Pedro had so perfectly cut. I felt the earth beneath me and sighed a little. I was still so dizzy. I stared at the sky, but the hugeness of it made me feel even more sick. I closed my eyes. That helped a little.
“Wow, you’re green, Bella,” Mike said nervously.
“Bella?” a different voice called from the distance.
Oh, thank goodness. I hoped I wasn’t imagining that beautifully familiar voice.
“What’s wrong? Is she hurt?” His voice was closer now, and he sounded upset. I guess I wasn’t far enough away from Angela to break the spell. My muscles contracted in my stomach, making me groan in pain and curl into the fetal position. I squeezed my eyes, hoping to die so that my body could regenerate. Or, at the very least, I hoped not to throw up. It had been years.
Mike seemed stressed. “I th-think she fainted/ I don’t know what happened, she didn’t even like, stick her finger.”
“Bella?” Edward was right beside me. His breath tickled my ear. “Can you hear me?”
“No,” I groaned, which was true. I was only picking up on the way the air moved around me. It was a skill I learned when I heard that some jackal goblin had chopped off a cat goblin’s ears.
He chuckled, obviously thinking I was being over dramatic. I quiet like the way his laugh moved the air around me.
“I was taking her to the nurse,” Mike explained, “but she wouldn’t go any further.” I peaked at his expression even though it hurt me. He was basically holding a shield he was so defensive.
“I’ll take her,” Edward said. His smile was cocky and confident. “You can go back to class.” On the last word, I started to hear again, but my toes felt like they were falling off.
I opened my eyes wide enough to actually see him. “Be nice, Edward.” This did not help.
“No,” Mike protested. “I’m supposed to do it.” He honestly sounded like a whining child.
Edward scooped me up into his arms and turned around in one fluid moment. I automatically curled up into his arms. How familiar I was getting with his touch.
“Hey!” Mike called, already ten paces behind is.
Edward ignored me. “You look awful,” he told me, grinning.
“You don’t look too great yourself. You must have either died poor or sick. Or both.”
Edward ignored my comment. “So you faint at the sight of blood?” he asked. This seemed to amuse him.
I didn’t answer him because he didn’t answer me. I just snuggled up to his chest. I still felt sick and I prayed that I didn’t throw up on him. I didn’t think I would because I was already starting to feel a bit better. Even so, I closed my eyes again.
“And not even your own blood,” he continued, enjoying himself.
He opened the door and suddenly it was much warmer. I practically pushed myself onto him. His cool body was the only thing that was making me feel better.
“Oh my!” Shelly gasped. I could imagine just how dramatic she would be. She might even faint herself.
“They’re doing blood typing in Biology,” Edward explained. He moved, I assumed, towards the nurse’s office. I opened my eyes just in time to see Julie look up from the romance novel she was reading.
“Did Ernesto make love to Rachel yet?” I asked faintly.
“Sorry she’s not making any sense,” Edward apologized. “She fainted in Biology. They’re doing blood typing.”
Julie nodded sagely. “Put her down on that bed.” She bustled away to get an ice pack. I was glad for the Edward-substitute. She raised an eye at Edward. “I assume you’ve been told to stay with her and gawk with loving eyes?”
Edward nodded awkwardly. Julie smiled a bit and took my pulse. “Ernesto actually slept with Rebecca, her long lost twin sister. However, Ernesto didn’t know it was her, but Rachel doesn’t know that, so she’s now with Oscar.”
“Maybe Rachel has double personalities,” I said, “And Ernesto actually did sleep with Rachel.”
Julie’s eyes bugged out of her head. “You know, you might be right! That would be interesting!” She let go of my wrist. “You look a little better now. I think I’ll send you home, though.” She looked at Edward. “I’m sure you wouldn’t mind taking Miss Over Dramatic home, would you?”
“No, ma’am.”
Julie took the ice pack back. “Thank you again for the muffin. Now go home and try not to die for me, okay?” She opened her arms for a hug.
I fell into her open arms. “Thank you, Julie. I love you bunches.”
She stroked my hair. “No problem, sweetie. I love you too. Now get out before another fainter comes in here.”
She handed me over to Edward. I slumped against him. I was feeling better, but I needed to take Julie’s advice and go home.
“You were right,” I muttered to Edward.
“I usually am – but what about in this particular case you speak of?”
“Ditching is healthy.”
He handed a note to Shelly that Julie obviously gave him when I wasn’t paying attention. She skimmed over it, then nodded. “You are both excused.”
Lee Stephens, a boy in my Biology class, was practically pushed through the door by Mike. Mike barely got him into the nurse’s office when Lee started throwing up. Mike instantly jumped back into the main office.
Mike glanced at me, then at Edward. The look Mike gave Edward was one of absolute hatred. He looked back at me.
“You look better,” he accused, as if healing was bad.
“That’s generally what happens,” I snapped. My head still hurt and my muscles still ached, but I could use all of my senses and, apparently, my sarcasm.
“Are you going back to class?”
My lips primed like I had just tasted a lemon. “Are you kidding? I would have to come right back.” In fact, I might not even make it back. I could feel Angela’s spell reaching out, clawing at me.
“True…So are you going this weekend to the beach?”
“Yeah, sure. Where are we meeting at?”
“My dad’s store, at ten.” Mike was directing the information solely at me, totally ignoring Edward’s existence.
I started to feel more faint again then. I glared at Angela’s approaching body. She was hauling another boy to the office. She caught my eye and mouthed Sorry.
I said a short and simple, “See you then,” to Mike before stumbling to my truck. Without leaning on Edward, I was in a huge risk of tripping, but my reflexes helped a bit. I walked out into the mist. It was a nice change from the soaking rain. The water converted back to magic sometimes in this state.
Edward followed me. “You scared me for a minute,” he said quietly. His tone made it sound like he was confessing a humiliating weakness. “I thought Newton was dragging your body off to bury in the woods. I mean, I’ve seen corpses with better color.”
“Even with their blood drained?” I muttered under my breath. Edward caught it and glared. To amend, I threw in a joke. “I bet Mike hates you.”
Edward’s smile was apparent. “He absolutely loathes me,” he said cheerfully.
“Hey, I thought you were ditching,” I said.
“I was in my car, listening to a CD. I still have to drive Rose and all of them home.”
“Right.”
I was about to pass Edward’s beautiful Aston Martin V12 Vanquish to my much better Thing, something caught my jacket. I restrained myself from hissing.
“Where do you think you’re going?” Edward asked in a playful tone. He was grabbing a fistful of my jacket
“Um, home.”
“You cannot possibly drive home in this condition. I will be driving you.” I was about to protest when he whispered, “In the sexy Aston Martin V12 Vanquish you would die for.”
He had a point. I marched to the passenger door and opened it. Inside it was beautiful. Leather upon leather. I instantly fell in love with it. I wondered how his family fit inside, then realized there was probably another new car around here.
“I’ll have Rosalie drop off your truck after school,” Edward said. “I’m sure she would love to look at it.”
I looked into the mirror on the side of the car. I couldn’t remember if Dad said it was a rearview or sideview mirror. I looked like a drowned cat. Edward cranked the car, if you could call it that. There was only a soft hum. I liked it. It was like a purr. He fiddled for a few seconds, turning nobs that I didn’t know what did. I wiped the rain off my face. Rubbing it on my fingers, I transformed it to magic. I moved my hands in a quick motion, breaking the spell Angela had cursed me with. I instantly felt better. With the remaining magic, I dried my hair with a simple spell.
Edward pulled out of the parking lot, making a show of not looking. I looked out the window and waved at Angela. She didn’t see me. I was about to maybe grab a quick nap when I recognized the music playing.
“Feste Romane?” I asked, surprised at his music choice. I thought the boy was a rocker, but apparently he liked the classics, too.
“You know Respighi?” Edward asked, clearly surprised at my knowledge.
I nodded, suddenly shy. “When my mom was…uh, sick, I was very sad. Depressed, even. My dad said classical music helps with depression. So he would go to the thrift store and buy these huge cases of so much classical music.”
Edward stared out into the rain, lost in thought. It was an easy thing to do. I knew that when I got lost in thoughts, I usually tangled myself up, worrying about my mom and how much trouble my existence has caused her. Loosing myself in those thoughts made me go to dark places. If I got trapped there, I probably would never come out, leaving my mom in a terrible position. As much as I loved my mom and never wanted it for her, I knew that if I killed myself that would not be the only consequence. My people, the cat clan and possibly even other clans of goblins, would become even more angry at their new situation the half fey princess Tamisin, daughter of Titania, put them in.
I listened to the music, relaxing against the grey leather seat. It was calming to hear the almost discontentment music. I heard this. It was mine. My father gave it to me. This was something I could hold onto in the deepest of my dark fears. My father gave me music. I watched the town dash by us in grey and blue smudges that the rain blotted out.
“Will you tell me the truth?” Edward asked suddenly.
I glanced over to see him studying me curiously.
“You don’t really want the truth. Even I don’t want the truth sometimes, though I know it’s my responsibility to take it. To not face the truth would be to die in shame.”
“You sound like Napoleon going to war,” he noted.
I snorted. “The French leader in love with war. I suppose you could compare me to Napoleon. I love those people that are angry with me, just like he loved those that strived to kill him.”
“Please tell me, Bella. I want to understand you, your world.”
“It was once your world, too,” I whispered, almost nostalgic for a world that I was never a part of. “A very long time ago, my world was once this world. They were one in the same.”
Edward stopped the car. We were already at Charlie’s house, it seemed. “Yes?”
“I already told you one thing. You tell me something.”
“What do you want to know?”
“The Cullens adopted you?” I verified.
“Yes.”
I hesitated a moment, then realized I was going to tell the boy some of the most amazing, magical things he would ever hear. “What happened to your parents?”
“They died many years ago.” His tone was matter-of-fact, but his eyes softened a bit.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered. I had figured the Cullens really were his parents, but it was clear that that wasn’t true from the way his face was contorted.
“I don’t really remember them that clearly. Carlisle and Esme have been my parents for a long time.”
I stopped and bowed my head for respect. Finally, I said, “You love Carlisle and Esme then. Even though you’re rebelling.”
“Yes. It isn’t the first time.” He smiled. “I couldn’t imagine two better people to rebel from. I love them very much, but they love me in a way I can’t understand. They will always forgive me.” He paused for a breath, then asked, “Are you going to explain why you were eavesdropping on that conversation where Carlisle banned us all from talking to you.”
A tight smile formed on my lips. “Easy. It was the same day I found out about my mother not being in the best position. You were my only lifeline. You and your siblings.”
His face fell. “I’m so sorry, Bella.”
“It’s okay. Colter came then.” I didn’t bother using the name Edward knew, Colt. He was going to know things soon enough. “Colter and I have a very special relationship, though it’s not anything romantic. I’ll explain more when you come back.”
“Come back?”
“Yep. I don’t think your siblings would be too keen on you leaving them to wait in the rain,” I said, motioning to the clock. “Come back and eleven or twelve. I’ll explain some things then.”
“But not everything?”
“Why, Edward, even you should know that you should never tell everything about yourself.”

Chapter Text

6. History Lessons

As soon as Edward left, I ran up to my room and instantly put on some of my clothes that are more fitting in the fey world. When I was back in my leather boots and loose tunic, I slung my burlap and dragon hide bag across my shoulders and clasped my mammoth cloak around my neck.
I made the longer trip to a Gate that opened in the wolf clan of goblins. They were my kind of enemies, but I didn’t need to go to the cat clan for this piece of information. The wolf clan was the most feared goblin by humans, the most famous being the Big Bad Wolf in Little Red Riding Hood and the majority of werewolf legends. The wolf clan interacted with humans the most and had the most information about humans, especially about those humans that have tapped into fey magic: witches and warlocks.
The Gate was near the Cullen household, so I hoped that none of the Cullens were home. I figured that none of the children were home, but I felt like Carlisle didn’t want me anywhere near his house ever again, and Esme probably wasn’t happy with me, either. Thankfully, I didn’t see either of them.
The Gate was high in a tree, which was ironic because the wolf clan could not easily climb trees. I easily scaled the tree and slipped through the branches. Even though the Cullens lived in a very natural part of the forest, it did not even compare to the fey world. The air was sharp, clean, and fresh. I climbed down the tree about halfway before I noticed guards standing guard. They had the armor of Titania and a spear in one of their hands.
I looked around me for another tree, but there was none. I could cast a spell to make me invisible, but the human side of me always got in the way of stronger spells. I usually had to have the blood of a full-blooded cat goblin injected into me to perform larger spells, but all of the blood I had in storage was at Mama’s home. I silently cursed myself for ever coming here.
I started to climb back up the tree when a branch snapped underneath my feet. In the moment between hitting the ground and realizing I hit the ground, I once again cursed myself for my clumsiness. In the human world, I was graceful in so many ways. Here, though, I found myself again and again faulted. It seemed that no matter where I went, I was an outcast. At least in the human world, I could hide my gracefulness. I could never hide my faults here.
I felt one of the spears poke into my arms. It stung. Pure silver. Magic silver. True silver. Whatever you called it, it hurt just the same.
“Who are you? What is your name?” one of the soldiers asked.
“My name is Isabella of the Cat Clan, daughter of Head of the Cat Clan Renée. My human name is Isabella Swan, daughter of Charlie Swan, and my true name is She Who Watches and Does Nothing.”
“Why are you here?” asked the other.
“I would like to request information on a human.”
“Gates are not to be used until the experiment at the Sands of Time is finished. You must stay here.”
“I will.” I was lying, but they didn’t need to know that.
I was stabbed again, this time slicing the top of my ear, then kicked me twice in the stomach. Tears squeezed out of my closed eyes. As I crawled away, I heard the guards mutter, “Half-fey, she is. I can see it. Disgusting…”
I got as far away as I could before checking out my wounds. The wounds were shallow, superficial. They would heal soon. I applied lots of pressure. It reminded me of the good old days when I scraped my knees playing in the forest. For some reason, my healing abilities slowed when I was in the fey world. Colter had a theory about it. Since my blood does not carry that much magic naturally in it, it gets overwhelmed and shuts down in the fey world where I literally breathe magic, making my human side more apparent. Only when I inject myself with pure fey blood am I able to block the human traits out. In the human world, especially the farther away from Gates I get, I’m as graceful as any goblin. I wondered if I injected myself with human blood in the human world if I would be more human.
Finally, I stood up and made my way into the town a mile downhill. It was night and the town lit up easily. I put the hood of my cloak on just in case there were wolf goblins that wished me harm. There were more trees around here, but I didn’t want to push my luck. In the cat clan territory, I could be myself. It was home. People knew me. Here, I was a stranger and possibly an enemy.
As I went through the town, I got a couple growls but fared fine. I got to the Library of Humans, which held the records for every known witch and warlock.
Someone grabbed my arm just as I was about to open the door. My silver knife appeared in my hand. Terror shook through my being. I was weak in a foreign land where people could very possibly kill me for what I was.
Jessica whipped my around. “You’re being taken into custody.” She said something else that I didn’t listen to because she had WINGS. Was she the one that threw that dust at me today?
She jerked me down the steps to the library. Now I didn’t get growls. I only heard hisses of approval directed towards Jessica. She dragged me into an alley.
“Are you an idiot?” she asked.
“Did you hit me with a ball of fairy dust today?” I asked as I stared at the beautiful glowing patterns on her bright red wings.
“Yes, because you were being an idiot then, too. Telling a vampire about things of the fey world? Saying fairies were annoying?”
I looked down at the ground, glad for the protection of my hood. “Well, you are being annoying right now.”
I took a peak at Jessica. She rolled her eyes. “Okay, you’re obviously an idiot. Why are you here?”
“I wanted to see if Angela is a witch.”
“She is, but she’s not a registered witch. If you had asked, they would have forced her to register. Registration restricts their powers. I guess I can’t blame you for not knowing that. Half-fey generally don’t get taught as many things concerning human politics. Something about a loophole where half of the laws apply to you.”
Huh. I didn’t know that. “So what was your plan, genius? Follow me here and take me into an alley and do what? Bully me?”
“No. I’m half wolf goblin, half fairy. I was bred to be a connection between the wolf goblins and fairies because of the rebellions.”
Huh? “What rebellions?”
Jessica picked me up. I squeezed my eyes shut as she lifted into the air. My stomach heaved. I dug my fingers into Jessica’s arms and began to whimper.
“Chill, dude. It’s fine,” she whispered. Finally, after an eternity, Jessica laid me down.
“Where are we?” I asked, looking around. We seemed to be in a clump of trees and plants tightly woven together in a wall surrounding us. She must have gotten in through the tops of the trees. Mirrors hung around us, reflecting the moonlight.
“This is my home when I come to the fey world. It’s somewhere more private where we can talk. Now, you don’t know much about the fey world’s politics, do you?” Jessica asked.
“I know there’s discontentment among the goblins as Titania’s changing some laws, but I thought a lot of her laws are including more goblin say in things. Why are there rebellions?”
Jessica sat down in the grass, picking up a dandelion and chomping down on it. Now that I looked very carefully, I could see where she had shaved down her wolf fangs to look more human. I wondered for a moment what her diet was. Her words interrupted my dreams of us hunting together. “Okay, story time. Used to Titania’s laws were only for the fairies’ good, right? We all know that. Some laws were made, but the clans got angry that they could not make their own laws regarding their own clan of goblins. Your clan, under the rule of Targin, found out that the queen had an illegitimate half-fey daughter. They tried to kidnap her, but because of the brat’s reasonings Targin worked out a deal with Titania to implement more goblin-friendly laws – even putting the head of the clans into a committee.”
“I know all of this, Jess. My mom’s head of the clan.”
Jessica obviously didn’t realize this fun factoid about me, but continued. “There was almost a war between Oberon and the queen when he kidnapped Titania’s brat and put her under a spell to love only him or some crap like that. Then her little half-fey cat goblin boyfriend came along, broke the spell, and she saved the day again. However, with Oberon now working with Titania, the laws regarding goblins got a little sticky.”
“How so?” I asked. “Oberon likes goblins. I met him before.”
“Yeah, he likes them. He’s in favor of keeping chosen goblins and other fey in the court without ever telling them when they go home. That was one of the main things Targin wanted to get rid of. He wanted the servants to go willingly and to have a set time for them to return. Oberon wants the exact opposite.
“Now, the fairy king might have tried to mess with the Sands of Time so that Titania’s brat could stay with her longer, but a lot of goblins don’t think that. A lot of them think that he was trying to harness the magic of the Sands of Time just like your fiancé does. Except instead of being immortal, he wanted to try to put a spell over his queen to make her give up her power.”
Huh. “I guess that makes sense. And you were…bred to make the wolf goblins more loyal to the queen?”
“Yes, back before the brat came. It was okay in between the time that the brat came the first and the second time. No one was angry, really. Some people worried that Titania wouldn’t treat them properly, but then stupid Oberon ruined everything. And then he ruined it again with the Sands of Time. I’ve been staying in Forks, regulating the wolf goblins comings and goings. I basically make sure they don’t go beyond the route Titania gave them. I have sensors that go off when a wolf goblin passes it. Took me forever to develop the technology.” It was obvious that she was going to talk about it a little more, but both of us stopped. Something inside of me, even the human part of me, told me to look out.
Jessica flew up. She gasped. “Sand storm!”
A blur of red marked her departure. I began to climb up the wall of vines that surrounded me. Thorns cut into my hands, but I still climbed. When I got to the top, I could see what Jessica was talking about. A wave of sand was climbing its way toward me. It was about a mile away, but going fast. I had a two minutes, tops, before it got towards me.
The shimmer of the sand told me that it was the Sands of Time. If I stayed, I wouldn’t be back in Forks for a month, at least.
I jumped down. I instantly broke my leg. I held in my whimper. I just needed to find a Gate. I didn’t care where it lead to. My leg was still healing. Stupid human traits in the fey world. I began to try to decipher where I was.
I must have been in the rural part of the wolf clan’s land. There was probably a Gate somewhere around here. Jessica would want to have quick access to her home. Or maybe flying back to the other Gate was quick enough.
I was screwed if she flew back to the Gate I went through.
My leg healed. It had taken almost forty seconds. It would have taken maybe ten in the human world. I only had a minute and twenty seconds. My best bet was to just run in one direction. I started running the exact opposite way of the storm.
Okay. I had a minute and fifteen seconds now. I can do this. There’s tons of Gates in the fey world. I might run into a non-guarded one. It’ll probably put me in Iraq or somewhere and I might get bombed, but I can deal with that when I have fey traits. I needed to get out of here.
A blur and I was knocked down. A slice across my stomach. My face. My silver knife appeared in my hands. I threw my hand out. A growl once I hit someone. My mammoth cloak was ripped off. I instantly felt how cold it was here. There was two of them. I kicked and clawed and sliced until they let go. I started running. I probably had twenty seconds left.
I stopped in my tracks. This wasn’t a Gate. This was a Passageway. It was hidden between two slabs of boulders. I wondered if anyone even knew about it. I probably could get through it. It was my best shot.
I pushed myself through the small gap. I could hear the storm coming. I had ten seconds. I was halfway through. I could see the legendary water-like shimmer. I pushed myself further. I could almost touch it. I began to cry, not for desperation, but because of how hard I was pushing myself. The storm was almost upon me. Two seconds. Push, push! One second. Come on! I felt the Sands trickle into the gap. No. I had to go home. I pushed myself into the Passageway.
The watery surface did, in fact, seem to be some sort of liquid. It broke easily and I found myself in a modern hallway. It was covered in wood. A cabin?
“Hello? I entered this Passageway. I’m injured by true silver. Please, don’t hurt me.”
An older man with worn brown skin and deep brown eyes walked into the hall. “Huh. I thought most people wouldn’t be able to see the Passageway from where I put it. Come in.”
The man had an accent I couldn’t quiet place. I didn’t quiet understand what he was saying. Only Elders could make Passageways. Maybe he meant that he liked where that one was.
I followed him around the corner. He was wearing the grey t-shirt every Western man seemed to have. He wore jeans so dirty they almost looked entirely brown. They were very scuffed at the bottom. He had on custom snakeskin boots.
He lead me into a living room. At the front of the room was the exit, another watery film. Passageways are rare pockets of space in between two locations that was not subjected to time. I didn’t even know that there was one in between the fey and human world. I just thought I could get to some other part of the fey world. The only sign that there even was one was the small light inside the rocks and the trickling water. I doubted anyone would even look the other way. They might have thought it was a pixie or something. But I was desperate.
The man pulled out a first aid kit. “Come sit on the couch. Sit on that blanket so you don’t get blood on everything.”
I held my stomach carefully, trying to stop the bleeding. I sat down on the blanket as he readied his needle and medical thread.
“The name’s Taha Aki, but I go by Chief. You’re a little cat goblin, no?”
“Yes, I am,” I told Chief. He didn’t seem very old, maybe in his late twenties or early thirties. “Well, I’m half human.”
I waited for his reaction, but he had none. Either he was neutral or very good at holding his anger. He was ready to start working on my wounds. “I’m going to lift up your shirt so I can see the wound. You said true silver got you?”
“Yes. This is the biggest wound. I also have a smaller one in my arm and on my ear and cheek.”
“Someone tried to rob you?” Chief guessed as he lifted up the torn cloth. I held my breath for a moment, feeling the sting of whatever cleansing liquid he put on it.
“Well, yes and no. The arm and ear was from some guards of a Gate and the other two were from robbers. They stole my cloak.”
I hissed as he began to sew me closed again. The conversation came to a halt. He looked over my other wounds when I was stitched up.
“You look fine. Is it not safe in the fey world anymore?”
“Well, I was in wolf territory. As far as the guards, I wasn’t supposed to be going through the Gates.”
He nodded thoughtfully. “Well, you can always use my Passageways. I’ll give you a map of them and where they go to. All of my Passageways are cabins privately owned by me.”
“Thank you, Chief.”
He nodded. “Just don’t go spreading the word. I want to live in solitude. Once you leave, you’ll be right outside of modern day La Push. You can use my car or my motorcycle to reach wherever you need to.”
He left the room, then returned a few minutes later with a few items. One was a new cloak. It was a deep navy blue and was rimmed with dark fur. “It’s no mammoth cloak, for sure, but you’ll find it far more useful, I assure you,” he said, fastening the silver clasp around my neck. It was warm. On closer inspection, I realized that the navy material was made of a heavy wool. It was golden fleece, much like the famous Golden Fleece of Greek mythology. It wasn’t necessarily rare. It just wasn’t common around here. It mostly stayed in Greece.
“Why did you dye the fleece navy?” I asked as he handed me the maps of the Passageways. I tucked it safe in my burlap and dragon hide bag. I was so glad the robbers didn’t take this.
“It changes color based on surroundings. I bet you when you step outside the Passageway, it’ll be night.” A sparkle came into his eyes. “Wanna know how much that little spell cost me?”
“Um, five pieces of silver?” This was the equivalent to about a hundred dollars. A basic spell, like some healing spells, cost about one or two pieces of silver. This was a petty spell, one that wasn’t necessary. Therefor, the price increased.
“Nope. When you know how to do the spells, it makes it much cheaper,” he said, chuckling a little. He sat down on the couch. I figured he thought I would leave, but instead, I sat down.
“Chief, if you don’t mind me asking, what are you?”
“I’m something that’s forgotten. That’s all that’s really important.”
“You’re not an Old Beast, are you?” Old Beasts were crazy powerful. It was said that the Elders were made to destroy them.
“No. I can assure you they’re all dead. I’m about as hard to kill, though. Now go away, summer child. If you ever need me, I’ll probably be in this Passageway.”
“My name is Isabella.” For some reason, I didn’t say Bella.
His eyes were weary. “Summer child all the same.”
“I was born in September,” I mumbled as I walked through the watery film of the Passageway.
I grinned when I saw the disguise of the Passageway. It simply looked like a synthetic waterfall in the foyer of the cabin.
It was raining outside. I pulled on the hood of my cloak. I couldn’t find the keys for either vehicle and I really wanted to go home, so I just started running in the direction of the smell of Forks. La Push smelled a lot better, but home had, um, home.
I got back home in about twenty minutes. It had stopped raining. Edward was sitting on the roof. I climbed up without a sound. It felt so much better to be more goblin-like. I had the disadvantage of being way more susceptible to magic here, like Angela’s stupid spell, but I doubted that Edward would be ready to cast a spell on me.
He stood up as I sat down. “Um. You were gone for a long time,” he said.
“How long?” I asked, laying down to stretch. He sat back down on the slanted, tiled roof. The air was cold, the tiles were rough, and there was only low clouds in the sky, but I was back home and with Edward.
“It’s Friday night.”
I groaned. “I’ll have to make up some homework.” And I would be going to the beach, if I remembered correctly, at ten tomorrow.
“What happened to you?”
“I got robbed and some soldiers thought I was a felon for a second. It’s all better now, though.”
Edward shook his head. I noticed that he wasn’t in his now normal dress of band t-shirts and some sort of ripped clothing. He was wearing a thin long-sleeved shirt and army-green jeans. He wore a pair of work boots that I would have pictured on Rosalie first.
“What’s with the new outfit? Outgrown band t-shirts so fast?”
He flashed a grin at me. “Not quiet yet. I’ve just had this outfit for a while. It’s one of my favorite’s that Alice made me wear.”
Curiosity, which so often killed the cat, made me ask, “Do you get cold?”
“Not really. Tell me everything.”
I smiled, not really ready to say anything but ready to keep him here. “So almost every fey creature near where I grew up believe this or something very close to it. In fact, even in very far away places, most people believe this. So, are you familiar with the Bible?” He nodded, his dark eyes intensely staring into mine.
“In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth, right? And a few chapters later, before Noah and the Flood happens, the sons of God had children with the daughters of men. The theory is that the sons of God were angels. The children of these angels were powerful beings, the giants that preceded Goliath. God wanted the angel-breeds to die. He sent the Flood. This wiped out some of the weaker ones, but the more powerful ones survived. They were called Old Beasts.
“Then, according to legend, the Elders were created. They were weaker than the Old Beasts, but they had a significant advantage. They could shift from humans to huge animals whose touch killed. There was a huge battle. Some survived on each side. They each retreated. The Old Beasts created their own humanoid creatures, the fey creatures that were more powerful with their magic but weaker physically, namely fairies. The Elders created other creatures, namely goblins. The Elders created them knowing that they would surely be wiped out in the battle, which was fine because they knew that they would not be the only ones that were wiped out. They created their creatures to protect the humans at all costs.
“The battle began. The humanoids that the Old Beasts created went in first, magic blazing. They soon realized that their magic meant nothing to the Elders, who were unaffected by it. The Old Beasts were destroyed in the battle. There were few Elders left. They let the humanoids that the Old Beasts created live as long as they lived in harmony with their humanoids. The Elders retreated to distant lands.
“Legend says that the fairies were cruel to the humans. They stole their children, killed for fun, and took the places of the Old Beasts and demanded the sacrifice of humans. Goblins and their kin fought many wars. Finally, God interceded. When Jesus hung on the cross, not only did he die for humans’ sins, he split the world in two.
“All the fey save a few exceptions, like werewolves and vampires that were turned into what they were, were taken to a world that was similar to this one, but separate and different. It now held all the magic and all those that could carry magic in their blood. Soon, though, the fey realized that there were Gates between their own world and this one. So began the history of the fey world.”
Edward looked at me, wide-eyed. His hands were folded beneath his chin and he was leaning towards me, like a child listening to their favorite story. “And where do you fit into all of this?” he breathed.
“I am a half-fey. A half cat goblin, half human to be exact. I have cat-like abilities, especially in this world. I’m far more human in the fey world or around Gates, but I’m more susceptible to magic here.”
“Is there a Gate around here?” he asked.
I nodded. “Right behind the house. Why?”
“You…smell better when you’re closer to Gates, I think. Is there one near the science building?”
“Yes, but I don’t use it because it’s very unstable. It might not always open to the same place. Some Gates are like that when they’re used too much.”
He filed this information away, I assumed for later questioning. “Now how does your mom fit into this?”
“My mother lives in a kingdom ruled by a fairy named Titania. She’s very powerful. She controls the weather, among other things. She has one of the most diverse kingdoms in the world. Almost every goblin that can lives there does. Although they used to get treated more poorly and used to not have as many rights, they stayed for the crazy amount of protection the Queen provided. The goblins are split into clans and sub clans based on the species of animals they represent. In my clan, the cat clan, a man named Targin used to rule over the clan under Titania’s laws. He represented the sub clan of lions. However, he passed his ruling power to his closest kin fit to rule, my mother, after his son was deemed unworthy. My mother represented the panthers, commonly known as mountain lions here. Soon thereafter, it was found out that she was pregnant. When she had me, many people asked for her removal of power. I was half-human. Still am. No one wants a half-human as leader. We’re weaker and can’t do as much. We also can’t have children, meaning I would end the line of rulers.
“Colter, the guy you know as Colt, he stepped in later. He’s the most powerful goblin there is. He may even be more powerful than Queen Titania. He promised my clan that he would turn me into a full goblin when I was ready to rule.”
“Why would he do that?” Edward asked.
I let out a sigh. It was because he wanted to die. “He’s immortal. He remembers the last time a goblin clan didn’t have a leader.” This was technically true. He lead the clan until a new family line was chosen, but the process was long and hard. He had lead for a century, then he went into hiding for several decades.
Edward stayed silent for a little bit. Finally, “Do you want to rule your clan?”
“Yes,” I said. “There are people that do not like me, but I love my people. I want what’s best for them.”
He pushed his knees under his chin and wrapped his arms around his legs. “That’s very selfless of you.”
“It will be better once I’m a full cat goblin.”
Edward rubbed his eyes. “I think you’re better this way. Colter gets on my nerves. I…I have to go. You better get some sleep for the beach trip tomorrow.”
“Thanks. And you better…have fun wherever you’re going.”
“I’m going camping at the Goat Rocks Wilderness.”
I knew where it was. There were a lot of Gates there, almost as many as in Forks. Almost all of the Gates went to the Dark Forest, the forest just beyond Titania’s court. There were a lot of nature spirits, fey similar to Eva. Eva took me there once.
“There’s a lot of bears there,” I noted.
He grinned. “Are there lots of Gates there?”
I nodded. “I liked the fey counterpart. Lots of water spirits, tree nymphs, nature pixies. How long will it take you to get there?”
He grinned. “The GPS says four hours, but I usually make it in about three.”
“Well, if you’re not taking the roads, that isn’t too bad. Maybe fifty miles an hour, if you’re being lazy.”
He jumped off the roof, landing lightly on his feet. He looked almost lazy. “See you later, Bella. And hey!”
“Yeah?”
“Be careful at the beach. Don’t fall into a Gate…or the ocean, for that matter!” Then he was off, already disappearing into the forest.
If the aesthetics were perfect, I would have stayed outside, sighing and thinking about Edward, ignoring my encounter with Jessica and Chief and looking at the stars. However, the stars were nowhere in sight, I was cold, and I definitely had a few questions for Jessica.
First things first, though. Doctors usually orders sleep for a healing patient. I was tired, so I crawled into the house and laid at the foot of Dad’s bed.

Chapter Text

7. Scary Stories

 

