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Lunar Eclipse

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Even after a century of life (or should I say un-life?) it never ceases to amaze me how trivial and dull the human mind is. For the past week the only thing on the minds and in the mouths of the populace of Forks High was the incoming arrival of a new student.

 

Isabella Swan, daughter to the chief of police.

 

The long awaited day had finally arrived, and the constant screeching of thoughts was becoming static in my mind and I was trying my very best to ignore it all. Throughout the day I had seen the face of the new girl in the thoughts of others, and I wasn’t entirely sure what all the ruckus was about. Sure she was attractive, for a human at least, but otherwise she seemed completely unremarkable. Brown hair and brown eyes, pale skin despite the fact she had spent most of her life in Arizona. She seemed shy, smiling and nodding politely along to conversations, offering the bare minimum to keep the discussion moving. I had yet to see her for myself, and like always I wasn’t going to go out of my way to interact with a human. New girl or not.

 

Edward. I heard Alice think my name, it rose above the static in my mind and I turned my head to look at my sister. How’s he doing? Her eyes flitted to Jasper for a millisecond and I took a moment to invade the privacy of my brother’s mind to put my sister’s at ease.

 

C onsidering Jasper’s shaky past, he was doing remarkably well. He wasn’t breathing as often as he should be, but I don’t think anyone noticed. In order to distract himself from the pounding of hearts and rushing of blood he was thinking incredibly hard about the wrestling match he had won against Emmett last night.

 

I looked at my sister and gave a slight nod, silently telling her that Jasper was okay.

 

Hey,” Emmett’s deep voice broke the silence of our lunchroom table,“There’s the new girl,”

 

I didn’t have to look at Ro salie to know she was rolling her eyes. “ I guess you’d better see what she’s thinking, Edward. We know that these children have probably filled her head with all sorts of nonsense about us by now.”

 

I sighed heavily, such was my burden. Always on the look out for any indication that our cover was under threat. I scanned the lunch room for Isabella- Bella, as I have heard she preferred to be called- and I quickly found her sitting with the Stanley girl’s friend group. From where I was sitting I could see the girl’s side profile, and I realised that the thoughts of the human boys didn’t do her justice at all. She was radiant, in an understated way, as if she were unaware of her own beauty. I furrowed my eyebrows in confusion over my sudden interest, and instead started to focus on the girls mind.

 

N othing. Complete silence.

 

I narrowed my eyes and tried harder, perhaps her mental voice was just quiet. No matter how hard I tried, I could hear nothing from the strange girl across the room.

 

I can’t hear her,” I whispered to my siblings.

 

What do you mean?” Alice asked, her head cocked to the side in confusion.

 

I mean her mind is totally silent. I can’t read her at all.”

 

T his was enough of a scandal to garner the attention of all of my siblings, who proceeded to turn their heads and stare at the girl themselves.

 

I watched as Jessica Stanley noticed our attention, and with a delighted smirk turned to Bella. “The Cullen’s are staring at you.” She whispered.

 

B ella seemed to be only barely there, and with a mouthful of food looked up at the other girl. “Huh?”

 

Jessica rolled her eyes with a nauseating giggle, “ I said , the Cullen’s are staring at you!”

 

The who are doing what now?” I couldn’t help it as my lips twitched in amusement at the poor girl’s confusion. Bella slowly turned her head to look at us, sitting in the corner of the lunch room at a table all to ourselves. Her eyes widened and I heard as she made a strange strangled sound in the back of her throat and I wasn’t sure what to make of her reaction. To her credit, she recovered quickly, plastering a look of cool calm over her face. I watched as she eyed each of my siblings in turn, and I couldn’t help but think it was as if she were carefully calculating how much of a threat we were.

 

Ludicrous. Of course there was no way for her to know anything about what we were. But the way her brown eyes studied us still put me on edge, and I wasn’t the only one.

 

I caught the tail end of one of Jasper’s thoughts. It’s as if she’s waiting for us to make a move.

 

I waited patiently as the girl’s eyes drifted over to me, and I hoped that making eye contact would help me see into her head. Deep brown eyes met mine, and her hard eyes softened a tiny amount as her head tilted to the side gently. She frowned, and an adorable dimple formed in her forehead before she shook her head slightly and turned away.

 

S till nothing but silence. How queer.

 

And?” The girl shrugged, doing a pretty good job at coming across as uncaring, but I could see the tension in her shoulders. The way she had moved to the edge of her seat as if she were getting ready to jump up at a moment’s notice, to any human she looked positively at ease, but I could only see a frightened deer preparing to bolt.

 

And!?” Jessica squeaked in a nasally voice, “You act as if it’s nothing!”

 

M y family and I had turned away from staring so openly at the new arrival, but that didn’t stop me from continuing to listen intently. Her silent mind notwithstanding, her initial reaction to us was strange and I needed to make sure that she wasn’t a threat to us. I needed to know everything I could about Bella Swan, only for the safety of my family of course.

 

Jess, she doesn’t know what we know.” Angela Webber’s kind voice interrupted.

 

Oh right!” I heard the screech of the plastic chair against the linoleum as Jessica moved closer to the girl. I couldn’t help myself from glancing at the group every now again, I was desperate to see Bella’s reaction to the local gossip that surrounded my family. “So, the Cullen’s are the adopted kids of Dr and Mrs Cullen.”

 

I watched as Bella raised an eyebrow in confusion, “Okay?”

 

I haven’t even got to the good part yet!” Jessica whined, and to my surprise Bella laughed at her new friend.

 

S he shook her head as her laughter quietened, “Oh, the good part? I can’t wait, do tell.” I could detect a level of sarcasm in her tone that made me smirk, but it was totally lost on the other girl.

 

So the best part? Is that they are all like, together. Like dating. Isn’t that just so strange?” Jessica snorted her amusement and I caught Rosalie rolling her eyes, a scowl a permanent fixture on her face.

 

It is a little strange, but I have seen stranger things.”

 

T hat caught my attention, and I looked around at my siblings to see them relaying similar thoughts in my direction. The idea of a bunch of foster kids all shaking up together usually got tongue s wagging, sometimes the odd adult would even consider calling into social services to make sure that we were well looked after. As far human standards went, our cover story was pretty damn strange. I was even more curious than before. What had Bella Swan seen in her short human life that would be considered stranger than our living arrangements?

 

I tuned back into the conversation happening across the room at just the right time. “ The only one that is single is Edward, b ut don’t get any ideas. He doesn’t date. At least no one here. Apparently no one in this school is good enough for him.” Jessica’s voice was bitter, and her thoughts were turned to the time I not so politely shut her flirtation attempts down. I could help but laugh lightly at the poor girl, she had no idea who (or what) she was dealing with.

 

B ella laughed, tipping her head back slightly in amusement, and I watched from across the room as she rose from her chair before she started to walk towards the exit. “I don’t think that’s going to be an issue.”

 

Nothing? I heard Alice’s questioning thoughts.

 

Silence.” I murmured back, “Utter silence.”

 

I considered the enigma that was Isabella Swan as I made my way to Biology and settled into my seat near the back of the room. I couldn’t help but remark that she was an incredibly attractive girl, something that I usually paid no mind to. She was taller than her peers, but not lanky, and I could tell by the way she held herself that she possessed a quiet sort of confidence, despite how shy she seemed to be. I had noticed how she walked with finesse, each footfall seemed careful and calculated and it was as if some part of her was always aware of her surroundings. I watched through the eyes of the students in the hall as she weaved around the huddled masses, her silent mind like a calm oasis amidst a tumultuous storm of thoughts and memories. I noticed how she made sure to keep her distance from the other students, and I wondered if it was a conscious decision or if she simply shied away from touch on instinct. The more I learnt about Bella, the less I seemed to know.

 

T he class was filling up quickly, and I pulled my mind back from the thoughts around me so I could at least pretend to pay attention. The door opened and I turned to see who was entering the room, and much to my delight Bella Swan stepped into the class.

 

 

 

S he had a strange sort of smile on her face, like she was not fully present but content nonetheless. When she looked around the class and saw that the only spare seat was next to me, her smile faulted and fell into a grim line. Being this close to her I could hear her heartbeat, and I noticed it stutter in her chest when our eyes met. We locked eyes for a moment, and I could see in her deep expressive eyes an internal battle occurring. She seemed to be struggling deeply with something, and in the few seconds that passed I hear d her heart beat climb faster and louder.

 

B ella looked away, and with stiff movements she walked over to Mr Banner’s desk. She cleared her throat and he looked up at her, “ Oh yes, Isabella Swan.” He greeted her with a smile.

 

I waited for her to correct him like I had heard her do all day but the ‘I prefer Bella’ never came. Instead she said. “Uhm, Mr Banner I am not feeling so well. I was wondering if I could please go to the nurses office.”

 

I frowned as Mr Banner looked the girl over, noticing her pale complexion, the wide look in her eyes, and the slight sheen of sweat on her brow. She didn’t seem sick at all, she seemed scared, terrified even. Mr Banner didn’t see what I saw, however and nodded, “Of course.”

 

B ella turned on her heel and rushed out of the classroom, and I listened to the sound of her thundering heartbeat as it resounded in the empty hallways. I listened to her hurried footsteps as she moved throughout the school, but she didn’t go to the nurses office and instead rushed outside. I heard the crunch of gravel and the sounds of a car door opening and being slammed shut. She was leaving? I couldn’t make out her mumbled words, before the deafening roar of an engine filled my ears.

 

I knew that I would have to fill my family in on this bizarre development. And soon.

 

X xXx

 

I tried my best to be patient as Carlisle returned home, I could hear him carefully taking off his coat and scarf and hanging them on the coat rack before making his way to the dining room at an annoyingly human speed. I had called a family meeting, and my siblings agreed, the new addition to Forks High needed discussing.

 

C arlisle entered the dinning room- a room that no one had ever dined in- and took his place at the head of the table. Esme entered after him, placing a chaste kiss on his cheek before sitting at his side, across from me at the table. Carlisle offered a kind smile to each of my siblings before turning his fatherly gaze to me , “Would you like to share the reason for this family meeting?”

 

There is a new girl at Forks High, Isabella Swan. She’s the Chief’s daughter.” I began, and Carlisle nodded and I could hear in his thoughts his confusion as he mentally asked for me to continue. “She reacted to us rather strangely, and whats more I can not read her mind.”

 

C arlisle leaned forward, placing his elbows on the table as he templed his hands against his lips in thought. “ When you say that she reacted strangely, what exactly are you referring to?” He said after a brief moment of contemplation.

 

When she looked at us, she seemed rather startled. Also, it was like….” I paused as I thought about what word would best suit the strange girl’s actions, “Like she was studying us.” I finished.

 

Well, son, it wouldn’t be the first time a human has reacted that way towards us. We naturally instil a certain level of fear among humans, and yet they are also drawn to us.” Carlisle responded calmly, taking his elbows off the table and leaning back in his seat.

 

It was more than that, Carlisle.” Jasper interrupted, “When we were first pointed out to her, she displayed fear, but it very quickly became confusion. Also, Edward’s right, she was studying us. I have never seen a human look us over so… methodically.” Jasper straightened up in his chair, squaring his shoulders and looking at Carlisle with stern determination. “The more she looked, the less fearful she became. By the end there was almost no fear present at all, in fact all I felt from her was… sympathy.”

 

Sympathy.” Carlisle echoed, a curious gleam in his eye. “That is certainly strange.”

 

I couldn’t help the distasteful scowl that formed on my face, if she was no longer scared of us then why had she run from me during biology? Was it just me? Did she see something in me that told her exactly what kind of monster I was? I didn’t want to bring any of this up to my family, it seemed… too personal somehow. I didn’t know why Bella was so terrified of me, but I was determined to discover why. While her silent mind would certainly be an obstacle, I would not let it deter me from my mission. Whatever secrets Isabella Swan was hiding, I would uncover them . I was sure of it.

Chapter Text

 

 

Bella Swan was certainly a strange girl, it was just difficult to put my finger on exactly why that was. On the surface she seemed entirely normal, but it was in the her small mannerisms that her queerness presented itself. It was so painfully clear to me that she was hiding something. Her movements were measured and careful, and yet she carried herself with confidence, as if she owned every space she entered. In spite of this, I could detect no arrogance from her, she would never dominate a conversation, never raise her hand in class, she let her new friends drag her around the corridors as if she were a new assessory. I could see through the eyes of others the way that she scanned every room she entered as if to check for threats and escape routes. Her behaviour seemed utterly automatic and I had to wonder if she even knew she was doing it.

 

It felt like time was slowly dripping by as I waited for lunch, and for my first chance to see Bella with my own eyes instead of through the eyes of others. I did my best to ignore Alice’s teasing thoughts, she was claiming I was obsessed with the girl. Which wasn’t true. I was interested, sure, but obsessed? That was a stretch.

 

I heard a delightful laugh sound out across the lunch room and I turned to see Bella sitting with her new group. What she saw in Jessica Stanley was beyond me. Her thoughts were vapid and shallow, her only redeeming quality was that she seemed to genuinely like Bella, even if she only started to befriend her for the bump it would give to her social status.

 

Jessica glanced in my direction before quickly turning to Bella, “Edward Cullen is staring at you.” she whispered conspiratorially.

 

Bella glanced over her shoulder, when our eyes met I wanted to offer her a friendly smile but before I could she quickly frowned at me and turned back around to face her friends. “Someone should tell him that it’s really rude to stare at people.” Her tone was clearly irritated and I quickly turned my face away so I was no longer looking at her.

 

Yeah, bro. So rude . Emmett thought in my direction. I glowered at him coldly, but it just caused him to smirk.

 

I don’t know Bella. He usually keeps to himself, this isn’t normal for him.” I heard Angela Weber speak up. I grimaced, I didn’t realise I was being so obvious. This wasn’t how I wanted things to go at all.

 

Exactly, Edward. Stop staring at the girl, it’s suspicious. Rosalie’s thoughts were like a sneer, and her scowling face matched her thoughts perfectly.

 

I don’t know Angela, nothing about Edward Cullen seems normal to me.” Bella responded, her tone was playful but I couldn’t help but feel like there was some hidden meaning to her words. Like there was some private joke that only she were privy to.

 

T he Newton boy chortled loudly, “You got that right, Bella. The whole lot of them are a bunch of weirdo’s”

 

Aren’t we all?” Bella responded coldly, all measure of humour gone from her tone. I saw through Newton’s thoughts that she was frowning at him.

 

S trange girl. I didn’t want to listen to their conversation any longer, so I stood up and got rid of my prop lunch before I headed to biology. I coldly ignored my sibling’s teasing thoughts of ‘good luck’ and ‘don’t scare the new human’ as I walked away from them.

 

I sat down in my regular seat in biology, and then I waited. I ignored the other students as they slowly filed in and found their seats, and as the beginning of class came closer I could hear a stuttering jack hammer heart beat just before Bella walked into the room. She wasn’t looking at me, rather she was staring down the chair next to me, before she slowly trudged forward like a condemned man walking towards the guillotine. Was I that repulsive?

 

I had to force myself to keep a neutral expression on my face as she came closer. She dropped her bag on the ground, it landed with a heavy thump and I had to wonder what the hell she kept in there for it to make such a sound. It sounded like she lugged around every one of her textbooks with her, and then some, but that would have been entirely too heavy for such a slight girl to handle. Bella sat on the edge of the chair, and scooted as far away from me as the desk would allow. I watched from the corner of my eye as her tongue slowly damped her lips, before she took a deep breath. Her entire body stiffened as it waiting for a physical blow, before she relaxed entirely.

 

I took a breath of my own, and was instantly over washed with the most bewitching scent I had ever encountered. I waited for the rapid fire burn in the back of my throat, and was confused by the lack of thirst her delicious scent invoked. Bella’s scent of honeysuckle and ripe strawberries was sweet and natural, and yet also completely unnatural in the way my body responded to it. I had no desire to sink my teeth into her neck, but I did want to be close to her, to be able to breath in that scent and surround myself with it for the rest of eternity. It was like I was ensnared, trapped by this odd beauty that sat next to me.

 

B ella took another deep breath, and as she did so I could hear her heartbeat slow down its panicked beat. She shifted in her seat, moving towards me a tiny amount. I figured I should say something, I just wasn’t sure how to do so without scaring her like I had yesterday. I turned to face her, “Hello, my name is Edward Cullen. You must be Bella?” I spoke softly, as not to frighten her.

 

S he peaked a glance in my direction, her eyes flitting to my face before darting back to stare at the desk top. “ Hi,” She said quickly, it was almost a whimper. I didn’t want her to be afraid of me, and I needed to do something to change her perspective of me. I already knew that I needed to be near her, her scent was like a siren’s call drawing me inwards.

 

I didn’t get the chance to introduce myself yesterday. It seems you fell ill?” I continued, trying to keep my voice friendly.

 

B ella shrugged, her hair fell away from her shoulders with the movement and cascaded down her back in gentle waves. “Uh, yeah. I just didn’t feel great.”

 

T hat wouldn’t do. She was lying to me, hiding something. Hiding the reason she was so deeply afraid of me yesterday. I wasn’t sure how I could go about asking her about it without giving away how I knew, but before I could figure it out the teacher started the class.

 

P aper’s were distributed and students started to pull out textbooks and whisper to their partners as they tried to answer the set of questions. I watched as Bella studied the question list, flipping it over to scan over the back before turning it to the front once again before she started to scribble in her answers with furious determination. So, she was smart, very smart if the speed of her writing was any indication.

 

How are you liking Forks so far?” I inquired in what I hoped was a friendly tone,

 

Good,” She didn’t look up from her work sheet, “It’s nice to be closer to my Dad.” A gentle smile curled on her lips as she spoke about her father, I smiled as well even though she wasn’t looking at me. Something about seeing her smile made me want to make her do it again.

 

H er answer seemed like a n inroads to her working mind, how she came to the decision to live here would give me at least some answers. “ Is that why you moved here? To be closer to your Father?”

 

Not really.” She said simply and I resisted the urge to huff like a petulant child. This conversation was like pulling teeth, every time I thought I was getting anywhere it was like she put up a verbal road block. How I wished I could read her mind! It would make all this so much easier. What thoughts was she hiding in her head? She didn’t seem to have to think all that hard about the questions on the sheet in front of her, and I watched as she wrote down her detailed responses with fervour. Was she even thinking about that? Or were the answers automatic, and her mind elsewhere?

 

Why did you then?” I asked, and my sudden question seemed to pull her out of some sort of trance.

 

Huh? Why did I what?” She looked over to me, her eyebrows furrowed adorably and a confused sort of frown on her face.

 

I couldn’t help but smile at her, she truly was a beautiful girl, even in her confusion. Move to Forks?” I clarified.

 

B ella’s eyes flickered over my face, seeming to take in every little detail. She studied m e relentlessly, and as I listened to her heartbeat I was relieved to find that it wasn’t speeding up into a frenzied panic like it had yesterday. Bella looked deeply into my eyes, it was like she was trying to find something there that no one else could see. Maybe I was just as much of an enigma to her as she was to me. She sat there, staring at me for a while and I was starting to become concerned for her. I frowned slightly, and I was about to ask her if she was okay before she snapped out of whatever spell she had found herself under. “ It’s complicated.” She snipped, before turning back to her work sheet.

 

O ne minute she is staring at me as if I held the answers to the universe in my eyes, and the next she was snapping at me like I had personally offended her. I really didn’t understand her at all . “ I think I can keep up.” I replied somewhat snarkily.

 

B ella huffed out and for a second I was worried that she wasn’t going to answer me. She turned her work sheet over angrily and wrote down her answer before she replied. “My mom got remarried.” She didn’t look at me as she answered my question.

 

I frowned in confusion, that didn’t seem all too complicated. “And what? You don’t like the guy… or?” Come on, give me something . Anything I could work with, any little clue about you. Let me know you. Please .

 

S he looked at me now, as if she had heard my silent plea. Her brown eyes seemed to hold maturity beyond her years, as if she held deep secrets that aged her. “My Mom just didn’t really want me around him.” She uttered as she pulled her gaze away from me.

 

 

I blinked in shock at her statement, and I watched as she grimaced to herself. She obviously hadn’t meant to let that slip and I rejoiced in this small victory. This small morsel she had shown me, a tiny glimpse into her true self, was a precious thing that I would treasure forever. I couldn’t for the life of me understand why her mother wouldn’t want Bella around, it seemed… c ruel .

 

That doesn’t sound…” I wanted to tell her what I thought, and that her mother sounded cruel, but I thought that saying that would do more to drive her away, so instead I said. “Nice.”

 

B ella was quick to defend her mother, “I wasn’t an easy kid to raise.”

 

My dead heart seemed to break for her, “I’m sure that’s not true.” I murmured, wishing that I could reach out to comfort Bella. I wasn’t sure where all these urges were coming from, never had I felt the need to touch a human, much less comfort one. But for some reason Bella was different.

 

B ella hastily wrote down her final answer on her work sheet, and when she looked up to meet my eye her face was ablaze in quiet anger. “You don’t know anything about me.” Her eyes narrowed at me as her cold words hit me in the chest like a wrecking ball.

 

S he rose from her chair and stalked to the front of the classroom to turn in her worksheet, and I quickly filled in my own as I listened to her talk to the teacher. Bella was right, I didn’t know anything about her, but I wanted to. If only she would let me. She certainly wasn’t making things easy for me. Between her silent mind and strange answers I was becoming more confused by the second. My ears pricked up when I heard the teacher mention me to Bella, and then I was saddened when I heard her scoff.

 

To be honest with you, Mr Banner. Edward isn’t as much help as you would think.” Was that a hint of jest in her tone? Was she teasing me? Surely not. Bella was at the front of the classroom, there would be no way that she could know that I would be able to hear her conversation. Then again, Bella seemed to know things she shouldn’t. She responded to her friends so acutely, so in tune to their reactions and emotions almost as if she could read their minds. She chatted with them like one would an old friend you’ve known for years, not someone you’ve known for all of two days. Intuitive. That was the only way that I could describe her, Bella Swan was scarily intuitive.

 

B ella waltzed back towards our table, a small smirk on her lips. She sat down and grabbed her backpack, ripping open the zip and unceremoniously shoving her worksheet inside. I could hear the paper scrunch and crinkle as she stuffed it down between her books. Bella root ed around in her bag for a moment before she produced a thick paperback book. The spine had many creases in it, and the pages were yellowed, either this was a well-loved book that she re-read many times, or it was a preowned book. I needed to know which it was.

