And with Thee Fade Away

7. Away
Bella hurried along behind Edward as he turned what seemed like an endless number of corners and passed through a series of long hallways. He strode forward without looking back at her, insensitive to the current weakness of her muscles. Bella found the task of keeping stride with his rapid gait especially difficult, and wondered why he was moving so quickly. Even still, she studied his stride with growing curiosity. There was something easy about it, slow even, despite the speed with which it carried him. It was almost as though, in this moderate measure of haste, he was walking at a more leisurely speed than he was used to moving. Bella tore her eyes away from the movement of Edward's long legs in order to get a better glimpse of the Cullen house. By the sheer length of time it was taking them to walk from one end to the other, Bella suspected the dwelling to be massive. The existence of such a house was shocking to Bella; she didn't recall ever having seen a mansion in Forks, and she had certainly not expected the Cullens to live in such a grand estate. She knew doctors were supposed to be wealthy, but this amount of fortune seemed absurd. Even if she had not been privy to the vastness of the place, she would have still been taken aback by its style and decoration. Congruous with the room in which she had awoken, the house blended classic hardwood, velvet, Persian carpets and arched doorways with airy openness and modern artwork. Despite its size, the house was somehow a much warmer and more inviting environment than she had expected of someone like Edward Cullen. Then again, she wasn't entirely sure what, exactly, she had imagined Edward's home to look like. His appearance and manner suggested a dwelling closer to a dungeon or a cave than to an enormous, elegant mansion. At last, and out of breath, Bella had followed Edward all the way to the foyer, in which she found her father anxiously pacing its length. As they passed through the doorway, Edward stepped aside to allow Charlie Swan a full view of his daughter. Stopping mid-pace and making no effort at all to bury his expression of relief behind his dark mustache, he ran to Bella and hugged her with a level of fervor which was not particularly advisable, given the bruises her body had recently sustained. Luckily, Bella, despite her discomfort in being squashed between Charlie's arms, accepted his embrace with a degree of affection suitable to calm a worrying father. Her return hug was indeed so effective that it hastened the return of Charlie's normal personality sooner than she would have wished. "Good god, Bella," he exclaimed upon releasing her. "Do you have any idea how close you came to dying today? What on earth were you thinking? Running into the forest, alone, despite the double threat of dangerous weather and rabid animals? Did you leave your brain in Phoenix?" "I'm sorry, Dad…" said Bella, because she could think of nothing else to say.

"Can you imagine what it's like getting a voicemail from your daughter consisting of nothing but a distant scream?" He was pointing his finger at her, wagging it a little as he spoke, like the lawyers did on television dramas. "Dad—" "No, you listen to me. If it hadn't been for Edward—" Her father was interrupted by the sound of a throat being cleared pointedly. Both Bella and Charlie swung their heads around to the source of the noise. Carlisle Cullen had joined Edward in the foyer and was watching Bella and her father with an expression close to impatience. Bella was, at first, surprised by Carlisle's appearance. He, too, was every bit as pale as Edward. With the knowledge that the two were not biologically related, Bella began to suspect that the Cullens lived in a cave after all: an enormous, ornate, house-like cave. Or perhaps, as a physician, Carlisle had an extreme skin-cancer phobia. Stranger still, Carlisle also shared Edward's remarkably dark eyes, but in all other respects, carried a completely different air. He wore a coffee-colored tweed jacket and beneath it, his shirt collar was fastened by an ordinary striped tie. His frame was slim, but short in stature, with blonde hair neatly combed and parted. Overall, his manner and style of dress produced the gentle and inviting appearance of a kindly scholar. This was in stark in contrast with Edward, who stood silently at his foster-father's side, all imposing height and darkness in a deep grey ribbed sweater and wild russet hair. Despite Carlisle's softer appearance, Bella found him surprisingly unsettling. Looking at his handsome face, she struggled to pinpoint his age. With the Cullens side by side, Bella had the odd feeling that the two were somehow more like brothers than father and son. They both seemed of an equal age, or, if she would dare think it, ageless. Yet, still, Carlisle might have been forty to Edward's seventeen; the angles of his face had the harsh appearance of world-weariness, usually only present in midlife and later. This confusion made Bella's head ache, and she had to blink a few times to clear her mind. "I do hope you feel well, Bella," said Carlisle with a voice somehow reminiscent of the tweed he was wearing. "You bumped your head pretty thoroughly, but I suspect you'll be feeling fine by tomorrow morning. I would, however, recommend avoiding strenuous activity for a week or so." He remained several feet away from both Bella and her father, and though he spoke like a doctor, he didn't move to shake either her hand or her father's. Bella wondered if he was annoyed by her presence in his house. "Thank you for looking after me, Doctor Cullen," she said hesitantly, "I'm sorry to put you and Edward through all this." Working up a small amount of courage, she stepped toward him and reached out to shake his hand. For a split second, shock overwhelmed his face, but his countenance quickly resumed its placid expression. He gently took Bella's hand, barely exerting any pressure at all on her open palm. Bella nearly jumped with astonishment; his fingers burned with the same iciness she had felt from Edward's touch. It took a great deal of effort for her to avoid yanking her hand away, but she bit her lip and gave his hand a small shake before releasing it. Bella couldn't help but notice Carlisle glancing

quickly at Edward, and receiving a slight nod from the latter before looking back at her. Their movements had the appearance of a silent conversation, the subject of which Bella couldn't begin to understand. Carlisle smiled. It wasn't at all like Edward's smirk; this smile was full of warmth and generosity. "You're welcome here any time, Bella. It's my pleasure to help you; your father is a dear friend of mine." Charlie nodded, arms crossed, as a sort of "thank you." Bella was fairly certain they would leave the house at last, but just then, two more people arrived in the foyer. Bella recognized the young man as Jasper; he was followed by an older woman who, by her father's account, she suspected was Esme Cullen: Carlisle's wife. Bella's guess was confirmed as the truth when Esme immediately took Bella's hand in her own and introduced herself. During this handshake, Bella was surprised yet again, for an entirely different reason. Esme's hand felt entirely warm and normal. Her skin was a smooth golden color, and her eyes a pretty, natural green. Bella assumed that unlike the other Cullens, Esme must prefer to live elsewhere than in a cave, sleep in a bed rather than a freezer, and avoid whatever horrible disease made one's irises all dark and funky. Lacking the eerie features of her husband and foster-children, Esme was a striking beauty. She was probably seventy-five, but age had only added distinction to attractiveness, absorbing none of the latter, as successive years usually do. Her all-white hair fell just to her shoulders and was styled into shiny waves, in a way that harkened back to movie stars like Katharine Hepburn in the golden age of cinema. As elderly as she was, Esme was probably the most beautiful of the Cullens. Bella needed no further justification to understand Carlisle's love for her, age gap be damned. "I've given your clothes a wash and dry, dear," Esme said, with an old-style mid-Atlantic accent to complete her classic movie star image. "The robe you're in now, I'm sure you're wondering, belongs to me. I helped you change; I believe in modesty, and I'm the only lady of the house. I surely hope you don't mind." Bella smiled appreciatively and said, "Not at all. Really, thanks for all the help, especially since you wouldnt've had to do anything if I'd used some common sense." Esme batted her hand against the air nonchalantly. "Having guests at the house is a welcome treat, dear girl, be they half-dead or in full spirits." Without elaborating on that statement, Esme handed Bella a shopping bag containing her clean clothes, and then flowed gracefully across the floor and took her place beside Carlisle. He turned to his wife with adoring eyes, and very gently caressed the back of her hand. Jasper, as quiet as ever, lingered behind his family members, staring through the gap between Edward's and Carlisle's shoulders. There was something hungry in his gaze, and his eyes were held wide with the kind of desperation Bella associated with drug addicts. Jasper's eyes met Bella's and he took a minute step forward, looking like he was preparing to burst through the barrier created by his brother and foster-father. In response, Bella was unable to stifle a

very visible shudder, which simultaneously caused Edward to clasp his hand over Jasper's shoulder and Carlisle to hastily show his guests to the front door. Once outside, Bella realized that the house in question was not a cave at all, but rather a large stone estate, which looked like it was built from locallymined limestone. It was, however, fully surrounded by forest, not another house in sight. It was no wonder that Bella had never seen it before; it was not a house that someone was likely to stumble upon by accident. Bella removed her attention from the Cullen mansion, still in awe of the wealth the family must have, only to realize that Carlisle had disappeared back through the front doors. It was already dark outside; she must have been asleep for hours inside that house. As she followed her father to his muddy police cruiser, at last alone with a normal human being, she felt an odd stirring of emotions overtake her. One part of her wanted, beyond anything else, to drive fearfully away from the Cullens and never encounter them again. Yet still, the increasingly-hard-to-suppress other half inexplicably yearned to jump out of that police car, rush through the imposing mahogany doors of the vast house, and let Edward Cullen wrap his cold arms around her once more. It was impossible for her to determine for which side of her feelings her heart was racing. — The weekend came and went with its usual speed, leaving Bella recovered from Friday's trauma, but still unexplainably restless. Sleep came with difficulty, troubling her mind with twisted replays of her neardeath experience. In nearly every iteration, Edward was the focus, and in at least half of her dreams, it was he who killed her, not the frigid water. And still she couldn't bar from her memory the look of his black eyes as she had slipped from consciousness. What was that emotion locked inside those deep irises? Was it concern? Worry? No, she thought, again remembering Edward's fist slamming into Jasper, then the stories of his past. No, he doesn't feel concern. He doesn't worry. Why then, she asked herself, did he rescue me? Do I owe him something now? The thoughts left Bella in a precarious place of agitation. She sat rigidly on the vinyl bus seat on Monday morning and bit at her fingernails: a habit she thought she had conquered but which had stubbornly resurfaced in the past week. She had to see him. She had to see Edward again. For some reason, she thought that just by looking at him, the uncontrollable maelstrom of thoughts twisting and turning in her mind would suddenly disappear. She would see him, instantly return to loathing him, and that would be that. But when Bella finally walked into English, Edward wasn't there. He didn't show up when the bell rang, and he remained absent for the remainder of the class. Bella's fingernails were bitten short by the time the period was over. The preceding fifty minutes had trudged by with an incredible sluggishness as Bella continuously shifted nervously in her seat. Mrs. Malhotra made her read the part of Gertrude in a class rendition of a scene in Hamlet. Each line felt like it lasted fifty minutes by itself, and the words seemed to curdle on Bella's tongue, causing her to read with the embarrassing fluency of a third-grader.

At times, Bella was certain the clock on the wall had broken and was not, in fact, ticking at all. The class, however, finally did conclude, and she fought against the thickness of dazed anxiety in order to find her way to the cafeteria. Once there, she was, as usual, greeted by the ever-energetic Mike Newton. "Hey, Bells!" he called as he bounded up to her. She had already taken a seat at the table and was working on eating an apple. "How was English? Cullen was his usual creepy-ass self, I'm guessing?" Mike added, before dropping into the seat across from her. "Actually, he wasn't there," replied Bella, wondering why she felt slightly insulted on Edward's behalf. "That's a lucky thing," said Mike. "Maybe he'll stay away." "Heh," was all she could say. She took a big bite of the apple to create some kind of excuse for not talking. While Bella was pretending to be fascinated by the crumpled leaf attached to the apple's stem, Jessica and Angela, always a pair, took their seats at the table. "Any plans for the weekend?" asked Jessica, looking eagerly at Mike. "I just heard my cousin Janice's band is playing at the 5th Street diner on Friday. You guys wanna go?" The way that she said "you guys" seemed to indicate an invitation meant specifically for Mike, whom she was looking at as she made the proposal. "Actually, Jess," said Mike, to Bella's horror, "Bella and I are headed to Port Angeles for a night out on Friday." Bella had the feeling that if Jessica had hackles like a dog, they would have raised at that moment. Jessica compensated for her lack of bristle-able fur by near-shouting the word "what?" "Mike just wants to show me around, that's all," said Bella, quickly, before Mike had the opportunity to make the outing seem any more like a date than it already did. "Well, isn't that nice," hissed Jessica, doing an overall very poor job of pretending to be civil. Mike, too, seemed a little peeved by Bella's characterization of their not-a-date. Bella decided to deal with the situation by spinning her apple core around by the stem until it broke off and rolled across the table to a position perilously close to falling into Jessica's lap. If there was one thing Bella was especially good at, it was pissing people off. Having already offended both Jessica and Mike, Bella contemplated finishing the job by suggesting that Mike take Jessica to Port Angeles on Friday and to count herself out altogether. But Angela saved the day by ungracefully changing the conversation to the benign subject of television shows. Bella spent the remainder of the lunch period trying very hard to avoid both Jessica's glares and the strangely aggravating absence of Edward Cullen. — Bella was lucky enough to catch the bus at the end of the day, but instead of riding it all the way home, she got off at the local public library with the intention of picking out a brainless adventure novel. She

figured reading was a better way to occupy her time, as opposed to sitting around worrying about nothing in particular and biting her fingernails. The Forks library was pathetically small, especially in comparison to the huge complexes of books scattered around Phoenix, but it had an endearing quaintness that almost, but not quite, made up for its lack of selection. Inside, the single floor of bookshelves was carpeted by a garish 70s-style orangecolored rug that had endured enough coffee stains to look more brown than the pumpkin shade it was probably supposed to be. Bella was actually a little surprised to discover that the library wasn't dependent on an archaic card catalog system, but instead used a computerized setup. This would have, of course, been more impressive if the library had more than one computer with which to search for books. After waiting for fifteen minutes while the overweight, smelly man at the only computer searched for some obscure series of fantasy novels the library very clearly did not have, Bella finally sat down to type some potential titles into the outdated, chucky keyboard. She found a few promising volumes, wrote down their call numbers, and went off to locate them. She headed to the backmost section of the library, toward a wall that was lined by heavily-creased paperbacks. On her way there, she passed the fairly small nonfiction section and suddenly felt a memory come to the forefront of her mind. She distinctly recalled the Upyr books in the Cullen's living room and, on a whim, decided to see if the Forks library had any texts relating to that subject. Hurrying back to the computer before someone else could make use of it, Bella typed the word "upyr" into the search bar. She didn't expect any results to show up, but was pleasantly surprised to see one title listed which supposedly contained information about whatever "upyr" meant. But, upon closer inspection, she realized the title of the book was "Myth and Medicine: The Cultural and Scientific History of the Vampire Legend." Vampires? She thought, startled by the connection. She wondered what the word "upyr" had to do with the vampire myth, and why the Cullens would have so many books on that subject. Eagerly, Bella dashed toward the nonfiction section and found the text in question. It was a little ragged, probably from before 1930, yet it didn't look like it had been frequently read. Overcome with curiosity, she found a carrel near the back of the library and opened the book to the index. Locating "upyr" on the page, she turned to the associated section. The paragraph read: "The Upyr myth refers to a very early Slavic version of the modern vampire story. The tale, often recounted by early Anglo-Saxon texts, suggests the appearance of reanimated corpses, identified mainly by pale skin and cold flesh. In this tradition, most likely linked also to the growth of the zombie myth, these undead creatures could survive only by ingesting human blood. Other supernatural qualities, such as enhanced strength and speed, as well as reactions of the skin to sunlight, are sometimes attributed to the Slavic Upyr. The initial development of the Upyr story may be linked to primitive doctors falsely labeling comas as death, and the subsequent "screams from the grave" experienced by frightened

