I made my way to English in a daze. I didn’t even realize when I first walked in that class had already started.
“Thank you for joining us, Miss Swan,” Mr. Mason said in a disparaging tone.
I flushed and hurried to my seat.
It wasn’t till class ended that I realized Mike wasn’t sitting in his usual seat next to me. I felt a twinge of guilt. But he and Eric both met me at the door as usual, so I figured I wasn’t totally unforgiven. Mike seemed to become more himself as we walked, gaining enthusiasm as he talked about the weather report for this weekend. The rain was supposed to take a minor break, and so maybe his beach trip would be possible. I tried to sound eager, to make up for disappointing him yesterday. It was hard; rain or no rain, it would still only be in the high forties, if we were lucky.
The rest of the morning passed in a blur. It was difficult to believe that I hadn’t just imagined what Edward had said, and the way his eyes had looked. Maybe it was just a very convincing dream that I’d confused with reality. That seemed more probable than that I really appealed to him on any level.
So I was impatient and frightened as Jessica and I entered the cafeteria. I wanted to see his face, to see if he’d gone back to the cold, indifferent person I’d known for the last several weeks. Or if, by some miracle, I’d really heard what I thought I’d heard this morning. Jessica babbled on and on about her dance plans — Lauren and Angela had asked the other boys and they were all going together — completely unaware of my inattention.
Disappointment flooded through me as my eyes unerringly focused on his table. The other four were there, but he was absent. Had he gone home? I followed the still-babbling Jessica through the line, crushed. I’d lost my appetite — I bought nothing but a bottle of lemonade. I just wanted to go sit down and sulk.
“Edward Cullen is staring at you again,” Jessica said, finally breaking through my abstraction with his name. “I wonder why he’s sitting alone today.”
My head snapped up. I followed her gaze to see Edward, smiling crookedly, staring at me from an empty table across the cafeteria from where he usually sat. Once he’d caught my eye, he raised one hand and motioned with his index finger for me to join him. As I stared in disbelief, he winked.
“Does he mean you ?” Jessica asked with insulting astonishment in her voice.
“Maybe he needs help with his Biology homework,” I muttered for her benefit. “Um, I’d better go see what he wants.”
I could feel her staring after me as I walked away.
When I reached his table, I stood behind the chair across from him, unsure.
“Why don’t you sit with me today?” he asked, smiling.
I sat down automatically, watching him with caution. He was still smiling. It was hard to believe that someone so beautiful could be real. I was afraid that he might disappear in a sudden puff of smoke, and I would wake up.
He seemed to be waiting for me to say something.
“This is different,” I finally managed.
“Well…” He paused, and then the rest of the words followed in a rush. “I decided as long as I was going to hell, I might as well do it thoroughly.”
I waited for him to say something that made sense. The seconds ticked by.
“You know I don’t have any idea what you mean,” I eventually pointed out.
“I know.” He smiled again, and then he changed the subject. “I think your friends are angry with me for stealing you.”
“They’ll survive.” I could feel their stares boring into my back.
“I may not give you back, though,” he said with a wicked glint in his eyes.
He laughed. “You look worried.”
“No,” I said, but, ridiculously, my voice broke. “Surprised, actually… what brought all this on?”
“I told you — I got tired of trying to stay away from you. So I’m giving up.” He was still smiling, but his ocher eyes were serious.
“Giving up?” I repeated in confusion.
“Yes — giving up trying to be good. I’m just going to do what I want now, and let the chips fall where they may.” His smile faded as he explained, and a hard edge crept into his voice.
“You lost me again.”
The breathtaking crooked smile reappeared.
“I always say too much when I’m talking to you — that’s one of the problems.”
“Don’t worry — I don’t understand any of it,” I said wryly.
“I’m counting on that.”
“So, in plain English, are we friends now?”
“Friends…” he mused, dubious.
“Or not,” I muttered.
He grinned. “Well, we can try, I suppose. But I’m warning you now that I’m not a good friend for you.”
Behind his smile, the warning was real.
“You say that a lot,” I noted, trying to ignore the sudden trembling in my stomach and keep my voice even.