 

I managed to peek a look at the title, and I was mildly shocked to see it was a Lovecraft Anthology. Bella didn’t look like the type of girl to enjoy reading about Eldritch horrors from other dimensions. Bella opened her book, and I smirked at her choice of book-mark. It was an old crinkled receipt, maybe it was the receipt f or the book itself, or maybe was it just the first thing she found to keep her place. “ Do you like horror?” I asked innocently.

 

B ella paused her reading and looked over at me, “Not really,” She chirped happily before turning back to her book.

 

What a completely contrary creature! Thoroughly inconsistent, and damn near disagreeable! Never before had I had to work so hard to maintain a simple conversation before, and it was beginning to set my teeth on edge. I took a deep breath in an attempt to calm myself, and I was surprised to find that when I inhaled her heavenly scent it instantly soothed my nerves, making my aggravation disappear in a puff of smoke.

Then, why Lovecraft?” I asked, tilting my head slightly to the side in my confusion.

 

I watched as Bella’s shoulders fell slightly, she then moved slowly, each action very deliberate in their execution. She replaced the receipt-turned-bookmark and closed her book. She used her palm to flatten the worn and creased paper before she folded her hands neatly on top. I eagerly awaited her response, if she didn’t like horror what did she like I wondered? Was she a fan of romance? Did she usually spend her days reading about dashing heroes rescuing the girl? Or was she an avid consumer of adventure, surrounding herself with stories of long sea journeys and sword fights?

 

Bella turned from her interlocked fingers to look directly at me. “I’m more interested in Lovecraft as a man, than I am in his literately works.”

 

T hat was not the response I was expecting, and I was beginning to come to terms with the fact that Bella would never respond in a way that would make any sense to me. For a moment I considered that I had become entirely too reliant on my gift, and that without it I was socially inept. I dismissed that thought quickly. I wasn’t the problem here, it was Bella who was completely peculiar.

 

If you don’t like horror, what genre do you like?” I asked, hopefully I would be able to get a straightforward answer this time.

 

B ella shifted in her seat and pursed her lips slightly, “What’s with all the questions?”

 

I looked at her curiously, “Isn’t that what people do? Ask questions to get to know a person?”

 

Well according to my friends, you usually keep to yourself.” Her voice was accusatory, and I watched as she tried to bring herself up to my height, her shoulders firmly squared and her eyes hardened as she stared me down.

 

I couldn’t help myself but smile widely at the display, she looked like a tiny kitten hissing and puffing up its tail in an attempt to scare off a lion. “ I find you particularly hard to read.” I spoke through my smile, it was true that I usually kept to myself, simply because no one interested me in the way Bella Swan did. All that was in their heads was clearly on display and utterly mundane , and their spoken thoughts were no better. Bella’s silent mind was a puzzle to me, and every time she opened her mouth to speak I was just pulled deeper into her web. Bella surprised me again by laughing loudly at my statement, “Did I say something funny?” I frowned in confusion.

 

B ella’s eyes were glittering with humour when she replied “No, no not really. It’s just you-” She hastily cut herself off, she then frowned a tiny bit as she cleared her throat. “You say I’m hard to read, but my dad says I’m an open book.”

 

T hat didn’t sound right. She was clearly about to say something else, but stopped herself. What in the world was Bella Swan hiding? “You certainly are a strange girl.” I muttered.

 

B ella laughed again, and I silently delighted in the sound as the bell rang out to signal the end of class. She slung her backpack over her shoulder as if it weighed nothing before smirking at me, “You’re one to talk.”

 

B efore I could ask what she meant by that, she almost ran out of the classroom. I frowned at her retreating form, I didn’t think that I was all that strange. Hell, compared to her I was downright normal.

Chapter Text

 

“So… she smells really good, but you don’t want to eat her?” Emmett asked doubtfully as he tossed the football from one hand to the other, before he launched it at me with startling speed. It was a bright sunny day in Forks, one of many according to Alice, and so my brothers and I were standing waist deep in the river behind our house as we chatted.

 

I caught the ball with ease, “No, not at all.” I confirmed, before I threw the ball to Jasper.

 

Jasper caught it and studied me like I was a strange creature in a zoo, “Not even a little bit?” He raised a single suspicious eyebrow in my direction.

 

“No, Jasper. Not even a little bit.” I droned, I could see the doubt in Jasper’s mind and I rolled my eyes at the sudden influx of fictitious situations that I could find myself in. “Well of course, I imagine if she were bleeding profusely in front of me I would have some difficulty, but as it stands I just don’t have any desire to-”

 

Tear her throat out with your teeth?” Emmett cut me off with a teasing grin as he caught the ball Jasper had thrown at him.

 

Not helpful.” I glowered, which only made Emmett grin wider as he threw the ball to me. “Have either of you encountered this?” I asked as I turned the ball over in my hands before throwing it casually to Jasper.

 

I’ve never been close enough to the girl to notice her scent, but I will be sure to make more of an effort when we get back to school.” Emmett winked as he raised his hands to receive the ball from Jasper.

 

A peculiar bolt of anger flared through me at the thought and Jasper raised an enquiring eyebrow at me before smirking. “Ooh, careful there Em. Seems Edward’s mighty attached to the human already.” He teased as he launched the ball into Emmett’s waiting hands.

 

I wanted to deny it, but I knew doing so would only make the pair of them pile on further, so instead I said. “Utterly useless, the pair of you. I meant have either of you come across a human, who’s scent was beyond description, and yet did nothing to increase your thirst?”

 

As I finished my question I threw the ball to Jasper, he didn’t move to catch it, instead letting it land in the water with a splash. Both of my brothers were staring at me as if I had grown a second head. Emmett’s thoughts were filled with memories of when he had encountered his singer, and how he couldn’t stop himself from tearing into her neck and splattering the woman’s clean laundry with her own blood. Jasper, who had never encountered a singer, was instead considering all the humans he had turned or feasted upon during his time in the Southern Vampire Wars. Eventually both my brothers came out of their memories, seemingly having come to the same conclusion. My experience with Bella was wholly unique.

 

J asper snatched up the football that had started to drift away with the current, “No. I can’t say I have, brother.” Silently in his head I heard him berate himself for the amount of human lives he had taken, choices he had made decades ago on which human to feed from based on which smelt sweeter. He grimaced to himself as he angrily threw the football in Emmett’s direction.

 

E mmett had to jump slightly to catch the wayward ball, and when he landed he shrugged in my direction. “Sorry… Maybe she’s not human?”

 

I scoffed and rolled my eyes, “Of course she’s human. What else could she be?” What an absurd notion. Bella Swan had a heartbeat, she was flesh and blood, the only strange thing about her was her silent mind.

 

I could hear Rosalie’s footsteps on the grass as she approached, and I turned just in time for her to come into view. She eyed the three of us with thinly veiled scorn, shirtless and standing in the river, pale skin glistening like a thousand diamonds in the sunlight as we threw a football between us. You’re all a bunch of children, seriously. She thought derisively, but I could detect an undercurrent of affection in her thoughts. Rosalie turned to Emmett, “Are you just about done here? I want to go hunting.” Rosalie studied her fingernails while she waited for Emmett’s response.

 

E mmett beamed at his mate and quickly threw the football to me without so much as a backwards glance before he charged through the water towards Rose. “ Don’t you dare-” Rose’s warning was cut off by Emmett scooping her up in his arms. She squealed as Emmett started to run them back towards the house, “You’re all wet! Put me down! ” She was trying to sound angry, but her peels of laughter gave her away as Emmett ran them up to their room to get changed.

 

 

X xXx

 

The warm pulsing blood gushed from the open wound on the deer’s neck, and as I clamped my mouth around the torn flesh it kicked and wailed in a futile attempt to free itself from my hold. I drank greedily, and when the creatures heart came to a stuttering stop I pulled what little blood I could from the quickly cooling corpse. I slowly stood up with a dissatisfied scowl on my face, the blood of a herbivore would certainly sustain me but it did almost nothing to quell the thirst that raged in my throat. It was the last day I would have to hunt without worrying about being home in time to leave for school, and I had hoped to make the most of it.

 

Edward? I heard Carlisle’s mental voice call out for me.

 

Here, Carlisle.” I replied as I slashed at the deer’s corpse with my razor sharp fingernails. I doubted that it would be discovered by a roaming hiker this far off a trail, but I didn’t want to leave it to chance. At least this way it would look like a wolf was responsible for the carnage.

 

I could hear his footsteps as he changed direction to meet up with me, I was planning on heading up the mountain, to see if I could find some larger game. Care to join me? Carlisle directed his thoughts to me, and I could see flashes of wolves and mountain lions in his mind.

 

I waited until Carlisle came into view, “I’d like that.” Carlisle smiled warmly at me and took off at a sprint, I ran along after him and quickly caught up and came to run at his side. As much as I tried to keep out of my family’s heads sometimes I couldn’t help it, and running alone in the forest with Carlisle I couldn’t help but over hear his thoughts as he debated with himself on how best to begin what he was anticipating to be a difficult conversation.

 

Just speak your mind, Carlisle.” I said with a small hint of jest in my tone.

 

Jasper told me that you have developed an interest in the chief’s daughter, Bella Swan.” Carlisle began slowly, gauging my reaction.

 

I silently cursed my brother, “I have not developed an interest .” I scowled, “I find the girl interesting, sure, but that’s it.”

 

We turned in tandem, heading up the mountain. “It’s okay if you have, son. You have been alone for a long time,” Carlisle paused for a moment, “It’s perfectly natural to crave some… companionship.”

 

It’s not like that, Carlisle.” The moment I said it, I knew it was a lie. My interest in Bella Swan wasn’t exactly platonic. She held my interest in a way no one else ever had, and I had no way of explaining it. Her scent was entrancing, I wanted to be close to her in any capacity that she would allow. But I couldn’t think like that, Bella was human, fragile and mortal. I would never put her in danger.

 

X xXx

 

When Monday finally arrived I was relieved, I would finally be able to see Bella again. My relief became worry when I couldn’t find her in the thoughts of the other students, and for a moment I thought that she wasn’t going to be coming to school today. I was sitting in my first class when I heard the sound of her truck roaring its way into the school parking lot.

 

M y mind was torn, half listening to the lecture going on in front of me and the other half listening to the thoughts of the people in Bella’s first class. Righteous fury roiled through me when I saw Bella through the mind of her English teacher. Bella had a large bruise nearly encompassing the entire left side of her face, the bruise seemed to be a few days old, bluish in the centre but yellow and green around the edges in various states of healing. And her lips, my God her beautiful lips, on her bottom lip there was a small cut and a small bruise blossomed out around it.

 

I t didn’t escape the notice of the students around her, and I was immediately bombarded with all of their thoughts and theories of what had happened. I couldn’t stop myself from becoming consumed by it, and I had to know what had caused Bella to come to harm. A powerful urge to protect her coursed through me, but I stopped myself from indulging those feelings or investigating them further . I couldn’t begin to entertain the notion of something beyond a simple friendship between me and this strange human. My urge to protect her included the desire to protect her from myself.

 

I listened into Bella’s conversation with her friends at lunch, and I was glad to see that her friends were actually worried about her. However her excuse of falling down an embankment while hiking fell flat. The only explanation that made sense in my mind was that someone had hurt her, and she was lying to protect them. Whoever it was wasn’t going to live long enough to do it a second time.

 

 

W aiting for Bella to come to biology was torture. The fact we were lab partners seemed to be the only logical excuse I could find to talk to her. I was worried that if I approached her outside of class that it would raise suspicions among her friends.

 

When she finally walked into class I noticed that her bruises already looked better, more healed. Which was ridiculous, since only a few hours had passed since this morning, and yet I was looking at the evidence walk towards me. Bella’s eyes fell to the microscope and box of slides on the lab table and she smile d , her eyes twinkling in happiness. She quickly settled down in her seat and listened to Mr Banner as he rattled on about the lab we were doing.

 

I tried to be discreet as I stared at Bella, her bruise no longer had any smudges of blue or purple and instead was all yellowing and greenish as it entered the final stages of healing. I was still trying to figure out a way to bring up the subject of her bruised and battered face when Bella quickly grabbed the microscope and clipped in the first slide. She expertly adjusted the instrument before she looked down the lens , I didn’t miss her wince as it scrapped over her bruise.

 

Anaphase.” Bella declared quickly,

 

I raised an eyebrow in confusion, there was no greeting no ‘how are you’, she was just straight down to business. “ Mind if I check?”

 

B ella scoffed and rolled her eyes as she pushed the microscope across the lab table, “Be my guest.”

 

She was clearly in a bad mood, although I couldn’t puzzle out why. Once again I found myself wishing I could read her mind, if I knew why she was upset I would be able to do something about it.

 

I quickly checked the slide, “Anaphase.” I confirmed as I wrote the answer on the work sheet.

 

Yup, like I said.” Bella scowled,

 

I didn’t want to upset her anymore that I already had, but I also had to have answers. “So, what happened?” I quickly clipped in the next slide and checked it, “Prophase.”

 

Bella seemed to ignore my question as she stared at me with hard eyes, “Mind if I check?” she snarked.

 

I bit back a smile as I silently pushed the microscope towards her. Bella was almost adorable in her anger, but I couldn’t let her see that I thought that. She stuck me as the kind of girl who wouldn’t appreciate being called adorable . S

 

B ella looked at the slide, “Prophase.” She seemed reluctant to admit that I was correct.

 

Like I said,” I replied, using her words from before. I tried to catch her eye before I said, “Are you going to tell me?”

 

B ella fiddled with the slides, “I fell over while hiking,” she muttered bitterly as she checked the new slide “Interphase.” Before I had the chance to say anything she shoved the microscope in my direction.

 

I bit back a frustrated sigh as I checked the slide and wrote down the answer. “ I don’t think that’s the truth.” I challenged carefully. I wanted her to know she could trust me, that she could let me in and I wouldn’t see it as a sign of weakness. I wanted her to want to be my friend as much as I wanted to be hers . As I waited for her to reply I clipped in the next slide, “Metaphase.”

 

Bella quickly checked my answer, “And are you the arbiter of all things truthful?” She mocked, and I could see from the corner of my eye she was looking at me. I made a show of writing down the last two answers on the sheet carefully, once I was finished I slowly turned to face her.

 

No, but I can tell when you’re being untruthful.” I said softly. I looked at her worryingly as I imagined all the different ways she could have been hurt.

 

What happened to me being hard to read?” Bella smirked playfully and I couldn’t help mirroring her expression with my own teasing smile.

 

Don’t worry, you are still a mystery to me.” I teased her gently and I rejoiced in the way her eyes glistened happily and her heart sputtered nervously under the gaze of my smile. I couldn’t explain why Bella Swan made me feel the way she did, and to be honest I didn’t care to. I shifted closer to her, “Are you going to tell me the truth now?” I implored.

 

B ella cleared her throat, “I got into a fight.” she murmured.

 

T hat didn’t seem likely, but I could see no indication she was lying to me. Her heartbeat, while a little elevated, was steady, and she was calm and composed with her answer. I frowned in confusion, “ You got into a fight?” I made no effort to hide my astonishment, “With who?”

 

B ella eyes left mine and stared down at the lab table, “I don’t know.” She muttered angrily before she glanced in my direction.

 

You don’t know who you got into a fight with?” I repeated dubiously. Bella didn’t seem like the type of person to pick fights with random people, hell she didn’t seem like the type of person to get into fights at all. Suddenly Bella’s anger seemed less adorable and more… tangible. I tried to reconcile this new piece of information with the things I already knew about her, and the things I had assumed. Was Bella quick to anger? Or was she defending herself? Did her father know about this fight? Hell, her father was chief of police, surely he not only knew but knew exactly who was involved. There was no whispers of arrests in the thoughts of any of the students or adult staff, so I could determine with some confidence that if Bella’s father had indeed found the person responsible for Bella’s injuries that they weren’t arrested for them.

 

B ella’s nose wrinkled as she narrowed her eyes at me, “Yes, that’s right.”

 

I wanted to ask more questions, but Mr Banner interrupted me before I had the chance. Without greeting either of us he grabbed our answer sheet from the table. He scanned it slowly, his thoughts loud and clear. This boy is such a show off sometimes. I don’t mind having an intelligent student, but not if he’s going to take learning opportunities away from others.

 

Mr Cullen, you didn’t think Isabella deserved a chance with the microscope?” He frowned at me.

 

I was quick to defend myself, “Actually, Bella answered 3 out of the 5.”

 

Mr Banner nodded Great. Now there’s two of them.Yes, I see. Good job.” He dropped the paper back on the table and I turned back to Bella, eager to finish our conversation.

 

How can you not remember who you got in a fight with?” I asked exasperatingly.

 

Oh you know how it is. So many assholes, so little time. You lose track of them all eventually.” Bella shrugged before she ducked down and grabbed her backpack. She hauled it onto her lap and rummaged through it for a moment before she produced her book.

 

I wanted to say something else, anything else, but Bella’s entire body screamed leave me alone! She had hunched down onto herself, shielding her face from me with her hair. I slumped back on the lab stool and frowned to myself. There had to be something I could do to show Bella she could trust me, that I could be a good friend. I had never had to worry about making human friends before, and I was ashamed to admit that I was a little out of my depth. As I stole a glance at Bella I resolved to ask Carlisle for advice on how to befriend my enigmatic lab partner.

Chapter Text

 

 

Carlisle was in his office reading a medical journal, and I was hiding in my room. I needed to ask his advice, but I didn’t want to do so with Emmett still in the house so I was impatiently waiting for Rosalie to take him hunting. I knew that without Emmett to egg him on, Jasper wouldn’t give me any grief when I asked Carlisle for advice on how to befriend Bella Swan.

 

Finally, I heard the pair leave the house and I waited until they were out of ear shot before I started to make my way towards Carlisle’s office. I paused outside the large double oak doors for a moment before I found the courage to knock.

 

Come in . Carlisle thought pointedly in my direction.

 

I opened the doors and softly closed them behind me. Carlisle was sitting behind his mahogany desk, lounging back comfortably as he read. I approached him and sat opposite on one of the wing-back chairs. Carlisle finished the page he was reading before he closed his book and gave me a warm smile, “What can I do for you, son?”

 

I didn’t know where to begin, and I briefly wished Carlisle could read my mind rather than the other way around. “ I need some advice.” I began

 

C arlisle frowned, “What’s troubling you?”

 

I want to befriend Bella, but I find myself…” I paused for a moment, “Experiencing some difficulties.” I eventually said.

 

Difficulties?” Carlisle repeated neutrally.

 

I sighed and ran a frustrated hand through my hair, “She’s a challenging girl, every time I speak with her she responds in a way I find entirely queer.”

 

I t was impossible to miss Carlisle’s amusement with my situation no matter how much he tried to hide it. “Yes, sometimes humans can surprise us.” He relented with an amused smirk,

 

Dad, please.” I sighed, “I don’t know what to do here. I don’t know how to talk to her, she confounds me completely.”

 

Perhaps that’s a good thing.” Carlisle suggested.

 

I stared at him agape, “How can that be a good thing?” I grumbled,

 

Carlisle offered me a fatherly smile, “You want my advice?” He asked and I quickly nodded, “Just keep trying, ask her questions about herself, find some common ground. Friendships don’t just happen, they take work.” Perhaps she confuses him so much because he fancies her, I wonder if his desire to befriend her is not something more romantic.

 

I made a point to ignore Carlisle’s inner musings, “Alright, I’ll try. Thanks Carlisle.” I slowly stood up,

 

Anytime, son.” Carlisle replied.

 

I didn’t want to admit to myself, let alone Carlisle, that I was indeed smitten with Bella. Nothing good could come of it, and if I were a better man I would leave the poor girl alone entirely. As luck would have it, I was not a better man, hell I was barely a man at all.

 

 

X xXx

 

I crossed my arms over my chest and lent against my car as I stared across the school parking lot. I didn’t want to go inside yet, I wanted to make sure Bella turned up and that she was okay. Perhaps I could go over to her and offer to walk her to her first class, that’s something that friend’s did, right?

 

I heard the deafening roar of her truck’s engine well before I saw it. Bella carefully drove into the lot and parked across from me. I noticed that her side mirror was gone, snapped clean off. I frowned at the sight, that wasn’t very safe and I hoped she fixed it soon. I briefly wondered how it had happened. Did she get into an accident? When would she have found the time? Between this and the bruises I was beginning to think the girl was just a magnet for danger.

 

I tried not to be obvious as I watched Bella get out of her truck. She slammed the door as if she were personally angry with the vehicle, and then she paused. Bella slowly moved to the back of the truck and she bent slightly to look at her tyres.

 

B ella seemed to hear it the same time I did. The terrible sound of screeching tyres against asphalt caused her to bolt upright . I looked across the lot to see the blue van skidding out of control on the ice, and heading straight for Bella.

 

I could see what was about to happen in my mind’s eye. The images clear in my head, as if I had temporarily gained my sister’s gift. The van would continue to serve out of control and Bella would become trapped between her truck and the oncoming vehicle. Her small, fragile body would bend and break and bleed as she cried out in pain. No one would be able to help her, no one would be strong enough to pull her from the wreckage as she continued to bleed out onto the asphalt. Red blood pooling against the black ground. Her cries for help would slowly weaken, and eventually stop as her heart eventually beat its last. Bella Swan would die a painful death.

 

N o. I would not allow it.

 

I was moving before I even formulated a plan. My only thought was that I had to do anything to protect Bella. I had to save her. A rush of vampiric impulses drowned out any rational thought.

 

Protect her. Save her. Mine.

 

I rushed across the parking lot, moving faster than I ever had before, and I grabbed Bella in my arms. I pulled her against my chest protectively. I heard her whimper from the force of my embrace, but I couldn’t stop to think about it, she still wasn’t safe . I had pushed her out of the way of the van, but it hit the end of Bella’s truck and once again veered towards us. I could feel Bella’s panicked struggles, but she was helpless against my supernatural strength.

 

 

 

I swiftly raised my hand, and the side of the van crumpled around my iron skin.

 

 

 

 

I could feel Bella’s frenzied heart beat. I was still holding her firmly against my chest and her warm body pulsated against mine as she collected herself from the terrifying experience. Slowly, I was coming back to myself. Gradually my head cleared and I was able to think clearly, rationally, no longer driven by the animalistic impulse to protect.

 

What the hell had I done?

 

I had saved Bella’s life, but at what cost?

 

There was a roar of activity around us and I did my best to ignore the yelling and screaming, both mental and verbal. I needed to fix this, and I needed to fix this now . I needed to determine what Bella saw, and then somehow get her to believe that she didn’t see anything .