townsfolk. Another possible explanation involves a misunderstanding of the Porphyria medical condition, whose sufferers experience madness and bad skin reactions when exposed to sunlight." Bella stared at the open page for something close to twenty minutes. Her eyes were specifically inclined to continually reread the portion about "pale skin and cold flesh." Edward, Jasper, and Carlisle, though biologically unrelated, were all prime examples of pale skin and cold flesh. Edward's odd speed, his ability to save her from both a bear and wildly rushing water without endangering himself—it was all eerily like this "upyr." Bella felt her heart pound, remembering the inhuman, solid coldness of Edward's forearm when she had tried to hit him. She knew well the instinctive fear almost everyone exhibited around the Cullens, as though… her mind didn't even want to think that thought, but she forced her inner voice to say it. It was as though people feared the Cullens would "ingest their human blood." Bella shivered, despite the feverish heat invading her forehead. She knew with every fiber of her being that there was absolutely no way the Cullens could be vampires. There was surely a much more logical explanation for the way they were. For example, they might wear lots of sunscreen, have poor circulation, and exercise with vigor to build speed and muscle strength. Or maybe there was a cave below their house in which they all took pleasure in spending the majority of their time, with the company of Bowflex. Maybe they all had a penchant for geisha-style cake makeup and ice-baths. Bella let her head drop to the pages of the book. "Good god,"she mumbled aloud, to no one in particular, "Edward Cullen is a fucking vampire." "Except he isn't," she continued after managing to lift her head from the book, as if she were capable of having a conversation with herself. "Because there's no such thing as vampires." She looked at the passage again. "Maybe they're all anemic albinos…or I'm insane. I crushed my head against a streambed multiple times. I'm crazy and Edward Cullen is not a vampire." A librarian, wheeling a cart of books toward the back, caught the tail end of her deranged ranting, shot her an incredulous look, then shushed her by sternly bringing her index finger to her lips. After the disgruntled librarian had moved out of earshot, Bella mechanically stood up, probably with the visage of a complete lunatic, and began repeating, under her breath, "Edward Cullen is not a vampire. Edward Cullen is not a vampire. Bella Swan is insane." Judging by the looks she was getting by her fellow library-goers, she was probably not the only one who thought Bella Swan was insane. Her mind was spinning as she walked through the front doors of the library and stood waiting for her father to pick her up. By the time his police cruiser pulled up to the curb, she had almost assured herself that Edward Cullen was indeed not a vampire, and that she, Bella Swan, had gone off the deep end. She was all ready to insist her father enroll her in copious amounts of therapy, when he took immediate hold of the conversation. "All right, want to hear something super-weird, Bella?" he said as he pulled the car out of the library parking lot.

"At this point, I doubt super-weird will affect me overly much, daddy-o." Her voice came out sounding dream-like, and she briefly wondered if she were in a vegetative state in a hospital somewhere and making all of this up in her head. Her father regarded her with some degree of concern, but the fact that she was smiling, albeit a smile of the oddest variety, seemed to reassure him of her okay-ness. "Anyway," he continued, refocusing on the road, "Tim and I went up to the woods this afternoon, tying to hunt down the bear that came after you, and we found that brute all right." "You did?" asked Bella, temporarily released from her self-inflicted state of insanity. "Yeah. A mile or two from the stream you fell into." "What's super-weird about that? Did you shoot it?" "That's just it," answered her father, with an uncomfortable twitch of his mustache. "We didn't have to shoot it. The bear was already dead. Its neck was snapped. How the hell does a 600-pound grizzly bear end up with its neck snapped?" He shook his head slowly. Bella closed her eyes very slowly and grabbed wildly at big chunks of her hair. Edward Cullen is a vampire, she said to herself once more, this time with certainty.

8. Shadow
Denial is a warm sensation. It happens to be one of the small set of emotions that peeks out of its hiding place with a heat wave in its wake. But, like its neighbors, love and anger, it's bound to fade into coldness sooner or later. Denial is kind of like being wrapped in a blanket in the middle of a snowdrift and acting like that small measure of warmth is the sun beating down on a beach resort. Frostbite is real, no matter how ardently a mind pretends it's sand, not snow, that caresses the skin. By the time Edward Cullen had returned to Forks High, Bella had convinced herself that her first and most important task was to incontrovertibly prove to herself that Edward was not a vampire. Upon further consideration, she decided to blame her absurd theory on ignorance. She couldn't think of any realistic cause for a bear's death by way of a snapped neck. Nor could she imagine why a group of unrelated men would share the appearance of unthinkably black irises and pale, icy skin. She had no idea how or why any of these bizarre things had happened, but that, she told herself, did not mean there didn't exist some kind of reasonable explanation. She would be foolish to believe that vampires were real based on a single passage from an outdated library book which, itself, asserted that vampires were nothing more than myth.

Edward did not reappear in English class until Friday morning, by which point Bella had rehearsed the way she would handle the encounter so many times that she almost felt calm when he appeared in the doorway of the classroom. He strode across the room with his usual swagger, dressed in his customary dark clothes, but for some reason his movements suggested an unfamiliar sense of comfort she had not yet witnessed in him. He took his seat beside her and, without so much as a 'hello,' immediately immersed himself in the pages of Hamlet. This action was not at all what Bella had expected, and it thus invited the return of her nerves. In every variation of this scenario that had played itself out in Bella's mind, Edward had sat down beside her and instantly made some vaguely witty, off-color remark. From there, she would rebuke his insults by demanding to know why he had the complexion and body temperature of a cadaver. Unfortunately, Edward seemed fully captivated by the travails of a Danish prince and was remarkably uninterested in conversing with Bella. This turn of events caused Bella to spend the majority of the ensuing minutes twisting the cap of her pen in endless circles, producing an irritating squeak squeak noise. "Where were you?" she asked him at last, grimacing a little because her voice had come out croaky after having been unused all morning. Some little voice in the back of her mind, the one that was whispering "vampire," prevented her from looking at him fully, but through timid glances, she noticed his eyes shift in her direction, accompanied by the gentle twist of his smile. He overturned his copy of Hamlet so that the pages stayed open, flat against the tabletop, and turned to her attentively. "I was making a hit," he said, while curling the fingers on both of his hands to mimic handguns. "You know, bang bang." He pretended to fire his gunshaped hands at Bella and then blew invisible smoke from what would have been the barrels. Bella had almost grown accustomed to Edward Cullen's obsession with death, to the point that she didn't bother to react. "I'm serious," she murmured. "So am I," he replied, his face betraying no amount of sarcasm. He propped his chin against his knuckles thoughtfully, looking down at her with an expression that was meant to look amused, but ended up looking threatening. Bella rubbed her eyes. Nothing Edward ever said made sense in the context of sanity. "Okay," she sighed, adopting an exaggerated Godfather-style mafia accent, "so you were out making Joey swim with the fishes—" She had intended to carry on mocking him, but her voice broke off with an uncomfortable crack, which was only reasonable, because she had made the mistake of looking directly at his eyes. The bright purplish glow of the florescent lights in the classroom illuminated his eyes with a stunning clarity. Impossibly black, they were not. His irises, once a monochromatic ebony, now glowed red—the tawny shade of dried blood—and as deeply luminous as polished stone. Against the pallor of his skin and the untamed copper of his hair, the blood-red gleam of his gaze was absolutely terrifying. Bella blinked too many times to be subtle by any measure, unable to pull her eyes away from his. He didn't turn his head or move his gaze at all. Instead, he held her stare, as if he had anticipated this part of her reaction and was waiting for her to move on to the next stage of horror.

Bella felt the bliss of denial threaten to slip through her grasp, and realized that she was digging her fingernails into her own thigh. "What are you?" she whispered, unable to dampen the tremor in her voice. "Please, just tell me what you are, because I know I'm wrong. Please, please tell me that I'm wrong about you. Tell me what you are." She was babbling like an idiot. Edward watched her in silence. His smile had disappeared at some imperceptible point and had been replaced by expressionless quietude. Bella felt starved of oxygen, as though the inflow of air into her lungs were dictated by Edward's reply. He studied her for several long minutes, expressionless as before, and then, at last, he switched his attention to a rapid surveillance of the entire classroom. Leaning forward very slowly, so that he could whisper into her ear, and with a voice tinted by dark solemnity, he said, "I'm a redhead." Bella leaned back away from him, exasperation momentarily trumping fear. He was smirking at her with such a degree of satisfaction that he almost didn't look demonic. Were it not for the unnerving redness of his eyes, Bella might have slapped him. "Shocking, I know, and beware," he continued, again allowing his voice to take on an unwarranted gravity. "Legend says we gingers are cursed with awful tempers." It took an extreme degree of effort for Bella to resist banging her head against the surface of the table in the hopes of chasing away her hallucinations with physical pain. Her instincts told her that she was simply imagining Edward's extraordinary eye color change. "Edward Cullen is not a vampire. Bella Swan is insane," she muttered under her breath, not quietly enough to avoid Edward's notice. "Pardon me?" mumbled Edward through a yawn. The fact that Bella was under the impression that he was not a vampire and that she, herself, was insane didn't seem to be the least bit interesting to him. Bella had covered her own eyes with her hand and was working hard to keep the bile from rising in her throat. She barely heard the sound of Mrs. Malhotra telling the class something that was probably critical to maintaining an A in English. "Your eyes…" she whispered. "…are windows to my soul?" he finished for her. "Many have said so." Bella fancied she could hear him wink. She was still relishing the pleasant blackness that her hand provided. "Did you get contacts…?" Yes, she told herself. He got bizarre, creepy red contacts. Obviously. "If I say yes," he said, "will it prevent you from vomiting? You seem to be heading in that direction, and I'd rather not review your breakfast menu. That, I imagine, would be quite unpleasant and messy." "My breakfast menu is unpleasant and messy?" she murmured, allowing denial to float away from her at last. "At this point, I think whatever—whomever—it is you eat for breakfast wins the award for unpleasant and messy." "Hm. I like to think my dining habits are carried out with the utmost cleanliness."

"And with your exquisite manners, to be sure." "Yes, those too." While Bella was busy being disturbed by a mental image of Edward politely taking a fork and knife to his victim's throat, Mrs. Malhotra was lecturing about the literary themes of Hamlet. Under ordinary circumstances, when she was not seated next to the bastard child of Count Dracula and Liam Gallagher, Bella would have been taking careful notes. No one else seemed to be reacting to Edward's creature-of-the-night red eyes, but then again, everyone already treated him like a landmine ready to explode. Bella considered the fact that she should probably be doing the same. Still, evil, psychotic, and possibly undead though he was, the only thing Edward was currently doing was writing in his notebook like any other high school student. And, Bella mused, not bursting into flames, despite his proximity to a window. Although, it was sunlight that was supposedly toxic to vampires, and Forks had very little of that. The fact that Bella was even thinking seriously about a vampire doing anything in reality, let alone bursting into flames, distressed her to such a degree that she only made it through the rest of the period by humming "Yankee Doodle" over and over in her mind. When she made to exit the classroom, Bella was dismayed by the discovery that Edward was determined to walk beside her down the hallway. He didn't bother saying anything, in favor of distractedly tapping his fingers against the books in his hand. "I don't understand Morse code, Edward," grumbled Bella, startling herself with her own readiness to sass-talk the living dead. "Surprising," he drawled. "You understand Russian remarkably well. You mean to tell me you're unable to annoy me in every language? How disappointing." "Oh sorry. Let me try again. You. Stop. Are as creepy as hell. Stop." "Much better." He laughed in a curiously pleasant kind of way. "Right. So why are you following me?" "I have lunch this period," he answered, shrugging. She eyed him suspiciously. "I've never seen you there before." "I've never had a reason to be there before." "Oh, that's right," murmured Bella, "You… redheads… don't find the cafeteria food satisfying. So why go now? Planning on switching up your diet? I'm not sure the lunch ladies will serve your steak quite rare enough to suit your tastes."

"Well, to be perfectly honest, my dear Isabelly," he sighed, "I'm not completely comfortable letting someone who knows just how rare I like my steak out of my sight quite yet." "So your plan is to follow me around for the rest of my life?" Bella asked, staring up at him incredulously. "I'm not entirely sure what my plan is. Normally, someone in your situation would react in a manner that wouldn't leave me much in the way of options as to how I'd… deal with them. But, since you're tragically afflicted with stupidity, you're making this complicated for me." Bella realized that Edward had just, in a flowery way, informed her that he was trying to decide whether or not he should kill her. That, naturally, should have made her scream for help and run in the opposite direction, but having already spent the previous two weeks convinced that he was going to murder her, she found herself surprisingly unmoved. He had, after all, saved her life with no obvious personal benefit. Instead of making a scene over his thinly-veiled death threat, she simply shrugged and kept walking. "You are a very peculiar person," he replied, shaking his head. They had reached the cafeteria, which meant they had also reached Mike Newton, who was standing rigidly at the center of the tile floor, his eyes focused on the doorway. He was watching Edward and Bella enter together with an expression of horror that looked particularly humorous on his usually-joyful face. "Oh dear," said Edward cracking the knuckles on both hands. "Mr. Newton looks very perturbed. I'd say he'd come rescue you from my evil clutches, but he looks a wee bit too terrified for that. You had better go tell him you're okay before he wets himself." "Thank you for that delicately-worded suggestion, Edward," replied Bella before leaving his side to attend to Mike. Edward continued forward toward Jasper, who was seated, as usual, far across the cafeteria in a largely vacant section of tables. Mike was remarkably quiet for the first few minutes of the lunch period. Bella, with a great measure of delight, began to suspect that he wouldn't ask about Edward at all. Unfortunately, it seemed that Mike was simply waiting for an audience before demanding any answers. Once the table was occupied by the full set of Mike's friends—Angela, Jessica, Eric, and a few more with whom Bella was less familiar—Mike decided to spill the beans. "So, what's going on with you and Cullen, Bella?" he asked, with a vague sneer in his voice, almost with Jessica's characteristic cadence. Every person sitting at the table focused their curious attention on Bella. "Nothing," mumbled Bella, which wasn't specifically true, but was certainly all Mike was entitled to know about the situation. "Nothing at all, Mike. He was talking to me, which for him generally means insulting me."

"Ah," replied Mike, brightening a little, much to Jessica's dismay. "Let me know if you want me kick his ass for you." "I surely will, Mike," said Bella, smiling in a way that felt to her like a parody of actual happiness. She was completely certain that unless she suddenly developed a reason for wanting Mike dead, she would never encourage him to kick Edward Cullen's ass. — Port Angeles wasn't exactly the vibrant hot spot of entertainment Mike had made it out to be. It was attractive in a damp fishing-village kind of way, with lots of seagulls, seagull sounds, and seagull droppings. The people of Port Angeles were endearing enough, in the same manner that the jolly bearded sea-captains on boxes of frozen seafood made people more willing to purchase frosty fish guts covered in bread crumbs. Although Joey's Steak & Seafood initially sounded like a grubby in-and-out boardwalk eatery with plastic buckets full of crab legs lying around, it was actually a very classy establishment. It was, in fact, a polished silverware, white tablecloth, elaborately-folded burgundy napkin kind of place, which was lovely, except for the fact that Bella had dressed for the kind of restaurant she had thought it would be. In jeans, sneakers, and a fleece jacket, she felt acutely scummy as the waiter led her and Mike to their table. Mike, of course, was dressed sharply in a striped button-down shirt and disturbingly wrinkle-free khaki pants. He hadn't, however, made any comments about Bella's unsuitable attire. The waiter filled their stemware glasses with water. Bella wasn't entirely sure why anyone needed stemware to drink water, but she smiled anyway and began a perusal of the menu. It was a fairly short list of choices, most of which were probably dishes as simple as "steak" or "shrimp," but had elaborate titles like "Montreal-seasoned filet mignon tips" and "Pan-seared Alaskan shrimp in a sesame vinaigrette sauce." Bella decided on the shrimp, and ordered it using the title "shrimp." This produced a rather disdainful lip curl from the tuxedoed waiter, but Bella didn't mind; he was probably working for little more than minimum wage and was still required to wear a bowtie all day. He had her sympathy. "So, do you like the place?" asked Mike, deciding after all that it might be a good idea to converse with Bella during what, Bella realized, was obviously intended to be a real date. "It's… certainly fancy," she replied, holding her pinky finger out at an extreme angle as she sipped her water, so as to appear supremely hoity-toity. "Only the best for my Bella," he said, grinning is his characteristic toothy way. My Bella? She thought, almost choking on the gulp of water she had accidentally taken in response. Since when do I belong to him? She'd known him for two weeks; she shouldn't really be anything to him, certainly not yet, and probably not ever if he continued in this way.