“Yes, because you’re not listening to me. I’m still waiting for you to believe it. If you’re smart, you’ll avoid me.”
“I think you’ve made your opinion on the subject of my intellect clear, too.” My eyes narrowed.
He smiled apologetically.
“So, as long as I’m being… not smart, we’ll try to be friends?” I struggled to sum up the confusing exchange.
“That sounds about right.”
I looked down at my hands wrapped around the lemonade bottle, not sure what to do now.
“What are you thinking?” he asked curiously.
I looked up into his deep gold eyes, became befuddled, and, as usual, blurted out the truth.
“I’m trying to figure out what you are.”
His jaw tightened, but he kept his smile in place with some effort.
“Are you having any luck with that?” he asked in an offhand tone.
“Not too much,” I admitted.
He chuckled. “What are your theories?”
I blushed. I had been vacillating during the last month between Bruce Wayne and Peter Parker. There was no way I was going to own up to that.
“Won’t you tell me?” he asked, tilting his head to one side with a shockingly tempting smile.
I shook my head. “Too embarrassing.”
“That’s really frustrating, you know,” he complained.
“No,” I disagreed quickly, my eyes narrowing, “I can’t imagine why that would be frustrating at all — just because someone refuses to tell you what they’re thinking, even if all the while they’re making cryptic little remarks specifically designed to keep you up at night wondering what they could possibly mean… now, why would that be frustrating?”
“Or better,” I continued, the pent-up annoyance flowing freely now, “say that person also did a wide range of bizarre things — from saving your life under impossible circumstances one day to treating you like a pariah the next, and he never explained any of that, either, even after he promised. That, also, would be very non-frustrating.”
“You’ve got a bit of a temper, don’t you?”
“I don’t like double standards.”
We stared at each other, unsmiling.
He glanced over my shoulder, and then, unexpectedly, he snickered.
“Your boyfriend seems to think I’m being unpleasant to you — he’s debating whether or not to come break up our fight.” He snickered again.
“I don’t know who you’re talking about,” I said frostily. “But I’m sure you’re wrong, anyway.”
“I’m not. I told you, most people are easy to read.”
“Except me, of course.”
“Yes. Except for you.” His mood shifted suddenly; his eyes turned brooding. “I wonder why that is.”
I had to look away from the intensity of his stare. I concentrated on unscrewing the lid of my lemonade. I took a swig, staring at the table without seeing it.
“Aren’t you hungry?” he asked, distracted.
“No.” I didn’t feel like mentioning that my stomach was already full — of butterflies. “You?” I looked at the empty table in front of him.
“No, I’m not hungry.” I didn’t understand his expression — it looked like he was enjoying some private joke.
“Can you do me a favor?” I asked after a second of hesitation.
He was suddenly wary. “That depends on what you want.”
“It’s not much,” I assured him.
He waited, guarded but curious.
“I just wondered… if you could warn me beforehand the next time you decide to ignore me for my own good. Just so I’m prepared.” I looked at the lemonade bottle as I spoke, tracing the circle of the opening with my pinkie finger.
“That sounds fair.” He was pressing his lips together to keep from laughing when I looked up.
“Then can I have one answer in return?” he demanded.
“Tell me one theory.”
Whoops. “Not that one.”
“You didn’t qualify, you just promised one answer,” he reminded me.
“And you’ve broken promises yourself,” I reminded him back.
“Just one theory — I won’t laugh.”
“Yes, you will.” I was positive about that.
He looked down, and then glanced up at me through his long black lashes, his ocher eyes scorching.
“Please?” he breathed, leaning toward me.
I blinked, my mind going blank. Holy crow, how did he do that?
“Er, what?” I asked, dazed.
“Please tell me just one little theory.” His eyes still smoldered at me.
“Um, well, bitten by a radioactive spider?” Was he a hypnotist, too? Or was I just a hopeless pushover?
“That’s not very creative,” he scoffed.
“I’m sorry, that’s all I’ve got,” I said, miffed.
“You’re not even close,” he teased.
“And no radioactivity?”
“Dang,” I sighed.