 

B ella had begun to squirm in my arms again, but I didn’t let her go. I circled my arms around her warm body and held her against me. I tried not to think too much about how much I enjoyed having her so close.

 

Be careful, Bella. I think you hit your head.” I whispered in her ear, trying to ooze every ounce of charisma I had into the words.

 

Bella shook her head angrily, “No, I didn’t. I’m fine.” She argued adamantly.

 

I resisted the urge to sigh, “You should stay still anyway, until the paramedics come.”

 

Bella’s eyes widened dramatically as she renewed her struggle. She was wriggling and writhing in my arms and I didn’t need to read her mind to understand the sheer amount of panic that she was experiencing due to my words. I couldn’t for the life of me understand why the mere thought of paramedics would make her so terrified. It was more than anxiety, or perhaps a fear of needles or hospitals, no this was complete and utter terror. A completely animalistic fear response, as if the idea of going to a hospital was likeable to her own execution.

 

I could hear her heart beat rapidly in her chest, “No!” She gasped out in a desperate attempt to plead her case. Her wide doe brown eyes stared up at me, and the fear I could see in there broke my undead heart.

 

Bella continued to struggle, and part of me wanted to release her, to try and ease her fears and her worries, but I couldn’t. I needed to keep her still long enough to determine what risks she now posed to me and my family. Bella planted her hands against my chest and their warmth seemed to seep into my very soul. A soul I had long since thought I had lost, but having her touch me renewed my faith.

 

Bella pressed her hands against me, she furrowed her brow and… shoved me.

 

With more strength than was humanly possible, Bella Swan pushed me away from her.

 

I was stunned. Wide eyed with shock I watched as Bella stood up in the tight space between the two vehicles and dusted off her top and pants as if what had just happened was a minor incident and not a brush with death itself. It was incomprehensible, simply impossible. There was no way she should be able to push me away like that. How could a small, fragile, human girl posses so much strength?

 

Emmett’s ludicrous jibe about her humanity suddenly came rushing back. Good Lord, what if he was right? What if Bella was… something else? No. I couldn’t believe it. Everything else about her screamed human, that it was foolhardy to think otherwise. Besides, if Emmett was right I would never hear the end of it.

 

I still hadn’t moved from where I sat on the damp ground, and I continued to stare stupidly up at Bella as she grabbed the side of her truck and jumped onto the bed of the truck with elegance and grace.

 

I could hear Bella’s friend’s frantic screeching as they saw her appear. I did my best compose myself as I stood up. I frowned down at the hand-shaped dent in the van and discreetly manipulated the metal to look less… hand-shaped. I could hear my sibling’s thoughts from across the lot, decades of exposure meant that I was particularly in tune to their minds. Varying degrees of shock and anger emanated towards me, along with some colourful threats from Rosalie. I immediately wanted to tell them what had happened, that I had momentarily lost control of myself and my instincts. I also wanted to tell them about Bella’s unnatural strength, but I was somewhat hesitant to do so. It just seemed so outrageous, so incredibly ridiculous I was sure that my family wouldn’t believe me.

 

I jumped up onto the bed of Bella’s truck just in time to hear her loudly exclaim how I had saved her life.

 

“What? He wasn’t anywhere near you.” Angela Weber replied.

 

“Actually, I was just walking past when I saw what was happening.” I quickly interrupted, hoping to do away with any doubts as to my role in today's events.

 

Bella spun around and when she saw me crouching on the bed of her truck she smiled warmly up at me, “Need a hand?” She asked as she held out her hand for me. I was once again, stunned. Rendered momentarily mute by her kindness and beauty. I had no doubt that she had witnessed my horrible display, and yet here she was, willingly offering to help me. I placed my ice cold hand in hers, and I silently relished in her warmth as I curled my fingers around hers. I did my best to place minimal weight on her as I jumped out of the truck.

 

“You should really let someone check you out, you could be concussed.” I implored her.

 

Bella took a minuscule step back, moving away from me and taking her hand out of mine. I immediately missed the contact. What was it about her that drove me to insanity?

 

Bella’s demeanour changed, and her posture became tight and defensive. “I’m fine!” She sneered, her eyes narrowed as she looked me over with calculating eyes. “What about you?” She demanded, “Maybe you need to be checked out by the paramedics.”

 

Bella stared me down, as if she were silently daring me to argue with her. I think we both knew that I didn’t need any medical assistance. Our stalemate was broken as the ambulance came rushing onto the scene, quickly followed by a police car. I could see that it was the Chief who was arriving on scene, and I was hopeful I would be able to play on a father’s worry for their only child to get Bella’s head examined by Carlisle. Just long enough to confirm she did have a non-existent concussion.

 

Bella obviously recognised her father’s car and she groaned to herself, “Well, this is the second bad thing to happen today. Two down, one to go.” She muttered angrily to herself and I couldn’t help but smirk at her. What an odd thing to say. Not to mention she seemed significantly more put out over her father’s appearance than the accident itself.

 

Chief Swan wasted no time speaking to anyone else as he roughly shouldered his way through the crowd and approached his child. Immediately I tried to tune into his mind, hoping to use his own worried thoughts against him in the oncoming conversation. But where his mind should have been was simply… silence. Exactly like his daughter, Chief Swan was completely silent to me.

 

“Bella, are you alright?” Chief Swan demanded,

 

Seeing my opening I took a step forward, “Chief Swan,” I greeted politely, “I think Bella hit her head. She really should be going to the hospital to be checked out.”

 

Without moving from where he stood in front of Bella, Chief Swan turned his head to stare at me. He narrowed his eyes at me and I saw him clench his jaw. I couldn’t help but feel like he was… studying me. It felt as if, with a single glance he suddenly knew everything about me, and the feeling was completely unnerving. “Thank you son, but I asked my daughter. Not you.” He grumbled angrily, and I had to resist the bizarre urge to step back. I had never felt like this when confronted by a human before, hell I had rarely felt this way when confronted by a vampire before. The hostile glint in his eye seemed to set off alarm bells in my brain, warning me to tread very carefully. I had to bite the inside of my cheek to stop myself from immediately apologising to him. Simply put, Chief Charlie Swan was an incredibly intimidating man.

 

“I’m fine, Dad. Edward saved me. He pulled me out of the way.” Bella’s words came tumbling out of her mouth, and I could see her quickly looking between me and her father as if she were expecting a brawl to break out and was bracing herself to come between us.

 

I still needed to get the Chief on board and I rushed to say, “Chief Swan, I really think it would be best if Bella went and got looked at by a doctor.” I didn’t like how closely my tone resembled begging, but if that’s what it took I would happily beg on my knees. I needed Bella away from all these people. I needed her alone so I could talk to her. And preferably I needed her diagnosed with a head injury in case I had to discredit her later.

 

Chief Swan’s mouth was a firm line as he scowled at me. “Thank you for your concern, but if my daughter says she is okay I am inclined to believe her.” He said coldly.

 

I watched as the Chief’s expression softened as he turned back to his daughter. He went from menacing and fearsome, to loving and kind. Their eyes met and they seemed to hold a silent conversation between the two of them for a moment, before the Chief nodded to Bella and she returned the gesture with earnest.

 

I was utterly baffled by these developments, so much so that I only noticed that Bella had slipped away when she was already disappearing into the crowd.

 

“Bella!” I called out. I knew she heard me, but she chose to actively ignore me instead. She simply picked up her pace and vanished into the school building.

 

It was critical that I speak with her, I had to know that she wouldn’t say anything to anyone about what she had seen. I also had questions of my own. I wanted to understand how she pushed me away, how something like that could be possible for a girl so painstakingly human.

 

Much to my chagrin, Bella dodged me at every opportunity. It was irritating beyond belief, and the more she avoided me the more angry I became at her. At least I knew that relief would come as soon as biology class began. Bella was my lab partner, she wouldn’t be able to ignore me or dodge my questions. I would have her trapped for an entire hour.

 

I eagerly attended biology class and started to mentally prepare my questions. However, once Mr Banner started his lecture it was clear that Bella wasn’t going to arrive. She would rather ditch class than confront me.

 

What an insufferably stubborn girl.

Chapter Text

 

 

I suffered through the rest of my lessons, quietly stewing in my anxiety and anger. I needed to figure her out, and she seemed determined to ignore me. During my final class of the day, I made a decision. When the final bell rang out I rushed towards Alice’s locker, and slid my car keys and a hastily scrawled note through the slotted gap. I knew I couldn’t face my family until I had more answers.

 

The hallway of the school flooded with students, and I spotted Bella easily through the crowds. She usually walked so confidently, at her full height and in long, powerful, strides. Now though, she was hunched in on herself, as if willing herself to become smaller, less noticeable.

 

“Bella!” I called out, and tried to push through the pulsing throng of student, “Wait!”

 

I knew Bella had heard me, I saw the way she flinched at the sound of my voice. She didn’t stop though, and I watched as she scurried away like a scared mouse. It was like Bella had a gift, the way she twisted away from others, and ducked gracefully through the gaps in the crowd the moment they appeared. No one else noticed it. The way she moved was completely natural, and allowed her to blend into the crowd around her, and yet as I watched the way she slipped between two freshmen as easily as sand through an hourglass I couldn’t help but feel that it was entirely magical.

 

I tried to mimic her motions, but it was like I did not have the same sense of the ebb and flow of human movements that Bella had, and there was no way I could speed up and reach her in time without exposing myself. I pressed on, and by the time I made it outside, Bella was already in her truck. Her brown eyes met mine, and for a moment it felt like the entire universe had narrowed down to a single point.

 

“Bella.” I said softly. It wasn’t a shout, or a plea. It was simply the feeling of her name on my lips. I saw the way she clenched her jaw before she tore her eyes away from mine. Her truck groaned as she pulled out of the parking space and drove out of the lot.

 

I frowned as I heard the thoughts of my siblings grow louder as they started to make their way towards the parking lot. Rosalie’s were the loudest, and there was no way I was going home to face her ire, or Carlisle’s disappointment, until I had an explanation. Until Bella Swan provided me with an explanation.

 

I slipped into the woods before my siblings could accost me, and immediately started running towards the Swan residence. If Bella Swan would not give me answers, I would simply take them. As I ran, I felt anger spark in me again. I just wasn’t sure who the anger was directed at. I wanted to be angry at Bella, be angry at her for so effortlessly consuming my thoughts and affections. Angry that she made me risk my family’s safety for her, but in truth I couldn’t be angry at her. It wasn’t actually her fault, she had done nothing.

 

I stopped in the woods that edged along the side of the Swan house, I had beaten Bella here but it was only a few minutes before I watched her rust bucket truck as it stuttered to a stop in the drive-way. That thing couldn’t be safe, it probably had no air-bags, and she would be lucky if the seat-belts were up to standard. And then there was the matter of her broken side mirror, I could only hope she would get it fixed soon.

 

 

 

Bella jumped out of her truck, and slammed the door of it violently, and I watched as she stomped her way up the walk. I watched as she started to burrow through her backpack before sighing dramatically, throwing her head back and staring up at the sky as if cursing God Himself. She then reached up onto her tippy-toes and pulled a hidden key from the eve of the door. How could she manage to lose her house-key but not the key to her truck? It seemed like Bella Swan was a comedy of errors. I couldn’t help but smirk at her as she stomped her way inside, I listened intently and followed the sound of her footsteps up the stairs.

 

I heard Bella groan tiredly, “When did my life become so complicated?” Bella’s words were partly muffled, but I could still hear them clearly. I brought a fist to my lips to stop myself from snickering. Bella talked to herself? Her thoughts we hidden from me, but it seemed that she often thought out-loud when she thought no one would hear her. How interesting. I tried to focus on how I could use this to my advantage, but I could only think about how adorable it was. I tried my best to focus on the sounds coming from the upstairs bedroom, and I could hear her walking about, huffing dramatically as she did so.

 

There was a pause. “Great.” She muttered sarcastically, and I heard her heavy footsteps as she plodded down the stairs. For a girl who moved so daintily through the school halls, she sure had a heavy foot. I heard something open and then shut with a metallic clack, “Nothing can ever be easy.” She continued to mutter under her breath and I heard the backdoor open.

 

I silently moved through the woods so I could get a view of the back of the house. Bella stood on the small concrete stoop, her hands on her hips and glaring at the forest as if it had personally done her harm. With yet another melodramatic huff she started her angry walk across the damp lawn, curiosity burned in my chest, what was she up to now? I skulked my way through the undergrowth, I needed to get closer to her, I needed to see what she was doing.

 

B iting back an annoyed sigh of my own, I launched myself into a nearby tree, and then found myself a perch were I could see perfectly. Bella had just finished her barefooted march across the yard, and without a single pause continued into the muddy, moss-filled forest. After she had taken a few steps into the woods, she stopped for a moment, she turned in a slow half-circle as if she were trying to remember something. I could see the way her eyebrows furrowed in thought , a tiny crease appeared between her eyebrows and it was positively precious.

 

Apparently coming to some unknown conclusion, she turned and strode off into the forest with confidence. She reached up and…oh good heavens. The shock of seeing Bella pull her underwear free from their place on a low-hanging branch shocked me to my core, so much so I couldn’t stop myself from snapping the branch I had braced my hand against. At least I was far enough away that there was simply no way she could have heard me. And yet, I watched in silent confusion as Bella froze on the spot, like a prey animal who had just caught the whiff of a predator. Her heartbeat, which had been even and calm, started to thud wildly in her chest. Could she have heard me? How? I was a good 10 yards away from her, the soft sound of a twig snapping in amongst the forest should have been imperceptible to her.

 

B ella turned in a slow circle, coming to a stop facing me. From my perch, I could see her through the leaves and branches. Her face which was usually so open and soft was now eerily calm. Like a stone mask had dropped into place, her warm brown eyes had turned hard and cold as she scanned the dimly lit forest. Bella took a soft half-step in my direction, and then took a deep breath, a confused frown followed by another half-step. She inhaled deeply again and something flickered in her eyes for a second, shock? I watched her with rapt fascination, wondering what to make of this strange behaviour. Bella cocked her head to the side, and I didn’t dare move. I didn’t even breathe.

 

 

 

A fter a moment , I heard Bella’s heartbeat become calm again, and she let out a weary sigh. She balled up her garments in a tight fist and started to stomp her way noisily back the way she came. Bella paused on the back stoop, and turned to glare at the forest as she had done before. But this time it was different, her gaze was calculating, searching. I watched as her eyes skimmed over my location, not pausing for a second. She couldn’t see me. Bella turned and entered her home, slamming the door behind her.

 

 

X xXx

 

I had stayed in the woods outside Bella’s house while she greeted her father, and ate dinner. The conversation I had overheard made it clear that the secret was safe, now all I had to do was convince my family of the same.

 

I didn’t run as fast as I knew I could on my journey home, I knew that as soon as I got there the inquisition would begin. Sure enough, as soon as I stepped through the threshold, Rosalie was there, her face twisted in outrage as she stalked down the hallway towards me.

 

What – and I can’t stress this enough – the fuck!?” She yelled at me, shoving me once for good measure.

 

Rosalie! Language!” Esme admonished with a gasp.

 

R osalie gaped, “Language?” She spun around to stare at Esme “You are chastising me for my lan guage, when he-” She spun back around with an accusing finger, “Has put the entire family in danger with his reckless , stupid -” Rosalie’s tirade was interrupted by Carlisle abruptly clearing his throat.

 

I think we should all head into the dining room and discuss this, rationally, and calmly.” Carlisle’s stern gaze looked over each of us still lingering in the entryway.

 

But he-!” Rosalie started,

 

I don’t want to hear it, Rosalie.” Carlisle warned, “Dining room, now.” He pointed down the hall, not taking his eyes off us.

 

R osalie scowled but relented, lowering her head in surrender. I followed her lead, training my eyes onto the floorboards as we walked past our father single file, like a pair of disobedient children. Carlisle’s authoritative presence was not enough to stop Rosalie from attacking me with her thoughts.

 

You stupid, irresponsible jackass! Do you ever think about anyone other than yourself!? You are a brainless, simple-minded, idiotic fool! I actually like it here, and if we have to move because of your reckless behaviour I swear to God I will make your life a living hell!

 

W hen we reached the dining room, Rosalie had stopped her telepathic tirade. Emmett sensed his mate’s anger and put a comforting arm around her waist and guided her to a chair, whispering in her ear to take a deep breath and calm down, promising to help her dismember me later. No one said anything about it, even though we all heard it, we knew it was just Emmett’s way of calming Rosalie down.

 

O nce we were all seated Carlisle cleared his throat to gain our attention. “Now that we are all seated,” He turned his gaze to me, “Edward, would you like to explain what happened today?”

 

Rosalie looked ready to jump out of her seat and start yelling, her body was tensed and her eyes were cold with icy fire . Only Emmett’s firm hand on her knee kept her in her seat.

 

There was a car accident at school this morning.” I said plainly, and Rosalie scoffed and rolled her eyes. “An out of control vehicle was heading for Bella, and I saved her. I had to, I couldn’t let her die.” I finished, choosing to ignore Rosalie.

 

Are we just going to overlook the part where he raced across a crowed parking lot and exposed us all!” Rosalie burst out, yelling across the table at me with a venomous glare. My mind felt foggy as a wave of calm washed throughout the room, and I spared a thankful glance at Jasper for his input. Rosalie blinked in confusion for a moment, before she shook her head violently as the glazed look disappeared from her eyes. She turned her glare to Jasper, “And you! Stop that!” She barked.

 

Rosalie,” Carlisle hummed her name warmly, “Please remain calm and allow your brother to explain himself.”

 

Explain -” Rosalie sputtered, “Explain himself!?” She shrieked.

 

No one saw anything!” I yelled back, cutting off whatever Rosalie was about to say. I was no longer willing to sit there and allow myself to be berated by my sister. “I checked the minds of everyone at school throughout the day! No one suspects a thing!”

 

Oh well excuse me! I forgot that you were all knowing and all seeing! And what about the Swan girl? You know, the one person’s whose mind you can’t read!” Rosalie shouted back.

 

Our family’s eyes were shooting between each of us as we spoke, trying to catch all sides of this verbal sparring match. W hen Rosalie finished, their eyes fell to me, awaiting my biting retort. A quick rejoinder, or snide remark, but instead I just stared in shock, blinking slowly.

 

J asper caught on to my emotions and levelled me in a calculating stare, “ Edward,” Jasper spoke my name slowly, carefully, as if he was approaching a skittish animal. “What is it?”

 

I can’t read Chief Swan’s mind either.” I admitted quietly.

 

Oh for the love of God!” Rosalie roared as she shot out of her chair, it clattered back on the hardwood floors with a resounding crash.

 

Rosalie!” Carlisle bellowed, and it was enough for Rosalie to close her mouth and stop the oncoming rant. She angrily picked up her chair and sat back down with a huff. Carlisle took a calming breath and turned back to me, “Explain.”

 

I clenched and unclenched my jaw, “When the Chief arrived after the accident, I tried to read his mind, I couldn’t. It’s just like his daughter’s, completely blank.”

 

Have you considered,” Rosalie sneered, “That you can’t read their minds because there is nothing to read? Perhaps they are just a pair of imbeciles.”

 

Rosalie,” Esme chided. “That’s not very nice.” Rosalie ignored Esme’s rebuke.

 

A nger unfurled in my chest like a snake readying to strike. “ Well if that is the case, Rosalie -” I sneered her name like it was the worst curse imaginable, “We have nothing to worry about!” Carlisle opened his mouth to say something but I didn’t let him, “Besides! That’s not it, Bella Swan is hiding something… she’s,” I searched my brain for the appropriate word, “Different.”

 

R osalie scoffed, “ Just because you want to get your dick wet doesn’t mean the girl is anything special.”

 

E sme’s gentle face fell into a scowl, “Rosalie! That is quite enough out of you! I will not have that sort of language in my house!”

 

I tried to hide my smug expression at Rosalie being reprimanded, I knew it wouldn’t garner me any praise from my mother. Esme’s expression was a careful construction of calm when she turned to face me, “What do you mean by different, dear?”

 

A ll eyes were yet again trained on me, waiting for my response. “ Immediately after the accident, I tried to keep Bella still, to try and convince her she hit her head.” Questioning eyes matched questioning thoughts so I explained, “So I could claim that her mind was playing tricks on her, if she did indeed see anything.”

 

R osalie’s scowl turned into a disapproving glower, “ Lovely,” she droned sarcastically.

 

I ignored her, “She wanted to stand up, I had no intentions on letting her until the paramedics arrived but then she… she just pushed me away.”

 

Silence. Complete silence, both mental and verbal. And then there was an eruption of sound. My family were screaming thoughts in my direction, words and questions and vibrant images were thrust into my mind as violently as a knife slicing flesh. At the same time, each of the m started talking, asking me a different question. Pain stabbed in my temples from the onslaught and my hands flew to my head, gripping the hair at the sides of my head. I groaned, and clenched my eyes shut “Please,” I moaned painfully, “Not so loud.” I begged. Instantly my family stopped talking, and each person made a conscious effort to quiet and calm their thoughts. My breaths came in stuttered pants as the pain fell away, “Thank you,” I whispered.

 

Son,” Carlisle’s voice was soft and calm, “When you say she pushed you away…?”

 

I slowly blinked my eyes open and lowered my hands, “I mean she forcibly removed herself from my grasp. She is strong. Very strong.” I took a deep breath into my lungs, even though I no longer needed to breath e the motions of it calmed me. “And then this afternoon, I was watching her near her house and… her sense of hearing is much more acute than it should be.”

 

A low rumbling of thoughts returned to the room as my family processed the information. “ This is good.” Jasper declared after a moment.

 

In what world is this good?Rosalie huffed.

 

Bella Swan has something to hide, which means she has something to lose.” Jasper replied, his keen eyes sparkled with hidden strategies.

 

 

 

 

I didn’t like the look in his eye, or the direction his thoughts were taking. I needed to protect Bella, “This is – that uh, isn’t necessary, Jasper.” I stuttered out, I cleared my throat and squared my shoulders. Six pairs of c unning and perceptive eyes fell on me, “ Neither of the Swans suspect anything, and tomorrow I will approach Bella to ensure her silence. I will then distance myself from her, that way whatever it is she is hiding wont matter, as she will have no connection whatsoever to us.”

 

T here was a tense moment of silence as we all turned to look at Carlisle, his calm face was the perfect mask to hide his whirlwind thoughts. Eventually he stood, “Alright then. Very good. I suggest we all take some time to unwind, hunt, and ready ourselves for tomorrow.” He nodded his head once conclusively before he led Esme out of the room by her hand.