Thinking of no inoffensive reply, Bella pretended to be extremely thirsty and continued drinking her glitzy stemware water. "Forks is such a drag," Mike continued, apparently unconcerned by Bella's silence, "It's nice to have something pretty to look at." He winked at her. "Port Angeles is very pretty," agreed Bella. "Thanks for showing me the local haunts." He grinned at her and leaned forward across the table. His expression made Bella wonder if he was going to pinch her cheek and tell her how cute she was. "Silly swan, I don't mean Port Angeles. I mean you." Bella knew she should have been flattered by the compliment, but something about being characterized as an attractive knick knack bothered her. "That's very nice of you to say, Mike," she said, and then tactfully added, "but for such a bleak town, Forks has plenty of very pretty people." For a moment, Mike looked like he was about to disagree, but he luckily avoided a continuation of the topic. He directed the conversation to the school's football team, of which he was a running back, and Bella pretended to be fascinated by his detailed descriptions of every touchdown he had made. It wasn't long before Mike's monologue was interrupted by the arrival of their food, which was indeed just shrimp and steak, albeit shrimp and steak that were elegantly arranged on the plates for the purpose of appearing extra impressive. The food did, however, smell divine, and Bella eagerly took a bite of the expertly seasoned shrimp. Her face must have betrayed her satisfaction, because Mike laughed and said, "I'm glad you appreciate the food, Bella." "I definitely do," she replied, smiling automatically. She wondered if the food was already releasing endorphins into her brain, or if she was simply growing more comfortable with the idea of this dinner being an actual date. After attending to his own plate of food for a minute or two, Mike wiped his mouth on the burgundy napkin and said, "I'm sorry you had to move to Forks. Trust me when I say I know exactly how you feel." Bella shrugged. "It's really not that awful. Rainy, cold, little—yeah, but the people are generally nice. The school's decent." Mike made a humph sound and said, "It sounds like you're just inventing reasons why Forks doesn't suck. Why try to be so evenhanded? I'd bet anything you're miserable." Bella severely disliked being told how she felt, whether or not there may be a grain of truth to it. She opted for a neutral response. "Do I seem miserable?" "Not at all," he replied, folding his arms and temporarily disregarding his meal. "You must be a wreck on the inside, though. So calm all the time, everyday...and after all you've been through."

Bella dropped her fork onto the edge of her plate with a noisy clatter. Since when had this conversation devolved into what she'd been through? "Excuse me?" she breathed, now just as disinterested in her meal as Mike seemed in his. "I'm probably overstepping my bounds here," he said. Yes, you probably are, she thought in reply. "But we've all heard what your mother… did." The way Mike spoke made him sound like he was accusing her mother of committing a crime against her. The very idea made her feel dizzy. Bella couldn't think of any appropriate response, so she settled on staring down at her mostly-full plate of food. "I know it must be so hard for you, Bella. You shouldn't keep all that locked inside. I just wanted you to know that I'm here for you." Bella was sure that Mike was expecting some kind of sentimental thank you, or maybe if he were lucky, an emotional hug or a long cry on his shoulder. Instead, he had done nothing but recklessly yank on an emotional string—one that was threatening to unravel the careful net of compartmentalization she had constructed after her mother's death. Guilt blossomed anew in her chest for having pushed her mother to the back of her mind. Maybe Mike was right about her. Maybe she should want to cry every time she saw something that reminded her of her mother, or feel detached from everything, or want to hug Mike at that moment instead of slap him. It took Bella upwards of five minutes to collect herself. She had been staring at Mike unblinkingly with God-knows-what kind of expression on her face. Eventually, she managed to rub her still-dry eyes and return from the dark recesses of her mind. "Are you okay, Bella?" asked Mike through a mouthful of steak. "Yes, though whether or not I should be okay seems to be a subject for debate." "Huh," he said. Bella wasn't sure he had understood what she meant. "Well, let me know if there's ever anything I can do for you. My mom walked out on me and my dad years ago. I know what loss feels like." As unfortunate as it must be to have a parent leave, Bella was fairly certain it wasn't quite the same feeling as discovering that your mother had been floating dead in a bathtub for three days before her body was discovered, all because her cowardly daughter had skipped town for the summer. "I'm sorry to hear that Mike," she mumbled. Bella spent the rest of the dinner trying to think of anything but cold, red bathwater. Having lost her appetite, she told Mike she was full and insisted that the real pleasure of the restaurant was the atmosphere and fine decoration, all of which looked alarmingly cold and red through her vision. When the bill came, Bella urged Mike to let her pay for her half, but he wouldn't hear any of it. She desperately wanted to create some kind of unoffending sign that she hadn't considered the dinner a romantic date, but found herself utterly out of options.

As they walked back through town toward the edge of the pier where Mike had parked his car, the small amount of seafood in Bella's stomach began to churn in nauseating circles. Fearful of making a mess all over the pavement, Bella begged Mike's pardon and darted into the nearest store in search of a bathroom. After spending a few minutes bent over a toilet with no nasty result, she stood up and walked to the sink. Splashing some cold water onto her face, she squeezed her eyes shut as her mind flailed this way and that in frustration, desperately trying to find some topic to cling to other than death. She needed something normal—something distracting—to think about, or she ran the risk of going completely mad. Looking out the small window above the sink, the one that faced the alley behind the line of shops, Bella realized that God must have answered her mind's request. What she got, however, though certainly distracting, was most definitely not normal. Through the tiny window panes, she saw the unmistakable form of Edward Cullen stride down the alleyway and toward a cluster of buildings near the waterline. Inexplicably drawn by curiosity, Bella pushed open the bathroom door and hurried through the rear exit of the boutique. Staying in the shadows of the building's overhang, she watched Edward cross the road and disappear around the corner of a dilapidated building. Not pausing long enough to consider the sense of her actions, Bella hastened across the asphalt herself, pressing her body to the bricks of the building Edward had walked past, and peered stealthily around the corner. Edward was making his way toward what looked like a bar, and a very shabby one at that. Bella heard loud voices and music from within the crumbling brick facade and saw lights flickering in the few windows that were not boarded up. The bar, at least from the back, displayed no sign that revealed its name. Still staying out of sight around the corner, Bella watched Edward push on the crooked plywood door and step into the establishment. She wondered what Edward was doing at a bar in Port Angeles. Regardless of whatever his real age was, he was still legally a high school student. Even more importantly, from what Bella knew about him, alcohol was probably not at the top of his list of favorite drinks. Still, not willing to actually enter a random, sketchy saloon-like place in the evening dimness, especially one that a vampire thought was a suitable watering hole, Bella about-faced with the intention of returning to the shop from which she'd come. However, when Bella turned around, she found herself face-to-face with a stranger. He was a bulky man, clad in a stained leather jacket, and he reeked of whiskey, fish, and tobacco. Bella stumbled backward in panic, feeling her pulse immediately quicken. The sky was suddenly much darker than she had realized, and she had inadvertently followed Edward into an isolated alleyway. After the bear incident, Bella thought she had reached the limit of her stupidity. At that moment, she realized she had been wrong. The man grinned at her, revealing a mouth full of yellow teeth, some of them missing, or so rotten they might as well be. He tucked a few greasy strands of hair behind his ear and stepped toward her. She turned frantically and ran from him. Before she had escaped more than three feet up the alley, the man reached out and grasped her wrist, pulling her backward and slamming her against the brick wall. He twisted her arm to a painful angle, so that her body instinctively crouched away from him.

"What're you doin' here, girly?" he grunted. "This ain't the sorta spot for a fresh little face like yours to be a-wanderin'." He had pressed himself against her so that she was choking on his noxious smell. She screamed for help as loudly as she could manage, but somehow she knew it wasn't loud enough. Despite the pain stinging her wrist, she tried to pull away from him. She cried out again, but he stifled her scream by wrapping his moist fingers around her throat and dragging her body up against the bricks so that only the tips of her toes reached the ground. Just when Bella was certain that something even worse than death was about to befall her, the man released her and she toppled to the grimy pavement. Edward Cullen had, once again, come to her rescue. He had appeared out of nowhere and was holding the man fully off the ground by the collar of his jacket, in the way someone might lift a naughty puppy by the scruff of its neck. Bella, grasping at the wall for support, unsteadily rose to her feet, still shaking with fear. "Ed… Edward…" she stuttered. "Be… Bella…" he mimicked, rolling his eyes. "Nice to see you." He glanced over at the burly man dangling from his left hand. "I was about to let this scumbag slap you around, but then I thought to myself: hey, the only person who should be allowed to beat up my stalkers is me." The man in Edward's grip was starting to make loud noises of pain and terror. Edward turned to him briefly and exclaimed, "Oh, for God's sake, shut up." He nonchalantly slammed his elbow into the side of the man's head and let his unconscious body crumple to the ground. "So, Bella," said Edward, turning back to her. "Care to tell me why, exactly, you are following me around? Do you have some twisted desire to die? Because if so, you could just ask nicely, rather than going to great lengths to provoke me." "I was…" Bella's voice sounded squeaky and pathetic. "I just saw you… and… I don't know…" Her nostrils were still filled with her assailant's stink. She tried to use the cuff of her jacket to wipe off the greasy sweat he had left on her wrist and throat. Edward watched silently as she closed her eyes and trembled against the bricks. "Forget it," he sighed, very gently taking her hand and pulling her away from the wall. His skin, just as cold as ever, made her fingers tingle. Keeping her eyes tightly closed, she let herself fall against him. She couldn't feel the chill of him through the thick wool of his sweater, and she let the warmth of the fabric very slowly restore her to calmness. Bella wasn't sure how long she stood there with him, in the middle of the dark alley, but when she had stopped shaking and her breaths were paced normally, she let her eyes open. Edward had been watching her, his red eyes glowing in the fading light, and one of his arms was wrapped loosely around her shoulders. She pulled away from him and he released her immediately. "Thanks for not killing me," she said, mustering a faint smile. He shrugged. "I lost my appetite."

That reminded Bella of something extremely important. "Oh Christ," she said, bringing her palm to her forehead. "Mike. He has no idea where I am." The sun had almost set completely. Edward grinned with a peculiar wickedness. "Allow me to help you." Before Bella could vehemently decline Edward's 'helpfulness,' he had swung her into his arms and taken off up the alleyway. He moved at such a speed that the surrounding world was nothing but an inscrutable blur. A distance that would have taken at least five minutes for the average human to jog was covered in mere seconds. Now in front of the set of shops along the main road, Edward delicately set Bella down on the ground. She swayed slightly, nearly falling over, struck by a dizziness similar to seasickness. Her hair was in quite a state of disarray from the 'run,' much like Edward's always was, and she began to suspect that the untidiness of his hair was not the effect of random chance. Mike Newton, who was pacing agitatedly in front of the shop Bella had entered, while simultaneously rolling his cell phone continuously in his hands, spotted them quickly. Running forward, he slowed to a stop several feet away once identifying Edward Cullen as the man beside Bella. Edward smiled and wrapped his arm snugly around her waist, causing Bella to flinch a little and glance up at him. Edward, however, was focused on Mike Newton. "Why if it isn't Michael the Magnificently immature," he exclaimed. "Cullen," Mike murmured without meeting his gaze. He turned to Bella. "What happened, Bella? Where were you?" Before Bella could respond, Edward said, "Bella and I ran into each other. We got… talking." He produced that wicked smirk of his. "Time flies." Mike looked at Edward, who always looked unkempt, and then at Bella, who was looking many degrees more disheveled than she had when they had parted. Bella, recognizing exactly how this whole thing must look to Mike, was about to fabricate something about getting lost, but Edward cut in before she was able. "Well, I won't keep her from you any longer, Mikey boy," he said. Giving a far-too-low-for-comfort portion of Bella's backside a gentle slap, he added, "Run along now, Bella." She tottered forward, but not without glaring back at Edward with all the fury she could summon. The amusement in his expression seemed to say "You're welcome."

9. Motive
Charlie Swan had never been a great fan of hospitals, nor of any overly-sterile chemical smelling place. The worst of all such locations was the morgue, in which industrial-strength cleaners mingled with the noxious smells of formaldehyde and death—the stench like fetid meat that the nose refuses to forget after encountering it for the first time. Even as the chief of police, Charlie managed to avoid the morgue in most cases. Very rarely were autopsies of a nature that required the presence of anyone in uniform. Nevertheless, Gwen Nichols, the only forensic pathologist in Forks, and a rather crotchety woman of sixty-eight, had urgently requested his attendance that morning. She had phoned in quite a flutter, which was indeed an ominous sign, because detecting any emotion at all through Gwen's usual bluntness was an unprecedented feat. So it was that Charlie Swan spent his morning shivering in the stink and stainless steel of the morgue, his attention fixed on the two bodies who, though completely dead, had managed to visibly upset Mrs. Nichols. Her withered hands snuggly encased in latex gloves, Gwen poked and prodded at various marks and gashes on each of the bodies of the bear attack victims, which she had lined up side by side for the purpose of comparison. Charlie was glad that the only thing he had ingested that morning was coffee, but even that small volume in his stomach was complaining about the sight. "So you see it's odd, Charlie," Gwen said, her voice even croakier than usual. "You'd think this laceration killed him." Her finger followed a deep slash cutting diagonally across the first victim's chest. "You'd think," replied Charlie, covering his mouth with a fisted hand. "But it didn't," she continued. "It was blood loss." "Um," began Charlie, "not that my opinion counts for much, but that… laceration… looks like it could've caused some serious blood loss." "Ah. Very true. But that's where the plot thickens. This cut was made after the victim died." "Interesting," said Charlie, wishing he were sitting at his desk and playing tic-tac-toe with Tim. "But isn't it possible that the bear was crazed and kept clawing at the guy even after he was dead?" "Two things," croaked Gwen. "First, we see puncture wounds that look like bite marks, but they don't match the jaw configuration of a bear, nor do they fit with any other predator to speak of. Second, more than half of the victim's blood is missing." "Missing?" asked Charlie, unintentionally mimicking Gwen's croaking. "The blood at the site of the body's discovery doesn't account for the amount lost." Charlie stared at her blankly.

