WE ENDED UP ON THE BEACH AGAIN, WANDERING AIMlessly. Jacob was still full of himself for engineering my escape.
“Do you think they’ll come looking for you?” he asked, sounding hopeful.
“No.” I was certain about that. “They’re going to be furious with me tonight, though.”
He picked up a rock and chucked it into the waves. “Don’t go back, then,” he suggested again.
“Charlie would love that,” I said sarcastically.
“I bet he wouldn’t mind.”
I didn’t answer. Jacob was probably right, and that made me grind my teeth together. Charlie’s blatant preference for my Quileute friends was so unfair. I wondered if he would feel the same if he knew the choice was really between vampires and werewolves.
“So what’s the latest pack scandal?” I asked lightly.
Jacob skidded to a halt, and he stared down at me with shocked eyes.
“What? That was a joke.”
“Oh.” He looked away.
I waited for him to start walking again, but he seemed lost in thought.
“Is there a scandal?” I wondered.
Jacob chuckled once. “I forget what it’s like, not having everyone know everything all the time. Having a quiet, private place inside my head.”
We walked along the stony beach quietly for a few minutes.
“So what is it?” I finally asked. “That everyone in your head already knows?”
He hesitated for a moment, as if he weren’t sure how much he was going to tell me. Then he sighed and said, “Quil imprinted. That’s three now. The rest of us are starting to get worried. Maybe it’s more common than the stories say. . . .” He frowned, and then turned to stare at me. He gazed into my eyes without speaking, his eyebrows furrowed in concentration.
“What are you staring at?” I asked, feeling self-conscious.
He sighed. “Nothing.”
Jacob started walking again. Without seeming to think about it, he reached out and took my hand. We paced silently across the rocks.
I thought of how we must look walking hand and hand down the beach — like a couple, certainly — and wondered if I should object. But this was the way it had always been with Jacob. . . . No reason to get worked up about it now.
“Why is Quil’s imprinting such a scandal?” I asked when it didn’t look like he was going to go on. “Is it because he’s the newest one?”
“That doesn’t have anything to do with it.”
“Then what’s the problem?”
“It’s another one of those legend things. I wonder when we’re going to stop being surprised that they’re all true?” he muttered to himself.
“Are you going to tell me? Or do I have to guess?”
“You’d never get it right. See, Quil hasn’t been hanging out with us, you know, until just recently. So he hadn’t been around Emily’s place much.”
“Quil imprinted on Emily, too?” I gasped.
“No! I told you not to guess. Emily had her two nieces down for a visit . . . and Quil met Claire.”
He didn’t continue. I thought about that for a moment.
“Emily doesn’t want her niece with a werewolf? That’s a little hypocritical,” I said.
But I could understand why she of all people might feel that way. I thought again of the long scars that marred her face and extended all the way down her right arm. Sam had lost control just once when he was standing too close to her. Once was all it took. . . . I’d seen the pain in Sam’s eyes when he looked at what he’d done to Emily. I could understand why Emily might want to protect her niece from that.
“Would you please stop guessing? You’re way off. Emily doesn’t mind that part, it’s just, well, a little early.”
“What do you mean early?”
Jacob appraised me with narrowed eyes. “Try not to be judgmental, okay?”
I nodded cautiously.
“Claire is two,” Jacob told me.
Rain started to fall. I blinked furiously as the drops pelted my face.
Jacob waited in silence. He wore no jacket, as usual; the rain left a spatter of dark spots on his black T-shirt, and dripped through his shaggy hair. His face was expressionless as he watched mine.
“Quil . . . imprinted . . . with a two-year-old?” I was finally able to ask.
“It happens.” Jacob shrugged. He bent to grab another rock and sent it flying out into the bay. “Or so the stories say.”
“But she’s a baby,” I protested.
He looked at me with dark amusement. “Quil’s not getting any older,” he reminded me, a bit of acid in his tone. “He’ll just have to be patient for a few decades.”
