Edward and I sat on opposite sides of my living room couch stiffly, the both of us waiting for me to speak. The air was thick with tension, and I felt Edward's dark eyes on me as I stared at my hands, trying to put together words that could make this whole experience easier on the both of us. I could see how on edge Edward was, even out of the corner of my eye. His body was rigid, and his hands were clenched in white-knuckled fists.
“Bella,” he said through gritted teeth, “Tell me now what's going on with Jacob.” I could see his worry turn to frustration, and his frustration turn to anger. It was almost palatable, and it was undeniably directed at me.
I knew I couldn't leave him in the dark any longer, so I just spoke. “Jacob's life is endangered by a vampire that has become obsessed with hunting him down. We've been trying to stop him all day, but he's very hard to track and-”
“We?” Edward interrupted me to ask.
“Ana and I,” I said, recalling that I hadn't told him much about her, other than that she was my older sister who took care of me. It really wasn't that far from the truth.
Edward's mouth became a tight, thin line, and he stared at me with hard eyes. “Vampire,” he said, his jaw set so the word almost came out in a hiss. “I knew it.”
I let out a breath, almost a chuckle, although I felt no humor. “You…you know.” I shook my head slowly. All my fears the past few weeks had been totally founded, even when Ana had assured me they weren’t. Edward had figured it out all along. “Of course you know,” I said in a growl.
“I knew you were different,” he said quietly. “No one's mouth is cold.”
I stared at him for a moment, bemused by his words, until I recalled our private moments alone in his car earlier that day. It didn't even occur to me that, with his hands all over me like that, he would have noticed the icy feel of my skin. I found myself wondering if my mouth tasted differently to him than other humans, and just how many human mouths he's tasted in his life and—focus, Bella. I shook my head.
“You're also hard,” he said, his brow furrowing. He suddenly reached out and took hold of my hand. I was startled by this, but I didn’t pull away. “Like marble,” he said, gazing down at my hand.
I nodded grimly, wondering how I hadn't remembered any of these things about my body when I'd thrown myself all over him. “That's another symptom,” I said quietly.
“Yes it is,” I heard him mutter under his breath, and I was immediately put on edge. How did he know what a vampire was like? Most people believed we turned to ash in the sunlight and lacked reflections in mirrors. Very few mortals knew the vampire traits, and vampires as a whole liked to keep it that way. “What else can you do?” he asked me, releasing my hand.
“What have you heard I can do?” I countered, wondering just what he knew. His eyes narrowed, and I wondered if he'd dance around my question as I did.
But Edward was not avoidant. He answered my question without hesitation. “I've heard you're fast and strong. You have sensitive hearing and sense of smell. You don't sleep.”
“Anything else?” I asked. Superhuman strength and speed were rather common in vampire legends, but there was one trait that barely anyone outside of vampires knew about. I wanted to know if he knew about it.
He glanced off to the side, his brow furrowing again. “You're meant to be attractive. You're supposed to smell good, look good, as that's how you lure your...your prey in.” He paused and swallowed, and I couldn't help but watch the muscles in his neck work. “You can come out in the day, but you're never seen in the sun.” He met my eyes once again. “And you're incredibly violent.”
I almost smiled. “You know a lot,” I said, leaning forward myself. “Where did you hear all that from?”
“I’ve researched legends here and there. Jacob’s father has always collected stories of supernatural creatures,” he said, and he glanced out the window, no doubt reminded of what had brought him here. “How much of that is true?”
I bit my lip, unsure of how much I should reveal to him. I'd never had to tell a mortal about our existence before, and therefore had no experience. Did one tell a mortal everything, or just a few things? Should I pepper a lie or two in there to protect the species, or did it just not matter? “Enough of it,” I answered, mostly to buy myself time.
His mouth tightened again. “And you are a vampire.” He said this slowly, as if he were actively fighting to accept this information.
“In the flesh,” I said.
He stared at me for a moment. “Prove it,” he challenged.
“Prove it?” I repeated, almost laughing. “Edward, you've figured it out for yourself. Why should I prove it?”
“I want you to show me yourself,” he said. “Prove it.”
I frowned, not comfortable with this. What, did he want me to bite him or something? Or should I instead go and fetch a bag of blood and chug it in front of him like some morbid version of a frat boy? I suppose I could dash around the room, or lift the couch or...
An idea struck me, and I got to my feet. I saw Edward reflexively tense up as I stepped closer to him. I saw the way his eyes dilated as they focused on me, and how a vein in his neck popped out a little when he swallowed. I kept my gaze on him as I reached out my hand to take his, smiling invitingly at him. I could tell he was nervous, but he took my hand anyway. I pulled him up off of the couch with little effort, which surprised him, but what really caught off guard was when I swept him off his feet.