 

I quickly stood up and darted out the back door before Rosalie could make good on her threat of dismemberment.

 

XxXx

 

 

I didn’t want to do this. I didn’t want to distance myself from Bella, the mere thought of it was painful. I had gotten so close to her yesterday, held her body against mine, and by God did I want to do that again. But it was more than that, I wanted to know her. I wanted to discover each of her quirks and interests and memorise them, brand the knowledge into my soul.

 

W arm confidence flooded my chest, foreign and entirely unwelcome. I looked over the hood of the car to Jasper and sternly shook my head at him, and instantly the feeling vanished. Just trying to help . He thought un apologetically in my direction. I stalked away from my family, deciding to wait for Bella near the building of her first class. I was so lost in my own mind, in my own angst and self-loathing that I almost missed Bella entirely.

 

Bella!” I hollered out, and I watched as Bella froze on the spot. She glanced over her shoulder before frowning and turning around to face me. Well, at least it was better than running away. I approached her at a hurried walk, and I watched as her eyes flickered though a dozen different emotions before they calmed, she shuttered her emotions away with cold efficiency and I ached with the desire to know her thoughts.

 

Hello, Edward.” She greeted me stiffly, but her calm demeanour was betrayed by her pounding heart.

 

Being in her presence again was staggering, “Are-are you okay?” I breathed, I took a small step towards her, longing to be closer. You seemed to be avoiding me yesterday.” I searched her eyes for… something, I wasn’t sure what it was I wanted to see.

 

B ella looked at me, her brown eyes were warm… affectionate even. And then it was gone. Like a door had been slammed she straightened her shoulders and her eyes lost their warmth. Her gaze became more reserved, like she was fighting against her wants and emotions, as if they were dangerous. “ That’s because I was. Avoiding you, that is.” She remarked coldly.

 

I t was like someone had taken a knife, and plunged it into my chest. “ Why?” I breathed.

 

I needed to get it together. I had to finish this, I couldn’t allow myself to feel hurt by her rejection. Her rejection is what I wanted. No, not what I wanted, but what I needed. It was necessary, even though it was painful.

 

B ella narrowed her eyes, “Because I didn’t want to listen to whatever lies you were going to tell.”

 

I faltered at that, “What would I have to lie to you about?” I demanded.

 

Bella rolled her eyes, the coldness in them melting away into irritation and annoyance. “ Come on, Edward. I saw you stop a van, you pushed it away with your hand. Not to mention that fact that you were no where near me.” She hissed the words at me, the challenge clear in her voice.

 

I frowned down at her, “ Bella, I don’t know what you are talking about.” I hissed back, my voiced dripped with disdain.

 

B ella physically recoiled as if I had struck her, and I had to fight the urge to comfort her. “ Look Edward, you keep whatever secrets you feel like you need to keep. But here’s the thing, I really don’t like being lied to. I also don’t like being called a liar.” Bella snapped, I tried to defend myself but she held up a hand to stop me. Bella seemed to be irradiating anger, her face was flushed red, glowing with her ire. “ So when you’re ready to stop gas-lighting me, and have a real conversation like two reasonable people, come find me. Until then, do us both a favour and leave me the hell alone.” Bella hissed the words at me, and before I could utter a single word she spun on her heel and stormed into the school.

 

X xXx

 

I tried to be subtle in my examination of Bella during lunch. I didn’t glance in her direction at all, and instead chose to occupy the minds of her different companions. She seemed alright, if not a little upset.

 

S he’s right ya know . Alice’s thoughts chirped at me from across the table. I raised a questioning eyebrow at her. You were gas-lighting her.

 

I don’t know what that means.” I muttered under my breath.

 

Emmett chuckled deeply, but tried to hide it behind his hand. I dipped into his mind to see that he was eavesdropping on Bella’s conversation. Apparently I was being a jerk.

 

It means that you are trying to get her to doubt her own recollection of events by presenting a false narrative. It’s mean. Not to mention manipulative. Alice replied in her thoughts, her disapproval was palatable.

 

I was so busy stewing over Alice’s thoughts that I was startled by the snickering of Jasper and Rosalie, and Emmett’s deep chuckle. I immediately zeroed in on their thoughts, and Rosalie helpfully supplied me with a replay of Bella’s voice saying that she could handle me, and that she didn’t find me very intimidating. Fantastic work there, brother. Rosalie’s thoughts mocked me. I growled at Rosalie and she smiled innocently at me. I shot out of my seat just as the bell rang and stalked my way to biology.

 

S itting next to Bella for an entire hour was the sweetest kind of torture, there was never a lull in Mr Banner’s lecture so I was unable to say anything to her. I kept glancing at her, willing her to meet my eye, but it was as if she were purposefully ignoring me. On the surface she seem ed relaxed, bored even, but I could hear the way her heart thundered in her chest.

 

T he hour was up and Bella began to hastily stuff her notes in her bag, not caring a s they crinkled or ripped.

 

I’m sorry.” I blurted.

 

B ella’s hands froze and she turned to face me, “What?”

 

I hurried to explain myself. “At lunch, my sister Alice explained what gas-lighting is. And I’m sorry, I was doing that. It’s just… It’s better if we aren’t friends.”

 

I saw the heartbreak in her eyes before she could hide it behind her mask of indifference. “ Right, well. Glad we got all that sorted out.” She muttered bitterly as she shoved the rest of her things into her bag. I briefly wondered how she managed to find anything in amongst the mess. Bella clenched her jaw and looked over to me, her eyes brimming with tears. “ It’s not like I was going to tell anyone anything. But thank you for your vote of confidence.” She spat sarcastically, her anger betrayed her hurt.

 

B efore I could say anything else, she grabbed her bag and stormed away.

 

Lord help me. I wanted to follow after her. I wanted to pull her against me and beg her forgiveness for my foolishness. I wanted to plead with her, fall at her feet and tell her everything. I wanted to lay all my secrets bare, and let her see my soul, or whatever was left of it. But I couldn’t. Not only would doing so endanger my family, it would endanger her. I would have to distance myself from Bella Swan. I could not allow her to be hurt. My secret was like a rocky cliff in a midnight storm, and Bella a lone ship. I would have to be a solitary lighthouse, and warn her away.

Chapter Text

 

 

Bella Swan was relentless. She was stubbornly single minded in her pursuit of my friendship. For the rest of the week it felt as if I was being savagely hunted, and more than once I had found myself hiding in a janitors closet in order to escape her grasp. A fact that my brothers found endlessly hilarious, and I had to gracefully ignore countless tasteless jests about my new found vocation as a member of the Fork’s High custodial staff. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out why Bella coveted my friendship, but I was determined to keep my distance. Even though it pained me.

 

As the week progressed Bella became increasingly creative in her attempts to engage me. She began by asking me questions I knew she knew the answer s to. This then escalated into her asking to borrow a pen, and when that didn’t get her the response she wanted, she ‘forgot’ her textbook, forcing me to have mine opened between us so we could share. As each day passed it became increasingly difficult to r efuse her offers of friendship. I could feel my will being deliberately stripped away from me, my resolve and determination was gradually crumbling a nd I was afraid of what would happen when it turned to dust.

 

A part of me wondered if this was Bella’s doing. Did she somehow have mind-altering abilities? Was she capable of controlling my thoughts and actions? Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to place the blame on her, instead of having to shoulder it all myself. Of course I knew that Bella was innocent. It was simply my own weakness. I wanted to give in so badly, and Bella’s continuing presence and relentless character was making the task of not giving into my desires progressively arduous.

 

B y the time the weekend came around, I felt like a bow-string about to snap. I needed to find a way to relieve the pressure, and the only thing I could think of would be to see her. I would watch her, nothing more. I wouldn’t approach her or engage with her at all. Hopefully just the act of being near her would give me the strength to survive another week of ignoring her existence.

 

I left just after dawn on Saturday morning, claiming that I was going to spend my day hunting. My family replied with well-wishes and farewells, but I could read their thoughts, and they all doubted very much that I was going hunting. I didn’t let their thoughts get to me, I needed to do this. I took down a deer or two on my way towards Bella’s house, figuring that it couldn’t hurt, and by the time I made it to her house it was mid-morning.

 

M uch to my surprise, Bella’s house was empty. Her father’s police cruiser was gone, so he was clearly at work, but Bella’s truck was still in the drive. Frowning, I circled around her house, keeping to the woods, and easily found her scent. I quietly followed her honey-suckle scent, and when I could hear her heartbeat I launched myself into the tree tops so I could follow her more stealthily.

 

I silently darted from tree-branch to tree-branch with ease, making almost no noise. Bella soon came into view, she was wearing a pair of loose fitting dark blue denim jeans and a long sleeve dark green shirt. It was such a simple and plain outfit, but I couldn’t help but think that she looked utterly stun ning. She seemed relaxed… jovial as she traipsed through the woods, daintily jumping over mossy logs and running her hands over the rough bark of the trees as she passed them. Did Bella spend a lot of her time in the woods? From the way she moved through them it certainly seemed so. She seemed at home there, comfortable, as if each tree and fern were a well acquainted friend.

 

 

 

 

 

I followed her through the woods, and soon we came across a bubbling brook. A small creek about ten feet across, shallow and crystal clear waters tumbled lazily over a stony bed. Bella approached the sloping embankment of the creek and peered curiously down at the water. Without warning, Bella’s face broke out into a stunningly gorgeous grin. She retreated a few steps and started to pull h astily pull off her sneakers, she tugged off her socks as well and stuffed them inside her shoes before tossing them at the base of a nearby tree. Bella then crouched down and rolled up the legs of her jeans until they were cuffed just above her knees.

 

I risked moving closer, to see what she was up to. With th at ravishing grin still plastered on her face she almost raced back to the embankment. Bella raised her arms to her sides like a tight-rope-walker and carefully made her way down the steep slope of the muddy embankment. The ease in which she did so made me more doubtful of her earlier claims of falling, and I once again considered the truth of how Bella’s face became so battered earlier in the week.

 

W ith a subtle splash Bella entered the creek, and she quickly bent down to retrieve something from the water. I leaped through the trees again to get a closer look at her as she held up her prize to the muted sunlight. Bella had found a ragged piece of quartz in the river bed. A youthful giggle erupted from Bella’s mouth. “ Awesome.” She murmured quietly as she turned it this way and that, letting the light hit the different sides of the stone. She hastily stuffed the stone into the pocket of her jeans, a proud smile on her face.

 

A dorable. It was the only way I could think of to describe her. I followed along in the tree-tops as Bella made her way up stream, she smiled and splashed in the water and seemed to relish in it. I couldn’t help but think how cold that water must have been, and yet Bella didn’t seem to mind at all. Bella abruptly came to a halt as she gasped in wonder before marching over to the other side of the creek.

 

B ella crouched down and drove a hand under the surface of the water, “ Come here, you pretty little bastard.” She muttered bitterly and I had to stifle a chuckle as she thrust both hands under the surface to try and dislodge whatever rock she had spotted and then desired. There was a sudden shriek, followed by a startled yelp, as Bella lost her grip and went tumbling backwards into the icy water. She landed on her backside with a splash, and then there was a beat of silence before Bella broke out i n boisterous laughter.

 

Bella splashed her arms in the water for a moment before pulling herself out of the stream. She stood back up, thoroughly soaked to the bone, and rolled up her sleeves. “ Okay, so that’s how we are gonna play it. Huh?” Bella sneered mockingly at the rock she was fighting with. Bella returned to the opposite bank and crouched down once again. She sucked in a deep breath through her teeth and with a small grunt of effort she pulled a small boulder from the creek.

 

M y eyes went wide at the show of strength. Bella easily lifted the rock that looked to weigh more than she did, she then hoisted it high up her chest before heaving it away from her. It soared through the air before it landed on the top of the embankment with a damp thud. That boulder looked to have weighed more than 170 pounds, and yet Bella didn’t even seem to notice the tremendous weight . “Ha!” Bella crowed, “Yeah! That’s what you get.” She jeered.

 

I couldn’t focus on whatever Bella did next as my thoughts spun around in my head like a whirlwind. This was more indisputable proof that Bella was… something else. She was strong, too strong. I briefly lamented over just how insufferable Emmett would be when I had to admit that he was right. Bella wasn’t human, she couldn’t be. I wasn’t going to admit that to Emmett yet though, not until I heard it from Bella herself.

 

 

X xXx

 

 

I decided that the best way to get Bella to admit to me that she was more than human was to just… give in. She wanted to be my friend, and lord help me, I wanted to be hers. I would surrender to her, and I knew it would be easy to do so. Too easy. It was something I had been wanting to do since I had first laid eyes on her.

 

I tried to convince myself it was just about figuring out her secret, but I knew it was more than that. I was about concede defeat in a battle I never wanted to win in the first place. I had managed to ignore her for a week and that alone had been the worst kind of torture I had ever endured. A nd now, just the promise of finally being able to give into my desires filled me with such sweet relief. I could only hope that Bella would n’t hold my atrocious behaviour against me.

 

I spent the last hours of my weekend carefully planning out how my conversation with Bella would go. I analysed all our previous interactions and conversations and decided my best bet would be to speak with her at lunch. I replayed every word I had ever heard Bella speak, either to me, or to others, and studied the memories in my mind as if they held the answers to life itself. All of Bella’s previous interactions with the population of Forks High became my Rosetta Stone and I used them to formulate how our conversation would go.

 

A ll my carefully precise planning went to Hell in a hand-basket the moment Bella walked into the cafeteria.

 

I watched with eager eyes as Bella entered the room, her gaze sweeping across the cafeteria searching for her friends. Her eyes landed on mine and I smiled. I slowly lifted my hand and waved her over. I had been expecting her to smile back, perhaps even be excited and a little relieved that I had finally given into her attempts at friendship. Instead, she frowned. It was almost a scowl, lips thin and slightly down-turned with a small crease between her brows. Her eyes were wary, and she seemed a little bit annoyed. She paused to say something to her friend, but I missed it as I was too preoccupied trying to account for this unexpected reaction.

 

B ella dropped down into the seat across from me, her posture tense and defensive as she crossed her arms and gave me a questioning look.

 

I swallowed nervously, “Hello, Bella.”

 

He speaks!” Bella mocked,

 

A h, defensive anger. I could work with that.

 

I chuckled lightly, “I guess I deserve that.” I admitted ruefully. I hoped my display of humility would please her.

 

Yeah, you really do.” She muttered bitterly. This wasn’t going to plan at all. I had expected Bella to be more agreeable, happy to have finally gotten my attentions. Instead she seemed moody and irritable. At least she was still here though, she had chosen to sit with me and she hadn’t yet gotten up to leave. There was hope yet.

 

 

 

 

B ella shifted in her seat and reached out to grab my lunch tray with the tips of her fingers. She curled them slightly over the lip of the tray and pulled it across the table, she then started to pick at the assortment of food I had collected as props. I couldn’t stop myself from smirking at her, she was so forward and I couldn’t help but be amused by it. Bella’s eyes flickered to my face for a moment, before she glanced back down at the tray of food. “Oh, I’m sorry. Were you going to eat this?” She joked, pointing down at the food. “I mean, I have never actually seen you eat anything, so I just assumed.” She continued brazenly.

 

I stiffened in my chair and the smirk fell from my face. Bella was too perceptive for her own good. What else had she noticed over the past few weeks? Bella sighed, and the sound almost felt like an apology of sorts, “Was there a reason for calling me over here?” She asked gently.

 

I leaned forward, resting my forearms on the table between us. “ I’m tired of trying to stay away from you.” I murmured softly as my eyes trailed over her body in an attempt to judge her reaction.

 

H er heart skipped a beat, “Oh?” she squeaked out.

 

I smiled in quiet victory, “I would really like it if we could be friends.”

 

You’re going to give me emotional whiplash.” She sighed dramatically, “First you like me, then you save my life, and then you say you don’t want to be friends and avoid me at all costs,” Bella was ticking off each thing on her fingers, “And now, you want to be friends.” She shook her head and levelled me with her stare, she was sick of the games, that much was clear. Luckily, so was I.

 

I needed to be clear about my intentions. “I said that it would be better if we weren’t friends, not that I didn’t want to be.” I replied softly, hoping that the distinction was obvious.

 

Bella pursed her lips and rolled her eyes, “Yup, well that clears that one up.” She drawled sarcastically.

 

I resisted the urge to sigh, “It would be.” I asserted, “better that is, if we weren’t friends, it would be safer.” Her eyes met mine and I hardened my gaze. This would be the last time I warned her away.

 

Because you are oh-so-dangerous.” She mocked.

 

Yes. I am.” I snapped.

 

B ella worried her bottom lip for a moment, “We can be friends,” I swear I felt my dead heart come alive in my chest at those words, “I would really like that too. Here’s the thing though… friend’s don’t lie to each other.”

 

I can’t tell you the truth.” I sputtered.

 

Bella immediately raised her hands in surrender, “That’s fine. Just don’t lie to me. Simple. Any questions?” She cocked her head to the side as she gnawed on a carrot stick and looked me over.

 

I smiled at her, now was my chance. “Yes, just one.”

 

Go ahead.”

 

How did you push me away?” I raised an eyebrow at her.

 

Her heartbeat skipped a beat before it started hammering away in her chest, and yet she showed no evidence of her panic on her face. “What do you mean?” She asked casually.

 

After the accident, you pushed me away so you could get up. How?” I smiled charmingly at her, “Remember, friends don’t lie to each other.” Easily twisting her own words into a weapon to use against her.

 

Maybe you’re just not as strong as you think.” She spat out angrily as the bell sounded to announce the end of lunch. Before I could respond she was out of her chair and marching towards the exit, weaving between the clamouring crowd with unnatural ease.

 

I clenched my jaw and resisted the urge to slam my hand against the table. I was so close. Now she was on her way to biology, and I could not follow her. Today was blood-typing, a skills lab I was forced to skip for a number of reasons. I grabbed my things and left the cafeteria, purposefully ignoring my siblings thoughts on the matter. If they weren’t going to try and help me, I wished they would just go away and leave me alone.

 

They were being insufferable, their thoughts a mix of juvenile taunts and meaningless threats. Alice was worst of all. Out of all my siblings we had always been closest, our gifts connected us in a way that the others couldn’t understand. Only Jasper came close to understanding the unique burden s we were charged with. The knowing of things that shouldn’t be known. But now, she seemed… distant almost. Once or twice I had caught the flicker of something in her mind before she purposefully blocked me out, a skill she had become particularly adept with over the decades.

 

Alice was hiding something from me, and her advice to me was in stark contradiction to that of her mate’s. Jasper warned me away from Bella, she was an unknown and what was unknown was dangerous. Yet he did relent to admit that if I absolutely had to entangle myself with the girl, that I use her to the benefit of the family. Discover her secret while maintaining my own so that I could leverage her if the time came. I couldn’t blame these thoughts of Jasper’s, not all of them meant for my ears. He had spent almost a century surviving an endless war, and those instincts were not easily stifled. There was no way I could follow his advice, however. The mere thought of using Bella, abusing any trust she may decide to place in me felt unconscionable. In contrast to this was the advice Alice sent my way, which if I didn’t know any better I would have thought sounded an awful lot like courting advice. Encouragements to engage Bella in conversation, discover her interests, walk her to class and carry her books. I had tried asking Alice why she thought any of that was a good idea, and all I had received in turn was a dainty shrug and a knowing smile. All my attempts to glean any context from her mind was easily thwarted by her. Sometimes my sister was nothing more than an irritating thorn in my side.

 

 

 

I decided to linger in the hall near biology class, far enough away that I wouldn’t risk being close to a freshly bleeding human, but close enough so that when Bella left class I would have ample opportunity to approach her before she left for her next class. I was waiting for less than 5 minutes when I saw Mike Newton half carrying a listless Bella, arm clenche d around her slim waist as she leaned on him for support .

 

I think I might be sick,” I heard her mutter miserably.

 

B ella Swan faints at the sight of blood. A comedy of errors indeed.

Chapter Text

 

 

“What happened!?” I barked out as I stormed towards the duo. The sight of Bella leaning so heavily against Newton filled me with possessive rage. If anyone should be caring for Bella and helping her through this malady, it should have been me.

 

“I don’t know!” Newton squealed, “We are blood typing in class and she just started to feel faint. She didn’t even prick her finger!” Newton’s thoughts were barely coherent now, and he was torn between wanting to look after Bella and wanting to flee from me.

 

My attention was drawn away from the boy’s thoughts as Bella released a distressing groan. I watched as she drew her arm across her midsection, clearly trying to ease the nausea she was experiencing. I stepped closer to her and gently placed my hand under her chin, with the softest of touches I coaxed her face upwards to look at me. Bella didn’t have the strength to resist me, and she looked at me through tired half closed eyes. No matter how strong she was, it was clear to me that Bella was still more human than not. Her fragility and weak constitution pulled painfully at my chest, she needed someone strong to help and protect her. She needed me.

 

“I can take her from here.” I declared, my eyes still scanning her face relentlessly.

 

“I was supposed to take her,” Newton whimpered.

 

I ignored him. Bella needed me, I could feel her body trembling and I was sure her legs were about to fail her completely. Poor girl, rendered so defenceless at the mere sight of blood. In a single, fluid motion I lifted Bella off her feet before she could collapse, I tucked one arm under her knees and the other snaked around her waist to hold her securely against my chest. Bella was unusually warm in my arms, her irregular temperature worried me slightly, I was unsure if it was merely a symptom of her… condition, or if it was due to her adverse reaction to blood. I felt her cheek rest against my chest, the heat of her skin bleeding through my shirt.

 

As I walked towards the office I looked down at her, I needed to be sure she was alright, even as I held her safely in my arms. Bella seemed to be feeling a little bit better, if her complexion was anything to go by. Her cheek’s were flushed a beautiful shade of red, and she no longer looked like she was going to lose her lunch. Her breathing was even, and as I turned the final corner towards the office I noticed how she turned her head the tiniest amount. Her little button nose pressed against the fabric of my shirt, and I watched transfixed as she took an abnormally large breath in and then released it in a soft sigh. Was she… smelling me? Bella didn’t seem to even recognise her own queer behaviour, showing no sign in her demeanour or heartbeat that she had performed the action intentionally.

 

I staunchly resisted the urge to bury my nose in her hair and inhale her scent in return, and mercifully I was saved as we had finally arrived at the office.

 

Mrs Cope gaped at us as we entered.

 

She fainted. They are blood typing in biology.” I explained.

