Chapter 17

Playlist selection: Higher – by Creed

Edward POV

I tear out of Bella’s apartment like my goddamn ass is on fire. What the fuck is wrong with me? Why am I running like a pansy-assed bitch? She was my fiancée—the woman I was supposed to marry, have babies with, grow old with...


I'm not paying attention to where I'm going when I hear footsteps toward my right, approaching quickly. They run parallel to me through the forest, far enough away that I can't see them, but I can hear the faint crushing of moss and leaves beneath their feet. I'm upwind from them, so I don't know if it's one of my family members or some renegade nomad looking for a fight. Picking up speed as I reach the Elwah River, I cross and turn back to Sourdough Mountain—my favorite thinking spot.

The footsteps fade off in the distance, but I continue to the rocky outcrop near the top. I sprawl out on the largest boulder and stare up in to the clear night sky, trying to sort this shit out. I'm so lost in my head that I don't hear him approaching.

“Don't think so hard, son. You'll start growing brain cells back,” Carlisle chuckles from a rock set further above me on the ridge.

“Hey, Carlisle.”

He's quiet for a few moments, gathering his thoughts I guess. “You want to talk about it?”

I shake my head and shrug my shoulders. “What's there to talk about?” It's a cop-out, but I'm at a fucking loss for words.

“Hmm.” He nods his head and looks out over the valley below. “I just wanted to tell you how proud Esme and I are of you." I raise an eyebrow at him, wondering where the fuck he's going with this conversation. "You are a very smart, caring, and compassionate young man, son."

Son. He's called me this since the first time we met after Alice, Esme, and Emmett brought me home from Arizona. It's sad that I don't remember my human father, but I couldn't have asked for a better man as my father-figure for this life...or non-life. Whatever.

“Um, thanks, Carlisle.” I appreciate the compliments, but I'm still thrown for a loop here.

He continues. "And I hope you continue to be the strong, responsible, and loving man that Bella will need you to be."

“Ha! I hate to break this to you, Carlisle, but I'm pretty damn sure I've already had the 'birds and the bees' talk." I laugh and roll my eyes, silently begging for him to drop this nonsense.

"No, Edward, relax. I just wanted to tell you that we love you very much, and regardless of the road you choose for your life—with or without Bella—we are all here for you, son."

Well, shit. What does one say to that?

"I, uhh... I mean, umm, thanks, Carlisle. That really means a lot." I stare up at him in confusion. What's with all the sentimental shit? "Uhh, is everything okay?"

"Yeah, everything is fine. I just thought that I should tell my son how I feel, to let you know how much of a wonderful man you've come to be."

Suddenly, I get a sense of déjà vu. I swear I've had this same conversation before.

We sit in silence on neighboring boulders for a while, me thinking about a possible future with Bella and him mindlessly chiseling shards of granite with his fingernail. I glance out over the valley, imagining Bella and I sitting up here together, admiring the view, holding her in my arms, and instantly knowing that she's my purpose in this fucked-up existence we vampires call a life.

I spring to my feet quickly, thank Carlisle for his encouraging words, and take off at top speed back to Forks.  The sun is approaching the horizon--dawn is breaking over the mountains--and I need to get back to Bella's before she wakes up. I can't let her think I've left her again, especially after my dumb ass didn't even leave her a note. What if she woke up in the middle of the night to find me gone? Jesus, what if she cried herself to sleep because I'm an idiot and didn't tell her I'd be back?


I plunder through the forests north of Forks, hurdle over the Calawah River, and eventually dart between the houses of the town, desperate to get back to her apartment. I don't even care if someone sees me whizzing by them.  Fuck them.  The only thing that matters right now is getting to Bella.

The moment I round the corner of her street, the familiar scents of Alice, Jasper, Esme, and Carlisle hit me. I remember they were perched nearby last night, ready to help me if I needed them, before I sent them away to hunt. As I near Bella's apartment, I suddenly notice a new scent.  It's sweet, like brown sugar and honey, and I recognize it immediately as vampire, but not from anyone I've met in the past.  I came across this particular scent in the forest outside of Port Townsend a few months ago, but it was faint at the time, the owner already long gone from the area.