When Dad got up, I retreated back into my room. I saw that my truck was returned. I guess Rosalie was content with what Edward did to it. Either that or she had kidnapped it and worked on it herself.
I called Jessica first, to make sure she had gotten home okay.
“Huh. Hey. I didn’t think you would be back here for a couple more years. How’d you get out?” she asked upon picking up the phone.
“I have my secrets,” I said mysteriously.
“Whatever. I got word that almost all of Titania’s kingdom is covered in the Sands of Time. Hey, what did Edward Cullen want yesterday?”
“He never really got to the point, but I think he just wanted to talk.”
“You looked a little angry. You know, if you end up killing him I have to report you.”
I rolled my eyes. “Wow, very loyal.”
“I’ve never seen him sit with anyone but his family before. That’s really weird, but so are you. Half-human and all that.”
“You’re the one talking, Miss Half-Fairy Half-Wolf Goblin.”
“True. Are you going to the beach?”
“Yeah. You?”
“Yeah. It’s completely magic free, so I’ll be like, almost human. Even my wings are going to get really small. Have you ever been to La Push?”
I nodded, then realized she couldn’t see the motion. “When I was little, my dad took me. Why isn’t there any magic?”
“Well, I think Angela said it’s because the Elders used to live there and magic can’t affect them so magic doesn’t affect the land? I think? Anyways. You should probably call Angie. She seemed pretty worried yesterday when I told her you had gotten trapped over in the fey world.”
I hung up and called Angela. She instantly picked up, sobbing and explaining that she meant no harm to me.
“Angela, chill. I was just curious,” I told her.
“S-s-so we-we’re still f-friends?”
“YES. Now get some sleep. We’re going to the beach tomorrow.”
I went downstairs. Dad had gotten up very early, saying that a friend had called in sick and Dad needed to finish up their paperwork. I went down to the kitchen. He was standing at the counter, waiting for his coffee to finish brewing.
“Hey Daddy.”
He scratched my head a little. “Hey Kitten. You don’t seem too hot. You should probably get some sleep.”
“I will when you leave. Will you give me some advice?”
“Sure. What’s up?”
There were about a million things that I wanted to ask him, but I settled for the one that was bothering me the most. “How do I know that I made the right decision about becoming head of the clan and marrying Colter?”
“What’s gotten your mind changed? You meet a boy here?”
My face turned red. “Yes, but that’s not the main thing. I went to the fey world on Thursday. I heard that some goblins want to rebel against Titania. There’s unrest within the people. What if I make it worse by becoming their leader? Even if Colter does make me full cat-goblin, people will still talk, people will still be upset about it.”
“Let me tell you a story, Kitten. When I was about your age, my parents were very sick. I wanted to go to college, but I needed to take care of my parents. I met your mom. She surprised me by actually dating me for a good while and even marrying me. She carried my sweet little daughter. Then, later, she revealed to me that she was rebelling against her parents. She told me about the supernatural, told me that you had to go to the fey world for at least some time. At first, I saw you semi-regularly, but then your mom kept you in the fey world more and more often. I didn’t understand why. Then I didn’t see you for two years. Then out you came from the Gate behind my house, looking exactly the same as you had two years ago. Then a couple times, you would come home and be years older even though the day before you had been a child.
“People in town talked. They said I wasn’t fit to be a police officer. I had very little training, I had to take care of my parents very often, and my wife and daughter had left me. But I worked hard. Even when my parents died and you were gone for years at a time because of the time difference, I worked hard. Now I’m chief of police and no one doubts that I earned that position. I know that some day you’ll work just as hard and people will never even consider rebelling against you. You’re a good girl with a heart of gold. I know you care for your people and they will care for you once they understand how hard you’ll work for them.”
He kissed my forehead, then got up to leave. “I’m serious, Bella. Get some sleep.”
As soon as he left, I took his advice. Although I had honestly not been up that long comparatively, I had been closer to human in the fey world and I was honestly worn out. I set my alarm clock to wake me up in three hours. That gave me an hour after my rest to get ready for the beach.
I groaned when my alarm started screaming at me. Maybe I could sleep on the way to the beach. That was acceptable, I think.
I took a quick shower, then put on some clothes that I would later claim that I used to wear in Arizona. I skipped out into the sunlight, glad that it had finally made a full-on appearance. I was getting tired of the magical rain. It didn’t interfere with my natural magic, but it was still annoying nonetheless. Just the fact that there was the possibility of people here being stronger than me here if they knew a little bit of magic *cough cough Angela* made me a bit angry.
The sun was out today, though, so I was happy. I stuffed a couple things I thought I might need in my summer bag, then headed out while turning on some happy music. I even whistled a little as I drove to Newton’s Olympic Outfitters.
My happiness was a little clouded when I saw who was going to be riding with me. I definitely wasn’t going in Tyler’s Sentra. I also wanted to ride with Jessica and Angela. However, Lauren and her gang of snotty friends were planted in front of Mike’s Suburban, along with Eric, Conner, Ben, and the driver himself, Mike.
Mike seemed over the moon to see me. “You came! You were gone yesterday, so I thought that you weren’t coming!”
Jessica came up from behind him. “I told you she was coming.”
I rubbed my face, hoping the sleepiness would wipe off. It didn’t, but I realized that my wounds were now healed. I wondered if there was a scar there.
“We’re just waiting for Lee and Samantha…unless you invited someone,” Mike added.
“Nope,” I lied lightly. I wished that a miracle would occur and Edward would appear, but I doubted it. I had a feeling some of the vampire myths were true. I wondered if he really burned in sunlight. Maybe something else happened.
“Do you want to ride in my car? It’s either that or Lee’s mom’s van.”
“Sure.”
That one, singular word made him light up. I wanted to cry a little. These sweet humans were so accepting of me. I could only hope that one day, my people would be half of accepting of me.
I denied sitting up front, forcing Jessica in my place. I crawled in the back, passing out on Angela’s shoulder. When I woke up twenty minutes later, I felt a difference. Generally, I felt more or less like one part of me: human or goblin. Now, I felt hazy about it. My temperature was cooler than when I’m in the human world, but I felt comfortable. In fact, I felt amazing. I opened my eyes. We were approaching the beach in the distance, but we were passing green trees that made me want to cry. The windows were open, so I could hear the way the trees moved as we passed them. I could feel the air play gently around my skin and I could see tiny details all around me. It didn’t hurt me as much as it would have. Normally, I would have hated being in this tiny space with too many people with too much heat around me. I still didn’t love it, but I was able to bear it instead of internally dying.
Angela whispered in my ear, “The reservation has no magic. I assume it’s letting your natural magic do its work the way it’s supposed to. In the fey world, your body is overfilled with magic and it shuts down your magical abilities. In the human world, your natural magic works far too well without the hoards of magic floating in the air. Plus the fact that in the human world, there’s enough magic through the Gates that your natural magic doesn’t go anywhere. Here there is no magic, so your natural magic does work while filtering out of your body. I like to do my complicated spells here.”
I thought for a moment that I should live here, forever. Maybe I will. Maybe I’ll become a teacher in one of the schools, and all of the kids would hate me because the system is terrible, but it would be okay because I loved them so much. And they would probably not hate me after a while.
I sighed, sitting up and blocking that memory from my mind. It wasn’t possible. I would marry Colter and then he would die and I would become head of the clan.
I had been to La Push with Daddy and Billy and Jacob when I was younger. The beaches were still breathtaking. I wondered how I didn’t notice how amazing it felt to be here. The water was dark grey, even in the sunlight, white-capped and heaving to the grey, rocky shore. Islands rose out of the steel harbor water with sheer cliff sides, reaching to uneven summits, and crowned with austere, soaring firs. The beach had only a thin boarder of actual sand at the water’s edge, after which it grew into millions of large, smooth stones that looked uniformly grey from a distance. Up close, though, each stone was its own individual color: terra-cotta, sea green, lavender, blue gray, dull gold. The tide line was strewn with huge driftwood trees, bleached bone white in the salt waves, some piled together against the edge of the forest fringe, some lying solitary, just out of reach of the waves. How I would like to be one of those trees, at peace in this sweet, sweet haven.
We slowed and parked near the edge of the beach. I waited patiently for my turn to get out of Mike’s car. There was a cool breeze coming from the ocean and suddenly, I wanted to explore that flat, grey ocean. Pelicans floated on the swells while seagulls and a lone eagle wheeled above them. Strange, I wasn’t filled with passion to eat them. The clouds still circled the sky, threatening to invade my perfect heaven, but for now the sun shone bravely in its beautiful halo of blue sky.
Mike lead the way down to the beach to a ring of driftwood logs that had obviously been used in previous parties like ours. Jessica smiled as she dusted off a log. I remembered that some fairies could see the memories made through objects, which is partially why they’re so good at winning wars with their excellent spies. I wondered how much she was able to see.
Some of the boys began to gather driftwood from the drier piles against the edge of the forest. Soon, the boys began to construct the teepee structure that fire requires. I’m sure that I could have done it faster, but it obviously wasn’t my job.
“Have you ever seen a driftwood fire?” Mike asked me. I was sitting on one of the bone-colored benches, enjoying the feeling of being here. The other girls clustered on opposite sides of me, with the girls that liked me on one side and the girls that didn’t on the other. Mike lit one of the smaller twigs and waited for the fire to catch.
“No,” I admitted quietly.
“You’ll absolutely love it. Watch the colors.” He lit another twig and laid it carefully next to the other. I suddenly hoped that if Jessica married a human, it would be Mike. She needed someone so gentle.
The flames quickly licked up against the teepee. My eyebrows shot up. This day was getting better and better. “It’s blue,” I whispered in surprise.
“The salt does it. Pretty, isn’t it?” He lit the parts that hadn’t caught on to the fire. He sat next to Jessica on his own. Maybe the boy was learning after all.
My mom once told me a story about Colter. This was long before I knew much about him besides he was an older person I should respect and be a little afraid of. According to legend that Colter would never confirm, he was once a part of a tribe of goblins that formed shortly after the world split in two. The goblins fought constantly. Colter, being the son of one of the richer people in the group, was well off and studied magic.
One day, though, rebellion sparked, and his home was overrun and burned to ash. Everyone assumed he had died, or was too weak to be able to survive the harsh treatment. However, he escaped and traveled to the Lands of Confusion, now known as Titania’s Kingdom. There he found the Sands of Time. He began to draw his power from there and eventually lead the people that once tried to kill him.
Okay, that got a little off topic. The point of the story was that in the legend was yet another legend. Some people said that Colter had learned how to walk through fire without being burned, which allowed him to survive the burning of his home and walk through the terrible lands that come before Titania’s Kingdom. Because of this, every year on Colter’s birthday, we light thousands of torches around the kingdom, but especially around the cat clan. Other clans present others as their savior, but most at least respect Colter.
I wondered what would happen if on the Day of Warmth and Good Passings I brought this strange wood with the beautiful blue and green flames. I wondered if it would make Colter smile.
After about thirty minutes of intensely staring into the flames, some of the boys decided to go look at the tidal pools. I had seen them before, but never without Daddy with me. I wanted to go, but I also wanted to stay and talk to Angela and Jessica. Thankfully, both girls wanted to go on the trip. A bonus was that Lauren was also staying at the beach. Good.
Mike gave me a huge smile when he saw I was coming, but I instantly paired off with Angela. With the help of Angela, I pushed Jessica off with Mike.
The hike wasn’t too long. I was pleased to find out that I was only a little clumsy. Angela explained some things about the reservation, about how it didn’t even have Gates. Under the canopy of green, she showed me each plant and explained their uses. She was a classic witch for sure.
We emerged from the green world. I was happy to see that the sun had held its position. I took off my shoes so I could step through the tidal river and follow it to the shallow pools that never completely drained.
The pools teemed with life. Angela looked and Jessica and me very oddly. Jessica I could understand. She was brave, hoping over rocks to get every view. I half expected her to jump in. She looked hungry. To be fair, I was hungry, too. I wanted something warm, though, and at least slightly cooked.
I became exponentially happier when I saw that I could do some of the few simple spells Eva had taught me. I made little ripples in the water that formed hearts. When I tried to do it at home, I usually made a huge splash no matter how gentle I was. I could never even get it to work in the fey world.
Angela slapped my wrist when I continued making ripples. I focused on the life in the little ocean ponds. I found a stable-looking rock on the fringe of one of the larger pools and sat there spellbound by the natural aquarium below me. The anemones swayed back and forth in the underwater current like branches in the wind. Little critters with shells as their home scurried around the edges of the pool, looking for something to scavenge. Some starfish clung to the rocks, waiting until they felt the ocean once again so they could release their grasp on the rocks. A solitary black eel with racing white stripes waited impatiently for the ocean to return. I was completely absorbed, except for one part of my mind that wondered if Edward was hunting, and exactly what he was hunting.
Finally, the boys were hungry, and I got up stiffly to follow them back. I cracked my back and sighed in contentment. I really wanted to explore the forest, but I knew I could always come back later. I didn’t fall too many times, just once. My hands were scraped, but they began to heal fairly quickly. Not as fast as in the human world, but not as slow as in the fey world. The perfect balance.
When we got back to First Beach, the group we had left behind had since multiplied. Shining, straight black hair and beautiful copper skin told me who the newcomers were, teenagers from the reservation that had come to socialize.
I wondered if Jacob was old enough to be in this group. Some days when I was visiting him, I would be the same age, some days I would be older. It was hard to keep up with the time change until just recently, and the Sands of Time messing up would make it hard once more.
We were introduced to the Natives. I couldn’t keep up with all of the names. All I saw were normal teenagers with normal smiles. It made me smile, all of the normality. I sat down next to Jessica this time. Mike brought us sandwiches and an array of sodas to choose from. We both chose water and several sandwiches.
It was relaxing to sit with Jessica. We both needed to fill up a good bit after the hike. I was surprised by this. Fairies usually ate next to nothing, maybe a piece of fruit after a long day. Jessica’s wolf goblin side chose to ignore this common stipulation, though. Occasionally, Jessica would point something out, like how the magic normally released in a fire was nowhere to be seen here. I would point something else out, like how that probably explains why there aren’t a lot of fey here even in this Gate desert. Then we would lapse into silence for a bit. It went like this a couple of times.
During lunch the clouds began their advance, claiming their territory in the skies once more. As they finished eating, people started to drift away in twos and threes. Some walked to the waves, trying to skip stones on the choppy water. Jessica eventually ditched me for Mike. They went to the one shop in the town that catered to annoying tourists. Some of the local kids went with them; others went back to hiking to the tidal pools. By the time everyone had scattered, I was sitting in solitude on my piece of driftwood. I was able to find Jacob much easier this time.
He was younger than me, maybe fourteen or fifteen. His long, glossy hair was pulled back with a rubber band at the nape of his neck. His skin was russet-colored and covered with splotches of acne. His eyes were dark, set deep above the high planes of his cheekbones. His face was okay now, but I knew later he would smolder people and get everything he desired with a face like that.
I stood up and went over to him. “You’re Jacob Black, aren’t you?”
“Jake,” he sighed a little. He lightened up a little when he saw me. He held out his hand in a friendly gesture. “Bella. You bought my dad’s truck.” His eyebrows furrowed. “I probably should remember you better. You look so much older than the last time I saw you.”
“Yeah, it’s been a while. I remember your sisters, too. Hold on…don’t tell me…” I remembered they were twins and they had the same name as the twins in that stupid book Julie read. “Rachel and Ruth?”
“Rachel and Rebecca,” he said, patting the seat next to him.
“Are they here now?” I asked, looking through the girls that were still here.
“Nah. Rachel got a scholarship to Washington State and Rebecca married a Samoan surfer, moved to Hawaii.”
I couldn’t for the life of me remember where Hawaii was. Was it the one with Orlando?
I decided to go with the thing that was surprising. “Married! Wow. They aren’t much older than I am, are they?”
“Three years older than me,” Jake said, careful about my age. He changed the subject. “How does the truck run?”
“It broke down, but I had a friend fix it for me. It runs great now.”
“Who fixed it?” Jake asked.
“Edward Cullen, mostly. Rosalie figured out how to fix it, but he was the one to actually fix it.”
Jacob’s friends tensed. So they were eavesdropping. I wondered why, then realized Jacob was the youngest of us there. He was the baby. “I would be careful around the Cullens,” one said.
The air felt awkward, so I changed the subject. “So did you help fix it up a little for me?”
He nodded. “Yeah. I fix cars in my free time and when I have parts. I guess just not well.”
“Hey, that truck has fought many a fight. It just defended me against a minivan the other day. I wouldn’t be surprised if it gave out tomorrow.”
Jake sighed a little, then smiled. I had a feeling he often put a smiling mask on. “Well, you wouldn’t happen to know where I could get my hands on a master cylinder for a 1986 Volkswagen Rabbit?”
“I haven’t seen one, but I’ll keep my eyes open,” I promised. He was very easy to talk with, I noticed.
He flashed a brilliant smile, looking at me in a way I was going to recognize. He was happy.
“You know Bella, Jacob?” Lauren asked from across the fire. I wished she could ask that in a way that seemed curious, but it just seemed like she was sneering.
“We’ve sort of known each other since I was born. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know Bella.”
“How nice.” She sounded like a doctor making a rather boring diagnosis for a patient they didn’t care for. Her narrow, fish-like eyes became little slits as she looked at me. I wondered what she would be in life. Would she ever have the guts to move out of Forks? Probably not. The most courageous thing she would probably do is become a nurse. I hoped that if she went to pediatrics she would be kind to those kids.
“Bella, did you not invite the Cullens here? You are attached at the hip to them. I figured you at least invited Edward.”
Before anyone could say anything else, I said, “No, I didn’t. You know them. Every time the sunlight hits the ground they go camping.”
This got a little laugh out of everyone, including the taller, older Native boy. He was really more of an adult, maybe a freshman in college, but I figured he was the designated baby sitter.
Lauren’s attention was grabbed by Tyler again and I could go back to my conversation with Jacob.
“So is Forks driving you crazy yet?” he asked.
“It is strange, being here for good. But not crazy. I like it here best. I think I might spend some more time up here. It makes me feel at peace.”
“Yeah. It’s a very nice place. I love it here.” He squinted at the sun. “A lot of Rez people stay here, make money off of tourists. I don’t know if I want to do that. I don’t know what I want to do.” A beat passed. “You want to go walk?”
“Sure.”
It was obvious Jacob had a lot on his mind. I did, too. The calm I felt in La Push would wear off soon. I would go back to worrying about the Cullens, procrastinating reading up on vampires, scared to think about my future as a leader. I didn’t want to leave here. Neither did Jacob, it seemed.
Maybe that was just the pull of towns like these. Sleepy, peaceful towns like Forks and La Push. They pull you in, entice you with a nice life, then you’re forty and always tired, working at a job like Daddy that you may or may not still love, but you’re so worn out that it doesn’t really matter anymore. Or maybe you’re like Billy, and so many bad things happen, but you stick it out here and hold on to the peacefulness. I wondered if it was better to hold onto peace or to dare to leave the peace behind.
I shook the thick thoughts out of my head. “So you’re what, sixteen?” I asked, aiming high just in case.
“I just turned fifteen,” he confessed, obviously flattered.
“You’re tall for your age,” I noted. It was true. He was a bit taller than me. Not done growing yet, but getting there.
“Yeah.”
“Do you come to Forks often?” I asked, hoping for a yes. Maybe I could have two nice friends, a kind of mean friend, a family of friends, a boyfriend, a distant friend, and a fiancé. Jacob and Angela, Jessica, the Cullens, Edward, Eva, and Colter, respectively.
“Not too much,” he admitted with a frown. “But when I get my car finished, I can go up as much as I want after I get my license. Or as much as the gas I can afford can get me up there.”
I wondered if the Natives were poor, if Jacob’s family were poor. He had on a thin hoodie and some ratty jeans. His shoes were from Daddy, I knew for a fact. I could see the little smily faces I drew on the toes. Oh. Daddy probably never wore those Converse. That’s why he told me to “mess them up”.
I was quiet for a moment. Jacob slipped into silence, too.
Finally, we found a log and made ourselves comfortable.
“Do you like scary stories?” Jacob asked suddenly.
“Yeah,” I said, not really knowing where it was going.
“Do you know any of our old stories, about where we came from – the Quileutes, I mean?”
“Not very much,” I admitted. I wondered if Chief would know anything. He resembled the Natives and lived close by. Huh.
“Well, there are lots of legends, some of them going back to the Flood. The ancient Quileutes tied their canoes to the tops of the tallest trees on the mountain to survive like Noah and the ark.” I remembered Noah’s story, and I remembered that the Elders were created to defeat those evil powers that survived.
“Other stories say we descend from the wolves. They say the wolves are our brothers still. It’s against tribal law to kill them.
“There are some stories that say we are wolves.”
He flashed a smile at the thought. “The stories about how we became wolves is a bit messy and involves an old tribal leader, Taha Aki.”
“I know that name,” I instantly said. But from where? It was a new name that I knew. Who would have that name?
“Maybe you remember my dad telling these stories. He tells them better. He tells the stories around here, especially since he got in the wheelchair.”
“When was that?” I asked.
“Gee, a while ago. I don’t remember. Isn’t that awful? I don’t remember when my dad stopped being able to walk. My sisters had an awful time here. That’s why they left so soon, I think. They were older when Mama died. They hated it here.”
“And you?”
He closed his eyes. “I like it. I mean, yes, there’s the want to see everything else in the world, but this is home. It’s where I work on cars, procrastinate on my Algebra homework, stuff my face full of food. It’s home. You know?”
“Not really. Home changes for me a lot,” I explained. “I mean, there’s my mom’s house, but we were never there. Her job made her move a lot. And then there’s my private school where I lived for a couple years. As much as I loved those old libraries and stables, it was never home because people were so mean. And now…” I looked behind us, where Jessica was looking at handmade dreamcatchers. I couldn’t remember which Native tribe originally made them, but it wasn’t here. Angela was nowhere in sight. Neither was Edward or any of the Cullens. “Well, I have friends here, but it’s nothing like you described.”
“This could always be your home. Open invitation,” Jacob said with a small smile.
“Tell me your favorite story your father tells.”
This brought a spark to Jacob’s eyes. “It’s crazy. And it’s a secret.”
“I’ll take it to the grave.”
“Werewolves have a single enemy. The cold ones. My great-grandfather, the tribal leader at the time, was a werewolf. He encountered a new coven of cold ones. They didn’t hunt he way others of their kind did – they weren’t supposed to be dangerous to the tribe. So my great-grandfather made a truce with them. If they would promise to stay off of our lands, we wouldn’t expose them to the pale-faces, people like you.” He tapped my nose, indicating my skin color, but I wondered if it had double meaning for me. I didn’t know of any werewolves around here, nor “cold ones.” Maybe the tribe knew about my kind, too.
“The cold ones were supposed to prey on humans, but these claimed that they only killed animals. They said they would normally leave if encountered by people that wanted them to leave, but they said that this place was the best place for them to hide in plain sight, to do their work. One was a doctor, one was a nurse, one worked in construction, one worked with charities, and another taught children music, of all things. They promised that they would not harm any human and not turn anyone. They called themselves a family. The Holland family. They left peacefully years ago, before even my father was born.”
“So that’s all? Vampires that hunt animals come and leave the area near you peacefully?” It wasn’t a very good story.
Jacob arched his eyebrow. “Oh, honey, you know there’s more.” He was trying to make his voice deeper. “Those Cullens you’re fond of…they are cold ones. And not just any cold ones. They are the same as the Holland family. Carlisle Cullen is the ring leader. Esme Cullen is his wife. Rosalie Hale is the beautiful one. Emmett Cullen is the big one. Edward Cullen is the dramatic one that reads thoughts. There are two new ones, Alice Cullen and Jasper Hale. Rumor has it Alice Cullen sees the future and Jasper Hale can use mental powers to manipulate people’s emotions.” His voice got even quieter, and I had to lean into hear the soft whisper. “When they came back, they met with my father and the other elders, or so they say. They stayed the same, they said. Their growth in family did not diminish their moral values, they said. Still. I would be careful around them. The cold ones.”
He burst out laughing, and I joined. It wasn’t because I didn’t believe the story, I did. I just wanted to laugh with a boy. My heart broke when I realized that. These few years I was in Forks would be the only time I would have to live my own life. Even if Edward was human, I would never get to marry him. I would never get to have a real life with him. But I could love him for this short time that I had him. I could live as a teenager was supposed to. I knew I still had responsibilities, but maybe I could have a little fun. Maybe I could kiss someone I loved. It didn’t even have to be Edward. I could choose my path in Forks. It couldn’t be very far from the one I was destined to walk, but it could be my own little path.
I heard Mike call for me. “There you are, Bella!” Mike called, waving his arm over his head. He smiled easily enough. His other arm was slung around a smirking Jessica.
“I guess y’all are leaving?” Jacob said, raising his voice at the end to form a question.
“Yeah. You should come see me in Forks. Open invitation.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.”
We started walking back to where the others were. Mike and Jess met us in the middle.
“Where have you been?” Mike asked, even though the answer was in front of him.
“Jake was telling me local stories,” I told him. “It was interesting, to say least.” I gave Jacob a warm smile, and he grinned back.
Jessica’s smirk turned into a full smile. “Come on, Izzy dearest, we’re packing up. It’s going to rain, again.” A laugh escaped her. I had a feeling that she was feeling the same way I was about this place. It just felt so peaceful here.
I joined in her laughter. “I’ll race you back!”
Jessica broke away from Mike and started running.
Jacob called from behind me, “Nice seeing you again!”
I waved a hand behind me, barely rushing past Jessica. We stumbled through the ring of logs. I declared myself the winner. Jessica disagreed, and showed it by jumping on me and messing up my hair.
She was so dead.
I heard the familiar snap of a camera. Angela was the culprit. She handed the camera over to Mike, who waited patiently until us girls found a pose we deemed acceptable. It never happened, though, because it began to rain. Mike caught the moment it hit us.
I later had Angela develop the pictures for me. She had gotten one of me and Jessica at the fire, of Jess scolding me at the tidal pools, of me falling over a rock, of Jacob and I laughing, of Jess and Mike kissing, of Jessica racing me, the pictures of Jess tackling me, and finally of me hissing at the rain while Jessica and Angela shrieked.
That was the life I wanted. That was the path I wanted to choose.
I wondered if Edward would show up in film.

Chapter Text

8. Nightmare

When I got home, I was happy. Jacob had basically confirmed that the Cullens did not attack humans, or at least tried not to. I told Daddy the good news. He didn’t seem too excited.
“I told you that, Bella. You want to watch this basketball game?”
“Nope.”
“Okay.”
I retreated to my room. I called Eva to tell her the good news.
“Hello?”
“Hi Eva! Guess what?”
“What?”
“One of my friends confirmed that the Cullens aren’t dangerous to humans!”
“How could they confirm that?”
“The Cullens made a treaty with the local Native Americans that they wouldn’t hunt humans, but they don’t do that anyways!”
“Hm. I would still be careful around them. Fey blood smells better than human blood. That’s what my grandma always told me.”
“Hm. Where are you? I haven’t seen you in forever.”
“I’m in New York City. Why?”
“I miss you, Eva.”
“I’ll come over soon. I promise. Within the year.”
I rolled my eyes. “That sounds so soon.”
Eva sighed. “Forks is so boring. You can come here.”
“I might, soon. Within the year.”
I could almost feel the hatred blooming in Eva’s chest. “I see what you did there and I do not like it.”
I giggled. “I’ll talk to you later. I love you!”
“To the moon and back,” came Eva’s monotone reply.
I had a couple hours before I needed to sleep. To pass the time, I decided to go out.
I told Dad my plans, then took my new cape, my dragon hide and burlap bag, and some cheese and bread.
I couldn’t remember exactly where the Passageway was, so I had to very carefully circle around the area near La Push until I found where it was. There was a spell I couldn’t see through that made it look like there was nothing there, but I pushed past it. The spell was an old one. The newer spells were almost undetectable, but the older ones were stronger and harder to get past. I felt a thick film like syrup as I past through the spell. It made me feel sick. My vision was fuzzy, but I still got into the cabin. I felt almost sick until I fell through the wet blanket of water that lead to the Passageway.
Chief was in the living room. He looked up from a book he was reading. “Isabella? Are you okay?”
“Yes, I’m fine. Do you know why La Push has no magic?”
He sighed, putting the book down. He brushed his fingers through his peppery white hair. “I do. Do they not teach it in the schools?”
“Not very much.”
“The Elders provided a magical utopia for the people they became. La Push is no exception. Natural magic from inside a person thrives there. In the fey world, people are dependent on the constant flow of magic. When they come to the human world, they make sure they are near a Gate. If they can’t do that, they start fires so the magic in plants escapes. Some of the biggest fires in the world started because of a fey feeling like they need magic. Is that all you came to ask of me?”
I sat down in one of the chairs across from him. “Are you an Elder?” It was obvious that he was. I was slightly delusional when I was stabbed and he helped me.
“Yes. My children, the boys and girls in La Push, still carry on my legacy. If the tribe would ever need protection, they would become like me. My favorite form is the wolf. Since they are part human, they cannot choose anything except the wolf.”
“How old are you?” I asked.
Chief cracked a smile. “Too old, summer child. Tell me, who are you? It takes someone special to find a Passageway. How did you know?”
“It just sort of…glowed, I guess, and I knew. As far as who I am, I am the daughter of the Head of the Cat Clan, engaged to Colter of the Cat Clan.”
“You know Colter? You’re engaged to him? I thought he’d never find love.”
“It’s a political marriage.” I got out my food and offered him some. He accepted and disappeared into the hall. He returned with some berries and a glass of cider for each of us.
“How do you know Colter?” I asked.
“Years and years ago, before the worlds Split, Colter and I were friends. The best of friends. We lived in an ancient city that was erased from human history after it disappeared in the Split. Even the fey have forgotten about it.” He sighed, reminiscing.
“Why did you stop being friends with Colter?”
“We never stopped. I left the city to help my wife and her people. He left the city in search for a magic that could give him everything he wished for.”
“What was that?” I asked. Maybe we could learn to love each other and he wouldn’t give up his life.
“He had a sister. She was dying. All he wished for was more time for her to live. By the time he obtained the magic to do so, he returned to the city. His sister had died and he was cursed with immortality. It could only be passed through blood or marriage. I was surprised he never married. He was so depressed that I thought he would do anything to end his life. Why did he choose you?”
“My mother is the Head of the Cat Clan. I am half human and cannot produce an heir. He promised to marry me and to produce an heir. He then told me later that he would let go of immortality and use the magic to make me fertile. Then he would kill himself.”
Chief’s eyes widened. “Ah, that makes sense. He always had a soft spot for half fey. He and his brother and sister were half fey. After she died and he broke off ties with his brother, he turned himself full goblin, but he always still held a spot for them. He sees himself and his family in you. Did you say your mother is the Head of the Cat Clan?”
“Yes…”
“You’re not trained to be Head,” Chief said.
“Well, I am classically trained in the arts, but-”
Chief shook his head. “Follow me.”
We walked back to the human world. He went outside. It was colder out and I wondered how time exactly worked in the Passageway.
“Show me your best defensive spell,” Chief said.
I stayed silent. I felt my chest tighten. This was a living nightmare.
“Tell me one of the laws that is specific to the Lion Cat Clan.” Nothing. I knew nothing. Further proof that I was not fit to rule over my people.
“Sit down.”
I collapsed onto the eternally-wet grass. Chief collapsed in the same way.
“Elders do not have magic of their own. Elders cannot be affected by magic. They can use magic, though. I was the annoying kid in university. I learned all the spells and all the laws that didn’t even relate to me. I grabbed every book I saw. I loved knowledge. Everyone hated me for it and said I was being too much of a snob.”
He touched a blade of grass. It glowed green. A bit of magic was removed. I was surprised. I thought burning was the only way to get magic out of living things. I was wrong.
“But now, I’m glad. I taught wise men how to use nature to their advantage. It’s been forgotten, of course, as most real magic in the human was, but now I may teach it again.” He played with the magic, dancing it around his fingers until it was a little sphere about the size of my fingernail.
He placed the magic on my fingertips. “Now, feel how it’s shaped. Feel how it wants to move. Now concentrate on what you want it to do. You want it to protect you.”
I closed my eyes. I felt a sense of peace. It felt like good magic. This is what natural magic felt like. Not the burnt magic that felt almost like charred meat. It wanted to be released, to be something except a little ball.
When I opened my eyes, the green magic was gone. In between Chief and me was a very realistic clone of Edward. The only parts wrong with it were the red eyes and the white fangs. He still looked sickly, but also dangerous. Like the mentally ill that just got their hands on a gun. Deadly without a second thought. He looked a little more static as the seconds ticked by, like I was seeing him through a TV that’s not quite in tune with the channel.
“You feel safety in the arms of a vampire. Interesting.” He touched Edward’s form. The fangs disappeared. “I want you to repeat this exercise at home. Do it until you have this vampire down. Do it until you can have different physical things protect you. Then come back.”
“What does he do?” I asked.
“He protects you. That is his only thought. To protect your life at all costs, even if it means hurting you. You will get better at it. You just have to concentrate on exactly what you want. Now let’s put this magic back in the grass.”
He showed me how to transfer the magic back and forth until I had it right. He told me to be careful not to practice near people until I was certain that my “physical protectors” were safe. He said they wouldn’t last very long until I got better at it.
Before I left, he gave me a huge stack of books about what we had gone over as well as three thick books on laws in the Cat Clan and how they interact with other laws within Titania’s kingdom.
“This is the easiest part. Come back next week with that memorized and I want your physical protectors much better.”
“Can you drive me home? There are a lot of books.”
Chief grinned. He looked young for a moment. “No, I think you’ll do just fine walking.”

When I got home, Dad was dozing on the couch. I piled all the books on the kitchen table. I turned off the blazing TV. Very carefully, I picked Dad up. He mumbled something and let his head fall back in response. Not quiet dozing, then. Passed out in a coma.
I was glad that I was different. Had my mother been a human, I wouldn’t be able to do this. I wondered where I would be if she was human. Probably still here. I tucked Dad in, making sure he was on his side so he wouldn’t suffocate on his own drool. With a touch, I made the blankets a little thicker, a little softer. As much as I hated myself for being in the middle, I couldn’t hate myself too much. I was my parents’ daughter. I had my mother, strong, beautiful, smart, and brave. She faced so many people every day and defined herself as a woman capable of handling her people. I hoped so much to be like her.
And then there was my father, the quiet and lonely man that stayed up late and woke up early and covered too many shifts and took a little joy in watching sports. As I transformed his work clothes into pajamas, I felt tears trickle down my cheeks. This was my father and I loved him.
Part of me wanted to curl up right next to him, but I felt my human side taking control. “No, it’s time to get in the shower and brush your teeth and go to bed. Stop acting feral.”
So I did. I followed my instructions. I even blow-dried my hair with the hair dryer Dad had bought me and I had yet to use. I was even going to use the mouthwash marked Listerine, but I instantly spit the burning liquid out.
When I was safely in my room, away from Listerine, I sighed and sank into my bed. It had been a long day. I needed to relax. The clouds blocked out the moon, so I had a hard time picking out a CD. Finally, I got one in. When I hit play, though, I found out it was one of Dad’s CDs that he snuck in. However, right before I hit the Open button, I realized it was what I needed. The shattering beats made it impossible to think. Through the blaring noise were beautiful and sad songs. Soon, I fell asleep.
I opened my eyes to a familiar place. The light broke in odd places and glowed green. Tendrils of magic flowed from the leaves. Aware in some corner of my consciousness that I was dreaming, I tried to find this place in the real world. The closest was the forest in La Push. There wasn’t magic like this, though. I walked through the mossy maze. I was barefoot, dressed lightly, like I did back in the fey world. I began to hear ocean waves crashing against rocks nearby. Maybe if I followed the sound, I would be able to get out of the forest. The tendrils of magic started to cling onto me. I was suddenly claustrophobic. I was about to stream bloody murder when Jacob Black was there, breaking the magic strands, tugging on my hand, pulling me deep into the forest where darker magics lived.
“Jacob, there’s something wrong there. Let’s go,” I said. His face was frightened as he yanked with all his strength against my resistance; I didn’t want to go deeper into that forest.
“Bella, you have to see what you did,” he whispered, terrified. He was terrified of what I did. What did I do?
“Bella!” Mike screeched. I heard his voice calling for me, begging me to come closer to the gloomy heart of the trees. I couldn’t see him. My heart beat faster.
“Jacob, please, please!” I cried, pulling against Jacob’s grasp, desperate to leave the clinging dark magic and the screaming and the fear. I wanted to find the sun.
Jacob granted my wish, falling to the dim forest floor. He was shaking and shivering and sweating. He twitched on the ground as I watched in horror.
“Jacob!” I screamed. But he was gone. In his place was a large red-brown wolf with black eyes. Familiar black eyes. Jacob’s eyes. Snot and tears and fear covered my face. I screamed and ran, running deeper into the forest. Whatever I did was better than the monster in front of me.
I tripped, scrapping my knees. Blood. I heard a sharp breath that was not mine. I looked back. I had tripped over a body. I didn’t have time to mourn for Mike. I leapt up and kept running.
Jacob, the wolf, the monster, whatever it was was gaining on me. I reached a clearing. I instantly wished I was anywhere but there. The monster was better than this.
Two Edwards. One with blood dripping down his face and fangs and crimson eyes. One with golden eyes and a sickly body and a band t-shirt.
With a swift movement I didn’t quit catch, my sickly and beautiful Edward fell to the ground. I knew he was dead.
Another blur and I heard the strangled cry of a wolf dying. I wanted to leave. Why did this ever happen?
The physical protector held my face in his hands. He dripped blood. “Why do you cry, love? You are safe. Always safe with me.”
I woke up soundlessly. My breath didn’t even catch. I wiped my face dry. The songs that had pounded me to sleep were silent. I realized I had never gotten around to putting on pajamas. I was in my cape and jeans and a t-shirt and shoes. I glanced up at the clock, trying to make out numbers from the green fuzz. One-thirty. At least I got an hour in. I groaned. I needed more sleep, but there was no way I was going back to sleep tonight.
I was shaking a little as I got up. I opened the window and let the night sounds in. The cool breath of wind swirled around me. I felt uncomfortable still. I was too…human right now. I untangled my braid and sighed as the tension released. I pushed my shoes off. I was too lazy with my jeans. I simply turned them into a purse that I threw in my room. I let my cape flutter to the floor. It was a lump of dark fabric that seemed to disappear into the dark room.
For a moment, I basked in the wind and the sounds of crickets. Eva once told me a story about the crickets, but I couldn’t quiet remember it.
Finally, I decided that I needed to eat, and probably more than we had stashed away in the kitchen. I had gone too long without it, especially with all of what had happened over the past couple of days.
Part of me wanted to go full feral and rip my clothes and be animalistic, but then the sensible part of me said no. That had happened once and even the cat goblins in the forest thought I was strange. I had a feeling that was just my human perception of “feral” when in reality I knew feral normally just meant they wanted to be left alone and didn’t always take baths every day.
I put on some clothes Alice gave me. They needed to be used more. They were made for travel. I needed some more like this. Maybe I could convince her to take me shopping again.
I left a note for Dad just in case he woke up before I got back.
I hopped outside. The trees stood high above me. Suddenly, I didn’t want to hunt. I decided to go somewhere to eat.

The yellow light was too bright for my liking, but it was the only place that I found that was open. I was hit by the smell of waffles and hash browns and eggs. Waffle House, the sign had said.
There were five workers and eleven customers. I recognized none of them, thankfully.
I sat down at one of the stools. “Whatchu want, sweetie?” the large lady asked me. She had fake eyelashes and a big, toothy smile.
“Um, I’ve never been here. What’s good?”
“Just about everything. The name’s Waffle House, but we do have very good hash browns.”
“I’ll have three plates of those,” I said, putting my head in my hands.
“You okay, sweetie? You look mighty tired.”
I sighed, feeling tension in my back. “Yeah, I am. It’s been a long couple of days. I thought I had it rough before, but this is unreal. I got stabbed.”
She didn’t even blink at my confession. “It’ll get harder. I’m not gonna sugar-coat it. But remember, you can always come here and eat hash browns.”
I snorted. “No cheesy inspirational quotes? Just come eat hash browns?”
“That’s what a lot of people here do. They can’t do anything else. They’re scared and they come here to eat breakfast food and play with sugar packets. You gotta lot to learn, summer child.”
Hm. Summer child. I began to play with the sugar packets.
The hash browns were good. I got a couple plates of everything. She was right, though. The hash browns were the best. I tipped each worker well and bought every person a plate of hash browns. Maybe they were scared or maybe they were hungry. Either way, everyone was happy.

Dad was still asleep when I got back. I turned on my lamp. I picked up the ancient book about vampires I got from the library. It was time to stop procrastinating on it.
Most of it was stuff I didn’t really care about: the composition of venom, how male vampires could reproduce, the half vampire children. I was almost done with the book when I got to an interesting section.
Eye color.
It spent a lot of time on red for some reason. There were variations, depending on blood type and other factors, but it all ended up being one color: red. It went into very little description about the types of color produced by drinking animal blood. For sea creatures, it was blue. For deep-sea creatures, it was a crimson that made the human color pale in comparison. For tropical places, it was a beautiful green. In the Arctic regions, a crystal-blue color was in place. For Africa, it was a million shades of brown with all sorts of dashes of color. I skimmed down the rest of the page. My eyes landed on “fey”.

FEY: A bright gold; beware of these vampires, as they are generally more cunning and know more about fey weaknesses; fey blood gives them a much higher boost than any human or animal

I took a deep breath. Before I could start panicking, Dad opened the door.
“Hey Kitten. I’m going fishing. I’ll see you later.”
“Dad, do you mind if I go with you. I need a day to…relax.”
He agreed with a nod.

I hadn’t realized we were fishing with Billy Black. There was a lake near his house. I liked the feeling of being in La Push again. Billy was surprised I was up.
“Jacob’s passed out in his room. Been playing that Gameboy I got him when he was little. He would never come fishing. He says he wants an Xbox, but I can’t afford it. Besides, he pines over that little Gameboy. Just think of what he would do with an Xbox. He would probably marry it,” Billy told me after learning that I had volunteered to come. He handed me a ham sandwich. I was handling human food a lot better now, so I accepted.
Before we left, Billy yelled, “JACOB, WAKE UP.”
The sound Jacob produced did not sound human. I could tell he was not pleased.
Billy laughed.
Billy had this truck that spit out a ramp for Billy to roll up into. He was very proud of it. He showed me all of the controls and the mechanism that locked his wheelchair into place. Dad was grinning. They turned on the radio and listened to a talk show. I was happy just to listen.
When we got to the lake, it began to rain. Billy and Dad taught me how to bait the hook. I wasn’t very good at casting, so Dad usually cast in for me and I would wait and eventually reel the fish in. I got a couple, but Daddy and Billy were like champions.
“Bella, why don’t you swim while the rain lets up?” Billy asked. The rain wasn’t really letting up, just backing up a moment, catching its breath.
“She doesn’t know how,” Dad explained, taking out another ham sandwich.
I looked sheepishly at the ground. “I could drown.”
“Yep. And so could everyone else that swims. You aren’t special. You’re excuses aren’t special. Get in the water and don’t drown.”
The water was calming. I had to go further away, though, because I kept on being whacked by fish being reeled in. I didn’t get out of the water when it started raining. Only when Daddy called me did I get out.
When we got back to Billy’s house, I was still wet. Jacob was out grocery shopping, or so his note said.
I left a master cylinder for a 1986 Volkswagen Rabbit on his made bed.

When we got home, I winced at the stack of books that lay on the table. I set Dad to scaling the fish. I went upstairs and did my high school homework. I had a paper due Wednesday, so I went ahead and did that, too. I realized halfway through that it was more of a rough draft than anything. I would work on the rest of it later. I could smell fish cooking. I decided to go downstairs.
Daddy was squeezing lemon juice on the sizzling fish. Oil popped and the fish turned dark. He gave me a smile as I sat down at the table, sorting through the books. By the time dinner was served, I was through the introduction of Cat Clan law. Why on Earth didn’t my mom prepare me for this?
“Is that for school or something else?” Daddy asked as he put a plate down in front of me. He picked up one of the books on natural magic. “I guess not.” His eyes flickered over the pages. “What’s this about natural magic?”
“You can read fey?” I asked, quiet surprised. I didn’t think humans could read it.
He nodded. “Yup. I taught myself to occupy the time after you had left and my parents died. I don’t always know all the words, but I know enough to get the general idea.”
“How did you learn? There aren’t dictionaries.”
He closed the book I was reading and put it on the stack in front of me. “Your mom left some books in fey here. Some were hers, some were mine. I noticed one day that one of your mom’s books had a human name as the author. It was Shakespeare. I found out it was Romeo and Juliet through the pictures. I used the English version to decipher the words. Of course, it wasn’t easy, but I had a lot of time on my hands. After I got a good handling on that book, I went through all of the fey books with human authors. Finally, I started reading the books that were written by fey. I learned a lot.”
“Maybe you could help me study these other books. They’re about law.”
He chewed his first bite of fish thoughtfully. He swallowed. “I thought your momma said that you already got taught that stuff in that training school. Did you not? Cause your momma will sue ‘em for all they got, or whatever happens when a school doesn’t do what they said they’re gonna do.”
“No, Daddy. Just help me study.”
He rolled his eyes. “Whatever, Bella.”
Before jumping back into my books, I finished my essay for school. It was about Macbeth. I wrote about Lady Macbeth and the consequences of playing with evil magics. She lost everything and ended up taking her own life. It reminded me of my nightmare last night. I was much more wary of using physical protectors now.
I was halfway in the first section about international fey law when the doorbell rang. It was about seven. I wondered who it could be. I bounded down the stairs. Daddy was already opening the door.
He welcomed Rosalie into our home and I wondered about the myth that vampires couldn’t enter a home without being invited.
“…Hi Rosalie,” I said, a little wary of her. Her eyes were golden. Did she kill my kind?
“Hi Bella. Your dad said you might need some self defense lessons?”
Dad nodded. “Yep. Bells, Rosalie runs a class in the summer for women’s self defense. I asked her to come here. Maybe it can be a Sunday thing.”
“Um, sure.”
Rosalie smiled. Dad shooed us away, claiming he needed to do yard work in the front yard. We had the back yard to ourselves.
“Does Carlisle know you’re here?” I asked.
She shook her head. Her hair was braided back and set into a bun. “Just…don’t think about any of that. I’m your trainer now.”
I nodded. She wasn’t a vampire. She didn’t kill my kind. She was someone who was going to teach me how to fight.
“First things first. Always be aware of your surroundings. Pay attention when you’re out. Don’t just use your eyes. Use all of your senses.” She pulled a cloth out of her hoodie. She was wearing a pair of those workout pants – what were they called? Yoga pants – along with what had to be the rattiest hoodie I had ever seen. I had never seen her so underdressed.
She wrapped the cloth around my eyes. I reminded myself that if she had wanted me dead, I would have been dead a long time ago.
“Try to point to where I am when I move.”
The game was simply enough. I had played similar games with Christopher. We would meet each other in the middle of the night when we could barely see our noses, much less each other. We would plug our noses and ears and play hide-and-seek. We had to find each other by feeling the way magic moved around us. Even with how weak I was in the fey world, I could still find him. It made me a great hunter.
Rosalie was surprised that as she got quieter and quieter, I was still able to track where she was going. Finally, she took off the cloth. “You’re impossible,” she muttered.
She taught me the weak spots of people next. Eyes, noses, throats, crotches, and apparently, ears. She showed me how to kick the legs of an attacker so they would fall and crack their head. It started to get dark, but neither one of us cared.
“Come on, Bella, you can do better than that. Straighter leg. Keep your weight on the other leg.”
I kicked her marble leg. They gave a little, but I have a feeling that she did that on purpose.
“Flex the foot a little bit more next time. Again.”
I did and this time she actually fell a little. She frowned.
“You girls almost done?” Dad yelled from the front yard.
“Yessir!” Rosalie yelled back. She suddenly became shy. “Um, well, I guess I’ll go home. Jasper’s a lot better than me, but he said I should be with you for now. You’re good. You have a lot of potential, but that won’t mean anything unless you work really hard. Edward told me to tell you that if you want, he can come over tonight and talk.”
A little fear leaped into my heart, but the idiot part of me said, “That would be great.”
As soon as Rosalie left, I started to freak out. I buried myself in the books about law. Dad went to sleep and I stayed buried in them. Maybe Edward wouldn’t come if I buried.
I heard a knock on my window and woke up. I looked at the clock. I had been asleep for almost three hours. I sat up and wiped the drool off my lips. I looked around my room, looking for the source of the noise. I bit my lip to avoid screaming when I saw the sickly redhead.
I opened the window. Edward, the champion of being subtle, was perched on the window sill.
“Sorry I woke you up,” he apologized.
“It’s okay. I was going to wake up soon anyways. How was your….trip?” His eyes were bright gold. I wanted to stretch my legs out and maybe hunt. Maybe I could after he leaves.
“It was good. Do you want me to come in or you go out?”
“If we go out, can I hunt? I’m hungry.”
An eyebrow raised over his sparkling eyes. “What will you dine on?”
“Probably deer.”
He shrugged and fell back. Since I was still dressed from wanting to hunt last night, I followed suit. We both landed lightly on our feet.
I looked him up and down quickly. Okay, I was checking him out a little. I laughed when I saw what he was wearing.
“That is the ugliest and rattiest hoodie I’ve ever seen! Rosalie was wearing it before, but at least she looks like a model wearing it. You look homeless!”
Edward laughed. “Thank you. Rose and I won a bet against her and Jazz, so we get to take turns wearing it in front of people.”
“What bet?”
“Which team could subdue Emmett. Jasper has more experience with fighting and Alice has some advantages of her own, but I have much quicker instincts and Rose knows Emmett better. We only got him down for a few seconds, but it was enough to beat them.”
I smirked. “Okay. Now try to keep up.”
I started to run, just loving the feeling of moving again. All of my injuries I had sustained in the wolf territory were gone and it was just me, running, with a vampire that may or may not have been keeping up.
When I slowed down so I could actually hunt, I looked back. Edward was nowhere to be seen. I started to run back to find him, but I heard his laughing. I looked up. He was in the tree above me, looking like he had been there for hours. He dropped his torso so he was hanging upside down like a monkey playing.
“‘Try to keep up’. As if! You’re so slow. I thought you would be faster, not being human. But obviously not!” He swung back and forth. He was happier than I had ever seen him.
I jumped, barely missing the lowest branch. This caused him to crack up. I wished he would fall out of the tree. I scaled the tree, trying to get to the high branch he was on.
“Try to catch me!” he teased. He jumped down to my branch. He danced out of my grasp.
“I’m not taking you hunting again,” I threatened. He stood on his tiptoes and held out his hand. Warily, I touched it. It was very cold. His facial expression was frozen for a moment, then he grinned a little bit more.
“You caught me. You’re a very good hunter.”
I grinned at the idiot boy, then jumped down. “Then let me actually hunt!”
Edward was still pestering, but I managed to get a buck. He made fun of me as I carefully skinned it and cut the meat into little squares with my true silver knife. I made sure he didn’t touch it. It burned vampires. It burned me a little, but it was nothing compared to what he would feel.
“Magic burns a lot of calories. Here in the human world especially, I have a lot of magic in my system. I need to eat a lot.”
“But eating a heart is just awful.”
I rolled my eyes. “I’m trying to act more human now that I’m here, but it’s hard because of the lack of magic here, which lets the magic my body naturally produce skyrocket. It doesn’t help that it rains magic here. I’m more goblin here than anywhere else. I’m much more human in the fey world. I just think doing this, not being feral, helps me.”
“How are you more human there?” Edward asked. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him dip his finger in the deer blood. He licked his finger clean. Maybe they didn’t kill my kind.
“I’m very clumsy. I heal slower there. It’s much harder for me to do a lot of spells. I sometimes sleep longer there and eat less. It depends.”
Edward laid back in the grass. “I think you’re quiet…cool.”
“You think so?”
He nodded, closing his eyes. “Very much so. You make me very happy.”
My heart warmed up. “Thank you. You make me happy, too.”
He rolled over onto his stomach and smiled into the moss. “You should probably go,” he said. “It’s almost morning. It’ll be sunny today.”
“I guess you won’t be coming to school.”
“Nope.” He opened his eyes and stared down a snail that was less than an inch from his nose. His eyes crossed. I finished up the last meat that I wanted, then perched the carcass up on a rock.
“Bye Edward.”
He was still laying on the forest floor. The snail was crawling up his nose. He was completely cross-eyed. His legs crossed and uncrossed in the air like a kid. How could this silly, sweet boy ever kill my kind, much less a human?
He couldn’t. I was sure of it.
Edward lifted his head up and uncrossed his eyes. “Bye Bella.”
I ran as fast as I could. As I ran, the first signs of the new day began. The birds began to sing, some flowers began to lift up, and the smallest rays of sunlight began to filter through the thin layer of clouds.
When I got home, I decided to cook for Dad. He still wasn’t up by the time I was finished, so I took it upstairs to him. The sun had come up. Pinkish rays lit up Dad’s figure. He was leaning over his desk, staring at his computer screen.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Nothing, sweetie. I’m just trying to help a friend a few counties over. She’s been dealing with a lot of animal deaths in her park.” He turned. “The Cullens didn’t happen to go to Goats Rock Wilderness, did they?”
“Actually, um, yeah. Were there animal deaths there?”
“Yup. Is that pancakes?”
I sat down on his bed and handed him his meal. “Sorta. I didn’t know how to make pancakes, so I made this thing Momma used to make me. They’re called honey cakes.”
Daddy took a bite. “Mmm. Good stuff. I’m not going to ask what it’s made of.”
“Nothing too bad. Just the blood of my enemies and some sugar.”
Dad rolled his eyes. “Go get a shower. You got blood on your shirt. You don’t want to have your clothes all messed up on the one day of the year people can see you.”
Sometime during my shower Dad left. On the way out, I grabbed one of the daunting law books. I didn’t want to tempt fate, so I folded my raincoat over my arm and stepped out into the brightest light I had seen in months.
By dint of much elbow grease, I was able to get both windows in the truck completely rolled down. I was one of the first ones to school; I hadn’t even checked the clock since I heard Edward knocking on my window. I parked and headed toward the seldom-used picnic benches near the cafeteria. The benches were still a little damp, so I converted the water back into magic. My homework was done – the product of only a few hours of sleep a night – so I started to dig into the law book. I was beginning to understand the reasoning behind the laws: cat goblins wanted human protection, but not human or other-fey interaction in government. There were strict and complex laws about Titania’s influence that I knew were still being processed today.
I was deep in the section about trade when I heard someone calling my name. It sounded like Mike.
I looked around to realize that the school had become populated while I’d been sitting there, lost in the law of my land and people. Everyone was in t-shirts, some even in shorts though the temperature couldn’t be over sixty. I felt a little overdressed in my flowery top and pink jeans. Mike was coming toward me in some ugly shorts and a striped sports shirt, waving.
“Hey, Mike,” I called, waving back, unable to be halfhearted on such a nice morning.
He came to sit by me, the tidy spikes of his hair shining golden in the light, his grin stretching out across his face. He was so delighted by the serine day. I couldn’t help but feel the same way.
“I never noticed before – your hair has red in it,” he commented, catching between his fingers a strand that was fluttering in the light breeze. I inwardly cursed myself for missing a strand in my side braid.
“Only in the sun.”
I became a tad uncomfortable as he tucked the lock behind my ear. I scooted away a little and tried to begin to read again.
“Great day, isn’t it?” Mike asked, staring directly into the sun. I wondered how soon he would go blind.
“My kind of day,” I agreed. It wasn’t quiet warm enough to remind me of home, but it was close enough.
“What did you do yesterday?”
“I went fishing and worked on my essay.”
He hit his forehead with the heel of his hand. “Oh yeah – that’s due Thursday, right?”
“No, Wednesday,” I corrected.
“That’s not good. What did you write yours on?”
“Whether Shakespeare’s treatment of the female characters, especially Lady Macbeth, is sexist and misogynistic.”
“No. I think that he wrote her as a strong character who shows her true character when motivated by greed. Not every evil female character written by a man is a reflection of how he feels about women.”
For a moment, I stared at Mike like he had just spoken in pig Latin.
He continued. “Take, for example, Portia in The Merchant of Venice. Yes, she disguises herself as a man, but in the end she takes control of her father’s property. Or Rosalind in As You Like It, where she molds her future husband into the man she wants him to be by disguising herself as a man. Margaret of Anjou in all of the King Henry VI plays is very strong and even goes to battle. He writes a lot of women disguising themselves as men, but it shows that power is not solely in the gender of a person. It’s only in society’s standard of who should have power.”
“I didn’t think you paid attention in class.”
“I don’t. My mom is getting her degree in gender studies online and we argue about it a lot. I read most of Shakespeare’s work to help me. I hated it, though.”
“Why don’t you write about that?”
He shrugged. “I probably will. I’ll have to work on it tonight, I guess. Will you help me? Then we could go out to eat.”
I rolled my eyes. “No, Mike. Jessica likes you. I don’t. I thought I made that clear by setting up the date.”
Mike huffed. “Bella, you don’t understand. Jessica, she’s one of the richest kids here, besides the Cullens. Her mom owns the bank and she hates me! I tried with Jessica. We went on a date and had a good time. But I have a better chance with you than her. You’re funny and pretty and smart and your dad knows and likes me. I think we could have a fulfilling relationship, just like I could have with Jessica if it wasn’t for other factors, mostly being money.”
I wanted to tell him that I knew that whoever was Jessica’s mom would not truly interfere with whatever Jessica wanted to do. I just sighed and said, “Mike, don’t date me. You’re right, a meaningful relationship could come out of it, but it’s what neither of us want. Just be my friend and be with my friend. We both want that. Now let’s go to class.”
He nodded with a concentrated look on his face and we walked silently to class.
When I saw Jessica in Trig, she was bubbling with enthusiasm. She, Angela, and Lauren were going to Port Angeles tonight to go dress shopping for the dance. She wanted me to come, too, despite my lack of need for a fancy dress. I was indecisive. It would be nice to get out of town with some friends, but Lauren would be there. I could be studying the mountain of books or even practicing spells. I wanted to be in the sunlight, but I could get that by stepping into the fey world.
“Come on, Izzy. You can read whatever you’re reading on the way there and back. It would be so much fun with you.”
“Maybe, Jess…I’ll talk with my dad, okay?”
On the way to Spanish, we talked in low voices about the major slowing down of time in Titania’s kingdom after the sandstorm. Jessica said that it had barely been a couple hours the last that she had heard. Colter was in charge of the removal of the Sands of Time. He was instructed to collect it with his connections to the time magic and place it in a desert close to Titania’s kingdom. The plan was that it would be studied.
“Everyone is saying it’ll be at least another Earth week before some parts of Titania’s kingdom are fixed,” Jessica whispered.
“I’m glad Colter can help.”
Jessica narrowed her eyes. “Yeah. You’re so lucky you have him. I’ve met him multiple times before I knew you and he didn’t even remember me.”
“Jess, please don’t be like that.”
She shrugged as we took our seats.
I wasn’t surprised when the Cullens weren’t at lunch. I didn’t know exactly what happened to them in the sunlight, but I doubted it was anything a normal human did.
I had Angela quiz me on a few of the fey laws. I noticed Jessica and Mike were sitting together, but I didn’t think much of it. Angela also asked me about my Macbeth paper and I answered as best I could. She smiled when I asked if witches really used big pots and cauldrons.”
“Not anymore. I usually use just a regular bowl,” Angela said. “I’m not very good, though. If you really want to know anything, you should ask my mama. I wished my abuela was still alive. You would have loved her.”
The rest of the day passed slowly, dismally. In Gym, we had a lecture on a sport called badminton. I had never played the sport, so I hoped I was secretly terrible at it. I hated having to be clumsy. I wished that the Gym was part of the fey world. I wouldn’t even be able to dribble a basketball.
I went back to the house. Before I went out with Jessica and company, I planned to study a bit more of the fey laws. I was actually interested in them now. Either that or I was going slowly insane and developing an obsession over law as a way to cope.
When I got home, Jessica was in my house. Her wings were out and she was eating a slice of raw venison on the counter. “Hey. Mike asked me out, so we’re not going shopping tonight. Do you want to go tomorrow?”
I ripped off a piece of meat and climbed up next to her. I fell into a crouch. “Yeah, sure. Why couldn’t you have called me?”
She shrugged. “I’m going to the fey world to report back about the situation in Forks. There are no vampires, apparently,” she said with a wink, “There are no fey as of right now that aren’t supposed to be here, and the Natives in La Push seem to be peaceful.”
“What is Titania monitoring the Natives for?” I asked. “Titania isn’t supposed to be monitoring any human group, only magic activity.”
She shrugged. “Do you want to come with me? Colter is on a break right now. There’s a dinner festival that Titania is putting on in her forest court. Colter and your mother will be there. I wanted to ask if you wanted to come.”
“Colter cleaned the Sands of Time out of the forest, right? We’ll be back in time to go dress shopping, right?”
“Yes, Izzy dearest. I’m going to be in time to go on my date with Mike, right? Seriously, the time is so screwed there. There’s some sections that are so slow and some that Colter has to keep an eye on because they’re going so fast. Come on! Let’s go! It’ll be fun and we’re going to be late if we keep waiting!”
I wrote a letter to Dad, which made Jess roll her eyes because “we’re going to be like three seconds, Izzy.” That didn’t stop me from writing it.