“I . . . don’t know what to say.”
I was trying my hardest not to be critical, but, in truth, I was horrified. Until now, nothing about the werewolves had bothered me since the day I’d found out they weren’t committing the murders I’d suspected them of.
“You’re making judgments,” he accused. “I can see it on your face.”
“Sorry,” I muttered. “But it sounds really creepy.”
“It’s not like that; you’ve got it all wrong,” Jacob defended his friend, suddenly vehement. “I’ve seen what it’s like, through his eyes. There’s nothing romantic about it at all, not for Quil, not now.” He took a deep breath, frustrated. “It’s so hard to describe. It’s not like love at first sight, really. It’s more like . . . gravity moves. When you see her, suddenly it’s not the earth holding you here anymore. She does. And nothing matters more than her. And you would do anything for her, be anything for her. . . . You become whatever she needs you to be, whether that’s a protector, or a lover, or a friend, or a brother.
“Quil will be the best, kindest big brother any kid ever had. There isn’t a toddler on the planet that will be more carefully looked after than that little girl will be. And then, when she’s older and needs a friend, he’ll be more understanding, trustworthy, and reliable than anyone else she knows. And then, when she’s grown up, they’ll be as happy as Emily and Sam.” A strange, bitter edge sharpened his tone at the very end, when he spoke of Sam.
“Doesn’t Claire get a choice here?”
“Of course. But why wouldn’t she choose him, in the end? He’ll be her perfect match. Like he was designed for her alone.”
We walked in silence for a moment, till I paused to toss a rock toward the ocean. It fell to the beach several meters short. Jacob laughed at me.
“We can’t all be freakishly strong,” I muttered.
“When do you think it will happen for you?” I asked quietly.
His answer was flat and immediate. “Never.”
“It’s not something you can control, is it?”
He was silent for a few minutes. Unconsciously, we both walked slower, barely moving at all.
“It’s not supposed to be,” he admitted. “But you have to see her — the one that’s supposedly meant for you.”
“And you think that if you haven’t seen her yet, then she’s not out there?” I asked skeptically. “Jacob, you haven’t really seen much of the world — less than me, even.”
“No, I haven’t,” he said in a low voice. He looked at my face with suddenly piercing eyes. “But I’ll never see anyone else, Bella. I only see you. Even when I close my eyes and try to see something else. Ask Quil or Embry. It drives them all crazy.”
I dropped my eyes to the rocks.
We weren’t walking anymore. The only sound was of the waves beating against the shore. I couldn’t hear the rain over their roar.
“Maybe I’d better go home,” I whispered.
“No!” he protested, surprised by this conclusion.
I looked up at him again, and his eyes were anxious now.
“You have the whole day off, right? The bloodsucker won’t be home yet.”
I glared at him.
“No offense intended,” he said quickly.
“Yes, I have the whole day. But, Jake . . .”
He held up his hands. “Sorry,” he apologized. “I won’t be like that anymore. I’ll just be Jacob.”
I sighed. “But if that’s what you’re thinking . . .”
“Don’t worry about me,” he insisted, smiling with deliberate cheer, too brightly. “I know what I’m doing. Just tell me if I’m upsetting you.”
“I don’t know. . . .”
“C’mon, Bella. Let’s go back to the house and get our bikes. You’ve got to ride a motorcycle regularly to keep it in tune.”
“I really don’t think I’m allowed.”
“By who? Charlie or the blood — or him?”
Jacob grinned my grin, and he was suddenly the Jacob I missed the most, sunny and warm.
I couldn’t help grinning back.
The rain softened, turned to mist.
“I won’t tell anyone,” he promised.
“Except every one of your friends.”
He shook his head soberly and raised his right hand. “I promise not to think about it.”
I laughed. “If I get hurt, it was because I tripped.”
“Whatever you say.”