But now he or she is back in our territory, near my Bella, and I'm not fucking having it!

I follow the scent directly up to Bella's house, panic setting in immediately, and I scope out the perimeter. The scent is concentrated by the front door, but it wraps around the side of the house near her window.  I check for any signs that the vampire may have gotten inside, but find nothing except for the slow, steady beat of Bella's heart thrumming away inside the apartment.  I smile to myself, knowing she's still asleep.

I quietly open the front door and slip inside, thankful that the scent isn't in her apartment too.  The bird is still covered in her cage, so I speed past it to Bella's bed, kneel bedside her on the floor, and lightly run my hand over her hair.

"Good morning, beautiful," I whisper so low she doesn't hear it. I smile as she hums in her sleep, and I trail my finger around her ear and revel in the new memory that floods through my mind.

A school-aged Bella is sitting on the floor in front of a ratty palm tree, decorated as a Christmas tree, and she hands me a medium-sized package wrapped in Scooby Doo holiday paper. Her cheeks are pink, and she focuses her attention to the dark green corduroy dress she has on, playing with the button like it's the most fascinating thing she's ever seen. I toss a red and green gift bag into her lap and focus my attention on my own present. Tearing open the paper, I discover my first insect specimen collection kit. Cool!

Bella knew me so well, even as a little kid.

She stirs a bit more in her sleep and rolls away from me toward the wall. Instinctively, I crawl up behind her, laying my body along hers and wrap my arm across her waist, over the blanket. She lightly settles back against my chest, her breathing slow and even as she sleeps snuggled in my arms.

Being this close to Bella for more than a few seconds has got to be the most delightful fucking torture I've ever experienced. The venom is flowing in my mouth like a goddamn river, but it's not like I can really control it. I hold my breath, but the burning in my throat is still there. It doesn't matter, because as long as she's in my arms, my whole body can catch on fire for all I care. Well, no, that wouldn't work either...

Suddenly, her fucking alarm clock starts blaring and she's startled awake, quickly whipping her head around to look at who's in her bed in a panic. “What the...?”

“Morning, Bella,” I say softly, smiling at her sheepishly. I know she never invited me into her bed, and I would have been freaked out, too, to wake up to someone snuggled around me, but deep fucking down I know I belong here...and I know she feels the same way too. “Oh, Edward, you stayed...” She smiles at me and blushes deeply before turning toward the bedside table and silencing the alarm.

“Class today, right?” It's not like I really forgot that she has school this morning, but I don't want her to think I'm some sort of fucking stalker that knows her schedule better than she does.

She nods and rolls out of bed. “Yeah. I have to meet Jake at the diner before class.” She looks nervously at me over her shoulder from the bathroom doorway, her thoughts worried that I would be pissed about her meeting another guy for breakfast. Her heartbeat doubles as she hurries through her explanation. “I mean, we discuss our research for our ecology class and stuff. He's married. He and his wife, Leah, are really good friends of mine and, um...”

I roll off the far side of the bed, not wanting to seem like a perv all coiled up in her blankets, ready to strike and drag her back in—preferably naked, of course. Although, that's not a bad idea... I shake my gutter thoughts and smile at her, already knowing all about this Jake douche, of course, but wanting to calm her fears. I can't have my girl thinking I'm the jealous type.

Oh, right...because I really am. Ha!

“I'd love to meet your friends sometime, Bella. That is, if you'd like to introduce them to me.” Fuck. Why did my voice actually crack when I finished that sentence? It's like I'm fucking nervous to meet these humans.

Anyway, I walk into her kitchen, thinking I could start some coffee for her while she's getting dressed or whatever she's doing in the bathroom. I smile as I hear the coffee maker automatically kick on, and I prop myself up against the counter, waiting for it to finish brewing.

I chuckle as I hear Bella mumbling to herself in the bathroom, chastising herself for having to meet Jake today of all days and considering canceling their plans so she can spend a bit more time with me before class, but I don't want to outstay my welcome since I “stayed” all night.