"That could mean two things." She raised her index finger."One, the victim was killed in another location and moved." Her second finger joined the first. "Or two, someone neatly and purposefully drained his blood." "Someone?" hissed Charlie. "What're you getting at, Gwen?" "Simple, Charlie. I'm saying this was a murder." "That's a pretty serious statement," muttered Charlie, realizing that if it were true, playing tic-tac-toe with Tim would cease for quite a while. "You want more proof?" exclaimed Gwen, who moved to the next body before Charlie could decline the offer. She yanked the sheet off the cadaver. "Look at this." Her finger trailed along another diagonal slash mark, almost identical to the one on the first victim. "It's a pattern. Bears don't have patterns, Charlie." Charlie rubbed his forehead and sighed deeply. "And he's missing his blood too, then?" "You betcha." "With murders, patterns are really bad, Gwen. Serial killer bad. And missing blood? I hope to God the bodies were moved and there're two pools of blood sitting on the ground out there somewhere, and not in some psycho's fridge in a Tupperware container." "You're gonna have to announce it, Charlie," said Gwen, pulling the sheets back over the bodies. "The town has to know." "I know, Gwen. I know it. But not just yet." "What? You're just going to let a murderer float around Forks and keep it a secret? People could die that way." "Yes, but murderers get desperate when dire announcements are made, and townspeople even more so. I need just a few more days worth of information. I want to be on the killer's trail before he knows we're coming." "You're playing with fire, Charlie, and you know it," she murmured, yanking her gloves off and tossing them into the disposal. She turned to the sink to wash her hands, rightly expecting no response to her plea for caution. After silently scouring his own hands with more vigor than was strictly necessary, Charlie followed Gwen Nichols out of the chilled air of the morgue. With considerable surprise, he felt within himself the annoying buzz of determination he thought lost with his younger years. —

When Charlie arrived at home that evening, later than usual, and holding a briefcase filled with photographs and wordy reports, he found his mind temporarily distracted by the appearance of his daughter. Bella was stretched across the lumpy sofa in the living room, on her back, with her arms straight against her sides and her eyes wide open. With pronounced discomfort, Charlie's mind made an unconscious and gravely unsettling comparison between his daughter's posture and the corpses he had observed in the morgue that morning. The way this thought tipped his nerves on edge brought forward the type of compassion he usually had trouble accessing. "Bella, what's the matter?" he asked, taking a seat opposite the couch. The mere fact that she wasn't busying herself with something or another made him feel uneasy. He had thought she had a date with John Newton's son. "Your date didn't go well?" Bella rolled onto her side to face him. Her eyes looked red, but in a bloodshot sense that seemed to expel the possibility that she had been crying. She produced a short and ironic laugh. "That's a 'no' then," said Charlie. "Am I a bad person?" she whispered. Charlie wasn't sure what to make of the non sequitur. After his day, one would have to try pretty damn hard for him to consider them among the bad people of the world. "Absolutely not, Bella. Why would you think that?" "I don't cry. Mom's gone… and I've never cried. Everyone knows it. Mike knows it." "Bella—" "And… it's like my brain's gone to dust. Every time it should be screaming, 'danger!' I just go and do the dumbest things, things that could—should—get me killed. And my voice of reason, deep down inside me, just doesn't care." "You're not a bad person, Bella," said Charlie, laying a hand on her shoulder. "You're a strong young woman. Too strong for your own good sometimes. And you're just like your mother in so much as you think too much and too hard. As far as you should be concerned, the only right reaction to this kind of loss is whatever reaction you happen to have, not what Mike Newton seems to think you should be feeling." Bella regarded him with surprise, as though she thought her father were reciting words that were not his own. "But I'm not going to let you recklessly toss your life around either," he continued. "If you're worried, maybe you should go back to seeing Dr. Richardson." Despite the suggestion, Charlie knew the grief

counselor had helped his daughter only minimally. Richardson had, after all, spoken to Bella only after she had so carefully buried her feelings that she had forgotten where she left them. Bella shook her head and rolled over to face the back of the couch. Fearful of pressing her any further, Charlie gave her a light pat on the shoulder and said, "I love you, Bella." As he lifted his briefcase and left her, he wondered whether a father's love would be enough to help her before she slipped further away. — With the weekend's provisions of solitude and reflection, Bella was able to return to school on Monday with the peace of mind necessary to deal with Mike Newton—the less troubling of the two young men occupying her thoughts. Mike, with whom she had parted on Friday on rather awkward terms, sought her out at his first possible opportunity. This occasion happened to be at the start of Biology, in which Mike took a seat next to her. In doing so, he ousted the student who normally sat beside Bella, forcing the girl to sit alone at the back of the room. If the teacher hadn't immediately launched into his lecture, Bella would have stood up and joined her usual partner in the back. Nevertheless, Bella was stuck next to Mike for the entire period, during which time he consistently attempted to engage her in conversation. Bella half expected him to insist on bringing up their disastrous night out, but he tended toward meaningless chitchat. Bella supposed it was an effort to maintain her friendship after their awkward sort-of-date, and she appreciated the gesture for what it was. However, feeling ruder than usual, Bella ignored most of what Mike was saying in favor of paying attention to the lecture. In a rather precarious academic position due to her recent inattentiveness in English class, she sought to reassure herself by drawing detailed diagrams of the various stages of protein synthesis. Mike didn't seem to notice or care that she was absorbed by the process of learning, and kept muttering about who-knows-what until the teacher silenced him. Mike, as he often did, walked with Bella to English, but instead of leaving her at the door with a cheery wave, he stopped just before they reached the room. "Look, Bella. I don't know what Cullen's trying to pull, but I don't like it," he said, standing between her and the classroom with his arms crossed and his expression grave. "What?" asked Bella, with a tone more resigned than surprised. "I can tell he's messing with you. He's got you wrapped around his finger." "He hasn't got me wrapped around anything, Mike. I don't know where this is coming from, but I'd stop if I were you."

Bella stepped forward to enter the doorway, but Mike didn't move to let her through. "He's a bully, Bella. A liar, a murd—" Mike stopped mid-sentence and began backing away down the hall. Bella, confused at first, swiveled around and discovered that Edward Cullen was not already in the classroom as she had suspected, but rather standing just behind her, silently staring at Mike, his red eyes literally illuminated by some impossible cranial backlight. Mike appeared to be struck by an extreme sort of terror, with the appearance of a deer about to be struck by a speeding car. Edward, too, looked more unstable than usual, unmoving in a way too predatory for comfort. Students were hurrying past them, glancing fearfully in Edward's direction as if expecting him to tear down the entire school at any moment. Bella decided to reduce the likelihood of a Forks High massacre by "poking" Edward in the side, which she figured was best achieved by elbowing him with all the strength her petit frame allowed. The action appeared to have the desired effect, because Edward, though barely affected by Bella's strike, released Mike from his death stare and looked down at her. "Ouch," he said, sarcasm practically dripping onto the floor tiles. His eyes had faded back to their lessglowing shade of red. Bella left off rubbing her soon-to-be black and blue elbow long enough to grasp Edward's forearm and lead him into the classroom. She was aware of the fact that without Edward's explicit desire to move, grabbing his arm would probably do nothing at all. Even still, he followed her without protest, peculiarly fixing his eyes on her little hand wrapped around his arm. Mike had, of course, run off down the hall as soon as Edward had stopped glaring at him. Ignoring the perplexed faces of her classmates, Bella walked beside Edward into the room, her hand still positioned in the place just below the crook of his elbow. It was hard to tell exactly who was leading whom. And then they parted, taking their seats at the table. Both stayed quiet for the period, captured by a silence equal parts natural and stifling. There was a strange void of unsaid things between them—an expanse Bella could bridge only by baseless conjecture. The feeling both drew her and repelled her from the young man sitting beside her. Despite Edward's avowal to keep a watch over Bella for the time being, neither he nor Jasper were present at lunch. Edward walked in the opposite direction after class, leaving Bella with the unhappy prospect of yet another encounter with Mike Newton's sage advice, this time without Edward to show up and scare him away. Mike certainly did make a scene, in the form of talking nonstop with everyone at the lunch table apart from Bella, whom he didn't even offer a glance for the entire period. Jessica absorbed this development with delight, inferring that Bella must have proved a very poor date indeed. The other students at the table, including the soft-spoken Angela, likewise followed Mike's lead and made no attempt to acknowledge her. It was at this moment that Bella understood the full consequence of her interest in Edward Cullen.

Mike Newton was, without a doubt, the most popular student at Forks High, and, like most everyone else, he hated Edward Cullen. Mike, for unexplained reasons, had also shown friendly and even romantic interest in Bella. However, Mike was making it perfectly clear that if she treated Edward Cullen as anything more than a contemptible freak, he was prepared to remove himself, as well as any other friends she had made, from her social life. Mike Newton was threatening her, and that alone made her squirm. Losing the small collection of acquaintances she had managed to make seemed like a horrible result of simply getting to know the student no one else knew. But Bella had learned things about Edward Cullen that wouldn't just disappear from her mind, or, she imagined, from his. Bella loathed the unfairness of Mike's actions. She couldn't make a trade; even if she were able to ignore Edward from that point on, she knew that he would never let her go unchecked knowing what she knew about him. She wasn't sure if she was frightened of Edward or not, but in no way did she think him incapable of acting against her. She felt trapped on all sides, threatened in too many ways. Bella had no idea how she would make a decision between Edward and her friendships, and hoped sincerely that she would never have to. Unfortunately, the critical choice would arrive much sooner than she had ever imagined—at the end of that very school day, in the middle of the parking lot. If Bella had known then the gravity of her choice—that one side offered life and the other her death—her fate might have turned a different corner. But when Bella walked toward her bus that afternoon, innocent of all hindsight, her mind was not wrapped up in life or death or fate. The rain was falling in light drops, put plentifully enough to dampen her face and hair. She hunched over a little in an attempt to shield the books in her arms from the elements. She had only made it half the distance to the bus idling on the far side of the lot when the low hum of a car engine nearby made her look up. Edward had pulled up next to her in his right-hand drive sports car and, just as he had one time before, was leaning out the window. "First things first," he began. "If you feel the desire to decline the offer I'm about to make, please do not run into the woods and nearly die. In polite society, we turn people down by saying 'no thanks.' That, and I'm not in the mood to save your life today." Bella smiled very slightly. "I promise I won't run into the woods." "Excellent," he said. "Anyway, I think we need to have a chat, you and I. I would be delighted if you would take a ride with me this afternoon." Perhaps it was in Edward's nature to phrase everything in the most ominous way possible. Nonetheless, before Bella could even think of a response to that proposal, she needed to know one thing. "Are you planning on killing me?" she asked, as calmly as she could manage.

"No," he sighed. "I wouldn't want to stain my nice leather seats with your corpse. Also, I'm not sure about you, but I don't use 'chat' as a euphemism for 'kill.'" Bella's only reason to trust him was the fact that he had shown an interest in preserving her life rather than ending it. She wasn't sure that fact constituted enough of a justification for hopping in the car with him, but neither was she compelled to run in the opposite direction. Before her mind had the opportunity to deliberate on Edward's invitation, Bella caught sight of Mike Newton, who was watching her from across the parking lot, apparently waiting for her to make eye contact. When she did, he turned his head slightly and then moved it back to center again. It was barely even a shake of his head, but it was degrees more intimidating than a more overt movement might have been. Frozen by indecision—Edward watching her expectantly from one side, Mike from the other—Bella thought frantically in pursuit of a neutral choice, one that would buy her some time, but found none. At last, she looked back at Edward, searching his face for a concrete design to harm her, some clear-cut reason to ride the bus rather than get into his car. However, what she found in his handsome features was not violence, but instead something she hadn't yet seen in him—a strange type of vulnerability, awash with weary hopelessness. He expected her to choose Mike. The last thing Bella liked to be was predictable. Perhaps Edward Cullen did have Bella wrapped around his finger, but regardless, she pulled on the door handle of his car and slid into the seat next to him. For a moment, he regarded her with disbelief, and perhaps with an ironic bit of disapproval in his expression. Then he smiled, or smirked—with him it was hard to tell—and put the car in gear. As they drove away, Bella purposefully didn't look back at Mike, for fear of seeing the anger in his expression and risking regret.

10. Lethal
Edward was silent for the first few minutes, driving at a speed much quicker than either the law or Bella's nerves allowed. "Where are we going?" she asked, looking at the floor instead of the dizzying flash of the surrounding scenery. "You'll see soon enough," he replied. "Sooner, indeed, if this car weren't so goddamn slow." "Slow?" squeaked Bella, observing the needle's perilously high position on the speedometer. "In what universe is this slow?" He glanced over at her and she noticed the car decelerate considerably. "You must excuse me," he said. "I'm not used to having… passengers… in my car. Though, believe me when I say my reaction time isn't compromised by speed."

He drove for another few minutes before parking his car adjacent to a cluster of shops at the edge of town. Bella knew the area as a popular stop for loggers coming in and out of Forks, but it wasn't a frequent destination for townsfolk. It was certainly not the kind of place she had expected him to take her. Edward seemed more like the kind of weirdo who would feel compelled to lead her to an isolated meadow in the middle of the woods, or someplace equally inaccessible to police cars and ambulances. Before Bella could even unfasten her seatbelt, Edward had already appeared on the exterior of the passenger side and opened her door for her. "Well aren't you gentlemanly today," she said, stepping out of the car. "Aren't I always?" He smiled at her in his sly sort of way. Bella followed him as he crossed the road toward a little building squeezed between a barbershop and a shoe store. With an old-fashioned brick facade that had been battered by the damp climate, and purple curtains obscuring what lay behind the small windows, the place didn't seem like the worst spot to commit murder, but neither was it ideal enough to warrant the drive. Bella felt fairly safe. Upon entering the little shop, Bella instantly realized it was a coffeehouse of sorts, due mostly to the smell of roasted beans floating on the air. It was largely unoccupied, with only a grizzly old man sitting in one corner smoking a pipe and reading the Forks Forum, and a woman in her fifties wiping the counter. The woman was wearing a long beaded skirt dyed with an intricate pattern of colors, and she had wrapped herself in a fringed shawl that gave her the look of a gypsy. Her hair, cropped short, was dyed a vibrant white-blonde that was strikingly highlighted by patches of her natural grey. When Edward and Bella entered, the bells on the door jingled, alerting the lady to their presence. When she looked up at Edward, there was recognition in her eyes; the woman didn't smile when she saw him, but then, she didn't back away in terror either. Bella thought it highly abnormal that Edward appeared to be a regular customer of this place. She couldn't imagine what business he had with coffee. "I'll have the usual, Agatha," said Edward to the woman. "And the same for the young lady as well." Agatha nodded in response and disappeared behind the counter. Edward led Bella to a round table near the front windows of the shop. The furniture was all mismatched, as though it had been purchased from a thrift store or donated secondhand. The effect was eclectic and relaxing, again far off what she had expected of Edward Cullen. He leaned back in his chair and stretched his arms out above his head before speaking. "There are things that must be said, Bella." "Obviously," she replied. "I don't know how much you know, or how you came by that knowledge, but I can say with certainty that it's far too much." He leaned forward, resting his forehead on his palm and letting his fingers cast the front of his hair into disarray. "Well, it's not like you've been subtle about it," retorted Bella.

"I usually don't have to be subtle." "What does that mean?" "It means you're weird," he grumbled. "Oh thanks," mumbled Bella, "that clears everything up." "All right, Bella," he said, sighing, "why don't we create for ourselves a coherent beginning before we get into details." He brought his hand to his chest as though he were going to introduce himself. "I'm a vampire." Bella had already figured that part out, but hearing him say the word so nonchalantly caused her skin to prickle into goosebumps. "I've gathered as much," she said. "Right, so do you care to tell me how, exactly, you figured this out?" he asked. "I went to the library and looked it up." "Seriously?" he exclaimed incredulously. "Seriously," she answered. "So you're telling me there's a section of the Forks library called 'What mythical species is Edward Cullen?' This saddens me. I thought I was mysterious." He made an effort to pout. "You might want to work on that mystery thing," said Bella, "because right now you come off as a psychotic asshole." "Well that makes sense, because I am a psychotic asshole." "At least you're self-aware," mumbled Bella before adding, "And no, there's no section of the Forks library devoted to you. I looked up the title of those Upyr books in your house." "And, naturally, you immediately jumped to the conclusion that instead of being interested in vampires, I must, myself, be one." "Edward, you look and feel like a walking cadaver and have eyes like the spawn of Satan. It's not really that much of a stretch." "Oh, Bella. You flatter me," he drawled, batting his eyelashes. "I try." She rested her cheek on her palm and regarded him with interest. "Now I have one important question for you," he said. "Why aren't you afraid of me?" "I never said I wasn't afraid of you." She folded her arms archly and smiled when he hesitated.

