We shared a meal. He ate an omelet which he cooked and which he let me taste a bit of, although I found it quite bland. I drank blood from a glass, the sight of which didn’t unnerve Edward at all, or at least not that I could tell.
Edward spoke up after a few minutes. “You know,” he said, glancing around the dining room, “you wouldn't really think vampires live here. It looks pretty normal. At least until you look in the fridge.” He chuckled lightly.
“Edward,” I said, shaking my head, “you say 'vampire' too easily.”
He met my gaze with a raised eyebrow. “I guess you don't expect it from a human, do you? Being so willing to accept that you exist.”
“No, I don't,” I confirmed. “How can you be?”
Edward broke our eye contact to gaze down at his plate. “I've always felt that your kind exists,” he said, his gaze turning inward. “No—I’ve always known. I have met one of you before.”
I stiffened. “You have?” I asked. “When? Who?”
Edward smiled and looked at me again. “This is going to sound ridiculous,” he said, running a hand through his hair. “I saw someone when I was young, perhaps seven. I was camping with Jacob's family in the forest. We were on a hike when I thought I saw someone. I thought it was Jacob’s father, so I ran to catch up with him. Only when I got close did I realize it was a stranger. He had tan skin, but it didn’t look right, kind of gray. And when he turned to look at me, his eyes were a bright crimson red.” Edward’s words slowed on this last point, and I did not miss the significance of this inflection.
I let out a breath, shaking my head. One at a time, I removed my contacts and set them on the table beside my empty glass. I blinked a couple of times to adjust to the feeling of not having them on, then met Edward’s gaze. “This vampire in the woods. He didn’t hurt you?” I asked.
“He didn’t,” Edward answered. “I wonder if he wanted me to see him. He ran off after a minute, running faster than any person or animal I’ve ever seen. Ever since that moment, I have been entirely obsessed with your kind. I bugged Jacob’s father and uncle for any stories they know. They’re Catholic, you know, and know a bunch of local supernatural legends. Jacob’s uncle is just as obsessed as I am with this stuff.”
“And is Jacob?” I asked.
“Not in the least,” Edward answered with a chuckle. “He didn’t see the vampire in the woods, and he always said his uncle was crazy.” He paused a moment, looking thoughtful. “That changed recently.”
I leaned forward, resting my arms on the table. “Is that why you told him about me?”
He looked confused, and his brow furrowed. “What do you—”
“I overheard you telling him,” I confessed. He still looked bemused, so I explained, “It was that day, after we met in the library for the first time, and you got a good look at my eyes. You and Jacob went hiking that day after school, and it was then that you told him about me. I know, because I was out there.”
He was quiet a moment, looking like he was recalling the event in question. Then, he laughed, throwing me off guard. “You actually heard that?” he asked, still chuckling. “Oh, that's embarrassing.”
“Maybe for you,” I said lowly. “It made me wonder if you were a threat to me.”
Edward's chuckling stopped immediately. “Why is that?” he asked, leaning forward.
I bit my lip. “Humans aren't supposed to know about us,” I told him. “To hear one talking about us to another is a...rather unpleasant experience. And considering Jacob is…” I stopped myself, but Edward pursued.
“Jacob is what?” he asked, cocking an eyebrow. I searched his gaze, wondering what Jacob had told him on the phone.
“Catholic,” I answered quickly. “We, ah, tend to get a little tense around the religious, you know?”
He nodded, but I could not tell if he believed my fib or not. “I can understand that,” he said. He was quiet for a moment, then asked with hesitation, “Did you ever consider, ah, silencing me?”
My eyes widened and I knew I sounded more emotional than I should when I said, “Of course not! I could never!” I stopped and took a moment to collect myself, aware of Edward's surprised look. “I mean, that would just be unnecessary,” I said, calmer now. “When I thought you were close to figuring us out, I was prepared to pack up and move.”
“Move?” He raised his eyebrows. “After all you'd exposed me to?”
“Exposed?” I squawked.
“Well, we've done a rather lot of touching,” he pointed out. “In case you forgot.” He grinned as I stuttered out something unintelligible. “I'm not saying that's a bad thing,” he said after a moment, and I felt a shiver run down my spine at the slightly husky note that had entered his voice.
“I'm still prone to mistakes,” I said quietly, “especially when I'm around you.”