I wonder if I should tell her that I left for a bit while she slept? I glance back at the bathroom door, smiling smugly as I hear her thinking about my voice whispering in her ear when she woke up, and how it turned her on... Nah.

The moment her small pot of coffee is finished brewing, she shuffles out of the bathroom, apologizing for hogging it while she got ready for her day. I smile and wave off worry but decide to keep up normal human appearances and make a quick trip to the bathroom to pretend to take a piss.

Just like any other visitor, I fucking snoop. I peek into her shower, taking note of the shampoo and body wash she uses. I scope out the various bottles and packages of random over-the-counter medications for colds and flus and notice a package of birth control pills. Yeah, like she's going to need those...

Wait a fucking minute! Did she need them over the last few years? Suddenly, I see red, but I shove that shit down. Don't jump to fucking conclusions, Edward. For Christ's sake, she thought you were dead. The old, metal faucet handle buckles slightly under my grasp. I take in a deep breath, only to torture myself more by filling my lungs with Bella's alluring scent, and I let it out harshly, letting my possessive emotions go.

I meet her back in the kitchen as she mixes a bowl of grits and smiles up at me as she passes, heading into the dining room.

“Morning, Carrumba,” she coos as she pulls the sheet from over the cage. The bird shakes its feathers, sending tiny motes of dander and fluff all over the place. I watch as Bella reaches inside, collects the bird, and brings it to stand at the far end of the dining room table. “Breakfast time.”

Bella looks up at me with a small smile, and I can't help but forget any thoughts completely and smirk back at her. Fuck! She's got me whipped and I haven't even gotten back in her pants yet... I mean again... whatever. I laugh lightly at myself and sit in one of the chairs across the table from where the bird is cautiously watching me. Bella scoots the bowl closer to the bird and lifts a spoon with some of the grits in it, and Carrumba gobbles it up.

'I wish he remembered Carrumba. I wonder if...” Bella pushes the bowl closer to me, glances at me quickly before scooping the bird in her hands, and moving it closer to the bowl... and me. Carrumba starts squawking and flapping her wings as she hobbles back toward Bella.

“I don't think she likes me, Bella.”

She laughs and walks back into the kitchen. “She's probably not used to you being around anymore, Edward. You two were best buddies.” Bella looks over her shoulder at me as she reaches into a cabinet. “Talk to her.”

I look at my beautiful girl like she's lost her mind for a moment before turning back to the bird at the far end of the table. Thankfully, it's chilled the fuck out and is perched quietly on the top of the chair back. I mumble under my breath, “This bird's going to have a heart attack.” I take a deep, unnecessary breath to gather enough machismo to make small talk with the pea-brained animal. “Hello.”

Of course it doesn't talk back. It just tilts its head at odd angles, getting a better look at me. Bella returns to the kitchen to pour herself a cup of coffee, and I continue with my one-sided conversation.

“Hi, Carrumba.”


I reach for the small bowl and stir the clumpy contents with the spoon. “You want some, uhh, grits?”

“ cute.” Bella chuckles quietly in the kitchen, but of course I can still hear her.

The stupid bird just keeps quirking its head, watching my movements but not making a goddamn peep. I turn toward Bella as she comes to stand next to me, observing my major fail at animal-whispering. “I told you, babe. I don't think she likes me.”

“Keep trying. I'm going to get ready real quick.” She glances over her shoulder at the clock on the stove and turns toward the tiny closet near the bathroom. I keep my eyes glued to her as she walks away, scanning her body shamelessly, paying a bit more attention on her nice little ass. What? I'm a man, for fuck's sake.

When she closes the bathroom door, I turn my attention back to the bird and notice it has moved closer, standing next to the bowl, eying the contents hungrily. I hold still, not wanting to spook it, and I start talking to it softly.

