CARLISLE WAS NOT THE ONLY ONE WHO STAYED calm. Centuries of experience in the emergency room were evident in his quiet, authoritative voice.
“Emmett, Rose, get Jasper outside.”
Unsmiling for once, Emmett nodded. “Come on, Jasper.”
Jasper struggled against Emmett’s unbreakable grasp, twisting around, reaching toward his brother with his bared teeth, his eyes still past reason.
Edward’s face was whiter than bone as he wheeled to crouch over me, taking a clearly defensive position. A low warning growl slid from between his clenched teeth. I could tell that he wasn’t breathing.
Rosalie, her divine face strangely smug, stepped in front of Jasper—keeping a careful distance from his teeth—and helped Emmett wrestle him through the glass door that Esme held open, one hand pressed over her mouth and nose.
Esme’s heart-shaped face was ashamed. “I’m so sorry, Bella,” she cried as she followed the others into the yard.
“Let me by, Edward,” Carlisle murmured.
A second passed, and then Edward nodded slowly and relaxed his stance.
Carlisle knelt beside me, leaning close to examine my arm. I could feel the shock frozen on my face, and I tried to compose it.
“Here, Carlisle,” Alice said, handing him a towel.
He shook his head. “Too much glass in the wound.” He reached over and ripped a long, thin scrap from the bottom of the white tablecloth. He twisted it around my arm above the elbow to form a tourniquet. The smell of the blood was making me dizzy. My ears rang.
“Bella,” Carlisle said softly. “Do you want me to drive you to the hospital, or would you like me to take care of it here?”
“Here, please,” I whispered. If he took me to the hospital, there would be no way to keep this from Charlie.
“I’ll get your bag,” Alice said.
“Let’s take her to the kitchen table,” Carlisle said to Edward.
Edward lifted me effortlessly, while Carlisle kept the pressure steady on my arm.
“How are you doing, Bella?” Carlisle asked.
“I’m fine.” My voice was reasonably steady, which pleased me.
Edward’s face was like stone.
Alice was there. Carlisle’s black bag was already on the table, a small but brilliant desk light plugged into the wall. Edward sat me gently into a chair, and Carlisle pulled up another. He went to work at once.
Edward stood over me, still protective, still not breathing.
“Just go, Edward,” I sighed.
“I can handle it,” he insisted. But his jaw was rigid; his eyes burned with the intensity of the thirst he fought, so much worse for him than it was for the others.
“You don’t need to be a hero,” I said. “Carlisle can fix me up without your help. Get some fresh air.”
I winced as Carlisle did something to my arm that stung.
“I’ll stay,” he said.
“Why are you so masochistic?” I mumbled.
Carlisle decided to intercede. “Edward, you may as well go find Jasper before he gets too far. I’m sure he’s upset with himself, and I doubt he’ll listen to anyone but you right now.”
“Yes,” I eagerly agreed. “Go find Jasper.”
“You might as well do something useful,” Alice added.
Edward’s eyes narrowed as we ganged up on him, but, finally, he nodded once and sprinted smoothly through the kitchen’s back door. I was sure he hadn’t taken a breath since I’d sliced my finger.
A numb, dead feeling was spreading through my arm.
Though it erased the sting, it reminded me of the gash, and I watched Carlisle’s face carefully to distract me from what his hands were doing. His hair gleamed gold in the bright light as he bent over my arm. I could feel the faint stirrings of unease in the pit of my stomach, but I was determined not to let my usual squeamishness get the best of me. There was no pain now, just a gentle tugging sensation that I tried to ignore. No reason to get sick like a baby.
If she hadn’t been in my line of sight, I wouldn’t have noticed Alice give up and steal out of the room. With a tiny, apologetic smile on her lips, she disappeared through the kitchen doorway.
“Well, that’s everyone,” I sighed. “I can clear a room, at least.”
“It’s not your fault,” Carlisle comforted me with a chuckle. “It could happen to anyone.”