"Yes, well…" he mumbled, "you've managed to spend quite a bit of time with me without screaming like you're about to die." He was rubbing the back of his neck contemplatively as if trying to find the answer to his own question." "Screaming like I'm about to die seems a little extreme, don't you think? You've never actually tried to kill me," replied Bella, letting her brown eyes meet Edward's red ones. "See, I was right about you!" he exclaimed. "You're incredibly weird. At this very moment, you shouldn't even be able to look at me without being terrified." "And why is that?" "Do I have to explain what vampires eat?" he asked, raising an eyebrow. "No, that won't be necessary." "Then it should be obvious," he said. "Humans are our prey; any species will instinctively fear its natural predators. You humans are lucky in that you have very few natural predators—that is, animals you can't just shoot and kill. The mere presence of a vampire should elicit the fight-flight response in a human. You, on the other hand, look at me, talk to me, annoy me—all without hesitation." "I don't know," replied Bella, smiling. "The 'fight' part of the "fight-flight" response seems to be working all right for me." Edward looked like he was about to blast her with witticisms, but before he could reply, Agatha approached them with a polka-dotted teacup in each hand. She placed one in front of Bella, and the other by Edward, and without a word returned to her place behind the counter, where, humming a tune, she continued wiping the surface. Edward looped his fingers through the handle of his teacup and lifted it. "What is this?" asked Bella, peering down at the translucent brown liquid in her cup. "It's tea," said Edward, who was staring at her as if she had a total of one brain cell. "You drink it." "Okay," said Bella, "I do know what tea is, but if it's tea, then why are you drinking it?" He shook his head slowly, smiling his crooked smile. "Because I'm English, and drinking tea is something Englishmen like to do." Bella cocked her head in interest. "I knew it. It's in your accent." A thought occurred to her. "You were born in England?" "Yes, I was. Manchester." "How long ago?" He studied her for a moment, the tea still untouched in his cup. "A long time ago."

"How long is a long time?" she asked. "Like, a druids-and-blue-war-paint long time ago?" He laughed. "No, not that long ago. Do I look that old to you?" he adopted an exaggeratedly offended expression. "Carlisle says I look young for my age. That smarmy liar." Bella chuckled in response. "Carlisle's a vampire too, I'm assuming." "Yes he is." "And Jasper?" Edward set his cup down and looked at it as though he had suddenly lost interest in drinking tea, all Englishness aside. "Yes, Jasper is a vampire too." "Did Carlisle make you into a vampire?" asked Bella. It only seemed logical; Carlisle was, after all, the father figure of the family. Edward's expression, which had been growing progressively more strained, suddenly lost all marks of amusement. "No, Carlisle didn't turn me." He paused. "And he didn't turn Jasper." He grabbed his teacup and drained it all in one gulp as if he were taking a shot of whiskey. His face likewise contorted into the wincing expression of displeasure Bella had seen on humans swallowing hard liquor. "The tea doesn't taste good today?" she asked, sniffing the contents of her own cup in an attempt to detect contaminants. "Tea—all human food for that matter—never tastes good to me," replied Edward, his face still twisted by disgust. "It's like drinking soot and compost." "Then why do you drink it?" "Because I'm English," he stated, as if it were the most obvious of replies. For a little while, they were both quiet-Bella trying to sort through what Edward had disclosed, and Edward thinking about whatever sardonic British vampires think about. Looking through a window, Bella noticed that the rain had stopped, parting the clouds enough to cast a soft, late-afternoon glow on the glass. "I guess the myths are wrong," said Bella, nodding at the window just by the table. "Sunlight doesn't affect you." "Oh, sunlight affects me," he snorted. "Just not in a burning-flesh kind of way. Thankfully, it's not that tough to stay out of the light around here." He rubbed his hand across his chin and looked out the window, clearly not wanting to elaborate further. Bella, however, was too curious to let it go. "So in what non-burning fashion does sunlight affect you?"

He eyed her dubiously, then shrugged. "I sparkle," he said, making jazz hands and mimicking a perky cheerleader-style dance pose. "I'm serious," mumbled Bella. He frowned. "Honestly, my skin sparkles." "Like diamonds?" said Bella, barely stifling the giggles that were threatening to overtake her. "Fearsome, masculine, deadly diamonds, yeah." "Ah. Like a rapper's bling," she laughed. "Street cred. I get it. Can I call you Ed-dizzle?" "Absolutely not," he cried, his voice getting more English by the second. "My skin isn't like bling." He enunciated the last word in a way that made it sound completely hilarious through his accent. "It's like… a diamond-bladed chainsaw." "I still don't believe you," said Bella, now giggling freely. "Glittering fairy princess Edward… that's way too funny to be true." "You are so difficult," he murmured, unbuttoning the cuff of his sleeve and roughly bunching the fabric at his elbow to expose his forearm. Constantly overcast, Forks rarely saw direct sunlight, except for the odd minutes just before twilight or in the early part of daybreak, when the rays, pulled by the sun's rise or descent, break through the cloudbank for a few moments. While Bella was busy laughing with abandon, Edward thrust his arm straight into one such beam of evening sunlight, which was spilling in through the window panes. Sure enough, the light bounced and scattered off his exposed skin as though his arm were made of granite. Bella sobered instantly. "Oh. You are serious." She watched for a moment as the light danced against his skin, casting little flickers onto her cheeks and eyelids like a mirror would. Then, without warning, she started laughing again. "You sparkle in the sunlight. Oh, that's precious." He removed his arm from the light and grumpily re-buttoned his sleeve. "Keeping you around is great for my self-esteem," he murmured to himself. Then, poorly mimicking her voice, he said, "Oh, Edward, what a handsome corpse-like visage you have. How entrancingly satanic are your eyes. Your sparkling makes the purest giggles pour forth from my soul." Bella continued laughing at him. "Why am I even telling you this? Humans aren't allowed to know about vampires in the first place. I should just kill you," he grumbled. Reaching across the table, he grabbed Bella's unfinished cup of tea, downed it with a grimace, and placed it back in front of her with a pronounced clank. Bella, feeling her sides grow numb from laughing too thoroughly, collected herself. Ignoring the part of Edward's statement that involved killing her, she said, "Is it true? Humans really can't know about vampires? I'm violating vampire laws right now?"

"Well, technically, I'm the one violating vampire laws by telling you all this," said Edward. "If I reveal to you my dirty secrets, I'm supposed to, you know—" he curled his fingers to mimic claws and then, displaying his white teeth, bit down on nothing, his jaw closing with a click. As he made this gesture, Bella noticed that his eyeteeth, while nothing like fangs, were slightly more pointed than the average human's. Still ignoring the newest in a long line of death threats, Bella said, "From what I've seen, vampires are much stronger and faster than humans." "Very much so." "Then why is vampirism a secret? Why don't you all, and I'm assuming there're more vampires in the world than just the three of you, enslave the human race and make a massive vampire kingdom? What's the point of hiding in the shadows? I mean, apart from concealing the fact that you sparkle like a group of sequined showgirls." "It's complicated." He crossed his arms obstinately. Bella wondered if he would have explained, had she not just referred to him as a showgirl. "But doesn't anyone get curious enough to figure out what you are?" she pressed. "Does the mouse make any particular efforts to understand the snake, further than knowing it's on the snake's lunch menu?" He spoke bluntly enough to quell her inquiries on that subject. "You're not actually going to kill me, are you?" Bella thought she should clarify that after all. He grinned. "I think I'll leave you in suspense." "That's not very forthcoming of you," said Bella, furrowing her brow. A question had been pestering her for days, and that same question had also been creeping forward in her mind throughout the duration of their conversation. She didn't want to know the answer, but she knew she had to ask him. "You're a vampire… how do you… feed? Do you…" she closed her eyes and swallowed hard. "Do you really kill people?" Edward gazed at her for a very long time. At a few moments during his silence, Bella thought he was going to say something, but he never did. Instead, after a long while, he let his eyes fall to the dented tabletop and whispered, "Let's save that for another conversation." For some reason, Bella felt relieved that he hadn't answered her. His silence allowed her mind to invent all sorts of blissful fictions to fill in the gap he had left in her understanding. Of course Edward is all talk, she told herself. Of course he doesn't actually kill people. Blood is blood, right? Maybe he drinks from animals. Or, Carlisle is a doctor; perhaps he steals from the blood bank. At the very worst he kills only bad people, like a crime-fighting vampire. That's not so terrible.

Deep down Bella must have known that if any of those things were true, Edward would have answered her question right away. Nevertheless, she was willing to live in ignorance, at least for a short while, with the blind hope that Edward would not decide to snack on her in the meantime. — After Edward had returned Bella to her house, safely and with no attempt on her life, she floated into the kitchen feeling inexplicably happy. Sparkly Edward, she thought with amusement. She stared dreamily out the kitchen window, wondering why she so enjoyed seeing him act grumpy, or why she found his determined Britishness so endearing, or at which point she had grown fond of his sarcasm. In short, Edward Cullen wasn't anything that a vampire should be. In her experience, vampires were supposed to be cape-wearing, Transylvanian fellows who lived in castles and transformed into bats. She made a mental note to ask Edward if he could transform into a bat. Then, all at once, an image of his car floated into Bella's mind, and she remembered why it looked so familiar. Excitedly, she ran to the living room, opened the beat-up trunk in which her father kept his old magazines, and dug up the August issue of "Classic Auto." Right there, in vibrant color on the glossy cover, was the exact type of car Edward drove. It was labeled as an "Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato." Eagerly turning to the page of the cover article, Bella scanned it, and then read it once more, thoroughly, to assure herself that she had interpreted it correctly. According to the article, Edward Cullen's car was one of only 24 of its kind in the world, and sold for over a million dollars. Doctors usually made good money… but not that much money. Immortality, Bella supposed, allowed for more than usual investment capital. Still, she wondered if generations of good business sense would provide quite enough money to own a mansion and drive million-dollar cars around town. Dumbfounded, Bella replaced the magazine in the trunk. Shaking her head, she went to find her father and let him know that she was home. She wondered whether or not Charlie was aware of exactly how rich the Cullens must be. Eager to speak to him, Bella walked up the creaky wooden stairs and peered through the open crack of her father's bedroom door. Though it was only just after six o'clock, he was asleep on his still-made bed, his clothes on, as well as his glasses, which he never donned unless he was engaged in something serious. He was also surrounded by photographs and documents, some of which he was still gripping in one of his hands as he snored away. Bella tiptoed into the room with the intention of at least removing the scattered sheets of paper from the sleeping form of her father. But when she stooped to gather the documents, her eyes didn't fail to miss the jarring phrases, "murder," "missing blood," and "killer still at large." Her gaze was held by the photographs of two corpses—brutally torn apart—their faces frozen in terror, skin colored the same pale as Edward Cullen's. Despite herself, she lost her balance and fell back against the wall, dropping the papers in her hand and letting them scatter across the hardwood floor. A bear hadn't killed those townspeople after all. But, she understood with perfect clarity, neither had a human. Let's save that for another conversation, Edward had said. Bella was certain he hadn't expected

that "other conversation" to occur at a point in time after she had discovered on her own the source of his nourishment. In short, Edward Cullen wasn't anything that she wished he could be; he was something much, much worse—everything Mike Newton had said he was: a bully, a liar, a murderer.

11. Descent
Manchester, England, September 1846 Any traveler who has ridden in on the northbound rail line up from Birmingham will attest that the north looms on the horizon long before that destination is actually reached. The weary traveler is made aware of the approach by the dull leaden-colored sky, tainted by thousands of ever-smoking chimneys, which broods over the distance for miles. The stations along the line grow more closely planted; manufacturing villages begin to appear, each consisting of two or three irregular streets clustered around the mill, as in former times cottages were clustered around the castle. Roads substantially paved with stone, so as to support the weight of heavy wagons, wind among the fields. Canals with freights of barges intersect the country; the rivers, if they are not locked and dammed back, and embellished with towing paths upon the banks, run turbid and thick, charged with the foulness of the hundred mills they have aided in their course. Then, the tall chimneys begin to figure conspicuously in the landscape; the country loses its fresh rurality of appearance; grass looks brown and dry, and foliage stunted and withered. The roads, and even the footpaths across the fields, are black with coal dust. Factories and mills raise their dingy masses everywhere around. Ponderous wagons, heavily laden with bales of this or that, go clashing along. Town after town flashes by through the dusty train windows—the outlying satellites of the great cotton metropolis. They have all similar features—they are all little Manchesters. Huge, shapeless, unsightly mills, with their countless rows of windows, panting gushes from the brown grimy wall. Between these vast establishments there is a network of rundown but regular streets, unpicturesque and unadorned—just the sort of private houses you would expect in the vicinity of such public edifies. And all around this are scattered great irregular, muddy spaces of waste ground, studded with black pools and swarming with dirty children. There is a smoky brown sky overhead—smoky brown streets winding around long piles of warehouses. Great grimy mills stand like monoliths, the monsters of ugly architecture, with their smoke-pouring shafts reaching upward. There are streets of all kinds—some with glittering shops and vast hotels, others grim and little frequented. There are principle thoroughfares, busy and swarming as London central avenues—crowded at once with the evidence of wealth and commerce. Ornate carriages fly by, alongside clumsy omnibuses, conveying loads which a horse must shudder to contemplate.