 

There’s always one.” She muttered with a shake of her head, “This way dear.” Mrs Cope led me past the main desk and into the small nurses station, she left for a moment and returned with a damp cloth. She placed it lovingly over Bella’s forehead, “Just rest here a moment dear, you will be fine soon.”

 

The older woman smiled warmly at me as she made her exit, closing the door behind her with a soft click. I turned my attention back to Bella, ready to stand vigil until she recovered. Her eyelids fluttered lightly and I could see her look around the room through her lashes. I wanted to approach her, hold her hand and murmur words of comfort, but I wasn’t sure if such affections would be welcome.

 

B ella abruptly shot upright and flung the damp cloth to the side, she swiped at her forehead with the sleeve of her shirt to rid it of the moisture. “ Bella!” I gasped and I lurched forward a step to offer my assistance. Was she feeling ill again, did she need to throw up? Panic coursed through me for a moment before I took in the scene before me. Bella sat up on the bed, cool and relaxed, her eyes were light and sparkling and she had a small smirk on her face. Realisation hit me like a bucket of ice water. “You were faking.”

 

B ella’s smile dropped from her face and she nodded seriously, “Yes.”

 

Why would you fake fainting at the sight of blood?” I mused. I had to give the girl credit, she put on a convincing show. Her trembling limbs and pitiful groans would have been enough to deceive anyone, but as a vampire I should have been able to see through the ruse with ease. And yet… she had me fooled. She had baited her trap with the image of a quivering damsel in distress, and she had snared me easily. But why? What would she have to gain from this stunt? Newton said that she fell ill at the first sign of blood, that she hadn’t even pricked her finger yet. She hadn’t pricked her finger, and her little act had allowed her to skip out on class with a convincing excuse for her absence. “You faked it so you wouldn’t have to prick your finger.” I voiced my thoughts cautiously.

 

I could hear Bella’s heartbeat steadily rise as I continued my deductions. “ Why wouldn’t you want to?” I studied her carefully, her posture relaxed and face impassive, and yet her heart rate continued to rise as I probed her relentlessly. “ You’re not human.” I accused. So much for letting her say it first, but at least now I would get something. Either confirmation or a hurried denial.

 

You’re one to talk.” Bella replied snarkily, she seemed to almost immediately regret her words as she closed her eyes and winced slightly.

 

I took a step closer, our knees almost touching. “So you’re not denying it?” I raised an inquiring eyebrow.

 

And neither are you.” She snapped, her eyes ablaze as she stared me down, we stared at each other in a silent challenge, neither one of us were willing to back down.

 

T he door to the small room opened, and I stepped back quickly. Mrs Cope looked at the pair of us, “Oh, are you feeling better?” She looked at Bella.

 

Yes, much.” Bella hastily replied, “I think I just needed a moment.” She continued as she jumped off the cot.

 

“Good, because we have another one.”

 

Okay! Thank you Mrs Cope.” Bella stuttered out as she slipped out of the nurses station and out of sight.

 

I nodded politely to Mrs Cope and ignored Newton completely as I followed Bella outside.

 

I caught up with her in the hallway, I lurched forward and grabbed her wrist to stop her from escaping me. She spun around, a shocked gasp escaping her lips. “Are you going to explain?” I hissed in a hushed whisper.

 

Are you!?” She hissed back with narrowed eyes.

 

I found myself exasperatingly pulling at my hair with my free hand, “Bella,” I breathed her name.

 

Bella watched me with glassy eyes for a moment before the fire returned to her gaze, she angrily pulled her arm out of my grip. “I know. You can’t tell me the truth. Well neither can I.” She crossed her arms defiantly over her chest. I watched in fascination as Bella straightened her posture, squared her shoulders, and levelled me in a sinister glare. An impressive performance, but a performance nonetheless. Bella was skilled at slipping into different skins when it was necessary, and I envied her of that. How easily she could pretend to be something she wasn’t, like a threatening presence.

 

I stepped closer to her, “Why not?” I whispered.

 

Because it’s dangerous.” She hastily replied, and she finally broke eye contact as her posture slumped slightly. Bella bit her bottom lip and stared intently at her shoes.

 

Dangerous? For who?”

 

For you.” There wasn’t a second of hesitation in her reply, and I had to wonder what possible danger this sweet girl could pose to me. “And for me.” She sighed sadly with a shake of her head, that was more understandable, I was a danger to her, but somehow I don’t think that’s what Bella meant. Bella slowly met my eyes again, “It’s dangerous for both of us. I want to be your friend, Edward. Really I do.” I had to stop myself from breaking out into a grin at her words. Bella’s eyes flickered over my face, cataloguing each feature and reaction, and as I watched her watch me something behind her eyes gave way, and she started to speak, like a dam had broken her words came flooding out. “I know that you are probably right, that it would be better if we weren’t friends, but fuck that.” I baulked at Bella’s casual cursing, “We both have secrets, that much is painfully obvious.” She scoffed and rolled her eyes, “And we can’t tell them to each other for whatever reason. But I don’t see why that means we can’t still be friends.” She shrugged and eyed me warily.

 

B ella wanted to be friends, and she seemed to hold no interest in unearthing my secret, all she ask is that I don’t try and uncover hers in turn. That seemed… fair. “What do you suggest?” I smirked.

 

We can be friends. We don’t lie to each other, but we don’t have to necessarily tell each other the whole truth, either.” I nodded along as Bella outlined the rules of our new friendship, it was simple enough. “That way, we can still be close, but we don’t have to tell each other anything that we don’t want to. We acknowledge that the other person has secrets, but respect they are secrets for a reason.”

 

My mind zeroed in on a single phrase, “You want to be close to me?” I whispered in wonder as I stepped closer to Bella once again. My breath fanned out over her face with my words. We were almost touching now and I could feel the warmth of her body radiating off of her. I wanted to press myself against her, to feel her soft body give way under mine, but I held back. Bella looked up at me, her brown eyes wide and her plush lips softly parted.

 

She inhaled sharply and took a step backwards, shaking her head as if to rid herself of her confusion. “Don’t let it go to your head.” She muttered before she turned on her heel and stalked away. I couldn’t stop myself from laugh ing loudly as I watched her retreating form.

 

X xXx

 

 

I remained silent on the car ride home, purposefully ignoring my sibli ngs. I parked in the garage and we all filed inside, and I was relieved to hear that Carlisle was already home from the hospital.

 

I’d like to speak with everyone, please.” I said gently, trying not to give anything away.

 

O nce everyone was seated at the dining room table I suddenly felt at a loss for words. I battled with my own anxieties before sighing, “I may have been… mistaken.” I admitted ruefully.

 

About?” Carlisle prodded.

 

Bella Swan is not human, she admitted as much to me.” I waited for the uproar, for the relentless scoldings and anger.

 

Yes!” Emmett hissed with a triumphant pump of his fist, “Cough up!” He jeered at Jasper who quietly handed him a crisp one hundred dollar bill with nothing more than an embarrassed smile.

 

You wagered on this!?” I demanded, completely aghast at their behaviour and shocked at how they had managed to hide it from me.

 

Of course not,” Jasper drawled, putting a hand against his chest as if he were wounded by the accusation. “We bet on whether or not you’d admit you were wrong.” Jasper’s toothy smirk widened at my offended expression.

 

Yes, yes, Edward is an idiot. This is a well established fact.” Rosalie sneered with a wave of her hand, “Can we get back to the fact that the girl isn’t human?” She demanded.

 

C arlisle nodded sagely, “Yes, if she’s not human, what is she?” He asked me with a raised brow.

 

I don’t know.” I answered, and Rosalie groaned as if pained. “She wouldn’t tell me!” I hurried to defend myself, “And I didn’t feel like pushing her for the truth, so we agreed to a… compromise.”

 

This oughta be good.” Rosalie rolled her eyes.

 

I glared at her but otherwise ignored Rosalie’s attitude. “I promised not to try and uncover her secrets, and she promised me the same. We agreed that an ‘ask nothing, say nothing’ approach would serve us both well.” I scanned the dubious expressions on my family’s faces, their thoughts matching their expressions even if they didn’t want to voice them. Doubt over whether our arrangement could work, doubt over whether or not Bella was still a security risk, doubt over whether I could control myself around her. Mistrust and suspicion swirled around me. What was Bella’s motives, could she be trusted? Why was Edward behaving so strangely? How would all this end? Edward’s a lose canon, he can’t control himself around the girl. He’s going to get us all killed.Oh shut up all of you!” I snapped and shot out of my chair, and it clattered noisily behind me. “I don’t care what any of you think! None of you know anything about her! Bella isn’t a threat, she’s actually a really nice person! She’s kind, and funny, and-” I bit my tongue as I realised what I was saying, and with a growl I ran out of the house, planning on taking out my frustrations on an unsuspecting mountain lion.

 

 

 

 

A lice found me sometime around midnight, “Are you finished sulking yet?” She chirped happily as she approached my perch on a rocky overhang, feet dangling into an abyss as I stared out over the forest.

 

I am not sulking.” I sneered, but I saw Alice’s gentle and knowing expression and sighed. “I just needed to get out of there. That house, everyone’s thoughts… it was too much.”

 

A lice offered me a tight-lipped smile before dropping down on the ground next to me, she leaned her head on my shoulder and I lifted my arm and draped it over her to accommodate her small frame. “ None of them meant it, you know that if they did they-”

 

“Would have said it aloud, yes I know.” I interrupted sullenly.

 

Esme’s worried about you, she didn’t say as much but she started knitting and you know she only does that when she worries.” Alice spoke softly, staring out into the night, watching as the tops of the evergreen trees swayed gently in the nighttime breeze.

 

That’s just it though, there’s nothing to worry about!” I huffed. “No matter what Rose and Jasper think, Bella isn’t a threat. And Alice…”

 

Hmm?” Alice shifted under my arm to glance up at my face.

 

I think I am beginning to care for her.” I whispered my confession, the most terrible sin. Even now, as I whispered this secret into the still night air, I minimised it. As if by not confessing to the depth of my affections I could lessen the truth of them.

 

A lice’s eyes held knowledge and age beyond even her many years, “Yes, that seems about right.” she replied sagely.

 

I stared into her honey eyes, trying to decode her thoughts, but all I could glean from her mind was an endless list of inane tasks and future fashion trends. “ Alice, what is it? What do you know?” I asked,

 

A lice sighed wearily and slumped against my side, “The future is unclear.” She hummed.

 

I couldn’t stop myself from snorting in amusement, “Oh pray tell, Madame Alice, what does your crystal ball say?” I teased.

 

Not funny!” Alice cried indignantly, but as she shoved me away I could see the playful smile on her face.

 

I chortled loudly, wrapping my arms over my stomach and chest to protect against further attack as I fell back onto the stony ground. “ I’m just teasing.” I chided lightly as I pulled myself upright. “ Y ou have to admit that that was a bit cliché, even for you.” A lice rolled her eyes, but I knew I was forgiven. “But what do you mean by that?” I asked.

 

S he sighed again, “I can’t see her…” She admitted quietly, I could see the strain this was taking on my sister. Alice seemed more bothered by this than I was with my inability to read Bella’s mind. “ Bella’s future is just… not there. I try to see and…” She huffed angrily. Alice turned to face me, “And Edward, when you’re with her you become…” Alice couldn’t find the words to explain herself, so for the first time in days she opened her mind completely to me and showed me an image. It was like an over-exposed, out of focus photograph. Dark greens blurred and melted into blues and greys like watercolour on a canvas and in the centre was a figure, red-hair and pale skin and stark yellow eyes were the only indicator that the figure was me. There was a space next to me, but it was even more blurred and over exposed than the rest of the image, bright white swirled around and bleached outwards, infecting the rest of the image with it’s light.

 

I shook my head in confusion, “I don’t understand.” A lice nodded, and hid her thoughts once again, cutting off her vision. “What is it? What aren’t you showing me?” I demanded.

 

A lice pursed her lips, considering me for a moment. “ Everything is all mixed up, and I don’t like not knowing where things are going or how we get there.” Alice stood up and dusted herself off, before offering me a helping hand. I took it and let Alice pull me to my feet. “ All I know is that everything is going to work out in the end. You’re going to be… happy.” She cocked her head with a strange sort of smile. “I don’t want to say anything more than that, in case it ruins things.”

 

Alright,” I relented, “I wont keep asking, and I will stay out of your head. Just promise that if you see anything bad, you’ll tell me.” I implored.

 

Promise,” Alice smiled.

 

X xXx

 

You want me to what?” Rosalie muttered bitterly from the backseat as I turned into the parking lot of Forks High.

 

I knew she had heard me perfectly, but I repeated myself anyway. “Could you please , dear sister, find a replacement side mirror for Bella Swan’s truck?” I said in a sickly sweet tone, really laying it on thick.

 

Why, pray tell, would I do anything to help her?” She snarked.

 

I frowned at her through the rear-view mirror, “ You’re not doing it for her, you’re doing it for me. Your favourite brother.”

 

Jasper’s my favourite brother,” Rosalie replied snidely at the exact time Jasper said,

 

I’m her favourite brother.”

 

I pulled into a car park and turned off the engine before I turned in my seat to scowl at Jasper, that wasn’t helpful. “Please, Rosalie. Just do this for me? I want to be her friend, and friends do things for each other and this is the only thing I can think of! Besides, you know every car parts supplier and junkyard owner in the state, if anyone can do it you can.” I begged,

 

R osalie pretended to think it over some more, but I knew she had already agreed. “Fine.” She sniffed. That was the trick with Rosalie, flattery was everything.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I t was raining buckets, and so when I got out of the car I opened a large black umbrella to keep myself dry. I watched as Bella’s truck – minus one side mirror – came sputtering into the lot. I glided my way over to her, happy to begin our new friendship. I stood by the driver’s side door as she opened it and jumped out with a small splash. Bella looked up in confusion before turning around to see me standing there, holding out the umbrella to protect us both.

 

 

Hello, Bella.” I smiled warmly, I hoped my tone was friendly enough, without betraying my true emotions.

 

Hey…” Bella mumbled

 

I thought I could walk you to class.” I supplied, gesturing lightly in the direction of the school. That’s something that friends did, right? It was perfectly innocent. Anxiety gripped me momentarily as I was reminded that I truly had no idea how to be friends with this slightly-more-than-human girl.

 

Yeah, sure, okay. That would be nice.” Bella stumbled over her words and blushed adorably. Maybe she was just as lost as I was?

 

T he thought made me chuckle slightly. I gentl y placed Bella’s hand in the crook of my elbow so I could lead her towards the school building. “ So, what’s this I hear about me being a pigeon?” I teased, remembering the words I had heard her speak with her friend yesterday afternoon.

 

You know it’s rude to eavesdrop on other’s conversations.” Bella replied in a similar tone.

 

It was a conversation about me, though.” I smirked.

 

I likened trying to understand your motivations to trying to teach string theory to a pigeon. Completely useless. I never actually said that you’re a pigeon.” Bella replied with a shrug. I bit my tongue to stop the loud laughter from erupting out of me, she was completely absurd and yet didn’t seem to notice. She found me incomprehensible, and yet her own actions were utterly bizarre. Could she not see how she left me completely confounded after every conversation? Strangely, I found it a comfort that at the very least, I seemed to confuse her just as much.

Chapter Text

 

I sat down with my tray filled with prop foods, hoping that Bella found the assortment palatable. I had chosen a leafy salad, a ham sandwich, a red apple, a bag of crisps as well as a large chocolate chip cookie. I had chosen to sit at the same table we had occupied the previous day, and I was extremely excited to be able to sit and talk with her some more.

 

I watched the doors with rapt attention as the students filed in, and I deliberately ignored my siblings as they sat down at our regular table. Rosalie and Jasper were the confused and on edge, not trusting Bella or my instincts in regards to her. Emmett was wary, upset because his mate was upset, but otherwise unbothered. Alice was the strangest of all, our conversation last night not doing much in the way of settling my concerns. She was hesitantly hopeful, her bright eyes happy and expectant. I did my best not to think too hard about that, and honour my promise of staying out of her head as much as possible.

 

Finally, Bella entered the cafeteria. Her dark brown hair hung in loose waves around her head, bouncing lightly as she walked across the room, black jeans and a green tank-top under a long-sleeved plaid button up, which was mostly unbuttoned. Casual and unique, and utterly beautiful. Bella caught my eye and I smiled as I beckoned her over with a wave. She smiled back and danced over, pausing briefly to promise her friend that she will be right back.

 

My smile widened as she approached, “Bella,” I greeted her with a welcoming nod. My smile turned into a confused frown as Bella didn’t respond, instead she grabbed my lunch tray with one hand, an empty chair with the other, and marched across the room to the table that housed her human friends. The rumbling noises of various conversations died down to an eerie silence as the hard plastic chair squealed loudly against the linoleum tiles of the cafeteria floor.

 

I was stunned, and I watched with wide eyes as Bella continued her demonstration. With her head held high, shoulders back and spine straight, she didn’t seem to mind that every eye in the room was on her. She was bold, and confident, and yet I could detect no arrogance to her stride, just a sense of single-minded purpose. Bella reached her friends and dropped the tray on the table with a clattering noise that seemed to echo about the room. She spun the chair around, placing it next to the Stanley girl, before taking the seat on the other side.

 

Bella glanced over her shoulder, smirking at me mirthfully. She raised her hand and beckoned me over in a movement that seemed to be a mockery of my own. Bella’s eyes blazed with mischief, and it was like she was issuing me a silent challenge. I braced my hands on the table top in front of me, never once breaking eye contact as I gracefully stood up and walked over to her. I tried to mimic her confident stride as I followed in her footsteps. I then slowly sank into the unoccupied chair.

 

I had to admit, I was more than a little confused by her actions. Bella seemed to have an uncanny ability to throw me off kilter. It was like the most intense game of chess I had ever played, and I found myself unable to anticipate her next move. Just when I thought I had her beat, she did something entirely unexpected, like steal my lunch and force me to sit with humans.

 

Bella’s smirk broke out into a toothy grin, “Edward, so nice of you to join us.” She teased.

 

I tried to mirror her playful tone and expression, by the twinkle in Bella’s eye I think I pulled it off. “You didn’t give me much of a choice, you stole my lunch.” I jested.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bella sniffed obstinately, “If it were up to you, you would spend all your time in brooding seclusion. As your friend it’s my duty to get you to open up.” She declared with a careless shrug. My friend. The words seemed to resonate in my mind, a tender bloom of longing unfurled in my chest as I stared at Bella with hidden adoration. How I yearned to be considered more than just a friend. My dead heart ached in my chest with want, I craved her touch like a man dying of thirst craved water. I was resolved not to push her, however, I would not force the violence of my affections upon her, and I would be grateful for whatever she deigned to give me. If Bella noticed the full strength of my emotions she gave no indication. She playfully snatched the bright red apple off the plastic tray and took a comically large bite of the juicy fruit, “Friends don’t let friends brood alone.” She mumbled around the food in her mouth, her cheeks puffing out adorably like a chipmunk hiding acorns. A trickle of juice escaped the corner of her mouth and dribbled down her chin, she blushed furiously, turning as red as the apple in her hand as she swiped at it with the sleeve of her shirt.

 

You shouldn’t speak with your mouth full, Bella.” Angela Weber chided playfully. Just like that it was as if a spell had been broken, and I became aware of an entire world that existed outside of Bella Swan and her ivory skin, and pink lips and dominate personality. “Hello, Edward. It’s nice to meet you.” The girl said politely, offering me a kind smile.

 

T he rest of the lunch went along without incident, and although I enjoyed being close to Bella I silently mourned the fact that I hadn’t had her all to myself. I tried not to resent having to share her with the humans, but as they stole her attentions and held her captive in asinine conversations I couldn’t help but detest their existence.

 

We walked together towards biology, “That was some stunt you pulled at lunch,” I groused, still emotionally wounded by her actions. Did she not want to spend time with me alone? Bella had called us friends, and yet she had made such a dramatic show of avoiding spending time with me unaccompanied.

 

Honestly, I don’t know what you expected me to do.” Bella huffed indignantly, “I didn’t want to abandon my friends.”

 

I had to admit, she had a point. I guess I couldn’t expect her to give up her human friends in favour of spending time with me, no matter how much I would like her to. I open ed the door to our class and h e ld it open for her, “I suppose that is fair.” I relent ed as I t oo k my seat next to her, I smile d at her playfully. “Although why you made me sit next to Jessica Stanley is beyond me. The girl is insufferable.” I chuckled as I thought back to the girl’s lustful thoughts when I first moved to town.

 

I turned, expecting Bella to laugh along with me, surely she had noticed how the teen was always there , in your space, demanding your attention. Instead, Bella is frowning angrily at me. She raised her hand and swatted my arm, a sharp sting of pain shot through me when her hand connected with my skin. “ Jess is nice, and she is my friend. So shut up.” She grumbled bitterly.

 

 

I br ought my hand to rub at the sore spot where Bella struck me, confusion clear on my face at how she managed to strike me with such force as to actually cause me pain. “ I’m sorry, Bella. I didn’t mean anything by it.” I say diplomatically, I hoped that it was enough to placate her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, you did.” Bella snapped angrily, “I get it. Jess is loud and some people can’t handle that. But that doesn’t give you the right to insult my friends.” Bella seemed to deflate a little bit, her shoulders hunched and she turned to stare down at the table top, “She’s the first person who has ever been genuinely nice to me. I didn’t have any friends back in Phoenix.” Bella confessed in a small voice. That bothered me more than I thought it would. Surely Bella would have had a gaggle of friends at her old school, who wouldn’t want to be her friend? I mulled the thought around in my head for a moment, and then a realisation hit me. The way Bella moved through a crowd, inhuman and unseen, her unnatural strength and domineering personality all clearly indicated her less than human nature. The humans of Forks had always been… less than observant, the innate human instinct to flea from a supernatural predator seemed to be absent from the population of this small North Western town. It was why we returned here time and again, it was easier for us to go to school and Carlisle enjoyed being welcomed and revered instead of barely tolerated. Had the students at Bella’s previous school sensed something other about her? Had they perceived her true nature? A predator amongst prey?

 

S orrow pinched painfully in my chest, Bella was such a sweet girl, so nice and open that it pained me to think of her alone and isolated. I placed a comforting hand on Bella’s shoulder and she looked up at me with hurt eyes. “I really am sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you. It was just my poor attempt at humour, I didn’t mean to be so callous.” I murmured softly to her.

 

A watery smile tugged at her lips, “You’re forgiven.” Bella declared.