“Could” I repeated. “But it usually just happens to me.”
He laughed again.
His relaxed calm was only more amazing set in direct contrast with everyone else’s reaction. I couldn’t find any trace of anxiety in his face. He worked with quick, sure movements. The only sound besides our quiet breathing was the soft plink, plink as the tiny fragments of glass dropped one by one to the table.
“How can you do this?” I demanded. “Even Alice and Esme…” I trailed off, shaking my head in wonder. Though the rest of them had given up the traditional diet of vampires just as absolutely as Carlisle had, he was the only one who could bear the smell of my blood without suffering from the intense temptation. Clearly, this was much more difficult than he made it seem.
“Years and years of practice,” he told me. “I barely notice the scent anymore.”
“Do you think it would be harder if you took a vacation from the hospital for a long time. And weren’t around any blood?”
“Maybe.” He shrugged his shoulders, but his hands remained steady. “I’ve never felt the need for an extended holiday.” He flashed a brilliant smile in my direction. “I enjoy my work too much.”
Plink, plink, plink . I was surprised at how much glass there seemed to be in my arm. I was tempted to glance at the growing pile, just to check the size, but I knew that idea would not be helpful to my no-vomiting strategy.
“What is it that you enjoy?” I wondered. It didn’t make sense to me—the years of struggle and self-denial he must have spent to get to the point where he could endure this so easily. Besides, I wanted to keep him talking; the conversation kept my mind off the queasy feeling in my stomach.
His dark eyes were calm and thoughtful as he answered. “Hmm. What I enjoy the very most is when my… enhanced abilities let me save someone who would otherwise have been lost. It’s pleasant knowing that, thanks to what I can do, some people’s lives are better because I exist. Even the sense of smell is a useful diagnostic tool at times.” One side of his mouth pulled up in half a smile.
I mulled that over while he poked around, making sure all the glass splinters were gone. Then he rummaged in his bag for new tools, and I tried not to picture a needle and thread.
“You try very hard to make up for something that was never your fault,” I suggested while a new kind of tugging started at the edges of my skin. “What I mean is, it’s not like you asked for this. You didn’t choose this kind of life, and yet you have to work so hard to be good.”
“I don’t know that I’m making up for anything,” he disagreed lightly. “Like everything in life, I just had to decide what to do with what I was given.”
“That makes it sound too easy.”
He examined my arm again. “There,” he said, snipping a thread. “All done.” He wiped an oversized Q-tip, dripping with some syrup-colored liquid, thoroughly across the operation site. The smell was strange; it made my head spin. The syrup stained my skin.
“In the beginning, though,” I pressed while he taped another long piece of gauze securely in place, sealing it to my skin. “Why did you even think to try a different way than the obvious one?”
His lips turned up in a private smile. “Hasn’t Edward told you this story?”
“Yes. But I’m trying to understand what you were thinking…”
His face was suddenly serious again, and I wondered if his thoughts had gone to the same place that mine had. Wondering what I would be thinking when—I refused to think if —it was me.
“You know my father was a clergyman,” he mused as he cleaned the table carefully, rubbing everything down with wet gauze, and then doing it again. The smell of alcohol burned in my nose. “He had a rather harsh view of the world, which I was already beginning to question before the time that I changed.” Carlisle put all the dirty gauze and the glass slivers into an empty crystal bowl. I didn’t understand what he was doing, even when he lit the match. Then he threw it onto the alcohol-soaked fibers, and the sudden blaze made me jump.
“Sorry,” he apologized. “That ought to do it… So I didn’t agree with my father’s particular brand of faith. But never, in the nearly four hundred years now since I was born, have I ever seen anything to make me doubt whether God exists in some form or the other. Not even the reflection in the mirror.”