He yelped in shock as I lifted him with little effort. I could uproot decades-old trees without batting an eyelash; an overweight teenager was almost nothing to me. The warmth of his soft flesh on my arms and against my chest was nearly overwhelming, but I tried to ignore both that and the heady scent I was getting from him. I felt his muscles ripple underneath the fat, felt his strong hands grip my shoulders. I imagined myself pinning him against the wall and tearing away the weak material of his clothing.
He stared at me in shock as I grinned back to him, and I saw his face flush red. Before I could act out the scene I saw in my mind, I eased him back down onto his feet, and he immediately turned away from me and walked away a few paces.
“Are you okay?” I asked, noticing the huskiness in my voice.
“Fine,” he grumbled over his shoulder. He ran a hand through his hair, and I noticed the slight tremor in it. I gave him a few moments of quiet to collect himself; after all, I'm sure he wasn't expecting a girl to lift him like that.
When he turned back to me, I saw a troubled look in his eyes. “This vampire after Jacob,” he started, and I frowned.
“That vampire after Jacob won't be of much concern,” I assured him. “Ana's taking care of him now. That's why I needed Jacob's address. Ana went there to stand guard and make sure James won't hurt him.”
“James,” he repeated softly, and I nearly slapped myself for the slip. Even after reprimanding myself and telling myself to focus, Bella, focus, I could still barely manage to keep my hands at my sides. They felt nearly magnetized to Edward's body, and I was fighting the pull. This was very distracting.
“Look,” I said, walking away from him a little to get out my nerves. “Maybe we should go out and get something to eat, or-” I stopped mid-sentence as I heard his footsteps near the front door. I dashed in front of the door faster than he could even blink, and he gasped at my speed.
“Damn it, Bella!” he growled. “Let me go.”
“No,” I urged, not budging from my spot. “I'm not letting you just walk into danger alone like that.”
“Then you come with me,” he insisted. “I don't care, but I have to get over there.”
“There's nothing you can do!”
“There could be something you could do.”
“Ana instructed me to stay here.”
“Well, she didn't tell me anything.”
I huffed, narrowing my eyes at him. He just glared right back. “No way, Edward,” I said firmly. “I'm not letting you go to Christo Rey for any reason whatsoever.”
I stared out the windshield blankly as Edward drove to Christo Rey, wondering how I'd let a mortal talk me into not only letting him run right into danger, but letting him drive there as well. He insisted we take his car, as it was faster, but only he could drive it, of course. I'd never met a mortal so stubborn and dead-set that he would challenge the words of a vampire. Then again, Edward Masen was a different sort of person.
“I can run faster than this car,” I said without looking at him, knowing full well he was pushing the car over ninety miles an hour. “Even with you on my back.”
“I'd rather drive,” he said flatly, and I saw his grimace in the corner of my eye.
I fell silent after this, but I watched Edward as he drove, wondering what was going through his mind. Would he willingly speak to me after this? Would this be the last time I’d see him?
I had texted Ana about Edward forcing his way down to Christo Rey, but I never got an answer from her. It worried me a little, but there could be a multitude of reasons why she had not answered. I hoped she was chasing James out of the area, out of the state. I had no idea what we were walking into as Edward pulled up to Jacob's house. The boy lived in a small house on a big piece of land, complete with gravel driveway holding a couple of older cars and a motorcycle. Edward had told me at some point in the past few weeks that Jacob enjoyed restoring old vehicles.
Edward got out to knock on the front door, but I hung back to attempt calling Ana. Neither of us got an answer. Edward came back to his car, his eyes full of the same worry that I felt. He tried to call Jacob on his phone as well, but that only ended with the same result.
We sat quietly in his car for several moments. My nails made small, nervous tears in the knees of my jeans. Edward ran a hand through his hair. We glanced at each other, then away. Neither of us knew what to do from here.
“We should get back to Forks,” I said at last to break the silence. “It's getting late.”
Edward didn't say anything, didn't even move for a long time. I could hardly imagine what he could be thinking. I was worried about Ana, but she was a very old, very skilled vampire. She could easily handle James, who wasn’t much older than me.
I reached over and covered his large hand with my own. He looked at me in surprise. I wanted to say something reassuring or comforting, but no words came to my lips. Instead, I let instinct take over. I leaned forward and kissed his cheek.
To my surprise, he smiled faintly and let out a breath. “Let's get out of here,” he said, turning the car on. He looked at Jacob's house one last time before peeling out of the driveway. As he sped home, I could feel the tension in his body. I wondered if Edward would blame me for this situation. After all, he and Jacob had led pretty vampire-free lives until I came along. Although it was possible James could have fixated on Jacob no matter what, it seemed like he was made a more likely target because of my presence.
If Edward blamed me, would he hold it against me? And could he ever forgive me?