“Why is that?” he asked, leaning forward a bit more now, so that he rested his elbows on the table.
“Because, Edward, everything about you absolutely draws me in.” I leaned forward more, too, my eyes looking deeply into his. I heard his heart rate increase, saw that his breathing had become a bit more shallow. “Every moment I'm around you, I feel like I have to hold myself on a tight leash, or else I will just ravage you.”
As I spoke, I noticed how much my own feelings seemed reflected in his eyes. However, Edward looked away suddenly, and I noticed color starting to rise up his neck and his freckled cheeks turned rather pink. “Well,” he said, scratching at the back of his neck, “that's pretty intense.”
“Too intense?” I asked, wondering if I were about to drive him off.
He let out a breath. “Nothing I can't handle,” he said with a small, somewhat forced grin. I nodded, hoping that I hadn't scared him too much. My words were rather crude, I realized, and Edward was a bit more of a gentleman than most teenage boys. Perhaps he was offended.
“I'm sorry,” I said quickly. “That was rather, ah, inappropriate and…unladylike.”
Edward nodded, leaning back in his chair now. “Don't worry about it,” he said, his words also rapid. “It's fine, really.”
His movements were odd and stiff, and I wondered if he was okay for a moment, until I took in a breath and smelled the arousal coming from him. I couldn't contain the grin that broke out on my lips. “Oh Edward,” I said, standing up. Had I one less modicum of self-control, I would have leapt the length of the table into his lap. Instead, I carefully walked around the table, watching as Edward’s dark eyes ran over my form.
He stood up as I approached and closed the distance between us. I kissed him, gently at first, and when he returned in kind, I gripped his wrists and pressed him into the table with my hips. I felt his arousal, and he seemed like he would give into it until I felt him push against my shoulders. I didn’t want to part, but I made myself, gazing up into his flushed face.
“I—I can’t, Bella,” Edward stammered, his breath coming out hot and heavy. “This—all this. I can’t.”
Releasing my hold on him, I backed away. “Did I hurt you?” I asked.
“No, no, not at all,” he said, still breathing heavily. He closed his eyes for a moment, seemingly to calm himself down. He looked at me again, his face still a deep shade of red. “I’m not so ready for…that.”
“You’re not ready for…” My brain, still focused on what my body wanted, was sluggish to put his meaning together. “Oh. Oh, I didn’t mean to make you…” I stammered a little more. “I’m sorry, Edward.”
“It’s fine,” he said quickly, running a hand through his hair. “I’m sure you’re used to doing, you know, whatever it is you like.”
“Actually,” I said, chancing a smile now, “I’ve never done that before either.”
His eyes widened, and his genuine surprise was plain in his voice. “You haven’t? But you’re a vampire.”
“And that requires that I have sex?”
“Well, no, but I figured you would have.” He sighed. “You seemed like…you know what you’re doing.”
I laughed lightly. “That’s instinct,” I said. He smiled then but still looked uncomfortable. I reached out and grasped his hands in mind. “I won’t do anything you don’t want me to.”
He nodded, and then kissed the backs of my hands. It was a gentle gesture; I had never felt anything quite like it. A warmth formed inside me: not the heat of arousal, but the tender warmth of connection. Edward had reached into the innermost part of me and awoken something which was like him and which had long laid dormant and dead.
Edward remained with me throughout the night. I had wondered if he needed to get home and if his parents would wonder where he was, but he told me his parents were out of the country currently. We talked a little more about vampires, but as the night wore on, the two of us ended up laying on the living room couch while black and white films played on the television. I rested my head on his chest and heard his steady heartbeat and the rush of blood in his veins. He fell asleep for a couple of hours, and I was content to simply watch him.
Just after dawn, Edward mentioned how he had to get to Christo Rey and talk to Jacob. I really didn't want him to go, but I knew he had to see to his best friend. My only worry, however, was if he okay to drive. After all, driving through town was no big deal, but navigating the narrow cliff-side roads on the way to Christo Rey was just quite risky, especially to someone who still had sleep debt from the past week.
“I'll take you there,” I insisted, but I already saw Edward's response in his eyes.
“I need to go on my own,” he said firmly. “Jacob won't want you there.”
“I'll leave after I drop you off.”
“And strand me there?”
“We can take your car, and I'll go home on foot.”