I pretended to examine the dressing on my arm to hide my surprise at the direction our conversation had taken. Religion was the last thing I expected, all things considered. My own life was fairly devoid of belief. Charlie considered himself a Lutheran, because that’s what his parents had been, but Sundays he worshipped by the river with a fishing pole in his hand. Renee tried out a church now and then, but, much like her brief affairs with tennis, pottery, yoga, and French classes, she moved on by the time I was aware of her newest fad.
“I’m sure all this sounds a little bizarre, coming from a vampire.” He grinned, knowing how their casual use of that word never failed to shock me. “But I’m hoping that there is still a point to this life, even for us. It’s a long shot, I’ll admit,” he continued in an offhand voice. “By all accounts, we’re damned regardless. But I hope, maybe foolishly, that we’ll get some measure of credit for trying.”
“I don’t think that’s foolish,” I mumbled. I couldn’t imagine anyone, deity included, who wouldn’t be impressed by Carlisle. Besides, the only kind of heaven I could appreciate would have to include Edward. “And I don’t think anyone else would, either.”
“Actually, you’re the very first one to agree with me.”
“The rest of them don’t feel the same?” I asked, surprised, thinking of only one person in particular.
Carlisle guessed the direction of my thoughts again. “Edward’s with me up to a point. God and heaven exist… and so does hell. But he doesn’t believe there is an afterlife for our kind.” Carlisle’s voice was very soft; he stared out the big window over the sink, into the darkness. “You see, he thinks we’ve lost our souls.”
I immediately thought of Edward’s words this afternoon: unless you want to die —or whatever it is that we do . The lightbulb flicked on over my head.
“That’s the real problem, isn’t it?” I guessed. “That’s why he’s being so difficult about me.”
Carlisle spoke slowly. “I look at my… son . His strength, his goodness, the brightness that shines out of him—and it only fuels that hope, that faith, more than ever. How could there not be more for one such as Edward?”
I nodded in fervent agreement.
“But if I believed as he does…” He looked down at me with unfathomable eyes. “If you believed as he did. Could you take away his soul?”
The way he phrased the question thwarted my answer.
If he’d asked me whether I would risk my soul for Edward, the reply would be obvious. But would I risk Edward’s soul? I pursed my lips unhappily. That wasn’t a fair exchange.
“You see the problem.”
I shook my head, aware of the stubborn set of my chin.
“It’s my choice,” I insisted.
“It’s his, too.” He held up his hand when he could see that I was about to argue. “Whether he is responsible for doing that to you.”
“He’s not the only one able to do it.” I eyed Carlisle speculatively.
He laughed, abruptly lightening the mood. “Oh, no! You’re going to have to work this out with him .” But then he sighed. “That’s the one part I can never be sure of. I think , in most other ways, that I’ve done the best I could with what I had to work with. But was it right to doom the others to this life? I can’t decide.”
I didn’t answer. I imagined what my life would be like if Carlisle had resisted the temptation to change his lonely existence… and shuddered.
“It was Edward’s mother who made up my mind.” Carlisle’s voice was almost a whisper. He stared unseeingly out the black windows.
“His mother?” Whenever I’d asked Edward about his parents, he would merely say that they had died long ago, and his memories were vague. I realized Carlisle’s memory of them, despite the brevity of their contact, would be perfectly clear.
“Yes. Her name was Elizabeth. Elizabeth Masen. His father, Edward Senior, never regained consciousness in the hospital. He died in the first wave of the influenza. But Elizabeth was alert until almost the very end. Edward looks a great deal like her—she had that same strange bronze shade to her hair, and her eyes were exactly the same color green.”
“His eyes were green?” I murmured, trying to picture it.
“Yes…” Carlisle’s ocher eyes were a hundred years away now. “Elizabeth worried obsessively over her son. She hurt her own chances of survival trying to nurse him from her sickbed. I expected that he would go first, he was so much worse off than she was. When the end came for her, it was very quick. It was just after sunset, and I’d arrived to relieve the doctors who’d been working all day. That was a hard time to pretend—there was so much work to be done, and I had no need of rest. How I hated to go back to my house, to hide in the dark and pretend to sleep while so many were dying.