“Kryptonite doesn’t bother me, either,” he chuckled.
“You’re not supposed to laugh, remember?”
He struggled to compose his face.
“I’ll figure it out eventually,” I warned him.
“I wish you wouldn’t try.” He was serious again.
“What if I’m not a superhero? What if I’m the bad guy?” He smiled playfully, but his eyes were impenetrable.
“Oh,” I said, as several things he’d hinted fell suddenly into place. “I see.”
“Do you?” His face was abruptly severe, as if he were afraid that he’d accidentally said too much.
“You’re dangerous?” I guessed, my pulse quickening as I intuitively realized the truth of my own words. He was dangerous. He’d been trying to tell me that all along.
He just looked at me, eyes full of some emotion I couldn’t comprehend.
“But not bad,” I whispered, shaking my head. “No, I don’t believe that you’re bad.”
“You’re wrong.” His voice was almost inaudible. He looked down, stealing my bottle lid and then spinning it on its side between his fingers. I stared at him, wondering why I didn’t feel afraid. He meant what he was saying — that was obvious. But I just felt anxious, on edge… and, more than anything else, fascinated. The same way I always felt when I was near him.
The silence lasted until I noticed that the cafeteria was almost empty.
I jumped to my feet. “We’re going to be late.”
“I’m not going to class today,” he said, twirling the lid so fast it was just a blur.
“It’s healthy to ditch class now and then.” He smiled up at me, but his eyes were still troubled.
“Well, I’m going,” I told him. I was far too big a coward to risk getting caught.
He turned his attention back to his makeshift top. “I’ll see you later, then.”
I hesitated, torn, but then the first bell sent me hurrying out the door — with a last glance confirming that he hadn’t moved a centimeter.
As I half-ran to class, my head was spinning faster than the bottle cap. So few questions had been answered in comparison to how many new questions had been raised. At least the rain had stopped.
I was lucky; Mr. Banner wasn’t in the room yet when I arrived. I settled quickly into my seat, aware that both Mike and Angela were staring at me. Mike looked resentful; Angela looked surprised, and slightly awed.
Mr. Banner came in the room then, calling the class to order. He was juggling a few small cardboard boxes in his arms. He put them down on Mike’s table, telling him to start passing them around the class.
“Okay, guys, I want you all to take one piece from each box,” he said as he produced a pair of rubber gloves from the pocket of his lab jacket and pulled them on. The sharp sound as the gloves snapped into place against his wrists seemed ominous to me. “The first should be an indicator card,” he went on, grabbing a white card with four squares marked on it and displaying it. “The second is a four-pronged applicator —” he held up something that looked like a nearly toothless hair pick “— and the third is a sterile micro-lancet.” He held up a small piece of blue plastic and split it open. The barb was invisible from this distance, but my stomach flipped.
“I’ll be coming around with a dropper of water to prepare your cards, so please don’t start until I get to you.” He began at Mike’s table again, carefully putting one drop of water in each of the four squares. “Then I want you to carefully prick your finger with the lancet…” He grabbed Mike’s hand and jabbed the spike into the tip of Mike’s middle finger. Oh no. Clammy moisture broke out across my forehead.
“Put a small drop of blood on each of the prongs.” He demonstrated, squeezing Mike’s finger till the blood flowed. I swallowed convulsively, my stomach heaving.
“And then apply it to the card,” he finished, holding up the dripping red card for us to see. I closed my eyes, trying to hear through the ringing in my ears.
“The Red Cross is having a blood drive in Port Angeles next weekend, so I thought you should all know your blood type.” He sounded proud of himself. “Those of you who aren’t eighteen yet will need a parent’s permission — I have slips at my desk.”
He continued through the room with his water drops. I put my cheek against the cool black tabletop and tried to hold on to my consciousness. All around me I could hear squeals, complaints, and giggles as my classmates skewered their fingers. I breathed slowly in and out through my mouth.
“Bella, are you all right?” Mr. Banner asked. His voice was close to my head, and it sounded alarmed.
“I already know my blood type, Mr. Banner,” I said in a weak voice. I was afraid to raise my head.
