The next couple of weeks demonstrated a peaceful routine in my life. I'd go to school, learn things that I honestly should have learned decades ago, and then I would come home and delve into books. I'd gradually began to feel my hunger for literature, and ever since finishing The Great Gatsby, I'd made good use of my library card. But my reading frenzy hadn't been contained to fiction; I'd also picked up and read through those cookbooks that Ana had bought for me. I had even tried my hand at a few recipes, gradually finding some comfort in the use of the electric oven and stove.
My relationships with my friends had branched out in different ways. I'd become closer to Angela and Eric, and while I spent time with everyone during school, I rarely saw Jessica or Lauren in the off hours. With Edward, things had hardly cooled off. We met regularly after school to study together, and had even met up in town a couple of times. Each meeting was a test of my self-control as I struggled not to throw myself all over him.
Of course, the life of a vampire, beyond all the glamor (and glimmer), is wrought with danger and stressful situations. My peaceful life as a high school student quickly dissolved with the arrival of one of Ana's friends. He was a vampire, and one far less used to living among humans as Ana and I.
I came home from school on a Friday afternoon to find this stranger in my living room. He was sitting on the couch, drinking thick blood from a glass. His eyes met mine, and I saw a hint of madness in that crimson gaze that made me uncomfortable. Ana introduced him to me as James.
“I guess you can say he's a bit of an old flame,” she said with a hint of laughter in her voice. I looked James over, sizing him up a little. He had a thick body composed of muscle, hardened now in his vampire state. He held himself rigidly, as if ever ready to either run or fight, and his face seemed frozen into a scowl. His clothes were tattered and dirty, and his dark brown hair looked like it could use a wash.
I certainly hoped he'd been more vigilant in his upkeep when Ana dated him than he did now, or else I would have to seriously doubt Ana's taste in men. Apparently he'd had a bit of a fight with his mate up in Canada and had come down to stay with Ana for a little while until things cooled down. His voice was hard and cold, with a gravelly undertone that made me want to stuff a pair of socks in his mouth to shut him up.
A worried feeling started to bubble up in my stomach. Two vampires living together in a small town like Forks was already a big risk; adding another into our little circle, even if temporarily, sounded foolish. And honestly, I just didn't like the look of this man. He seemed way too wild for us to house.
The weekend was, in a word, difficult. Angela was busy, so I didn't have a chance to hang out with her, and Jessica and Lauren had whisked themselves off to an over-night trip to Seattle. I even called Edward, but even he didn’t answer. He later sent me a text message saying he was indisposed that weekend. Somehow, everyone I knew well enough to spend time with outside of school were otherwise engaged, leaving me to knock about the house with James.
At times, he seemed restless and agitated. From my room, where I sought refuge, I'd hear him pacing and muttering in the living room. He drank a lot of blood and had four whole bags to himself within the first few hours of his stay.
On Sunday night, James had almost blown through our blood supply. Ana set out to Port Angeles to visit her friend Etienne and get us a new supply to last until our regular shipment would come. I offered to go with her – almost begged, really – but she told me it would be rude to leave James here alone. Though I wanted to stay as far away from him as possible, I did have the sneaking suspicion that if he were left to his own devices here, Ana and I would return to find we no longer had neighbors.
For eight painfully long hours, I was stuck in this house with James. At his request, I sat with him in the living room while he watched a wrestling match on television. I sat rigidly as he laughed at the violence on the flat screen, saw that his fangs were exposed every time he opened his mouth. It was very rude for a vampire to show his fangs unnecessarily—it’s considered an act of aggression—but I had already surmised that James was not the most chivalrous of men.
“Bella,” he spoke up at one point during the evening, after the wrestling match as concluded, “do you have a mate?”
“I don't,” I told him, though the image of Edward flashed in my mind. I didn't fail to notice, however, the sly grin that crept up on James' face. A shudder rolled down my spine.
He looked out the window, shifting his feet. His hands clenched and unclenched on his knees. “I’d have a good hunt right now,” he growled.
“No,” I said firmly, pulling his attention away from the window. “We don't hunt here. There's still blood in the refrigerator, and Ana is bringing more back soon.”
A frustrated growl left his throat. “How can you live this way? It's suffocating.” He got to his feet and resumed pacing once more, an activity he participated in ever few hours. I watched him carefully, ready to pounce should he make a run for the door.