“I went to check Elizabeth and her son first. I’d grown attached—always a dangerous thing to do considering the fragile nature of humans. I could see at once that she’d taken a bad turn. The fever was raging out of control, and her body was too weak to fight anymore.
“She didn’t look weak, though, when she glared up at me from her cot.
“Save him!’ she commanded me in the hoarse voice that was all her throat could manage.
“I’ll do everything in my power,’ I promised her, taking her hand. The fever was so high, she probably couldn’t even tell how unnaturally cold mine felt. Everything felt cold to her skin.
“You must,” she insisted, clutching at my hand with enough strength that I wondered if she wouldn’t pull through the crisis after all. Her eyes were hard, like stones, like emeralds. ‘You must do everything in your power. What others cannot do, that is what you must do for my Edward.”
“It frightened me. She looked it me with those piercing eyes, and, for one instant, I felt certain that she knew my secret. Then the fever overwhelmed her, and she never regained consciousness. She died within an hour of making her demand.
“I’d spent decades considering the idea of creating a companion for myself. Just one other creature who could really know me, rather than what I pretended to be. But I could never justify it to myself—doing what had been done to me.
“There Edward lay, dying. It was clear that he had only hours left. Beside him, his mother, her face somehow not yet peaceful, not even in death.”
Carlisle saw it all again, his memory unblurred by the intervening century. I could see it clearly, too, as he spoke—the despair of the hospital, the overwhelming atmosphere of death. Edward burning with fever, his life slipping away with each tick of the clock… I shuddered again, and forced the picture from my mind.
“Elizabeth’s words echoed in my head. How could she guess what I could do? Could anyone really want that for her son?
“I looked at Edward. Sick as he was, he was still beautiful. There was something pure and good about his face. The kind of face I would have wanted my son to have.
“After all those years of indecision, I simply acted on a whim. I wheeled his mother to the morgue first, and then I came back for him. No one noticed that he was still breathing. There weren’t enough hands, enough eyes, to keep track of half of what the patients needed. The morgue was empty—of the living, at least. I stole him out the back door, and carried him across the rooftops back to my home.
“I wasn’t sure what had to be done. I settled for recreating the wounds I’d received myself, so many centuries earlier in London. I felt bad about that later. It was more painful and lingering than necessary.
“I wasn’t sorry, though. I’ve never been sorry that I saved Edward.” He shook his head, coming back to the present. He smiled at me. “I suppose I should take you home now.”
“I’ll do that,” Edward said. He came through the shadowy dining room, walking slowly for him. His face was smooth, unreadable, but there was something wrong with his eyes—something he was trying very hard to hide. I felt a spasm of unease in my stomach.
“Carlisle can take me,” I said. I looked down at my shirt; the light blue cotton was soaked and spotted with my blood. My right shoulder was covered in thick pink frosting.
“I’m fine.” Edward’s voice was unemotional. “You’ll need to change anyway. You’d give Charlie a heart attack the way you look. I’ll have Alice get you something.” He strode out the kitchen door again.
I looked at Carlisle anxiously. “He’s very upset.”
“Yes,” Carlisle agreed. “Tonight is exactly the kind of thing that he fears the most. You being put in danger, because of what we are.”
“It’s not his fault.”
“It’s not yours, either.”
I looked away from his wise, beautiful eyes. I couldn’t agree with that.
Carlisle offered me his hand and helped me up from the table. I followed him out into the main room. Esme had come back; she was mopping the floor where I’d fallen—with straight bleach from the smell of it.
“Esme, let me do that.” I could feel that my face was bright red again.
“I’m already done.” She smiled up at me. “How do you feel?”
“I’m fine,” I assured her. “Carlisle sews faster than any other doctor I’ve had.”
They both chuckled.
Alice and Edward came in the back doors. Alice hurried to my side, but Edward hung back, his face indecipherable.