“Are you feeling faint?”
“Yes, sir,” I muttered, internally kicking myself for not ditching when I had the chance.
“Can someone take Bella to the nurse, please?” he called.
I didn’t have to look up to know that it would be Mike who volunteered.
“Can you walk?” Mr. Banner asked.
“Yes,” I whispered. Just let me get out of here, I thought. I’ll crawl.
Mike seemed eager as he put his arm around my waist and pulled my arm over his shoulder. I leaned against him heavily on the way out of the classroom.
Mike towed me slowly across campus. When we were around the edge of the cafeteria, out of sight of building four in case Mr. Banner was watching, I stopped.
“Just let me sit for a minute, please?” I begged.
He helped me sit on the edge of the walk.
“And whatever you do, keep your hand in your pocket,” I warned. I was still so dizzy. I slumped over on my side, putting my cheek against the freezing, damp cement of the sidewalk, closing my eyes. That seemed to help a little.
“Wow, you’re green, Bella,” Mike said nervously.
“Bella?” a different voice called from the distance.
No! Please let me be imagining that horribly familiar voice.
“What’s wrong — is she hurt?” His voice was closer now, and he sounded upset. I wasn’t imagining it. I squeezed my eyes shut, hoping to die. Or, at the very least, not to throw up.
Mike seemed stressed. “I think she’s fainted. I don’t know what happened, she didn’t even stick her finger.”
“Bella.” Edward’s voice was right beside me, relieved now. “Can you hear me?”
“No,” I groaned. “Go away.”
“I was taking her to the nurse,” Mike explained in a defensive tone, “but she wouldn’t go any farther.”
“I’ll take her,” Edward said. I could hear the smile still in his voice. “You can go back to class.”
“No,” Mike protested. “I’m supposed to do it.”
Suddenly the sidewalk disappeared from beneath me. My eyes flew open in shock. Edward had scooped me up in his arms, as easily as if I weighed ten pounds instead of a hundred and ten.
“Put me down!” Please, please let me not vomit on him. He was walking before I was finished talking.
“Hey!” Mike called, already ten paces behind us.
Edward ignored him. “You look awful,” he told me, grinning.
“Put me back on the sidewalk,” I moaned. The rocking movement of his walk was not helping. He held me away from his body, gingerly, supporting all my weight with just his arms — it didn’t seem to bother him.
“So you faint at the sight of blood?” he asked. This seemed to entertain him.
I didn’t answer. I closed my eyes again and fought the nausea with all my strength, clamping my lips together.
“And not even your own blood,” he continued, enjoying himself.
I don’t know how he opened the door while carrying me, but it was suddenly warm, so I knew we were inside.
“Oh my,” I heard a female voice gasp.
“She fainted in Biology,” Edward explained.
I opened my eyes. I was in the office, and Edward was striding past the front counter toward the nurse’s door. Ms. Cope, the redheaded front office receptionist, ran ahead of him to hold it open. The grandmotherly nurse looked up from a novel, astonished, as Edward swung me into the room and placed me gently on the crackly paper that covered the brown vinyl mattress on the one cot. Then he moved to stand against the wall as far across the narrow room as possible. His eyes were bright, excited.
“She’s just a little faint,” he reassured the startled nurse. “They’re blood typing in Biology.”
The nurse nodded sagely. “There’s always one.”
He muffled a snicker.
“Just lie down for a minute, honey; it’ll pass.”
“I know,” I sighed. The nausea was already fading.
“Does this happen a lot?” she asked.
“Sometimes,” I admitted. Edward coughed to hide another laugh.
“You can go back to class now,” she told him.
“I’m supposed to stay with her.” He said this with such assured authority that — even though she pursed her lips — the nurse didn’t argue it further.
“I’ll go get you some ice for your forehead, dear,” she said to me, and then bustled out of the room.
“You were right,” I moaned, letting my eyes close.
“I usually am — but about what in particular this time?”
“Ditching is healthy.” I practiced breathing evenly.