We rode our motorcycles on the back roads around La Push until the rain made them too muddy and Jacob insisted that he was going to pass out if he didn’t eat soon. Billy greeted me easily when we got to the house, as if my sudden reappearance meant nothing more complicated than that I’d wanted to spend the day with my friend. After we ate the sandwiches Jacob made, we went out to the garage and I helped him clean up the bikes. I hadn’t been here in months — since Edward had returned — but there was no sense of import to it. It was just another afternoon in the garage.
“This is nice,” I commented when he pulled the warm sodas from the grocery bag. “I’ve missed this place.”
He smiled, looking around at the plastic sheds bolted together over our heads. “Yeah, I can understand that. All the splendor of the Taj Mahal, without the inconvenience and expense of traveling to India.”
“To Washington’s little Taj Mahal,” I toasted, holding up my can.
He touched his can to mine.
“Do you remember last Valentine’s Day? I think that was the last time you were here — the last time when things were still . . . normal, I mean.”
I laughed. “Of course I remember. I traded a lifetime of servitude for a box of conversation hearts. That’s not something I’m likely to forget.”
He laughed with me. “That’s right. Hmm, servitude. I’ll have to think of something good.” Then he sighed. “It feels like it was years ago. Another era. A happier one.”
I couldn’t agree with him. This was my happy era now. But I was surprised to realize how many things I missed from my own personal dark ages. I stared through the opening at the murky forest. The rain had picked up again, but it was warm in the little garage, sitting next to Jacob. He was as good as a furnace.
His fingers brushed my hand. “Things have really changed.”
“Yeah,” I said, and then I reached out and patted the back tire of my bike. “Charlie used to like me. I hope Billy doesn’t say anything about today. . . .” I bit my lip.
“He won’t. He doesn’t get worked up about things the way Charlie does. Hey, I never did apologize officially for that stupid move with the bike. I’m real sorry about ratting you out to Charlie. I wish I hadn’t.”
I rolled my eyes. “Me, too.”
“I’m really, really sorry.”
He looked at me hopefully, his wet, tangled black hair sticking up in every direction around his pleading face.
“Oh, fine! You’re forgiven.”
We grinned at each other for a second, and then his face clouded over.
“You know that day, when I brought the bike over . . . I’ve been wanting to ask you something,” he said slowly. “But also . . . not wanting to.”
I held very still — a reaction to stress. It was a habit I’d picked up from Edward.
“Were you just being stubborn because you were mad at me, or were you really serious?” he whispered.
“About what?” I whispered back, though I was sure I knew what he meant.
He glared at me. “You know. When you said it was none of my business . . . if — if he bit you.” He cringed visibly at the end.
“Jake . . .” My throat felt swollen. I couldn’t finish.
He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “Were you serious?”
He was trembling just slightly. His eyes stayed closed.
“Yes,” I whispered.
Jacob inhaled, slow and deep. “I guess I knew that.”
I stared at his face, waiting for his eyes to open.
“You know what this will mean?” He demanded suddenly. “You do understand that, don’t you? What will happen if they break the treaty?”
“We’ll leave first,” I said in a small voice.
His eyes flashed open, their black depths full of anger and pain. “There wasn’t a geographic limit to the treaty, Bella. Our great-grandfathers only agreed to keep the peace because the Cullens swore that they were different, that humans weren’t in danger from them. They promised they would never kill or change anyone ever again. If they go back on their word, the treaty is meaningless, and they are no different than any other vampires. Once that’s established, when we find them again —”
“But, Jake, didn’t you break the treaty already?” I asked, grasping at straws. “Wasn’t part of it that you not tell people about the vampires? And you told me. So isn’t the treaty sort of moot, anyhow?”
Jacob didn’t like the reminder; the pain in his eyes hardened into animosity. “Yeah, I broke the treaty — back before I believed any of it. And I’m sure they were informed of that.” He glared sourly at my forehead, not meeting my shamed gaze. “But it’s not like that gives them a freebie or anything. There’s no fault for a fault. They have only one option if they object to what I did. The same option we’ll have when they break the treaty: to attack. To start the war.”