I barely kept my screams in as Jessica flew me across the Deep Blue Lake. I constantly reminded myself that I was digging into her skin and there was no way that she was letting go of me.
It had been almost a week traveling to Titania’s forest. We had to maneuver through the parts of her kingdom that were not basically frozen in time. I had to reassure myself every two minutes that it had not been very long since we had left. I had sent Angela tons of texts. After two days, she texted back, “YOU CRASHED MY PHONE FOR FIVE MINUTES. IT HAS BEEN LESS THAN TEN MINUTES SINCE YOU SAID YOU LEFT. CHILL OUT, TRUST JESS, AND STOP BLOWING UP MY PHONE IN THE LITERAL SENSE.” I stopped texting too much after that.
Finally, I felt our altitude decrease. I sighed as Jessica put me on the ground.
“Earth…I can’t believe I love solid matter this much,” I breathed, laying on the ground.
“Iz, come ON. We have like three hours to get ready for one of the Queen’s festivals. A festival made by Titania, our Queen. One of the biggest drama queens. Do you understand that? I mean, Titania will be there, Oberon will be there, every single head of every single clan, every elf representative, even a sphinx. Oh, and every single fairy, nymph, sylph, siren, centaur, dwarf, satyr, and undine that can afford to be there. And we have THREE hours to get ready. Just…go wander off and find a servant to help you. I have to report to Titania.”
It wasn’t easy to follow her, especially with how slow I was on human feet. However, she was slowed down by the huge amount of people in the forest. She was right, almost every type of humanoids were there. Finally, it thinned out. Jessica was getting close to Titania, and so was I, about fifty feet behind her.
I lost her at some point, but I found Titania’s throne space. It was really a space. There was a simple throne made of vines and branches and flowers. Titania was…stunning. Blonde curly hair, fair skin, turquoise eyes, otherworldly beauty. And goodness, her wings. The dark navy blue complimented her pinkish-glow perfectly. The speckles of green on her skin were just gorgeous. For a moment, I was just in awe of her beauty.
“Renée, I’m not surprised you would approve of letting the Natives live,” a man said. I realized that surrounding Titania were men and women – goblins, mostly – sitting on toadstools at a low table made of a simple slab of wood. My heart skipped two beats as I crawled towards a shrub. I didn’t see very many guards, save two by Titania’s side and four placed around the circumference of the clearing. I saw Jessica in a guard’s outfit by a tree on the opposite side of the meadow, waiting for Titania’s attention. I wondered how I could have had the luck to not be seen.
My mother looked at the man who had spoke. “I’ll apologize for my beliefs when I see actual evidence of harm. We know very little of the Natives. All we know of their history is their legends. All we know of their power is half-understandable stories from human we kidnapped and drugged. All we have heard is that there may be a shapeshifter among them and all we know for certain is that their land is sacred and powerful.”
Titania held up her hand. “Peace within the Council. I understand the frustration on both sides. We don’t know if the stories are true, and if they are what they imply. We will still watch them. I know your concerns about the laws regarding human observation, but we do not know if they are human. Do we have any more comments before we end this meeting and ready for the festival?”
An elf raised her hand. She looked like a high elf, maybe one from the Falling Mountains. She had pointed ears, oddly shaped lips, small teeth, and snow-white hair. “Yes, my Queen, I do.”
“Yes, Talia?”
“I just think it’s interesting that the Head of the Cat Clan claims that we have no way to get more information and we should stop observing the Natives when clearly there is a way that she isn’t sharing. Her half-fey daughter, Isabella, is living close to the Native land.” I gulped, hearing my name. I was scared and I wished that I had stayed at home, safe. I should have done anything except come here. “I have witnesses that know her daughter has visited the Native land and conversed with them. In fact, I have sources that show that the girl’s father visits the Native land frequently! The girl has not contributed to government whatsoever. I say she starts by discovering the secrets of the Natives and killing those Natives with power.”
Colter jumped up before anyone could utter a word. I hadn’t had realized he was there. “My Queen, do not think about asking this of my fiancé. I will collapse the Sands of Time if my future wife is asked to do this. She only has a few years before she will face this Council that so clearly already hates her. Let her live with peace. That’s all I ask.”
The Head of the Snake Clan hissed. “Rumors spread, boy. Some say that the half-fey does not love you, and you her. We only see you together at dances such as the one tonight. Should she have your protection?”
Titania glared at the snake goblin. “Hold your tongue. Colter will ruin this kingdom if he goes through with his promise. I know the topic of Isabella is a tricky one, but we must not discuss this now.” Titania leaned back in her throne. “Is the girl going to be attending tonight’s festival?”
“Yes.” Jessica’s voice was quiet, timid.
Titania turned. “Who are you?”
“A servant, my Queen.” Jessica’s bow was deep. “I was coming here to report on the situation in Forks. Isabella is my friend. I knew she was worried about her mother and her fiancé, so I offered to take her to the festival.” Tears dribbled down her face. “I guess that was not wise.”
“No, it wasn’t. I will talk with you later. Your punishment will be severe, trust me,” Titania vowed. She turned to my mother and Colter, who were now standing together. “ Renée, what I need from you is to support me. That goes for your daughter as well. I hadn’t wanted it this way, but since this will be the first time the whole kingdom will see her at a political festival, I need her to make a statement. The statement must be that no matter what she is or who she marries, she is loyal to me. You’re not a popular Clan Head, but I need her to be. Once you die, she will replace you. No matter if she marries the most powerful man in my kingdom and has children by him, she will be a leader. She will wear fairy clothing and my crest. You and Colter may wear what you wish.”
“That’s only meant to be worn by your daughter!” cried a thin wood nymph.
Titania glared. “Yes, but she’s not fit to rule. I have thousands of years until my time as queen is done. I will have children that are fit to be your rulers. Until that time, I can adopt a daughter if I so chose. Understand that the Cat Clan has huge power: fertile land, a huge populous, and the most powerful immortal that we know of that controls the Sands of Time. I can eliminate them, yes, but that would cause a riot. I could eliminate all of you and anyone that begins to have thoughts of a riot, but I’m not going to. All of you have a purpose. All of you are pawns, pieces that seem weak by themselves but can be powerful weapons when used properly. If I hear of anyone speak ill of my decision, they will be put to death. Am I clear?”
There was a low murmur of “yes”. Slowly, each Council member got up and went to prepare for the festival.
Finally, there was only Jessica, the guards, and Titania. “Take me to the court,” Titania said to no one in particular. Nothing happened for a long, stretched out moment. Then, I watched in amazement as the meadow started to move. In its place, trees and bushes and shrubs began to appear. I watched until they disappeared into the forest.
I let out a breath that was held in. I wanted to sit in the shrub and cry for a while, but I had to get up and get away before someone found me. As I stood up, I noticed something: I couldn’t see myself. All I saw were my floating hands. Chief must have given me a type of invisible cloak. I hid my hands in the warm fabric.
Okay. Okay. Calm down, Bella. We need to stay calm. What do I need to do?

It took hours for the festival to end. I waited patiently near Titania’s throne. It didn’t take me too long to find. Finally, Titania and four guards came to the throne. I was glad she was alone.
“Send a letter to Oberon. Tell him that I am angry at his not showing up. Has anyone seen the Isabella girl?”
I took off my cloak then, revealing myself. I looked like a human girl. That’s all I could say about myself. I was still wearing my pink jeans and my flowery top. The only thing that showed that I may have been fey was my dragon hide and burlap bag. It could have been a cheap leather bag from the mall kiosk, though.
“My name is Isabella of the Cat Clan, daughter of Head of the Cat Clan Renée. My human name is Isabella Marie Swan, daughter of Charlie Swan. My true name is She Who Watches and Does Nothing. I believe you are looking for me.”
Titania raised her thin eyebrows. She was wearing a big, beautiful dress that was tied in all the right places to make her figure obvious. She was on a throne and she was comfortable where she was, ruling over multiple peoples.
“Hello, little kitten,” she said softly. “Where have you been playing?”
I took a deep breath. “Six hundred years ago, when you were still taking over this part of the world, your future husband found a goblin guilty of stealing from a rich elf. He was going to put her to death. It was Oberon’s land, the goblin was his subject, and you were not yet married to Oberon so you could not overrule him. You knew the goblin, though. She was your friend. You made a compromise with Oberon, one that I didn’t know about until recently. You made a little-known law. If a woman or man is accused of anything by another ruling person, a different ruling person above them could take that man or woman as their servant if their ruler receives a family status with the higher ruling person. In other words, you could save your friend’s life if you married Oberon, giving him a higher ruling status.”
Titania looked me up and down, sizing me up. “So you know history that’s been forgotten by all except the immortals. Is that supposed to impress me?”
I gave a timid smile. “No. I know that you want me to be a supporter of you. You wanted me to wear fairy dress and your crest. You wanted me to be your supplemental daughter since you deemed your real daughter unfit to rule. You see me in her, just as Oberon has. I’m half human. There’s no denying that, especially here in the fey world. The difference between me and your daughter is that I was raised here. I know my people and I know what’s best for them. I know that the best thing for my people is to stay under your rule. For the past eight hundred years you have brought peace to all those you rule over. You somehow got Colter, the most powerful man that we know of, to submit to your will. You do not rule kindly, but you rule fairly. That is what I want for my people most of all.”
“What are you suggesting?” Titania shifted in her seat. She could tell I was nervous, I was sure. I just hoped she could see that I was doing this for others. I did not want to give what I was offering at all.
“I’m suggesting that, in return for Jessica, the girl who brought me here, I become your daughter consort. It won’t be a full family title, so I would not be in line for the throne unless all others in line die or abdicate, but I will be your daughter in every other way. I will help you in any way I can. You will teach me how to rule. Your ties to the Cat Clan and all goblin clans will strengthen, my political fellows will see me as a ruler myself, you will have the future ruler of the most prominent Clan of any species as your daughter, and you will have stronger ties to Colter.”
Titania moved her hand lazily and her guards seemed to melt away. “This is a lot to consider, Isabella. I have one question, though. The law says that the one taking the servant, so Jessica, must have a higher ruling status. You are not higher than me.”
I hoped I wouldn’t get killed for this. “There are many ancient laws that you set up that you have not fully processed yet. One of those laws is the territory of the Sands of Time Beach where all of the Sands of Time come from. Since the law has not fully been processed, the land still belongs to who originally claimed it. That’s Colter, my fiancé. I technically rule over the Sands of Time Beach. We both know that there’s more magic in there than any you and your army could produce. Although it doesn’t seem like it, I am technically the higher ranked ruler.”
Titania raised an eyebrow when I finished talking. “You annoy me.” I’m going to die. I didn’t even get to save Jessica.
Titania flipped her hand lazily again. The four guards came back. Two servants also appeared. She motioned for the first servant to come forward.
In his hands was a golden chain with a golden crest on it. It took me a moment to realize it was the crest on every flag in the country. It was Titania’s crest.
The man latched the necklace around my neck, then bowed deeply. She motioned the second one forward. He gave me a soft bundle.
“New clothes,” Titania filled in. “The ones you’re wearing are awful. I will have Jessica returned to her home in less than ten human minutes. She will be released from her job. Don’t discuss this with anyone, especially not your mother or Colter. If you must, you can tell the vampire you’re in love with. Darling, close your mouth. I don’t care if you’re not in love with Colter. I’m not in love with Oberon. Just don’t get caught with the redhead. I know and my guards know. Don’t let anyone else know.”
“Yes ma’am,” I said quietly.
Titania sighed. “I won’t announce this for a while. I’ll give you a while…until the summer in the human world. Then you can start being the official daughter consort. Princess consort, if you will. Until then, remember, don’t let people know about the monster you’re dating. I know, I know, it’s still in that will-we-won’t-we stage.” She gave me a wink with a bright smile. Was this the same woman I was terrified of only a few moments before? “I know the hurt that ruling can bring. In these next few months for you, I’m not going to subject you to that. Just live a little. Fall in love with the redhead. Make bad decisions with Jessica and your other friends.”
“Why?” I asked. “Don’t you want to start teaching me as soon as possible?”
“I do, but I can wait for your childhood.”
I realized what she was giving me. She was giving me time to be with Edward, to not be involved with politics. “Thank you, my Queen.”
She nodded. “Now go. A guard will escort you to a Gate that’s closest to your home.”
“I can’t see Colter or Momma?”
She whispered. I leaned in closer to her throne. “No, especially not your mother. If you do see her and she asks about your necklace, lie. She will not know about your title until I publicly announce it. Trust me.”
“Trust you over my mother?” Tears prickled my eyes. What would my mother have to do to make the Queen distrust her? She was fighting for half-fey rights for her daughter, for goodness sake!
“Please, Isabella.” Her eyes were cold, calculating. She was taking a chance on me. The Queen of my land, of Titania, was taking a chance that I would trust her over my mother.
I leaned down into a simple bow. “Yes. And Jessica will be returned?”
“With the order that she is now technically your servant, yes. I want to make sure she is properly returned, first.”
I bowed once more before the Queen dismissed me.

There was fish marinating in the refrigerator. I made a salad and baked some bread. The problem with making bread is that the time you spend waiting on the yeast to do its thing greatly outweighs the time you spend doing work. I spent a good half an hour on homework, but then I was done. I really had nothing to do to preoccupy my mind.
After Jessica called to confirm that she was alive, I decided to go outside and practice natural magic. I wasn’t too happy with Jessica. She didn’t seem too grateful that I saved her life. I decided to give her a break, though. She had a date to go to.
Outside in Daddy’s small, square yard, I folded a ragged old quilt that I had found in a closet. I laid in out of reach of the tree’s shadows on the thick lawn that would always be slightly wet, no matter how long the sun shown. I sat down in a way my dad often referred to as “criss-cross applesauce”. I pushed my sleeves up as high as they would go, then put my hands in the moist ground. I closed my eyes, focusing on the pulsing magic in the grass. I did what Chief said to do. Breathe deeply. Get a feel of the magic. Feel how it interacts with your hands, with your muscles. Then…pull!
I smiled at the bowling-ball sized sphere of magic. I took another deep breath. I tried to focus on a physical protector, but I didn’t want it to be any of the Cullens. I was scared they would be to violent, being vampires and all. I tried a different person: Jessica. She bared her teeth and growled. I tried again: Angela. Her cold and demanding stare frightened me. I would keep that idea in the back of my pocket. I thought about Colter, but then changed my mind. I wanted to develop a good physical protector, one that wasn’t too violent nor too weak to protect me.
The answer was so obvious that I hit myself in the forehead for not thinking of it before: me, with one alteration. My physical protector was full-goblin.
Terror shivered down my spine. She was terrifying. Her body was angled sharply. She crotched close to the ground and growled. Her teeth were sharp and pointed. Her eyes were cold, dark, and sinister.
She smiled. “Hi, little kitten. Let’s play a game.”
I grabbed her arm and transformed her back into the ball of magic. I crushed the ball smaller and smaller until it was the size of a pearl. I didn’t want it to be around my house. I climbed up to the roof. I threw it as far as I can. It landed somewhere deep in the forest, farther than I could see. I didn’t think it would transform into the awful version of me, but I didn’t want that particular magic around.
I sighed and went back to the blanket. The sun was warm. The blanket was soft and warm. In theory, the sun’s radiation could be transformed into magic. Although I didn’t know how to do it, it felt comforting to know that I was being covered in a blanket of radiation and magic.
The next thing I was conscious of was the sound of Daddy’s cruiser turning onto the cracking bricks of the driveway. I sat up in surprise, realizing my blanket of warmth was gone, hidden behind dark and cruel trees. I looked around, muddled, feeling a little lost. Then the few days – or past few hours, if you were counting on Earth’s time – came back to me. I felt kind of…well, more at peace with it. I would figure everything else.
I was then aware of some movement. It wasn’t much, just the way the air moved.
“Edward?” I asked, seeing the red in the distance.
He was in the shadows of the trees. “Hi Bella. Is there any reason some sort of…monster would be stalking you?”
“Besides you?” I asked with a smirk on my face.
He was gone for a second, then returned with a body. My eyes widened. It was an elf, with white hair like the one that talked against me at the Council meeting I overheard. His hair was soaked with blood at one side. It ran golden. Edward shook a little, but I saw no blood on his lips.
“Hide the body, or destroy it or whatever,” I whispered. “Can you…stay here tonight? I might be in danger. I’ll explain later.”
He nodded. “Tonight, twelve.”

“Sorry, Dad, dinner’s not ready yet – I fell asleep outside,” I said, rushing in.
“No problem,” he said, getting the butter on the pan. “Honey, you’re shaking. What’s wrong?”
“I just…I think I made some political enemies and I might be in danger.”
Dad frowned. He started to mince garlic. I wrapped my blanket around myself and sat down on one of the stools. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I just found out. And then I did something else and when people find out about it…It’s not going to be good.”
“Are you safe now? Do you need to go into like a protection program? Does your mom need to-”
“No! No, I’m sorry. I’ve been…advised to keep her out of this.”
He set the stove top on low. “So this…advisor, you trust them?”
“Yes, I think. They want what’s best for the country and so do I. There has been talk of rebellion in other parts of Titania, in the goblin community. The Queen’s husband has made some things…sticky. He basically wants everyone who isn’t a fairy to be a slave. I don’t think that Mama’s happy with that. A lot of people worry that Oberon will try to overpower the Queen. I don’t think its possible. She’s very powerful, and ancient. People don’t even know how old she is, just that she raised an army and conquered this part of the world almost a thousand years ago.”
“Bella, I’ve never dealt with ancient kings and queens and different species of peoples to rule. I will tell you this, though. Decide exactly who you’re going to trust. Make a list. Keep those people safe. Keep those people alive. All others, whether they’re family or not, are not to be trusted. No matter what they do, don’t. If you can’t trust them now, you shouldn’t trust them after they do a courageous act.”
I nodded. I knew my policies now. Trust Titania. She wants to work with the goblins and elves and all the rest. Do not trust Oberon. He wants slavery. Trust the Cullen children. Trust Angela and Jessica. Trust Colter and Chief. Do not trust the elf at the Council. In fact, don’t trust most people on the Council. Trust Eva. Was there any other people? I mean, Mike and Eric, but I’m pretty sure they’re not going to be involved in fey politics. Jacob, I could trust him and Billy. What about my other friends, like Christopher and Eva and Gretchen and Rachel? Eva for sure. Gretchen was the daughter of the Snake Clan’s Head, so I wasn’t going to trust her. She was a…snake. I giggled at the joke. Rachel might be okay, but she might get caught up in her own politics. She wasn’t going to be a Clan Head, just a noble’s daughter. I figured she would try to climb up the ranks.
I watched TV with Dad for a bit after dinner. There wasn’t really anything on except baseball. I wasn’t in the mood for TV, though, so he changed it to a mindless sitcom that neither of us enjoyed. He seemed to be happy just having me here. Despite my anxiety about…everything, I enjoyed living in this simple moment.
“Dad,” I said during a commercial break, “Jess and Angela are going to look at dresses for the dance tomorrow night in Port Angeles, and they wanted me to help them choose…Do you mind if I go with them?”
“Are either girls fey?” he asked.
“Yes. Jessica is a fey and Angela is a witch.”
“I always knew her family was different. What type of fey is Jessica?”
“Half wolf goblin, half fairy. She was in the guard.”
The show turned back on, but he ignored it. “WAS in the guard? Will she not be able to keep you safe?”
“She will. I took her out of the guard. She’s technically my servant.”
Dad rolled his eyes and muttered something about “stupid fey technicalities”.
“You’ll be okay for dinner, right?”
“I fixed dinner tonight, didn’t I?”
I gave him that.

Chapter Text

9.Protection

It was a long wait until twelve. I took a long, hot shower. I read some of the books on natural magic. Finally, thirty minutes before the appointed time, I climbed out onto the roof. Edward was already sitting there.
“Why was a man about to shoot you with an arrow?” Edward asked.
“Long story short, that race of people’s leader doesn’t like me because I don’t do enough for the country. They want me to spy on the Natives in La Push.”
“Because they’re werewolves?” Edward asked.
“Werewolves? All the Council knows is that there may be a shapeshifter that could cause harm to them.”
Edward shook his head. “No. The wolves just want to protect their people.”
I wondered if they were shapeshifters like the Elders were. I wondered, maybe, if Chief’s wife’s people were the ancestors of the Natives. Maybe their blood was his blood.
“Where are you from?” I asked. “You know so much about me. Tell me something about you.”
“First things first. I hope you don’t mind, but I already asked my siblings to help me guard you. We won’t be at school tomorrow, but we’ll be close by. I’ll stay here tonight.”
“You can stay in my room,” I said instantly. Forward much, Bella?
“…I’d like that. I don’t need a bed or anything.”
“There’s a rocking chair. I have books that you can read or whatever. And music, some music.”
Edward nodded. “Right, of course. Music.”
Silence fell and it was just the soft breeze that made the trees stir that made any sound. Finally, I said, “Tell me something about yourself, Edward.”
“If you insist. I’ve lived in tons of cities throughout my life. I was born, however, in Chicago. I was snobbish and mostly a jerk. I was in a private school and I got private lessons for the piano. I had the best mother, though. She was so kind and sweet. She used to tell me this bedtime story…I had Carlisle write it down for me so I wouldn’t forget it.”
“Can you tell me the story?” I asked.
“Once upon a time, a little boy with fire-red hair lived in a castle. His mother and father were king and queen over a small section of land. The boy was vastly ignored in favor of his older sister who would one day be queen. He was left to his own devices. He learned how to sword fight like the servants did, in a sneaky manner that was so different than the polite military tactics his sister learned.
“When the boy became a man, he decided to leave the kingdom. He took a wheel of cheese, a loaf of bread, simple clothes, and a few coins. Days after he left, the king and queen finally realized he was gone. They begged every subject in their kingdom to find the man they still called a child. No one said a word. They knew the real man behind the crown. In their anger, the king and queen killed their subjects. They were all alone on their terrible stone thrones with only their daughter at their side.
“Their daughter had green eyes. She was taught by her parents the proper way to do things: to make deals, to fence, to make military decisions, to invade. However, they never taught her how to deal with their bad decisions. She was quick, though, and more clever than them. She used magic to bind them to the confines of their castle just like they did with her brother. She left, watching the kingdom disappear behind her as the magic erased it. She began to search the world for her brother. Eventually, she surrendered to time and settled in a desert. She traded water with travelers who sojourned in the desert for seemingly useless things, like dreams and wishes. And, if you’re not careful, she’ll take away your dreams and wishes, too.”
Edward stole a glance at me now. Truth be told, I was interested in the story. There was something knocking at the back of my mind. I should know this story. I know part of it, for sure.
Edward puffed his cheeks out. “Then she sang this nonsense song. In all the years that I’ve been alive, with all the languages I know, I’ve never learned the words she was saying.”
“Sing it for me?” I asked. The itching in my mind was easing. The story was familiar, something that lulled me to sleep.
He started to sing, a soft, gentle lullaby. A familiar lullaby. The story was familiar. My eyes began to drift shut, but not before I began to sing with him.
I woke up to a ray of golden sunlight planting itself directly in my eye. I groaned and threw the closest thing to me – a water bottle – at the window. The light did not move.
“Can I put a blanket over it and we can ditch school?” a voice said from the corner of my room. Edward was in the corner between the wall and my dresser drawer – in the shadows. Emmett’s voice was coming from under my bed.
“You had to make the ‘monster under my bed’ joke?” I asked, sitting up.
“He’s been planning that since I asked him to come,” Edward said, groaning into his hands. “You slept longer than usual.”
“You sang a luring lullaby. Why is Emmett here?”
“Carlisle’s staying home today. I told him Emmett and I are going to spend the day traveling. He would have suspected something if only one of us were here, especially just me.”
“He still doesn’t like me?”
Emmett sat up so I could see him in the shadows of my bed. “Hey, don’t worry. They’re just being parents. Rose is talking to Esme. She’s gotten really far. And Edward is constantly hounding Carlisle at every given moment.”
Edward sat up. “Come on, Em. We’re just going downstairs so you can get dressed and stuff. We’ll be a second away if any creep comes looking to kill you. You’re safe, Bella.”
I blinked and they had disappeared.
I slowly dressed in a v-neck blue blouse. Eva had given it to me a couple months ago for a “human outing” to Phoenix. I didn’t know it then, but she was actually helping establish an alibi for me.
Before I left the house, I stopped at the door. Edward was in the shadows in the laundry room. “Go on, Bella. I won’t let anything hurt you.”
“Thank you.”
When I walked out of the house, giving Edward a second to escape, I noticed a friendly face in the car. Emmett was wearing a hoodie and frowning at the dashboard.
“You’ll be okay today?” I asked when I got in the cab.
“Yeah, chill, Bells. I’ll be fine. I gotta take a stupid math test.”
I cranked up the truck. It roared in response. Emmett instantly started messing with the radio. Static croaked.
“Dude, you need-a get a new stereo.”
“Shut up, Emmett. Put your seatbelt on.”
Jessica was not happy. “Vampires protecting you? Izzy darling, I could protect you from anything. They got lucky they didn’t get killed. I haven’t reported them, so the elf probably didn’t expect it. You should have called me instead of recruiting Mr. Beefcake over there.”
“Jess, they’ve done good and it won’t hurt to have extra protection.”
“I’ll give you a potion to increase healing in case someone does get you,” Angela offered.
“Ang! She won’t need it with us and those dumb vampires, surely.”
Angela rolled her eyes and muttered something under her breath. She passed me a small bottle of potion. “Just take it.”
I took a swig of it. I wondered if it looked like I was a girl drinking with her friends in the girls’ bathroom. I liked that better than a princess consort engaged to a suicidal immortal with a mother that may want to ignite rebellion.

Chapter Text

10. Port Angeles

Jess drove faster than my law-abiding father, so we made it to Port Angeles by four. It had been a while since I’d had a girls’ night out. In fact, unless you counted the time Eva, Gretchen, Rachel, and I terrorized some unsuspecting Londoners. We listened to cheesy pop songs(Jessica’s choice), whiny rock songs(my choice), and some fast-paced Chilean music(Angela). Jessica and I competed to see how fast we could translate the lyrics.
Jessica talked for a bit about Mike. The date last night seemed to go very well, and she was hoping that by Saturday night they would progress to the first-kiss stage.
“Why are you dating him? Like a human?” I asked. “You’re so much stronger than him. And you’ll have to tell him at some point about the fey thing.”
“If we ever get there, I’ll trust him. And if not, then I’ll wing it.”
I rolled my eyes. “Ha ha.”
Angela turned around to look me. “Jess likes the weak boys. She likes to take care of them, looooooove them.”
“ANGELA!!!!” Jessica shrieked.
Angela and I spent the rest of the car ride poking fun at Jessica.
After we spent twenty minutes looking for a parking spot, Jessica caught my eye as she parallel parked into a spot. “Hey, at least I’m not dating a thousand year old vampire.”
Angela looked thoughtful. “Edward? Hm. I would put him at like three years old. A baby vampire. What’s your bet, Bella?”
I had to think about that for a minute. “Well, considering my allies right now are Colter and Titania, probably an older-than-dirt powerful entity.”
Jess rolled her eyes. “Come on. Let’s go get some dresses.”
Port Angeles was a beautiful little tourist trap, much more polished and quaint than Forks. Jess and I weren’t the only fey there. I knew there were more fey in Seattle, but it was nice to see some fey around. Jessica and Angela knew the city well, so they didn’t plan to waste time on the picturesque boardwalk by the bay, even though I knew for a fact that we could see mermaids there. We went to the big department store Alice had dragged me into before, which was a few streets down from the bay with mermaids in it.
The dance was billed as semiformal, and we weren’t exactly sure what that meant. Angela suggested a bridal-style gown, I suggested sweatpants, and Jessica offered a simple flowered dress.
“What did you wear at the balls you went to at your school?” Angela asked me.
“Oof, I only attended a couple. We had more in the Cat Clan. I had to dance with Colter a lot. He would get me these traditional dresses with flowers. Honestly, I just wanted to wear this dress one of my friends had. It was silky and blue and elegant.”
Jess sighed. “I would be content with anything Colter gave me. That boy is gorgeous.”
“Eh, not my type,” Angela said. She didn’t have a type, as far as I knew. She was going to the dance with Eric, but I doubted she actually wanted to be with him.
“What is your type?” Jessica asked, picking up a more formal dress.
Angela shrugged. “I don’t know. Bella, what’s your type?”
“Immortals, I guess,” I said with a shrug.
“Has Edward asked you out yet?” Angela asked.
“No, I wish,” I huffed, glancing at the tag on a dress for her. Dresses are expensive. “I mean, he lulled me to sleep with a song his mom used to sing him, but he won’t even touch me.”
Jessica almost shrieked, “He should! He could kill you!”
“So could a dedicated brownie. He isn’t special.”
“Well,” Angela sighed, “You’ll always have Tyler.”
“What?”
“Tyler said he was taking you to prom,” Jessica informed me with smiling eyes.
“WHAT.”
Angela and Jessica laughed. They both pushed me towards a dressing room. “That’s why Lauren doesn’t like you. I’m so glad she didn’t come,” Angela snorted. “She’s so mean!”
“Hey, she’s my friend. When I first moved here, she was my friend before either of you.”
“I literally did not live here,” I defended myself.
“I was under a fairy spell to treat you with indifference until you got good at being human-like,” Angela said over her shoulder as she disappeared into a room.
As I waited for the girls to be content with their dresses, I plotted ways to get revenge for Tyler spreading a lie. I wondered where Edward and Emmett were. I giggled at the mental picture of Emmett trying on a dress in the next room over.
Jessica was torn between two – one a long, strapless, basic black number, the other a knee-length electric blue with spaghetti straps. The blue played off of those stunning blue eyes that were a trademark of fairies. It looked very nice on her rosewood skin. I encouraged the blue one. She chose that one with a squeal.
Angela chose a pale pink dress that draped around her tall frame nicely and brought out honey tints in her light brown hair. She looked like a sunset. I complimented both girls generously. The whole process was much shorter and easier than the times having a dress fitted with Mom occasionally there. I guess there was something to be said for limited choices.
We headed over to shoes and accessories. While they tried on shoes, I took a few glances at the jewelry. I cringed at the memory of earrings that clasped on instead of going through the little hole that was popular in the human world. I thought about the night when Colter proposed the deal with our engagement. I was wearing those awful clamped-on earrings that looked like claws. I absolutely loathed them. I was wearing an itchy dress covered in cat fur. As much as I liked cats, I hated the traditional dress. I got cat hair everywhere and it didn’t smell great.
I realized that I wanted to get my ears pierced.
We had 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 go get my ears pierced at the tattoo and piercing parlor across the street.
“Are you sure you’ll be all right?” Jessica asked.
“I’ll be fine,” I said, showing her my silver knife. “Going places alone is my expertise. You left me in wolf territory and I was fine, right?”
Jessica blushed. “One hour exactly. One hour.”
The parlor was dark. There were nine men and two women, all with tattoo and piecing galore. One of the women smiled at me. “What do you need, sweetie?”
“My ears pierced. Just like a regular hole for normal earrings.”
She nodded and took me over to a row of earrings of all shapes and sizes. She showed me a short row of three to choose from. “Silver studs, golden studs, and diamonds. Take your pick.”
I decided on the golden studs. Gotta match my crest, right?
She wiped my ear with a cleaning solution, then drew dots where the earrings would go. I approved the dots. She promised it wouldn’t hurt. She told me to look straight at one of the men so I could be distracted. That simple instruction probably saved my life.
The man she told me to stare at had a tattoo of a hippocampus, a dangerous horse that could breath underwater and drowned its victims, on his arm. He was a Hippocamp for sure. My breath caught. The Hippocamp group were hired shapeshifting mercenaries and hitmen. There were four of them. They each glanced away when I looked at them. I wasn’t sure, but I thought they were after me.
I felt a sharp pain in my ear, and then it was gone. Once more, then gone again. The woman handed me a mirror. “How do you like them?”
“I love them,” I said without much emotion. I lowered my voice. “Is there a back way out?”
She didn’t ask any questions. “The bathroom’s the first door on the right, sweetie.”
I grabbed my bag and tried to casually walk to the bathroom. I locked it behind me. I took a few deep breaths, then unlocked the gritty window. I climbed through it, wincing as my hand got sliced on the rusty lock.
My objective was to get as far away as possible. Down by the bay, it was too open. There was too many places where others could be. I had to get back to the car, get my phone, and call Jessica. I wondered where Jessica was.
I marched through the city, trying to find my way back to the car. As the streets got smaller and the lights farther apart, I started to get scared. I didn’t know where I was, I knew that people were possibly trying to kill me, and I didn’t know where my friends were.
I started to realize, as I crossed another road, that I was going the wrong way. The little foot traffic I had seen was going away from me, and it looked like the buildings here were mostly warehouses. I decided to turn the next corner in an attempt to find my way at least to the boardwalk.
A group of four men turner around the corner I was heading for. It was them, the tattoo parlor men. As they approached me, I realized they were much bigger than me.
“Hey kitty-kitty,” one of them purred as they passed. Two of them had stopped in front of me, and the other two curved behind me. “You look lost.”
My knife appeared in my hand. “Get away from me. This is true silver.”
Before I could even move my hand, my arm shot with pain. My knife clattered to the ground. In a flash, I was picked up. I took a deep breath and prepared to scream, but a slash and gushes of golden blood flowed out of my neck. Almost instantly, though, it healed.
As they pulled me into one of the warehouse, they slashed my body again and again, normally my neck. As soon as the cuts were made, they were healed.
Angela, I thought. She gave me that potion.
“She must have some potion in her,” one of the men said. “I say we have some fun with her while we wait for it to wear out.”
Two flashes of white suddenly passed my view. All of the hands holding were gone. Four awful screeches rang out, and then it was quiet.
“Bella? Are you okay?” Edward asked softly.
“I guess I am now,” I said, sitting up. I had hit my head when the men dropped me. I turned to see where they had gone.
“Don’t look, Bella. It’s awful. Where are Jessica and Angela? Did they take them too?”
“No. They…um, they went to walk at the boardwalk. I wanted to get my ears pierced.”
He carefully picked me up and pushed my face away from his shoulder so I wouldn’t look behind me. “Did neither think to inform me?”
“I assumed you were nearby.”
Edward sighed. My eyes were closed and I breathed in his scent. I was safe now. “Of course. There were more of those…things before. Emmett and I hunted them down, assuming Jessica and Angela were watching you.”
“It’s not their fault.”
“Debatable.” He dropped me into the passenger seat of his car. “Emmett’s right outside, okay? I’m going to go get you some new clothes. These…are ruined.”
I nodded, buckling myself up. The door to the warehouse was open. I could see Emmett burning something in a plastic bin.
After Emmett was done with whatever he was doing, he came up to the car. His shirt was ripped. “Let me see the earrings…Hm. Pretty. You could have waited, you know.”
I shrugged. “I wanted something to hold onto that’s human.”
“What are you? Edward says you aren’t fully human.”
I took a deep breath. “Half human, half cat goblin.”
“What’s your true name?”
My expression was flabbergasted. “How do you…?”
“Fairy-minotaur mix, sweetness. Fully human, but my momma still showed me the ropes. A warlock until I was changed. Now answer the question.”
“She Who Watches and Does Nothing.”
“He Who Fights Monsters,” he said, shaking my hand. “As far as Edward’s concerned, this conversation never took place.”
“What were they?” I asked, referring to the men.
“A hamrammr, I think,” Emmett said. “They’re these awful slug-like creatures that transform into their last meal.” He grinned for a second. “Vampire venom is fatal for them. I still salted and burned them, though.”
Salt and burn, the quickest and easiest way to make sure most fey are dead.
“If they take the form of what they last ate…”
“Yep. No more Mr. Jones.”
Edward was back, carrying a shopping bag. “Stop terrifying her, Emmett.”
“She asked,” Emmett muttered.
Edward threw the bag at me, then both brothers turned around. I changed into the soft hoodie with little stars on them and the soft blue jeans. I felt very comfortable.
“Okay, I’m presentable.”
Edward got in the driver’s seat. “Will you check around the city for any of those other creatures? I will take Bella home.”
Emmett nodded. “Sure. I’ll ask Rosalie to check out Charlie’s house just in case.”
“Thank you.”
I spoke up. “Thank you both. I surely would have died.”
Emmett smiled, showing his dimples. “No problem, Isabella. It was fun, really. Not much excitement for us normally.”
Then we were pulling away. Edward didn’t look too happy. “Are you all right?” he asked again.
“Yes,” I whispered softly.
“Will you please distract me? Prattle about something that has nothing to do with your near-death experiences.” He closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger.
“I am going to run Tyler over tomorrow before school,” I said calmly.
A smile tugged at Edward’s lips. “Any particular reason?”
“He’s telling everyone 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 I guess he thinks prom is the way to fix it. So maybe if I endanger his life, then we’re even, and he can’t try to make amends. I’d have to leave him a little unbroken, though, or Lauren might actually kill me.”
Edward let out a small, breathy laugh and put his eyes back on the road. “I heard about that. What’s wrong with prom?”
“It’s dancing, right? I’ve had to go to too many dances in my lifetime and I’ll probably have to attend way more now that I’m siding with Titania.”
“About the non-fairy fey rights?” Edward asked. “Sorry, I listened on your conversation with Charlie.”
I shrugged. “It’s fine. Yes, exactly that. I’m her princess consort now. That’s why I’m wearing this crest.”
“Maybe you should take that off, or make it more subtle. It’s a dead give away.”
I hadn’t thought of that. I took the necklace off and waited a moment before watching it transform into a smaller necklace with a much smaller crest. When I caught Edward staring, I explained the transformation thing. “Full goblins can transform natural things to different natural things. I can transform processed things to different processed things.”
We pulled up to a restaurant, probably the one that Jessica and Angela were waiting at. I was very late.
Edward opened my door for me and held out his hand. I took it with great pleasure. “What are you doing?” I asked as he followed two brunettes I knew to be Jess and Angela.
“I’m taking you to dinner, precious girl,” Edward said with a light smile. Then he caught up to the girls.
He pulled Jessica to the closest ally and Angela followed.
“Why did you leave Bella alone? You know she’s in danger,” Edward said quietly to Jessica. He didn’t want to draw attention.
She was surprised. “Did something happen? I assumed you were watching her.”
“I was hunting down some of the monsters that were plotting her death. When she left that stupid tattoo parlor, four of those monsters followed her. I found her in slices while they resolved to use her body before finishing her off.”
Jessica looked me up and down. “Was it elves again?”
I shook my head. “Shapeshifters from the Hippocamp.”
Jessica nodded. “Okay. We need to get you home.”
“I will be taking her to dinner,” Edward interrupted. “You will be going home. I can’t trust you right now to take care of her.”
“What gives me reason to trust you?” Jessica snarled.
Angela and I shared a look of disapproval before Angela said, “Jess, we made a mistake. Let’s just go home, clear our heads, and report it to Titania.”
Jess glared at Edward. “If anything happens to her, know that I have no problem killing vampires.”
“Know that I have no problem killing your kind,” Edward said in a low snarl.
Jessica and Angela walked away first. Angela shrugged at me and gave me a little “I’m sorry” wave at Edward.
Edward was still holding my hand, something I quiet liked about this night. He strode back into the sidewalk and pulled me closer to him.
“I’m not that hungry,” I told Edward. “Really, we can go look in the harbor. There’s mermaids there, you know.”
“Maybe later,” he said with a light smile. “When it’s light outside, eh? We’ll come back, don’t worry.
A date! He confirmed a real date! He walked to the door of the restaurant and held it open with an obstinate expression that was no longer needed. Did he think of this as a date that started out terrible? Maybe!
The restaurant wasn’t crowded – it was the off-season in Port Angeles. The host was a twenty-something girl with blonde curly hair cut to her shoulders. She assessed Edward with careful eyes, ones that I knew well. She welcomed him warmly. I was surprised by how her over-the-top welcome bothered me. She was several inches taller than me, but I could take her in a fight, I decided.
“A table for two?” Edward’s voice was alluring, whether he was aiming for that or not. I saw her eyes flicker over me and then away. I knew that look. Her brain registered me as not normal and for a Bad Reason, unlike Edward’s good looks and alluring voice. She nodded, then lead us to a table big enough for four in the center of the most crowded area of the dining floor.
“Perhaps something a bit more private?” Edward insisted, handing her a tip. I’d never seen someone refuse a table. The only person I could think of that would do it is Eva, but she got everything she wanted from humans.
“Sure,” the girl answered, her face coloring with surprise. 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 as he sat down. I copied his movements a moment later after I realized he had let go of my hand and was no longer pulling me to and fro.
“Uh…your server will be right out.” She left, then poked her head out from behind the partition. “Amber. Your server is Amber.”
“Thank you, Stacy,” Edward said. Then he turned to me. “Emmett’s about to leave. He doesn’t think there are any more. Rosalie is checking your house, but she doesn’t see anyone right now.”
I nodded slowly. “So they’re just after me. Someone may have tipped them off about me being there, but I doubt it. Forks is the best place for traveling in Titania’s kingdom, but almost all of those Gates are guarded. Here and especially Seattle are better places to go.”
Edward nodded. “So big cities are a no go for you?”
I laughed. “I guess not.”
And then our server arrived, her face expectant. The hostess had obviously 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 the same unnecessary warmth the first girl had.
“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. It was the only drink that I remembered at the moment.
“Two Cokes,” he said.
“I’ll be right back with that,” she assured him with another unnecessary smile. He gave her a natural, crooked smile. I wanted to punch them both in the face.
He turned to me when she left. “Hey, what’s the sour face for?” he asked.
“She’s flirting with you,” I grumbled.
His smile got wider. “And you don’t like that?”
“I absolutely loath her,” I fumed.
“Oh, Bella, precious girl. Are you sure you feel all right? No dizziness, nausea, shivers…?”
I shook my head. “Not anymore.” Not since you got there, I thought to myself. “Should I?”
“Well, I’m actually waiting for you to go into shock.” I had never seen him so happy despite my near-death experience of the day.
“I’m very good at repressing unpleasant things,” I informed him.
“No, you are terrible at it. You just won’t admit it.”
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 double stuffed ravioli.”
“And you?” She turned back to him with a smile.
“Nothing for me.” Of course not.
“Let me know if you change your mind. We have a delicious dessert menu.” Her smile was coy, and I figured that she wouldn’t mind being on the dessert menu. I turned away from her so I wouldn’t glare her to death.
“Was she still flirting?” Edward asked as I took a sip of Coke.
I nodded, finishing mine off and taking his. He looked betrayed for a moment. “That is my drink!” he said with shock.
I rolled my eyes. “Please, Edward.” I shivered a little bit.
“Are you cold?”
“Yeah. Can I have your jacket?”
Edward shrugged it off. I realized I had only been looking at his face all day. He removed a thick black leather jacket now; underneath he wore a shirt with a picture of a mouth with its tongue sticking out. It might have been a band, but I couldn’t remember. There were fangs on this one, though. It fit him loosely. I assumed he was trying to cover up the fact that he was skinny, too skinny to be healthy.
He handed me the jacket, interrupting my ogling.
“Thank,” I murmured, sliding my arms into his jacket. It was cold – the way my jacket felt when I picked it up in the morning where it hung in the drafty hallway. It smelled amazing, just like him. I inhaled it. It smelled almost like a pond in the forest, woody, flowery, watery. The sleeves were much too long; I shoved them back so my hands could be free to pick up a breadstick. He was right, I was hungry.
He watched me carefully. “What does that taste like?”
“The bread?”
“Yeah.”
I thought for a minute. “Well, bread, with butter and garlic and salt. Maybe some cheese, too.”
He sighed. “I wish I knew what that tasted like.”
The waitress strode around the partition with my food. I realized that we’d been unconsciously leaning towards each other across the table, because we both straightened up as she approached. She set the fish 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 didn’t miss the double meaning in her words.
“No, but thank you, Amber. Some more pop would be nice.” He gestured with a long hand to the empty cups in front of us.
“Sure.” She removed the empty glasses and walked away.
“What does food taste like to you?” I asked.
“I’ll tell you in the car.”
“Well, I have a few other questions…” I said.
“There are questions? About me?” He raised one eyebrow, his voice ominous.
“Of course.”
The waitress was back with two more Cokes. She sat them down. “So are you from around here or are you a visitor?” Talking to only Edward again, I noticed.
“We’re both from Forks. She was helping some friends look for some dresses for a dance she refuses anyone to take her to.”
The girl glanced at me. “Hm. Wonder why,” she said drily. “Are you going?”
“No, I’m taking her to Seattle.” She nodded, taking her cue to leave.
“Enjoy your meal,” she said to me.
“Thanks,” I mumbled, forking a ravioli and stuffing it in my mouth.
“Well? Ask away, fey girl.”
“All right, then. Let’s say that by some reasoning, I have figured out you can read minds.”
He smiled. “Except yours, of course. And now Jessica’s, for some reason. And that Colt guy.”
“Jess has a spell on her. She seems human until she acts enough like a human for people not to notice. I guess it provided you thoughts for her. Now it broke because you know what she is.”
“So, how does that work? What are the limitations? How did you find me?”
He smiled. “Curious, aren’t you?” He ran his hand through his hair. “Okay. The easiest one first. How did I find you? Emmett and I were watching over the department store. Hey, eat your food. I ain’t paiyin’ nothing for that.” I obediently stuffed the ravioli in my mouth. “Emmett was actually in the store. He’s the best at blending in the daylight. That’s why he went to school today.”
“What happens to you in the sunlight?” I asked.
Edward frowned. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
I continued to plow through my ravioli. “Go on,” I said through bites.
“You drive me crazy, Bella,” Edward sighed. “I was in my car. I was casually listening to a couple people who peaked my interest. Then I heard Emmett. He was yelling at me in his thoughts, which I hate when he does that. Somehow, he knew that a group of teenagers were supernatural. He told me to go around behind the store. I met him back there, where we killed the monsters. He told me to burn the remains and salt them. I did what he said, following his reasoning that the remains were slug-like: salt to kill them, fire to burn the remains.
“I stayed at the store while he scoured the close area. He caught scent of others – they’re repulsive, by the way – and bid me to follow. There were many more of them, nine. It was that warehouse. I think it was their meeting place. After we killed them off, Emmett left to go search further to see if there were any stranglers. I went to the boardwalk to go find you and tell you what had happened. You weren’t with the girls. I didn’t even want to talk to them I was so angry. I left and followed your scent from the department store. Emmett and I crossed paths along the way, and…well, you know the rest.”
“Wow. My number must really be up,” I breathed. Ten lives I had. Ten extra chances. Edward had saved, what? Three times? Well, no, four times. The van. The elf. The teenagers in the department store. The tattoo parlor men. And, in advance, the others. I not only owed this boy my life, I owed him everything. I owed him my love, at the very, very least.
“Your number was up the first time I met you,” he said, and his voice was hard to hear. He was looking down, almost in shame.
“Edward, my number was up when I was born. Half-fey, born out of wedlock, no way to produce an heir for my people…and now, making rash decisions for my people without consulting my mother, making dangerous enemies…Edward, you saved me many times. I can’t imagine what I would do without you.”
“You would be dead without me,” Edward murmured, still looking down.
“Well, probably.” No reason to tell him about the ten lives I had in my pocket.
He looked up now. “At least I have that on my record. I saved a beautiful, stunning, precious girl multiple times.”
I was so touched by his remark that I began to blush. “Th-thank you, Edward.”
“Why can’t I hear you exactly?” Edward asked after a moment.
“Oh. When humans become vampires, some of their magical traits increase in some ways. For example, I’m sure you didn’t read peoples minds, right? I didn’t think so. But it exponentially increased when you were changed. However, when you were human you might have been able to develop your power to hear everyone, but now you’re reduced to humans. Maybe the Natives, too, maybe not. I don’t know. Anyways, that’s why.”
He nodded. “Do you think it’s genetic?”
“Oh, most definitely. Your mother was part fey. That song you sang me is in fey. It’s a lullaby that’ll knock someone out. It’s usually parents singing to children. It’s a very cool song. There’s magic in it. It only works if the person going to sleep feels safe and loved.” I closed my mouth, realizing what I had just said.
“Why on EARTH do you feel safe with me?” Edward asked. His eyes were ablaze and angry. “I’m a monster, Bella. I could kill you.”
“But you’ve killed for me,” I said. “No one’s ever done that for me. I’m sure some people would, but…You keep me safe. I would rather have you by my side than any other person in this entire world and the next.”
Edward rolled his eyes. “You’re insane, Bella. I drink blood, Bella. Blood. What do you not get about that?”
“I have no problem with a little blood. I like my meat fresh, remember?”
Edward rolled his eyes. “Your friend is coming.” I was confused until the waitress appeared a moment later.
“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, waiting.
“S-sure,” she stuttered. “Here you go.” She pulled out a small leather folder from the front pocket of her black apron and handed it to him.
He shifted his weight to get his wallet. “Here,” he said, pulling out a random bill. “Keep the change,” he said, closing the leather folder.
“You have a nice evening.”
He sighed, looking tired, and sick. “You have a better one.”
He walked close beside me to the door, careful not to touch me. I wondered what that was all about. He was fine holding my hand in front of Jessica and picking up my body after near death experiences. I remembered that Jessica had said she and Mike would have their first kiss soon. Lucky.
Edward opened the passenger door, holding it for me as I fell in, shutting it softly behind me. I wanted so badly just to be human, to date this boy without all of the drama. Life is drama, though, especially when you’re me.
Once inside the car, he started the engine and turned the heater on high. It had gotten cold, and I guessed the good weather was at an end. I was warm in his jacket, though, breathing in the scent of him when he was looking in the other direction.
Edward pulled out through the traffic without a glance, flipping around to head toward the freeway.
“Now,” he said with a grin, “it’s your turn.