There are crowds of busy pedestrians of every class which business creates. There are swarms of factory workers—in general starved, sallow-looking men—and of factory girls—pale and dressed in their dingy dresses and dark shawls, speckled with flakes of cotton wool, wreathed around their heads. This city—this great capital of the weavers and the spinners of the earth—this was Edward Cullen's Manchester. The city clothed him in its sights and smells, and he knew the streets and shops, houses, nooks and crannies as well as he knew himself. He could call every back alley, every beggar, pickpocket and thief by name. His eyes met that ever-dusky sky with the same familiarity and wonder that overcomes a son when he stares up at his parents towering over him, clutching at the hem of his mother's skirt in the way that Edward grasped the fluff on the machines in the carding room of Birley Mill. Indeed, Manchester was the closest thing to a parent that Edward was granted. When he was a boy, his mother's methods of earning money had only been as creative as the flexibility of her body allowed, and had she not been taken by syphilis when Edward was only just five summers old, the brown lung would have done the job not long after. In his formative years, Edward's overburdened aunt had provided him with some semblance of food and clothing, but nothing like affection. She rather preferred to think of Edward as a little fire who stayed burning by eating part of her real family's meager income. His aunt's propensity to label her nephew as a blaze was not far off the reality. Lacking the familial guidance that would have taught Edward the proper ways of dealing with life's grievances, he very soon adopted the viewpoint that his fists were as good a tool as any for negotiation. For the first decade of his life, Edward Masen, as he was then called, spent his days in equal parts juvenile delinquency and hard work, gathering up clumps of rough, dirty cotton from the floors of the mill. But some time after his eleventh birthday, his mind had developed, by both experience and observation, in such a way that left him craving, as most boys of that age do, what he did not have. In Edward's case, the two things of which he felt the lack most acutely were money and a father. Edward's parentage was no great secret to the workers of Birley Mill, and especially not to Edward's aunt. Maria Masen begrudged Edward's father of his fortune, for, had he been only slightly less wealthy and powerful, she would have gladly forced her ungovernable nephew upon his care. Unfortunately, Edward had the fate of being the bastard child of none other than Anthony Cullen, the gentleman owner of Birely Mill and the obvious source of Edward's hot blood. The mill-owner was gifted with a head of vibrant auburn hair, matched in its flame-like brilliance only by young Edward's locks. With a multitude of features shared between the two, there was never any question as to which man had been the cause of Edward's entrance into the world. Anthony Cullen was one of the richer mill owners, which made him very prosperous indeed. His wife was a handsome, albeit delicate woman from London, who was always dressed in the current fashions when she emerged from the house, however infrequently that was. Despite having been married to her husband for some ten years, she hadn't yet borne any children, leaving Mr. Cullen quite heirless. It was

because of this fact that Edward's aunt Maria sometimes hoped that the master would acknowledge his son and bring some kind of fortune to her family. Edward, himself, took a much longer time than most to recognize the truth of his breeding. Being but a boy, he hadn't the ability to see outside himself and to thereby match his own appearance to the finelydressed, glowering man he had only ever called "boss." But the time did come when Edward was just transitioning to manhood and his jaw and shoulders had broadened to such a degree that he could not miss the resemblance. The real revelation occurred one morning in the factory when Master Cullen had paused at Edward's carding machine, as he very often did, to furiously reprimand the young man for working too slowly. Edward had turned to observe his boss, and shuddered to see his own face, hear his own voice, and feel the heat of his own temper radiate off his employer. As the man that he should have called "father" moved down the line without any special glance, Edward felt the first sting of what it was like to be denied the name "Cullen." Being dogged by nature, by cause of his father's spirited Scottish ancestry, Edward decided at that moment that he would be owned as a son by his rightful father, and would not stop working toward that goal until he had achieved it. The first step toward this end, in Edward's mind, was to gain his father's notice. Under ordinary circumstances, he might have achieved this by throwing the man against the brick wall of the factory a few times, but even he thought better of that. Instead, he sought to emulate those men to whom his father did give notice—the upstanding gentlemen of Manchester, the elite groups of top hats, white cravats and silver pocket watches, the men whose vowels sounded like rich southern voices, the men with whom Edward had nothing in common. Still, such a technicality of difference had little bearing on Edward's efforts to be the son his father would love. He made a special effort to mend the holes in his trousers and to be mindful of not scuffing the toes of his boots when he was kicking ponces and pickpockets. But most of all, he tracked down Harry Frye, the only man in his acquaintance who had the skill of reading, and begged him for lessons. Reading, was, some said, second only to fortune when it came to the difference between the masters and the workers, and Edward was certain that with his patched clothing and book reading, he might after all be as much a gentleman as fourteen shillings a week could buy. After many a month of reading with Harry Frye, Edward had discovered in books an enthusiasm and excitement that even boxing could not provide. Before long, Edward, in every spare minute, could be found reclined against the wall of an alleyway, or perched on a bale of cotton fluff, or really anywhere at all, fully engrossed in some book or another. Whether it was Pope, Plato, Shakespeare or even King James, Edward Cullen—as he now insisted everyone call him—adored it. Indeed, if a book had words to be read and pages to turn, Edward was sure to adore it. Presently, at the ripe age of seventeen, Edward had resolved, after going years without so much as a nod from Master Cullen, to quit work at the end of his shift that day and march immediately to his

father's office. He would demand to be called his son, and maybe even quote Aristotle just to enforce the point. So, when the whistle sounded, Edward watched the great revolving drum of the wadding machine wind to a stop, shrugged away his weariness, made some kind of effort to flatten his springy hair, and strode purposely to the mill-owner's office. There he waited for some thirty minutes while his father rudely ignored the fact that there was a young man outside his office door, probably in the hopes that, like all uneducated factory boys, Edward would give up before long and walk away. Edward, however, was determined to be anything but an uneducated factory boy, and waited resolutely at the door. So it was that Master Anthony Cullen was forced to act an audience to his bastard son's plea for ownership. "What do you want?" was the master's first statement, which was uttered with the intent of sounding like go away. Edward was quite wrong if he thought his father was unaware of his paternity. Aware he was; sympathetic he was not. Edward tried to stand up straight and took a moment to smooth the wrinkles out of his vest. "I have these many years been without a mother and a caring home—" he began, in earnest effort to seem proper. "And what care is that of mine?" snapped his father, pulling the stack of papers from the corner of his desk to the space in front of him. He lifted his pen as if he were lifting his hand and gesturing for Edward to leave. When Edward did not leave, he added, "I pay you your fair wages. I owe you nothing more." Edward was, for a moment, cast into silence. He had not been prepared to be rejected outright. Did his father not see their similarities? Did he not see that it was his own son who was standing before him? "But, sir…" said Edward, gathering his courage, "surely you must see—" The red-haired man behind the desk cut him off once again. "You're wasting my time and yours, boy. If you don't have a matter of work to discuss, I demand that you leave here this instant." Edward stood, mute, in front of his father's mahogany desk. Master Cullen had shifted his attention entirely to the completion of the documents in front of him, and, though Edward had not moved an inch, the man acted as though his son had altogether left. Edward felt the familiar rush of anger boil through his chest as he stared at his father, waiting futilely for recognition. His father offered none. "Acknowledge me!" Edward yelled without warning. He leapt over his father's desk and grabbed a fistful of the man's starched cravat. "I owe you no such attentions, filth," hissed his father, who, though he had been slammed into his office wall, appeared unmoved.

"I am your son!" shouted Edward, salty water stinging his eyes, his muscles shaking with tension. "You are no man's son," said the mill-owner without emotion. "You are nothing but a wretched bastard—the trash progeny of a common whore. Get to your work station or be gone with you." Edward reacted in the only way his fury allowed. His clenched fist collided with his father's face with such force that his nose would never again resemble the straightness of his son's. As a result, Edward likewise received a blow to the jaw, forcing a trickle of red from the corner of his mouth. "You see that?" yelled Edward, wiping away the blood with the back of his hand. "That's your blood! Yours!" His father responded by calling for his burly overseer Jenkins, who was just down the hall. "Everyone knows your wife will never bear children!" growled Edward. "One day you will call me son! You must!" Then, with little effort, despite Edward's protests—physical and verbal, Jenkins barged into the room and hauled Edward out, tossing him into the filthy street. Even as Anthony Cullen whipped out his white handkerchief, delicately embroidered with the name his hapless bastard would never own, and used it to dab at his bloodied nose, he knew that he had not seen the last of Edward.

12. Appeal
Edward Cullen, having endured well over one hundred and fifty years of life, had determined that he knew himself to the fullest extent possible. He understood the whats and the whys of his personality; he had more or less come to terms with the who and the how as well. So it was understandable that he felt entirely at a loss for reason when he failed to comprehend his feelings for Bella Swan. For the first time in his life as a vampire, Edward felt confused about a human. Consequently, he found himself in a state of perpetual grumpiness. He was grumpy when he drove his car, and grumpy when he read his favorite books, and grumpy when Carlisle tried to chat with him in the evenings. Up until he encountered Bella Swan, Edward found the attractiveness of humans limited to the enticing smell of their blood. Interacting with many such walking, talking three-course meals on a daily basis was, of course, a test of Edward's self control. He had long ago mastered his hunger, but lacking any particular desire to be in the company of humans, he normally would have wholly avoided the species. If it weren't for Jasper, Edward would never have dreamed of enrolling himself in high school.

Still, he found himself peculiarly drawn to Bella Swan. Every time he looked at her, he had the very disconcerting experience of forgetting about her blood altogether. He couldn't begin to understand why the little flutter of her eyelashes when she yawned should capture his attention more than the smell of her blood. He had no idea why he paid such close attention to the tilt of her chin when something intrigued her in class. It made no sense that her tenuous smile should interest him in the least, let alone make him want to smile too. Were it not for the times in which he spoke with Bella, Edward might have been successful in ignoring all of these peculiarities. Unfortunately, all it took was that challenging fold of her arms, or her arch little eye roll, or any of the smart, wry remarks she was wont to make, for Edward to feel inexplicably unbalanced. Edward spent more time than usual in front of his mirror the morning after he had told Bella he was a vampire. He looked at his own face for quite a while—something he hadn't felt the need to do for years. He wondered if humans—certainly no one human in particular—thought he was handsome. After staring at himself for a solid five minutes, Edward finally realized his own ridiculousness. If vampires were able to have medical problems, he would have assumed he had a serious brain tumor that was causing him to go mad. As if Edward were not confused enough, Bella's behavior at school that day nearly tipped him over the edge of perplexity. All through English class, Bella regarded him with one of her annoyingly inscrutable expressions. At first, he fancied that it was uncertainty written in her features, and that, somehow, she was as confused about him as he was about her, but the more he studied her, the more her eyes seemed to bore through him with a kind of disgust. He had seen her look at him like that before; it was precisely the way her eyes had narrowed and the corners of her mouth had curved downward when he had first encountered her—the morning he had thrown Jasper into a car to keep him in check. Bella had called out in Russian for him to stop—so brave and so foolish—just as challenging as she always was, and she had looked at him then with complete revulsion. Her eyes that day had been full of hatred-at-first-sight, and at the moment she was giving him that look once again. But, the expression of disgust did not duplicate itself in Edward, as she had probably intended. Rather, just as it had done when he had seen that look the first time, Bella's disdain provoked and intrigued him. Why her opinion should be of such great concern to him was completely beyond his understanding, but nevertheless, as the period progressed, Edward felt himself grow increasingly uneasy. He couldn't imagine what he had done to elicit such a glare from her, apart from simply being a vampire. She had, however, known about that for quite some time, and had, unless his memory failed him, chosen himover Mike Newton. Edward sighed and reminded himself that Bella was both human and female, a combination which, in his estimation, left the greatest capacity for volatile emotions.

"Are you not aware, Bella, that excessive glowering is known to cause wrinkles around the eyes?" he muttered, knowing full well that she was in no mood to be teased. She proved exactly how little she wanted to be teased by turning her head away from him and ignoring him for the remainder of the class. True to the spirit of behaving in the most baffling way imaginable, Bella followed closely by Edward's side as he strode out of the classroom, rather than taking the expected course by leaving him to stew alone in his confusion. "Are you going to lunch today?" she asked. Her voice was even, betraying no secret emotion. "Do you want me to?" he replied, his teeth unintentionally gritted. He looked down at her as they walked down the hallway, and, frustrated, he squeezed the books in his hands with enough force to dent their covers. "Yes," she stated, with just the right amount of aloofness to completely destroy the bindings of Edward's books. "How gracious of you," he muttered. When they walked into the cafeteria, Edward and Bella received the usual glances of horror they were given by their fellow students when they were seen together. Such pathetic human disapproval made Edward want to wrap his arm around Bella's waist and give them all an unpleasantly evil glare—the kind that would result in much shitting of pants—but given his current situation, he decided that move would be ill-advised. Feeling more homicidal than usual, Edward sat stiffly at an empty table and watched Bella take a seat across from him. It was an intense credit to his self-control that he resisted breaking off a large piece of the tabletop and tearing it into little pieces. He was utterly convinced that no human should have as much control over his emotions as Bella Swan seemed to be having. It was, quite simply, not fair. While Edward was busy being troubled by the fact that he was behaving like a seventeen-year-old human, Bella had removed an apple and a crescent roll from her bag. Edward watched as her delicate fingers carefully dismantled the bread, piece by piece, placing each little bit gracefully between her lips. These motions, which Edward regarded in mute hypnosis, chased away the unpleasant thoughts in his mind. After having slowly consumed the roll, Bella paused and met Edward's eyes for the first time all day. "I need to talk to you after school," she said, as though she were a teacher addressing her negligent pupil. Edward nodded. He wanted to ask her why she was acting like an unfeeling robot, but despite his frustration, he hadn't lost all tact. "Good," she said, "I'll meet you in the parking lot." With that, she took one bite of her apple, gathered her things, and stood to leave.

"Where are you going?" he asked automatically, realizing that the prospect of sitting in a cafeteria full of noisy teenage humans was more palatable with aloof-Bella than with no Bella at all. "To the library. I want to start my Hamlet paper." There was a silent alone at the end of her statement that kept Edward fixed to his chair, and he despondently watched her leave. "Girls…" he grumbled to himself, and proceeded to spend the rest of the lunch period thinking too much and in consequence making his hair even more disorderly than usual. — When the 'after school' hour arrived, Edward appeared at his car with his usual astounding quickness, if only for the purpose of fitting in a few more minutes of useless pacing before Bella 'talked' to him. For the thousandth time, he attempted to guess what dire thing she needed to address with him. Maybe she loathes Britons, he mused, and then spent a few moments feeling self-conscious about his very-British car. Edward was not in the habit of being in situations in which he did not have complete control, so he really had no idea what to do with himself. At last, he spotted Bella walking toward him from the other side of the parking lot. Just as before, her face looked positively blank. "Can we take a walk?" she said, when she was nearly at his car. "Certainly," Edward replied, wondering what kind of person decides to take a walk in a parking lot. Even though he hadn't offered Bella his arm, she looped hers through his, which sent his brain into yet another level of unrest. She led him slowly to the lawn along the side of the school building—away from the parking lot, but not completely out of sight. While they strolled across the grass, Bella didn't speak at all, so Edward decided to distract himself by examining the view of the forest off to the right. After several minutes of confusing and aimless walking, with Bella's little hand resting warmly against Edward's forearm, she finally stopped. She let her palm run cautiously down his arm, and, wrapping her fingers around his, she tugged on his hand gently. Edward allowed her to turn him so that his back was to the parking lot. With his hand against hers, Edward was surprised by the speed of her pulse. Beneath her cool exterior, her heart was beating rapidly. Abruptly, Bella set one of her hands against his chest, right over the spot where, were he human, she would have felt his heartbeat. Her eyes met his and her fingers curled against the fabric of his shirt. If Edward had a heartbeat at all, she would have felt it quicken. Then, taking a step forward, she closed the distance between them, still looking into his eyes. Barely able to keep his thoughts straight, Edward had no clue what it was that Bella was gripping in her other hand. All he could think about was the fact that her hand was against his chest, and that her body was so near to his, and how he could feel her breath like fire against his cold skin...