He made it sound so inevitable. I shuddered.
“Jake, it doesn’t have to be that way.”
His teeth ground together. “It is that way.”
The silence after his declaration felt very loud.
“Will you never forgive me, Jacob?” I whispered. As soon as I said the words, I wished I hadn’t. I didn’t want to hear his answer.
“You won’t be Bella anymore,” he told me. “My friend won’t exist. There’ll be no one to forgive.”
“That sounds like a no,” I whispered.
We faced each other for an endless moment.
“Is this goodbye then, Jake?”
He blinked rapidly, his fierce expression melting in surprise. “Why? We still have a few years. Can’t we be friends until we’re out of time?”
“Years? No, Jake, not years.” I shook my head, and laughed once without humor. “Weeks is more accurate.”
I was not expecting his reaction.
He was suddenly on his feet, and there was a loud pop as the soda can exploded in his hand. Soda flew everywhere, soaking me, like it was spraying from a hose.
“Jake!” I started to complain, but I fell silent when I realized that his whole body was quivering with anger. He glared at me wildly, a growling sound building in his chest.
I froze in place, too shocked to remember how to move.
The shaking rolled through him, getting faster, until it looked like he was vibrating. His shape blurred. . . .
And then Jacob gritted his teeth together, and the growling stopped. He squeezed his eyes tight in concentration; the quivering slowed until only his hands were shaking.
“Weeks,” Jacob said in a flat monotone.
I couldn’t respond; I was still frozen.
He opened his eyes. They were beyond fury now.
“He’s going to change you into a filthy bloodsucker in just a few weeks!” Jacob hissed through his teeth.
Too stunned to take offense at his words, I just nodded mutely.
His face turned green under the russet skin.
“Of course, Jake,” I whispered after a long minute of silence. “He’s seventeen, Jacob. And I get closer to nineteen every day. Besides, what’s the point in waiting? He’s all I want. What else can I do?”
I’d meant that as a rhetorical question.
His words cracked like snaps of a whip. “Anything. Anything else. You’d be better off dead. I’d rather you were.”
I recoiled like he’d slapped me. It hurt worse than if he had.
And then, as the pain shot through me, my own temper burst into flame.
“Maybe you’ll get lucky,” I said bleakly, lurching to my feet. “Maybe I’ll get hit by a truck on my way back.”
I grabbed my motorcycle and pushed it out into the rain. He didn’t move as I passed him. As soon as I was on the small, muddy path, I climbed on and kicked the bike to life. The rear tire spit a fountain of mud toward the garage, and I hoped that it hit him.
I got absolutely soaked as I sped across the slick highway toward the Cullens’ house. The wind felt like it was freezing the rain against my skin, and my teeth were chattering before I was halfway there.
Motorcycles were too impractical for Washington. I would sell the stupid thing first chance I got.
I walked the bike into the Cullens’ cavernous garage and was unsurprised to find Alice waiting for me, perched lightly on the hood of her Porsche. Alice stroked the glossy yellow paint.
“I haven’t even had a chance to drive it.” She sighed.
“Sorry,” I spit through my rattling teeth.
“You look like you could use a hot shower,” she said, offhand, as she sprang lightly to her feet.
She pursed her lips, taking in my expression carefully. “Do you want to talk about it?”
She nodded in assent, but her eyes were raging with curiosity.
“Do you want to go to Olympia tonight?”
“Not really. Can’t I go home?”
“Never mind, Alice,” I said. “I’ll stay if it makes things easier for you.”
“Thanks,” she sighed in relief.
I went to bed early that night, curling up on his sofa again.
It was still dark when I woke. I was groggy, but I knew it wasn’t near morning yet. My eyes closed, and I stretched, rolling over. It took me a second before I realized that the movement should have dumped me onto the floor. And that I was much too comfortable.