“You scared me for a minute there,” he admitted after a pause. His tone made it sound like he was confessing a humiliating weakness. “I thought Newton was dragging your dead body off to bury it in the woods.”
“Ha ha.” I still had my eyes closed, but I was feeling more normal every minute.
“Honestly — I’ve seen corpses with better color. I was concerned that I might have to avenge your murder.”
“Poor Mike. I’ll bet he’s mad.”
“He absolutely loathes me,” Edward said cheerfully.
“You can’t know that,” I argued, but then I wondered suddenly if he could.
“I saw his face — I could tell.”
“How did you see me? I thought you were ditching.” I was almost fine now, though the queasiness would probably pass faster if I’d eaten something for lunch. On the other hand, maybe it was lucky my stomach was empty.
“I was in my car, listening to a CD.” Such a normal response — it surprised me.
I heard the door and opened my eyes to see the nurse with a cold compress in her hand.
“Here you go, dear.” She laid it across my forehead. “You’re looking better,” she added.
“I think I’m fine,” I said, sitting up. Just a little ringing in my ears, no spinning. The mint green walls stayed where they should.
I could see she was about to make me lie back down, but the door opened just then, and Ms. Cope stuck her head in.
“We’ve got another one,” she warned.
I hopped down to free up the cot for the next invalid.
I handed the compress back to the nurse. “Here, I don’t need this.”
And then Mike staggered through the door, now supporting a sallow-looking Lee Stephens, another boy in our Biology class. Edward and I drew back against the wall to give them room.
“Oh no,” Edward muttered. “Go out to the office, Bella.”
I looked up at him, bewildered.
“Trust me — go.”
I spun and caught the door before it closed, darting out of the infirmary. I could feel Edward right behind me.
“You actually listened to me.” He was stunned.
“I smelled the blood,” I said, wrinkling my nose. Lee wasn’t sick from watching other people, like me.
“People can’t smell blood,” he contradicted.
“Well, I can — that’s what makes me sick. It smells like rust… and salt.”
He was staring at me with an unfathomable expression.
“What?” I asked.
Mike came through the door then, glancing from me to Edward. The look he gave Edward confirmed what Edward had said about loathing. He looked back at me, his eyes glum.
“You look better,” he accused.
“Just keep your hand in your pocket,” I warned him again.
“It’s not bleeding anymore,” he muttered. “Are you going back to class?”
“Are you kidding? I’d just have to turn around and come back.”
“Yeah, I guess… So are you going this weekend? To the beach?” While he spoke, he flashed another glare toward Edward, who was standing against the cluttered counter, motionless as a sculpture, staring off into space.
I tried to sound as friendly as possible. “Sure, I said I was in.”
“We’re meeting at my dad’s store, at ten.” His eyes flickered to Edward again, wondering if he was giving out too much information. His body language made it clear that it wasn’t an open invitation.
“I’ll be there,” I promised.
“I’ll see you in Gym, then,” he said, moving uncertainly toward the door.
“See you,” I replied. He looked at me once more, his round face slightly pouting, and then as he walked slowly through the door, his shoulders slumped. A swell of sympathy washed over me. I pondered seeing his disappointed face again… in Gym.
“Gym,” I groaned.
“I can take care of that.” I hadn’t noticed Edward moving to my side, but he spoke now in my ear. “Go sit down and look pale,” he muttered.
That wasn’t a challenge; I was always pale, and my recent swoon had left a light sheen of sweat on my face. I sat in one of the creaky folding chairs and rested my head against the wall with my eyes closed.
Fainting spells always exhausted me.
I heard Edward speaking softly at the counter.
“Yes?” I hadn’t heard her return to her desk.
“Bella has Gym next hour, and I don’t think she feels well enough. Actually, I was thinking I should take her home now. Do you think you could excuse her from class?” His voice was like melting honey. I could imagine how much more overwhelming his eyes would be.
“Do you need to be excused, too, Edward?” Ms. Cope fluttered. Why couldn’t I do that?
“No, I have Mrs. Goff, she won’t mind.”
“Okay, it’s all taken care of. You feel better, Bella,” she called to me. I nodded weakly, hamming it up just a bit.