“Hey, sweet bird. I know you recognize me, but I'm sorry I don't remember you.” I sigh and close my eyes for a moment, trying to think of something to say. “You see, something tragic happened when I was human, and I don't even know where to begin.” Carrumba cautiously leans into the bowl, takes a beak full of the pasty grits and mulls it around with her tongue. I continue with my monologue. “I'm not the same guy you remember. I mean, well, I am, but I'm not. I'm dead. The living dead. Kind of like a zombie, but way fucking cooler.”

I turn my head to peek at the bathroom door, ensuring it's still closed. I already know it is, but I guess it's a human action that just seems natural to do before spilling a major secret to someone, err, something for the first time. “I'm a vampire.”

Unfazed by my admission, Carrumba takes another bite of grits and then wipes her beak off on the woven placemat on the table. I smirk at her, thankful she doesn't really understand a goddamn thing I've just said, but grateful that I'm able to actually say those words to another living being without it being my family members or the dead carcass of an elk or bear.

The bathroom door handle jiggles and I keep up the façade of having a meaningful conversation with Carrumba and that I don't notice Bella approaching us. “I'm going to teach you animal sounds, Carrumba. Maybe we can make it into a game...”

“She already knows some. You taught them to her,” Bella says from next to me as she lightly places her hand on my shoulder. “Jesus, he's even cold through his clothes...”

I turn my face up to her, smiling brightly as if I just realized she's standing next to me. “Oh yeah? Which ones does she know?”

Bella gives my shoulder one more slight squeeze before she trails her hand down my arm. “And hard. He's like a solid mass of stone.” She clears her throat and turns her attention to Carrumba before she speaks. “Well, she knows the sounds kitty cats, dogs, chickens, roosters, pigs, and donkeys make.”


“Yep. Peter taught her that one.” Bella shakes her head and laughs. She notices my apparent blank stare and clarifies. “Peter was your best friend, Edward. He was going to be your best man in the wedding. He and Angela lived in the house between ours. I'll show you a picture.” Of course I remember who Peter is from our conversation last night, but I don't say anything as she leaves the table, grabs a photo album from the bookshelf, and brings it back, flipping through the insert pages until she finds one of him. “Here. This was taken on our way to our Senior Prom. Our parents all pitched in and rented us a limo for the night. Peter had stolen another case of beer from his dad's liquor stash. We were a bit tipsy before we got to the prom.”

I glance down at the picture, skipping right over the dark-haired boy she was pointing to and staring at the snapshot of my profile. My human profile. Not that I look any different, really, but it just brings back the reality of what I am now. A cold, hard, pale, lifeless person. A far cry from the warm-blooded, fragile, tan-skinned, living being I was then.

My inner musings are quickly interrupted by Bella's sudden cursing.

“Oh shit!” “Oh, shit!”

“What's wrong?” I'm on my feet and standing beside her before she turns to look at me. My sudden appearance at her side startles her and she looks at me, confused, and then back to the couch where I was a second ago.

“How the hell...?” She shakes her head quickly “Um, I'm late! I'm sorry, Edward, I need to leave.”

“Okay,” I say simply. A million and one thoughts run through my head: Should I just say goodbye and leave her? Should I ask to drive her to class? No, that wouldn't work—I don't have my car. Should I kiss her before I leave? Or maybe just a hug? Should I ask her if I can come back to visit later when she's out of school? I glance outside and notice the sun is shining brightly. Fucking hell. How can we leave at the same time and her not notice my goddamn shimmery skin?

Bella is scrambling around the apartment, putting the bird in its cage, and gathering her school supplies. I take this opportunity to head outside before her. “So, um, Bella, I'm gonna head home. Would it be okay if maybe I stopped by later this afternoon?”

She looks up from rummaging in her backpack, a small smile on her lips. “Yeah, that would be wonderful. Um, maybe I can make dinner tonight.” Her cheeks turn pink and she looks away from me and toward the television. “Maybe I'll make him his favorite meal from back home...”

Fuck. Fuckfuckfuck. How can I get out of this? I can't let her know I don't eat human food anymore. Think quick, fucker.