I rolled back over, trying to see. It was darker than last night — the clouds were too thick for the moon to shine through.
“Sorry,” he murmured so softly that his voice was part of the darkness. “I didn’t mean to wake you.”
I tensed, waiting for the fury — both his and mine — but it was only quiet and calm in the darkness of his room. I could almost taste the sweetness of reunion in the air, a separate fragrance from the perfume of his breath; the emptiness when we were apart left its own bitter aftertaste, something I didn’t consciously notice until it was removed.
There was no friction in the space between us. The stillness was peaceful — not like the calm before the tempest, but like a clear night untouched by even the dream of a storm.
And I didn’t care that I was supposed to be angry with him. I didn’t care that I was supposed to be angry with everyone. I reached out for him, found his hands in the darkness, and pulled myself closer to him. His arms encircled me, cradling me to his chest. My lips searched, hunting along his throat, to his chin, till I finally found his lips.
Edward kissed me softly for a moment, and then he chuckled.
“I was all braced for the wrath that was going to put grizzlies to shame, and this is what I get? I should infuriate you more often.”
“Give me a minute to work up to it,” I teased, kissing him again.
“I’ll wait as long as you want,” he whispered against my lips. His fingers knotted in my hair.
My breath was becoming uneven. “Maybe in the morning.”
“Whatever you prefer.”
“Welcome home,” I said while his cold lips pressed under my jaw. “I’m glad you came back.”
“That’s a very good thing.”
“Mmm,” I agreed, tightening my arms around his neck.
His hand curved around my elbow, moving slowly down my arm, across my ribs and over my waist, tracing along my hip and down my leg, around my knee. He paused there, his hand curling around my calf. He pulled my leg up suddenly, hitching it around his hip.
I stopped breathing. This wasn’t the kind of thing he usually allowed. Despite his cold hands, I felt suddenly warm. His lips moved in the hollow at the base of my throat.
“Not to bring on the ire prematurely,” he whispered, “but do you mind telling me what it is about this bed that you object to?”
Before I could answer, before I could even concentrate enough to make sense of his words, he rolled to the side, pulling me on top of him. He held my face in his hands, angling it up so that his mouth could reach my throat. My breathing was too loud — it was almost embarrassing, but I couldn’t care quite enough to be ashamed.
“The bed?” he asked again. “I think it’s nice.”
“It’s unnecessary,” I managed to gasp.
He pulled my face back to his, and my lips shaped themselves around his. Slowly this time, he rolled till he hovered over me. He held himself carefully so that I felt none of his weight, but I could feel the cool marble of his body press against mine. My heart was hammering so loudly that it was hard to hear his quiet laughter.
“That’s debatable,” he disagreed. “This would be difficult on a couch.”
Cold as ice, his tongue lightly traced the shape of my lips.
My head was spinning — the air was coming too fast and shallow.
“Did you change your mind?” I asked breathlessly. Maybe he’d rethought all his careful rules. Maybe there was more significance to this bed than I’d originally guessed. My heart pounded almost painfully as I waited for his answer.
Edward sighed, rolling back so that we were on our sides again.
“Don’t be ridiculous, Bella,” he said, disapproval strong in his voice — clearly, he understood what I meant. “I was just trying to illustrate the benefits of the bed you don’t seem to like. Don’t get carried away.”
“Too late,” I muttered. “And I like the bed,” I added.
“Good.” I could hear the smile in his voice as he kissed my forehead. “I do, too.”
“But I still think it’s unnecessary,” I continued. “If we’re not going to get carried away, what’s the point?”
He sighed again. “For the hundredth time, Bella — it’s too dangerous.”
“I like danger,” I insisted.
“I know.” There was a sour edge to his voice, and I realized that he would have seen the motorcycle in the garage.