 

As the class was winding up I purposefully slowed my movements as I packed away my things. I could hear some very entertaining thoughts from the Newton boy, he was hyping himself up, trying to talk himself into something, and I was interested in seeing if he would manage to follow through with them. Flashes of images fluttered in the boys mind, pictures of Bella in a low cut floor length gown, hair curled, lips bright red and eyes sparkling with purple powders. It wasn’t a memory, no it was too inaccurate for that. Bella was shorter in Newton’s mind’s eye, her lips thinner and hair a lighter shade, the entire thought was hazy with the feeling of hope and desire. No, this wasn’t a memory at all, this was a fantasy . My lips quirked in amusement even as the heat of possessive anger roiled inside of me. I couldn’t find it within myself to become too angry at the child, his hopes and desires , while irritating, where more of a humorous annoyance than an actual threat.

 

N ewton finally plucked up the courage to come over to our desk, and he stood there for a moment and nervously shifted his weight from one foot to the other. Just say something . His thoughts chided him and he was about to open his mouth and speak when Bella noticed his existence. “ Hey, Mike.” Bella chirped happily, “What can I do for you?”

 

I tried to seem nonchalant as I listened into their conversation. Newton cleared his throat awkwardly, “Well, you see… Jess asked me to the spring dance.”

 

That’s great!” Bella crowed and I could hear the genuine joy in her voice. I almost felt sorry for Newton. Almost.

 

That’s- That’s not what… god I thought this would be easier.Oh, I haven’t said yes yet.” Newton scrambled and I had to bring my fist to my mouth to stop myself from audibly laughing at the train-wreck this was quickly becoming. I noticed Newton’s eyes flicker to me, this would be a hell of a lot easier if Cullen wasn’t sitting right there. God what is that guy’s problem anyway? Newton had a remarkable gift for turning his shame into anger.

 

Why not?” The pure innocence of Bella’s confusion just made it all that much worse, or better, depending on your perspective.

 

N ewton puffed himself up like a peacock, “I was kinda hoping that you would ask me.”

 

From the corner of my eye I saw Bella physically wince, “Uh, Mike. No. I’m not going to the dance.” She blurted.

 

Newton was wounded by this, but I had to give him credit as he pushed ahead regardless. He was either very brave or very stupid, I couldn’t decide which. “Why not?”

 

Bella started to hastily stuff her things into her book-bag, sweeping her arm across the desk and letting all her belongings fall inside before she started to push them down with a hurried hand. “I’m going to Seattle that weekend. You should really tell Jessica yes, it’s rude to keep her waiting.” Bella babbled as she crammed her belongings into her bag. She tugged the zip closed and slung it over her shoulder before she raced out the door. I couldn’t stop the scoffing chuckle that time, and Newton levelled me in what he thought was a threatening glare. Would the comedy of errors that was Bella Swan’s life ever cease?

 

 

T hat afternoon as school was letting out and everyone was heading home, I got my answer in a stray thought from Tyler Crowley. He had been informed of Newton’s failure and had figured that he may have more luck. My lips twitched in amusement, I could only hope I would get a front row seat to that disaster waiting to happen. I was waiting in my car for my siblings when I saw Bella get in her truck. I frowned, that wouldn’t do, poor Tyler wouldn’t get his chance. I started the car and abruptly pulled out, blocking Bella in as I pulled the handbrake and left my car idling. I looked in the rear-view mirror to see Bella frowning and waving her hands at me in agitation, and I couldn’t help but laugh lightly at her.

 

I watched with eager anticipation as Tyler bounded over to the driver’s side window of Bella’s truck, he wrapped on the glass loudly with his knuckles which caused Bella to jump slightly, she rolled down the window and grumbled “Sorry Tyler, I’m stuck behind Cullen.”

 

I chuckled at Bella’s tone, the way she spat out my last name in irritation.

 

Oh yeah, I know!” Tyler beamed as he rocked back on his heels, “I was just wondering if you wanted to go to the spring dance with me?”

 

I watched through the rear-view mirror as Bella’s face fell into deadpanned despair. “No. I’m going to Seattle that day.” She said in an annoyed monotone and a forced smile.

 

Yeah, that’s what Mike said.” Tyler shrugged with a goofy grin.

 

I watched as Bella’s patience slowly crumbled, her warm eyes going cold as she sighed in exasperation. “Then why bother asking?” She bit out.

 

I thought you were just letting him down easy.”

 

No. I am really going away that Saturday.” Bella almost growled out, her anger was clearly rising and for some unknown reason I was finding it utterly hilarious. Maybe it was the disproportionate nature of her anger. Bella was becoming increasingly vexed over what amounted to nothing more than a small irritation.

 

Tyler didn’t seem to notice Bella’s foul mood as he grinned his goodbye.

 

My siblings were just getting in the car as I caught Bella’s eye in the rear-view mirror once more, she flipped me off and honked her horn loudly which caused me to howl with laughter as I pulled out of the parking lot.

 

I thought you were trying to be her friend, not irritate the girl to death.” Rosalie muttered from the backseat as she typed on her phone.

 

We are friends, haven’t you heard.” I announced smugly.

 

R osalie just rolled her eyes, “You owe me, by the way.”

 

I raised my eyebrows at her, and our eyes briefly met through the mirror. “What’s this then?”

 

I’m picking up that stupid wing mirror for you this afternoon. Took me less than 4 hours to find it.” She sniffed.

 

A new record,” I made sure my voice sounded appropriately impressed, and to be fair, it was a rather impressive feat.

 

Whatever.” Rosalie rolled her eyes but I could tell she was quietly preening under the praise. Rosalie truly took after her namesake, she was beautiful but with a prickly exterior. If you weren’t careful you would find yourself cut and bleeding from one of her many thorns, but those thorns were essential to her, they kept her safe, protected. I could understand that, respect it, and I knew I just had to tread carefully where Rosalie was concerned.

 

X xXx

 

The moment Rosalie handed me the wing mirror I begged her to let me borrow her tools so I could fix it to Bella’s truck. She relented, although she made sure to let me know that secretly fixing a girls truck in the middle of the night was quote ‘ Fucking weird.’

 

I happened to think that it was sweet, a subtle gesture to simply let Bella know I was thinking about her and cared about her safety.

 

I ran to Bella’s house and quietly stalked over to her truck. Using bolts and hand tools I secured the mirror to the side of the door, a task that would have required power tools had I been human. I stepped back and looked over my handy-work, and I was proud at what I saw. The mirror looked almost perfect, it matched the other side perfectly other than the fact it was significantly less rusted, but there wasn’t much I could do about that. I tilted the mirror into the correct position before I packed up Rosalie’s tools and started to head home.

 

As I raced through the forest, I caught Bella’s scent, it was unmistakable and made me pause. I couldn’t fight the urge the follow the scent, not that I wanted to, as the sweet and captivating nature of it drew me in. I quickly found the source, Bella’s sneakers, caked in mud and muck, tossed and forgotten at the base of a tree. I chuckled slightly, remembering her venture into the woods and the time she had spent fossicking in the creek bed. I carefully picked up her shoes, determined to clean them and return them to Bella as another sign of our friendship.

 

 

 

A s I returned home I was quickly humbled by the realisation that I had no idea how to go about cleaning the sneakers of their filth. I didn’t want to do anything that would damage them, and after having spent many days and nights soaking in the mud and moss they were more than likely stained something awful.

 

Esme, could I ask you something?” I gently called out as I stood in the foyer of the house, grasping Bella’s sneakers with both hands.

 

E sme came dancing down the stairs, her caramel hair was tied up about her head and she smiled warmly at me. “What can I do for you, son?” She hummed as she came to stand in front of me.

 

I smiled bashfully and presented the sneakers to her, “I found Bella’s shoes in the woods, I wanted to clean them for her but I don’t know how.”

 

Esme took the shoes and examined them, “I see. Come with me, dear.” She smiled as she handed them back to me.

 

I dutifully followed Esme as she led me through the garage to the attached mud-room, Rosalie’s head perked up from under the hood of Emmett’s Jeep as we passed. I watched as her nostrils flared and her eyes flickered to the shoes in my hands. She smiled at me condescendingly, “ Fixing her truck is one thing, Edward. But stealing a girls shoes is just creepy.

 

I didn’t steal them!” I snapped sharply, “I found them.”

 

Uh-huh, sure you did.” Rosalie replied sarcastically with a nod of her head.

 

Rosalie, leave your brother alone.” Esme chided sternly as she placed a hand on my forearm to coax me towards the mud room.

 

I breathed a relieved sigh at Esme’s defence, “Thanks, mom.” I murmured softly as I placed Bella’s shoes in the large stainless steel basin in the small room.

 

Esme beamed at the familial term as she rummaged in a cupboard, pulling out a bottle of cleaning vinegar and a little jar of baking soda. She handed me a hard scrubbing brush, “Here, start by brushing off as much dirt and muck as you can.” She directed and I nodded obediently.

 

I started my task as the sharp smell of vinegar filled the room. Esme poured some into a jug before adding a few scoops of the baking soda. The mixture fizzled violently before settling as Esme stirred her concoction with a metal spoon. I had managed to rid Bella’s shoes of the large chunks of dried mud and moss, but they were still awfully stained.

 

Here, spoon this on the stains.” Esme placed the jug in my hands and I quietly did as instructed. “Good, now scrub it in a little bit and then we will rinse it all off. It may take a couple of goes, but soon they will be as good as new.” Esme promised with a beaming smile. I carefully scrubbed Bella’s shoes under Esme’s watchful gaze, and soon enough they were clean. Completely free of any stains or marks.

 

I smiled proudly as I looked the shoes over, turning them this way and that to inspect them for any spots I may have missed. “Thank you, Esme. For helping me.” I grinned over at her.

 

Esme’s soft hand cupped my cheek as she smiled at me warmly, “Anytime, my son.”

 

XxXx

 

Bella’s truck came sputtering into the school parking lot, new side mirror proudly jutting off the driver’s side door. I could feel excitement bubble in my chest, along side a curling ball of nervous anxiety. My desire to spend more time with Bella, alone and without the interruptions of others, was mounting. And as such I had decided that my best course of action to remedy the situation would be to ask the girl outright. I would simply request the pleasure of her company, and since I knew she was free the night of the spring dance I had the perfect date in mind. I smiled as I waltzed across the lot to greet her, she jumped out of her truck with youthful exuberance causing her keys to clatter to the ground. She sighed heavily, as if this small setback was a heavy burden. I smirked as I darted to pick them up off the ground just as she bent over to do the same.

 

 

B ella righted herself with a half-shocked expression, and I held out her keys to her, playfully dangling them from the end of my finger. Bella swiped at her keys, grabbing them in a movement that was agile and so frightfully fast that I didn’t have time to teasingly pull them away again as I had planned. “ Ah, Edward Cullen. The fasted man alive.” She snickered.

 

I chuckled as well, more out of politeness and confusion than actual humour. “What?”

 

The fastest man alive?” Bella raised both her eyebrows expectantly, “Barry Allen? DC Comics? The Flash?” She rattled off, getting increasingly annoyed by my ignorance. “Jesus Christ on a cracker. It’s not funny if I have to explain it to you.” She muttered as she turned around and started to march towards the school building.

 

I made a mental note to look into this comic book that Bella seemed fond of as I jogged to catch up to her, “Hey, wait up!” I called out and when I caught up to her I started to walk next to her, matching her stride. “I had something to ask you, before you went and ran away from me.” I teased.

 

I didn’t run away from you.” Bella pouted adorably, and then sighed dramatically with an energetic wave of her hand, “Well go on then. Ask your question.” I smirked at her theatrics, she was always so bold, so forthright with her actions and emotions. And yet, I had seen first hand the way she could lock it all away at a moments notice, become calm and stoic as if she were a ship becalmed at sea and nothing could ever hope to crease her sails. The only giveaway when Bella became like that was her heartbeat, and I was grateful for my extrasensory hearing. It was a marvellous trick, being able to feign indifference with such artistry was not an easy task. I had been witness to it a number of times, and I couldn’t help but wonder how she became so proficient at such deception, and why it was a necessary skill for her to learn.

 

I was wondering, if a week from Saturday, you know the day of the school dance-” I started my painstakingly prepared and rehearsed speech, only to be cut off by Bella abruptly turning on her heel and staring me down with her eyes ablaze.

 

Do you think you’re being funny?” She hissed irritably, pointing an accusing finger at me.

 

I raised my hands in surrender, smiling at her teasingly. “Are you going to let me finish, Bella?”

 

Bella squinted at me, as if she were trying to uncover my nefarious plot with her eyes alone. “You’re on thin fucking ice, buddy.” She grumbled and I baulked at her profanity. I had never become accustomed to the casual use of such obscene language.

 

 

I took a moment to compose myself, “What I was going to ask was. Did you want company on your trip to Seattle?” I asked as I offered her a warm smile. I tried not to let my nerves be known as I awaited her response.

 

S he frowned slightly, not exactly the response I was hoping for, before she tilted her head to the side curiously. “I’m not actually going to Seattle on Saturday,” She whispered, “ I just said that to get a bunch of hormonally charged teenagers off my case.” Bella eyed me suspiciously.

 

I chuckled at her suspicious glare, “I figured at much. Still, since you wont be going to the dance, did you want to do something together?” I asked with as much confidence as I could muster. I nervously shifted my weight and tried to keep my eyes trained on hers, but I couldn’t help but look down anxiously as I waited for her to speak. She was taking her time, and I could see the gears behind her eyes moving as she formulated her reply.

 

H er gaze shifted from carefully calculating to light and teasing, “Like a date?” she jested lightly.

 

M y eyes widened as I inched closer to her, “If that’s what you want.” I stared at her in amazement, completely baffled by the fact that I had somehow gotten everything I had wanted.

 

I could feel the warmth of Bella’s body as she moved closer to me, reaching up to whisper softly, “You should remember to blink more.” Bella then whirled around and walked away, a happy little jaunt in her step. It took me an embarrassingly long moment to collect my thoughts as I shook my head and walked to my first class.

 

 

X xXx

 

I unfortunately arrived at the school cafeteria before Bella did, and not wanting a repeat of yesterday’s dramatics I figured it would be best to simply sit with Bella’s human friends to begin with. When I had taken my seat at the table, tray of prop foods for Bella placed in front of me, the easy conversations of the teenagers came to a stuttering halt. Even their minds were almost silent, just a soft impression of shock and curiosity at my behaviour. I gave them what I hoped was a polite smile and their c hatter bubbled up once again. I did my best to smile and nod along at the right places, but I didn’t try and offer anything more to the conversation.

 

W hen I spotted Bella come through the doors I couldn’t help but smile in relief. As she walked across the room I saw her glance over to my usual table, to where my siblings were still sitting. When her eyes met that of my siblings I couldn’t help but notice the unmistakable shift in her demeanour. When Bella had first entered the cafeteria, she was relaxed, calm and comfortable. H er face was in an easy-going smile, her eyes bright and unguarded and her posture was fluid and restful. As her eyes scanned the quartet of vampires on the other side of the lunch room she transformed, it was like I was witnessing her become a different person entirely.

 

B ella’s posture shifted, her muscles tensed and she squared her shoulders determinedly. Her gait transformed from an easy-going amble to a tense and purposeful stride. Bella’s face was no longer the picture perfect example of calm happiness. In it’s place was that stoic mask that I was quickly becoming acquainted with. Her mouth was a grim line, her eyes somehow both flat and flaming, and in her chest her heartbeat was thundering out a rabid beat. Bella watched my siblings with a wary eye as she continued to walk towards me, and then she clenched her jaw, so hard I could see the movement of it, and then slowly, purposefully, she turned her back on them to face me completely.

 

I saw her chest heave with the weight of a large breath, and as our eyes met it came whooshing out of her lips in a single gush of air. A sigh of relief. It confused me, her reaction to my siblings and then her reaction to me, completely at odds with each other. Especially since she had run from the class room on her first day to avoid sitting next to me, and now… now she seemed to gain some measure of comfort from my presence.

 

I could physically see her relax as she took her seat next to me, and she smiled at me but the expression was weak and seemed forced. “ I don’t think your siblings like me stealing you away.” She whispered to me quietly, her eyes flickered to my face and away again.

 

They will just have to cope.” I whispered warmly back as I nudged my tray of food over to her.

 

B ella watched my movements intently, and the ghost of a smile playing on her lips turned into a soft smile. Her eyes were warm as she studied my face and I wished I could read her mind and understand what she was thinking in that moment. I was about to ask her what she was thinking when her body tensed and with lightening fast reflexes her hand snapped up and caught a plastic bottle before it could slam into the side of her head.

 

I hadn’t even noticed the Stanley girl who was sitting across from us, she had apparently been trying to get Bella’s attention, but Bella had been just as consumed by my company as I was by hers. The movement was entirely inhuman, no human could possibly have reacted that quickly, Bella herself seemed almost shocked by her reaction. It was as if her body had moved without the express permission of her brain.

 

Whoa, good reflexes.” Jessica muttered.

 

What the hell, Jess?” Bella forced out a laugh and threw the bottle back at the girl. Her face was flaming in a red blush and her eyes darted to me and the others at the table, clearly trying to see if her faux pa was noticed. The human’s didn’t notice, not really, but I did. As Bella talked with Jessica about dress shopping I couldn’t help but replay the moment in my minds eye. It would have been an impressive show of agility for me, a vampire, let alone Bella. Whatever Bella was, she was strong, and fast, and possessed a level of intelligence she kept well hidden. I know I had promised her that I wouldn’t try and uncover her secret, that I would leave well enough alone, but I couldn’t help it. I would do anything I could to figure out what Bella Swan was.

 

 

X xXx

 

If there was a God, he had a strange sense of humour. Carlisle and I had spent countless hours debating the existence of God, the nature of the human soul, religion in general. And while I liked the thought of a God, I wasn’t entirely sure he existed. Even so, if he did, he probably got his jollies by making the skies of Forks unusually sunny, just to mess with me. I couldn’t attend school or see Bella for the remainder of the week, and it vexed me to no end. I used those days to go hunting, alone. I didn’t want to deal with the thoughts of my family members as I mourned Bella’s absence.

 

I t didn’t take much to convince myself to follow Bella on her shopping trip to Port Angeles. After three days without her, the desire to see her felt like a physical thing lodged deep in my chest. I would follow her, just to make sure she was safe, that was all.

 

 

 

 

I followed Jessica Stanley’s car at a distance, far enough away that she would not see my car, but still close enough that I could view Bella through her mind. Bella was excited, and it once again showed just how alone she had been before she moved to this small town. When the girls reached the department store I dutifully insured that they made it inside safely, before I diverted my mind. It wouldn’t do to snoop inside their thoughts while they were trying on dresses. While I had been witness to many private moments and thoughts due to my gift, I was still a gentleman, and I would endeavour to give them their privacy.

 

A few hours past, and I decided to dip back into the minds of Jessica and Angela, just to check on Bella. But when I did, I realised she was no longer with them. At some point, Bella had left the department store, and now I had no idea where she was. I growled to myself as I started the car, I had to find her. Who knew what sort of trouble she could find herself in?

 

I cracked the window a small amount so I could sample the evening air as I sped along the darkened streets. I used every tool at my disposal to track Bella down. I rapidly flipped through dozens of minds as if they were the paper thin pages of a phone book, looking for the one person whose mind I couldn’t read. I caught the faintest whiff of Bella’s scent on the wind, and at the same time I found her in the mind of another.

 

I jerked the steering wheel and started in the correct direction. The image of Bella in the man’s mind was of her walking from behind, and as Bella cast a worried look over her shoulder I grit my teeth against the foul thoughts in the fiend’s head. Pretty little thing. She’ll do nicely, oh yeah can’t wait to bury my-

 

I snarling growl echoed in the empty car around me as I stepped down on the accelerator. The devil wasn’t alone, and his companions thoughts were no better than his own. I weaved dangerously through side-streets as I sped towards them. I knew Bella was strong, and fast, but I also knew it was possible for her to be hurt. I could remember the bruising on her face with crystal clarity. Whatever Bella Swan was, she was still vulnerable, and I couldn’t allow these despicable men to hurt her.

 

I see you brought a friend.” A third voice jeered and I slammed my hand against the steering wheel as I urged the car to go faster. I needed to go faster, I needed to get there and save her, protect her.

 

Leave me alone.” Bella spat, and I could feel the sicking humour in the three men’s minds, apparently they liked their victims to have a little fight in them. I had three different perspectives in my mind, three unique vantage points in which I would have to endure and bear witness as Bella was assaulted. All because I had let her out of my sight, and because this damn car could not go any faster!

 

 

 

Where do you think you’re going?” The third man leered suggestively as he reached out and clamped his disgusting hand around Bella’s dainty wrist. Bella came to an abrupt stop and through the tall man’s mind I could see her slender body tremble in fear. I didn’t want to watch this, I didn’t want to be inside the mind of Bella’s rapist as he took her innocence, and yet I couldn’t bring myself to pull out of the man’s thoughts.

 

 

 

 

 

When Bella spun on her heel and grabbed the man’s arm with her free hand, I am not sure who was more shocked, me or the man. Bella’s lips twitched as a monstrous growl echoed in her chest, I never would have thought I would describe anything Bella did as monstrous but it was the only word that came to mind. It was a sound unlike anything I had ever heard before, animalistic and primal and absolutely terrifying. Bella’s eyes flashed with an untamed fury, her twitching lips formed into a sinister smile as she twisted the man’s arm violently. I could feel the man’s shock and pain as he fell to the ground, his knees hitting the hard pavement.

 

I watched through his eyes as Bella glared down at him, a feral look in her eye. “If you so much as look at another woman again, I will find you. And I will rip your heart out with my teeth.” Bella’s voice didn’t sound like her own, it was deep and growly as she threatened the man. Bella leaned down closer, and I spun around another corner as I closed in on their location. “Do you understand me?” She hissed venomously. I was inside the man’s mind, he was terrified and could not think a single coherent thought let alone speak. “DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME?!” Bella roared, and the man’s mind turned a blinding white with pain as Bella twisted his arm, snapping it in a single violent motion.

 

F inally. Finally , I came screeching around the last corner. I yanked the steering wheel to the side as I reached over to fling the passenger side door open. I looked up through the windscreen as my headlights illuminated the scene in white light. Bella looked up, startled by the sudden noise and bright light and she dropped the man’s mangled arm to shield her eyes from the brightness. For the briefest of moments, her eyes flashed, reflecting the light back at me like a wild animal. I didn’t have time to dwell on it as I finished my manoeuvre, pulling the car to a stop sideways as the passenger door finished swinging open.