Ana didn't return until the sun dawned on Monday morning, and I was relieved when I saw her car pull into the driveway. I was dressed and in my own car before she even got a foot in the door, and I sped down the street to school. I had forgotten to grab a bag of blood before I left, and I arrived at school drained, hungry, and not at all ready to join the land of the living.
The day dragged, and I was thrown back to my first day at school. I was irritable, hungry, and I hardly felt like putting on a show for humans by pretending to eat at lunch. I hid out in the library and buried my nose in a book for about ten minutes, until I heard my name called.
I couldn't help the smile that raised the corners of my mouth, and I looked up as Edward Masen joined me at the small table where I had planted myself. My gaze swept over his large body as he set his backpack on the table. He was wearing a new beige sweater, this one thinner than his old one, and it was a bit snug around his belly. I sat on my hands to keep them from gravitating towards him.
He looked at me, and I tore my gaze away from his body. “You look tired,” he said, the concern in his voice touching. I figured that, due to my hunger, dark circles had developed under my eyes.
“I am,” I answered honestly. I was considering skipping out of gym and driving to the woods, where I might be alone and away from James. “My sister's ex-boyfriend came to stay with us for a little while, and he's allergic to peace.”
“That sounds awful,” Edward said, and I noticed the way his hand twitched on the table. I could tell he wanted to touch me as much as I wanted to touch him. I would have encouraged it, too, were we not in the library surrounded by other children. Images flashed through my mind, of the two of us alone in the woods, with no one to stop us from exploring each other's bodies in the cold air. I could almost feel Edward's warm hands on my hips, his soft flesh beneath my palms.
Edward's voice brought me back to reality. “Bella, are you okay?”
“Oh, yes,” I said, feeling that particular warmth in my belly again. “Just zoning out, I guess.”
“You should take a nap,” he said, glancing to his wristwatch. I noticed it wasn’t the usual digital watch he normally wore, but an expensive-looking analogue one. “There's still a lot of time left in lunch.”
“I won't be able to sleep,” I said, speaking truthfully once more, though for reasons he couldn't know. I glanced around the library to imply the reason behind this insomnia.
“You can go out to my car,” he suggested, and I tried not to stare wide-eyed at him. He shuffled a bit awkwardly. “I mean, I suggest my car because the seats are heated, so you won't be cold.” I almost laughed, but then he put his car keys on the table. “Go ahead,” he said.
I looked at the key, attached by a ring to two more keys, several of those small cards people seem to carry around, and a charm of a musical note. “You're just going to hand over the keys to your car like that?” I asked, wondering if he was all there in the head after all.
He shrugged. “I trust you not to take it on a joy ride,” he said easily. “But if it makes you more comfortable, I will accompany you.”
Well, his presence wouldn't help soothe me to sleep, even if I could accomplish such a state, but I wasn't going to pass up a chance to not only have a few minutes alone with the boy, but see the inside of his car. “I'd quite like that,” I said, trying to fight down the giddy feeling coming over me.
I walked beside him out to the parking lot. As always, his car was parked at the far end of the lot, but it wasn't a huge space, and it took only a few minutes to walk over. Edward opened the passenger side door for me, and I grinned as I slid into a beige leather seat. I couldn't help but noticed he really liked beige.
He got in on the driver's side and slid the keys in the ignition, turning the car on to warm the interior. My gaze slid over the car, and I even glanced in the back. The car was kept in immaculate condition, a rarity amongst young people. Even my own car was cluttered in the back with clothes, empty bags and other oddities. His scent permeated everything in the car, and I felt dizzy breathing it in.
“Would you mind some music?” he asked.
“Go ahead,” I said, more focusing on the fact that there was no one in the parking lot, and even if there were, the windows on this car were pretty tinted. I watched as he reached over and turned on the radio, allowing soft, morose piano music fill the air.
I felt the seat warm up underneath me, and took this an excuse to unzip my jacket. I hardly felt tired anymore, and I certainly wasn't going to just take a nap and waste this opportunity. I saw Edward glance at me, saw the way his hand twitched on his knee again. I wondered if his suggestion for a nap in his car had been genuine or if was having the same steamy thoughts I was. It would have been nice to be able to read his mind.
I couldn't, however, so I decided to simply take a chance. I sat up straight, caught his eye, and took in a breath. A wave of nerves washed over me, but I didn't allow myself to think a single conscious thought as I leaned forward and planted a kiss on his lips.