Chapter Text

11. Theory

“Can you at least answer my first question?” I pleaded as Edward accelerated down the street. He didn’t seem to be paying any attention to the road.
“Which one?” he asked, seeming to muse our previous conversation.
“How does it work – the mind-reading thing? Can you read anyone’s mind, anywhere? How do you do it? Can anyone else in your family do it?” I felt silly asking, wishing I knew already.
“No, it’s just me as far as I know. My biological parents, they might have had powers. You said my mother, right? She might have, but she never told me. I never noticed it before. I can’t hear anyone, anywhere. I have to be fairly close. The more familiar someone’s… ‘voice’ is, the farther away I can hear them. But still, no more than a few miles.” He paused thoughtfully. “It’s a little like being in a huge hall filled with people, everyone talking at once. It’s just a hum – a buzzing of voices in the background. Until I focus on one voice, and then what they’re thinking is clear. There are sometimes pictures with it, sometimes not. It depends on the person.
“Most of the time I tune it all out – it can be very distracting. And then it’s easier to seem normal” – he frowned as he said the word – “when I’m not accidentally answering someone’s thoughts rather than their word.”
“Can you hear anything at all from me or the other fey?”
Edward shrugged. “No, not much.” He grinned. “Except when you’re emotional. Then there’s this static, like I can’t quiet tune in right. It might be the half-human thing. Is Charlie part fey?” he asked suddenly.
“Not that I know of.”
“Hm. I can hear some of his basic thoughts, but not anything like I would think he thinks. I used to think – and don’t take any offense – I used to think he was mentally handicapped.”
“Edward!”
“WHAT. I had never dealt with fey or whatever! I’m SORRY that I came to a logical conclusion!”
I rolled my eyes and and slunk deep into my seat. “You’re annoying.”
“You’re…hard to keep alive.”
“Very good comeback, Edward.”
He sighed. “Whatever. How did you find out about me, about what I am? Is it taught in school?”
“Yeah, basically.I knew the first day what you were. It was more or less figuring out your diet.”
“And?”
“Well, a friend of mine suggested that since your eyes aren’t red, then you’re probably on an animal diet. However, I read this book on vampires and it gave this list of what color the eyes are compared to the diet. I was angry because the only listing for gold was fey blood. It makes sense, our blood is golden. Then I remembered something later. The book was written in the fey world and before the Split. They would have no frame of reference for vampires on a human world separated from magic.”
“So that’s it? You decided to trust me on a hunch?”
“Daddy did some research, too. Deer population decreased when you moved here, among other animals. There were reports of many animal deaths after you went to the Goats Rock Wilderness.”
“You told Charlie about us?”
I rolled my eyes. “Edward, yes. Obviously. He’s my dad.”
He muttered something to himself, then said, “So what else did that vampire book of yours say?”
“Well, just a lot of technical stuff. What’s the highest percentage of fey a human can be to become a vampire, exactly how much human blood a vampire needs to survive, what spells to use to kill vampires, stuff like that.”
“That’s…excessive.”
“And useful,” I pipped up. “You have to feed every two weeks, maybe more since you were so weak when you died. You were sick, weren’t you?”
“You’re observant, aren’t you? Yes, I was. The flu took me and my parents. Carlisle changed me at my mother’s request.”
I stored that information away for later. Edward didn’t look happy. I wanted to make him feel better. “Will you confirm some myths?”
“Sure.”
“Do you feel more human when you’re well-fed?”
“Yes and no. When I…fed, I feel warmer, better, softer for a moment. After that I get stronger, faster, harder…It’s maddening. Even without the thirst, I would be compelled to kill again.”
“Holy water burns you?”
“Nope. Neither does silver.”
I grinned now. “Actually, the wrong kind of silver’s been used.” I closed my hand around my knife. It burned only a tiny bit when I touched it. “Here, touch this knife.”
He pointed his finger out, then yelped. The car swerved.
“Ow,” I said, rubbing my neck. I was on the forest floor. I brushed the glass out of my wounds. My jeans were shredded. My sweater shirt was snagged in a couple places, but I fixed that easily enough: one touch and the processed material was as good as knew. I did the same for my jeans.
“Edward? Are you okay?”
His voice, strained even more than the first day I met him, came from inside the broken car fifty yards away. “Yes, give me a few minutes.”
I found my bag a few feet away. I checked to make sure everything was okay. It was a simple purse with no magical abilities. It only had my wallet in it, so I was okay. My dragon hide and burlap bag was at home, sitting safely in a magic safe that bought myself after my eleventh birthday. I had moved it to Dad’s house after I found out it didn’t work there. It worked fine here, which was fine with me. Most people would have counted it as a ripoff, though.
Finally, Edward opened the car door. It instantly broke off. He cursed, then was by my side. “You’re okay?”
“Healing factor is awesome here,” I explained. “It’s amazing. Are you okay?”
“Yes…you just got cut in the car. It was hard to resist.” His voice was still strained, so I figured it still was hard.
“Here, let me help with the car,” I said, moving past him.
It took me a bit longer to get to the car than it took him. As soon as I got to the car, I asked, “You want it to look like before, right? The dumb Volvo look?”
“It’s not dumb!”
“Volvo’s are for old people. My dad said so. How old are you, anyways?”
“Seventeen.”
I looked at him with accusing eyes. “And how long have you been seventeen?”
His lips twitched as he stared at me. “A while.”
I rolled my eyes. “Vague redheaded monster,” I mumbled, closing my eyes. Cars were harder to transfigure. It took a lot of concentration, but I got it to do what I wanted.
“A CAMARO!?!? WHY WOULD YOU MAKE IT A CAMARO?!?!?”
“Is that what it is? I saw a commercial for them the other day.”
“And it’s blue…my beautiful Volvo…” He glared at me then. “This is your fault. If I didn’t touch your dumb knife, I wouldn’t have gotten into a wreck.”
“Maybe if you hadn’t had been going a hundred miles an hour we wouldn’t have gotten in a wreck.”
He rolled his eyes. “I’m not super happy with you, Bella.” He got in his side of the car and slammed the door.
I smiled at him when I got in the improved car. “I’m so happy with you.”
The tension left his face. He felt the grip of the steering wheel. “Tell me something,” he asked after a minute back on the road, and I could hear him struggling to keep a light tone.
“Would it be better for your thirst if I rolled down the window?”
“NO. Please don’t.”
“…Okay. What’s your question?”
“What were you thinking tonight, just before I came in the building? I couldn’t see their thought. Yours were so…static.”
“I was inwardly thanking Angela for giving me a healing potion. It probably saved my life.” Or one of them, at least.
“Did you try to run or make a fight?”
“I tried,” I sighed. “I tried to stab them, but they threw my knife in the street. Then they were stabbing me so many times…”
“No screaming?”
“They were stabbing my neck.”
He shook his head. “I’m fighting Fate trying to keep you alive.”
I sighed. We were slowing, passing into the boundaries of Forks. It had taken less than thirty minutes with his crazy driving.
“Will I see you tomorrow?” I demanded with a tired smile. The potion was wearing off, making me sleepy.
“Yes – I have a paper due, too.” He smiled. “I’ll save you a seat at lunch.”
It was silly, after everything we’d been through tonight, how that little promise sent butterflies to my stomach, and made me fumble for words.
“Thank you for…everything. Especially for dinner.”
He laughed quietly. “Dinner’s what really made it special, huh?”
“Yup.” I nodded and smiled in a really dumb way. Uggg, love. I pulled his jacket off, taking one last whiff.
“You can keep it – you don’t have a jacket for tomorrow.”
I rolled my eyes. “Alice took me shopping, remember? I have jackets. Plus, being able to transfigure any manufactured object?”
Edward glared at me. “FINE. I quiet like you wearing my clothes. Are you happy?”
I giggled as we pulled into my driveway. ”I’ll wear it then.”
“Be careful. It’s vintage.”
“How vintage.”
“…Vintage.”
Dad was out on the porch. Emmett was drinking what looked to be a glass of blood.
“Vampires welcome,” my father screamed. Edward’s eyes widened.
“Your dad is crazy.”
“Think he’s mentally handicapped now?”
Edward rolled his eyes. He got out of the car. “Mr. Swan? What is it?”
“Bella, go get a shower. I have to talk to both of you.”
Emmett’s eyes widened. “Dude, he shot me in the foot with this bullet that went through! It took me forever to get the pieces back! And it hurt!”
“Dude, wait till you hear what Bella did. Stuck me with this knife and we had a car wreck,” Edward said as I went through the door. “Then she made my Volvo into a Camaro!”
“Bella, what did I tell you about transfiguring big things?” Dad asked as I unlocked the door. I froze.
“Um…not to?”
“And what did you do?’
“…I did it. But Daddy, we were in a car-”
“I don’t care. There’s some mountain lion blood for Edward. Go get it for him and then go take a shower and then go to bed. And no Edward sneaking in your room. Understood?”
“DADDY!”
“Bella, go.”
I stomped up the stairs, ignoring the glass of blood for Edward on the counter. I angrily took a shower and angrily went to bed. I couldn’t hear the conversation they were having, only the low murmurs. I didn’t go to sleep. My mind was swirling with too many thoughts. The Hippocamp after me. The elf trying to kill me. The drama with Jessica and Edward.
And Edward.
About three things I was absolutely positive. First, people wanted me dead for various reasons. Second, Edward was my protector, the deadly vampire, the one I owed everything to. And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with that sickly redheaded boy.

Chapter Text

12. Interrogations

It was very hard to go to sleep that night. I kept I kept on wanting to go downstairs and argue it out with Daddy. I fell asleep late in the night. When I woke up, I realized I had no logic or common sense on my side. I was in love with a vampire. There wasn’t much logic to that.
It was foggy and dark outside my window, absolutely perfect. Edward now had no reason not to be in school today – unless Dad shot him in the foot. I dressed in heavier clothes, ones that Alice would gag at. I put on Edward’s jacket, inhaling the scent. I could pick it out a mile away for sure.
I clamored downstairs, following the scent of eggs and toast. Daddy must have made breakfast. I was shocked that in my kitchen stood not my father, but Jasper Hale and Alice Cullen.
“Edward will be here in a minute,” Alice said, looking at her nails. They looked like she gnawed at them. Maybe she did when she got those terrible markings on her forehead.
Jasper gave me a plate of food. “Charlie said that he wasn’t allowed in this house until the weekend. He threatened to shoot Edward if he did. Alice and I took the night shift after Ed and Em left. Eat up, you’re going to be late.”
I silently shoveled the wonderful eggs and toast into my mouth. Alice babbled for a little bit about the nature of my awful clothes. Jasper just looked at her and smiled. He was wearing no hat today, which made me a little sad. I liked his hats, especially the red cowboy hat.
Alice suddenly stopped. “Edward will be here in two minutes.”
Jasper saw my confused look. “The better she knows someone, the stronger her visions are. For me and Edward, she’s pretty accurate. It’s like me with my pathokinesis. The better I know someone, the more accurate and precise I can make their emotions.”
Alice still looked dazed. “Is she okay?” I asked.
“Yeah. I guess she’s just having a strong day. They happen on occasion. Edward’s here. I’ll wash your plate.”
I handed him my plate, careful to keep as much distance as possible from him. He unsettled me just a little bit. I rushed out the door to Edward’s car.
It was unusually foggy: the air was almost smokey with it. The mist was ice cold where it clung to any exposed skin it could find. I couldn’t wait to get in the heat of Edward’s car. He had his Aston Martin today. Suddenly, Edward was beside me. “Do you want to ride with me today?” he asked, amused, probably, by my frown.
“You didn’t bring the Camaro,” I pouted. His facial expression fell, but not that much, like he was expecting it. “But I’d love to ride with you anyways.”
I stepped into the warm car, basking in it. I began to purr a little, in fact. He closed my door and instantly got in his seat and started backing out.
“Seatbelt, Edward. We know your tendency for car wrecks.”
“Only because a crazy girl let me, a mythical creature, touch a blade that kills, get this, mythical creatures.”
“You aren’t mythical. You’re right here. Besides, if you’re mythical, I’m mythical.”
He rolled his eyes. “Yeah, okay. Hey, you’re wearing the jacket.”
I nodded. “Yeah, it’s warm. And it smells like you.”
He smiled. “That’s good?”
“Very good. Edward, what’s your full name? Like when you were human?”
“Edward Anthony Masen, Jr. Why?”
“What’s your birthday?’
“June 20th. I was changed on September 13th, , which is what my family celebrates.”
“That’s my birthday!” I said happily. “Edward, that’s my birthday! September 13th is my birthday!”
Edward’s eyes lit up. “Well, at least something good happened on that day. Are you older now because of the time difference? Charlie told me last night about all he knows about. You never told me that.”
I shrugged. “In reality, I’m not that much older or younger. Probably just a couple days, actually. It evens out.” For a moment, I was terrified that Daddy had told him about Colter, Then I decided to chill. Edward didn’t seem upset about anything.
“What are you thinking? I’m hearing static.”
“Just worried about what my dad might have said,” I explained vaguely.
Edward laughed. “Don’t worry, he was a good dad. He told Emmett and I tons of embarrassing stories. You ate soap once?”
My face turned red. “I thought it was candy. I hadn’t spent much time at all in the human world.”
Edward laughed, his voice ringing. “I think you edit what you’re thinking sometimes. It’s annoying, you know.”
“Not very much.”
“Enough to drive me insane!”
I smiled. “My thoughts are boring. All about magical things and fairy queens and such. Very boring. Hey, where’s the rest of your family?”
“They took Rosalie’s car,” he said, pulling into the school. “Didn’t you ride in it with Alice shopping?”
I nodded, pointing at the shiny red car. “Why did she even ride with you in your dumb car?”
“Since your mind can’t be read, I’m going to assume that wasn’t about my precious Volvo that you destroyed – you can stop with the protests, Bella. We try to blend in, but since you’re so distracting, we guessed we could start being ostentatious.”
“What does that mean?”
“Um…noticeable.”
I nodded. “So why did Rosalie drive today?”
“Because I wanted to drive my girlfriend by myself.”
I blushed as he opened my door at a normal speed. “Is that what I am?”
He nodded with a goofy smile. “I took you on a date, didn’t I? And I had a long talk with your father. We are dating, right? So you’re now my girlfriend. You don’t have a choice!”
He caught my hand and pulled me out of the car so I would fall into his chest. He laughed and laughed at my rumpled appearance. He held my hand all the way up until the cafeteria’s roof’s overhang where Jessica was waiting. She glared at Edward. Over her arm was my jacket I forgot in her car.
“Hey jessica,” I said when we were a few feet away. “Thanks for remembering my jacket. I didn’t even remember it.” She nodded, still glaring at Edward.
“Good morning, Jessica,” Edward said politely. It wasn’t really his fault that Jessica was animately against vampires. At least he was civil.
“Leach,” she said in the same tone. I could see the hurt in his eyes. ”I see you’ve kept her alive.”
“She’ll never die when we’re watching her,” Edward promised.
“Mhm. What, are you dating her now or are you still a slightly intelligent guard dog?”
“That’s something for her to disclose,” Edward murmured.
“BELLA. YOU CAN’T BE SERIOUS!” Jessica screeched.
Thankfully, Angela appeared. “Jess, why don’t we go to class? We’ll talk about this later.”
Jessica walked away with our savior, Angela. Jessica paused twice to glare back over her shoulder at Edward.
“What are you going to tell her?” He leaned on the brick wall while saying this. The gutter was dripping water, but he didn’t seem to notice. Maybe his hair was too thick. He was still holding my hand, but had it out in between us, presenting it for everyone to see.
“I don’t know. Do you have any idea what she’s thinking?”
“Well, she’s emotional for sure. I mean, anyone can see that, but all the static is giving me a headache.” He suddenly smiled. “She absolutely hates me, that’s for sure.”
“And you like that?” I asked. He stood up straight and started walking me to my first class.
He shrugged. “When you’re immortal, you have the choice of falling into a deep pit of sorrow or having fun with it. Since you pulled me out of the pit of sorrow, I’m having fun now.” He walked perpendicular to me, so his chest was facing my shoulders. He brought his face down to mine. “See, this is fun. I’m having fun! And being in drama is fun, right?” I could see in my peripheral vision that he was crossing his eyes and sticking his tongue out.
“Yup,” I agreed, trying to hide my grin.
“She’s talking to Angela now. She wants to know how you could ever like me, much less date me. Angela is on my case in her mind but is trying to sound neutral.” He caught a stray lock of hair that was escaping the bun on the top of my head and wound it around. “Do you have an extra bobby pin?”
I reached into his jacket for the coins I had been playing with earlier that he had left. I produced a bobby pin with one of the pennies. He took it without touching me, then smushed my bun down and pinned some hair down. My heart spluttered hyperactively. “There. I used to help Esme and Rosalie with their hair because I could see what they wanted it to look like. I’ll be listening for what you tell Jessica!”
He turned and walked away, waving behind with his fingers, the flirtiest of waves. “I’ll see you at lunch!” he called over his shoulder. Three people stopped to stare at me.
I hurried into class, flushed and irritated. He was so annoying. Stupid, shiny Camaro owner. I grinned at my own joke. I sat in my usual seat, giggling still.
“Morning, Bella,” Mike said from the seat next to me. I looked up to see an odd, almost resigned look on his face. “How was Port Angeles?”
“It was…” There was no honest way to sum it up. “Interesting.” Good, keep it honest. “Jessica got a really cute dress.”
“Did she say anything about Monday night?” he asked, his eyes brightening. I smiled at the turn of the conversation had taken.
“She said she had a really good time,” I assured him.
“She did?” he asked eagerly.
“Most definitely. You’ll be happy with her, I promise. She’s magical.”
Mr. Mason called the class to order then, asking us to turn in our papers. English and then Government in a blur, while I worried about how to explain things to Jessica and agonized over whether Edward would really be listening to what I said through the medium of some unsuspecting student’s thoughts. How very inconvenient his little talent could be. If it wasn’t for the amount of times he saved my life and the little fact that I was in love with him, I might have already killed the redheaded monster.
The fog had almost dissolved by the end of second hour, but the day was still dark with low, oppressing clouds. I smiled up at the clouds. I thanked them silently for covering the sun so I could see Edward.
Edward was right, of course. When I walked into Trig Jessica was sitting in the back row, slumped down and scowling. I reluctantly went to sit by her, trying to convince myself it would be better t get it over with as soon as possible.
“So, you’re in love with a mosquito?”
I rolled my eyes. “Branching out with the nicknames, I see. What do you want to know?”
“What happened last night?” she asked.
“He bought me dinner, he drove me home, and then he and my dad had a talk with Emmett while I was grounded in my room. I didn’t hear what they were saying.”
“Hm. Are you not telling me something?”
“My dad shot Emmett in the foot. I still have questions about that.” I felt like she somehow knew about the car wreck.
“So you went on a date with him?” Jessica accused.
“Eh…kinda? I mean, it wasn’t planned, but he called it a date afterwards, so…”
Her lips puckered in disappointment at the blandness and lack of blood involved in the story of the rest of my night. “He picked you up for school?”
“Yes. Jasper and Alice stayed at my house while he and Emmett left to go back home. Jasper made me breakfast. It was quiet good.”
“So are you going out again?”
“He offered to drive me to Seattle Saturday because he thinks my truck isn’t up to it – does that count?”
“Unfortunately.” She nodded. Class had started, but Mr. Varner was looking on his computer. The reflection in his glasses showed an intense game of solitaire.
“Well, then, yes.”
She sighed. “Ugggg, Bella, why Edward Cullen?”
“He’s saved my life like, four times.”
“And you’ve saved my life once. I’m not dating you!”
I grinned. “I’ll save it three more times and see where you’re at. Hey, stop rolling your eyes!”
I finally got her to smile. “I don’t know how you’re brave enough to be alone with him,” she said, the first non-aggressive comment about Edward in…well, a while.
“Why?” I asked, a little shocked.
“He’s a vampire, Bella. Duuuuuh. Also, he seems a bit dull.”
“Well, he’s getting more interesting. He was kinda…sweet this morning. Sweet and silly.”
Jessica huffed. “I’ll believe it when I see it.”
“Seriously, Jess, there’s more to him than the face.”
“I don’t believe it one bit. God can’t give you a gorgeous face AND an interesting personality. I mean, just look at models. Although he can’t model because he looks too sick…He could be on those commercials for cancer research.”
“He has hair, though.”
“Well, maybe he could go on the ones that are trying some other medicines besides chemo, ya know?”
I thought about it a moment. “Yeah, I could see that.”
“So you like him?” She wasn’t giving up on the hope that this was all a prank, I knew.
“Yes,” I said curtly.
“I mean, do you really like him? Like, like-like him?” she urged.
“Yes, Jessica, and I won’t stop because of your pestering.”
“How much do you like him?”
“Too much,” I groaned. “More than he likes me. But I don’t know how I can help that.” My face was fire red, I knew it.
Jessica made an overdramatic gagging face. She seemed happier, though. Mr. Varner must have finished his game of solitaire because he called class roll. Jessica leaned over and whispered, “I still wish you wouldn’t ever talk to him ever again, but I guess I won’t kill him.”
“Be civil,” I murmured as she moved back into her seat. She scrunched her face up in disapproval of my suggestion.
As soon as the bell rang, I changed the subject. “In English, Mike asked me if you said anything about Monday night,” I told her, wiggling my eyebrows suggestively.
“You’re kidding! What did you say?!” she gasped, doing a little jump of excitement.
“I told him that you had a good time and that you would be good together. I even said you were magical.”
Jessica smacked me with her Trig book, hard enough to snap a bone. I cursed, rubbing it back into place and glowered at her. “Bella! Magical?!” I snickered in reply. She sighed exasperatedly. “Tell me exactly what he said and your EXACT answer. I swear, you’re terrible at being human. I’m better at it and you have the advantage of being half human.”
“Jess, being magical is a normal human quality! Just look at Angela!” I only got an eye roll in response.
We spent the rest of the walk dissecting sentence structures and most of Spanish on a minute description of Mike’s facial expressions. I eventually made a projection, hidden by an invisibility spell thanks to Jessica. She was pleased by the end of it.
And then the bell rang for lunch. My excited little jump, my hazard treatment of my books, and my uplifted expression tipped Jessica off that I was not going to sit with her that day.
“You’re not sitting with us today, are you?” she guessed.
I smiled and stood on my tiptoes. “Probably not, unless you WANT Edward to sit with you…”
“Bleck, no!”
Angela ran into us. “Jess, Bella, do neither of you remember that we’re in a school of humans? I had to whip up a forgetting potion and sneak it into the water fountains and THEN make this OTHER potion to make people want to go get some water and boil it in the vents.”
Jessica looked horrified. “Ang, I put a spell in the fog to make people’s minds forget fey activity! I do it like every month.”
“YOU COULDA KEYED ME IN ON IT.”
“Do I need to help in this?” I asked. “I mean, I can kind of manipulate water sometimes? Eva taught me some of that. Oh, and I can-”
Angela waved me aside. “No, go eat while Edward watches. This is our fault. Go.”
I followed them to the lunch room. Edward was waiting, leaning on the wall. He winked at Jessica and blew a kiss at Angela. Angela caught the kiss and threw it at me. Jessica rolled her eyes in response to Edward and pushed past him. Very civil. I caught the kiss and put it in my pocket for safekeeping.
“Hello,” Edward said. His voice was bemused. He seemed so much happier since we had started “dating”. “Join me for lunch, my darling?”
“Hi. Sure, my, um, vampire.”
He chuckled quietly. Walking with Edward to the lunch line was a lot like my first day here; everyone stared. He lead the way while I trailed behind, wishing he would hold my hand again. He didn’t speak, but would occasionally look down at me and smile: a little smirk, a wide grin, my favorite crooked smile, and once, a goofy grin with his tongue stuck out. People stared after that last smile. Apparently Edward had never been this happy, ever.
He stepped up to the counter and began to fill the tray with food. I realized that this was the first day I hadn’t packed a lunch. Jasper made me forget with his enticing food. One of the lunch ladies, a woman named Katherine that I would often say hello to, raised an eyebrow at both of us.
“Edward Cullen, you never finish your food. I thought I banned you from the lunch line. And Bella, you never come here, you always bring that huge bag of food that you always somehow finish.”
I shrugged. “I forgot to bring my lunch and he’s paying. What can I say?” I said with a shrug.
Katherine smiled, handing Edward a plate with two slices of pizza. “Okay, fine.” We moved along, going to the cash register. Edward reached into his back pocket, which I very much liked watching, and got out his wallet. He paid and carried the tray to the same table we had sat that one time before. From the other end of the long table, a ground of seniors gazed at us in amazement as we sat across from each other. Edward seemed oblivious.
Edward pushed the tray towards me. “I assume you can eat enough for two?”
I nodded happily, taking a bite of pizza. It was very greasy and I would probably throw up later. I took another bite. “I’m curious,” I said, abandoning the pizza for a bite of apple. He put his chin in his hands and waited for me to chew. “What would happen if someone, like me, dared you to eat food?”
He began to trace the edge of my lunch tray. Finally, he picked up the other slice of pizza and took a deliberate bite. He swallowed and grimaced. “Happy?”
I nodded. “What does it taste like?”
“What I imagine dirt tastes like.”
“I used to eat dirt. I was looking for worms…They’re very good,” I explained after I got over my dose of nostalgia.
“I thought you were cat-like, not bird-like.”
“They’re very nutritious,” I stated factually with a glare. Something else caught his attention over my shoulder.
“Angela and Jessica are analyzing everything I do,” he explained. “They’ll explain it all later.” He pushed the pizza towards me, which I took with vigor. The mention of Jessica brought a hint of irritation to his features.
“You never said anything about the waitress,” he said, obviously disappointed.
“I don’t want Jess to hate you more,” I explained. “Although I am very annoyed. I AM your girlfriend. You shouldn’t flirt with other girls.”
He laid his head down on the table under his hands, looking up at me. “I promise, my attention will never be on another girl besides you.”
“Thank you.”
“It’s my absolute pleasure. Now, you said something disturbing. Yes, I was listening! Now, do you truly believe that you care more for me than I do for you?” He leaned in a little closer.
I searched my mind for the simple command of how to breath. I looked away. There it is.
“Yes.”
I looked down at the table, then the green tray. I traced the edge until our fingers collided. I stole a glance up at him. He smiled a little. I stubbornly refused to break the silence. He finally looked up. “Bella, you could never be further from the truth.” His eyes were gentle and he looked…bashful.
“You can’t know that,” I disagreed in a whisper. I shook my head. He was the first to touch my heart after the wall was torn down, the first to save my life again and again. And again and again. Sure, Christopher was a crush when I was little, but he was barely anymore than a playmate I liked to look at. There was Colter, my engaged, but we both knew that relationship was romantically loveless. I reminded him too much of his sister and he reminded me too much of an ancient, tired, suicidal man.
Edward was young in comparison, still full of life and smiles and silliness. He saved my life, not because of an alliance, but because he cared for me. He saw me as some beautiful creature, not a disgraced half-fey. He laughed at me and teased me and made me laugh despite everything. He made me happy. He was everything, that sickly redheaded boy.
“What makes you think so?” His liquid topaz eyes were penetrating – trying futilely, I assumed, to lift the truth straight from my mind. I wished he could.
I stared back, struggling to find the right words. After a few moments of silence, I finally said, “Edward, there will be a time when I have to assume the role I was born for. I know what that is like. It’s nothing but politics and death threats and being utterly alone. There’s a possibility of you being there, but I want you here, safe from fey, powerful fey. Right now, while I have this little time in Forks, I want to live. You have made me happy. You have made me smile and feel safe, something my mother can barely do in her position. There’s no one I would rather stand by to protect me and care for me. You are the piece of life that I will always hold on to.”
He was touched. “Thank you, Bella. Truly. In all the years I’ve lived prior, I had never thought that I was capable of companionship like this, to be able to protect and care for a girl so deeply and profoundly…It amazes me. You’ve done this to me.” He broke for a second to laugh. “You made me happy, too. There is no other girl that I would rather be with. I know that I am strong enough to do what’s right for you, even if it’s leaving.”
“Leaving?”
“I’ll hurt myself to keep from hurting you, Bella. Sacrifice is the truest test of love.”
“And you don’t think I would do the same?”
“You’d never have to, Bella.”
Abruptly, his unpredictable mood shifted again: a mischievous, devastating smile rearranged his face. “Of course, keeping you safe is beginning to feel like a full-time occupation that requires my constant presence.”
“Yours or your siblings. Hey, no one has tried to do away with me today!” I reminded him, grateful for the lighter subject. I was going to tear up over the confessions of our feelings for each other.
“Yet,” he added.
“Yet,” I agreed; I would have argued, but if he was expecting disasters, he would have to always be around.
“Do you really need to go to Seattle this Saturday, or was that just an excuse to get out of saying no to all your admirers?”
I made a face at the memory of my line of admirers. “You know, I haven’t forgiven you for the Tyler thing yet,” I warned him. “It’s your fault that he’s deluded himself into thinking he’s taking me to prom.”
“Oh, he would have asked you, I just wanted to see that beautiful face of yours. If I had asked, would you turn me down?”
“Probably not,” I said, “But my dancing skills…are not human. I’m surprised Jessica doesn’t get more attention for her dancing.”
“Well, that won’t be a problem,” Edward said. “I already have plans for you for prom.”
“Just don’t take me dancing,” I said with a sigh.
“So are you set on going to Seattle or no?”
“I’m open to alternatives,” I allowed. “As long as I drive. You got me in a car wreck.”
“Only because you let me touch a true silver knife. Yes, Charlie told me everything.” He smiled wickedly. “Your dad is awesome as far as humans go. He has a whole case of true silver bullets. He reused the one he shot Emmett with to shoot me. It was so painful.” He looked at the memory with fondness. “Yeah, your dad is awesome.”
“Where would you be taking me?” I asked.
“The weather will be nice, so I’ll be staying out of the public eye…and you can stay with me, if you’d like to.”
“I would love to. I’ll ask Daddy.”
He grinned. “I already took care of that. I got permission to date you and he approved of my second-date idea. Aren’t you proud of me?”
I patted his hair – it was thick. “Good job, Edward. I’m so very proud of you.”
“You don’t have to be alone with me. We could just stay at your house, or maybe hang out at my place?”
“No, I wanna go where you planned.”
He sighed dramatically, the only way he could sigh. “Fine. Alice or Rosalie could join us. Or Emmett.”
“Why not Jasper?”
“He’s…not as well-trained as the rest of us. Carlisle is the most controlled, and I’m getting up there because I feel all of their thirst, but the best is Rosalie. I mean, Carlisle has never killed anyone with his vampire skills and only accidentally killed someone with his job as a doctor. He’s tasted human blood, though, something Rosalie has never done. I’m quiet proud of her. Her record is far better than any of ours.” He glanced over at her now. She tried to hide her smile, but it was impossible. She was radiating. She was proud of herself, I was sure. I would be too, if I had become a vampire by some impossible miracle. She held onto her humanity and would not let go, not even for a second. I’m sure the others grasp at their humanity, but I was proudest of Rosalie.
“Good job, Rosalie,” I whispered loud enough for her to hear.
Edward turned to me. “She thanks you. She’s very humble, you know. I envy her. She’s been so hurt her whole life, yet her heart is pure. It’s her most beautiful feature.”
“You love your family a lot,” I noticed.
“Yes. I’ll admit, I’m closest with Alice because she was the only one annoying enough to pester me into a friendship for a very long time, but I love all of them. Rosalie, the angel. Alice, the ray of sunshine that brightens our house. Emmett, the protector of our family. And Jasper, the comfort for all of us.”
“What about Carlisle and Esme?” I asked, thinking of the adults in the family.
“Carlisle’s like the soul of our family. He’s our leader, our father. He’s a man that’s proved again and again that he deserves to be followed. Esme is the heart. She’s truly the one that brought love into the family.”
“And they still don’t trust me?” I asked.
Edward ran his hand through his hair. “No, they don’t. But they’ve accepted that we’ve chosen you. All of us, not just me. I think I’m the most partial to that choice, but they all care for you too.”
“Were you not happy before?” I asked. The question had been bothering me. He had said I had made him happy. I wondered if this relationship was too co-dependent.
“Well, I should rephrase that, shouldn’t I? I was happy before, especially after Rosalie found Emmett and everyone around me was happy. And then when Alice and Jasper came, man, that was crazy intense. You’ve made me content, Bella. I still think that I’m a monster in some ways, but I know now that I’m capable of being content with my situation. You’ve made me realize that I had wonderful, caring parents that have always loved me and that I should be happy about that instead of always gripping about how it was so much better when I was human. I have a pretty great life, I’ve realized. I have wonderful siblings, a very nice house with an amazing room, and I’ve lived a long life filled with learning and music. And I traded it for my mortality, something that many humans try to avoid anyways? And on top of all of that, a wonderful, kind, sweet, strange girl came into my Biology class and turned my life upside down? Because I am content, I am now joyful. You brought that joy. You are my joy.”
“Is today just the day for monologues about each other?” I asked when he was finished.
He laughed. “I guess so. I am absolutely enthralled that you wandered into my life, Miss Isabella Marie Swan.”
I could feel blood rushing to my face. I wanted to change the subject, so I said the first thing that came to my mind. “So you went to the Goats Rock Wilderness.”
“Yup. To hunt. Bears, specifically. They’re killing off a lot of the other animals around. Bear is Emmett’s favorite.”
“And your favorite is…mountain lion?”
“Yes, your dad found out, which is why he got me some mountain lion blood. He studied our hunting patterns and figured out which ones are each of our favorites. It was very odd to see the research and how easily he found it.”
“Ah.” I was hurt. My sub-clan was the puma, the mountain lion. He killed my animals.
“Hey, I hear static. Are you upset that it’s your sub-clan?” he asked.
I was touched he remembered. “Yes, it is.”
“I’m sorry if it upsets you.”
“It’s okay. I understand.”
Edward nodded, then switched back to the light banter. “Of course,” he said in a cheerful manner, “we have to be careful not to impact the environment with injudicious hunting. We try to focus on areas with an overpopulation of predators like with the bears this past week – ranging as far away as we need. There’s always plenty of deer and elk here, and they’ll do, but where’s the fun in that?”
“They taste better,” I muttered around another bite of pizza.
“Early spring is Emmett’s favorite bear season – they’re just coming out of hibernation, so they’re more irritable.” He smiled at some remembered joke.
“I can’t kill a bear without weapons. I couldn’t imagine it.”
“Oh, we have weapons.” He flashed his bright teeth in a brief, threatening smiled. I fought back a shiver before it could expose me. Although I loved the boy, I still feared the vampire. “Just not the kind they consider when writing hunting laws. If you’ve ever seen a bear attack, you should be able to visualize Emmett hunting.”
I couldn’t stop the next shiver that flashed down my spine. I was stronger than humans, but I would never stand against Edward or Emmett in a fight. My magical skills were low, and I couldn’t trap them long enough to get away. I peeked across the cafeteria toward Emmett, grateful that he wasn’t looking my way. The thick bands of muscle that wrapped around his arms and torso were somehow more menacing now. Add that to the fact that he knows about magic and a fair amount about types of fey I didn’t even know about, I was very glad that he was on my side.
Edward followed my gaze and chuckled. I stared at him, unnerved.
“Are you like a bear, too?” I asked in a low voice/
“More like the lion, or so they tell me,” he said lightly. “Perhaps our preferences are indicative.”
I tried to smile. “Perhaps,” I repeated. My mind was filled with images of Emmett, eyes red and balls of magic in his hands. I focused on Edward, the lion.
“Is that something I might get to see?” I asked, trying to focus on him and not the threat across the room.
“Absolutely not!” His face turned even whiter than usual, and his eyes were suddenly furious. I leaned back, stunned, and – though I would never admit it – frightened by his reaction. Hadn’t he seen me hunt? He leaned back as well, folding his arms across his chest.
“I’m not that fragile, Edward. I may not be able to take you on, but I won’t faint over the sight of a dead bear.”
He rolled his eyes. “Fear is not the factor I was putting into play, Bella. If it was, I would take you out tonight. You need a healthy dose of fear. Nothing could be more beneficial for you. Oh, an elf tried to kill you? ‘Just talk to me later, Edward.’” I didn’t like his imitation of me. “Oh, four monsters try to kill you? ‘Well, at least I get to go to dinner.’ Car wreck? ‘Eh, just dust myself off and change Edward’s beautiful car into an ugly Camaro.’”
‘Then why?” I demanded, undeterred despite his cruel imitations.
He glared at me for a long minute. The bell rang, but I still glared right back at him.
“Later,” he finally said. He was on his feet in one lithe movement. “We’re going to be late.”
I stood up, slightly bent into a pouncing position. “Later,” I agreed with my most menacing snarl. He growled in return with a smile.
Maybe I loved the monster a little bit, too.