 

Bella!” I shouted,

 

T he feral look in Bella’s eye evaporated, and as realisation sunk in she turned and looked at the whimpering man at her feet. She started to shake, trembling in shock. I need ed her to move, “Bella! Get in the car! Now!” I thunder ed at her, and it seemed to break her out of whatever spell she had found herself under because in a few jerky movements she thr ew herself into the car and yank ed the door closed.

 

I d idn’t hesitate as I sped away, out of the alley and out of the small city. I was afraid that if I didn’t put as much distance between me and those men as possible , that I would finish what Bella had started. I went over the incident in my mind, re-watching it from all three perspectives, as I drove dangerously fast out of Port Angeles. Bella had snapped that man’s arm as if it were a toothpick, she didn’t even seem to notice she had broken it until I arrived and snapped her out of furious rage.

 

The men had gone from jubilant and aroused to horrified in an instant. And yet, I couldn’t help but think that Bella looked positively stunning in her rage. Her eyes ablaze and her hair wild about her, she looked like a warrior priestess, and I very much wanted to worship at whatever alter she guarded. Bella had held that barbarian’s life in her hands, and she looked just about ready to take it when I had arrived. The thought sen t a shivering jolt of desire through me, and a devilish part of me wished that she hadn’t stopped. It was completely mad, the very facet of my own being that I despised with such earnest, is what made Bella so utterly desirable to me. What would she have looked like, bathed in that human’s blood? Would she had made good on her promise to tear his heart out with her teeth? My answer came to me within an instant as a reviewed the scene, of course she would have.

 

 

 

A single image clouded my thoughts, unbidden I saw it as clear as day. Bella, crouched down over the still warm and twitching corpse of that savage, blood staining her chin and dripping off her ravishing face, the still beating heart clenched between her teeth. I expected to feel some sort of revulsion at the brutal imagery my mind conjured up, but I found none. I could only feel an endless longing, a desire that burned hotter than the sun, and a strange sense of… companionship. Of belonging. Bella held a darkness inside of her, and it rivalled and challenged my own.

 

I was pulled out of my musings as I noticed Bella’s breathing had become laboured. She had bent over in her seat, hunched over at the waist and was gasping desperately as if she were drowning. “ Pull over.” Bella wheezed.

 

What?” I blurted, still caught up in my internal dreamings.

 

Stop the car.” Bella was louder this time, but her voice still wavered as she struggled to breathe.

 

Bella, we are in the middle of nowhere.” I tried to reason with her, even though I was beginning to worry. Bella’s face had become pale, her lips were no longer pink and were becoming an unseemly grey, a sheen of sweat was covering her entire face.

 

B ella turned to face me, her eyes were wide and her pupils were blown, the chocolate irises a mere ring around the dark void. “ Edward Cullen, stop the damn car!” Bella screamed at me, her voice broke several times as tears started to streak down her face.

 

I jerked the steering wheel and came to an abrupt stop on the shoulder of the road, gravel crunched loudly under the tyres. We had barely come to a complete stop before Bella flung open the door and hurled herself out of the vehicle. Bella s taggered out of the car on unstable legs, stumbling towards the treeline with a mindless intensity. I opened my door and quickly followed her, I didn’t want her to get lost in the woods. I approached Bella cautiously, I wasn’t completely sure what was happening and I didn’t want to do anything to further upset her.

 

B ella braced herself against a thick tree, she bent at the waist as she dry heaved a few times before trying to suck in some desperately needed breaths. Panic attack . Of course, how stupid could I be? She had just survived a horrifying ordeal, she had been followed and then attacked, was about to be viciously assaulted. And now, now that all that adrenaline and anger had had it’s time to work its way through her system, it was finally hitting her. Her reality was crumbling down around her, Bella’s sense of safety and sense of self had been attacked in the most appalling of ways. A sudden urge to comfort her filled me, warmed me to my core, Bella needed me now more than she ever had before.

 

Bella,” I began cautiously, not wanting to spook her. “It’s alright.” I gently took her warm hand in my own, relieved when she didn’t flinch or pull away from me. “Take one deep breath for me. Just focus on your breathing.” I whispered the words warmly, serenely, hoping to imbue her with a sense of peace. I slowly traced small circles on the back of her hand with my thumb, and as her breathing evened out I smiled, “It’s okay, Bella. You’re safe now.” I promised gently.

 

 

B ella straightened up and observed me with a startlingly calm expression, her hair was a wild mess, it was half covering her face as she stared up at me. “Safe? What are you talking about?” She muttered in a hoarse voice.

 

 

 

I carefully raised my hand to brush her hair out of her face, “ Those men can’t hurt you now.” I assured her confidently.

 

B ella looked at me as if I had gone insane, “That’s-That’s not what I am freaking out about, Edward!” She cried and yanked her hand out of mine, “Didn’t you see what happened?” She demanded in a broken wail, “ I broke that man’s arm, I snapped it clean in half!” She took a stumbl ing step backwards, away from me.

 

A nger flooded my veins, “He deserved everything that was coming to him.” I snapped. I could hardly believe it, Bella’s panic attack was not brought on by what had happened to her, but rather what she had done to that pile of human filth.

 

You’re joking right?” Bella scoffed, her voice dripping with scorn. “He didn’t even do anything!” She shouted at me, the words sharp as a blade.

 

Yet.” I spat back.

 

What?” Bella asked incredulously.

 

He hadn’t done anything, yet.” I heaved an exasperated sigh, “Bella, you have no idea the foul things those men were thinking.”

 

Oh, and you do!?” She shrieked as she moved towards me, that same fiery anger from earlier was burning in her eyes. “I seriously injured that man, Edward!” she howled as she continued her advance. “I was going to do worse! I WANTED to do worse!” Her eyes never left my own as she screamed at me in her beautiful rage.

 

Yes, Bella!” I shouted back at her, my voice thundered around us in the otherwise vacant forest. “I do know what they were thinking! And I am glad you hurt that man!” I fumed, “I would have done a lot worse if I had the chance!”

 

M y bellowing voice echoed into a still silence, and a watched in abject terror as Bella’s righteous fury crumpled. Her face fell into one of complete devastation, tears springing forth and gushing down her face as a terrible sob choked it’s way out of her throat. Regret and shame flooded my soul, I didn’t mean to make her cry. I wanted to comfort her, to apologise for yelling, but how to you comfort a person when you are the reason they are upset to begin with?

 

As another anguished sob wracked her small frame she closed the small distance between us and threw her arms around m e and buried her face in the crook my neck, gasping in desperate gulps of air in between her wretched sobs. I recovered from my shock and gently curled my arms around her shivering body, I slowly caressed a hand down her hair, hoping I was bringing her some measure of comfort. “Shh, Bella.” I whispered against the top of her head, “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry for yelling at you.” My voice was desperate, I could only hope she would forgive my outburst.

 

I continued to card my fingers through her hair, taming it’s wildness into gentle waves with my fingers. I felt Bella nuzzle her face closer against me, breathing in deep lungfuls of air, and the more she breathed in my scent, the more she calmed. Her sobs quietened and her crying stopped, but even then I didn’t release her, I wouldn’t let her go until she asked. I don’t think I was even capable of letting her go.

 

 

 

W e stood there, intertwined in each others arms, alone in the woods by the side of the road, for was felt like hours. But at the same time, it felt like barely any time at all. Eventually Bella spoke, “How can you stand it?” She whispered, her voice was rough from her screams and sobs, and her whisper was so soft that it was little more than a ghost of a breeze spoken against the side of my throat.

 

Stand what?” I whispered back, afraid to speak any louder because I didn’t want to break the strange enchantment we had fallen under, here in this evergreen forest, it felt as if we could simply remain here, tangled in this embrace until the end of days.

 

Being close to me?” Bella whimpered, “I’m a monster, Edward. Can’t you see that?” Bella confessed miserably, I wanted to argue but before I could she continued. “If you hadn’t turned up with you did, I honestly don’t know what would have happened.”

 

I did. I knew that she would have killed that man, and then most likely turned on the others. I had seen it on her face, in her eyes as she took pleasure in that mans pain. I didn’t say this, however, I knew that it wasn’t what she needed to hear. Bella saw herself as a monster, a feeling I could most certainly identify with. But the most startling difference between us, was Bella’s regret. The only lives I regret taking where those of the innocent, men like the ones who had accosted Bella were not on that list. Bella wasn’t a monster, she was much too sweet for that. She cared for the well being of her would-be rapists, that kind of compassion can not be faked or forced, and was a mark of Bella’s pure soul.

 

I chuckled sadly and Bella was startled by the noise and pulled back to stare at me quizzically, her eyebrows bunching up over her tear reddened ey es , “Oh, Bella.” I sighed sadly, a soft smile tugged on my lips, “I’m pretty sure monsters don’t have existential crisis’s in the middle of the woods.”

 

B ella’s lips quirked up in an amused smile, and that made my smile widen, I was glad to see I had managed to cheer her up. Suddenly her eyes flashed, it was like she had a literal ‘light bulb moment’ “Oh shit!” She gasped, “Jess and Angela are probably so pissed right now. I’m so late for dinner.” Bella bemoaned as she started to look fitfully around the small patch of woods.

 

S he’s looking for her phone . I realised after a moment, “You left your ba g in the car.” I commented.

 

I need to call Jess.” She stated, somewhat bewildered and I offered her an encouraging smile.

 

Wait here.” I ordered and started towards the car. Bella had left the passenger side door open and I ducked in and quickly found Bella’s cellphone. I scrolled through the contact list as I ambled back the way I came. I pressed Jessica Stanley’s name, ignoring Bella as she silently demanded her phone.

 

The line rang once before the Stanley girl answered. “ Bella! Where are you!?” She shrieked. I was surprised to hear genuine concern in the girls voice.

 

Actually, it’s Edward. Edward Cullen.” I shot a smile at Bella as she quietly fumed beside me.

 

Oh, uhm where’s Bella.” the girl stuttered nervously.

 

I’m so sorry, Bella and I ran into each other and got to talking. I didn’t mean to make her so late for dinner.” I lied easily, my voice dripping in charisma.

 

O-okay, well we kinda already ate and-” Jessica stammered.

 

That’s alright. Bella really should have some dinner, and I am more than capable of taking her home.” A assured her, pulling her in with my deep and hypnotic voice.

 

Could you put Bella on the phone please?” She squeaked out and I raised my eyebrows in surprise, it wasn’t very often a human evaded my charms.

 

I handed the phone to Bella who took it with a smug smirk. “ Hey, Jess.”

 

You’re good, right? Edward hasn’t, like, kidnapped you or anything?” I scoffed a chuckle and the girls concerns.

 

B ella laughed too, “I’m fin e , Jess. Sorry for missing dinner.”

 

Okay, well you can make it us to me by giving me the deets on Monday.” Jessica teased

 

Goodbye, Jess.” Bella intoned sarcastically before she ended the call. Bella stashed her phone in her pants pocket and looked over at me, “Thank you.” She said earnestly.

 

I frowned in confusion, “Thank you for what?” Bella had nothing to thank me for, or at least nothing I could think of.

 

For stopping me.” Bella scoffs as if it was obvious, and when I go to say that even if I hadn’t stopped her, the world would have been a better place her hand comes up to silence my words. “It doesn’t matter what you say, Edward. If you didn’t stop me, I probably would have killed that man. So thank you.” Bella’s voice was calm and confident, her face was no longer flushed with tears or anger and she smiled serenely at me as if I had made everything right in the world.

 

I stepped closer to her and gently took her face in my hand, my thumb grazed down her cheek and she leaned into my touch. “You amaze me,” I breathed reverently.

 

What? Why?” Bella asked in an astonished voice, her own brilliance was a complete mystery to her.

 

I smiled lovingly at her innocence, “You’re so concerned about the well-being of a man who wanted to do terrible thing to you.” I chuckled sadly with a shake of my head. Part of me also knew that she was thanking me for stopping her for an entirely different reason. Not just out of concern for that man’s life, but because she didn’t actually want to kill anyone. Bella was so kind I was sure that such a thing would have destroyed her completely. “ Come on, we better get you some dinner.” I grabbed Bella’s hand and led her back to the car.

 

B ella settled down into the passenger seat and when I got in the car she replied, “Actually, I’m not really that hungry.”

 

I frowned at her as I started the car, “Bella, you should eat something.” I chastised.

 

Really, I’m fine.” Bella stressed, “If you could just take me home, that would be great.” She implored.

 

I considered everything that had happened that night, and figured now was not the time to argue with her. “Whatever you want.” I agreed.

 

 

B ella was silent during the drive back to Forks. She just stared contemplatively out the window as the trees passed her by in a green blur. I didn’t want to interrupt her, or annoy her with needless chatter so I simply allowed the soft melody of the classical music on the stereo to fill the silence for us.

 

I pulled into the driveway of the Swan house and Bella quickly gathered her things, “Thanks, Edward. For everything.” Bella murmured softly.

 

Of course, Bella.” I smiled adoringly at her, hoping to convey that I would do absolutely anything for her, all she need do was ask. I gingerly took her hand in mine, revelling in the warmth of it, “I was wondering, if it would be okay to call on you tomorrow?” I inquired.

 

Call on me?” Bella scoffed.

 

Just to make sure you’re alright.” I assured her, I didn’t want her to feel pressured or pursued.

 

B ella’s brown eyes studied me intensely, and then she lunged at me with a furious hunger. Her hand that wasn’t still held in m ine came to cup my jaw as she pressed her hot lips against mine. The kiss was scorching, I had touched her a number of times but not until her lips were on mine did I realise just how hot Bella’s skin was. I relaxed into the kiss, and I rested my free hand on the back of her neck, light enough so I wouldn’t hurt her but firm enough to ensure she knew her attentions were wanted. Oh lord, were they wanted. Bella’s lips moved against mine and just as I felt the flicker of her tongue against my lips, she pulled away with a gasp. Bella leaned her forehead against mine, her hot breath fanned across my face as she regained her senses. “ I’ll see you tomorrow.” She whispered against my lips, and then she was gone.

 

L ike a hurricane she whirled out of the car, taking all her delicious warmth with her. I wasn’t sure if I could survive without her scorching touch against my icy skin, I wasn’t sure how I ha d survived this long without it. Bella Swan was like a wildfire, blazing out of control, and I would willingly throw myself into the flames if it gave me the promise of her touch.

Chapter Text

 

 

I arrived home in a daze. Moving on auto-pilot I parked my car in the garage and ghosted through the house to land in a vacant spot on the living room sofa. The events of the evening echoed in my mind. Bella’s hand on my face, her lips against mine, the way her tongue had oh so briefly flicked against my lip, as if she were too shy to push the kiss any further. I could still feel her lips against mine, it was like Bella had branded herself onto my skin.

 

My family were sitting around the living room watching a movie together, and they were completely oblivious to what had just happened. My entire world had changed. A dying star had just gone supernova in the heart of my very existence, and my family were none the wiser. My secret didn’t stay secret for long, Jasper’s gift made sure of that. Despite my outward appearance, Jasper could sense my true emotions; a delicious mix of wonder, desire and something that was almost akin to a religious revelation.

 

Jasper gave me a questioning look, “What’s wrong with you, then?” He drawled from his spot on the love seat with Alice.

 

The rest of the family paid us no mind, choosing to continue to watch their film rather than turn their attentions towards Jasper and me. “She kissed me.” I answered distractedly. That got their attention. Six pairs of amber eyes were suddenly studying me as if I were a strange new beast, and not their brother and son.

 

“Who kissed you?” Esme perked up as she paused the film.

 

“Bella.” I breathed dreamily.

 

“Bella Swan?” Rosalie asked dubiously.

 

I nodded as Alice asked, “What happened?” She seemed to be almost vibrating in anticipation.

 

“I followed her to Port Angeles,” I began only to be interrupted,

 

Creep.” Rosalie fake coughed only to be chastised by Esme.

 

Rosalie!” Esme scolded, “Be nice to your brother.” She frowned disapprovingly at her, before she turned and offered me an encouraging smile, “Go on, dear.”

 

I was still on cloud nine, so Rosalie’s snotty remark didn’t faze me in the slightest. “ Bella had been followed by some men, they were about to assault her when-”

 

Let me guess!” Emmett cut in jubilantly, “You rushed in like a knight in shining armour and saved her! And she was so grateful for your rescue that she flung herself at you and ravished you like a character in one of Esme’s bodice ripper novels!” He crowed excitedly.

 

Emmett!” Esme scolded, completely scandalised.

 

No. No that’s not what happened.” I shook my head slowly, as I tried to gather my wits about me.

 

 

 

 

 

My family was looking at me strangely, and Jasper was no longer the only one to notice my queer disposition. It was like trying to think through a heavenly haze, my limbs felt light and airy, a peculiar absentminded smile was curling my lips, and for the life of me I never wanted the curious sensation to stop. I didn’t stop them, Bella did… she broke the guys arm… broke it so violently so… viciously. I don’t even think she realised she had done it until I interrupted her.” My voice was light, almost wistful as I recounted the incident.

 

Good for her . Rosalie’s thoughts rung out loudly, clanging in my muddled mind like a church bell. She didn’t vocalise her approval of Bella’s actions, but when her eyes met mine she gave me an almost imperceptible nod.

 

Bella broke a man’s arm? How?” Carlisle questioned curiously, eyes alight in fascination.

 

She just sorta…” I raised my hand and mimed making a fist before I twisted it to the side, “Snapped it.”

 

Carlisle’s mind was a maelstrom of thoughts and ideas, the additional evidence of her strength was filed away with everything else he knew about the girl.

 

That’s great and everything,” Alice interrupted bluntly, “But I don’t see how Bella snapping a rapist’s arm leads to her kissing you!” She whined.

 

Right well,” I shook my head to clear my thoughts as I picked the story back up, “Bella was in shock and I got her into the car and was driving out of the city when she started having a panic attack.”

 

That’s understandable, after what she went through.” Jasper nodded knowingly,

 

Right, that’s what I thought too, that she was freaking out because of what almost happened. But she wasn’t, she was freaking out because she had hurt someone.” I spoke quickly, speeding through my words.

 

What?” Rosalie muttered. What kind of girl feels sorry for hurting her attackers? She is either hopelessly naive or dangerously kind.

 

I know!” I agreed wholeheartedly with Rosalie’s thoughts. I told my family the rest of the story, holding nothing back, and a small part of me wondered if in doing so I was betraying Bella’s confidence, but I quickly came to realise that nothing stayed secret in my family for long and if I tried to hold anything back that they would undoubtedly find out, and any attempt of secrecy on my part would just lead to them mistrusting Bella. With that in mind, I shared everything.

 

I told them how Bella was beside herself with regret, how she confessed to me that she wanted to hurt the man worse than she already had, and the only thing that stopped her from killing the human was my intervention. I admitted bashfully how I had screamed back at her, and how my harsh words had made her cry. My family shared in my utter disbelief when I told them how she threw her arms around me, drawing comfort from my embrace as she called herself a monster. They all understood that sentiment all too well, each having to come to terms with that darker side of themselves, and hearing how Bella struggled with a similar feat seemed to endear her to my family. Finally, I told them how I drove Bella home and asked if I could call on her tomorrow, and instead of giving me an answer, had thrown herself across the centre console and pressed her lips against mine.

 

 

 

W hen I was finished I waited silently for someone to say something, but no one did. “ So?” I hedged, “What should I do now?” I asked anxiously, the dreamy haze had left me during my recounting of the nights events, and all I was left with was a string of nerves a mile long. I hadn’t ever kissed anyone before, did Bella enjoy it? I know I did, the warmth that spread through my body at every point of contact was addictive, and I already craved more. But Bella had pulled away so suddenly, disappeared into the night with barely a whispered word. What did it mean? Did she want to start courting, o r was the kiss just a spontaneous affair?

 

Calm down there, brother.” Jasper drawled and helped me along with a gentle pulse of calming energy. I took a deep breath and nodded as Jasper withdrew his gift, “What’s got you all tangled up inside?” He raised an inquisitive eyebrow.

 

I looked around at the comforting faces of my family, even Rosalie was smiling at me gently. Her usual facade of snarky meanness fell away when she realised that I needed love and support. “ I don’t know what to do, I’m not even sure why she kissed me.” I mumbled bashfully.

 

She kissed you because she fancies you, my dear.” Esme chuckled playfully, a mirthful glean in her eye.

 

Perhaps,” I mused, Bella did seem to hold some affection for me but I didn’t dare to hope, “I just don’t know what she wants.” I groaned as I tugged a hand through my hair.

 

Here’s a novel idea, why don’t you try asking the girl?” Rosalie piped up, not entirely unkindly but still with a sharp edge of snark. It was a genuine suggestion though, and I appreciated her input.

 

I nodded seriously, “Okay, but how do I do that, Rose?” I implored, “ I never know what to say to her,” I lamented.

 

Rosalie smiled indulgently at me, the ever patient older sister, even though she was in fact younger than I was. “Find a way to bring the kiss into casual conversation, and once you’ve done that, ask to court her.” She said kindly.

 

You make it sound so easy.” I sighed.

 

Well it is… if you’re normal.” Rosalie sniffed sarcastically. Ah there we go, back to normal, everything was once again right in the world.

 

I was about to offer my own biting retort when Carlisle’s cell phone rang out loudly. Carlisle answered and I remained silent out of politeness, and also because I wanted to listen in on who was calling my father so late at night.

 

Dr. Cullen.” Carlisle answered swiftly.

 

T o my surprise I heard Bella’s father on the other end of the line, “Dr. Cullen, I’m so sorry to call you so late at night, I hope I didn’t wake you.” The gruff voice replied.

 

I let out a quiet snicker at that, as did my siblings and our dad shot us a stern warning glance. “Not at all Chief Swan. What can I do for you?” Carlisle returned pleasantly.

 

 

 

 

I’m so sorry to ask this of you, I know that it’s not your job, but I was hoping you could come out and examine a corpse for me.” The chief spoke professionally, but you could hear the fatigue in his voice. There was no inflection in his tone to suggest it was a question, just a simple statement, as if he had asked Carlisle to pick up his dry cleaning, or water his plants while he was out of town.

 

A corpse?” Carlisle echoed in confusion, his light eyebrows furrowing as his thin lips pulled down into a frown.