And suddenly… pain. He hadn't felt real physical pain for decades, and now it was cutting through his insides like boiling water, making him gasp despite having no need for oxygen. Looking down at the source of the pain in shock, his first thought was: she's stabbed me! Very soon after, that thought was followed by: how the bloody hell has she managed to stab me? Bella, whose left hand was now pushing back against Edward's chest with full force, had used her right hand to bury some kind of knife in his stomach. Some tricky knife it must have been, because not only had it pierced Edward's impenetrable flesh, but on top of it all, the knife was glowing. By the looks of it, Bella had no intention of removing said knife in a timely fashion. "I have some questions for you Edward," she hissed. Her face wasn't blank any longer; rather, she was letting her hatred and anger show unimpeded in her expression. "You don't say," he replied through gritted teeth, nearly bent over in pain. "I'm sure you're wondering how it is I've found a way to stab you." "Yes, the thought did cross my mind," he said, his voice strained. "You see, Edward," she began, taking all the time she wanted as he shook in pain, "sunlight contains several kinds of waves. It's got visible light, infrared—heat, and ultraviolet light." "Fascinating," he groaned. "And one of those waves makes your skin sparkle." She drummed her fingers against his chest. "It obviously isn't visible light. Then you'd be glittering inside buildings, outside when it's cloudy, pretty much anywhere but in the dark. And it couldn't be infrared, because heat is pretty much everywhere. So, I came to the conclusion that ultraviolet light is the culprit." "Good for you," said Edward, wondering how much longer he would have to endure a knife lodged in his stomach. "Now, I'll admit that I took a little leap of faith here. There are lots of different kinds of crystals in the world. Some are very hard, like diamonds, and others form a more brittle structure. I went out on a limb and assumed that vampires avoid sunlight for more reasons than just looking ridiculous. In other words, when you sparkle, your cells crystallize and weaken." "Astute observation." His cells did feel like they'd been weakened. "The only tool I needed in order to stab you was an ultraviolet lightbulb. Conveniently, there was a little battery-powered one in my dad's forensics kit. With a little filing and sharpening, I had myself a vampiredefense weapon." Edward wondered whether or not he should inform Bella that, although her little vampire-defense weapon was giving him a wicked stomach ache, he could, at any moment, snatch the little thing out of her hands and kill her.

"Sparkly skin might be whimsical," she continued, "but I'm sure having your internal organs crystallize must be an unpleasant experience. I was lucky my dad had all of those forensics instruments lying around. But I guess it makes sense… with these murders and all. Isn't that right, Edward?" She twisted the knife, sending a fresh jolt of pain through Edward's body. Edward couldn't claim he understood Bella Swan with perfect clarity under any circumstances, but at this particular moment, he found himself completely unable to follow her thinking. "Excuse me?" he rasped. "Remember those two townspeople who were unexplainably killed and drained of blood? I'm sure you've heard about that." Edward found deep thinking especially difficult while being stabbed. "You mean the animal attack victims? Their blood was drained?" "You don't play dumb well, Edward," she snapped. "So you think I killed them?" he breathed. "I honestly don't care if it was you or someone else in your happy little vampire family. You'll leave Forks and find some other way to enjoy a meal, or I'll make sure I tell every person I meet about your secret." Edward knew without a doubt that Bella Swan was an extremely intelligent young woman, but that did not mean she always made the wisest decisions. Weary of having his stomach punctured by a sharpened ultraviolet light, Edward, as delicately as he was able, closed his hand around Bella's wrist and pulled the weapon out of his abdomen. Bella was clearly stunned by the ease with which Edward extricated himself from the situation. She backed away instinctively, clearly comprehending the danger she had just created for herself. She had just stabbed and threatened an unnaturally powerful creature who, by nature, fed on humans. Edward, however, sincerely disliked the idea of killing Bella Swan. He cleared his throat. "Bella, why don't you stick around a little longer. I don't think our conversation is quite over." She stood before him, frozen more by fear than by his suggestion that she stay. Edward remembered her pulse when she had put her hand against his chest and realized that she had been afraid all along. Why, then, had she risked angering him? Was she really that brave? "First," he said, examining the conspicuous hole in the front of his nice sweater, "that was entirely unnecessary. Second, neither I nor my brothers killed those humans." "And you expect me to just believe you?" she squeaked. "Who else could have done it?" "I don't know," sighed Edward. "Even if you didn't murder those people, Edward," she whispered, looking like she was on the verge of tears, "Can you tell me truthfully that you don't kill people?"

Edward stiffened. He clenched his fists and frowned. He tried looking away from her, but just as always, he found himself unable lie to Bella Swan. "I can't." She shook her head, placed her hand over her mouth as though she expected herself to scream, and turned from him violently. She must have known that she couldn't outrun him, but run she did—through the parking lot and further—to where, Edward didn't know, but he made no attempt to follow her.

13. Refrain
Bella found herself frequently perturbed by the fact that life's problems could not be solved like mathematical equations. If that were true, then as she ran blindly from Edward Cullen, she would have done so with the intention of avoiding him at all costs, and possibly investigating the existence of vampire slayers. Instead, she found herself wishing that he would appear in front of her—stop her—and explain himself. Even as she began each new stride, furthering the distance between herself and the vampire whom she did not yet understand, she wanted to turn around and coax out the secrets from the shadows of Edward Cullen. She had been so angry, holding those photographs of the murder victims, so angry all through the night she had spent in restless agitation, fearing at once her own secret knowledge, and whether it had really been Edward who had stolen the lives of the men in those photographs. But the real question remained as to at whom her anger was directed. She had let herself believe Edward deserved her wrath. It had been much easier to pretend that he had lied to her, misled her into believing he was a good person—that he was a person at all. But, as she ran, breathing the cool humidity of the Forks air, Bella knew with grave certainty that Edward had never made any claim of benevolence—that it was quite possible he had never lied to her. Perhaps the only person with whom she could reasonably be angry was herself, for so readily believing Edward was something he was not. Had she really thought that, as a vampire, Edward could be anything short of a killer, at least in some capacity? She had hoped that fighting back would curb her yearning to know him, but instead it had left her feeling empty—emptier still with every successive stride she took. But she didn't stop running, or even pause to look back. She kept moving one foot in front of the other until, breathless, she ran straight into someone's arms. "Edward…" she gasped automatically, before looking up at the owner of the arms wrapped around her. Instantly, she recognized the face as Mike Newton's. "Edward?" he exclaimed as she wriggled out of his arms. "Is that who you're running from? What did he do?" Mike looked like he was ready for battle, cracking his knuckles as overtly as possible.

Panting, Bella shook her head. "N… nothing. He… he…" She took a moment to get her bearings. She had run past the school's athletic fields and ended up near the rusty chain link fence of the tennis court. She turned in a quick circle, scanning every direction for Edward. He was absent from all angles. Mike put his hand on Bella's shoulder, which made her jump. "It's all right," he said. "I'm here." Bella nodded, not bothering to think about the sudden relapse of Mike's kindness. Mike was staring at her expectantly. When she didn't say anything, he added, "I'm here for you, Bella. You can tell me what Cullen did to you." "He didn't do anything to me…" said Bella. Oddly enough, she reflected, that's completely true. She had no intention of trying to explain to Mike that she had just stabbed Edward Cullen with a light bulb. "I don't buy it," said Mike, grabbing Bella's other shoulder and trying to get her to look at him squarely. "It looked like you were running for your life." "No," she said, stepping out of his grasp. "I… I was just… jogging. Needed to blow off some steam, you know?" She kept her eyes focused on the ground. "Look," sighed Mike, "I know there's something going on with you, Bella, and I don't want you to get yourself in any trouble." Bella was surprised by Mike's concern. He had seemed ready to sever all ties with her as soon as she had left school with Edward the previous day. Nevertheless, she appreciated his worry, especially considering the fact that she knew she should be worried herself. "Can I drive you home?" asked Mike, still trying to read something in her behavior. "No," she replied, "I think I'll walk. Gotta take care of the rest of that steam." She attempted a smile, but she was pretty sure it came out looking like the kind of expression a sock puppet would make. "Fair enough… but Bella, if you ever want to talk about something, or need my help, or anything, just give me a call." She nodded. Mike studied her in silence for a few short moments and then he walked away from her, leaving her alone on the ever-damp grass. — Charlie Swan was having a bad day. First, Joan had forgotten to put the coffee on that morning, which meant he had to suffer through several hours of empty-mugged misery. Then, as if the lack of caffeine weren't trying enough on his patience, Tim, his partner—the one who was supposed to be helping him solve the murder case—hadn't shown up at the station. In consequence, Charlie had to do all the useless head-scratching and all the squinting at Ziploc baggies filled with inconsequential evidence alone. All of these efforts, which were the same ones he had been

undertaking for the past few days, resulted in little more than blurry eyes and lots of sighing. Charlie knew that he was running out of time before he'd have to tell Forks about the elusive murderer lurking around town, and he didn't have a single lead to make the poor townsfolk feel any better about such a panic-inducing announcement. Charlie hadn't expected a small town criminal, murderer though he may be, to be quite so slippery. The mutilation of the bodies notwithstanding, the killer had been remarkably neat. He'd left no fingerprints, no DNA to speak of, and nothing even close to a murder weapon. Charlie was fully aware that if he did not make an arrest soon, he'd be forced to call in detectives from Seattle. Perhaps it wasn't anything more than a matter of pride, but the idea had kept him on edge for the past few days. At about noon, Joan came by Charlie's desk, looking so nice in her lacey shirt that he nearly forgot about her coffee blunder earlier that day. Pouring the contents of a steaming carafe into Charlie's empty mug in a manner more reminiscent of a breakfast waitress than a police station secretary, she gave him her usual bright smile. "How's it coming, Chief Swan?" she said, "Any new revelations?" "Not a one," he replied, his hand pressed wearily against his forehead. "Have you seen Tim at all today?" "No, sir. I assumed you'd sent him out on an errand." "I swear if I didn't like the guy so damn much, I'd have his badge. This is the second time this month he's been late." Charlie was in a fine mood for grumbling, and would have continued as such if Joan hadn't interrupted him. "Oh, Charlie. It's all my fault. I kept Tim out late last night." She smiled sheepishly. "I got in late too you know. It's why I didn't start the coffee on time. I wasn't gonna tell you… but, well, I just wish you wouldn't be so hard on Tim." She colored and continued on to refill officer Willis' cup. Charlie might have fancied Joan for himself, were it not for the lingering image of Renée in his mind that he was positive would never disappear. He was rather happy with the knowledge that Joan was fond of Tim; by the way the two flirted, Charlie could see them married in future years. It was about time, anyway. Tim was a middle-aged bachelor who was getting too old for billiards at the pub every Friday night. As it is with any situation involving limited time, the remainder of the day flew by without the bonus of productivity. To make matters even more frustrating for Charlie, Tim never did appear at the station. If Charlie knew his best friend at all, Tim had most likely stayed up too late watching episodes of "JAG," and had subsequently determined that sleep was more important than solving a murder case. Regardless, Charlie decided to give up trying to make something of nothing earlier than usual, in the hopes of correcting his own disrupted sleep cycle. He thought that maybe a hot shower, a nice chilled beer, and the unread car magazine sitting on his kitchen table might restore his mind to some

semblance of the ordinary. He hoped against reason that a clear mind was all he needed to make sense of this case. In the meantime, he prayed he could keep the case under wraps for just a few more days. — Unfortunately, Charlie Swan's hope of avoiding an addition to the tenants of the Forks morgue was not fulfilled. As soon as Bella was in sight of her house, her eyes met an image she thought she'd never have the misfortune of seeing. There, sprawled on her front porch, was a man in a police uniform so bloodstained that she saw the red tint of the fabric from all the way down the block. Bella ran at full speed for the second time that day. "Dad!" she screamed, desperation burning through her mind. "Dad!" But the man on her porch didn't stir. She reached her house and stumbled up the concrete steps, nearly collapsing onto the bloody corpse. A corpse it most certainly was, for the man's eyes were glazed over, open wide with terror, and a fatally deep gash was running diagonally across his body. Bella instantly realized the man was not her father. That didn't mean, however, that she didn't recognize the victim; it was officer Tim, her father's best friend since childhood and business partner of twenty years. Horrified by sight of him, and more, the smell of him, Bella stumbled backward against the wall of the house and turned her face to the white siding. Having never been in the presence of a real dead body, she didn't right away have the appropriate state of mind to dial 911. Luckily, such an action wasn't necessary, because her father's police cruiser pulled into the driveway after a few minutes. Charlie must have immediately comprehended the reason Tim had not come to work that day. At once, he was out of his car and sprinting up the porch steps. "Oh God, Tim…" he cried, his voice breaking. He fell to his knees with an awkward jerk of his body. "Tim…" Mustering the fortitude to remove her eyes from the wall of the house, Bella turned to her father. He was visibly shaking, all color absent from his face. "Dad…" she said, but he wasn't listening to her. Bent over, she watched as his shock gradually morphed into anger. Stiffly, and gripping a porch beam for support, her father rose, as if lifted by some invisible crane. Suddenly, he cried out—the completely human, unaffected sound of grief and anger that few people are ever given the chance to hear—and rammed his fist into the wood of the beam. His knuckles came away bloody, and the wood barely dented. "Dad," she tried again, stepping toward him slightly. "Bella, get in the car now!" he shouted, his eyes fixed on the porch floorboards. "But—" "Don't you understand?" His voice was low but saturated by intensity. "The murderer was here. Here. In the car. Now."

Without protest, she turned to the steps, but not without making herself look at Tim's body one last time. She had to know whether or not the killer was a vampire. Sure enough, there was no pool of blood staining the wood of the porch. And there was the enormous gash the other bodies had endured. Then, she noticed something on Tim's cheek—the one against the floorboards. It looked like writing. "Dad, look," she said. "Bella! I just told you—" "No, Dad, his face. Look." Charlie switched his attention to Tim's pale face, and, seeing what Bella had seen, hesitantly brought his hand to his dead friend's jaw. Bella could barely watch as her father's trembling hand turned Tim's head to the right, just enough to expose his left cheek. "Christ…" he rasped as he lay his friend's face back against the porch floor. Written in smeared blood on Tim's pallid cheek was the fraction "1/6". "One sixth?" said Bella. "What does that mean? One sixth of what?" "One sixth...or one out of six..." The tremor in his voice made Bella's insides feel like they'd suffered freezer burn. "Myself included, there are six officers in the Forks police department. That makes Tim the first of six. The killer has just left a message on my doorstep. A threat...or provocation… something…" Panic flooded Bella's mind. "But that means...that means you're a target…" She found herself mimicking her father's trembling. Abruptly, Charlie stood and grabbed his daughter's shoulder, thrusting her in the direction of his police cruiser. He followed just behind her, one hand against the grip of the gun attached to his waistband and the other reaching for his radio. "This is Charlie," he said into the receiver, his voice surprisingly collected. "It's Tim…" He paused. "He's dead… on my front porch." Another pause. "Yes, murdered. I'll be right there. Send Willis." Slamming the passenger door of the cruiser just after Bella fell into the seat, Charlie returned to the porch and muttered something Bella couldn't quite make out into his radio. Then, he crossed his arms and waited stoically until Nathan Willis and his partner showed up in another police car. Through the car window, Bella saw her father shake his head, gesture to Tim's body and stride back toward his own cruiser. Without a word, he took his position behind the wheel and drove away with a loud screeching of tires. Within a matter of minutes, they were through the doors of the Forks police station, which, in anticipation of their arrival, had already been thrown into a frenzy. Bella could hear Joan's sobs as soon as they entered the building. "Sit here," ordered her father, gesturing to a metal folding chair positioned in the far corner of the waiting area. Bella knew better than to resist his instructions. A murderer was, after all, enough to make

a small-town police department panic; a cop-killer introduced an entirely new level of alarm, the very thought of which made her feel light-headed. Bella sat in the chair, completely powerless, but nearly overcome by distress. Her mother was already dead; she couldn't simply wait around until her father was too. A vampire had killed Tim. A vampire had threatened to kill her father, and only she even knew that such a creature existed. Even if she told her father everything she knew about vampires, which was a frighteningly limited amount of information, he hardly had a chance of protecting himself, let alone stopping the killer. Worst of all, Bella had no clue if this vampire intended to kill Forks' policemen over the course of a month, or if he was planning on murdering each and every one of them that very day. If Bella had been able to develop some plan of action, she would not have had the capacity to carry it out. Banished to the corner of a building full of hysterical people, Bella could do little more than run her hand through her hair and let the blood rush through her veins with too great a speed. A few times, she tried to get her father's attention. She had no idea what she planned to tell him, but she had the distinct feeling that if she were forced to endure inaction for any longer, she would begin ripping out her hair. Charlie, however, stoic in his grief and surrounded by coworkers afraid for their lives, lacked the ability to tend to his teenage daughter. As long as she was safe from harm and remained as such, he saw no necessity in taking the time to speak with her. So it was that Bella sat alone for more than an hour, growing sick with anxiety. Then, at last, as though God had delivered her from insanity at the absolute brink of her frustration, Bella heard her own name pronounced by a familiar voice. "Bella," repeated Mike Newton. "What are you doing here? What's the matter?" She peeled her clammy hand away from its position against her closed eyelids. "Mike, thank God," she said, unable to prevent the desperation from edging into her voice. "I need your help." She didn't pause to wonder what he was doing there. Mike instantly took a seat beside her. She had finally given him an opportunity to play hero. "I'll do anything I can." She asked Mike to take her to the only place she could find help, or at the very least, answers. "I need you to drive me to the Cullens' house. Now." She hated to be so demanding, so abrupt, but her patience had disappeared many minutes prior. Mike hesitated. "The Cullens' house… why? Please tell me what's going on. The station looks like a madhouse." "I…" She sighed. "Look, I don't have the time to explain this right now. Just trust me, Mike. Please." "Okay, fine, Bella. My father came here to pay a parking ticket, but I think it's safe to say he'll have to wait on that. He should be out any minute… I'll ask him to drop you off on the way home."