“I’ll tell you what’s dangerous,” I said quickly, before he could move to a new topic of discussion. “I’m going to spontaneously combust one of these days — and you’ll have no one but yourself to blame.”
He started to push me away.
“What are you doing?” I objected, clinging to him.
“Protecting you from combustion. If this too much for you. . . .”
“I can handle it,” I insisted.
He let me worm myself back into the circle of his arms.
“I’m sorry I gave you the wrong impression,” he said. “I didn’t mean to make you unhappy. That wasn’t nice.”
“Actually, it was very, very nice.”
He took a deep breath. “Aren’t you tired? I should let you sleep.”
“No, I’m not. I don’t mind if you want to give me the wrong impression again.”
“That’s probably a bad idea. You’re not the only one who gets carried away.”
“Yes, I am,” I grumbled.
He chuckled. “You have no idea, Bella. It doesn’t help that you are so eager to undermine my self-control, either.”
“I’m not going to apologize for that.”
“Can I apologize?”
“You were angry with me, remember?”
“I’m sorry. I was wrong. It’s much easier to have the proper perspective when I have you safely here.” His arms tightened around me. “I go a little berserk when I try to leave you. I don’t think I’ll go so far again. It’s not worth it.”
I smiled. “Didn’t you find any mountain lions?”
“Yes, I did, actually. Still not worth the anxiety. I’m sorry I had Alice hold you hostage, though. That was a bad idea.”
“Yes,” I agreed.
“I won’t do it again.”
“Okay,” I said easily. He was already forgiven. “But slumber parties do have their advantages. . . .” I curled myself closer to him, pressing my lips into the indentation over his collarbone. “You can hold me hostage any time you want.”
“Mmm,” he sighed. “I may take you up on that.”
“So is it my turn now?”
“Your turn?” his voice was confused.
“What do you have to apologize for?”
“Aren’t you mad at me?” I asked blankly.
It sounded like he really meant it.
I felt my eyebrows pull together. “Didn’t you see Alice when you got home?”
“Yes — why?”
“Are you going to take her Porsche back?”
“Of course not. It was a gift.”
I wished I could see his expression. His voice sounded as if I’d insulted him.
“Don’t you want to know what I did?” I asked, starting to be puzzled by his apparent lack of concern.
I felt him shrug. “I’m always interested in everything you do — but you don’t have to tell me unless you want to.”
“But I went to La Push.”
“And I ditched school.”
“So did I.”
I stared toward the sound of his voice, tracing his features with my fingers, trying to understand his mood. “Where did all this tolerance come from?” I demanded.
“I decided that you were right. My problem before was more about my . . . prejudice against werewolves than anything else. I’m going to try to be more reasonable and trust your judgment. If you say it’s safe, then I’ll believe you.”
“And . . . most importantly . . . I’m not willing to let this drive a wedge between us.”
I rested my head against his chest and closed my eyes, totally content.
“So,” he murmured in a casual tone. “Did you make plans to go back to La Push again soon?”
I didn’t answer. His question brought back the memory of Jacob’s words, and my throat was suddenly tight.
He misread my silence and the tension in my body.
“Just so that I can make my own plans,” he explained quickly. “I don’t want you to feel like you have to hurry back because I’m sitting around waiting for you.”
“No,” I said in a voice that sounded strange to me. “I don’t have plans go back.”
“Oh. You don’t have to do that for me.”
“I don’t think I’m welcome anymore,” I whispered.
“Did you run over someone’s cat?” he asked lightly. I knew he didn’t want to force the story out of me, but I could hear the curiosity burning behind his words.
“No.” I took a deep breath, and then mumbled quickly through the explanation. “I thought Jacob would have realized . . . I didn’t think it would surprise him.”
Edward waited while I hesitated.
“He wasn’t expecting . . . that it was so soon.”
“Ah,” Edward said quietly.
“He said he’d rather see me dead.” My voice broke on the last word.
Edward was too still for a moment, controlling whatever reaction he didn’t want me to see.