Chapter Text

13. Complications

Everyone watched us as we walked together to our lab table. I noticed that he no longer angled the chair to sit as far from me as the desk would allow. Instead, he sat quite close beside me, our arms almost touching. My arm touched his baggy hoodie. It looked expensive. Alice probably got it for him in a compromise to wear nice clothes.
Mr. Banner backed into the room then – what a jerk. Emmett had written almost twelve pages on the next section. I was excited about it. I wish Emmett was my teacher. Mr. Banner shoved a rectangular plastic box in the TV.
“What was that rectangle thing?” I asked Edward.
“Hm? The TV?”
“No, the little box he put IN the TV.”
He laughed and the lights were off. “It’s a VHS. It’s a movie day. It’s nothing important, Mr. Banner is just hungover.”
I looked up at him with a smile, then suddenly realized how close he was. I could lean up and kiss him. No one would remember with all of the potions going through their systems. A large part of my mind yelled, “VAMPIRE,” but I was willing to ignore that.
I groaned and turned to stare at the TV. I was aware that the TV had…colors and sounds coming from it, but I couldn’t for the life of me interpret them. I balled my hands into fists and bit my tongue to get my mind off of Edward.
It was not working very well.
The room was brightened a token amount by the movie actually starting. My eyes, of their own accord, flickered to him. I smiled sheepishly as I realized his posture was a reflection of mine, fists clenched under his arms, right down to the eyes, peering sideways at me. He grinned back, then bit his bottom lip. I wondered for a moment if it hurt him, if the venom stung when he bit his lip like that.
Ah, yes, good, focus on vampire facts. A person must be equal to or less than seven-sixteenths fey to be turned into a vampire The numbers may vary depending on what type of fey. For instance, a fey with the blood of a lamia, a humanoid with the lower body of a snake, could not become a vampire until true silver did not burn them. There are some subsets of lamia that do not feed on humanoids, but most do. The lamias on one side of Titania’s forest are mostly tamed, though many people still fear them.
The hour seemed very long. I kept going through facts about vampires I had picked up. After that I drilled fey law in my brain. I could barely concentrate on it. Edward was sitting right there, right next to me. I would occasionally steel a glance at him. He seemed as unnerved as I was. The overpowering urge to touch him, to kiss him refused to fade. I crushed my fists against my ribs until one by one, they snapped. I stretched my hands out, allowing them to heal. Magic was excess today, probably with Jessica and Angela to blame.
I breathed a sigh of relief when Mr. Banner flicked the lights back on at the end of class. I flexed my fingers, making sure that they were completely healed.
“Well, that was interesting.” Edward murmured. His voice was bemused but his eyes were cautious. I was once again reminded of how strong he was. I was like a lion, strong and powerful, but he was like a dragon, so much more powerful than me.
“Indeed,” I said, standing up and stretching.
“Shall we?” he asked, rising fluidly. I couldn’t imagine how he could hunt while being so fluid and graceful.
I almost groaned. Time for Gym. I was a bit worried that the excess magic would cause me to be clumsy. My theory was confirmed when I tripped over the floor.
Edward caught me by the neck of my sweater. “Are you okay?” Edward asked.
“Yeah. Jess and Angela kind of messed up today with some spells, so magic is really thick today. They’re probably concocting a counter-spell right now. So I’m more like I am when I’m in the fey world.”
“And you’re clumsy there?”
“Very.” I was also allergic to peanuts there, so there was the possibility that I would die if peanut oil was used, but probably not.
“Somehow you smell even better,” Edward muttered.
“Do I smell that appealing?” I asked.
Edward simply nodded. He moved farther away from me and turned his head away from me. Finally, as we were approaching the gym, he turned and said, “Jessica smells better than normal, as did that elf. The shapeshifters in Port Angeles smelled terrible. You smell very good, too.”
I turned to say goodbye. His face startled me – his expression was torn, pained, and so fiercely beautiful that the ache to touch him flared as strong as before. My goodbye stuck in my throat as I reached on my tiptoes to kiss his cheek. He froze in place as I missed and kissed his nose, ever so cold. My lips were burning.
He stayed frozen for another beat. I took a few steps back and he blinked. “Thank you,” he whispered. He turned without another word and strode quickly away from me.
I walked into the gym, lightheaded and wobbly. I drifted to the locker room, changing in a trancelike state, only vaguely aware that there were other people surrounding me. Reality didn’t fully set un until I was handed a racket. I was semi-okay in sports, despite my best efforts. Today would be a different story. I knew for a fact that Jess and Angela were working on some potion. I saw it seeping through the vents in swirls barely a color above the clear air.
I was going to suck in whatever this sport was.
Mercifully, Mike came to stand beside me. “Hey Bella! You wanna team up with me? We can probably win together.”
“Well, I don’t feel too well. I might go to the nurse’s office…”
“Nonsense! Let’s do this!”
It did not go smoothly. I somehow managed to hit myself in the head with my racket and clip Mike’s shoulder on the same swing. Then, if that weren’t enough, in an effort to score a point, I lunged forward very hard, falling over and chipping my tooth and fracturing my skull. I was sent to Julie’s office.
On the way there, I bumped into Angela and Jessica. They were putting some potion in the vent of the Language building. The only language was Spanish, but that was beside the point in the eyes of the school.
“You look terrible,” Jessica pointed out.
“The more magic there is, the more human I am,” I reminded them. My head was pounding as it healed. I was preparing to rip my tooth out so a new one could grow.
“I forgot about that! Angela, you should have seen her in the fey world. I’m surprised she didn’t die there. She could barely hold on to me when I was flying her to my hangout.”
Blood flowed from my tooth. It would take a good ten minutes to heal and then another twenty minutes to regrow the tooth. If I had adrenaline like in the fey world when Jessica left me, it would be much faster. It would be best if I was far, far away from the magic Angela and Jessica were producing.
“I think I’m just going to go home,” I told my friends. “Just…make sure you don’t kill anyone with that.”
Angela gave me a wink. “Don’t worry, that’s Plan B.”
I rolled my eyes, carefully stepping down the slope of the hill. I felt congested with how much magic there was. Even the fey world didn’t have this much magic. It wasn’t the natural magic, either, it was that crappy fey-produced magic extracted from nature. It wasn’t natural magic like Chief showed me. The process made it sticky and gross, like over-processed food in the human world. Most people didn’t take the time to learn how to use magic produced from inside of them and how to produce magic themselves. They settled for the crap.
I stepped into Julie’s office. She was doing a crossword. I grabbed a cotton ball and stuffed it where my tooth had previously been. She glanced up.
“I have a mild concussion. Can I go home?”
“You and Edward Cullen, huh?” she asked, popping her gum. “I’ve been wondering why you haven’t seen me as much. Staying up talking to him and don’t have time to come see me?”
“Well…”
“I knew it. I knew it was a boy. Hey, you got the cute one. You guys look good together.”
I blushed. “Thanks.”
“Tell me about him.”
She obviously didn’t care about my injuries. “Well, obviously he’s attractive in a really weird way. And he’s very…silly now. Like a little kid. He took me out to eat last night when we ran into each other in Port Angeles. Jess and Angela went to the pier and I got my ears pierced. Then I got lost and I ran into Edward. Then Jess and Angela had already eaten, so he took me out to eat. There was this really pretty waitress and he flirted with her on purpose. I wanted to strangle him. Then he talked about prom to her and said that he wasn’t going. She was like asking why and he said that he was taking me to Seattle! I mean, we had already planned that, but still. Then he kind of ignored her after that. Anyways, he took me home. My dad sent me upstairs and they talked for a good bit. Then when I was going to leave this morning, he picked me up and said he got permission from my dad to date me. So…we’re dating!”
Julie’s eyes were filled with excitement. “Wow! That’s so nice! So you really like him?”
“Yes, I really really like him.”
“Really really really?”
“Yes, really really really.”
“That’s one really away from love, you know,” Julie said with a wink. She scribbled on a little sheet of paper. “Give this to Shelly. You can go home…except Edward drove you! Oh no!”
“It’s okay, I’ll-”
A beautiful and breathtaking blonde popped her head in. “I’ll take her, Miss Julie. Carlisle’s calling me to the hospital for some bloodwork, so I’m heading that way.”
Rosalie Hale, the lifesaver.
Rosalie stayed as far as she could from me. We were in silence until the car doors were locked. “Seriously, Bella? You ripped out your tooth?”
I shrugged. “It’ll grow back. The faster I pulled it, the faster it would heal and grow back.”
“You can’t imagine how that smells. Edward would kill you if he was here.”
“My blood?” I asked, pulling the now golden cotton from my mouth.
“PUT IT BACK. Thank you. Yes, the blood. Edward heard you pulling it out, then say how you were going home. He had an anxiety attack. He had to text all of us and we had to make a stupid plan so that you could stay safe. Carlisle couldn’t come get you, so I’m the next best.”
Rosalie pulled into my driveway. “Let’s practice some moves before Edward gets out of school.”
We had about forty minutes until Edward would get out of school and get here. She didn’t use my knifes for obvious reasons, but she showed me how to defend myself with a knife from the kitchen. When Edward showed up, Rosalie was showing me where to stab someone to leave them wounded but not fatally.
Edward hopped out of the superior Camaro. “Bella, why on Earth did you pull your tooth out?”
I smiled, showing off my new tooth. “It got chipped so I grew a new one.”
Edward rolled his eyes. Rosalie pulled her hair up. “I’ll see you later,” she told Edward. “Bye Bella.”
I waved goodbye as she pulled away. Then it was just me and Edward.
“How was Gym?”
“Fine,” I lied. I followed him to the kitchen. He poured me a glass of lemonade and some of the blood for himself. I wondered where Dad got it.
“How’s your head?” he asked after a sip of blood.
“It’s better now. You were listening again?”
He grinned. “Yep. Annoying, isn’t it?”
“Definitely.”
“Will you forgive me if I apologize?”
“Maybe…if you mean it. And if you promise not to do it again.”
His eyes were suddenly shrewd. “How about if I mean it, and you can drive on Saturday, free of my terrible driving?”
I considered and decided it was the best he was going to offer. “Deal.”
“Then I’m very sorry I upset you.” His eyes went from sincerity and then transformed into a playful manner. “And I’ll be on your doorstep bright and early Saturday morning.”
“Can you please tell me why I can’t watch you hunt now?”
He rolled his eyes. “When he hunt,” he began unwillingly, “we give ourselves over to our senses, govern less of our minds. Become more animal-like. We especially rely on our sense of smell. If you were anywhere near me when I lost control…I would never forgive myself.”
I kept my expression firmly under control, expecting thee swift flash of his eyes to judge my reaction that soon followed. Since Emmett wasn’t here to amplify my fear, my eyes gave nothing away.
Our eyes held and the silence deepened – and changed. I realized that we were in my house, alone. Dad wasn’t here. It was only us.
Abruptly, I filled in the silence. “How can you drink that and stay under control?”
He looked at the glass in his hands, as if just realizing that he was holding it. “It isn’t fresh. It’s been cooled down, too. I would compare it to a brick of chocolate instead of creamy hot fudge.”
“Huh.”
“I…better go.”
“You want to leave me here alone?” I asked.
“Emmett is outside. He’s waiting to teach you about what we ‘learned’ in class.”
“Oh. Right.”
“Yep. Bye Bella.”
“Bye Edward. He disappeared with a strained smile. A second later, the car backed out of the driveway and disappeared around the corner.
He left his blood. Curious, I took a sip, then immediately gagged.
Emmett laughed for thirty minutes at that. While I started on dinner for Daddy and me, he taught me the lesson about DNA and how it wraps itself when a new strand of DNA is made. He also went into full detail about how the DNA could mutate.
That night, with Alice on guard, I stayed up for a good bit playing dress-up. I passed out sometime during “prom dresses I’ll never wear”. Edward filled my dreams, but I also got guest appearances from all the vampires, Angela, Jessica, and Titania. It was mostly Edward, though. There was the same amount of tension between us as there was in the real world. I hope it broke soon.
When I woke up I was tired, which was odd. I got almost five hours of sleep, which was equivalent of a human sleeping in. Alice helped me pick out an okay outfit: a brown turtleneck and some inescapable jeans. Before I got downstairs to breakfast, though, I ripped the neck of the shirt off and made it a little bit lower on the neck. Breakfast was like the day before, with Jasper fixing eggs, toast, and fried bologna, an unidentified meat that I fell in love with. Dad fried his own eggs, claiming that Jasper made his too runny. I was surprised with how Dad interacted with the vampires with ease.
“Dad, how do you have bullets made of true silver?” I asked after downing my breakfast.
“Easy. When your mother left, I hired a fey to go to the fey world and buy me some.”
“How on Earth could you afford that?”
He smiled now. “Angela’s grandmother helped with that part. She gave me a potion to cure any mental illness. I used it in exchange for the bullets. The good thing is they’re reusable.”
Dad left soon after that. Jasper made me some more eggs and bologna while Alice organized my backpack. “I swear, just like Edward,” she muttered.
“Does Edward even have a backpack?” I asked.
“He does, an ugly black JanSport. He disregards the bag when he gets bored with school. He got bored last year, so he burned it and spread the ashes around the school. Typical Edward. Now he usually carries around a pencil and gets paper from other students. He’s about to pull up.”
I rushed to yank my messy backpack away from Alice. “Okay, gotta go!”
Edward was waiting in his beautiful Camaro. I walked to the car, pausing shyly before opening the door and stepping in. He was smiling, relaxed – and, as usual, beautiful even in his sickly state.
“Good morning. You have egg on your face.” His voice was silky and I glared as I wiped the egg off the corner of my mouth. “How are you today?” His eyes roamed over my face, surely looking for more food to point out.
“Good, thank you.” I was always good – much more than good – when I was near him, even with egg on my face.
His gaze lingered on the circles under my eyes. “You look tired.”
“I didn’t sleep that well. Too many dreams,” I confessed.
“Neither could I,” he teased as he started the engine. I was becoming used to the quiet purr. I was sure the roar of my truck would scare me, whenever I drove it once more.
I laughed. “I guess that’s right. I supposed I slept just a little bit more than you did.”
“I’d wager you did.”
“So what did you do last night?”
“I played chess with Esme and read some. Quiet boring. Carlisle had the night shift. What’s your favorite color?”
“It changes from day to day. Why?”
“I want to get to know my girlfriend. What’s your favorite color today?”
“Probably brown.” I tended to dress according to my mood. Alice had been dead set on a pink and green shirt, but we compromised at the brown shirt if I would wear these stupid jeans.
He snorted, dropping his serious expression. “Brown?” he asked skeptically.
“Sure. In the fey world, the house where I grew up was this hollowed out tree. It’s pretty small. My room is this little hole with a bunch of furs and wool. It’s very cozy. Brown is…warm.”
He seemed fascinated by my little story about my little house. He considered for a moment, staring into my eyes.
“You’re right, he decided, serious again. “Brown is warm.” He reached over, swiftly, but somehow still hesitantly, to sweep my hair behind my shoulder.
We were at the school by now. He turned back to me as he pulled into a parking space.
“What music is in your CD player right now?” he asked, his face as somber as if he’d asked for a murder confession.
I had to think about that. “Um…The Best of Billie Holiday.”
Edward smiled crookedly, a peculiar expression in his eyes. He flipped open a compartment under his car’s CD player, pulled out one of thirty or so CDs that were jammed into the small space, and handed it to me.
“Respighi to Miss Holiday?” He raised an eyebrow.
It was the same CD. I examined the familiar cover art, keeping my eyes down.
It continued like that for the rest of the day. While he walked me to English, when he met me after Spanish, all through the lunch hour, he questioned me relentlessly about every insignificant detail of my existence. Movies I’d watched with Daddy that I liked and hated, the few places in the human world I’ve been and the many places I wanted to go, and books – endlessly books.
I couldn’t remember the last time I’d talked so much or gotten so much attention. More often than not, I felt self-conscious, certain I must be boring him. But the absolute absorption of his face, and his never-ending stream of questions, compelled me to continue. Most of his questions were easy, only a very few triggering my blushes. If I ever did flush, it brought on a whole new round of questions.
Such as the time he asked my favorite gemstone, and I blurted out topaz before thinking. He’d been flinging questions at me with such a speed that I felt like I was taking one of those survival tests they made us take at school where we identified the humanoids on flashcards. I was sure he would have continued down whatever mental list he was following, except for my blush. My face reddened because, until very recently, my favorite gemstone was garnet, the gemstone of the Cat Clan. There’s a verse in the Bible that says, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.” The Cat Clan, and many other goblin clans, have ceremonies for their children where they give their children a red stone to remind them of this: that they need to atone for their sins to make their souls pure and that Jesus provided blood when he died on the cross and split the world in two. My mother did not give me anything because she does not believe a lot of the traditions, but my father got me a necklace with a pendant of garnet for my thirteenth birthday. I wore it on special occasions.
Naturally, Edward saw the blush on my face and would not rest until I told him the reason.
“It’s the color of your eyes today,” I finally admitted, trying to shut the annoying buzzing of Edward saying “please” in my ear. “I suppose if you asked me in two weeks I’d say onyx.” I shivered at the thought of anyone who would wear onyx like people wore the garnet.
His pause to consider this was short. “What kind of flowers do you prefer?”
I smiled at the easy question. “The wild roses I gave Rosalie.”
Biology was a complication again. Edward had continued his quizzing up until Mr. Banner entered the room, dragging the big black frame again. As the teacher approached the light switch, I noticed Edward slide his chair slightly farther away from mine. It didn’t help. As soon as the room was dark, there was that spark of excitement. I just wanted to reach out and touch him.
I leaned forward on the table, resting my chin on my folded arms. Since there was far less magic today, I had no problem with breaking my fingers for fun. It was easy. Snap. Snap. Snap. I was careful to make sure that the skin didn’t puncture. I tried to focus on the movie, but after Emmett’s lesson, I already knew this stuff and more. I sighed in relief again when Mr. Banner turned the lights on, finally glancing at Edward; he was looking at me, his eyes ambivalent.
He rose gracefully. I couldn’t imagine him hunting like a humanoid should, animal-like and all. He was too graceful, too fluid. We walked toward the gym in a light silence. He made faces at me and I tried to keep my face straight. It didn’t work very well. I was giggling quietly when, unexpectedly, he leaned down and kissed my nose. Blood rushed to my face and he laughed. “Bye Bella!” He bit his lip, grinned, then turned and almost skipped away.
I loved that boy.
Gym passed quickly as I watched Mike’s one-man badminton show. He had learned that I was clumsy, at least yesterday. I was mostly fine now. There were some traces of that disgusting fake magic around, but it was like having a stuffy nose compared to throwing up and dying yesterday.
I hurried to change afterward, wanting to feel the freedom of being at home. I laughed at the irony, causing Lauren to glare at me. Oh, sorry I find something funny. Go find someone else to bully, I thought. I’m happy right now.
Edward was waiting outside with a wide grin on his face. I had to admit, he still looked sick, but he was beautiful under that. I wondered how he looked before he died. Was he super built like Emmett? Was he skinny and gangly? I smiled at the next one: Edward being overweight. I couldn’t imagine him, this underfed-looking kid ever having excess body fat. In fact, as I thought about it more, I couldn’t imagine him any other way.
Edward started his cross-examination again. He asked about different things now, though, not as easily answered. He wanted to know what I liked about home, insisting on minute descriptions of anything he wasn’t familiar with, which was most things. We sat in the kitchen for hours. I would sometimes make projections of what he couldn’t picture. He absolutely loved that. He waved his hand through it and was memorized by how it didn’t react like a hologram or smoke that would move away from his touch. It stayed perfect.
“You’re amazing.”
“Everyone can do it. It’s simple once you get the hang of it.”
He shook his head and smiled.
Even with the projections, I couldn’t describe everything perfectly. I tried to describe the scent of dragon’s fire – bitter, burning hot, but still pleasant – the high, screeching sound of griffins while they hunted, the way the forests were full and flush in a bigger way than any forest on Earth, the colors – oh, the colors!
“Edward, it’s just…there’s so much…more to it! Every color here, the tons of shades of just green here, it doesn’t compare. I can’t even see as well there. The sky, it’s this beautiful blue, a blue I’ve never seen here. And the colors, they swirl around so much more there. When the sun sets, it’s just…oh, it’s everything Edward. Purple, pink, blue, greens! And the clouds, so many different colors. And occasionally, a rainbow will come and…I can’t even describe it. And they’re not like rainbows here! The colors are all mixed in together! On Earth, there’s so many rules, but in the fey world, it’s so much different. Rules aren’t meant to be followed, they’re meant to be broken a thousand times over.”
“And beauty is one of those rules?”
“Oh, for sure. I mean, there’s my land, the land the Cat Clan claims, but then there’s the Sands of Time Beach which, technically, no one can inhabit but Colter but people still look at it from afar, then there’s mermaid territory which many people visit on an underwater tour, then there’s the Land of Forgetfulness – I’ll never forget that – and Edward, the Sograssy Sea! Grasslands are beautiful. Stunning. And the Trembling Peaks, that’s the mountains near my land, it’s where monsters, real monsters live, but it’s so…stunning. And all of the mountains in general. Every place in the fey world, it’s beautiful because it’s filled to the brim with magic. The Markets is in a desert but…it’s so gorgeous there. Sand stretches on for miles and there’s a single path. There’s no where to go but one way theoretically, but you could go anywhere. And it looks so dry and barren, but life thrives there. Magic seeps from the sand. It’s just…gorgeous.”
Edward was about to comment when he looked out the window. It was dripping out there so I couldn’t see hardly anything. Quietly, he said, “Billy and Jacob are here. They brought…company. Your company.”
“What?”
“I should go,” Edward said, already opening the door and stepping out into the rain. He didn’t seem bothered at all. I shivered into my cloak Chief gave me.
Jacob was helping his father out of the car. Mama glanced at me, then Edward, with curious eyes.
Wonderful. Complications.
To top it off, Daddy came rolling into the driveway. “Billy!” he called out as soon as he parked. Billie rolled up the ramp to meet Edward and me on the uncovered part of the porch.
“I’m not breaking any treaty-” Edward started.
“I know,” Billie said. “I’m here to talk with Bella. There’s some…trouble.”
Edward sighed in relief, then looked at me. I was frozen in place. Jacob pulled me out, giving me a hug. “Hey! My dad wants me to cook some over here with Charlie, learn that recipe for fish Dad likes so much. I’ll have dinner ready soon!” He wandered into the house, Charlie following. He glanced at me with eyes worried.
The door closed. Mama had made her way to the porch. She glared at Edward. Her gaze found me and it…wasn’t pleased. Billie sighed. “I’m sorry it came to this Bella. I have to look out for my people just like your mama has to look after hers. You’re just a pawn. We need you to go to the fey world to help encourage rebellions against that fairy queen. Three of her men have stepped onto my land. Three. Our land is sacred. Your mama’s been telling me about all of the stuff she’s been doing, making people slaves and such. My boys are going to fight. You need to do your part too.”
Yes. Many complications.

Chapter Text

14. Politics

I gulped. This was not good. “I think we should look at this from all sides of the situation,” I said, my voice dry. Edward glanced at me. He wasn’t supposed to be here. I needed him here, though. Please don’t leave, I thought.
Billie rolled his wheelchair to covered part of the porch. “Sit.” Not only did I follow his instructions, but so did Momma and Edward. Billie had leadership skills, that was certain.
“Bella,” Momma said, leaning over to get closer to me, “People in the goblin community don’t know you. They need to see that even you, someone who’s been mostly cast out of the community, will fight Titania. Her rule is too great. With Colter by your side and the wolves fighting as well, we will turn the small rebellions into a war. You know what’s happening, Bella. All fey are being kidnapped by the Queen to be her slaves for as long as they live. She’s dangling freedom in front of our eyes, making councils for us when really she has all the power. Three magical creatures have gone onto his land. Alerts have went off. Three. It was Saturday.”
Jessica. Angela. Me. “I went to La Push on Saturday. So did Jessica, my friend who’s half-fairy, half-goblin, and my friend Angela, a local witch. We three all have magic that could have set off the alarms. As far as kidnapping, it’s Oberon who has kept the policy of taking slaves. Titania has not taken a slave in hundreds of years. She wants to keep Oberon because he has support of many soldiers. If she makes war with him, he will kill goblins. She’ll be able to defeat him, but she’ll loose so many of her subjects.”
Momma sat back. “Oh, you think you know everything? If we defeat both of them, we will have a better-”
“No, we won’t,” I said. “Titania is good for the kingdom. Oberon might not be, but Titania is. I won’t fight.”
“Bella, you will, and whatever monsters,” she said, snarling at Edward, “you’ve picked up along the way. I’m telling you to.”
“You’re telling me the wrong thing.”
“Why are you so for Titania? You’ve never even met the woman. You know nothing of her politics. You don’t know what I know.”
I grabbed Edward’s hand and squeezed. He squeezed back. “Momma. I’m not fighting. Let that be the end.”
I stood up and dragged Edward inside. Momma and Billie followed. Jacob smiled at me, oblivious to the tension. He was soaking the fish in a lemon-based liquid. “Hey, Bella. Is this your boyfriend?”
“Yes. This is Edward.”
Jacob laughed. “Sorry, I would shake your hand but I’m covered in fish. Nice to meet you, Edward.”
Edward relaxed a little. “Nice to meet you, Jacob.”
“I’m going upstairs to freshen up,” I told the group. Momma had made herself comfortable in the living room. Billy sat next to her. Edward sat on one of the stools. Daddy sat next to him. The people I trusted in the kitchen, the people I didn’t in the living room. I think I could still trust Billy later, just not now with what he had planned.
I walked up the stairs, making sure my steps were solid, confident. I turned on the water, splashed my face, then left it running as I made my escape to the Gate in the back yard.

The trip to Titania’s forest didn’t take nearly as long as it had with Jessica. I got word that Colter had cleared out almost all of the Sands of Time and was working to get it back to its natural state.
It still took a week to get there. If what I heard about Colter was true, I was fine. Daddy’s household probably didn’t go through a second for every couple of years I was here.
The only thing I had on me was my knife and my cloak. I was safe because of the cloak. I’m sure if it wasn’t for the gift of invisibility, then I would have been slaughtered. I only spoke to people in the daylight and never to an elf.
Titania’s forest wasn’t as crowded. The soldiers did not know who I was. I tried to get in through the guarded entrance. I told them I was Isabella of the Cat Clan and that I requested to see the Queen.
“And why should you?” asked the smaller guard, a bear goblin asked.
“I am a leader in the goblin community. I need to speak to the Queen about the rebellions.”
“She has her informants. She doesn’t need you.”
“I’m the next in line for the Cat Clan and an ambassador for Colter. I-”
“You’ve not been asked to come to Titania’s court. You will not enter. Leave before we kill you.”
I left.
But then I put on my cloak. I climbed up a tree and went over the hedge that protected her forest.
It took me a while, but I finally found her. She was surrounded by fairies and was looking over a map of Titania. She bit her lip as little red dots were moved around the map.
I took off my cloak. “Titania?”
She looked up. “Bella…I could…use your advice.”
“I could use yours first.”
Titania cocked her head, motioning me to come over to her side. “This is a map of Titania. These red dots represent places of unrest. No official rebellions are happening right now, but here,” she said, pointing to the Falling Mountains, “I’ve had three fairies die, found with an arrow in their hearts. It’s not rebellion per se, but I do know the high elves aren’t happy with me.”
“Are you asking me what you should do?”
“Oh, I know what I’ll do. What would you do if you were the queen?”
I felt the several eyes of fairies. “I would…have a meeting with the high elves and recommend more fairies stand guard there.”
“I will have a meeting with the high elves in the Falling Mountains, but I won’t put more fairies there. I’m going to have less fairies there and have the elves create their own guard, similar to how there are less guards in the goblin community. I’m adjusting to their needs and desires. They want to be more independent, so I’ll let them. I’ll allow them to make their own guard. The elves highly value community. Goblins value individuals far more. Before you rule in whatever kingdom or clan, you must recognize what those people value.” In a fairy tongue, she made a few commands to the fairies around her. Quickly, they shrunk themselves into small dots of light and flew in different directions. Finally, it was just me, Titania, and an older man.
“Bella, this is Yarrow. He is second in command in my army. You can trust him with your life.”
Yarrow, tall and broad, bowed deeply. “Greetings, Bella. I am honored to serve and protect you.”
I bowed as well. “An honor to meet you, General Yarrow.”
Titania stood back from the 3-D map. “Hard times, Bella. What do you need?”
“My mother has convinced the Natives to fight in a war against you. My mother was trying to convince me to fight alongside Colter.”
Titania sighed and sat in her throne. Today she was wearing a simple green dress that matched the freckles along her skin. “So the Cat Clan is against me? Wonderful. Thank you for telling me.”
“What should I do?”
“You don’t have to do anything. Let me rule, Bella.”
“But my mom is waiting at my house! And so is one of the Natives! And Edward!”
Titania leaned back into her throne. “What do you want me to do, Bella? Go to your house and have a sip of tea with everyone? I can’t do that, Bella. I don’t get that luxury. Until your mother breaks the law, I’m not going to do anything. My people are entitled to disagree with me.”
I wanted to stomp my feet and scream like a child, but I held myself. “Titania, I don’t know what to do. Please tell me what to do.”
She looked toward Yarrow. “Would it be advisable to go to the Cat Clan? Maybe I can start visiting all of the clans, but I want to start with that one.”
“And the Wolf Clan,” I interjected. “Jessica said they have been unrestful.”
“Yes, but the Cat Clan is much bigger. Yarrow, go get my advisors for politics. I believe I’m going on a tour of my kingdom.”
I felt awkward. “Do you…want me to go…or?”
“No, you have work to do.”

It had been a month. I had myself of a call list for if there was a change in the Sands of Time. Thus far, Colter was doing a pretty good job at controlling it. It had been less than a second since I had left Momma and the rest of them. It felt jarring and odd to think about it. Used to, when I was younger, I barely thought about the time difference. Momma would usually just wait until the time was very slow in the fey world and take me to see Daddy then. Now, I was actually paying attention. One day, after a sword fight with Yarrow, I realized I couldn’t remember what my homework was for the next day. Or the next month, depending on when I was going home.
Titania was often planning the trip. I wasn’t going, although I wanted to. I had never gone on a tour around Titania. I was helping plan, as well as making decisions for Titania. They were small decisions, like what type of food would be sent to a certain group of trolls whose home had been burnt by a dragon. Before I made the decision, Titania drilled me on what kind of food we had at hand, what type of food trolls liked, the vegetation they had around where they lived, and the cost of food we didn’t have. So much work went into the small decisions like this that I wondered how she did it all.
In his spare time, Yarrow would teach me some self-defense. He mainly liked to show me how to use a sword, but would sometimes also give little lessons on hand-to-hand combat with my knife or with no weapons. I was pleased on the first day he worked with me. The simple moves Rosalie taught me helped me greatly. I didn’t beat him, but I did hold my own for about thirty seconds, which was far more than I suspected. As he worked with me more and more, I got it up to two minutes. I was sure he could kill me in one heartbeat, but still.
I slept in a tree that was always near the throne. A servant girl named Hope helped me make a hammock out of moss and twine. I was comfortable there. In the deepest parts of night when the forest was mostly asleep, I worked on my natural magic. I wished I had my books on it, but they were at home. I played around with it, not technically doing what I was told to do. Instead of making physical protectors, I played around with keeping the magic in its pure form. Within three weeks, I could make a weak shield of pure, unsaturated magic. I often wrapped it around myself at night. It kept me warm and blocked out the synthetic magic I hated so much that was so thick here.
The next week I stopped taking magic directly from the tree. It was beginning to die. I figured out that it was because I kept on putting the magic back in after it had been saturated with the synthetic magic.
The day after I figured that out, a week before Titania was scheduled to start her tour, the person who was leading the Cat Clan in Mama’s absence came to the forest. I was sitting in my little throne off to the side of Titania, whittling away at a branch I was hoping to turn into a flute of sorts. My throne was smaller and technically just a sturdy tree stump with a back to it. I liked it, though.
Titania was discussing trade matters with one of Oberon’s representatives. I had a feeling that soon, Oberon would begin to act on his impatience. He wanted to be unified with Titania and have his will above her own will. I knew just by glancing at a history book that Oberon’s will was never, ever above Titania’s. Not even close. Oberon had a little bit more jurisdiction in his forest, which is why there were still some servants in his forest that weren’t told when they were coming home. Titania didn’t like it and was negotiating with him through representatives over the matter.
I had almost got the design I wanted when a familiar voice boomed around me. “I am here to see the Queen Titania.”
I glanced up, expecting to see a diplomat of some sort. I saw Christopher, my childhood crush. He was older now, looking around forty years old.
Titania looked up. Thunder rolled in the distance. She wasn’t happy. “And you are?”
“Christopher of the Cat Clan, Representative of the Head of the Cat Clan. My true name is He Who Dies by the Hand of He Who Brings Wrath Upon the Wicked.”
That was a long true name, and one that didn’t seem…great. I mean, mine wasn’t anything to brag about, but someone who kills bad people is going to kill Christopher. Why would Mama chose him to be the Head of the Clan while she was gone?
Titania spoke in the same fairy tongue to Oberon’s representative. I knew the language well enough now that I heard it daily. She told him to wait for a moment while she dealt with the idiot.
“Christopher, what do you need?” Titania asked. He had a beard now. I wondered if he had kids. Who did he marry?
“I wish to rebel against you. I am the leader of the Cat Clan and I got confirmation from the Head of the Cat Clan to declare war against you.”
“Have you told your people? Are they in agreement?” Titania asked, not sparing me a glance.
“No, but many feel unrest. Once they hear of the declamation, they will soon follow.”
I stood up, making my presence known. “According to the laws written in the Cat Clan, a leader of blood needs to make that call. My mother did, but she is in the human world. I am here. I am Isabella of the Cat Clan, daughter of the Head of the Cat Clan. I make the call. No rebellion against the Queen Titania will take place.”
Christopher’s eyes popped out of his head. “Bella! You’re…here! And so young…”
Thunder rolled closer. “Christopher, I take this as your time to leave. I will be visiting the Cat Clan shortly. I expect a welcome greeting from the clan of Bella.”
Shock, confusion, and disbelief set across Christopher’s face, then he finally settled to anger. “Bella, you don’t know what you’re doing. You’re a child. You haven’t been to the Clan in fifteen years-”
“Then it’s high time I go back home. I will accompany you back to the Cat Clan. I need to return to my mother anyways.”
Titania gaped at me. “You’ll leave so soon?”
My heart stopped for a moment. As much as I missed Edward and my family, I didn’t want to leave Titania. I liked listening to her negotiate. I liked learning new languages and learning new things about my country. I liked this new life I had. “I have to.”
Titania regained control of her expression. “Christopher, did you come here on foot?”
“Yes, my Queen.” Christopher was a bit more respectful towards her now. “I brought one of my men as well. He is waiting for me at the edge of the forest.”
“Very well. Go to him and wait for Bella. She will be there shortly.”
Christopher took his time to leave. He looked me over carefully. I felt like he was looking at the carefully crafted clothes, the specially made shoes, and the gold clasps on my clothes with Titania’s crest. Fear crept in my veins when he licked his lips.
No. He kissed me goodbye. I’m seventeen. He’s forty-ish. It’s over. We were friends when we were kids. He’s an adult now. No. No. No.
He left quietly. I felt Titania’s hand grasp my cloak. I was shaking. It could be nothing. His lips could have been dry. I wanted to stay here.
“I’m sending four guards and Yarrow with you.”
“Not Yarrow. That’s too much. You wouldn’t send Yarrow with the Head of the Snake Clan.”
Titania turned me around so I could face her. “Get your belongings together and then meet me back here.”
Instruction was given, so I followed the instructions. I had a trunk by my hammock. As I looked through the trunk to see what I wanted to take back, I realized how much Titania had given me. There were a few jewels, but she had given me many books. Books about history, books about spells, books about the Split, and even a book about vampires. Books, books, forever books. She also gave me clothes, but she knew I didn’t care that much about it. I made sure that my cloak Chief gave me was in there. That and my knife were the only possessions I brought over. My old clothes were at the bottom of the trunk. I made sure they were towards the top. It was odd. It wasn’t by very much, but my clothes were a little worn. In some ways, I had been gone a month. In others, I was gone a second, maybe. Titania said that Colter was set to start the Sands of Time again soon, probably within the next month.
I would probably stay the next month so that there was less time for the Cat Clan to have me or Mama. I didn’t want to spend so much time there, but I knew I was ready. There would probably be a week and a half of travel, then a couple weeks spending there before Colter got the Sands of Time running again. It was just another month.
I packed all of my belongings tightly, making sure to take out all of the things I didn’t want. I stuffed the many swords Yarrow had given me on top. My favorite one, the scimitar, I kept in its sheath securely on my hip. My cloak covered it up nicely. I felt the handle, liking how the leather was fit for my hand. I wished I could stay here. At the same time, I wanted to go home. It was odd, though. Home meant two things. Home meant the Cat Clan, my warm little hole in Mama’s house, the musty libraries, the fresh meat running with juice and a little blood. Home meant Christopher and Colter and Mama and the elf librarian whose name I did not learn. Titania taught me that some elves give fake names, like the elf representative Talia that wanted me to kill Native people. I wished the elf librarian would have given me a fake name.
Home also meant something else. Home meant Daddy and the fish he caught and Jessica being slightly annoying and Angela being perfect and rain, lots and lots of rain. It meant Alice and Jasper cooking breakfast and Rosalie teaching me fighting stances and Emmett confusing me with his apparent history in magic and fey. And, of course, Edward. Edward Edward Edward.
But now home was here, too. Home was being drilled every fact about every humanoid and fey creature. Home was watching Titania negotiate and lounging in my hammock and reading under the unnaturally bright stars and sword-fighting with Yarrow. This was home, too.
My heart pulled in all three directions.
I reminded myself that Mama was able to visit all three frequently. However, I remembered, she left for years at a time. I wondered if she slipped around the maze of time to stay younger, leaving her Clan to rot with Christopher. Well, maybe not rot. Maybe they’re doing well. I bet she doesn’t know that, though, either way.
I suddenly hated Colter. Why couldn’t he figure out how to make the Sands of Time run smoothly and have an equal time with the human world? Why couldn’t he control the storms that threw time magic towards Titania’s kingdom?
It was good we had sand. Other parts of the world had different types of time magic. Parts of the Caribbean had water time magic. It was awful for them. For us, the Sands would just breeze out and spread across the kingdom until their magic filtered out. For them, water was everywhere. It was almost like they were frozen in time.
For some places in the Pacific, their time magic was lava. In between the spurts of lava, millennia would pass. Then, parts of their home would be solidified in the time magic that, due to its physical nature, turned to rock. I shivered, glad that I was not one of those unfortunate people who got trapped in the burning sensation of time and then suffocated in solidifying rock.
I changed my mind. I was very glad I had Colter and his Sand.
I was finished packing. I didn’t want to be finished packing. I took my little hammock down and folded it in the trunk. I debated that for a moment. If I took it, it would be like a little memory of Titania. Hope had helped me make it. Titania put a spell over it so the moss would always stay soft and the twine would always stay strong. If I didn’t take it, though, I knew no one would take it down. It was something to show I was here. I, Isabella of the Cat Clan, was here.
I took it anyways. There were thousands and millions of people that went through her forest since she’s reigned. I wasn’t that important in the scheme of things.
I made sure all of my little things were packed away. I felt as if I were forgetting something. I left the little tree with a little pat.
Titania was sitting on her throne. She was beautiful, as always. Her skin was a light pink. She wasn’t white, she was pink, like the sky in the morning. Her freckles were green. Sometimes they changed color depending how much sun she was getting. Today they were a light green. They were normally light green. Her hair was spun gold, like she had captured the little rays that first escaped in the morning. I understood why people loved her: she was morning, the beginning, the start of a better life.
The only dark part about her was her wings. I absolutely loved them. They were dark navy blue, like the sky at nightfall when there was almost no light left, just the few strands of light grasping at the edges of the sky. Twilight was where those wings belonged. They were my favorite part about her.
Instead of standing up, she opened her arms. In the common fey tongue, she whispered, “Say goodbye now, She Who Watches and Does Nothing.”
It was odd, crawling in the arms of the woman I called Queen. I trusted her with my life. Now she cradled me. “You are going to face hardships, summer child. I wish I could help you along the way. Make me proud.” No tears left her eyes. I wanted to cry, but I had to be strong. I had to make her proud.
I remembered that Chief called me summer child. I wondered again what it meant.
She squeezed me hard. In her dialect of fairy tongue, one of my least favorite languages, she said, “Now get out of here. Shoo!”
I got out of there.

I loved the goblin land in general. Where fairy land was neat and organized, goblin land was chaotic and good. My favorite part of it was the smell. In Forks, it smelled of rain so much that it blocked out the smell of the hemlock and spurs. Out here, rain was distributed evenly. I smelled all of the trees: dogwood, pine, spur, hemlock, cedar, fir, oak, alder, everything. The sky was big and beautiful.
I had four guards. Their gender really didn’t matter because they were stoic, hard, and deadly. Things like names, origins, and gender didn’t matter to them or to me. They were guards and, for the moment, that was all.
The trip home with Christopher was…difficult. Yes, that’s the word. There were a thousand other words to describe it in a hundred languages, but difficult is good enough. Conversation was awkward. Was it just a two months ago that I said goodbye to him? Was it just after Tyler and the others asked me to the dance, when I went to the library to get a book on vampires?
He had a wife, but she had died during childbirth. His son was my age. I hoped he wouldn’t try to set me up with his son. That would be awkward. “Son, this is my childhood friend who once had a crush on me. I think she’d be a great match for you!”
I made him talk about politics. It was obvious that he thought that his words were law, which maybe they were now. For the moment, I stayed quiet, playing off my natural personality. On the inside, I was screaming. He shut down the training school I had attended? He started a militia, training boys as young as twelve? As he discussed more and more of his decisions, the angrier I got.
The guards left soon after I got home. I called the Heads of each sub-clan. I stayed up hours talking to each one. There was going to be a meeting tomorrow.
I wanted to scream. I was in my house, the house I grew up in, so I did. There wasn’t many people around. No one would care. No one did care.
Well, actually, someone minded.
“Bella, calm down,” came a smooth, calm voice from my mother’s room. Light blue skin and dark, dark blue hair came out. Eva’s hair had grown down to her shoulders.
“Your hair’s longer,” I commented.
“I’ve cut it since the last time I saw you.”
Her cold comment made me smile. “Hey Eva. I thought you were living in New York City.”
She swiftly passed me at folded herself at the kitchen table. “I was, but I moved here when I heard that Christopher closed down our training school. I’m protesting. I said I got permission from you to live here. No one wanted to confirm it.” She forced out a smile for me. “Why’d you call all of the Heads?”
“I’m calling a meeting for Christopher. He abused his power. I’m going to use mine to ensure that he never has that power again. I’m also going to reverse every unlawful act he committed.”
“That’s going to take a while.”
I sat down at the table with her. “Yes, yes it is.”