“Oh, yeah, that sounds...awesome.” How is that thinking on your feet, dumbass? It definitely doesn't come out very convincingly. Fuck. “Or maybe we could go out to dinner? I could take you to this great place in Port Angeles.” There are nice restaurants in Port Angeles, right? How the fuck would I know? Shit! I don't want to have to eat human food again. Having to do that after losing a bet to Emmett and Jazz was torture enough... Ugh.

She smiles and nods her head slowly; her thoughts waffle between going out or staying in. “Okay. How about we go out tonight? Meet me back here around four o'clock?”

“Sounds perfect, ladybug.”

“Oh my God...” Bella gasps and stares at me with an open mouth. What? What did I say? She recovers from her shock, blushes, and then whispers, ”Okay.”

I offer a small smile and nod, still not really knowing why the sudden freak out, but whatever. “Okay, cool.” I stare at her for a moment, wanting to kiss her before I leave, but thinking maybe I should wait until later after our date. This is a date, right? I make my way over to the door, thankful that it faces north and it's not in the direct line of the rising sun. “I'll see you later on, Bella.”

Slipping out the front door casually, I turn back to Bella and wave as I pull the door closed. Trying to keep calm and collected is usually pretty easy for me, but I have to work twice as hard to keep a game face on and not alert Bella to my anxiety. Inside, I'm freaking the fuck out. The moment the door closes behind me, I make a quick circle around the house's perimeter, smelling the air to see if any more vampires have been around her apartment. The only scent I notice is the fading one from earlier. Good.

I sprint back to my house, dutifully avoiding being seen by humans, to find Emmett sitting on the front porch steps. We do the manly half hand slap/half hand shake thing, and I sit down on the step next to him.

“Have a nice night, Edward?” He smirks, giving me a sidelong glance. What the fuck does he think happened?

“Wouldn't you like to know, jackass...” Childish, yes, but it's none of his fucking business that nothing happened.

“I thought maybe... y'know... got a little... y'know...” He jabs me in the ribs with his elbow and wiggles his eyebrows.

“No, Emmett. I didn't get any pussy, okay? And if Bella and I do anything in the future, I'm not telling you.”

“Aw, c'mon, man. I just wanna know what it's like to be with a human. I bet it's like fucking a warm pillow...” He stares off toward the forest surrounding our property. Jesus Christ...I don't want to visualize the thoughts flashing through his mind right now.

I leave Emmett to his musings and head inside, calling out to the rest of the family. They need to know about the stranger in Forks.

Alice meets me in the living room with a slight smile on her face. “Morning, brother. Carlisle is in his study, and the others will be back in approximately eight minutes.”

“Thanks. I'll just go grab a-”

“Yeah, yeah.” She waves her hand in a shoo-ing motion. “See you back here in seventeen minutes.” Alice winks as she plops down on the sofa and curls her feet under her.

I laugh and shake my head, not even bothering to reply to her. I climb the stairs to my bedroom and lay down on my chaise lounge, locking my hands together behind my head. My eyes close for a few moments while I think about Bella and try to wrap my head around the enormity of our situation. So many things can go wrong: Bella could expose us to the public if she ever finds out the truth about us or she could be hurt or killed because of our secret, for starters. However, if there's a chance in Hell, I may be able to have someone who fulfills my life, a lover... a mate. So many unknowns. I sigh loudly into my empty room and get up, heading back downstairs to meet the family... exactly seventeen minutes later.

Once in the living room, I'm instantly bombarded with questions about my night with Bella. Alice just sits with a slight smile on her face, already having seen this and knowing what really happened last night. I give the rest of the family the highlights of the night: finally speaking to Bella, the photo albums, the scorpion in the glass box, the bird, and her falling asleep. I skip over the part about my minor freakout and tell them that I was bored and went for a run while Bella slept. Alice's lips twitch minutely and I give her a pointed glare. I know she wouldn't call me out for being a pussy about stuff last night. Carlisle gives me a slight nod, letting me know my secret is safe with him.