 

There was an exhausted sigh from the man, “Yes, I’m afraid so. Our Medical Examiner is out sick with the stomach flu and the ME from King County is in New York for some sort of conference. We can’t move the body until it’s examined at the scene, and I noticed you did some consulting work with the police at your last job in Anchorage. I know it’s a lot to ask, but I’m asking anyway.” There was a brief pause and I could hear through a shuffling sort of noise as Chief Swan pulled his phone away from his mouth, his voice sounded distant as he shouted, “God damn it, Martinez, get that fucking tarp up! If it starts raining and we lose evidence because of your incompetence I will have your ass, you hear me!?” Ah, now I understood where Bella got it from. There was the muffled sounds of Chief Swan putting the phone back to his ear and he cleared his throat loudly,I’m gonna be honest with you Dr. Cullen, it’s not a pretty sight, but I wouldn’t be asking you if I had any other option.”

 

C arlisle didn’t even have to think about it, he had already agreed halfway through the man’s lengthy explanation. “ Of course, Chief. I am more than happy to do anything I can to assist you.” Carlisle replied seriously.

 

C hief Swan heaved a sigh of relief, “Thank you, Dr Cullen. Fork s PD owe you one. I’ll send a patrol car around to come get you.”


Anytime, Chief Swan.” Carlisle intoned before he hung up the phone.

 

Well, that was interesting.” Jasper remarked casually, as if he were commenting on the weather.

 

C arlisle stood and stretched his arms above his head, his human facade was so ingrained that it had just become a part of who he was, he groaned as if he could feel his muscles relieve their non-existent tension before he smiled around the room at his family. “I better go get ready, wouldn’t want to keep the Chief waiting.” He joked lightly.

 

A s Carlisle left to go get changed I couldn’t help but over hear his thoughts. It wasn’t intentional, Carlisle wasn’t trying to be heard, and I wasn’t trying particularly hard to listen, but I overheard it anyway. A stream of consciousness from my father hit me as he considered that whatever Bella Swan was, it seemed more than likely her father was the same. The fact I couldn’t read either of their minds certainly led Carlisle in that direction anyhow. He was silently stewing in his excitement, thrilled at the idea of being able to work closely with the man, he considered it an opportune moment to study him, to try and figure out what set him and his daughter apart from the rest of humanity.

 

I frowned at the thoughts, but said nothing. It wouldn’t do any harm to allow Carlisle his little research project, and as long as he left Bella alone I could see nothing wrong with it.

 

 

X xXx

 

 

 

When Carlisle returned just before dawn, the first words out of his mouth as he came into the living room were, “ That man is alarmingly perceptive. Carlisle’s hand ran across his jaw worryingly.

 

So is his daughter.” I remarked from my seat on the plush armchair.

 

Understatement.” Emmett scoffed as he flicked through the channels of early morning television.

 

J asper entered the living room, his blonde hair still damp from his morning shower after a brief late night hunt. “ What happened?” He asked as he sat down next to Emmett, he tried to swipe the TV remote off him but Emmett just shoved Jasper away roughly before he settled on a channel that was showing cartoons. I could hear Jasper’s agitated thoughts at this, wanting to watch the early morning world news.

 

The body was that of a hiker, found by another woodsman just off the trail.” Carlisle paused with a sigh and an image of the scene flashed through his mind causing me to physically recoil.

 

Oh my god.” I groaned and Carlisle made a conscious effort to pull his thoughts away from what he had seen, but it was too late. I had seen it, and now could never forget it. A body of a man lay in a tangle of broken limbs on the forest floor, his clothing was torn and covered in blood and mud but you could tell that he had once been dressed in sturdy hiking gear. Long slashes covered his chest, ribbons of flesh hung off of his frame as if he had been flayed alive. The man’s neck was completely destroyed, but even through the brief glance I got through Carlisle’s memory, I could see the distinct double half-moon shapes of a vampire’s bite tearing through supple flesh.

 

That’s-” I choked out and Carlisle nodded solemnly.

 

The result of a vampire attack” He finished gravely.

 

T hat caused Emmett and Jasper to stop the quiet struggle over the television remote, and Emmett quickly turned the cartoons off as Jasper said, “What? Are you sure, Carlisle?”

 

In a flash the rest of the family appeared in the room, wanting to be present for the conversation. “ Unfortunately.” Carlisle sighed as Esme put an arm around his waist and leaned into his side, Carlisle perked up at the gentle offering of comfort from his mate. His arms circled around Esme and held her close to him. Carlisle interlocked his fingers as they rested on Esme’s hip. “And Chief Swan is far too observant for his own good.”

 

What happened?” Esme asked softly, staring up at Carlisle with understanding eyes.

 

I arrived at the scene and immediately knew what had happened, even before I saw the body I could smell an unfamiliar vampire in the area.” Carlisle pulled Esme closer against him, wanting to protect his mate any way he could, “Chief Swan needed me to complete a standard examination of the body and scene, and to determine the cause of death so he could lodge it with the state.”

 

Well, you couldn’t really say the cause of death was ‘death by vampire attack’.” Emmett snorted at his own joke, but even he couldn’t completely hide how the presence of an unknown vampire made him feel uneasy and as Rosalie came to sit next to him he casually draped his arm over her shoulders, pulling her closer to him.

 

 

Quite right.” Carlisle nodded, “I determined the cause of death to be accidental, an animal attack, perhaps a bear or a mountain lion.”

 

And he bought that?” Jasper asked warily.

 

C arlisle scoffed and I was shocked by the level of disdain in the sound, “Not in the slightest.” Carlisle seemed incredibly tired by the entire ordeal, “He kept insisting I take another look. That the wounds on the victims abdomen didn’t m atch the claw marks of any known animal in the region,” Carlisle shook his head angrily, “ Eventually I convinced him to rely on my expertise, after all that was why he called me in. We need to stay vigilant, keep an eye out for any other vampires in the area. And we can not allow the authorities to find another corpse, under any circumstances.” Carlisle looked at each of us in turn, an authoritative steel hardened his face, “I fear I will not be able to convince Chief Swan that any additional victims are the work of a wild animal.”

 

T he warning was clear as day. If Charlie Swan came across any more victims of the rogue vampire, our secret would be exposed. As a family, we would have to be extra careful over the coming weeks, not to draw any unnecessary attention to ourselves. I was determined to ensure our secret was safe, the risk of exposure meant the threat of us having to leave the area. Leaving the area meant leaving Bella behind. And that was s omething that I was not willing to do .

 

 

X xXx

 

I was relieved to get out of the house, the tense atmosphere was becoming too much for me to handle and the promise of Bella’s company felt like a balm to my wretched soul. And yet, I still found myself inexplicably nervous. Not only was I unsure on how to approach her after the kiss we shared, I also didn’t know how to go about ascertaining whether or not she knew what he r father had been doing with mine late last night.

 

I pulled into the driveway of the Swan house, parking next to Bella’s massive truck. There was a single heartbeat in the house, so the Chief must have already been at work. I took a moment to collect myself before I exited my car and walked up the path to the front door. The closer I got to the door, the faster the solitary heartbeat inside became. Bella could hear me coming, and the realisation made me pause for a moment on the stoop. As I stood on Bella’s front porch, I listened to her rapid heartbeat and tried to puzzle out what it meant. Was she just as nervous as I was? Or was it something more ominous? Did she regret the kiss we shared the night before? As I waited on the porch I could hear Bella’s heartbeat settle into a much calmer rhythm. The subtle shift gave me the courage I needed and I raised my hand and knocked lightly on the door.

 

 

It’s open!” I heard Bella call out from inside the house and I slowly opened the door and closed it gently behind me. I breathed deeply for the first time since stepping over the threshold and it nearly caused me to crumble to my knees. Bella’s scent was everywhere, it was ingrained in everything around me, from the wooden floors under my feet to the faded wallpaper on the walls. There was something else as well, intermingling itself with Bella’s scent, something different yet familiar that I could only identify as belonging to Bella’s father.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a strange scent, completely unlike any other human I had come across before. It was almost acidic, like the ashes of a forest fire that had just burnt itself out. There was heat too it as well. Not like Bella’s heat, no. Bella’s scent was warm in a gentle way, a welcoming way that felt like home and safety. Of a promise of something brilliant, just ahead on the horizon. This was something different entirely. A sharp heat, like the sting of flesh after the crack of a whip. Charlie Swan’s scent was violent, predatory, and it set my teeth on edge . If it weren’t for Bella’s much more overpowering scent calming my nerves and soothing my vampiric instincts I am sure I would have crouched down to brace myself for an oncoming attack.

 

I f I ever needed further proof that the Swans were more than human, this was all the evidence anyone could ever require. I would have to ask Carlisle if he had noticed the strange scent of the Chief of Police during his consult. He hadn’t mentioned anything, but then again he had been rather preoccupied with the situation at hand.

 

M y lurking in the small entryway of the Swan home had not gone unnoticed and I heard Bella call out, “ Kitchen!” I pulled myself out of my head, and by focusing on Bella’s scent alone I forced my feet to move through the small archway that led to an equally small kitchen.

 

I knew from the exterior that the Swan house was a humble one. W ith it’s white wooden siding with peeling paint, shutters over windows that were turning green with moss, it was the complete opposite of my own extravagant home. The kitchen was smaller than I had expected it to be, but that may have been because most of the room was taken up by a large table with miss-matched chairs.

 

M y smile faltered and gave away my nerves, “Good morning, Bella.” I greeted and mentally chided myself for how stiff and formal I sounded.

 

B ella stood up and threw back the contents of her mug in a single motion and I was momentarily captivated by the movements of her throat as she swallowed the liquid. She tossed the empty mug into the sink and turned around to face me, she leaned casually against the counter and smile d . “Hello.”

 

I breathed deeply, letting Bella’s scent give me strength as I moved further into the small room. I paused near the table and looked Bella over, my eyes flickered over her form as I tried to discern her current attitude. “So… we kissed last night.” I held back a pained winced at my awkward words. I could hear Rosalie’s belittling jeer in my mind as if she were right there with us, chiding me for being as awkward as a human teenager.

 

M uch to my relief, Bella’s eyes twinkled in amusement as a teasing smirk tugged at one side of her beautiful lips and her eyebrows quirked as she studied me. “ Yes, yes we did.” She nodded slowly.

 

I rested my hand on the worn wooden table and studied the uneven grain for a moment. I cleared my throat and looked back up at Bella who was still staring at me with utter amusement, her serene confidence fell off of her in waves as she lounged casually against her kitchen counter. “ And where does that leave us?” I hedged.

 

B ella frowned and tilted her head slightly, “I’m not sure I get what you mean.”

 

I tried my best to mirror her confidence as I took a step closer to her, “I mean, are we now courting?”

 

 

It wasn’t exactly what Rosalie had suggested. I was supposed to ask her to court me directly, but standing there in front of Bella made me take leave of my senses.

 

Bella’s hand came to her mouth to try and smother the chittering giggle that erupted out of her, and I felt as if my stone heart had hit the bottom of my stomach. She was laughing at me, the very thought of courting me was laughable in her eyes. I wanted to be angry, to lash out at her, but I was struck dumb by the sheer sting of rejection. “ Courting?” She giggled and I struggled to keep my face neutral, “Seriously? Okay, what I think you just asked was: am I now your girlfriend?” Bella pushed off the counter to stand upright, and with a fire in her eyes she closed the distance between us. Hope filled my chest, had I misunderstood her yet again? Did she simply find my choice in vocabulary humorous? Bella came to a stop right in front of me, and place her warm hand on my chest. Yes, it had been a misunderstanding. I gazed down at here entirely enraptured by the beauty before me as she glanced up at me from under her eyelashes, “I would like that very much.” She murmured softly.

 

I couldn’t stop staring at her lips, remembering how soft they felt when pressed against my own. I stopped breathing so I wouldn’t run the risk of being overwhelmed by the smell and taste of her as I gently ducked my head down and pressed a chaste kiss against her lips. Bella’s lips pursed and moved slightly as she kissed me back and as I pulled away I felt her move forward, as if she were chasing after the sensation of my lips against hers. When I pulled back and opened my eyes I saw that Bella’s eyes were wide, pupils blown and with a slight glaze over them as she stared dreamily back at me. “ That would make me very happy.” I murmured warmly.

 

I could feel Bella’s body release a soft shudder a s she slowly exhaled the breath she had been holding, her parted lips had pinked beautifully from our kiss and a delicate blush coloured her features. Bella closed her mouth and shut her eyes for a moment, and it was like she had to physically force herself to step out of my embrace. Not for the first time I considered whether Bella was just as affected by me as I was by her. It was certainly beginning to look that way.

 

I gotta warn you though,” Bella shot me a sly smile, “I’ve never been someones girlfriend before.”

 

I shrugged nonchalantly, “Well, it’s new territory for me too. I guess we can explore it together.” My mind was filled with what exactly said exploration would look like. We were very different beings, I was a vampire, over a hundred years old and raised in a very different time… and Bella was… whatever she was. She certainly acted like a girl raised in the modern world, but doubt bloomed in my mind as I realised just how little I knew about the young woman I would now call my girlfriend. What expectations did she have for our burgeoning relationship? What was the next step now we were courting? I didn’t think to ask my family for advice about this, and now I wasn’t sure what to do.

 

B ella shifted nervously, “Uh, so… got any plans today?” She asked.

 

I released a little chuckle, relieved that she had said something to distract me from my worries. “I was just about to ask you that.”

 

 

Bella scrunched up her face as she shrugged, “Probably go for a walk in the woods.”

 

 

 

 

I stiffened as I felt my expression darken. Clearly Chief Swan hadn’t told his daughter about the dangers that were currently lurking in the nearby forest. Or maybe, even he didn’t realise the true nature of the threat? Carlisle seemed certain that the Chief had suspected something was amiss, but also eventually accepted Carlisle’s explanation of an animal attack. I needed a way to ensure Bella’s safety, without giving anything away. “Bella, I would really prefer it if you didn’t go wandering through the forest by yourself. It’s not safe.”

 

 

B ella gave me a strange sort of smile, as if she were confused by the request, and I was glad when she didn’t fight me on it. “I won’t be by myself though, will I? Because you’re coming with me.”

 

I nodded sternly, “Okay, just promise you wont go by yourself.” I needed to hear her say the words.

 

Bella studied me thoughtfully, and I could see in her eyes that she thought my request was ludicrous. She slowly nodded, “Sure thing. Promise.” and then quick as lightening she sprung forward and pressed a warm kiss against my cheek. “I’m gonna go get my shoes on, wait here.” I was left in a daze as she darted out of the kitchen and up the stairs.

 

I stayed in my spot in the kitchen as I listen to Bella rummage around upstairs in her room, and then I heard her heavy footsteps come thundering down the staircase. She ducked her head into the kitchen, “Ready?” She chirped.

 

I smiled at her, “Sure.”

 

I followed Bella as she traipsed out the back door and into the thick forest that bordered her home. It felt much nicer to walk with her in the woods, rather than follow behind her like a stalking predator. I wondered if Bella had noticed me that day, and I truly hoped she hadn’t. Bella was kind and forgiving and I knew that if she did know about it she would be much too compassionate to mention it.

 

So, other than walking aimlessly through the woods, what do you do for fun?” I asked in a teasing tone, hoping that it masked my very real desire to know everything about her.

 

Uhhmm.” Bella hummed thoughtfully as she pushed a low hanging branch out of her way, and I had to quickly sidestep to avoid it from smacking me in the face when she let it go. “I like to read. I like learning new things.” She eventually continued.

 

H ow frustratingly vague. I frowned at the back of her head, “Like what?”

 

I watched from behind as Bella shrugged, “Anything, really.”

 

I bit back a growl of irritation. Getting information from the girl was like pulling teeth. Why was she so cagey? I wasn’t asking anything particularly intimate, I just wanted to get to know her better!

 

What else?” I urged.

 

B ella turned and glanced at me from over her shoulder, eyebrows half-furrowed and half-raised as if trying to figure out what my deal was. Apparently she liked whatever it was she saw on my face and turned back around to continue her peaceful march through the woods. “ I used to really love chess.” Bella said absentmindedly. It was a softly spoken statement , a throw away comment that she clearly meant to be dismissed or glossed over.

 

 

I jumped at it like a ravenous lion, “Used to?” I pressed.

 

Yeah, it’s hard to love something when no one wants to play with you.” Bella said candidly, and I watched from behind as Bella’s shoulders hunched down for a moment before she straightened and started to mutter out words at a million miles an hour, “I mean, Renee- uh my mom- she got sick of it pretty quick. She’s a sore loser.” Bella said the words so rushed and I could smell the blush on her face even though I couldn’t see it with her back to me as we moved through the woods. I could tell that this wasn’t Bella’s attempt at subtlety bragging about her chess skills, she was just trying to explain why she had no opponents to play against.

 

T his was something we had in common, I too liked chess but rarely got the chance to play. After a few decades my family became tired of trying to circumnavigate my mind reading abilities, and as such I haven’t had the chance to play a real game of chess in many many years. Alice was the only one who would indulge d me. But that usually just resulted in us sitting in front of a chess set, me making a decision and Alice seeing the move in a vision, followed by me rapidly changing my strategy until one of us eventually conceded with a gentle toppling of our king.

 

I enjoy chess also, perhaps w could have a game sometime?” I asked lightly as I smiled at the thought.

 

Bella paused mid-step and slowly turned to face me, eyeing me with her scrutinising gaze. “That wouldn’t exactly be a fair match.” she accused.

 

I matched her expression as I crossed my arms and leaned casually against a tree, “And why is that?”

 

Because how can I expect to beat an opponent who can read my mind?” Bella scoffed with a roll of her eyes.

 

I ce cold shock rocked my body, “Who said I could read your mind?”

 

You did.” Bella pointed an accusing finger at me.

 

I did no such thing!” I argued back impotently.

 

B ella rolled her eyes again, a dramatic motion as if she were tiring of my antics. “ Okay, not in so many words. Fine. But you did admit to being able to read minds.” She declared haughtily as she put her hands on her hips.

 

B ella glared at me, standing in the forest with her hands on her hips and her hair in gentle waves around her head she was truly beautifully imposing force of nature. Carlisle’s words from this morning echoed in my head alarmingly perceptive . I narrowed my eyes, I wouldn’t be able to get anything by her. “ Yes. I did admit to being able to read minds. However I can not read your mind.”

 

I watched her carefully for her reaction, she seemed doubtful. “Really?”

 

I huffed out a humourless laugh, “Really. It’s the most frustrating thing in the world.”

 

Bella visibly relaxed at this, “So that’s… strange? Has this ever happened before?” She cocked her head curiously. Always so eager for information.

 

 

No. Not until I met you. Although I can not hear your father’s thoughts, either.” I tugged a hand through my hair but kept an eye on Bella for her reaction to this information. I had noticed that once Bella got talking, became relaxed and content with the company she was with, she began to lose her mind to mouth filter, and I was hoping that I could take advantage of that to try and gain any more knowledge on what she was.

 

B ella nodded thoughtfully, “Yeah, that makes sense.” She mused. I could see the exact moment her words caught up with her brain, it hit her like a devastating wrecking ball. Bella scrunched her eyes closed as she grimaced and cringed away from me as if she were expecting a physical blow. Her entire body tensed and her little hands clenched into tight fists, her knuckles going white with the pressure of it. Bella turned on her heel and abruptly stomped off into the forest, walking much faster than she was before.

 

Hey! Wait up!” I hollered out after her, a moved at a slow jog to catch up and matched her stride and she stalked angrily through the woods. “What did you mean? That it makes sense?” I had a pretty good idea, but I wanted Bella to confirm it. I needed to hear her say it, or else I would forever doubt my own conclusions. Whatever protected Bella from my gift, also protected her father.

 

B ella’s step faltered, “Well, my dad and me. We’re the same.” Bella said meekly.

 

I was right. “That’s certainly interesting.” I murmured.

 

Glad you think so.” Bella muttered bitterly, and I could help but chuckle at her irritation. I now knew just how ferocious Bella could be, I knew what she looked like when overcome with murderous rage and broiling anger. I had heard the spine tingling noises she could create when she was truly angered, sounds that would make any vampire tremble in fear. I had seen through the mind of another the way Bella’s warm eyes erupted into a tumultuous tempest, the way her lips could twitch into a villainous smirk as she caused pain to others. After bearing witness to that, I could only find this anger, this juvenile stomping through the forest, as utterly adorable.

 

W e came across a familiar stream and I followed Bella as she turned downstream. I couldn’t help but stare at Bella as we walked. She entranced me with her beauty, the way her lips parted slightly as she breathed, the slight flush to her cheeks, the soft curve of her jaw as it led down to her beautiful neck. Bella glanced at me and I quickly looked away, not wanting to be caught staring at her so intensely. I felt Bella’s warm hand graze against my own as we walked. Was it accidental? Bella did it again, but this time she curled her fingers around my hand. In my shock it took me a moment to return the gesture, and once our hands were perfectly entwined Bella released a contented sigh, as if holding my hand was the most precious gift she could ever hope for.

 

So what about you?” Bella spoke up,

 

What about me?”

 

I mean, what do you do for fun?” Bella’s question was punctuated with a gentle squeeze of my hand, the motion sent lightening strikes surging up my arm.

 

I also enjoy reading. I spend a lot of time listening to music.” I answered swiftly, trying my best to ignore how the warmth of her hand in mine seemed to leech into my body.

 

What kind of music?” Bella asked innocently.

 

 

Classical, but I also like rock.” I thought for a moment before scrunching up my face in distaste, “Come to think of it, I like pretty much anything other than country.”

 

B ella arched an eyebrow at me, “And what’s wrong with country music?” she challenged.

 

Everything.” I immediately replied.

 

B ella stopped walking and turned to face me, “Well I have to disagree with you.” She declared defiantly, “Dolly Parton is a national treasure. And Johnny Cash? Lyrical genius.” Bella stared me down.

 

B ella had to be joking, “Dolly Parton? Are you serious?” I asked incredulously

 

Are you!?” Bella retorted boldly, “Her songs are fantastic! Jolene is amazing, and don’t even get me started on Nine to Five.” She scoffed, her disdain for my musical taste was clear.

 

I smiled bashfully, “I can’t tell if you’re being serious, or if you’re just teasing me.”

 

Oh, I am deadly serious.” She nodded gravely, “Next you’ll be telling me you don’t like John Denver!” She hooted before she turned and stalked off into the woods.

 

I don’t like John Denver!” I protested lamely at her retreating form.

 

Well then you’re wrong!” Bella crowed back with a thundering laugh. I hurried after her, the sound of her laughter brought such joy to my undead heart that I wouldn’t hesitate to admit that I was indeed wrong, if it meant hearing that glorious sound, just one more time.