For a moment, he was stock-still; then he seemed to realize what was happening, and he responded, though his actions were more hesitant than mine. I felt the brush of his warm, soft lips on mine, and I sucked lightly on his bottom lip. My hands gripped his sweater and pulled him closer, then moved down his body. I felt his large hand on the back of my head, angling my face up so that he might better kiss me. His other hand I felt move down my shoulder to my waist, and I felt a shock of warmth as his fingers brushed against the skin of my waist where my shirt had shifted and ridden up. The sweet taste of him was more intoxicating than his scent, and if he hadn't pulled away after a moment, I would certainly have begun removing clothes from both of our bodies.
I let out a breath, meeting his dark eyes. He was breathing heavily, his cheeks flushed a deep red, his pupils dilated as they focused on me. I felt my fangs shift, and I quickly closed my mouth in case they should pop out from the excitement that coursed through me.
“Class...class starts in a few minutes,” Edward said, his voice thick and husky. “We shouldn't miss it.”
I merely nodded, watching as he took a deep breath and turned the car off. The piano music came to an abrupt end, and I only just now remembered its presence. As Edward got out of the car, I attempted to calm myself down. I was just on the verge of losing it and ravaging Edward right there in the parking lot. Judging by his actions, I don't think he would have minded it all that much, to be honest.
I climbed out of the car when Edward opened my door, and I took the hand he offered, his palm almost burning in mine. Once on my feet, I turned to Edward and kissed him once more, lightly, and I honestly meant to pull away immediately. His arm caught me, however, and held me still as he returned the kiss, deepening more even as the bell rang across the parking lot for lunch to end. I let my hands feel over his chest and down the curve of his belly, to the waistband of his jeans.
He pulled away then, almost violently so, and took a step back. His lips were reddened from our kiss, and his breath came out with steam in the cold air. “O-okay,” he stammered, not looking me in the face. “Really, it's time to go to class.”
I grinned to myself as he turned and headed towards the school. I could tell that if he wasn't so worried about being punctual to class, that kiss may have delved into something not fit for the parking lot. As I followed after Edward, my head filled with thoughts of what could have happened in his car, and I knew I wouldn't be hearing a single word of today's biology lecture.
As was probably for the best, Edward was called home directly after school, so we couldn't meet up in the library to study anymore. This disappointment caused my mood to drop, and I recalled the monster who would greet me once I got home. I was not yet ready to face that challenge, and so instead I drove around the streets of Forks, my mind turning to darker matters.
When I was around Edward, it was easy to lose myself in the euphoria which his scent washed upon me. My head had been in the clouds in my last two classes, but now that I was alone, my gaze cast out on the dreary streets, I realized what today had meant.
Edward and I were, as Jessica might say, serious. I had finally grasped a piece of the fantasies that had played out in my head for weeks, and as much as I could revel in that pleasure, the rational part of me did not forget the chasm between us: that of immortal and mortal. Edward was a human, and teenage human at that, and he had an entire life ahead of him. I was a vampire many times his age, who had seen the worst of the world, and whose life had no direction and no natural end. I would never have chosen this life, and I would not want to give it to Edward. Yet I also could not imagine, having found Edward, ever leaving him.
I also realized that I could never be entirely truthful with Edward. Ana had said that there had been vampires who had coupled with humans before, but Edward was no normal human. He was close to a member of a werewolf pack. I couldn’t tell Edward about my true nature on pain of my death. This meant that I could never be open with Edward, and what kind of relationship built on lies and deception could ever hope to end well?
I drove for hours with these thoughts on my mind. I drove my tank to empty, so I filled up at the one station in town before heading back home. I braced myself as I walked up the driveway, but when I got in, James wasn't there, and neither was Ana. There was no note left on the refrigerator, nor in my room.
I pulled my cell phone out of my backpack. I had silenced it at the beginning of the day and hadn't checked it since. I discovered that Ana had called me several times over the last hour and had left a message. I listened to this message, my breath stilling to nothing as I listened to Ana’s words.
“Bella,” Ana's panicked voice spoke, “call me as soon as you can. James has gone off to hunt, and I can't handle him alone. He-he's found a target, down in Christo Rey. Meet me there ASAP.”
I nearly dropped my phone, but shoved it deep into the pocket of my jacket and raced back down to my car. I sped towards Christo Rey, praying that we would be able to find James before he found his target.