“C’mon,” Alice said. “I’ll get you something less macabre to wear.”
She found me a shirt of Esme’s that was close to the same color mine had been. Charlie wouldn’t notice, I was sure. The long white bandage on my arm didn’t look nearly as serious when I was no longer spattered in gore. Charlie was never surprised to see me bandaged.
“Alice,” I whispered as she headed back to the door.
“Yes?” She kept her voice low, too, and looked at me curiously, her head cocked to the side.
“How bad is it?” I couldn’t be sure if my whispering was a wasted effort. Even though we were upstairs, with the door closed, perhaps he could hear me.
Her face tensed. “I’m not sure yet.”
She sighed. “He’s very unhappy with himself. It’s all so much more of challenge for him, and he hates feeling weak.”
“It’s not his fault. You’ll tell him that I’m not mad at him, not at all, won’t you?”
Edward was waiting for me by the front door. As I got to the bottom of the staircase, he held it open without a word.
“Take your things!” Alice cried as I walked warily toward Edward. She scooped up the two packages, one half-opened, and my camera from under the piano, and pressed them into my good arm. “You can thank me later, when you’ve opened them.”
Esme and Carlisle both said a quiet goodnight. I could see them stealing quick glances at their impassive son, much like I was.
It was a relief to be outside; I hurried past the lanterns and the roses, now unwelcome reminders. Edward kept pace with me silently. He opened the passenget side for me, and I climbed in without complaint.
On the dashboard was a big red ribbon, stuck to the new stereo. I pulled it off, throwing it to the floor. As Edward slid into the other side, I kicked the ribbon under my seat.
He didn’t look at me or the stereo. Neither of us switched it on, and the silence was somehow intensified by the sudden thunder of the engine. He drove too fast down the dark, serpentine lane.
The silence was making me insane.
“Say something,” I finally begged as he turned onto the freeway.
“What do you want me to say?” he asked in a detached voice.
I cringed at his remoteness. ‘Tell me you forgive me.”
That brought a flicker of life to his face—a flicker of anger. “Forgive you ? For what?”
“If I’d been more careful, nothing would have happened.”
“Bella, you gave yourself a paper cut—that hardly deserves the death penalty.”
“It’s still my fault.”
My words opened up the floodgate.
“Your fault? If you’d cut yourself at Mike Newton’s house, with Jessica there and Angela and your other normal friends, the worst that could possibly have happened would be what? Maybe they couldn’t find you a bandage? If you’d tripped and knocked over a pile of glass plates on your own—without someone throwing you into them—even then, what’s the worst? You’d get blood on the seats when they drove you to the emergency room? Mike Newton could have held your hand while they stitched you up—and he wouldn’t be righting the urge to kill you the whole time he was there. Don’t try to take any of this on yourself, Bella. It will only make me more disgusted with myself.”
“How the hell did Mike Newton end up in this conversation?” I demanded.
“Mike Newton ended up in this conversation because Mike Newton would be a hell of a lot healthier for you to be with,” he growled.
“I’d rather die than be with Mike Newton,” I protested. “I’d rather die than be with anyone but you.”
“Don’t be melodramatic, please.”
“Well then, don’t you be ridiculous.”
He didn’t answer. He glared through the windshield, his expression black.
I racked my brain for some way to salvage the evening. When we pulled up in front of my house, I still hadn’t come up with anything.
He killed the engine, but his hands stayed clenched around the steering wheel.
“Will you stay tonight?” I asked.
“I should go home.”
The last thing I wanted was for him to go wallow in remorse.
“For my birthday,” I pressed.
“You can’t have it both ways—either you want people to ignore your birthday or you don’t. One or the other.”
His voice was stern, but not .is serious as before. I breathed a silent sigh of relief.
“Okay. I’ve decided that I don’t want you to ignore my birthday. I’ll see you upstairs.”
I hopped out, reaching back in for my packages. He frowned.
“You don’t have to take those.”