“Can you walk, or do you want me to carry you again?” With his back to the receptionist, his expression became sarcastic.
“I’ll walk.” I stood carefully, and I was still fine. He held the door for me, his smile polite but his eyes mocking. I walked out into the cold, fine mist that had just begun to fall. It felt nice — the first time I’d enjoyed the constant moisture falling out of the sky — as it washed my face clean of the sticky perspiration.
“Thanks,” I said as he followed me out. “It’s almost worth getting sick to miss Gym.”
“Anytime.” He was staring straight forward, squinting into the rain.
“So are you going? This Saturday, I mean?” I was hoping he would, though it seemed unlikely. I couldn’t picture him loading up to carpool with the rest of the kids from school; he didn’t belong in the same world. But just hoping that he might gave me the first twinge of enthusiasm I’d felt for the outing.
“Where are you all going, exactly?” He was still looking ahead, expressionless.
“Down to La Push, to First Beach.” I studied his face, trying to read it. His eyes seemed to narrow infinitesimally.
He glanced down at me from the corner of his eye, smiling wryly. “I really don’t think I was invited.”
I sighed. “I just invited you.”
“Let’s you and I not push poor Mike any further this week. We don’t want him to snap.” His eyes danced; he was enjoying the idea more than he should.
“Mike-schmike.” I muttered, preoccupied by the way he’d said “you and I.” I liked it more than I should. We were near the parking lot now. I veered left, toward my truck. Something caught my jacket, yanking me back.
“Where do you think you’re going?” he asked, outraged. He was gripping a fistful of my jacket in one hand.
I was confused. “I’m going home.”
“Didn’t you hear me promise to take you safely home? Do you think I’m going to let you drive in your condition?” His voice was still indignant.
“What condition? And what about my truck?” I complained.
“I’ll have Alice drop it off after school.” He was towing me toward his car now, pulling me by my jacket.
It was all I could do to keep from falling backward. He’d probably just drag me along anyway if I did.
“Let go!” I insisted. He ignored me. I staggered along sideways across the wet sidewalk until we reached the Volvo. Then he finally freed me — I stumbled against the passenger door.
“You are so pushy !” I grumbled.
“It’s open,” was all he responded. He got in the driver’s side.
“I am perfectly capable of driving myself home!” I stood by the car, fuming. It was raining harder now, and I’d never put my hood up, so my hair was dripping down my back.
He lowered the automatic window and leaned toward me across the seat. “Get in, Bella.”
I didn’t answer. I was mentally calculating my chances of reaching the truck before he could catch me. I had to admit, they weren’t good.
“I’ll just drag you back,” he threatened, guessing my plan.
I tried to maintain what dignity I could as I got into his car. I wasn’t very successful — I looked like a half-drowned cat and my boots squeaked.
“This is completely unnecessary,” I said stiffly.
He didn’t answer. He fiddled with the controls, turning the heater up and the music down. As he pulled out of the parking lot, I was preparing to give him the silent treatment — my face in full pout mode — but then I recognized the music playing, and my curiosity got the better of my intentions.
“Clair de Lune?” I asked, surprised.
“You know Debussy?” He sounded surprised, too.
“Not well,” I admitted. “My mother plays a lot of classical music around the house — I only know my favorites.”
“It’s one of my favorites, too.” He stared out through the rain, lost in thought.
I listened to the music, relaxing against the light gray leather seat. It was impossible not to respond to the familiar, soothing melody. The rain blurred everything outside the window into gray and green smudges. I began to realize we were driving very fast; the car moved so steadily, so evenly, though, I didn’t feel the speed. Only the town flashing by gave it away.
“What is your mother like?” he asked me suddenly.
I glanced over to see him studying me with curious eyes.
“She looks a lot like me, but she’s prettier,” I said. He raised his eyebrows. “I have too much Charlie in me. She’s more outgoing than I am, and braver. She’s irresponsible and slightly eccentric, and she’s a very unpredictable cook. She’s my best friend.” I stopped. Talking about her was making me depressed. “How old are you, Bella?” His voice sounded frustrated for some reason I couldn’t imagine. He’d stopped the car, and I realized we were at Charlie’s house already. The rain was so heavy that I could barely see the house at all. It was like the car was submerged under a river.