One third of the population of each sub-clan was voted on to meet in the Amphitheater. We needed two-thirds majority to vote on a new law, but that was not what I was doing today. Today, court was in session.
“What is the reason for court today, Isabella, Head of the Cat Clan?” asked the Representative of the Lion sub-clan. He was chosen today to lead the session of court today. His name was Samuel.
“I have assembled the court today to try Christopher of the Cat Clan, sub-clan Bobcat.”
“And what is your reasoning?”
“I believe he has been running my clan incorrectly while my mother and I were gone. I’ve had his records of meetings for new laws and actions pulled from the archive. We will go through each action and if he has broken a law either in the traditional law of the Cat Clan or the law of Titania, he will be sentenced to whatever crime he has committed.”
The representative from the Lynx sub-clan stood up. “Bella, I think we can all agree that Christopher has done an excellent job running our Clan. Better, perhaps, than Targin or your mother.”
I wanted to kill him. I slouched in my seat as chatter exploded around me. Representatives filled the Amphitheater floor, while spectators watched from above. All of them were talking, and I hated all of them. However, they were my people.
I got up and stood behind the chair I was sitting in. And I waited.
It took an hour, but a hush fell over the crowd.
“Thank you,” I said. My voice echoed in the large domed Amphitheater. “I have a true name, but I don’t think that matters. I have an official Clan name with an official title, but I don’t think that matters. I think what matters is my other name, a name none of you have. A human name. My name is Bella Marie Swan. My father is an enforcer of the law. Not a lot of you care about that, but I care about it. My father taught me that the law is important. He taught me that there are bad people in the world and that I need to protect myself and others from those people.
“When I take over my mother’s position, that job will be even more important. My job will be to rule you, to protect you from the evil people of this world. That is my job now. So, if you don’t mind, I am going to go through the records of every decision that Christopher made during the time he ruled. I believe he was careless of all of the laws that are set in place to protect you and others.”
It took more than a day. It took a week to go through every action he had logged in. I was glad that Titania had drilled me so hard on the law in such a short amount of time. I brought in professors and lawyers and older people that had lived through many generations of the law, to instruct me in ways that weren’t clear and to back me up.
All in all, Christopher had over eight thousand years in prison to serve. It was law that if a person’s crimes exceeded a thousand, they would have to give up a life for each thousand.
He had three options. He could be executed eight times, he could take his own life eight times, or he could give up his life. There was a sacred word in the fey language that allowed a fey creature to give up his or her life. A bit of magic would be released when they said this word, and then they would die. If they had another life, they would regenerate their life fairly quickly. The magic released was very powerful. It could break many powerful spells and even could create a potion like the one I had that could bring someone back to life.
I was surprised when Christopher asked to see me. Guards surrounded me when I walked into his cell. He was older. I could see he was stressed and his mind was slowly fading from him now. He was still in his forties, but he was graying.
“I have a request. Hear me out, please.” I waited for him to continue. “I would like to see my son once more. In return, I will serve my eight-thousand years by giving my life up. You can use it for whatever you wish. I will stay in the prison for my remaining time. Just let me see my son.”
Ideas flowed in and out of me. That would give me enough power to break Colter’s spell of immortality. I wouldn’t have to marry him. I had daydreams of me, being the unofficial ruler of the Sands of Time and the Head of the Cat Clan with Edward, strong and deadly, at my side. I agreed to his deal. He gave up his lives easily. He had only one more now. He got to talk to his son for an hour.

Shortly after that, with eight bottles with magic stored inside my trunk, I arranged for Colter to send a small sandstorm to the Cat Clan. This way, I could go to the human world and have time to explain things to Mama without fifty years elapsing in between the two minuets I talk to her before shoving her out the door. Eva would help me travel to the undine land so I could pass before the sandstorm hit. The Gate opening was close enough to my house, near the path that I took to school when I ran. I would be back home within a couple minutes of leaving the fey world.

Chapter Text

15. Balancing

The trip with Eva was calming. It was just me and her. She listened to me talk about everything that had happened. She raised an eyebrow every time I mentioned Titania. When I was done, she said, “You’re kind of dumb, you know.”
“Yeah, I know. What about specifically?”
“Colter’s not going to let you break the spell. He needs you to marry him so you can control the Sands of Time. If not, Oberon will definitely try to do it.”
She was right. My daydream of Edward, deadly and loyal at my side, faded away. “Are you sure?” She just looked at me. “You’re right. Come on, there’s a river up ahead. You need to drink before we go through the Dragon Territory.”
She nodded, approaching the stream. The water already moved towards her. I took off my shoes and sat by the stream, soaking my feet. While she swam, I made us a meal of roasted nuts, hard cheese, and some bread. When Eva was done, she offered me an egg she found in a duck’s nest. I cracked it open and gulped down the yolk while grinning at her reaction. “Hey, you gave it to me.”
“I had hoped your time in the human world had made you more civilized.”
“Nope,” I cheered happily. I glanced over at her while I was preparing the food. She had the faintest smile on her face, which was the happiest I had ever seen her.
Our meal was silent. It felt like the old days. I had met her at my training school. The psychopath was removing water from the grass that surrounded her. It was the first time that I had seen a power used in such a way to create death. I was fourteen, and kind of scared of her.
“Hi,” I said. I expected her to glare at me. I had heard stories of this girl that was a year older than me. I heard she was deadly, and I could see why. I imagined her taking all of the water out of my body.
She didn’t glare at me, which further aided my fear. She had cool, calm eyes. “Hello. You don’t need to be scared.”
“I’m not scared.” I was, but that wasn’t the point. “I heard you’re half-human. So am I.”
She motioned to the spot of grass she had just killed. I became her friend, and she my Eva.
And now she was my friend, too.
We had probably about two days of travel through Dragon Territory before we reached the Great Ditch and therefor, the Roaring River. After we crossed it, it would probably take half a day to get to the River Spleen, where Undine Territory constantly fought over Troll Territory. For a few years, Oberon moved the undine to the islands off the coast. The mermaids and the undine fought more than the undine and the trolls, though, so Oberon moved them back more recently. I shuddered to think about it. Mermaids and undine both controlled the water. Mermaids had the advantage of learning the power, making their learned spells more powerful. However, there were more undine and controlling water came naturally to them.
Eva caught us a few fish before I had to make a fire for the coming night. Eva had me collect the smoke and condense it down to make a dirty, scruffy magic that made me gag even more than artificial magic that fairies made.
“Sorry,” she apologized. “Smoke magic does well when combined with water magic. It makes more of a muddy water that defends against fire pretty easily. My mamma taught it to me once.”
“Maybe we should just go through the Griffin Hunting Grounds and Sphinx Alley. I mean, I know griffins are terrifying, but we would only have to cut through about ten miles of Dragon Territory. That only adds half a day. Or! We could go through the Sograssy Sea. I heard the lamias there are beginning to sell trips across it. They go pretty fast. We would be in the Griffin Hunting Grounds within the hour!”
Eva looked uneasily at the condensed smoke magic in the small jar. “I don’t know, Bella. Lamias I can kind of deal with. They’re a little more tolerable after seeing Titania have meetings with them and stuff. But griffins? Are you crazy?And sphinxes? I at least have a chance against dragons.”
“Eve, you’re only half-undine. I think we have a better chance-”
Eva glared at me, hatred boiling under the glaze of her eyes. “And you’re only half-goblin. Look where that got you. You’re basically princess of Titania, you have the Queen under your fingertips, and your people love you. They might not want you to rule, but there’s no doubt they care for you. I’m so sorry that I want to prove that I’m capable.”
She turned away from me. I felt sick to my stomach. This was not how this was supposed to go. I was supposed to be friends with Eva. Now she hated me.
“Eva,” I said softly. “Hey, please. Eva. Please. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go. We’re supposed to be friends. We’re supposed to have fun.”
Eva turned back. Her face was frozen in an expressionless expression, one that Edward had perfected. However, tears were streaming down her face. I was frozen for a moment. Then she wrapped her arms around me. “Yeah. We are friends. Emotions are a package deal with friendships, I guess.”
I squeezed her tight. “Y-yeah, k-kind-a.”
Her quiet, calm voice made me smile. “I hate you for this, you know.”
“I know.”

The next day, we made our way out of the edge of Titania’s forest. We had left the guarded part the day before, but this land wasn’t claimed by any group of people, so it remained Titania’s forest. We had went through most goblin land, the Deep Blue Lake, and visited with Titania before leaving the day before. I felt a shift in the air before we could even see the Dragon Territory. It wasn’t a change in temperature, like someone would guess. It was a change in the magic. Eva combined her water with the condensed smoke magic to create a kind-of solid shield. She saved a little in case we needed it later.
I had heard stories about the Dragon Territory, obviously. It was right near the Sands of Time Beach and near the forest Oberon normally stayed in. It was also directly connected to Titania’s forest. Yarrow had often told me I should go practice my sword-fighting there. I stayed on the other side of Titania’s forest.
Now I looked across the barren landscape. Many mountains provided easy coverage for dragons. Just looking through the valley that we traveled through, there were three fires. Smoke clouded our vision. Tears came to my eyes and easily left me, going directly towards Eva.
“Eva. You’re taking my water.”
I could tell she was uneasy. “Sorry. There’s not much water here. I’ll try to keep it down.”
“Why didn’t people tell us about this?” I asked. I ripped off two shreds of my shirt. I turned them into gas masks, the kind I saw in movies.
“That won’t help against carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide,” Eva said.
“How do you know?”
“I was a fire-fighter in New York. It allowed me to use my magic in a good way. Maybe people don’t know. The fairies keep their forest safe through their artificial magic and bring in undine to create these,” she said, holding up her shield. “They probably don’t know what goes on past the first few feet beyond the guarded forest.”
“Then what do we do?” I asked, coughing a little.
Eva bit her lip. “We’re continually healing, right? Or you are, faster than me. We’ll cough a lot, but I think it’ll be faster to go straight through.”
“Eva, you’ll get sick with all the smoke. We’ll get through faster, but you won’t be able to control the Roaring River and you won’t be able to heal. We’ll be stuck there for a week.”
“Would you rather spend another three or four days traveling through Griffin Hunting Territory or the Trembling Peaks? Here we have a chance. So what if I get sick? Just kill me when we get to the Great Ditch. I have more lives than you. I’m basically immortal, remember?”
Tears sprung to my eyes, and not just because of the smoke. “Eva, I’m not going to kill you. And don’t even say you’ll kill yourself! Let’s just go back and find a Gate somewhere else. I would rather end up in California than have our lives at risk.”
“No. We’re going this way. This is the only way undine have gone for centuries. I’m not going to break that tradition. My shield is good and I can easily give up my life once we get to the Great Ditch. I know I have limitations because of my status as a half-fey, but I’m not going to let that stop me. It never stopped you, remember?”
She started to walk further into the death-trap that lay before us. After a moment, I caught up.

I waited as Eva gave up her life. It was unlike Christopher’s lives, which were so blue and vibrant. Her life was filled with smoke and ash. She waited a moment for her life to regenerate, than sat up. “That wasn’t so bad, was it?”
I glared at her. “That was awful and you know it.”
She shrugged as we made our way down the steep incline of the Great Ditch. The Roaring River, well, it roared below. Already, water was moving for her. It felt so nice to be out here in the open. I winced, remembering the isolating feeling of smoke cutting me off from the rest of the world. There was probably a Gate in there somewhere that was close enough to Forks, but we couldn’t have seen it through that smoke.
“Eva, give me some of that water.” She drenched me. A growl built up in my throat. Her eyes were playful.
“What? Did I do something?”
I was going to say something else, but I tripped over a grain of sand. I landed on my back. This hadn’t happened very often in the Dragon Territory because there honestly wasn’t very much magic there, only a strange cold air and wintry magic. Although it thoroughly creeped me out, I was glad because it allowed me to be more cat-like.
Now, though, I had Eva raising an eyebrow at me. “Human-ish?”
“Human-ish,” I agreed, letting her help me up.
“Don’t worry, it’s only a steep slope with rocks and other helpful items that will help you to trip.”
Eva had no problem slipping down the slope, but I constantly fell and cursed her for not helping me back up. By the time she was at the Roaring River, I was soaked and angry. I was sure I looked like a drowned kitten. She parted the waters like Moses and we crossed relatively safely.
Eva had the wonderful idea of shooting me up into the air like a canon ball with her forceful water in replacement of a fiery canon. This was a wonderful idea, given that I wouldn’t have to climb up the other side of the Great Ditch. However, I would have liked to have known about it before she did it.
I laid on the edge of the Great Ditch in a splattered-like manner, waiting for Eva to join me in a splattered-like state. She didn’t. She just glided up there.
“What was that for?” I asked.
“Entertainment. We only have a few more miles to go!”
I groaned, letting her drag me down to the beginning of Undine Territory. “Can’t we make a camp site here? We’ll go tomorrow.”
“Bella, no. We’re traveling through the night. I haven’t seen my mother in ages!”
She dragged me behind her for a while, maybe half-a-mile. Finally, she started leaving me behind. I dried off a little, then set off after her. Luckily, she was just a hundred yards ahead. We had a good distance between us, but I think that’s what both of us needed. Eva had had more than her fair share of emotions the past couple days than needed. I was just tired. I wanted to go home, to be with Mamma and Daddy.
As I walked, I began to feel a bit more at ease. The easy breeze pulled at my hair. We followed the river closer and closer to the city where we would meet Eva’s mother. The River Spleen was unique in that it actually babbled away. It could be the presence of the undine, but the river talked in a soft, musical voice always on the edge of disappearing. I had never been by this river. When I was younger, the undine weren’t here, and it wasn’t safe for a young goblin to wander around Troll Territory.
“Hello Bella! How are you today?” it whispered softly. It waited for my reply – “Good, and you?” – then sputtered on. “Oh, just wonderful. At the other end of me, Colter’s talking to me! He’s your betrothed, right?”
“Right,” I answered.
“You don’t love him though, not the way you’re supposed to.” The river laughed at this. “It’s just a ploy to get something you both want. Tell me about Edward, the one you really love!”
It was easy to talk to the river. I recounted the time I traded the wall guarding my heart for a knife of pure silver that appeared and disappeared at my command. It giggled when I told it about the first time I saw Edward, how terrified and intrigued I was. As I fleshed out each Cullen, the river made little comments. “Rosalie sounds lovely!” “Alice might be part fairy, probably from some parts of Japan. They’re known for having visions, you know.” “Emmett is certainly a character! You say he’s the son of a minotaur?” “Jasper is part fey for sure, though I don’t know what. He’s very powerful, though.” “Esme and Carlisle will warm up to you, I know! If they can handle the kids, they can handle you!”
I really paid attention, though, when the river talked about Edward. “Oh, dear, he’s like the woman you traded for your knife. I bet he’s related to her kind. They’re from Ireland. They’re descended from the Old Beasts, the same that produced the satori in Japan. They’re extremely powerful, the Fire Kings. They lost their throne, though, a long time ago.”
“How?” I asked. The answer seemed to be in my mind somewhere, behind some useless textbooks and old ballet slippers.
“Oh, Edward told you, dear. The story! The sister locking her parents up while she went and search for her brother. That story! And that song, oh! It’s a luring lullaby, yes, but it’s of the Fire Kings! I’m sure that song has been passed down generations! You’re very lucky to hear it.”
Just as I was about to ask more, Eva strolled back my way. “Shut it,” she told the river. “My mother said the Gate is just up ahead.”
“You talked to your mother?” I asked, surprised. I was excited to see the mother of my best friend.
“Yes. It wasn’t exciting. Stop getting your hopes up.”
“Do you want…to go home with me?”
She nodded. “That would be nice.”

I went inside, leaving the door open behind me for Eva. She skipped off to my room upstairs. She would want to be alone, especially with all of the people here.
“Bella,” my mom said, looking at me suspiciously. I glanced at Jacob, who was watching Dad carefully as he fixed the marinated fish.
“He’s under a spell,” Edward said. “Your mother put him under it. He’s not going to react to anything magical said.”
“There’s not going to be a war in the fey world. I made sure of that,” I said quietly.
Mama raised an eyebrow. “You disobeyed?”
“I had to, for the sake of my people.”
She didn’t forgive me, but she did hug me.
“So my boys aren’t going to go to the fey world?” Billie asked. Billie or Billy? I realized I may have been spelling it wrong. Billy, I decided.
“No, I guess not,” Mama said. “How long has it been?”
“Almost three months. I spent half with Titania and half as the Head of the Cat Clan. Christopher was going to declare civil war, so I took over him. He was also doing…lots of illegal things. He’s in prison now. Colter sent a storm to the Cat Clan so time would slow so it would give you time to go back. No more than a few days should have passed by now.”
Mama called goodbye to Eva, kissed me on the cheek, then left. That was all. I felt almost empty. I sat down on the chair next to Edward.
“Long…three months?” Edward guessed.
“Seriously,” I agreed.
“So, how are things?” Jacob asked me after successfully putting the fish in the oven.
“Pretty good now.” I smiled. His enthusiasm was hard to resist. “How about you? Did you finish your car?”
“No.” He frowned, licking his fingers clean of the marinade. “I still need some parts. We borrowed that one.” He jerked his thumb in the direction of the front yard.”
I brightened. “I’ve been meaning to go over there…I got a master cylinder for you!” I had Googled a few days ago – or months? – exactly his part and made one out of a penny I found on the ground. I ran up to my room, winked at Eva who threw a pillow at me in turn, then returned with the clunky part.
Edward and Jacob were talking about the Camaro when I got back down. I knew boy talk when I heard it. Dad and Billy weren’t much different, watching the sports game that was on. I didn’t feel much like having a pillow fight with Eva and getting destroyed, so I contently listened to talk about how many cylinders was in the Camaro and how fast the Rabbit used to get.
It was a long night. Edward and Jacob, much to Billy’s dismay, got along wonderfully. Besides talking about cars, they discussed bands, video games, movies, baseball, the Olympics, the news, and the absurdity of newspeople. All throughout, Jacob would make jokes and Edward would just laugh and laugh.
Jacob and Billy had to leave after whatever sports game was on. Jacob gave me a side-hug and gave Edward a stereotypical bro-hug.
“You should come to the beach again, bring Edward,” Jacob said as he pushed his father over the lip of the threshold and down the ramp.
“Absolutely!” Edward answered for me. It was obvious that the poor boy hadn’t had so much social interaction in a while.
“That was fun, Charlie,” Billy said.
“Come up for the next game. I can kick Bella out and it’ll be just us guys,” Dad encouraged. I whacked him in the arm.
“Sure, sure,” Billy said. “We’ll be here. Have a good night.” His eyes shifted to Edward’s, and his smile disappeared. “You take care, Edward,” he added seriously.
“Thanks,” he muttered, looking away.
I wanted to head for the stairs now, to hang out with Eva for a while, but Edward was still there. Dad prepared me and himself some ice cream and Edward a glass of blood.
“I’m not thirsty, sir,” Edward said.
“If you’re in my house, you have to drink a glass,” Dad said, putting the glass in his hands. “It’s chicken blood. Mountain lion is only for special occasions.”
Edward winced as he took a swig.
“How was your day?” Dad asked me. “Or months?”
“Uh, pretty good, I guess. I learned how to sword-fight. And I started ruling the Cat Clan. I arrested a childhood friend who’s now like…forty. He had a son. It was weird.”
Edward took another wincing-swig. “In our world her badminton team won all four games.”
“Bella, what did I tell you about winning?”
“My partner won it!”
“Who is it?” he asked with token interest.
In unison, Edward and I said, “Mike Newton.”
“Oh yeah – you said you were friends with the Newton kid. Do you like him?” he asked Edward.
Edward grinned. “He loathes me. He’s jeal-ous,” he said, rolling the word around in his mouth.
“Why?” Dad asked.
“‘Cause I got Bella and he didn’t.”
“Doesn’t he have the Stanley girl?”
“Yeah, but not Bell-ell-ell-ell-a.”
My face burned and Dad threw a pillow at Edward. It reminded me of something.
“Oh, Dad…I invited Eva over here.”
“Is she here?”
Eva skipped down the stairs then. “Hi Charlie.” She plopped herself onto the couch in between Edward and me. “Hi. You must be Edward. If you hurt Bella, I’ll kill you.”
“Join the party,” Edward mumbled. Dad smiled his crinkly-eyed smiled.

Edward didn’t come to my room that night because Eva was there. She helped me with my homework. I had all but forgotten everything I had learned in high school. She considered joining school, too, seeing that she never finished the training school.
I slept better that night, too tired to dream. When I woke up to the pearl grey morning, my mood was blissful. The tense evening with my mother and Billy seemed harmless enough now; I decided to forget the months away completely. I caught myself whistling while Eva pulled the front part of my hair back into a barrette, and later again as I skipped down the stairs. Dad noticed.
“You’re cheerful this morning,” he commented over breakfast.
I shrugged. “I’m home.”
I hurried so I would be ready to go the second Dad left. I had my bag ready, shoes on, teeth brushed, but even though I rushed to the door as soon as I was sure Dad would be out of sight, Edward was faster. He was waiting in his wonderful Camaro, windows down, engine off.
I yelled a goodbye to Eva – she would be taking the day explore the area around Forks – and ran without hesitation to his car. He grinned his crooked smile at me, stopping my breath and my heart. I couldn’t imagine how an angel could be any more glorious. I wished I could just take the sickness away from him, make him healthy again.
Before he could get a word out, I threw my arms around him. “I missed you, Edward.”
“I missed you, too. How did you sleep?” I wondered if he had any idea how appealing his voice was.
“Fine. How was your night?”
“Pleasant. I got through to Carlisle and Esme. They said that we’re allowed to talk to you.” He bursted out in laughter, so much so that tears flowed from his eyes. “All of us have already talked to you so much!” he explained. It wasn’t very funny, but I laughed because he laughed.
He wanted to know about people today; more about my mom, her hobbies, what we’d done in our free time together. And then my grandfather, Targin, and my family little family besides him. There was his son and his nephew, but the son was unfit for the Head position, and the nephew, John or Jake or something, had not been born in the fey world, automatically making him unfit. He asked me about my school friends. I didn’t have much to say besides Eva, Rachel, and Colter.
“So Colter, he’s not your boyfriend?”
I blushed. “No, he’s not. You are. I thought we were over this.”
“He just comes up a lot.” He squeezed my hand. “So you never met anyone you wanted?” he asked in a serious tone that made me wonder what he was thinking about.
I was grudgingly honest. “A few crushes here and there, but I built up that wall in my heart. Then I traded it for my knife. You know, the silver one that burns you? My mom took me to the Markets and a woman traded me the wall around my heart for the knife. You were the first one to touch my heart.”
Edward snorted. We were in the cafeteria at this point. The day had sped by in the blur that I had missed so much. I took advantage of his brief pause to take a bite of my bagel.
“I should have let you drive yourself today,” he announced, apropos of nothing, while I chewed.
“Why?” I demanded.
“I’m leaving with Alice after lunch.”
“Oh.” I blinked, bewildered and disappointed. I had barely seen him. I missed him so much the past three months. “That’s okay. Eva can pick me up.”
He flashed a grin. “I like her. I’m glad you’re friends with her.”
“You seemed to enjoy Jacob just as much as I enjoy her.”
“Jake? Yeah, he’s pretty cool. I like him. It’s nice having friends again.”
“So, where are you going?” I asked as casually as I could manage.
“Hunting,” he answered grimly. “If I’m going to be alone with you tomorrow, I’m going to take whatever precautions I can.” His face grew remorse…and pleading. “You can always cancel, you know.”
I brightened considerably. “I forgot I was going out with you! It’s so weird to be back after so long and nothing’s changed.”
Edward groaned. “I should have kept my mouth shut.”
“What time will I see you tomorrow?” I asked, already depressed by the thought of him leaving now.
“That depends…I’ll probably get home late tonight. What time do you want to see me?” he offered.
“Whatever time you get back.”
“Won’t Eva be there?”
I shrugged. “She won’t mind. It’s been a long few months, too. I’d be surprised if she doesn’t crawl in a hole for a few weeks.”
“Will Charlie be there?” Edward asked.
“No, he’s fishing tomorrow.” Edward bowed his head, disappointed. “What?”
“Have you told him where you’re going?”
“Uh…I don’t think so.”
“And if you don’t come home, what will he think?”
“I have no idea. Maybe he’ll think I’ll fell in the washing machine. He knows I’m still not used to that monster.” I shuddered a little.
“Scared of a washing machine but not a literal vampire?”
“I assume you’re the vampire in question.”
“Obviously.”
“Well, the literal vampire saved me many times and cares for me.”
Edward scowled at me. “Just because I care for you doesn’t mean I’m not dangerous. In fact, it’s probably more dangerous.” I scowled back, but his anger was much more impressive than mine.
“What are you hunting tonight?” I asked when I was sure I had lost the glowering contest.
“Whatever we find in the park. We aren’t going far.” He seemed bemused by my casual reference to his secret realities.
“Why are you going with Alice?”
“Alice is the most…supportive of my decision. The others aren’t very far behind, though.”
I peeked quickly behind me at his family. They sat staring off in different directions, exactly the same as the first time I’d seen them. I now saw them a bit more clearly, though. Alice’s eyes were glazed over. Jasper was stiff, and holding his breath. Rosalie looked placid, calm. Emmett looked dangerous.
“I’m glad they like me,” I said.
“They don’t understand why I can’t leave you alone.”
I grimaced. “Neither do I, for that matter.”
Edward shook his head slowly, rolling his eyes toward the ceiling before he met my gaze again. “I told you – you don’t see yourself clearly at all. You’re not like anyone I’ve ever known. You fascinate me.”
I glared at him, sure he was teasing now.
He smiled as he deciphered my expression. “Having the advantages I do,” he murmured, tapping his forehead with the discreetness of small child, “I have a better than average grasp of human nature. People are predictable. But you…you never do what I expect. You always take me by surprise.”
I looked away, my eyes wandering bak to his family, embarrassed and dissatisfied. I wasn’t predictable in human nature because I wasn’t human. His words, though meant as a compliment, made me feel like the disgusting half-breed I was. I wanted to laugh at myself for expecting anything else.
“That part is easy enough to explain,” he continued. I felt his eyes on my face but I couldn’t look at him yet, afraid he might read the chagrin in my eyes. “But there’s more…and it’s not so easy to put into words-”
I was still staring at the Cullens while he spoke. Suddenly Emmett, his bold and brutal brother, turned to look at me. His eyes were dark and all I could think about were the dark, cold eyes of a minotaur. I wanted to look away, but his gaze held me until Edward broke off mid-sentence and made an angry noise under his breath. It was almost a hiss, and my instincts told me to hiss back.
Emmett turned his head, and I was relieved to be free. I looked back at Edward, confused and bewildered.
His face was tight as he explained. “I’m sorry about that. I told Emmett to back off. I thought you might be scared of him after Port Angeles. There was so much static in your head I thought you were going to explode. He’s worried, though.”
“About?”
“If this ends…badly.” He dropped his head into his hands, as he had that night in Port Angeles. His anguish was plain; I yearned to comfort him. My hand reached towards him involuntarily, but I drew back in fear that it would make the situation worse. I realized his words should frighten me. I waited for the fear to come, but it never did. All I felt was an ache for his pain.
And frustration – frustration that Emmett had interrupted whatever he was about to say. I didn’t know how to bring it up again. He still had his head in his hands.
“Are you leaving now?” I asked in a semi-normal voice.
“Yes.” His face was serious for a moment, then his mood shifted and he grinned. “It’s for the best. We still have fifteen minutes of that wretched movie left to endure in Biology – I don’t think I could take any more.”
Before I could glare at him for leaving me alone with the movie on, Alice approached. Her short, inky hair was in a halo of spiky disarray around her elfin face. I wanted to tell her that she was part Japanese, but I didn’t think it really mattered right now.
Alice picked at Edward’s shirt. “Seriously? Where did you find this?”
I hadn’t actually paid attention to what he was wearing. I now saw that he wore a black tank top that must have been too small for his build, but since he was so skinny it fit him. He also had on a leather bracelet on each arm. One had a silver crest on it and the other had some colorful beads glued on.
“Uh, the store.”
“Why are you wearing a bracelet that looks like a three-year-old made it?” I interrupted.
Edward looked down. “Oh, friendship bracelet from Emmett. He made them for the whole family. This is the family crest,” he said, touching the silver disk, “And this is Emmett’s ‘friends’ crest.”
Alice rolled her eyes. “We have to wear them at least once a year. Carlisle’s rule. Of course, he’s exempt from the rule. Are you ready, Edward?”
“Nearly. I’ll meet you in the car.”
She left with a wave as the bell rang.
“Have fun!” I told Edward as we stood up.
His laughter burst out of his chest, causing several people to turn and look. “I’ll try.” He was still grinning and his eyes were crinkled like Dad’s. “Be safe, wherever you go.”
“I promise. I’ll do the laundry. Safe enough, right?”
“Don’t fall in,” he mocked. I smacked him in the stomach with my arm. He just laughed harder.
“I’ll be there whenever I’m done,” Edward promised. He swiftly pulled out my barrette and watched as my hair flooded my face. Footsteps ran away and I felt the barrette hit my forehead.
Boys.
I skipped the rest of the day, following in the footsteps of my vampire friends. After catching up with Pedro, Debby, and Abe. Julie was out for the day, so Shelly was filling in. It was obvious that they were still angry at each other. I called Eva and she came to pick me up.
“Laundry?” she asked when I recounted my day. “How did he even believe that?”
“Yeah, I know. I mean, I am going to do laundry, but that’s it?”
Eva laughed. “So you said his house is the next right?”
“Yeah, and then there’s a path and then there’s his cabin.”
Eva turned onto the little path to Chief’s house. I liked watching her drive. Her face was calm, focused, but I knew she was focusing more on the song playing on the radio than the road. In fact, I don’t think she was even paying attention beyond the bare necessities. It was one of the things I really liked about Eva: she always looked focused, making her very liked by adults. I rode her wave of popularity often.
The cabin was empty, but the Passageway wasn’t. Chief was eating a sandwich. He smiled when he saw me, but it disappeared when Eva walked in behind me. “Why did you bring someone with you?” he spit out.
“I needed a ride,” I explained, plopping down next to him. “A lot has happened since I last saw you.”
“Oh yeah? Did you memorize the books I gave you?”
“Most of them. Titania has her own copies.”
“Titania…The Fairy Queen. Is this one of her soldiers?”
Eva glared. “Yeah, right. I would rather die.”
“Eva believes we should live in anarchy,” I explained.
Chief leaned back in his chair. “Undine born, correct?”
Eva nodded. “Yes. My father was half human.”
“You’re not the first,” he assured her. “Now, both of you leave.”
I protested, “Chief, I haven’t even told you-”
“Bella, give me that knife over there.”
Eva picked up the dull butterknife from off his plate. I handed it to him. He wiped off the butter and stray piece of fat. He placed the knife point-up on a table. It was a steak knife with the bottom flat. He picked up a think book and balanced it on the top of the knife. “The book is you both. There’s weight on both sides, your human weight and your fey weight. I have a feeling both of you have had too much fey weight over the last gap of time. You’re going to fall at some point if you keep on putting this weight on. You’re not helping yourself by coming to see me and begging for magic lessons. Now go, girls. Go be human.”
“Fine,” I said, sulking. “I just thought you might want to know what’s happening in my life.”
“I could care less.”
I stormed through the Passageway, too angry to think straight. How dare he tell me how to live my life? I slammed my door and waited with my arms crossed for Eva to join me in the driver’s seat. She did with some reluctance.
“What?” I snapped when she looked at me with the same exact expression she always wore. I could tell she seemed worried, though.
“I just think he’s kind of right, is all.”
“I’m very human. I’m going on a date tomorrow.”
She rolled her eyes. “With a vampire.”
“Who was at some point human.”
“And part fey.”
“Yeah, so he’ll keep me balanced.”
Eva started the drive home. “I hope so, Bella.”

Chapter Text

16. The Markets

I’ll admit, I was angry at Chief. He didn’t know what it was like to be half-fey. After a short dinner of lasagna with Dad, I waited patiently for Edward.
Eva had left, but promised to be back by Sunday. She didn’t say where she was going, which was fine with me. Absolutely fine.
At eleven, I decided Edward wouldn’t be back until later, so I went and got a shower. I scrubbed my scalp until it bled, watching the golden blood seep into the water and disappear down the drain. When I was content with the amount of abuse my skin had taken from the spongy loofa, I got out of the shower. I changed into light and tan clothes and made sure I had on my good boots. I blow-dried my hair and twisted it into a ballet bun. I had learned that one from Alice.
I left the bathroom somewhat satisfied. I gathered a few more thing and made sure they were all in my dragon hide and burlap sack – the maps of Passageways, my cloak from Chief, a good amount of coins, the vile of liquid life, and a gun. The gun was Dad’s, filled with true silver bullets. I was excited to use them instead of my knife.
“They’re not going to work in the fey world,” I heard Dad say as I checked the safety. He was clad in my type of pajamas: sweatpants and a shirt filled with holes. It was late, but not late enough to be considered that odd. He moved past me and got out a bowl.
“Why not?” I asked. Well, snapped would be more accurate. He opened the freezer and pulled out some ice cream, not very effected by my mood.
“The gunpowder dissolves when too much magic is around. I don’t know why.”
“How do you even have this?” I asked, throwing the gun on the table with a loud thud.
“I made a few deals with a few people. I just wanted to keep you safe when you’re with me.”
“Deals? You’re not in a fey’s debt?” Being in debt to a fey as a human did not normally end well. I shuddered thinking about demon deals.
“No. Don’t worry about me, Bell. I’m your father. Now go do whatever you’re going to do.”
“I’m waiting for Edward to come back from a hunting trip.”
Dad cocked his head. “Didn’t he just hunt last week? I thought they went every two weeks.”
“Well, he wants to take precautions. We’re going to be alone tomorrow, so…”
“And you were going to tell me this when?”
“Right now,” I answered with a smile.
Dad rolled his eyes. “Thanks, Bella. Give Edward some blood before you both leave tonight and when you get home and when you leave.”
“The chicken blood?”
“The chicken blood.”
As I waited for Edward, I folded clothes and moved another load through the dryer. Unfortunately it was the kind of job that only keeps hands busy. Soon enough I was impatient. I folded the clothes that came out of the dryer. I became a bit more impatient. I stormed up to my room, ready to call it a night and go to sleep seeping in incandescence.
I stepped onto the hall and froze. I could smell Edward, mixed with another scent. To me, it smelled awful, like sulfur and ash.
I stood on my toes and walked carefully down the hall. Edward was sitting in my rocking chair. He was smiling, but not at me. His eyes were light and scrunched up from smiling.
Or squinting from a face that’s too bright.
He was quiet, but I could hear him. “…can’t understand how happy I am to be with you. I know that you have better options, Bella, but-”
My knife was in my hand and then it left my hand. It hit the skin shifter with a dull thud. Golden blood started to flow out of its back, but not for long. Edward ignored the knife. I watched from the hallway. It didn’t disturb me nearly as much as I thought it would, Edward feeding on some humanoid fey. Of course, this particular fey was one that murdered other fey and was very low on the rungs of the fey social ladder, but I digress.
When he was seemingly satisfied with the back, he bit it in the neck. I can safely say that he was enjoying himself. It was irrational, but I wanted him to moan because of me. Of course, I would prefer him not to be draining me dry.
His eyes opened and they glowed golden even in the darkness of my room.
“What happened?” he whispered.
“It’s called a skin shifter,” I said, moving towards him now that he seemed sort-of in control. “It preys on all types of fey. It changes into whatever the prey’s greatest desire is. It hangs around Gates. I didn’t know there was one around. Help me put it out behind my house. It’ll discourage them from coming around.”
Edward’s nose scrunched up in the cutest way. “It smells awful,” he said, slinging the invisible body over his shoulder. Then he was outside and I scampered to keep up. “Here?” he asked, already on the other side of the house.
I was done trying to keep up with him. I wondered what his top speed was. I walked at my normal speed to the back yard, where he was waiting with a shovel he must have found in the shed.
“No, a little bit more left, near the Gate. Don’t go in, though.”
“I feel like if I was able to go through Gates, I would have already,” Edward said, dropping the body and beginning to dig its grave. I began to be able to see it, though it was very undefined.
“You have to think about going through a Gate to go through it. I think you can. You have fey abilities, though you’re only partial like me. Humans can go through Gates, too, but only if they’re magical, like Angela.”
“Really?”
I nodded. “I wanted to test out the theory tonight, if you don’t mind.” I actually wanted to see if the Spleen River was right, if Edward could possibly be related to the woman who traded the knife for the wall in my heart.
“Where to? Your home?”
“No, the place where I got my knife. The Markets. It’s pretty consistent with the time difference. About four days for every two hours. We’ll have more than enough time to look around.”
Edward frowned. “Is it sunny there?”
“Yes, it’s in the desert. It’s one of the exceptions. Most Gates lead to somewhere nearby in the fey world. The fey world closely corresponds with this world. There are a few Gates that lead across the world. Some people travel Gate to Gate, meaning they take a Gate across the world and then go to a Gate close by in the fey world and boom, they’re across the human world. Depending on the time differences, though, it may or may not speed your time up.”
Edward started packing the dirt over the body. “Huh. That’s pretty…cool. Will people be…scared of me?”
I snorted. “No. Most people could probably stop you. I can’t very well because I’m half fey and I wasn’t taught magic as well as my other classmates.”
Edward was done. “Where is this Gate?”
“About a two miles.”
He grinned. “I’ll race you!”
“You don’t even know where you’re going,” I said. ”Besides, I know you’re faster than me. I’m not racing you.”
He chuckled and held out his hand. “Lead the way, Bella.”

On the way to the Gate, we avoided talking about the skin shifter. However, as we waited for our turn to use the Gate – there was a line from Titania’s kingdom – we talked quietly about it.
“Her blood didn’t smell like yours, but she was so distracting…”
“It, Edward, it.” I nodded to one of the guards, who was coming back with what looked like a beak of a roc. “The skin shifters don’t have sex, just whoever you desire.”
“I desire you, and you’re a girl. Therefor, the skin shifter was a girl. She’s a dangerous fey, I’ll give you that, but she’s a human just like you.”
“No, it’s not. If you desired a pig, it would be a pig.”
Edward made a face. “Can we just go through the Gate now? You’re obviously very prejudiced against skin walkers and you’re not going to have a civil conversation. Let’s just go to the Markets.”
I continued to hold his hand, but I was angry as I walked through the shimmering Gate. Edward didn’t know the danger he had been in. Skin shifters couldn’t be reasoned with. They had the intelligence of any humanoid, but only cared about feasting on souls and flesh. At least the undine, despite their lack of emotions, had morals, like not killing humanoids.
I was disappointed when I got to the other side of the Gate. It was night.
Edward grinned. “Guess you’ll just have to wait until tomorrow.”
“Guess so,” I mumbled, wondering where they sold bottled sunlight. The beginnings of the Markets were a couple dozen yards away. The time didn’t matter. There were still thousands of people bustling around the Markets. Most people were not allowed to use the entrance at the beginning of the ten-mile long road because Titania fought hard to keep that Gate. There wasn’t a Gate in Forks that Titania didn’t own. If not for my several status’ within her kingdom, I would have to register to use a lot of Gates.
“There’s a Gate a couple miles away,” I told Edward, “but this one is only for Titania’s people.”
“How does Titania know if someone not in her kingdom goes through the Gates?” Edward asked.
“It’s a pretty cool system, actually. It’s required that every child learns how to project images, like I showed you. Every time a person learns a spell, it’s…marked in them, almost like a tracker. It’s why it’s easy to track someone who’s very learned in magic once you have the right ingredients, but much harder to track someone who’s not as well-versed. Titania is one of the few people able to put spells on Gates. She has it so that the Gates know when someone who doesn’t know the spell will alert her guards.”
He glanced at the guards behind us. “I don’t know the spell.”
“You’re a vampire. Vampires and werewolves don’t have the same magic. I’ll explain it some other time. There’s a lot of controversy about it, but you’re excepted from a lot of rules in magic.”
“What if someone out of Titania’s kingdom learns the spell and uses her Gates?”
I grinned. I liked talking about this, about proving how smart my Queen was. “Oh, that’s the best part. There’s this whole system about actually teaching it – you have to go to one of her school’s and it’s a big deal – but you can only learn that specific spell if you were born on Titania soil or if you get a special blessing from Titania. It’s just slightly different than other projecting spells.”
Edward was impressed. We were at the first stall. It was selling cheap potions. The most popular seemed to be a liquid that promised the drinker would get hiccups.
“Edward, this is the cheap stuff. You need to see the cooler stuff. It gets more advanced the farther you go.”
“Bella! There’s a spell that will change my eye color!”
Instantly, four other venders approached him. “I have a potion that will turn you hair back to the bright red of your youth,” one promised. “This potion will turn your eyes any color at your very thought!” another proclaimed. I was glad that they spoke in fey. Edward didn’t understand, but his eyes were bright with wonder.
I pulled him away from the venders, but it was useless. Everyone knew that this boy, my boy, was gullible and they were selling to him like crazy.
Finally, I pulled out my knife from thin air. “Anyone who makes another move at us gets cut,” I warned in the common language of fey.
People started to back off then, but Edward’s eyes were still alight, excited, and innocent. It touched me so much that I placed a short, sweet kiss on his hand.
It wasn’t just the golden glow of his eyes that lit up his face.
His skin was soft. I wondered why. It seemed like nothing would break the skin. As we walked, his skin warmed up slightly, though it was still colder than a normal human’s.
We passed a butcher’s stand. He was slicing meats and cooking them with all the spices in the world. The gold disappeared from Edward’s eyes. They were black and hungry.
“Are you…hungry?” I asked.
“What is that?” he asked, pointing to a large steak. I repeated the question to the butcher.
“It’s kelpie meat, imported from the Ireland area,” I told him. The meat was quiet expensive, even for a stand so close to the front. The man must have gotten a deal. It probably wasn’t cured, a must for a lot of cuisine at the Markets. “Do you want some?”
“Yeah, yeah,” he said quickly. “Rare, just a little hot.”
I gave the order to the butcher, and he nodded. Soon, Edward had a thin clay bowl in his hands and a spoon shoveling the rarest meat I’ve ever seen into his mouth, and I’ve eaten fresh meat.
“Can I eat something else?” he asked when he had cleaned the bowl.
“Um…sure. Aren’t you…a vampire? Like why are you eating?”
Edward shrugged. “You change when you come here. You’ve tripped over three rocks and your heart rate has slowed down. Maybe I change, too. I bet fey change when they go to the human world. They loose their magic, right?”
“Yes. They try to stay close to Gates to keep the magic in check.”
“You have any food places I should try?” Edward asked.
I sighed. “I wish. This is the third time I’ve been here. It’s supposed to be a special place.”
Edward lit up even more. Tonight he was my sun. “You brought me to a special place?”
My smile was easy. “Yeah, I brought you to a special place. You’re special.”
His laugh was easy and carefree as he dropped his arm around me. “You’re the most special, Bella Swan.”
As we strolled down the stalls and tents, Edward tried all types of food, mostly rare meats. His favorite was the kelpie meat, though. He wanted to go back and get some more, but I pushed us forward.
As we were passing the mediocre section, Edward froze. He pushed us back into the fabric between tents. I pressed against his body, trying to see what he saw.
“It’s another vampire,” he whispered to me. “I know her.”
A sprout of jealousy grew in my heart. How did he know her? Did he know her know her? Like how Jessica said she thought Mike like liked her?
I stood on my tip-toes, just peaking over his shoulder. I saw now the girl he was talking about. She was pale, but I could tell that she was darker underneath the paleness, like Pedro when he got sick and Abe told him to go home. She was small, thin, and beautiful. She talked to a humanoid who must have had some giant background, along with a combination of goblins and perhaps even a fire spirit. She was asking about a weapon the humanoid was selling. Her eyes were red.
“How do you know her?” I wondered aloud. Now was not the time for jealously. I wanted to go talk to her, to touch her long brown hair.
“Well, I’ve never met her, actually. Jasper knows her. Her name is Maria. She controlled Jasper for many years.”
“Maria,” I echoed. She was beautiful, graceful, everything I wanted to be. Maybe if I could just talk to her, just look at her up close, she would rub off on me.
Edward turned to glare at me. “Are you done praising Maria?” he snapped.
I frowned. He was right. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay. Humans normally have that reaction and you’re acting very human.” He turned around. Even though he only had a couple inches on me, he suddenly seemed very tall. “She’s going to leave in a few minutes. Let me run you a few miles away, just in case.”
He picked me up without waiting for an answer, and then wind was whipping my face and burning my eyes. Suddenly, without warning, he stopped. I wondered why when he pulled my fist out of my mouth. Huh. Didn’t remember doing that.
“You could have just asked to stop,” he said with a kind smile. “I thought you were used to fast speeds.”
“Not like that,” I said, trying to rub the teeth marks out of my hand. I had almost broken the skin. “How fast were you going?”
“Um, I don’t know. The gold blood, the fey blood from that skin walker-”
“Skin shifter. Skin walkers are different.”
Eyes rolled and smiles occurred. “Whatever, Bella. Gold blood tastes better, makes me stronger and more satisfied. If you had bled after I drained the skin shifter, I’m sure I would have been able to control myself enough to help you. And this food…I would have come here years ago if I knew I could eat!” He paused, lost in the memory of something he ate five minutes before. “The point is, faster than I’ve been before. Maybe pushing a hundred-seventy miles per hour. It’ll wear off after a few days, I’m sure. I’m faster than other vampires. It’s just like some people are faster than others. Not a gift.”
I stared at him, then pushed us through the thick materials of the tents into the busy dirt path of the Markets. We were much closer now to the woman that had given me my knife. I was getting excited now.
“What has you so excited?” Edward said this with a kind smile. I was getting used to him knowing when I was in high spirits, whether negative or positive. I wondered how he could interpret it.
“Just excited for you to be here and…and to like it.”
Then, the voice that echoed in my head returned. “Honesty is beautiful, Bella.” I stood on my tiptoes, trying to find the woman. At first, I didn’t recognize her.
She was addressing us both now. “Hello, Edward, Bella. Edward, my name is She Who Takes and Weeps for What She Took.”
She had a mouth now. She was using it, too. She didn’t have lips, or teeth, but she did have a tongue and the right form of a mouth. Her echoing voice in my head wasn’t being used.
Edward held out his hand. “It’s very nice to meet you. My name is Edward Cullen.”
She shook it, then motioned for us to follow her through the fabric of the tents that I went through before. Edward was comfortable, relaxed even. His shoulders were loose and he rubbed the inside of my palm.
I made a point of not looking at the booths on the secret Market like I did the first time. I just stared at Edward’s reactions. They surprised me. The gullible boy was gone. His eyes, the beautiful bright golden that came at such a cost, were clear of indecision. This was a boy – no, a man – that knew what he wanted, and nothing interested him at the moment.
We were inside the woman’s tent now, safe from the jewels and spirits that tempted me last time. I paid attention to the interior of the tent more than I had before. First, there were three chairs now. I stayed clear of her chair, the one I tried to sit in before. Edward followed suit.
The tent had tons of Celtic tapestries hanging on the flowing walls. The table was carved with some sort of Irish or Scottish design. Even the way she talked in my head screamed Irish now that I thought about it.
“I assume you’re the woman that traded the knife for the wall in Bella’s heart. Thank you for that, by the way.” His smile was easy.
Her voice that she used with her tongue was rougher, not as refined as her mental voice. “It wasn’t an easy thing to take. Someday, she’ll break and there will be pieces scattered about. She’ll be alive, though. That is what I do. I trade things that a person will need in their future to avoid death and they give me something valuable to them.”
“Would you ever trade something that someone just wants,” Edward asked. I wanted to ask her my questions, but it was obvious that their conversation was far more engaging.
“I might. What is it you desire?” Like she didn’t know already.
“To be able to hear Bella’s thoughts wherever I am, whatever mood she’s in, all of it.”
She strained to smile, I could see, but she did in the most basic sense. “I can’t trade you for something you already have, Edward. Your skills, though highly set back by your vampire status, can always be developed.”
My heart started pounding. I didn’t want him to hear my thoughts! This was the one thing I liked being the exception of! In almost every other area, I hated being half-fey, but I was grateful for it around Edward. If he could hear my thoughts…I shuddered, thinking how over-exposed I would be.
The woman’s voice echoed in my head. “This is part of who he is. His family loves him despite him knowing every secret they’ve hoped to keep. You need to learn to lean on him, to trust him. He’ll love you.”
I doubt that, I thought.
I hadn’t kept up with their conversation. Now they were talking about his lineage. Most of what he remembered was his father’s lineage, but that wasn’t very helpful. It was decided he was indeed related to her and the Fire Kings of the Celtic area, but they couldn’t track how they were related.
As they continued talking about lineage and the possibility of his powers, I got angrier. He shouldn’t read my thoughts! He had no right! I was his girlfriend. I was already giving everything else, sacrificing everything else to be with him. I shouldn’t sacrifice my privacy to thoughts. Finally, I stood up. “Edward, we have to go. Unless you want to be seen in the daylight?”
He frowned. “No thanks.” He stood up and shook the woman’s hand. “Thank you, She Who Takes and Weeps for What She Took. I’ll contact you if I ever need your service.”
“You won’t,” I muttered, looking down at the rug. “I’ll make sure of that.”
The woman’s nagging, echoing voice returned. “Bella, you can’t assure him of that. You’ll have to leave him some day.”
“Get out of my head, please,” I whispered to her.
“I can’t as long as you’re close to me,” she said. “I’m sorry, Bella.” In my head, away from Edward’s listening ears, she said, “I hope you’ll learn to respect his power and lean on it.”
I grabbed Edward’s hand. “We need to go.”
It wasn’t until we were out of the little side-road of the Markets that Edward spoke. “Bella, you’re upset. Tell me why.” He was probably hearing
“I just like a little privacy, that’s all,” I spit out. “And that woman gave me none. She kept on giving advice on how to be with you. And in my head! I hate that. It’s the one thing I have control over.”
“What’s the difference between me hearing the static and knowing how you feel?”
I stopped at a stall with a metal worker. He was working on a shield now, but there were plates and silverware for sale. I traced a spoon’s handle. “My emotions are written on my face. I’m an open book.”
“A book in a language I don’t know,” Edward grumbled.
“I think you’re getting pretty fluent.”
He shrugged, both of us now watching the metal being burned so hot that it turned red. There was no fire, just the concentrated heat of the elemental’s hands.
I calmed down as we watched the clumps of metal transform in all types of wonderful things.