“Or I can take my car and you can stay home.” I noted the annoyed tone that had entered his voice. I knew Edward would never agree to my coming with him, and continued insistence would only irritate him further.
So instead I followed him.
I knew it was wrong, but I didn’t care. Humans are so fragile, and just about anything could kill them. I couldn’t bear the thought of Edward careening off the side of a cliff or crashing into a tree because he nodded off behind the wheel. I would just follow him to Jacob’s house and then turn around the leave. I would only ensure Edward was safe.
I drove out to my usual spot on the edge of the woods, right near the beginning of a hiking trail, and parked my car. I then shot off into the woods and found the road within a few minutes. It wasn't hard to find Edward's car along that road, since his was the only one on it at seven o'clock on a Saturday morning.
I stayed close to Edward's car, staying out of his sight, until he at last pulled into Jacob's driveway. I hung back behind a tangle of trees and watched for a moment as Edward got out of his car and walked up to the house's front door. I was about to leave when a deep voice called Edward's name from across the spacious yard, standing at the edge of the tree line.
I followed the sound to its originator, struck by the sight I saw. He was tall, his body grown long and thick with bulging muscle from his wide chest down to his hefty legs. He wore only a pair of gym shorts, exposing all of this great musculature to the eye, and the skin of his chest, arms, and belly were marked by great, horridly jagged lines which I suspected were stretch marks. I spied a curious tattoo on his shoulder which looked quite fresh. His long, black hair was tied back out his face. He looked like a grown man, and if I had never met Jacob in person, I would have regarded this man as Jacob’s father or uncle. But I recognized that face and those eyes which had regarded me with such mistrust back in Port Angeles just a few weeks ago, and I could not deny that this was that same boy.
Jacob crossed the plot of land, waling with a long, slow stride that reminded me of an animal stalking its prey. “Edward, I told you not to come here,” I heard Jacob snarl as he got closer to his friend. Edward didn't answer but only stood in stunned silence. Jacob walked up beside Edward, peering down into Edward’s eyes. Side-by-side, I saw that Jacob had grown a head taller than Edward, easily putting him over six and a half feet by my estimation.
“Jacob,” Edward finally managed to say, his voice barely above a whisper, “what—what happened to you?”
“I can't tell you that,” Jacob said, a note of frustration in his voice. “Just get the hell out of here, Edward, and stay away.” Edward shook his head and tried to reach out to his friend, but Jacob smacked Edward's hand away. By the way Edward gasped, it must have stung. “Damn it, Edward, take your blood sucker and get out of here!” Jacob bellowed at last.
My own muscles tensed as Jacob looked over in my direction – actually, right at me, even though I was sure they couldn't see me. I wanted to run, but fought the urge, because I had a feeling Jacob would give chase somehow.
“Jacob,” Edward spoke up quietly, “there's no one-”
“Your vampire followed you,” Jacob interrupted him. “Or you're playing dumb. I don't care. Just take her and get out.”
I saw Edward look over in my direction, possibly to try to see what Jacob was seeing. Steeling my nerves, knowing it was best to face Jacob rather than run, I calmly stepped out from my hiding place and approached the two boys. Though I wanted to see what Edward's reaction to my presence would be, I kept my gaze on Jacob. I knew I wasn't safe around him.
“Bella,” Edward spoke up, an angry note in his tone, “I told you to stay home.”
“You're not the boss of me,” I replied lightly, but peering into Jacob's dark eyes, my playful died on my lips. I saw only an animal behind those brown irises, one that appeared ready to rip me limb from stony limb. Jacob grimaced at me, his hands balling into white-knuckled fists.
“Get out of here, blood sucker,” Jacob growled at me. I noticed he was widening his stance, and that his shoulders hunched forward. “Warn your friends. I’m going to hunt you all down for what you did to me.”
I felt my own instincts starting to take over, and I found myself baring my own teeth, my fangs exposed. Rational thought fled at his threat to Ana. I could only see myself fighting back against this monster, ripping open his throat and spilling his stinking blood on the cold ground.
“Bella!” Edward snapped at me, and I felt his hands on my arms pull me towards his car. I yelped and broke free of Edward's grasp. “Bella, snap out of it! Let's go!” he yelled at me, and this brought me back. I shook my head, then slid into Edward's car as he did, and he peeled out of Jacob's driveway, kicking up gravel in his wake.