Then he crushed me gently to his chest. “I’m so sorry.”
“I thought you’d be glad,” I whispered.
“Glad over something that’s hurt you?” he murmured into my hair. “I don’t think so, Bella.”
I sighed and relaxed, fitting myself to the stone shape of him. But he was motionless again, tense.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“You can tell me.”
He paused for a minute. “It might make you angry.”
“I still want to know.”
He sighed. “I could quite literally kill him for saying that to you. I want to.”
I laughed halfheartedly. “I guess it’s a good thing you’ve got so much self-control.”
“I could slip.” His tone was thoughtful.
“If you’re going to have a lapse in control, I can think of a better place for it.” I reached for his face, trying to pull myself up to kiss him. His arms held me tighter, restraining.
He sighed. “Must I always be the responsible one?”
I grinned in the darkness. “No. Let me be in charge of responsibility for a few minutes . . . or hours.”
“Wait — there was something else I wanted to ask you about.”
“I was talking to Rosalie last night. . . .”
His body tensed again. “Yes. She was thinking about that when I got in. She gave you quite a lot to consider, didn’t she?”
His voice was anxious, and I realized that he thought I wanted to talk about the reasons Rosalie’d given me for staying human. But I was interested in something much more pressing.
“She told me a little bit . . . about the time your family lived in Denali.”
There was a short pause; this beginning took him by surprise. “Yes?”
“She mentioned something about a bunch of female vampires . . . and you.”
He didn’t answer, though I waited for a long moment.
“Don’t worry,” I said, after the silence had grown uncomfortable. “She told me you didn’t . . . show any preference. But I was just wondering, you know, if any of them had. Shown a preference for you, I mean.”
Again he said nothing.
“Which one?” I asked, trying to keep my voice casual, and not quite managing. “Or was there more than one?”
No answer. I wished I could see his face, so I could try to guess what this silence meant.
“Alice will tell me,” I said. “I’ll go ask her right now.”
His arms tightened; I was unable to squirm even an inch away.
“It’s late,” he said. His voice had a little edge to it that was something new. Sort of nervous, maybe a little embarrassed. “Besides, I think Alice stepped out. . . .”
“It’s bad,” I guessed. “It’s really bad, isn’t it?” I started to panic, my heart accelerating as I imagined the gorgeous immortal rival I’d never realized I had.
“Calm down, Bella,” he said, kissing the tip of my nose. “You’re being absurd.”
“Am I? Then why won’t you tell me?”
“Because there’s nothing to tell. You’re blowing this wildly out of proportion.”
“Which one?” I insisted.
He sighed. “Tanya expressed a little interest. I let her know, in a very courteous, gentlemanly fashion, that I did not return that interest. End of story.”
I kept my voice as even as possible. “Tell me something — what does Tanya look like?”
“Just like the rest of us — white skin, gold eyes,” he answered too quickly.
“And, of course, extraordinarily beautiful.”
I felt him shrug.
“I suppose, to human eyes,” he said, indifferent. “You know what, though?”
“What?” My voice was petulant.
He put his lips right to my ear; his cold breath tickled. “I prefer brunettes.”
“She’s a blonde. That figures.”
“Strawberry blonde — not at all my type.”
I thought about that for a while, trying to concentrate as his lips moved slowly along my cheek, down my throat, and back up again. He made the circuit three times before I spoke.
“I guess that’s okay, then,” I decided.
“Hmm,” he whispered against my skin. “You’re quite adorable when you’re jealous. It’s surprisingly enjoyable.”
I scowled into the darkness.
“It’s late,” he said again, murmuring, almost crooning now, his voice smoother than silk. “Sleep, my Bella. Dream happy dreams. You are the only one who has ever touched my heart. It will always be yours. Sleep, my only love.”
He started to hum my lullaby, and I knew it was only a matter of time till I succumbed, so I closed my eyes and snuggled closer into his chest.