“I’m seventeen,” I responded, a little confused.
“You don’t seem seventeen.”
His tone was reproachful; it made me laugh.
“What?” he asked, curious again.
“My mom always says I was born thirty-five years old and that I get more middle-aged every year.” I laughed, and then sighed. “Well, someone has to be the adult.” I paused for a second. “You don’t seem much like a junior in high school yourself,” I noted.
He made a face and changed the subject.
“So why did your mother marry Phil?”
I was surprised he would remember the name; I’d mentioned it just once, almost two months ago. It took me a moment to answer.
“My mother… she’s very young for her age. I think Phil makes her feel even younger. At any rate, she’s crazy about him.” I shook my head. The attraction was a mystery to me.
“Do you approve?” he asked.
“Does it matter?” I countered. “I want her to be happy… and he is who she wants.”
“That’s very generous… I wonder,” he mused.
“Would she extend the same courtesy to you, do you think? No matter who your choice was?” He was suddenly intent, his eyes searching mine.
“I-I think so,” I stuttered. “But she’s the parent, after all. It’s a little bit different.”
“No one too scary then,” he teased.
I grinned in response. “What do you mean by scary? Multiple facial piercings and extensive tattoos?”
“That’s one definition, I suppose.”
“What’s your definition?”
But he ignored my question and asked me another. “Do you think that I could be scary?” He raised one eyebrow, and the faint trace of a smile lightened his face.
I thought for a moment, wondering whether the truth or a lie would go over better. I decided to go with the truth. “Hmmm… I think you could be , if you wanted to.”
“Are you frightened of me now?” The smile vanished, and his heavenly face was suddenly serious.
“No.” But I answered too quickly. The smile returned.
“So, now are you going to tell me about your family?” I asked to distract him. “It’s got to be a much more interesting story than mine.”
He was instantly cautious. “What do you want to know?”
“The Cullens adopted you?” I verified.
I hesitated for a moment. “What happened to your parents?”
“They died many years ago.” His tone was matter-of-fact.
“I’m sorry,” I mumbled.
“I don’t really remember them that clearly. Carlisle and Esme have been my parents for a long time now.”
“And you love them.” It wasn’t a question. It was obvious in the way he spoke of them.
“Yes.” He smiled. “I couldn’t imagine two better people.”
“You’re very lucky.”
“I know I am.”
“And your brother and sister?”
He glanced at the clock on the dashboard.
“My brother and sister, and Jasper and Rosalie for that matter, are going to be quite upset if they have to stand in the rain waiting for me.”
“Oh, sorry, I guess you have to go.” I didn’t want to get out of the car.
“And you probably want your truck back before Chief Swan gets home, so you don’t have to tell him about the Biology incident.” He grinned at me.
“I’m sure he’s already heard. There are no secrets in Forks.” I sighed.
He laughed, and there was an edge to his laughter.
“Have fun at the beach… good weather for sunbathing.” He glanced out at the sheeting rain.
“Won’t I see you tomorrow?”
“No. Emmett and I are starting the weekend early.”
“What are you going to do?” A friend could ask that, right? I hoped the disappointment wasn’t too apparent in my voice.
“We’re going to be hiking in the Goat Rocks Wilderness, just south of Rainier.”
I remembered Charlie had said the Cullens went camping frequently.
“Oh, well, have fun.” I tried to sound enthusiastic. I don’t think I fooled him, though. A smile was playing around the edges of his lips.
“Will you do something for me this weekend?” He turned to look me straight in the face, utilizing the full power of his burning gold eyes.
I nodded helplessly.
“Don’t be offended, but you seem to be one of those people who just attract accidents like a magnet. So… try not to fall into the ocean or get run over or anything, all right?” He smiled crookedly.
The helplessness had faded as he spoke. I glared at him.
“I’ll see what I can do,” I snapped as I jumped out into the rain. I slammed the door behind me with excessive force.
He was still smiling as he drove away.