Chapter Text

17. The Hike

Edward gobbled down any remaining food he could find in the Markets before the first signs of the sun rising forced him to walk through the Gate and back into the cool night in Forks.
He clutched his stomach, moaning and groaning. “We should walk back to your house,” he mumbled, making a face that made me giggle. He started to have color in his face for once – green!
The walk home wasn’t my favorite time with Edward, mostly because he was complaining about how full he was.
“You should take a nap,” I told him with a grin. He did not reciprocate the smile.
“I was getting a little tired there, but now it’s back to the terrible sharpness of consciousness,” he said, leaning against me. “I might have to throw this up.”
“Gross!”
“What? It’s something I have to do!”
I became squeamish. “Go to your house to do it.”
“I probably need to go home, anyways. I need to take a shower, get cleaned.”
“You need a shower? I thought you didn’t sweat and stuff.”
“Well, we don’t, but I still like to be clean. And my hair, I have to fix it. Al got me a new product I want to try tomorrow.”
I looked at him incredulously. “You fix your hair like, with product and stuff?”
Edward broke his pitiful act for a minute. “You thought I just woke up with this disarray of beauty? Here, feel it.” He leaned down. I touched the locks of red hair. Instead of being soft locks, they were pasted with gel.
“I can’t believe you. You’re just like Mike Newton.”
Edward rolled his eyes. “Please. I am so much better than that commoner. He fixes his hair. I style my hair.”
“Oh please, Edward.” My eyes sparked and I was sure he could hear excited static. “I dare you to not style your hair tomorrow.”
His eyes, honey and angry, burned into mine. “Why would you do that to me?”
“Are you that prideful?”
“Yes,” he answered quietly. “I wasn’t the…nicest looking when I was human. I look good now. I want to take pride in myself, look the best I can. There’s things that I hate about myself, but my looks aren’t one of them.”
“So you like that aspect of being a vampire?” I asked.
He nodded. “The speed, the strength, the beauty…I love that part of my existence. I could do without the immortality, the bloodlust, but everything else…”
“Would you ever want to become human again, if you could?”
Edward’s eyes were distant. “That’s a hard question to answer, Bella. Of course, I don’t think I’ll get to heaven, but I figure that my soul’s already damned. Might as well be like Carlisle, learn to deal with the bloodlust.”
Huh. We both believed our souls to be damned. Maybe hell wouldn’t be so bad with him there.
“Rose, I know she wants to be human. She would gladly take up the opportunity, more than any of us. She deserves it the most, too. She deserves the life she wants.”
“Did Carlisle…give you a choice?”
Edward shook his head. “No, he didn’t. I wouldn’t have chosen to live like this.” He smiled wryly. “You wouldn’t have liked me then. I was quiet the brat.”
We were near the house now, close enough to hear Daddy’s snores. “I like the Edward I know.”
His grin was devilish. “So do I.”
I easily jumped to my window, but Edward took his time climbing up. He had called Esme to come pick him up. As we were waiting, we sat in my window sill, looking at the lack of stars in the sky. The cool air tousled Edward’s perfectly crafted hair.
I felt a little stressed about what had happened, so, in a shy voice that I barely recognized, I asked Edward, “Can you sing me that luring lullaby before you go?”
“Having trouble sleeping?” he asked, already climbing into my room.
“It’s just been an…interesting night, is all. I need to go to sleep.”
His voice filled my ears and stopped too soon. I woke up earlier than I thought I would, but still later than usual. Edward wasn’t there, so maybe he had stayed home. This at least gave me a few minutes to get ready. Daddy was already gone, but he left me a note downstairs that instructed me to give Edward a bottle of the chicken blood. I was sure Edward would want to throw it out, but I prepared it anyways.
By the time I got dressed, I was feeling nervous. This would be the first time we would be alone. Even last night in the Markets we were surrounded by people. What if he acted differently? What if he didn’t? Would I act differently? Would he like it if I acted differently?
I peeked out the window after I finished my breakfast. My eyes narrowed. An ugly, non-Camaro car that looked suspiciously like a Volvo was sitting in my driveway.
I opened the door, glaring, but I couldn’t glare for long. “You brought me flowers?”
“Why wouldn’t I?” he asked, giving me the vase. “Rosalie gave me the roses and Alice helped arrange the lilac with it. Do you like it?”
“I love them. Thank you, Edward.” I made sure they were filled with water before setting them in the living room.
“I get to drive today, right?” I asked as we made our way to my truck. I handed him the water bottle. He winced as he took a sip.
“Unfortunately yes.” I climbed into my seat and leaned over to unlock his door.
“Where to?” I asked.
“Put your seat belt on first. All I need for you is to get into another car wreck.”
I gave him a dirty look as I complied.
“Where to?” I repeated with a sigh.
“Take the one-oh-one north,” he ordered.
I looked at him for a long, drawn-out minute. Finally, I said, “I lived in the fey world for most of my life. I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Back out and take a left.”
It was surprisingly easy to concentrate on the road while he was there. I felt at ease with the wheel in one hand and his hand in the other. He made sure I knew every turn before I made it. He fiddled with the stereo, but all he got was static.
“Is that how my mind sounds like?” I asked while he was trying for AM radio.
“No, not quiet. More like I’m hearing a haze…I know that doesn’t make sense, because you see a haze, but that’s what it sounds like. When your emotions are high, it’s like you’re getting fuller, almost. Like a bubble that can barely contain you. Are you planning to leave Forks by nightfall?”
“Am I going too slow?” I asked. I was terrible at this part of driving. I tried to remember traffic signs, but most days they became a jumble of colors.
“Well, not technically…But still.”
“I don’t think my truck can take going faster,” I admitted.
“We could have taken the Volvo…”
“That ugly thing? No, my truck is just fine. It’s old enough to be your car’s grandfather – have some respect, please.”
We were soon out of the town limits, despite his negativity. Thick underbrush and trees dressed in moss replaced the neatly cut lawns and houses.
“Turn right onto that exit. Then take a left and drive until the pavement ends.”
“And what’s there, at the pavement’s end?” I wondered. It was something magical, I could feel it. It was a clean magic, too. There must not be many fey around to mess it up. I was feeling more human by the minute.
“There’s a trail.”
“We’re hiking?” He did not look dressed for hiking. He was wearing dark jeans and a crisp Oxford. I wonder if Alice picked it out.
“Yep. I know the area quiet well. It’s far from many people and I get some silence for once. Don’t worry, it’s only five miles or so, and we’re in no hurry.”
We drove in silence for a while as I realized the horror that laid before me. Hiking. While there was fey magic all around. While I was more human. In the desert last night, the way had been flat and I had tripped nearly ten times. I shuddered to think what would happen if I fell and broke the skin. I thought about Edward draining the skin shifter. He didn’t even think about the fact that it looked like me.
“What are you thinking?” he asked impatiently after a few moments.
I lied, “Just wondering where we’re going.”
“Just a place I like to go when the weather’s nice or when my siblings are bugging me.”
“Daddy said it would be warm today.”
“It will be. You did tell him what you were up to, right?”
“Yeah. He said you had to drink the chicken blood.”
“Right.” He winced again as he took another obligatory sip.
“Does it taste bad?” I asked.
“Exceedingly.”
“What does blood taste like to you?”
He was surprised at my bold question. “Well…blood tastes pretty much like you would think, that metallic taste. It’s more about the satisfaction that it brings. There’s always, always a burning fire right here,” he tapped the bottom of his throat, “but it feels better when I feed. Animal blood doesn’t satisfy as much, especially the farther down the food chain you go. Now fey blood, that is…incredible. When I was done with the skin shifter yesterday, I barely felt anything at all besides euphoria.”
He looked at me closely. “Did I scare you?”
“Not too badly.”
We were silent for the rest of the drive. I could feel the waves of shame and self-hatred rolling off of him, and I could think of nothing to say.
And then the road ended, constricting to a thin foot trail with a small wooden marker. I parked on the narrow shoulder and stepped out, afraid because he was angry at himself and I couldn’t think of anything to help him. It was warm now, warmer than it had been in Forks since the day I’d arrived, almost muggy under the clouds. I pulled off my sweater, the warm green one that Daddy knit for me. I tied it around my waist. I was glad I had a tank top underneath.
I heard his door slam, and looked over to see that he had removed his shirt. He was facing away from me, into the unbroken forest beside my truck. He wore a tank top, too, but white instead of black. He was so skinny that it fit loosely on him.
“This way,” he said, glancing over his shoulder at me, eyes still full of self-hatred. He started into the dark forest.
“The trail?” Panic was clear in my voice as I hurried around the truck to catch up to him.
“I said there was a trail at the end of the road, not that we were taking it.”
“No trail?” I asked desperately.
“I won’t let you get lost.” He turned then, with a mocking smile. I stifled a gasp, realizing that Edward looked…not as skinny. The only thing that had changed in the past few days was his diet. I wondered if it was the meat or the fey blood. Part of me believed it wasn’t the kelpie.
He stared at me for a moment, bewildered by my tortured expression.
“Do you want to go home?” he asked quietly, a different kind of pain than mine saturating his voice.
“No.” I walked forward till I was close behind him, anxious not to waste one second of whatever time I might have with him.
“What’s wrong?” he asked, his voice gentle.
“There’s a lot of magic here. I don’t know why. I feel very…human. You’ll have to be patient.”
“I’ve waited long enough for you. I think that I can stretch my patience out a little bit longer.” His eyes were soft, golden, kind.
He lead the way into the forest.
It wasn’t as bad as I had thought. The way was mostly flat, and he held the damp ferns and webs of moss aside for me. When his straight path took us over fallen trees or boulders, he would help me, lifting me by the elbow. His cold touch on my skin never failed to make my heart thud erratically.
“Can you hear that?” I asked when it happened the second time.
“Yes.”
“Is it uncomfortable? Does it make the burning stronger?”
A pause, and then, “Yes.”
For the most part, we walked in silence. Occasionally he would ask a random question that he hadn’t gotten to in the past two days of interrogation. He asked a lot about what had happened in the past few months for me. He also asked about my birthdays, my school teachers, my childhood pets – and I had to admit, after killing and eating three fish in a row as a toddler, I’d given up on the whole institution. He laughed at that, louder than I was used to – echos of his laugh bounced back to us from the empty woods.
The hike took most of the morning, but he never showed any signs of impatience. The forest spread out around us in a boundless labyrinth of ancient trees that called out to be explored. I would like to explore this eternal place of trees and moss and quiet thoughts that had long ago laid to rest here.
Edward was at perfect ease here. The green maze was as comfortable for him as my little hole of a room at my mom’s house. He never showed any doubt about our direction.
After several hours, the light that filtered through the canopy transformed, turning the murky olive to a brighter jade. The day had turned sunny, just as he’d foretold. For the first time since we’d entered the woods, I felt a thrill of excitement – which quickly turned to impatience.
“Are we there yet?” I teased, pretending to scowl.
“Nearly.” He smiled at the change in my mood. “Do you see the brightness ahead?”
I peered into the thick forest. “Should I?”
He smirked. “Maybe it’s a bit too soon for your eyes.”
“Time to visit the eye doctor,” I muttered. His smirk grew until it was a grin.
But then, after another hundred yards, I could definitely see a lightening in the trees ahead, a glow that was yellow instead of green. I picked up the pace, my eagerness growing with every step. He fell behind me, letting me lead now that I knew where we were going.
I reached the edge of the pool of light and stepped through the last fringe of ferns into a place that seemed so familiar. As I looked over the meadow, at the tall grass and the beautiful wildflowers, I realized why. It all clicked into place: the thickness of magic, the brightness of this place, the vibrant flowers that seemed just a little too big. We were in a Locale.
Only after I basked in the glory of the Locale did I remember Edward. I turned to spot him still under the dense shade of the canopy at the edge of the hollow, watching me with cautious eyes. I waited to see the enigma of Edward and the sun, which he’d promise to illustrate for me today.
I took a step back toward him, my eyes alight with curiosity. His eyes were wary, reluctant. I smiled, encouragingly and beckoned to him with my hand. He held back. The darkness was like a child’s blanket for him, something he didn’t want to let go of.
Edward took a deep breath, and then he stepped out into the bright glow of the midday sun.
His eyes turned green and he sagged in exhaustion.

Chapter Text

18. Confessions

Edward in the sunlight was…well, there was nothing like it.
“I know it’s not appealing but…it’s me, trust me.”
He looked human. His eyes were a sparkling green familiar to me, he looked skinnier than ever, and a faint flush flashed over his cheeks.
“We’re much weaker in the sun,” he said, still at the edge of the forest. “It takes a lot of blood to make us strong in the sun. A ridiculous amount.”
“Do you feel…okay?” I asked.
“I feel fine. I’m still strong – probably about as strong as you, give or take.”
Suddenly, it clicked into place. “That’s why vampires don’t come out in the sun and run from humans.”
He nodded, walking very slowly. He held out his hand. The skin sagged a little on his hand. I took it into mine. The bones, usually covered by a thick layer of skin, poked out at places I didn’t know they poked at. His skin was warmer, the temperature of a swimming pool rather than ice.
“Do all vampires look like this?” I asked.
He shook his head. “No. We look like we did when we died. Carlisle and Emmett are the best at being in the sunlight. Esme was living on her own and wasn’t well off in a lot of aspects. Rosalie wasn’t…in the best circumstances. Jasper was better, but there are other reasons why he can’t. Alice…Alice-”
“Insane asylum?” I asked.
He collapsed into a heap on the ground, but landed with his legs crossed. He let his hand fall to the ground. “Yeah. How did you know?”
“I saw the scars the first day I saw you.” I knelt down and sat with him. We were about a foot away from the shadows. “And I saw that you looked sick. I called you a sickly redheaded monster in my head.”
He smiled at that. His face was so thin. He moved into the shadows, his face instantly lifting up. “That’s kind of you.”
Hesitantly, always at least a bit afraid of him, even now in his weakened state…hesitantly, I reached out one finger and stroked the back of his hand, where it lay within my reach. When I looked up again, his eyes were open and golden and honest. Butterscotch drizzled in sundrops today, warm and bright after all of the hunting, the skin walker, and the chicken blood.
“I don’t scare you?” he nearly whispered. “I don’t…disgust you?”
“I feel safer with you than anyone else. And how could you disgust me, Edward Cullen?”
He leaned back farther into the shadows. “I’ve seen myself in the sun, Bella. I disgust myself.”
“Do you look attractive? Do you look sexy? No. You look like you’re about to die. But you’re still beautiful. You’re still my Edward Cullen.”
“Masen.”
“What?”
“Edward Anthony Masen. Cullen is just one of the many names we use. I usually go by a fake name, but Forks is special. It’s where we feel most at home. It’s raining most days, or cloudy, so we get to stay out more. When we leave a place, Jasper goes around and makes everyone feel forgetful about us. It’s quiet scary, actually. The memories don’t erase, they just…fade into the background. Almost like trying to remember what that one kid in your Geometry class looked like. It doesn’t work on us, but on humans…It’s almost like a second power.”
Edward Anthony Masen. “Do you like that name better than the others?” I asked.
He nodded, leaning his head back on the tree. “Yes. It reminds me of my parents. I don’t want to talk about them.”
I inched closer, stretching out my whole hand now to trace the contours of his forearm with my fingertips. I was trembling.
“Do you mind?” I asked.
“No,” he said without opening his eyes. “You can’t imagine how that feels, the warmth.”
“You feel nice, too. The day you first talked to me, when you touched me while handing me a telescope or something, the cold felt so nice. I wanted to ask you to touch me more, but I thought it might be odd.”
“Fire and ice,” he murmured softly.
I lightly trailed my hand over the bones in his arms, followed the faintest pattern of what once must have been bluish veins but now were barely shadows. With my other hand, I reached to turn his hand over. Realizing what I wished, he flipped his palm over in one of those blindingly fast, disconcerting moments of his. My heart took three big beats and my fingers froze on his arm for a brief second.
“Sorry,” he sighed. “It’s too easy to be myself with you.”
“That’s not a bad thing, Edward.”
“Tell me what you’re thinking,” he whispered. He leaned close enough to me that his eyes hit the rays of direct sunlight and his eyes were green.
“I was just…in awe of you. That I could believe that you’re truly here. I keep thinking, surely you’re going to disappear, or turn out to be a skin shifter.”
“Those are certainly some fears. I don’t want you to be afraid of me.” His voice was a soft murmur, and his eyes closed again as he retreated into the shadows. I heard what he couldn’t truthfully say, that I didn’t need to be afraid, that there was nothing to fear.
“That wasn’t the fear I was talking about.”
“I know. It’s still something to think about.” His eyes opened again. It was like watching one of those optical illusions where the colors changed when you weren’t looking. He got close again, green again, and full of sincerity. “Bella, the side of me that wants you to be afraid, I’m fighting it. Either it will die or you will die. And I’m not going to let you die.”
I was about to say that I could die – a couple times, actually – if that’s what he needed to control himself fully around me. His cool breath touched my face, though, just barely a whisper of air. Sweet, delicious, the scent made my mouth water. Instinctively, unthinking, I leaned closer.
He was gone, his hand ripped from mine.
“Edward?” I whispered. Maybe I was going crazy.
“Give me a moment,” he called from deep within the forest. I could barely hear, but I could tell he was yelling.
After ten incredibly long minutes, I saw him approaching in the distance, slowly for him. He stopped, still several feet away from me. I moved back a few feet.
“Come into the light,” I called. “If you’re in the light, you’re weaker.”
He glared. “I think I’m in enough control to avoid the light right now. Thank you for your concern.”
“Edward, it’s not you I’m concerned about. We’re in a Locale. I’m more human here.”
“What’s a Locale?”
“I’ll tell you if you come into the light.”
He sighed and let the light wash over him. He collapsed next to me in an exhausted heap. I took his hand into mine and felt the smooth, thin skin around his bones.
“You know this, but it’s part of the story. A long time ago, when Jesus was crucified, the world split in two. Some people say it’s because Jesus is God’s son, some say it’s a coincidence, some say it was planned by the Old Beasts so the focus could be on Jesus. Any way you think of it, though, that’s when it happened. The Split happened. It caused destruction on both sides for weeks. The human Earth was covered in darkness, corpses started to rise, earthquakes and tsunamis wrecked havoc. And the fey world…it took a hundred years for the initial fighting to stop.
“After three hundred years, people in the fey world began to study the laws of magic there. A few warlocks – Colter was one of them – discovered that there were thin spots between the fey world and the human world. They opened these spots and explored the human world. These were called Gates.
“They learned as they explored that some places were more magical than others in the human world, even when there weren’t Gates around. As they compared maps of the human and fey world, they realized that some parts of the human world didn’t transfer over and vice versa. These were called Locales. Locales are the closest we’ll ever have to studying what magic was like interacting with physics. It’s like those places just didn’t…didn’t want to stop being what it was. There are many Locales famous in the human world, especially stone circles, some mountains, and a few ancient cities like Jerusalem and Machu Picchu.”
“What are the Locales like in the fey world?” Edward asked, quiet and bowing his head.
“We took cities, and a lot of them. Most of them are reduced to nothing now. No one wants to live there. Atlantis is the biggest one that I know about. We also took a couple hundred islands and a lot of land off of Alaska and some surrounding regions.”
“I like Alaska,” Edward said, beginning to finally touch me. One long, bony finger traced across my skin. His hair was falling in his eyes and –
“Hey, you didn’t use product, did you?”
He shook his head, letting the red strands swish too and fro. “Nope. I don’t back down on a dare.”
I reached out and tugged, feeling the silky smooth between my fingers.
“I’m sorry about before. Please forgive me. I can control myself. You caught me off guard.”
He waited, but I was silent, concentrating on wrapping the red hair around my finger.”
He looked up then, and threw on a smile. “I’m not thirsty today, honestly.” He winked.
At that I had to laugh. I tugged at his hair again and was delighted that his smile grew in response.
“Are you all right?” he asked tenderly, leaning into my touch.
I looked at my hand, tangled in his hair. There was nothing I could offer him except the short, short time I had before I would begin ruling. His eyes, such a bright green color, were soft, repentant. I dropped my hand and found his again. He stroked my hand as he waited for a response. It was a small, timid smile.
His answering smile was dazzling.
“So where were we, before I behaved so rudely?” he asked gently.
“Um, why I’m afraid, besides the obvious reasons.”
“Well?”
I looked down at his hand and sketched a few masterpieces while I avoided the question.
“How easily frustrated I am,” he sighed. I looked into his eyes, abruptly grasping that this was as new to him as it was to me. As many years as he had on his shoulders – probably thousands, if my theory I shared with Jess and Angela were right – this was hard for him, too. I took courage from that thought.
“Well, there’s the obvious reasons, of course. I’m afraid because I can’t stay with you, I can’t give you all of me. I can only give you a small, tiny bit of me for a small, tiny bit of time and it makes me…so sad. I want to give you everything.
“I’m afraid, too, because I want to stay with you more than I should. I have a responsibility to my people, my mother, and my Queen, but I don’t think I’ll every be content if I don’t have you.” I left out the part where I was eternally going to be in debt to Colter, and I owed it to him to lead in the best way possible.
“That’s not true, Bella. I know you. You enjoyed your time with Titania for that first month, right? And I know you enjoyed working as the Head of the Cat Clan, even if it was riddled with tons of reform. You can be happy without me.”
“That’s true. I just…I feel so much more loved when you’re here with me.”
Edward groaned and laid back in the tall grass. “I should have left long ago,” he sighed. “I should leave now. But I don’t know if I can.”
“I don’t want you to leave,” I mumbled pathetically. Maybe it would be better, though, for him to leave instead of me.
“Which is exactly why I should. Don’t worry, though. I’m essentially selfish. Still that brat from way back when I was a kid.”
“I’m glad about that,” I said, feeling my way up his arm.
“Don’t be!” he said, sitting back up. His voice was harsher, but at himself. “Never forget that it’s only your company I crave! Never forget that I am more dangerous to you than anyone else.”
I thought for a moment.
“You mean because I’m fey? I can assure you there are more dangerous people than you.” All of my political enemies for one.
“No, that’s not what I meant…How do I explain?” he mused, leaning back and letting the sun soak his skin. “And without frightening you…hmmm.” Without seeming to think about it, he placed his hand back in mine; I held it tightly in both of mine. He looked at our hands.
“That’s amazingly pleasant, the warmth.” He sighed.
A moment passed as he assembled his thoughts.
“You know how everyone enjoys different flavors?” he began. “Some people love chocolate ice cream, other prefer strawberry?”
I nodded.
“Sorry about the food analogy – I couldn’t think of another way to explain.”
I smiled. He returned with a rueful smile.
“You see, every person smells different, has a different essence. If you locked up an alcoholic in a room full of stale beer, he’d gladly drink it. But he could resist, if he wished to, if he were a recovering alcoholic. Now let’s say you placed in that room a glass of hundred-year-old brandy, the rarest, finest cognac – and filled the room with its warm aroma – how do you think he would fare then?”
We sat silently, looking into each other’s eyes – trying to read each other’s thoughts.
He lifted my hand and brought it to his nose. His face contorted in agony. “Maybe that’s not the right comparison. Maybe it would be too easy to turn down the brandy. Perhaps I should have made our alcoholic a heroin addict instead.” He kissed the underside of my wrist, right where all of the golden veins were.
“So I’m your personal brand of heroin?” I teased, trying to lighten the mood.
He smiled swiftly and brightly, seeming to appreciate my effort. “Yes, you are exactly my brand of heroin.” He pushed my hand away, letting our intertwined fingers lay on his chest. I could feel his rips.
“Does that happen often?” I asked.
“Jasper doesn’t know. He’s the most recent vegetarian and he lived longer than most of us on an all-human diet, so he has the most trouble distinguishing between people’s scents. Alice isn’t far behind him, but she can see if someone will be a problem for her. Emmett, he said it happened twice for him, one stronger than the other.”
“And for you?” I asked quietly.
“Never.” He brushed my hair back behind my shoulder and wound my hair around his fingers. His hands stroked my back.
The word hung there for a moment in the warm breeze before floating gently. I wanted to wrap myself up in this boy, this beautiful redhead I found at a school I wasn’t even supposed to go to. I closed my eyes and thanked God for giving me this time with Edward. I realized that I could face anything now, knowing that whatever was thrown at me was just payment for having such a wonderful experience with Edward. Maybe God made me a half-fey so he could balance the scale with Edward.
“Emmett couldn’t help himself,” Edward whispered, seeming to realize this was a quiet moment. “They were strangers, though. They weren’t you. And Emmett wasn’t me. And I’ve been abstaining longer.”
“Edward, I trust you.” If I couldn’t trust Edward, who could I trust? An uneasy laugh escaped me. “I had my doubts, especially that first day, but…”
He glanced at me grimly, both of us remembering. “It took everything I had not to kill you then. When you walked past me, I could have ruined everything Carlisle has built for us, right then and there. If I hadn’t been denying my thirst, denying what I am, for the past too many years, I wouldn’t have been able to stop myself.”
“I understood.”
He propped himself on his elbow without me noticing the transition. “Yeah! I couldn’t figure that out. I was so so glad when you left class, glad that the torture ended. Then, after class, you bound up to me, seemingly unafraid, informing me that you requested to change science classes. You said it would be easier on me! I was sure that you knew, but I couldn’t figure out why. All I could think is that you were absolutely irresistible and absolutely insane!” He burst out in a fit of laughter. “It’s true. You’re irresistible and you are surely insane.”
I allowed it.
His face became somber as he continued on with his story. “To me, it was like you were some kind of demon, summoned straight from my own personal hell to ruin me. The fragrance coming off your hot skin, much too hot for a normal human…I thought it would make me deranged that-”
“You are deranged.”
He glared at me. “I thought of a hundred different ways to kill you, to lure you away. Even after class, when you came up to me it took every ounce of willpower not to drink you dry. I had to basically run away so I wouldn’t try to lure you away. I know that you wouldn’t come, but I wanted to try so, so badly.”
He obviously thought highly of my survival instincts, so I lied and said, “I may be dumb, but I’m not an idiot.”
He chuckled at that. I was so happy that in the midst of telling his somewhat scary story I could make him laugh.
“You always make me smile,” he said, rubbing the inside of my palm. “Even as I left to go to Alaska, I couldn’t help but smile at the absurdity of you – you! – causing me so much pain. And then you basically skipping to meet me. I traded cars with Carlisle so I would have a full tank of gas. Halfway to Alaska, I caught myself grinning stupidly. It took me a while to figure out that I was thinking of you, about how you reacted to me the first time, in the lunch room. Your glares were about as deadly as your looks.”
I blushed furiously. He grinned with mischief.
“I stayed in Alaska for a few days with some friends. In the pureness of the mountain air, I couldn’t believe that anyone –delicious blood or not – could stop me from living my life happily. It was hard to believe you were even THAT irresistible, though I know better now. I convinced myself that if I stayed away, I was weak. Who were you, some insignificant, silly, passing girl to tear me from the place I wanted to be? So I came back, especially after some angry phone calls from more than one sibling that you had stolen the heart of.
“I took precautions, hunting, feeding more than usual before seeing you again. I was sure that I was strong enough to treat you like any other human. I was arrogant about that.”
“You failed miserably,” I informed him.
“It didn’t help that you’re not fully human,” he reminded me with playful eyes. He pulled me down so I was laying next to him, looking up into his eyes.
“I wanted you to forget my behavior that first day, if possible, so I tried to talk with you like I would with any other person. I was eager, actually, hoping to decipher some of your thoughts. But you were too interesting, I found myself caught up in your expressions…and every now and then you would stir the air with your hand or your hair, and the scent would stun me again.
“Of course, then you were nearly crushed to death in front of my eyes. Later, I thought of a perfectly good excuse for why I acted at that moment – because if I hadn’t saved you, if your blood had been spilled there in front of me, I don’t think I could have stopped myself from exposing us for what we are. But I only thought of that excuse later. At the time, all I could think was, ‘Not her.’”
I closed my eyes, lost in his confession. I was surprised but delighted when he put his forehead against mine. I shivered a little in the warm sun – because of him, because of the fear he gave me, because of the love he gave me. Common sense told me I should be terrified. Instead, I was relieved to hear his side of the story. I was filled with compassion for his suffering, even now, as he confessed his craving to take my life.
“The hospital?” I asked, my eyes opening after the moments slipped by.
“I was appalled. I couldn’t believe I had put us in danger after all, put myself in your power – you of all people. As if I needed another motive to kill you.” We both flinched as the ugly words slipped out. “But on the way there, you were clinging to me, trusting me…You had the opposite effect of what I thought I would feel. You made me feel…needed, like a protector for once instead of the predator.” He stroked my cheek. “And you were there when we had the argument, weren’t you? Carlisle told us not to have contact with you. I heard you screaming. You looked so…desperate. I wanted to go out, to comfort you. At the same time, I’ve lived with my family far longer than you’ve even been alive. I was going to be loyal to Carlisle.
“All that next day I eavesdropped on the minds of everyone you spoke to, shocked that you kept your word. I didn’t understand you at all. But I knew that I couldn’t become more involved with you. And then you thanked me. I wanted to tell you everything, to explain my whole life to you and why that was nothing in compare to what you had given me.
“I did my very best to stay as far from you as possible. And every day the perfume of your skin, your breath, your hair…it hit me as hard as the very first day. As the days progressed, though, other things hit me harder. The sight of you getting out of Colter’s car. The sight of you getting out of your own car. The sound of your laugh that sounded so fake because you tried so hard to be normal. The way your hair looked parted a different way. I was beginning to realize that I was falling for you, the forbidden fruit of my existence.”
He met my eyes again, and they were surprisingly tender.
“And for all that,” he continued, “I’d have fared better if I had exposed us all at that first moment, than if now, here – with no witnesses and nothing to stop me – I were to hurt you.”
I was human enough to have to ask, “Why?”
“Isabella.” He pronounced my full name carefully, then playfully ruffled my hair with his free hand. A shock ran through my body at his casual touch. “Bella, I couldn’t live with myself if I ever hurt you. You don’t know how it’s tortured me.” He looked down, his eyes turning gold in the darkness of his own shadow. “The thought of you, still, white, cold…to never see you blush scarlet again, to never see that flash of intuition in your eyes when you see through my pretenses…it would be unendurable.” He lifted his glorious, agonized eyes to mine, and they turned human once more. “You are the most important thing to me now. The most important thing to me ever.”
From the cheerful topic of my impending demise, we were suddenly declaring ourselves. He waited quietly, waiting to work my thoughts out.
“You already know how I feel, of course,” I finally said. “I’m here…which, roughly translated, means I would rather die than stay away from you.” I frowned, thinking of all of the responsibility on my shoulder. “I’m an idiot.”
“You’re not an idiot, just dumb,” he said, referencing my joke from before. We laughed together at the idiocy and sheer impossibility of such a moment.
“And so the lion fell in love with the lamb…,” he murmured.
I raised an eyebrow, insanity fueling my confidence. “You’re the lamb.”
He rolled his eyes. “Oh, yes, that makes sense.”
“Well, I AM from the mountain lion sub-clan. More of a lion than you are.”
He looked at me and smiled; it was brighter than the sun shining down on us.
“Tell me why you ran before, Edward.”
His smile faded. “You know why.”
“No, I mean, exactly what did I do wrong? I’ll have to start learning what I’m not to do if I’m going to spend any amount of time with you. This, for example” – I stroked the back of his hand – “seems to be all right.”
He leaned back and laid down, closing his eyes and basking in the warmth. “You didn’t do anything wrong, Bella. It was my fault.”
I laid down and used his arm as a pillow. “But I want to help, if I can, to not make this harder for you.”
“Well…” He contemplated for a moment. “It was just how close you were. Most humans instinctively shy away from us, are repelled by our alienness…I wasn’t expecting you to come so close. And the smell of your throat.” He stopped short, looking to see if he’d upset me.
“Okay, then,” I said nonchalantly. I tucked my chin. “No throat exposure.”
It worked; he laughed. “No, really, it was more the surprise than more than anything.”
He raised his hand to my neck. I froze in my spot right below his throat. A feeling that I didn’t know spread through me. It was warm, and hungry, and consuming.
“You see,” he said. “Perfectly fine.”
My blood was racing, carrying the warmth to every cell in my body. I wished I could slow it, sensing that this must make everything so much more difficult – the thudding that I could feel and hear and the thudding he most certainly could feel and hear.
“The blush on your cheeks is lovely,” he murmured, lifting the hand on my throat to my cheek. He pulled us up and held my face between his bony hands.
“Be very still,” he whispered, as if I wasn’t already frozen.
Slowly, he leaned towards me. I thought about his lips and purposefully held his gaze. Then abruptly, but very gently, he rested his cold cheek against the hollow at the base of my throat. I was unable to move, even if I’d wanted to. I listened to the sound of his uneven, rough breathing.
Before his hands traveled down my neck, he grabbed one and put it in his hair. I complied and began to play with his hair.
I shivered as his hands found their way to my shoulders. His breath caught.
His face drifted to the side, his nose skimming across my collarbone. He came to rest with the side of his face pressed tenderly against my chest.
Listening to my heart.
For a few minutes, he didn’t even breath. Then, suddenly, he breathed in a huge breath through his nose. He crushed my body against his. This was the closest I’d been to anyone, ever. He wrapped his arms around me, trying to get even closer. He was leaving bruises, but I didn’t care.
Eventually, the throb of my pulse quieted, but he didn’t move or speak again as he held me tightly. I knew any moment it could be too much, and my life could end – so quickly that I might not even notice. He would be a wreck before I came back to life again. He pulled me even closer. I couldn’t make myself be afraid of this beautiful boy.
I couldn’t think of anything, except that my beautiful redheaded monster was touching me, holding me too close.
And then, too soon, he realized me.
His eyes were peaceful, but he looked slightly concerned. “Did I hurt you?”
“Yes, but I’m already healing.”
“It won’t be so hard again,” he said with satisfaction.
“Was that very hard for you?”
“Not nearly as bad as I imagined it would be. And you?” He leaned hard into my touch, like a cat. He smiled when I began scratching his head.
“It wasn’t bad for me.”
“You know what I mean,” he said, his teeth shining in the sunlight. “Here.” He took my hand and placed it against his cheek. “Do you feel how warm it is?”
And it was almost warm, his usually icy skin. I barely noticed, for I was touching his face, something I dreamed of doing for quiet some time. Even if it wasn’t the face I was used to, even if he looked on the verge of death, it hardly mattered. He was Edward, and I was touching his face.
“Don’t move,” I whispered. His eyes closed and he waited.
I moved even more slowly than he had, careful not to make one unexpected move. I caressed his cheek, delicately stroked his eyelid, the purple shadow in the hollow under his eye. I traced the shape of his nose, and then, so carefully, his lips. They were so smooth and soft. I let my fingers fall to trace his chin, then travel up to stroke his eyebrows. Delicate as a butterfly, I felt the soft skin of his eyelids with the pads of my thumbs.
I knew he could hear the beating of my heart and the swallow of fear as my hands made the journey down his neck. His collarbones stuck out, demanding to be felt. I felt my breathing quicken as I felt his stomach. He tensed when I did so, and let out a shaky breath. I felt the cool breath hit my face. I wanted to lean in, to inhale the scent of him. I leaned away, not wanting to push him too far.
He opened his eyes, and they were hungry. Not in a way to make me fear, but rather to tighten the muscles in the pit of my stomach and send another spout of warmth rushing through my veins.
He brought our foreheads close together and looked deep into my eyes. “I wish,” he whispered, “I wish that you could feel the…complexity…the confusion…I feel. That you could understand.”
I had never wanted anyone to kiss me, and especially not like this. “Tell me,” I breathed.
He leaned back, crossing his legs and taking both of my hands into his. “I don’t think I can. I’ve told you, on the one hand the hunger, the thirst you make me feel. And I think you can understand that, to an extent. Though” – he half-smiled – “as you are not addicted to any illegal substance, you probably can’t emphasize completely.”
“That you know of,” I interrupted.
“That I know of,” he agreed, tangling my hair in his fingers again. “There are other hungers, hungers I haven’t felt in…years. Hungers I don’t even understand, hungers that are clawing away at me, yet I wouldn’t trade anything for.”
“I may understand that better than you think.”
“I’m not used to feeling so human. Is it always like this?”
“For me?” I paused. “No, never. Never before this. Never like this.” I placed his hand over my heart, which was beating too fast. Maybe he could catch it if it burst out of my chest.
His face was antagonized, but his hand remained there even when my hand dropped. “I don’t know how to be close to you,” he admitted. “I don’t know if I can.”
I leaned forward very slowly, cautioning him with my eyes. I placed my cheek against his chest. I could hear his breath, and nothing else. I began to memorize how it sounded, so I could keep it forever.
“This is enough,” I lied, closing my eyes. I was content, but I was never going to have enough of Edward.
“You don’t have to lie,” Edward whispered. He pulled my legs towards him and I was in his lap. I felt too big, but his arms were strong enough to hold me. He pressed his face against my hair.
“You’re better at this than you give yourself credit for,” I noted.
“I have human instincts – they may be buried deep, but they’re there.”
I wondered if this was the end of his human instincts – holding each other. I sure hoped not. I felt warm in his arms and I didn’t want that to change.
We sat like that for another immeasurable moment; I wondered if he was as unwilling to let go of me as I was him.
My body betrayed me and my stomach growled.
“You have to go.”
“Not necessarily,” I tried to say. “I can just go hunt something.”
“No, I intend to cook you lunch. Come on, we’re going back to the car my way.”
“Running?” I asked, worry seeping into my veins. Edward was crazier than he claimed I was. I trusted him to put his venomous teeth next to my neck as he listened to my heart, but running…?
“Don’t worry, Bella. You’ll be very safe.” He stood up and found his way back to the shadows. “Do you only trust me when I look like a corpse?” he asked with a smirk on his face. When I didn’t say anything, he dared, “Come on, little coward, climb on my back.”
I met him in the forest and warily climbed on his back. My pulse must have given me away. Stupid pulse. Maybe I should get rid of it. I clutched his neck tightly, tighter than he held my chest when he was listening to the thundering of my heart.
“I’m a bit heaver than your average backpack,” I warned.
He snorted, adjusting my legs around his hips. I realized I was holding his neck too tightly for him to properly breath. He turned his head and smiled as I released my grip ever so slightly. He grabbed my hand and put it to his nose, inhaling deeply.
“Easier all the time,” he strained to say against my choke-hold.
And then he was running.
I would have rather taken on a dragon, be subjected to torture, have to go back to those Hippocamp in Port Angeles, than to be on his back in that instance. Well, maybe not any of those, but I would definitely take being hungry for a few hours while we hiked rather than this.
There was no sound, no evidence that his feet had touched the earth. His breathing never changed, never indicated any effort. The trees barely missed us, clawing and snatching but always missing by an inch or two.
I was too terrified to close my eyes, though the cool forest air whipped against my face and burned them. I felt as if I were sticking my head out of the window of a plane in flight. I could only remember one moment close to this, when Jessica had flown me around before. At least then, though, I could see what was going on around me!
Then it was over.
“Exhilarating, isn’t it?” His voice was high, excited.
He stood motionless, waiting for me to climb down. My head spun with dizziness and my stomach no longer wanted food.
“Bella?”
“I need to lie down.” My voice came out as weak, weak as a kitten. “Help me, please.”
He laughed quietly, and gently unloosened my strangle-hold on his neck. He pulled me around to face him, cradling me in his arms like Mama used to when I was a young kitt – child. I shook my head, feeling the two worlds pull at me. Mama would have called me a kitten, but Daddy would have called me a child, a baby. I didn’t want to choose right now, so I just rested in his arms for a brief moment.
“How do you feel?” he asked, laying me down in the springy ferns.
I couldn’t be sure how I felt when my head was spinning so crazily with so many thoughts. “Dizzy…I think.”
“Put you head between your knees.”
I gave him a spectacle look, but it did help a little, to my surprise. I’ll have to tell Eva that neat trick.
Finally, the dizziness had gone away enough that I could raise my head, so I did.
“I guess that wasn’t the best idea,” he mused.
“It was a…learning experience.”
Edward smirked. “You’re as white as a ghost – no! You’re as white as me!” And it was true in that moment. He was in the cool darkness of the trees.
“I should have closed my eyes.”
“Remember that next time.”
My eyebrows lifted in horror. “Next time?”
He cackled evilly, his mood still radiant. His mood was so high now. He was a completely different Edward.
I leaned my head back on the trunk of a tree, closing my eyes so I wouldn’t have to see his smirking, devilish face, the one that made me weak. “Show-off,” I muttered.
“Open your eyes, Bella,” he said quietly.
And he was right there, his face so close to mine. Warmth surged through my body again. I was going to be on fire if he kept this up.
“I was thinking, while I was running…” He paused.
“About not hitting trees, I hope.”
“Silly Bella,” he chuckled. “Running is second nature to me, it’s not something I have to think about.”
“Show-off,” I said a bit louder now, my eyes widening for emphasis.
He smiled.
“No,” he continued, “I was thinking there was something I wanted to try.” And he took my face in his hands again.
I was on fire.
He looked down and smiled. “Listen to that heart go,” he mused.
Then he hesitated – not in the normal way, the human way.
Not the way a man might hesitate before he kissed a woman, to gauge her reaction, so see how he would be received. Not to prolong the moment, the sweet moment right before a kiss that’s sometimes better than the kiss itself.
Or so I’ve been told.
Edward hesitated to test himself, to see if this was safe, to make sure he was still in control of his need.
And this his cold, soft lips pressed very softly against mine.
Blood boiled under my skin, burning my lips. This was stronger than fire, stronger than anything I’d ever felt. My breath came in a wild gasp I didn’t know I was capable of. My fingers knotted in his hair, clutching him to me. My lips parted as I breathed in his heady scent.
His hands forced me back. He retreated out into the sun, where he was more human-like. I wondered if it helped with the thirst.
“Oops,” I breathed.
“That is an understatement.” His fingers raked through his hair, then made fists there. His eyes were wild, his jaw clenched so tightly I feared his teeth would grind. “You make me absolutely mad, Bella.”
I had the sense that he didn’t mean angry.
I kept my eyes on his, which were far away, looking into the sun. He opened the passenger door and took out his shirt, buttoning it slowly. He took a moment to tuck it into his jeans, then pulled it right back out.
He turned and held out his hand to me. The smile on his face was placid and peaceful. “I’m not as strong as I thought, but I’m getting there.” I took his icy hand, needing the support. My balance had not yet returned.
“Are you still faint from the run? Or was it my kissing expertise?” How lighthearted, how human he seemed as he laughed now, his face untroubled. I felt so bestowed on this Edward. I never wanted to leave his side. A knife stabbed me in the heart when I remembered that wasn’t possible. I would have to leave him someday in order to marry Colter, to rule my people. I would have to marry some other cat goblin so I could produce an heir.
“I can’t be sure, I’m still woozy,” I managed to respond through the knife wound. “I think it’s some of both.”
“Maybe you should let me drive.”
“Okay,” I gave in.
“Good. You’re basically drunk. Friends don’t let friends drive drunk,” he said with a chuckle. I was missing some joke.
“Drunk?”
“You’re intoxicated by my very presence.” He was grinning that playful smirk again.
“Can’t argue with that.” I took the keys out and threw them high in the air. His hand moved faster lightening, catching the keys soundlessly. “Take it easy – my truck is a senior citizen.”
“Very sensible,” he approved.
“And are you not affected at all?” I asked, a little irked now that I was recovering from the run, the kiss, the wound in my heart. “By my presence?”
He helped me into my seat, then moved so close once more. “Regardless,” he breathed, kissing my lips once more, so quick I couldn’t react, “I have better reflexes.”