I go into more detail about the memory flashes and being able to only hear Bella's thoughts. Carlisle, Alice, and Jasper break off and discuss this new phenomenon amongst themselves. Emmett and Rosalie are too busy eye-fucking each other to give a shit, and Esme is mooning over the thought of Bella being my possible mate.

To bring everyone back to the whole reason why I called the family meeting in the first place, I raise my voice to get their attention. “Oh, and there's a new vampire in Forks.”

All six heads whip around to look at me with shocked expressions on their faces.


I shrug. “I don't know. I've never smelled this one before.”

“So, you've only smelled them, but have never seen them?” Carlisle looks to Esme and then back to me.


“Where, sweetheart?” Esme reaches out to place her hand on my knee comfortingly and motherly-like.

“Around Bella's apartment.”

Rosalie scoffs. “That's it? Nowhere else in town?“

“No. When I got back from my, er, run, I caught the scent right at her apartment. It had faded, so it had been a few hours since whoever it was was there. I just wanted to get inside her home and see that she was okay.”

“Aww.” Esme gushes quietly. I ignore her.

Rosalie waves off my worry. “They probably picked up on your scent, followed it to her place, and then took off, not wanting to get caught in another vampire's territory. I wouldn't worry about it.”

“I haven't smelled any new visitors.” Emmett says and turns to Jasper. “Have you?”


“Well, let's not jump to conclusions that this visitor is here to prey on Bella. Maybe Rose is right, and they had been passing through town and it was a coincidence that they wound up by her place.” Carlisle, always the voice of reason.

We all vow to be vigilant on our hunts and runs around town and to keep each other informed of any news. I endure a few teases from Jasper and Emmett about not playing with my food. I flip them off and tell them I'm headed to find Bella... and to not expect me home again tonight. Alice just chuckles. Bitch.

I take a quick shower, making sure to scrub the goods nice and well, because you just never know what will happen. I chuckle to myself at the ridiculous thought of the possibility of Bella and I getting it on tonight. Not that she probably wouldn't want to; I can still smell her arousal from last night.

I can hear as Alice barges into the bedroom and starts rummaging through my closet on the other side of the wall. This puts a sudden kibosh on my dirty thoughts of Bella, and I turn off the water to the shower.

The bedroom door shuts quietly with a soft click, and I exit the bathroom to find the clothes Alice has picked out for me to wear—a white button-up shirt and dark jeans. Nice choice. I grab some black boxer briefs out of the dresser drawer and finish getting ready.

The keys to the Volvo are twirling around Alice's finger as she waits in the hall outside my bedroom door, and I snatch them as I pass by.

“Have a great night, brother.” She giggles. “And don't order the fish special.” Her face scrunches up as if something smells horrific, and I laugh.

“No problem.” I turn back to look at her. “Anything else?”

She stares off into space for a moment and then snaps back to the present and smiles brightly. “Nope!”

With that, she skips off down the stairs, and I head out to the garage. Esme is standing in the kitchen, her hands covering her mouth like she's trying to hold in a sob or some shit. Jesus, I'm just taking a girl out to dinner, not going to war! She needs to get a grip. Carlisle is behind her, his arms wrapped around her waist tightly—probably to keep her from tackling me with a hug.

“Have a nice time, son.”

“Thanks, Carlisle. I'll see you two later.”

Esme just squeaks.

I make a stop at Leppell's Flowers and JT's Sweet Stuffs for some chocolate before I head over to Bella's. I don't know if she likes that kind of shit, but it's my first date—that I can remember—and I want to do it right.

By the time I make it to Bella's place, she has just arrived home. I pull up next to her/my truck in the driveway and sit quietly, listening to her putz around her apartment. She talks to the bird, carrying on a conversation with it as if it were human. The bird squawks and chirps here and there, but Bella keeps talking. She seems nervous about our date. I'm glad I'm not the only one.

After listening for about fifteen minutes, I decide to get out and knock on her door. I know it's too early for dinner, but maybe we could just hang out and walk around the shops in Port Angeles before our reservation.

“Shit! He's early!” “How do I look, Carrumba?”