“I want them,” I responded automatically, and then wondered if he was using reverse psychology.
“No, you don’t. Carlisle and Esme spent money on you.”
“I’ll live.” I tucked the presents awkwardly under my good arm and slammed the door behind me. He was out of the truck and by my side in less than a second.
“Let me carry them, at least.” he said as he took them away. “I’ll be in your room.”
I smiled. “Thanks.”
“Happy birthday,” he sighed, and leaned down to touch his lips to mine.
I reached up on my toes to make the kiss last longer when he pulled away. He smiled my favorite crooked smile, and then he disappeared into the darkness.
The game was still on; as soon as I walked through the front door I could hear the announcer rambling over the babble of the crowd.
“Bell?” Charlie called.
“Hey, Dad,” I said as I came around the corner. I held my arm close to my side. The slight pressure burned, and I wrinkled my nose. The anesthetic was apparently losing its effectiveness.
“How was it?” Charlie lounged across the sofa with his bare feet propped up on the arm. What was left of his curly brown hair was crushed flat on one side.
“Alice went overboard. Flowers, cake, candles, presents—the whole bit.”
“What did they get you?”
“A stereo for my truck.” And various unknowns.
“Yeah,” I agreed. “Well, I’m calling it a night.”
“I’ll see you in the morning.”
I waved. “See ya.”
“What happened to your arm?”
I flushed and cursed silently. “I tripped. It’s nothing.”
“Bella,” he sighed, shaking his head.
I hurried up to the bathroom, where I kept my pajamas for just such nights as these. I shrugged into the matching tank top and cotton pants that I’d gotten to replace the holey sweats I used to wear to bed, wincing as the movement pulled at the stitches. I washed my face one-handed, brushed my teeth, and then skipped to my room.
He was sitting in the center of my bed, toying idly with one of the silver boxes.
“Hi,” he said. His voice was sad. He was wallowing.
I went to the bed, pushed the presents out of his hands, and climbed into his lap.
“Hi.” I snuggled into his stone chest. “Can I open my presents now?”
“Where did the enthusiasm come from?” he wondered.
“You made me curious.”
I picked up the long flat rectangle that must have been from Carlisle and Esme.
“Allow me,” he suggested. He took the gift from my hand and tore the silver paper off with one fluid movement. He handed the rectangular white box back to me.
“Are you sure I can handle lifting the lid?” I muttered, but he ignored me.
Inside the box was a long thick piece of paper with an overwhelming amount of fine print. It took me a minute to get the gist of the information.
“We’re going to Jacksonville?” And I was excited, in spite of myself. It was a voucher for plane tickets, for both me and Edward.
“That’s the idea.”
“I can’t believe it. Renee is going to flip! You don’t mind, though, do you? It’s sunny, you’ll have to stay inside all day.”
“I think I can handle it,” he said, and then frowned. “If I’d had any idea that you could respond to a gift this appropriately, I would have made you open it in front of Carlisle and Esme. I thought you’d complain.”
“Well, of course it’s too much. But I get to take you with me!”
He chuckled. “Now I wish I’d spent money on your present. I didn’t realize that you were capable of being reasonable.”
I set the tickets aside and reached for his present, my curiosity rekindled. He took it from me and unwrapped it like the first one.
He handed back a clear CD jewel case, with a blank silver CD inside.
“What is it?” I asked, perplexed.
He didn’t say anything; he took the CD and reached around me to put it in the CD player on the bedside table. He hit play, and we waited in silence. Then the music began.
I listened, speechless and wide-eyed. I knew he was waiting for my reaction, but I couldn’t talk. Tears welled up, and I reached up to wipe them away before they could spill over.
“Does your arm hurt?” he asked anxiously.
“No, it’s not my arm. It’s beautiful, Edward. You couldn’t have given me anything I would love more. I can’t believe it.” I shut up, so I could listen.
It was his music, his compositions. The first piece on the CD was my lullaby.