Chapter Text

19. Mind Over Matter

He drove semi-well, though he only occasionally looked at the road, which did stress me out a good bit. He drove one-handed, holding my hand on the seat. Even though I did the same thing, I was stressed that we would swerve and die. Sometimes he gazed at the rolling clouds that would occasionally cover the sun and give him shade. Sometimes he glanced at me – my face, my hair blowing out the open window, our hands twined together.
He had finally tuned the radio to what I thought was an oldies station, and he sand along with a song I’d never heard. He knew every line and seemed to sing every word to me.
“What year is this from?” I asked.
“1960, Bobby Rydell’s ‘Little Bitty Girl’,” he said after the song had ended and seemingly went to a song he didn’t care for as much.
“You like sixties music?”
He nodded, starting to smile at the new song playing. “Yes, I do. It was a good time to be alive for the music. I like all sorts of music, though.”
“Are you ever going to tell me how old you are?” I asked nonchalantly.
He turned to me. “I’m seventeen.”
I rolled my eyes. “Are you ever going to tell me when you were born?” I clarified.
“Does it matter that much?” His smile, to my relief, remained unclouded.
“No, but there’s nothing better to keep a girl up at night.”
“I wonder if it will upset you,” he reflected to himself. He gazed at the clouds again, debating.
“Try me,” I pleaded.
He sighed, then looked into my eyes, seeming to forget the road completely for a time. Whatever he saw there – which must have been fear because he wasn’t looking at the road – must have encouraged him.
“I was born in Chicago in 1901.” He paused and glanced at me from the corner of my eyes. Thankfully, I was prepared for thousands of years. He was practically a baby. “Carlisle found me in a hospital in the summer of 1918. I was seventeen, and dying of the Spanish influenza.”
That explained his physical appearance. I wondered if he still felt the pain of the flu sometimes.
“I don’t remember it well – it was a very long time ago, and human memories fade.” He was lost in his thoughts for a short time before he went on. “I do remember how it felt, when Carlisle saved me. It’s not an easy thing, not something you could forget.”
“Your parents?”
He audibly swallowed. “They had already died from the disease. I was alone. That was why he chose me. In all the chaos of the epidemic, no one would ever realize I was gone.”
Seconds ticked by and he swallowed again. “It was very painful,” Edward informed me. “It was difficult. Not many of us have the restraint necessary to accomplish it. But Carlisle has…a lot of restraint. I don’t think you could find his equal throughout all of history. If you ever needed – or wanted – to be become like us, I would have Carlisle do it.”
I didn’t want to tell him that I would die if venom entered my bloodstream.
I could tell from the set of his lips, he would say no more on this subject. I was glad he didn’t go into too many details. I knew enough.
His soft voice interrupted my thoughts. “He acted from loneliness. That’s usually the reason behind the choice. He was more or less my mentor. I was already studying law, so I buried myself in it. I also became interested in the medical field, though it would be many years before I would get my first degree. He changed Esme soon thereafter. She fell from a cliff. The other medical examiners thought her to be dead. Carlisle was already talking about bringing someone else into our coven. It just made sense.”
“What about the others?” I asked, choosing to ignore the fact that he said “coven” instead of “family” like he normally did.
“Carlisle found Rosalie to our family next. I think both of us wanted to be with someone, just not with each other,” he said with a smile and a tender eye roll. “But she was never more than a sister. It was nine years later that she found Emmett. She was hunting – we were in Appalachia at the time – and found a bear about to finish him off. She carried him back to Carlisle, more than a hundred miles, afraid she wouldn’t be able to do it herself. I was very proud of her. I don’t think I could have done it.”
“Could you do it now, now that it’s been so long?”
His smile was easy. “If I can survive an afternoon with you, I can do anything.”
“That’s a bit prideful.”
He shrugged. “So what? That’s my fatal flaw. I might as well learn to live a good life with it than try to deny it.”
“I don’t know what my fatal flaw is,” I admitted. “I don’t think I’m perfect, I just…”
“It’s okay. I’ve had a few more years to think about this.”
“Alice and Jasper?” I asked after a few moments of just the radio.
“Alice and Jasper are two very rare creatures. They both developed a conscious, as we refer to it, with no outside guidance. Well, except Alice’s visions. Jasper belonged to another coven very different from mine. He became depressed, and he wandered on his own after escaping. Alice found him. Her first vision after waking up as a vampire was of Jasper, so she knew where to find him. We thought she was most sensitive non-humans, but you sort of screwed up that theory. You screwed up a lot of theories, actually.”
My face got hot. “What do you mean?”
“Nothing bad, darling. We just learned she can’t see you. And now she can’t see anything with me.” He grinned. “I’m to entangled in your future for her to see me. We also thought that vampires enhanced characteristics from our human life. We thought Alice may have already had some precognition. Then Carlisle thought I was already sensitive to what other people thought of me. And Jasper was already charismatic in his life.”
“Huh,” was all I had to say.
“Alice is very helpful, the most helpful person in the family. She sees if other vampires are coming, if they pose a threat.”
“Are there a lot of…your kind?” I was surprised. How many of them could walk among us undetected? I gulped, thinking about the reason Titania had so many regulations on Gate travel. Maybe it was because she knew there were bigger threats out there.
“No, not many. Most won’t settle. We enjoy being nomadic. It’s just easier. I enjoy it. Only those like us, who’ve given up hunting you people” – a sly glance in my direction – “can live together with humans for any length of time. We’ve only found one other family like ours, in a small village in Alaska. We lived together for a time, but there were so many of us that we became too noticeable.”
“And that’s who you stayed with in Alaska after you left.”
“Yes,” he said, surprised I remembered. “Well, I stayed near them. Only Tanya dared to go near me…” He drifted off, deep in thought.
“Tanya?”
“A member of their coven,” he said, snapping back into reality. I felt a surge of jealousy, not unlike the warmth I got when Edward touched me. This warmth, however, was angry. I had the instinct to wrap Edward up in my arms and never let him go. I had to remind myself that soon, I would have to let him go, maybe to find his Tanya or some other girl.
“What about the others?”
“Nomads, for the most part. We’ve all lived that way at times. It gets boring, though. We run across the others no and then, because most of us prefer the North.”
“Why is that?”
We were near my house now, and my stomach growled impatiently.
“Did you have your eyes open at all today?” he teased. Even now, a cloud moved past the sun and he became human-like again, in the deathly sort of sense. “Do you think I could walk down the street in the sunlight without causing traffic accidents? There’s a reason why we chose the Olympic Peninsula, one of the most sunless places in the world. It’s nice to go outside in the day. You wouldn’t believe how tiring an endless night can get.”
Edward pulled into my driveway. The path was already intercepted by another car.
“Colter,” Edward filled in for me.
“What does he want?” I wondered aloud.
Edward’s voice was harsh when he said, “How am I supposed to know? I can’t read his mind.”
“Edward, I didn’t mean-”
He cut the engine. “I know. Just go in. I’ll see you later.”
I frowned. “Hey, I’m not leaving until you smile at me.”
He snarled. “Bella, seriously, go. I’m not in a good mood anymore. I’ll come back when I’m ready.”
I rolled my eyes and got out of the truck. He wordlessly stalked to his Volvo, slamming the door hard.
Colter was waiting for me inside. “Hey. That’s Edward, right? You’re together now?”
I nodded absently, still thinking about Edward’s sour mood.
“Your mom told me about him. She said that he was resistant to a lot of magic. It really shook her up.”
I sat with him on the bar stools. “What’s up? Why are you here?”
“I just wanted to give you an update. The Sands of Time are doing pretty well now. They’re pretty much normal now, though I’m still suspicious of Oberon. Your mother is engaged. His name is Phillip. I’m familiar with his family. It’s a good family, don’t worry-”
“My mother’s engaged?”
“Yes, that’s mostly why I came. I’ve heard rumors, most of them which seem too impossible to be true. Your mother did not like what you did. And you put so many laws into place that it’s hard for her to reverse them now, especially with the majority of the population in agreement with you. I’m very proud of you for all that you did, by the way.”
“Thank you.” I picked at a splinter in the wood.
“You’re welcome. The point is, many people are saying she’s going to try to have a kid with Phillip. A boy, so he could rule instead of you.”
“That makes sense. I figured that.” I highly doubted she would be able to conceive without magical help, which was technically illegal within the goblin community as far as leaders went. She was getting in age, whether she wanted to admit it or not.
Colter sighed, pushing the hair out of his eyes. “Now here’s the bad part. And I want to really emphasize that I don’t have a clue if this is true or not. Some people are saying that she’s planning to have you killed. The theory is that you’re so popular within the cat goblin community that they would vote her son out. It’s possible, just very, very rare for that to be done.”
“They wouldn’t care that he was full-goblin and I was only half?” I whispered. My eyes drifted to the window because I couldn’t look at Colter.
“They would rather have you than a puppet. Bella, I only tell you this so you’ll be safe. She seems to have those wolves under her paw. Now-”
“They won’t hurt me. My dad’s too close to them. He would know what’s going on.”
Colter grabbed my chin and forced me to look into his sharp, icy blue eyes. “Bella, you need to stay safe. I’m only telling you this because I want you to be safe.”
“Can’t let the ticket to suicide slip away,” I muttered, casting my eyes down to a rip in his shirt.
“I’m not going to kill myself until I know for sure that it’s okay to leave. That means you’ll be ruling and happy and there’s no threat to you. Then we can get married and I can rest. Then you can be with whomever you want to.”
“Except Edward. He can’t give me children.”
Colter remained quiet.
“I think you’ve made your point, Colter. Just…just…thanks for the warning.”
He dropped my chin. “Bella, please stay safe. My-”
“Your life depends on it, I know,” I snapped. “Just leave.”
He pulled me into a hug. Edward’s touch sent warmth through my body, fire I didn’t even know existed. Colter was different. He was a candle, making a soft light and only a trickle of warmth.
He rocked me back and forth for a moment before he said, “It’s not just because you’ll…aid me. I care about you, Bella. You need to be safe. Even if I die, I promise you’ll be safe. I can’t loose you too.”
“If?” I asked, purposefully ignoring the “too” in that statement.
He released me and plopped back down on the stool. “I don’t think I’ll be able to actually die. Reverse your infertility, yes, but I think I’ve waited too long. I’m too wrapped up in the magic of the Sands. I should have never done that, get involved in a magic I don’t understand.”
He buried his head in his hands and groaned. Not sure what else to do, I went to the refrigerator, placed a square of lasagna on a plate, and nuked it in the microwave. Colter’s muscles were tense with strain. He was the perfect model for stress.
I took my food as went and sat in the living room. It was hot, too hot, but I would rather burn myself than have to deal with Colter. I scarfed it down as he wallowed in misery.
Finally, he was finished. “Titania sent some of your stuff with me. A huge trunk filled with books and clothes and this over-the-top armory. She sent a note.”
“Thank you,” I said, dapping my mouth with a napkin.
“I’m leaving now.”
Such stark, bare sentences. He must be upset.
“Okay. Colter?”
“Yes?” He waited, his body tense, ready to leave.
“Stay safe. I think we both know that without you I could never return home with any amount of safety.”
“You might be surprised.”
He was gone. There was something that he definitely wasn’t telling me. I went upstairs to look at what Colter had delivered for Titania. I made a beeline for the dyed parchment.

 

Dearest Bella,
I am so sorry that you have to be dealing with your mother. I have all but shut down all Gates leading to Forks. I will try to keep you protected. I cannot leave my position as of right now, but I will send Yarrow if you feel unprotected. Contact me the instant you feel unsafe. Keep the vampires and the Natives aware of the danger that may befall upon us all.

There is much to tell you, but I dread to do so. I’m sure Colter has told you about your mother. She is marrying a man named Phillip. She will try to have a son. I know you have prepared so much to be a good leader. I promise that if a child is given to her, I will raise it myself. Your mother is fraternizing with several of my enemies, many of whom fraternize with Oberon. I have reason to believe they make plans against us. Of course, as of right now, you’re just a daughter that is misdirected, that can be swayed. Once you are officially my princess consort, you will become more involved and will have to come live with me or another safe place. I will push back your statement of becoming my princess consort as long as possible because of this.

Be vigilant, my sweet. I fear that my enemies will try to convince you to join their side by any means possible. I cringe to say this, but I would not deny that your mother is capable of violence. I pray that she makes an exception for her daughter. I would.

With kindest remembrances,
Queen Titania

I felt the old memory of acid clawing up my throat resurface. My mother couldn’t betray me like that. I felt ice rush through my veins. Was it only today that Edward made me feel all warm, on fire? It felt like I hadn’t been warm in years.
I wished I was there in the fey world. I wanted to know what was going on. I knew I wasn’t going to know for a while.
My heart was broken in two. Even though I was glad I could possibly have an extended stay in Forks, I wanted to go home, to see what made Colter’s muscles tense so tightly and what was making Titania so afraid. I wanted to know what was going on inside my mother’s head and how she was dealing with my people. Were they in pain? Were they under a rule similar to Christopher’s? It had never occurred to me that my mother could be a bad ruler.
A soft tapping caused me to lift myself out of the pit of despair. Edward was smiling apologetically in the window.
“Can I come in?” he called through the glass.
“Yes, it’s all right,” I answered. A squeak rang through the room as the window opened.
“I can get some oil to quiet that up some,” Edward offered, taking a seat in the floor.
The easy conversation made me relax a little. “Planning on sneaking in?”
Edward grinned. “I can use the door, if you want.”
“And you’re good at picking locks?”
“The key is under the eave.”
I looked at him with my eyebrows raised in the form of a question.
“I’ve been here countless times by myself and my siblings. I was bound to find where the spare key was.”
“I would think it’s boring here,” I mumbled, picking at my chest of clothes. I started digging through it to try to find a book.
“No, it’s not. I like being here, especially when you’re asleep. You’re very interesting. You talk. It’s like getting a preview of your thoughts.”
I buried my face in the soft silks and heavy fabrics. “No!” I groaned, feeling heat flood my face all the way to my hairline. I gripped the edge of the chest for support. I knew I talked in my sleep, of course; my mother teased me about it. I didn’t even think it was something to worry about here, though.
“Why are you upset? It’s cute!”
Trembling, I lifted my face. “What did you hear?”
Instantly, silently, he was at my side, taking my hands carefully into his.
“Don’t be upset!” he pleaded. He dropped down to my level. One eye was in the shade and the other was in the sun, making him momentarily green-eyed and golden-eyed. I tried to look away, but awe made me stare.
“You miss your mother,” he whispered. “You worry about her. And when it rains, the sound makes you restless. You talk about home a lot. You miss the sky.”
I did miss the sky.
Tears trickled down my face and I pushed him away. When he pestered me about what was wrong, I pushed Titania’s letter into his hands. He read carefully, his different colored eyes scanning the parchment. A cloud moved over the sun and his eyes were both gold again.
“This…is complicated. I’m so very sorry this is happening to you,” Edward said slowly, precision in every word. “This must be difficult for you.” He wrapped a lock of hair around his fingers.
“I’m afraid for so many reasons,” I whispered, tears still leaking from my face.
“I will help you persevere.”
We spent the next several hours putting my stuff up. I taught him what was traditional Cat Clan wear, what was traditional fairy wear, the most common articles of clothing in the fey world, and how each piece was made. He showed me a few things about each weapon, and I explained the reason behind the symbols carved on the hilt.
“Why is your knife so special?” Edward asked, feeling the hilt of my only true silver sword.
“Because it wasn’t touched by any living thing before me. It’s loyal to me. That means it uses a magical property sometimes called shifting, where it shifts in and out of my perception at my will, and most other fey can’t see it either.”
“Most?” Edward asked.
I folded a shirt while I decided on my words. “Some fey in Cadizion, a Spanish colony from the area near Cadiz, Spain, are very special in their mind abilities, though they can do far less physically. They are able to see in different dimensions, specifically the dream dimension. I don’t know how they do it, but, according to them, they can interpret dreams by looking into the dream dimension. They can also see in the dimension that true silver goes to when we can’t see it.”
Edward was dully impressed. “And you said they’re in a colony?”
“Yes. There’s only one fey from Cadiz that still stays in that area. She calls herself the Oracle and sells interpretations of dreams to human and fey alike…if they can find her.” I had to admit, now I was just entertaining Edward for the fun of it. His curiosity had lifted my spirits.
“Where, approximately, are the Cadizion people now?”
“They dominate almost all of modern Mexico and South America. They’re a huge empire. The Native fey there totally fear them. Apparently, they can torture them through dreams.”
“Are there Native fey in Titania?”
“Yes. Most of them have moved into the Northern section of her kingdom, but some stay in the other parts of the kingdom, as well. All the mermaids are native to the seas, of course, as well as most of the sea and lake monsters. Titania is actually a Native.”
“Isn’t she white, though?”
I narrowed my eyes at him. “She’s pink. And I never told you she was white.”
“You all speak English. I assumed.”
I rolled my eyes. “I’m not white and I speak English.”
“You are white.” I wanted to smack that arrogant tone from his voice.
“My people are from Italy. It’s a different skin tone than yours, Edward. Olive, not white. And the reason we speak English is because most fey are taught English so they can communicate to humans if they go to the human world. We speak in fey just as often. It’s easier to speak fey because all of us are born with that knowledge, but most people like to keep their English sharp.”
He contemplated on what I said for a while. Finally, he asked, “Can I have one of your weapons?”
“Of course. What do you want?”
He picked up a simple staff with a small point on the end. “This.” His hand gripped around the leather in the middle.
“That’s a bit bulky,” I said.
He pressed a silver button on the side that I didn’t see. The staff suddenly popped into the small leather center. He pressed it again and it extended back into the staff.
“Um, sure. I don’t see why you would use that instead of the swords. How did you know what the button did?”
“There were instructions,” Edward explained, holding up a piece of parchment. “And I use it so I can keep the other fighter at a distance, giving me an advantage.” Quickly, so that I could barely see, he coated the small tip in his saliva – his venom.
“Is the point true silver?” I asked.
“Yes. The whole thing is a true silver-steel alloy. It’s diluted in the pain, but I think it could more effectively puncture and rip at my skin when more pressure is applied. The true silver is brittle, so it slices but doesn’t puncture well.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Planning on killing any vampires soon?”
“If it can get through my skin, it can get through any skin,” Edward informed me, spinning his new toy around his fingers like a pen.
“Your skin is so soft, though.”
He held out his hand and said, “Try to rip the skin with anything besides the true silver.”
After a couple minutes of making a fool of myself, I quit. “What gives? It’s so soft…”
He laughed, sitting next to me. “After we’re changed, our body goes through a lot of changes. In particular, all of our cells change their composition. Carlisle is still studying it. It has a very high tear tolerance, almost like rubber.”
My nose scrunched up. “That sounds weird. Are your bones the same way?”
“He hasn’t been able to properly study bones. Our skin is very hard to break open, remember?”
I nodded, sitting back onto my bed. “Colter said that Mama said you were resistant to a lot of magic. That goes against…a lot of theories. Which maybe you’re more weak in the fey world.”
“That’s fun,” muttered Edward. He clicked his staff back into the tube. “Your father’s coming. If you want, I’ll leave you alone for a bit and come back later.”
I frowned slightly at the sound of tires on my brick driveway. “You don’t want to stay?”
He smiled into my hair, already having pulled me into a hug that I wasn’t aware of until that moment. “I do, love, I just have other people in my life besides you. I’ll be back soon, don’t worry.”
I heard a ghostly chuckle that seemed far away before I realized he was gone.
My father’s key turned the door.
“Bella?” he called. It bothered me now that he had to do that, make sure I was here.
“I’m here!” I hopped down the stairs three at a time and bounded into the kitchen.
“Hey, Kitten. Hungry?”
“Yeah, starved. I’ve been going through some of the stuff Titania sent me from home, so I haven’t started dinner yet.”
“Perfect. I brought a pizza home. It’s in the car. Go get it while I put this fish in the freezer.”
“Thanks,” he said as I placed the box on the table. He threw a wad of napkins on my placemat. “Try to keep it down this time, eh?”
“I’ll try. I think I can keep it down. I only had a little lasagna for lunch, so I’m starving.”
“Edward didn’t take you on a picnic?” I shook my head. “Huh. Would have thought he would be like that.”
“He probably forgot that I eat, seeing he doesn’t drink but once every two weeks.”
“So, what’s up in the fey world? I can see you’re hurting.”
I sighed. I really didn’t want to talk about it, but I knew it was unfair to Daddy to be silent. “Just…well, mostly Mama is getting married. I think she’s trying to replace me. Colter thinks that the people will vote another child out of the position, but I’m not sure. And I have a feeling that I’m not being told everything.”
Dad raised his eyebrows. “Well, I can assure you that you are never going to be told everything. Your mother…The thing that you have to always keep in mind about her is that she just got this power, you know? When I first knew her, she was this bright, pretty girl who was okay with ruining her life for a little fun. She didn’t have responsibilities. She wasn’t supposed to be Head of the Cat Clan, her brother was. She never learned responsibility. That’s why I begged your mother to have another child when I found out that she was going to be leader, and eventually, you were too. I begged her to let me raise you. I didn’t think she was fit to raise you, especially if you were going to rule one day.
“Your mother is irresponsible in the worst way. She tasted power and she’ll do anything to keep getting it. I would have never thought she would harm you in any way, but now I’m not so sure. You need to be careful, Bella. Even the loveliest flower can be poisoned.”
I chewed on a bite of pizza slowly while he told me all of this.
“Shoulders straight, Bella. No one is going to take you seriously as a ruler if you slouch and cower into yourself.”
I straightened my shoulders out, lifted myself so my back was straight.
We finished our meal, which wasn’t sitting that well in my stomach. Dad gave me more advice about manners that I really didn’t want but probably needed.
“How do you even know all of this?” I asked in a scathing tone.
“Give me a better attitude and I’ll tell you.”
I took a deep breath. “How do you know all of this etiquette stuff?” I said in a more calm tone.
“My grandmother was from England. She was in high class, a lady. She moved here with her brother after they rode the Titanic. She said she couldn’t bear to go on a boat again. My mother was more or less a wild child like my papa, but my grandmother was bent on me having proper manners. I don’t always follow them, but I do remember her rules vividly.”
I sighed. “Can I be done with the rules for now?”
“Yeah, sure. Have a good night, sweetie.”
“‘Night.”
I worked to walk slowly up the stairs, still kind of scared that I was going to puke up the extra-cheesy pizza. I found myself at the window. I threw it open and leaned into the cool night. My eyes scanned the trees for Edward. I hoped he had enough time to visit with his family.
“Edward?” I whispered, feeling completely idiotic.
A quiet, dry laugh came in response. “Not quiet, Bella.”
I whirled, one hand flying to my throat in surprise.
Emmett lay, smiling hugely, across my bed, his hands behind his head, his feet dangling off the end, the picture of ease.
Terror pushed me to the floor. Instead of getting in a crouch, I was curled in a ball.
“I’m sorry for scaring you. That’s partially why I came.”
I nodded. “Fear tastes better.”
He rolled his eyes. “Well, yes, but I meant I came so you wouldn’t be afraid of me. I have the feeling that since that night in Port Angeles, you’ve been getting progressively more scared of me, which just won’t do.”
I stayed quiet, still wary.
“Why don’t we go outside?”
“In here is fine,” I said, eyeing a sword a few feet away from me.
He shrugged. “Fine. How’s the heart?”
“You tell me – I’m sure you hear it better than I do.”
He frowned at the severity of my expression – loathing and terror.
“Look, Bella, I can’t help that my mother is an elf and my father was a minotaur. I keep my family safe from a lot of fey with what little magic I have left after the transformation. That’s all I use my power for. You’re obviously leaning towards falling in love with Edward. Carlisle and Esme are trying to accept you. Try to accept me, okay? I’m not one to fear.”
“Will you leave?”
“Yes. Just keep in mind, I’m Edward’s brother. I’m his family. I don’t want him to be torn between the girl he loves and his family.”
“You think he loves me?”
Emmett rolled his eyes. “Bella, don’t be dumb. Edward will be back later.”
Then he was gone.

I meant to hurry. I brushed my teeth fiercely, trying to be thorough and speedy, removing all traces of lasagna and pizza. The hot water of the shower couldn’t be rushed, though. By the time it warmed up, I decided I needed a bath instead. As I let the water soak me, it unknotted the muscles in my back that I didn’t even know were stressed. The smooth, soapy water reminded me of the baths Eva often ran for me after a stressful day at school. I let the water surround me as the memories overtook me…
“It’s a load of bull! I had the right potion, but Professor Clawreaver said that I didn’t roast the dragon liver enough. I know I did it right!”
Eva’s calm voice was in sharp contrast to agreements I had heard from Rachel and Gretchen. “Bell, we both know that you’ve been working hard with roasting different animal parts. You may have made a mistake. You’re only going to get angrier if you don’t admit that.” She was sprawled across a rock very wet with water. Since she was an undine, her bedroom was modified to contain a waterfall with a small pond. My small section of the room, only used for sleeping, was in a small cave behind the waterfall. It was filled with dry materials and a little fireplace that kept the area very warm.
“I know I’m working on it, and I know it paid off today because I did it right!” I screeched. Honestly, convincing Eva that I was right while on a rant was hard work.
“Hey, don’t worry about it. It’s only a potion that you might use once or twice in your life. I mean, come on, how many times are you going to turn a gnome into a toad?”
“It might be useful!”
“You’re not going to be an exterminator. You’re never going to use it again.”
“But still!”
Eva rolled her eyes and got up from her spot on the rock. She dragged me over to the clawfoot bathtub. Water trailed her until she directed it to the bath, waiting for it to fill. “Go on. Heat it up, take a bath, and stop complaining about the one teacher that pushes you to do better.”
Slowly, still angry at her and Professor Clawreaver, I made the spell for heating undine water, since it was a little different from regular water. The spell wasn’t easy, but I had to do it almost every day for the past two years. A pinch of deadly belladonna, a mixture of Greek fire and sulfur, and crushed lavender. The smell – sweet, burning, and comfortable – was almost like home.
The memory released me. The water here wasn’t nearly as hot, but it was warm enough to remind me of the sweet time in between then and now.
I was too lazy to dry my hair, so I searched through the potions I had on hand. I was angry that I didn’t have the undine water warming potion. I dug around until I found the right ingredients. I crushed the lavender too hard, though, and created a phenomena that Eva often “Bella’s fire” because I made this mistake so often. The liquid moved and turned into a state of matter in between liquid and gas that burned like fire and moved like water.
I rubbed the strange fire into my skin and my hair, always content with the warmth and light that it brought to my skin. Although my body heat was far too high here – it was cooler in the fey world, where I normally used it – it felt too much like home not to use it.
Just in time, I felt Edward’s cold cheek against my neck. “You feel like fire,” he murmured against my skin.
“You’d be surprised how often this happens,” I said, turning to face him. His cheek drifted up to touch mine. His eyes were closed.
“Yeah?”
“Yeah. Eva calls this ‘Bella’s Fire’.”
“What is it?” He pulled back now, waiting for a story. It dawned on me that I was probably the most entertainment he got in the past century.
“Just a botched potion. It’s supposed to warm water, but I crushed the lavender too harshly, so it turned into a fire-like substance. In the fey world, my body temperature is much lower, like a human’s. It warms me up as if I were sitting next to a fire. I’m too hot here, though. It just reminds me of home.”
“Good thing I’m here to cool you down,” he said, wrapping his arms around me and pulling me onto the bed. My heart stopped until I was assured Daddy was asleep. As far as parents went, he was much more understanding, partially because he knew things were very different, and partially because he never saw me and wanted to make a good impression. Still, the idea of him finding Edward wrapped around me made me nervous.
“It seems to be…much easier for you, now, to be closer to me.”
“It does, does it?” he murmured, his nose gliding to the corner of my jaw and down my throat. His breathing had almost stopped, and when he took breaths he turned to the side, to avoid my scent, like a swimmer reaching up for air on the down-stroke.
“Much, much easier,” I informed him, trying to control my own breathing a little.
“Hmmp.” His breath hit my skin and I shivered.
“So, uh, why is that?” My voice shook, embarrassing me. I had the two most powerful people in Titania on guard for me – my fiancé and Titania herself – and a couple weapons within my reach that could kill the monster on top of me easily enough. This boy should not have so much control over me.
I liked his control, though.
I felt the tremor of his breath as he laughed. For a moment, I was taken back to the field where, as children, Christopher and I had played our version of hide-and-go-seek. Edward’s answer brought me off of the edge of sadness that would surely proceed the memory.
“Mind over matter.” His teeth barely grazed the skin on my neck.
I pulled back; as I moved, he froze – and I could no longer hear the sound of his breathing.
My heart pounded. I knew, elves and hired killers included, I had never been so close to death. Adrenaline and just a bit of magic flooded every cell of my being. His eyes were black, despite his recent hunt. He blurred, then came back into focus; he had a water bottle in his hand. He chugged the contents, and his eyes returned to the bumblebee color I had fallen for. His jaw visibly relaxed.
“Did I do something wrong?”
“No – the opposite. You’re driving me mad,” I explained. He smiled wryly at the echo of his own words.
His smile widened into a full-blown grin, and when he spoke, he sounded pleased. “Really?” He was triumphant, and glowing, and glorious.
“Would you like a round of applause?” I asked sarcastically, trying to hide the deluge of love that burst from my heart. I was glad that there were no walls to guard it – surely it would have exploded by now.
“I’m pretty sure you have a death wish,” he said, deciding that sprawling across my chest and tucking his head underneath my chin was the most comfortable position. I felt his smile in the kisses he laid on my neck.
“I’m just pleasantly surprised, is all,” he clarified. “In the last hundred years or so,” – his voice light, teasing – “I never imagined anything like this, anyone like you. I didn’t believe I would ever find someone I wanted to be with…in another way than my family. And then to find, even though this is all new to me, that I’m good at it, good at making you laugh and gasp and just in general feel…”
“Good in all sorts of ways?”
“Yes, precisely. It’s more than I could ever want, more than I even knew I wanted. You are everything to me.”
“You’re good at everything,” I muttered. “You shouldn’t be surprised at this, too.”
“But still. Bella, you have to understand, I’ve been breaking hearts a long time. I thought that the new brunette would just be another heart to add to the collection. But then you stole mine.”
I pushed him off of me. “You sound really creepy, Edward. Another heart to add to the collection?”
He rolled his eyes. “I’m a century-old vampire. What do you expect, Bella? You should be proud of me for not being more of a creep.”
“That’s…the weirdest thing you’ve ever said to me, you monster.” My tone was only slightly teasing.
“If I remember correctly, you’re a bit of a creep yourself. You watched someone sleep?”
“It was my dad! And I’m naturally protective.”
“Creep,” Edward accused.
I had never been in such high spirits. I felt that any moment now, my eyes would widen and yellow, the only thing that I wished desperately for that was tied to goblins.
“But how can it be so easy?” I pressed. “This afternoon…”
“It’s not easy,” he sighed, bringing my wrist to his lips. “But this afternoon, I was still…unsure of my control. Unsure of myself. I was susceptible even then. Until I made up my mind that I was strong enough, that there was no possibility at all that I…that I would hurt you or…or take your life.”
I’d never seen him struggle so hard for words. It was so…human.
“So there’s no possibility now?”
“Mind over matter,” he repeated, smiling, his teeth bright even in the darkness.
“Well…that was easy.” The fantasy of Edward ruling at my side, lethal and loyal, came back up in my mind. I pushed it down, knowing it could never be.
He threw back his head and laughed, quietly as a whisper, but still exuberantly.
“Easy for you!” he amended, touching my nose with his fingertip.
And then his face was abruptly serious.
“I’m trying so, so very hard, Bella. I know that…that if it gets to be too much, I’ll be able to leave. I just…I don’t want to, which is why I’ll try even harder.”
I scowled. I didn’t like the talk of leaving, especially since I would be the one that would probably have to leave first.
“And it’s already harder,” he continued. “I had the scent of you in my head all day, and I grew amazingly desensitized. I was gone for so long, I’m basically starting over again. Not quiet from scratch, but still.”
“Don’t go away tonight. I’m sure that helps.”
“You want me here?” he asked, surprise and glee slathering his face.
“You act like you’ve never stayed overnight before,” I nagged.
He ignored my annoying attitude. “That suits me,” he replied, leaning back into the pillows on my bed. He put his arms behind his head. He was still wearing the tank top, but he had thrown on a denim jacket.
“You seem…more optimistic than usual,” I observed. “I’ve never seen you so happy.”
“I’ve never been so happy. Isn’t this how it’s supposed to be, though? The glory of first love, and all that. It’s incredible, isn’t it, the difference between reading about something, seeing it in the pictures, and experiencing it?”
My heart burst again with love. I never wanted to leave. “Very different,” I agreed, “More forceful than I imagined. I tried to be emotionless, to be a completely objective person, but I can’t be like that anymore.”
“For example” – his words flowing before I finished, but I knew he caught them – “the emotion of jealousy. I’ve read about it a hundred thousand times, seen actors portray it in the plays and the pictures. I believed I understood that one pretty clearly. But it shocked me, totally took me by surprised.” He began to relive a moment. “Do you remember the day that Mike asked you to the dance?”
I nodded, though I remembered the day for a different reason. “That was the day you started talking to me again and you fixed my truck.” It was also the day I said goodbye to Christopher, and I was so glad I did so. I wouldn’t have minded, though, if he had kept his lips out of it.
Edward rolled his eyes, momentarily distracted from his story. “Ah, yes, your truck. I swear, that night was so confusing yet thrilling.”
He waited a moment, then propped himself up on his elbow and continued. “I was surprised by the flare of resentment, almost fury, that I felt – I didn’t recognize what it was at first. I was even more aggravated than usual because I knew you were lying about your mother having cancer. Was there really something wrong, or was it just another lie that Colter was in on? I knew I had no right to care either way, so I tried not to care.
“I waited for the next day, perhaps to ask about your mother. And then, in the middle of the night, I realized I was at your house. I thought I was watching you sleep, but I soon realized that I was wrong. You hung onto the sides of the wall like it was totally normal. And as I fixed your truck and made conversation, I realized I could no longer ignore you.
“But jealousy, it’s a strange thing. So much more powerful than I would have thought. And irrational! I knew Colter was only here to keep you safe. Even I can see now that there are no strong feelings there. Even so, I became so angry…”
“Why did that make you feel jealous, though?” I asked.
“I can realize that you’ve known him for a while and you trust him. Plus he’s not that bad looking, and I’m a bit illogical when it comes to you.”
“Well, I can’t say that I’ve never thought about Rosalie, spending decades with you. Or how close you are to Alice. Though I think it’s more of a fleeting thought than an irrational obsession.”
He leaned close and brushed his nose against my cheek. “Stop teasing me, love. There’s no competition. Rose and Alice are beautiful in their own ways, but even if they weren’t my family, even if Emmett and Jasper weren’t theirs, they would never have one tenth, no, one hundredth of the attraction you hold for me.”
“Why can’t you believe the same for yourself?” I asked.
“Bella, you don’t even believe the same for yourself.”
I allowed it.
“For almost ninety years I’ve walked among my kind, and yours, all the time thinking I was complete in myself, not realizing I was seeking. And not finding anything, because you weren’t alive yet.” He smiled. “You got off pretty easily.”
“Yeah, I did.”
He chuckled softly. Then, his body went rigid and he was gone.
“Lie down!” he hissed. I could tell he was under my bed.
I didn’t, mostly because the door was already opening.
Daddy peeked his head in. “Kitten? You still awake?”
“Yeah.”
“Did Edward come back?” he asked.
“Yes. He’s hiding.”
Daddy threw a water bottle at me. “Make him drink it. Don’t stay up too late.”
“Okay. Thanks.”
He closed the door.
Edward’s eyes were burning and crazed. “What was that about? Are you trying to get me killed?!”
I handed him the now normal-bottle of blood. “Bottom’s up, sweet thang.”
“I never thought I would tire of blood,” Edward groaned after an obligatory sip.
I laughed, then leaned into his chest. He hummed a melody that was so much like the one he had hummed while he was fixing The Thing. This one was more sweet, more thought out.
“Should I sing you to sleep?”
“I don’t think I can just yet.”
“So if you don’t want to sleep…” he started. I didn’t get the innuendo until much, much later, so in the moment I just said, “Um….I guess we can talk.”
He chuckled. “What do you want to talk about?”
I didn’t answer at first, mostly because I didn’t know what to talk about. I figured he would have story after story to tell me. A hundred years surely could produce a few interesting stories. It was obvious, though, by his silence, that I was supposed to ask some questions.
I was forming a question when I felt the cool breath on my neck, his nose pulling across my jawline. “I thought you were desensitized.”
“Just because I’m resisting the wine doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the bouquet,” he whispered. “You have a very floral scent, like lavender…or freesia. It plays amazingly with the smell of your blood.” He moved his lips up to my ear. I could hear the moisture in his mouth – the venom. “It’s mouthwatering.” I believed him.
I pushed aside my sudden arousal – which he could probably smell – I said, “Yeah, it’s an off day when I don’t get somebody telling me how edible I am.”
He chuckled, and then sighed.
“I want to hear more about you,” I decided. “Why do you do it? Resist the lust for human blood? For my blood?”
He pulled back and sat up, his back again the wooden headboard. “That’s a good question. Just because I’ve been dealt a certain hand doesn’t mean I can’t rise above it, to conquer the boundaries of my destiny, to venture farther into power and control.”
“You like being with me because it gives you more control.” It wasn’t a question.
“Yes,” he agreed, unashamed. “You aren’t ever going to understand how powerful it makes me feel, being in control around you. And to touch you, a feat many vampires can’t even thinking about accomplishing without killing their victims. And loving you all the same.”
“You could get the same effect with Eva,” I said.
“Not quiet. For one, she doesn’t look as attractive to me. That’s just a statement of fact. She’s pretty in her own way, just not my way. Also, I like your personality the most of any other person I’ve ever met.” He finally added after a moment of silence, “Your status as half-fey helps, too. Fey blood smells better, and tastes better, but humans in general smell better on the skin. The heat of you combined with your floral scent and the smell of your blood…It was all I could do not to kill you the first time I met you. But I rose above that. It’s a wonderful feeling.”
“You’re pretty cocky.”
“Oh, I know,” he said, twirling a strand of hair around his fingers. His expression was so casual that I knew with every fiber of my being that he had already had an epiphany about this aspect of his life and there was no way I could ever change it. “What else do you want to know?”
“Do you remember much about your human life?” I asked.
His face softened and he smiled. “Well, I remember that story and the song. What do you call it? A locking lullaby?”
“A luring lullaby.”
“Right. That. I really don’t remember my mother’s face that well. I remember the way my mother and father laughed together. It was very sweet to hear that. My father worked tirelessly. We had old money, but he was determined to be better than a man dependent on his father’s money. It’s why he made me study harder than any of my friends seemed to. I know in my mind that I must have learned Latin and Greek and all the mathematics and law before I was changed, but I have no memory of it. I still remember how to make my grandmother’s apple pie. Besides that…it sometimes comes in flashes, especially when I’m bored. It’s hard, though, to become bored. A vampire can have multiple thoughts at once, so it’s hard to let all of those thoughts go.”
“What else are you thinking about now?” I said in a near whisper.
The question surprised him. “I’m memorizing how you look now. I’m thinking about the conversations I had at home. I’m thinking about my family, my biological family. I’m thinking about how different our worlds are.”
“Is that all?” I asked after a few beats.
He smiled. “Yes, that’s all. Anything else?”
“One more,” I said, yawning. Then I realized the question I was about it ask and I blushed.
“What is it?”
“No, forget it. I changed my mind.”
“Bella, you can ask me anything.”
I didn’t answer, and he groaned.
“I keep thinking it will get less frustrating, not hearing your thoughts. But it just gets worse and worse.” I felt like he was going to say more, but he was quiet.
“I’m glad you can’t read my thoughts. It’s bad enough that you eavesdrop on my sleep-talking.”
“Please?” His voice was begging, pleading. How could I deny him?
“Well…” I moved closer to him so he couldn’t see my face.
“Yes?”
“You said that Rosalie and Emmett will get married soon. Is that…marriage…the same as a human’s?”
He laughed in earnest now, understanding. “Is that what you’re getting at?”
I fidgeted, unable to answer.
“Yes, I suppose it is much the same,” he said. “I told you, most of those human desires are there, just hidden behind more powerful desires.”
“Do you have…that desire?”
A beat. “Yes, I do.” As if to illustrate, he ran his hand down my neck to the small of my back.
“For me?”
He snorted, then laughed again. “Who else, you silly girl?”
“And…would it be possible…” I let the sentence fade away, leaving the interpretation up to him.
He was instantly serious, I could tell by the sudden stillness of his body. I froze, too, reacting automatically.
“I don’t…think…that could be possible for for us.”
“Because it would be too hard for you to be that close?”
He pushed himself down so his head was on the pillows again. I repositioned myself so my flushed face would lay on his cool chest. “That’s certainly a problem. But that’s not what I was thinking of. It’s just that you are so soft, so fragile. I have to be mindful of every action around you so I don’t hurt you. I could kill you quiet easily, Bella, simply by accident.” His voice was a soft murmur, so much so that I had to lean up to understand him. “If I was too hasty…if for one second I wasn’t paying enough attention, I could reach out, meaning to touch your face, and crush your skull by mistake. You don’t realize how incredibly breakable you are, even with the advantages you have being connected to the magical world. I can never, never afford the price of loosing you simply because I was not in control.”
I was more than willing to give up one of my lives for him.
“Are you scared?” he asked.
“Not of you.”
He let that go with a kiss on my forehead. “I’m curious now, though,” he said, his voice a false light. “Have you ever been intimate with anyone?”
It didn’t matter how cold his chest was; I flushed even deeper. “Of course not. I told you you’re the first one to ever touch my heart.”
“I know,” he said with a soft smile weaving into his tone. “I just know people’s thoughts. I know love and lust don’t always keep the same company.”
“They do for me. Now that these feelings exist at all.” I placed a kiss on his neck and he shuddered slightly.
“That’s nice,” he said, a little breathlessly. “We have that one thing in common, at least.” He sounded satisfied.
“And we can’t read each other’s thoughts.”
He laughed. “Bella, you need to sleep,” he told my hair.
“I’m not sure I can.”
He began to hum a different song than the luring lullaby. However, it had the same effect, just much more slowly and gradual. I drifted to sleep in his cold arms.