I chuckle to myself as I hear her ask the bird what it thinks of her outfit and then laugh loudly when it wolf-whistles at her.

When Bella answers the door, I nearly drop the candy and flowers. She's absolutely breathtaking in a light yellow dress that ties behind her neck—giving me a fucktastic view of her cleavage. Nice.

“You look amazing, Bella.” I adjust myself as she takes the gifts from me.

“Thank you... and thank you.” She blushes, looks down at her dress, and then nods to the flowers and candy.

“No problem. So, uhh, you ready to go? I know I'm early.”

She grabs her purse and keys, locks up the apartment, and we set off to Port Angeles. I have to keep my speed at a reasonable level, so it takes us a good hour to get to the center of town. We browse a few of the boutiques, and I convince Bella to let me buy her a silver butterfly charm and bracelet. She tries to tell me it's too expensive, but I tell her that we are having our first date all over again—including her in a yellow dress—so it seems fitting that butterflies be included somehow.

That seems to convince her, and I proudly slip the sales person my black AmEx card and help clasp the bracelet around Bella's wrist while she holds her arm out to me. My eyes instinctively seek out the artery pulsing away in her wrist, and I swallow the venom down.

It's now that I suddenly realize how wrong this whole thing with Bella really is. She's human, and I'm vampire. My natural instinct is to attack and feed. No...we shouldn't be doing this, being together. I shouldn't date my prey. Fuck. I should have hunted earlier today.

It's in this moment that I'm lost in my own thoughts as Bella spins around and wraps her arms around me.

“Thank you, Edward,” she whispers against my chest.

I stand motionless, still trying to get a grip on my urge to sink my teeth into her, and just as I gather my resolve and move to enclose her in my arms, she pulls away.

“Ready to eat?” Bella smiles at me and grabs my hand, pulling me toward the restaurant. She briefly considers my cold, hard skin, but I'm too caught up in the new images flooding my head.

This one is of Bella sitting on the sidewalk, crying, while I and a younger Peter jump off our bikes and run over toward her. He and I had been attempting wheelies on our bikes, and Bella wanted to try it too and ended up being tossed to the concrete, scraping her knees.

I grin at her and answer her question, “Yeah, let's go. I'm starved.” I'm such a fucking idiot.

We make it to the restaurant and the hostess seats us in a round corner booth. The waitress is at our table immediately to take our drink orders and brings us bread with dipping oil. Bella's excited about the bread, and I watch as she rips it and smears the herb and oil concoction. It smells revolting. We place our orders and sit quietly, stealing casual glances at each other, and I smirk each time as Bella starts to blush.

We talk about safe topics: how school is going, her desire to travel to Europe once she graduates, and how I liked living in San Francisco. When the food arrives, Bella dives into her pasta, practically shoveling it into her mouth and moaning with each bite. My dick stirs as I watch her lick the sauce from the side of her lip. Fuuuuuck.

I shake myself of the dirty thoughts and pretend to be happily enjoying my scrumptious meal of mushroom ravioli. This shit smells like soggy moss tossed in garlic. It's absolutely disgusting. Why couldn't I have taken her to a steakhouse? I could have ordered a rare steak and maybe it would have been somewhat palatable. I'll have to remember that shit next time...

Bella notices my hesitance while eating. She even tries to get me to taste her pasta, thinking I don't care for the ravioli, but I just lie and tell her that I'm a little bit nervous and my stomach's upset. Which isn't far from the truth.

The waitress comes back around and asks if we want dessert; I look to Bella and she requests the crème brulee. “Two forks, please,” she asks bashfully.

Once the waitress leaves, I turn to Bella again. “Really, Bella, I don't think I'll be able to eat any of that. I'm fucking stuffed.”

“C'mon, Edward. Please?” She looks at me with sad puppy-dog eyes. Dammit. “Y'know, the last time we shared a crème brulee was at the restaurant we went to for Valentine's Day.”

I smile sadly and slide around the booth to sit closer to her. She meets me near the center of the bench, and I take her hand, holding the delicate fingers lightly in my grasp. “I'm sorry, I don't remember.” I stare down at her fingers, smirking at the chipped peach-colored nail polish and the new memory that invades my head.