“I didn’t think you would let me get a piano so I could play for you here,” he explained.
“How does your arm feel?”
“Just fine.” Actually, it was starting to blaze under the bandage. I wanted ice. I would have settled for his hand, but that would have given me away.
“I’ll get you some Tylenol.”
“I don’t need anything,” I protested, but he slid me off his lap and headed for the door.
“Charlie,” I hissed. Charlie wasn’t exactly aware that Edward frequently stayed over. In fact, he would have a stroke if that fact were brought to his attention. But I didn’t feel too guilty for deceiving him It wasn’t as if we were up to anything he wouldn’t want me to be up to. Edward and his rules…
“He won’t catch me,” Edward promised as he disappeared silently out the door . . and returned, catching the door before it had swung back to touch the frame. He had the glass from the bathroom and the bottle of pills in one hand.
I took the pills he handed me without arguing—I knew I would lose the argument And my arm really was starting to bother me.
My lullaby continued, soft and lovely, in the background.
“It’s late,” Edward noted. He scooped me up off the bed with one arm, and pulled the cover back with the other. He put me down with my head on my pillow and tucked the quilt around me. He lay down next to me—on top of the blanket so I wouldn’t get chilled—and put his arm over me.
I leaned my head against his shoulder and sighed happily.
“Thanks again,” I whispered.
It was quiet for a long moment as I listened to my lullaby drift to a close. Another song began. I recognized Esme’s favorite.
“What are you thinking about?'” I wondered in a whisper.
He hesitated for a second before he told me. “I was thinking about right and wrong, actually.”
I felt a chill tingle along my spine.
“Remember how I decided that I wanted you to not ignore my birthday?” I asked quickly, hoping it wasn’t too clear that I was trying to distract him.
“Yes,” he agreed, wary.
“Well, I was thinking, since it’s still my birthday, that I’d like you to kiss me again.”
“You’re greedy tonight.”
“Yes, I am—but please, don’t do anything you don’t want to do,” I added, piqued.
He laughed, and then sighed. “Heaven forbid that I should do anything I don’t want to do,” he said in a strangely desperate tone as he put his hand under my chin and pulled my face up to his.
The kiss began much the same as usual—Edward was as careful as ever, and my heart began to overreact like it always did. And then something seemed to change. Suddenly his lips became much more urgent, his free hand twisted into my hair and held my face securely to his. And, though my hands tangled in his hair, too, and though I was clearly beginning to cross his cautious lines, for once he didn’t stop me. His body was cold through the thin quilt, but I crushed myself against him eagerly.
When he stopped it was abrupt; he pushed me away with gentle, firm hands.
I collapsed back onto my pillow, gasping, my head spinning. Something tugged at my memory, elusive, on the edges.
“Sorry,” he said, and he was breathless, too. “That was out of line.”
“I don’t mind,” I panted.
He frowned at me in the darkness. “Try to sleep. Bella.”
“No, I want you to kiss me again.”
“You’re overestimating my self-control.”
“Which is tempting you more, my blood or my body?” I challenged.
“It’s a tie.” He grinned briefly in spite of himself, and then was serious again. “Now. why don’t you stop pushing your luck and go to sleep?”
“Fine,” I agreed, snuggling closer to him. I really did feel exhausted. It had been a long day in so many ways, yet I felt no sense of relief at its end. Almost as if something worse was coming tomorrow. It was a silly premonition—what could be worse than today?’ Just the shock catching up with me, no doubt.
Trying to be sneaky about it, I pressed my injured arm against his shoulder, so his cool skin would sooth the burning. It felt better at once.
I was halfway asleep, maybe more, when I realized what his kiss had reminded me of: last spring, when he’d had to leave me to throw James off my trail, Edward had kissed me goodbye, not knowing when—or if—we would see each other again. This kiss had the same almost painful edge for some reason I couldn’t imagine. I shuddered into unconsciousness, as if I were already having a nightmare.