I had taken the liberty of decorating her locker at school for her birthday. Her friend, Angela, helped by distracting her that morning before school – saying she needed a “girl's morning” and drove them to grab a coffee before class. I got to school a half hour earlier than normal and tied a bundle of balloons to Bella's locker handle and taped a little sign and paper flowers to the door. She was mad the whole day. She's fucking sexy when she's pissed and feisty.

My dick twitches again. Shit.

The dessert is horrendous. It smells like charred sugar and eggs. Bella smiles brightly and takes a heaping spoonful of this custard crap and aims it toward my face. “Open up, babe.”

Somehow—and I don't fucking have a goddamn clue as to how—I make it through two bites of the dessert and start feeding Bella the remainder. She keeps thinking about how erotic it is for me to feed her, but I just really want to shovel the revolting treat into her mouth in one gigantic fucking bite and be done with it.

Finally, we leave the restaurant, and I wrap my arm around her waist as we stroll along the sidewalk back to the Volvo. Bella rests her head on my shoulder, and I want nothing more than to scoop her up in my arms and take her somewhere quiet and private and get inside those pretty purple panties she has on underneath that cotton dress. Yeah, I can see though that flimsy material she's wearing. The smell of her arousal is driving me crazy, but I need to talk to Carlisle about some shit before we move things to another level. Shit! I really should have fed earlier today...

We pull up at her apartment, and before she has her seatbelt unbuckled, I open her car door, holding out my hand to help her out. The perfect gentleman. We walk to her front door quietly—verbally—but the thoughts running through Bella's head are loud and clear.

“I hope he kisses me. Shit! My breath probably smells like garlic!”

“It's still early; maybe he'll want to come inside for a bit.”

“I wonder if he'll stay again tonight.”

As much as I'd love to stay with her, I think it's best that I don't put myself into any potentially dangerous situations with her. Well, dangerous for her.

She unlocks her door and steps inside, turning to look at me hesitating on the porch. My body suddenly freezes and nostrils flare. That vampire has come back while we were gone. I lean in the doorway and inhale deeply but don't catch the scent inside her apartment.

“What the hell? Does my apartment stink?” Bella has a slightly panicked look in her eye but tries to cover up her anxiety with a smile.

We both speak at the same time.

“Do you want to--”

“I should probably--”

We laugh, and I wave my hand for her to speak first.

“Do you want to come in? We can open a bottle of wine and talk...” She bites her bottom lip and looks up at me, hopeful.

“I would love nothing more than to spend some time with you tonight, Bella, but I need to get back to my family.”

“Family...” She scoffs mentally.

I continue. “Yeah, uh, Carlisle likes to have family game night. You know, Yahtzee, Scrabble, Pictionary.” I know it's total bullshit, but it was the first thing I could think of. Alice has probably already jumped online and ordered the games within the last twelve seconds.

“Well, okay.” Bella nods slowly, looking a bit disappointed. “Will I be able to see you again tomorrow? I only have a lab at eleven in the morning, but after that, my schedule is free.” She smiles shyly, and I just want to kiss her senseless. She has no idea how fucking whipped I am.

“Yeah, that'd be great. I'll meet you back here around noon?”

Her smile gets wider and she steps closer to me. Her thoughts scream her intent to kiss me, but I swiftly grab her hand and lift it to my lips, placing a gentle kiss to her palm.

“I'll be here, my butterfly.” I smirk as she blushes and brings her other hand up to touch the dainty bracelet on her wrist.

“Oh, and thank you for a wonderful evening, Edward... and for my bracelet.”

“You are most definitely welcome, Bella. Goodnight.” I grin and take a few slow steps backwards toward my car, watching as she closes and locks the door. The second it's latched, I zip around the perimeter of the house, searching for this lurking vampire. When I can't find anyone in the immediate vicinity, I hop back into the car, quickly sending a text to Alice.

I need backup. Now! ~E


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