Bella was shocked by Mike's readiness to take her to Edward Cullen's house, given his opinion of Edward, not to mention Bella's association with him. She was certain Mike would at least demand answers before dropping her on his rival's doorstep, but he didn't inquire further into the matter. Bella, though oddly apprehensive of Mike's compliance, was willing to accept his assistance with gratitude. "Thank you, Mike. You have no idea what this means to me." "Hey, I'm just trying to help. You look really miserable. But, Bella, my father and I don't know where the Cullens live. I'm not sure anyone really does… I've heard their house is in the woods or something." "I know where they live," she said. "You do?" Mike looked positively aghast. As Bella nodded, her father, in the company of Mr. Newton, appeared from around the corner of a cubical wall. "I'm so sorry to hear that, Charlie," said Mike's father, briefly resting his hand on Charlie's arm. "Let me know if there's something I can do." "I wouldn't be offering your help so recklessly if I were you, John," said Charlie, producing an ironic laugh. "In times like these, we might actually need it." "I was a Marine. I've been to war, Charlie. Watched my friends get blown to pieces in the middle of the desert. If you need me, I'll handle it." "Thanks, John," replied Bella's father, giving John a gruff pat on the back. "I'll give you a call if things get uglier." "Hey, Dad?" interjected Bella, before Mike had the opportunity to ask his father's permission. "I don't think I can take any more of this institutionalized panic. Can I go home with Mike? No bad guy's going to come looking for me there." Mr. Newton looked a little stunned by Bella's announcement, but not perturbed. Charlie, likewise, didn't appear entirely averse to the suggestion. "I suppose that's okay," he said, rubbing his forehead as if in search of a reason why it wasn't okay. "But you know I'm going to call you more than once just to make sure you're all right." "That's fine with me," exclaimed Bella, already on her feet and ready to go. "Be careful, Bella," called Charlie as she followed Mr. Newton out of the station. "Same to you," she replied. She wished that carefulness would provide him any real measure of safety. Once down the road, just out of sight of the police station, and buckled into the back seat of John Newton's Ford Escort, Bella cleared her throat and informed Mike's father of her preferred destination. "Actually, Mr. Newton, would it be possible for you to drop me off at the Cullens' house? I just remembered I was supposed to work on my Hamlet paper with Edward this afternoon. He's a real

expert on the Bard. It's due on Thursday, and he said he would help me out… plus, it'd get my mind off… things." Bella shifted uneasily in her seat when Mike shot her a suspicious glare through the reflection of the rearview mirror. She was fairly certain that John Newton would flat-out refuse her request, given the fact that her father had only given her permission to go straight home with him. He hesitated, then said, much to Bella's surprise, "Not sure your father'll be too happy with me, but I don't see a problem with it. You'd be just as safe there as you would be at our house. Just let your dad know where you are, okay?" "Really?" she exclaimed automatically, then, realizing that her motives probably sounded incredibly dubious, added, "I mean, thanks Mr. Newton. I've been freaking out about that paper all week." He laughed heartily. "I just wish I could get my own kid to care as much about his studies. Maybe you'll rub off on him, Bella." He reached over and ruffled his son's hair. Through the rearview mirror, Bella could see the gloom in Mike's expression. He really must be having the worst kind of day; he had to turn Bella over to Edward, none of his questions had been answered, and now he was receiving the kind of fatherly hair ruffle only in fashion among six-year-olds. Trying her best to avoid using Mike's irritation as a source of amusement with which she could blanket her anxiety, Bella directed his father through the convoluted back roads leading to the mysterious Cullen mansion. At last, they pulled into the gravel drive in front of the massive stone structure. "Wow…" whispered John Newton, shading his eyes with his hand as if the sun were shining. "Will you look at that. That's what I call money." "Figures," grumbled Mike. "Can't drive a sports car if you don't have a matching mansion." "Hey, uh, thanks again Mr. Newton," said Bella, ignoring Mike and placing her hand on the car's door handle. "I wouldn't have been able to bear another minute of that police station." "No problem, Bella," he replied, still gazing at the mansion. "And we got to do some local sightseeing while we were at it." "See you around," muttered Mike, who was watching her with a dark kind of curiosity. Bella wondered why he had offered to help her if he was so unhappy with the result. Nevertheless, her mind refocused on the task at hand as soon as the Ford Escort had disappeared down the unpaved road. Feeling the pace of her heartbeat escalate yet again, Bella made her way toward the enormous oak doors of the Cullen estate with the feeling of an enemy soldier knocking on the doors of a castle. With no doorbell to speak of, her only choice was to stand on the tips of her toes, reach for the excessively ornate brass knocker, and drop it against the wood panels of the door with a pronounced thud. Immediately after the metal had made contact with the wood, the door swung open, revealing the figure of Carlisle. The vampire examined her for a moment, an emotion she could not decipher written

in his burgundy eyes. "Bella," he stated after an inordinately long period of silence. "What are you doing here?" Bella swallowed. The notion that Carlisle might be Tim's murderer scratched against the forefront of her mind. "I need to speak with Edward." There was another lengthy pause. "Of course," he said at last, pulling the door open wider. "Please, come in." Bella bowed her head slightly, somehow finding the gesture natural while in Carlisle's presence, and followed him into the house. He led her down several hallways toward what she figured was the back of the house. Finally, he stopped at a closed door. From within, Bella heard the muffled sounds of piano music. Without saying anything, Carlisle nodded to the door, turned, and disappeared. With a suddenly noticeable tremor in her hand, Bella hesitantly turned the knob, pushing the door open with a muted creak. Now with a full view of the room, pleasantly lit by a circumference of windows, the gentle notes of a familiar piano piece wafted into her ears. Edward, his back to her, was seated at an elegant grand piano and his fingers were caressing the keys with virtuoso perfection. For a few moments, Bella stood paralyzed in the doorway and listened to the music, entranced by both the beautiful sounds and the delicate movement of his fingers. Then, suddenly, without ceasing his playing or turning to regard her, Edward said, "Bella. So nice of you to pay a visit. I very much enjoyed being stabbed by you this afternoon." "I need your help," blurted Bella, unable to control herself any longer. Maybe it was the effect of the music Edward was playing, or maybe it was just her own stability collapsing under the weight of weariness; either way, Bella suddenly felt completely without the power to keep herself calm. "Well that's a change," he muttered, still not turning to look at her. "There's a vampire after my father… and the other police officers...and he killed Tim… on my front porch…" thoughts were spilling out of Bella so quickly that she didn't see the wave of emotion hurtling forward in their wake. "And my father… God, he doesn't even know… He's got no idea. He could be killed…" Bella didn't realize how much she was shaking, or how much her fear was tinting her voice. Edward Cullen, however, was acutely aware of both of these things. "Do you play on the pianoforte, Miss Swan?" he said, interrupting her increasingly hysterical stream-ofconsciousness monologue. Momentarily distracted by Edward's non sequitur, Bella stopped. "No, Mr. Darcy, I don't," she snapped, irritated by his insensitivity to the significance of her situation. At last, he turned his head back to her, his fingers still stroking the piano keys. He smiled widely, brought one of his hands away from the keys, and patted the empty space next to him on the bench.

Under ordinary circumstances, Bella would have made some kind of wry remark and walked away, but she was desperate for Edward's help, and she was thus keenly aware that gaining the assistance of someone she had recently stabbed might require a small amount of acquiescence. Impatiently, she walked across the room and took a seat beside Edward. He didn't immediately speak to her, favoring the music with his attention. "Chopin?" Bella said, at last identifying the piece. Her voice felt buried by the notes. Edward's grin reappeared. "You impress me again, Bella." Bella felt the gentle flutter of wonder tickle her chest. She had never expected Edward Cullen to find her impressive. "This is one of Chopin's prettier nocturnes, anyway," he continued. "He stayed in Manchester once on his way to Edinburgh. I ran into him, you could say—brilliant musician, but a fine prat of a man." Bella turned to him incredulously. "You're telling me you actually met Chopin?" "Yes indeed. He died just before I did." "You're… you're over a hundred years old." "One hundred-eighty years young, to be precise." She noticed his eyes briefly dart in her direction. Very soon after, Edward brought the song to a close. Then, granting Bella his full attention, he held out his hand to her, wiggling his fingers. "Here, give me your hand." "Edward," she said, feeling her distress return. "My father—" "Please," he replied, unfazed, "humor me." Sighing, Bella placed her own hand on his and, against all reason, felt herself relax. Tenderly, Edward turned his hand beneath hers so that her fingers were resting on the tops of his. With their fingers aligned, Edward slowly struck a few keys, producing a basic tune. "Can you remember that?" She nodded, made dumb by a deep feeling she did not recognize. Sliding her hand away from his, she repeated the simple set of notes with her own fingers. "Musical perfection," he declared in an exaggeratedly pretentious voice. "You play that, and I'll play this." Both of his hands produced a melody she immediately recognized, and she joined in with her own portion. "Open your eyes, look up to the skies and see… I'm just a poor boy, I need no sympathy…" he sang in a rich, clear voice. Bella bit her lip to keep herself from laughing. Yes, she thought, Edward Cullen really is singing Bohemian Rhapsody. He sang away in mock seriousness, doing his best to imitate Freddy Mercury's voice. Bella played her own six notes in accompaniment, allowing Edward to reposition her hand every now and then.

He stopped between verses in the ballad section to look at her expression. "Oh dear," he exclaimed. "I see a smile. We can't have that." Bella attempted to correct the situation by clapping her hand over her mouth, but that just made Edward laugh. He swiveled around, straddling the bench so that he could face her, and leaned his elbow against the piano keys with a discordant clatter of notes. "Now, down to business. I will, of course, help you, but only because you're a fan of Queen. Otherwise, I would've had myself an early dinner." He produced his trademark smirk. "A vampire—" she began. "Has killed officer Tim and threatened to off the rest of Forks' men in uniform. I got that part." Bella blinked at him. Edward had taken her seriously. Then what was all the piano tomfoolery? Taking a brief moment to reflect on the past few minutes, she realized that Edward had restored her emotional balance completely free of her notice. "And you're positive it's a vampire?" he asked. "Drained blood, untraceable efficiency—it sounds like a vampire to me." "And you haven't seen the murderer? Just the victims, am I right?" She nodded and he rose from the bench. "Excuse me for just a moment." With that, he vanished from the room, returning in little more than a minute. "Where did you go?" she asked. "If this really is a vampire, he or she will have to come out of the woodwork eventually. I've asked Jasper and Carlisle to follow your father and the other officers as best they can. I'm assuming they'll identify the vampire fairly soon." He tapped his nose. "We can smell our own kind from miles away. In any case, the three of us will make sure your father remains safe." Bella collapsed with relief—not onto the floor as she might have expected—but instead into Edward Cullen's arms, where she proceeded to hug him with the deepest kind of gratitude. "Cruel, cruel human," he sniffed, "toying with my emotions. You stab me and hug me in the same day. Whatever is a poor fiend of Hell to do?" As Edward held her, very lightly stroking her hair, it felt natural to trust him—to believe that he and his family would protect her, but she hadn't succumbed to his spell completely. "You really didn't kill those people… and Tim… did you?" she whispered into his shoulder." And not Jasper or Carlisle either?" He leaned back away from her to study her face. "You still don't trust me, do you?" She didn't trust him, not fully, but for some reason she couldn't bring herself to say it.

He sighed. "I haven't given you much reason to trust me, I suppose… apart from the numerous times I had to exert myself in order to save your life. Well, Bella, I hope you like long stories." And with that, he began to tell the tale of Manchester—of Edward Cullen the human—for the first time since he had lived it.

14. Birthright
Manchester, England, 1851 It was Saturday afternoon, which meant that Edward Cullen was happier than usual. The last day of the week spurred the customary operation of cleansing and reordering in the homes of Manchester's workpeople. Saturday was generally treated as a half holiday amongst the industrial population, and Edward enjoyed watching the short burst of vibrancy in his normally sullen neighborhood. On this day, the mills stopped work at just two o'clock to let the weekly ritual of purification begin. As Edward walked home from the mill, an unread book secured beneath his arm, children staggered under pails and buckets of water, brought from the pump supplying the small street. The doors and windows, normally closed, were open to be scoured by the women within. Boys and girls were bent over hearthstones and stoves, scrubbing with fervor. Gossip and laughter flowed freely between people from window to window. Mothers sat in groups upon their thresholds sewing and knitting, their children sprawled beside them. Beneath the glowering blackness of the mill rising over the houses, the chimneys pouring out volumes of dark smoke, amid all the grime and dinginess of the place, Edward always marveled at this small measure of homely comfort and good spirits. Even still, Edward did not take part in the revelry. Instead, he was content to read his book, a translation of Le Comte de Monte-Cristo, in the relative privacy of his corner in the lower part of his aunt's home. He stepped through the street-door into the drafty below-stairs room. Here, he was generally free from the bickering of his cousins and his aunt's strained coughing as they cleaned. He kept the ground floor of the house as unsullied as possible, because the narrowness of the room was oppressive enough without the added bleakness of filth. Having grown from boy to man in recent years, this space had become his to occupy and maintain, though it was necessary he shared it with his cousins when the nighttime hour arrived and they required the bed space. Yet, despite his efforts to keep the place free from the drafts and grime of the street, the floor seemed forever damp and contaminated, and the fire cheerlessly small, smoldering against the ashes heaped on the grate. Edward dropped wearily to the straw mattress of his own rickety bed, which was situated in a dark airless corner, and ran a hand through his russet hair. Each day he tried to accept the permanence of the

four walls around him, the idea that the mattress he sat upon would someday be his deathbed. Fate had provided him with no higher hope for which to fight. Edward would never inherit from his father. Anthony Cullen's wife had at last borne a child—a daughter. It wasn't anything as fortunate for the man as being gifted with a real son, and the ordeal had claimed his wife's life, but at least he had a pureblooded pocket to fill with money when the time came for him to follow his wife to the grave. So it was that Edward surrendered his efforts to be a gentleman's son and tried to make the best of the life he had been dealt. He had furnished his small quarters to the best of his ability, placing a muslin screen over the window, and lining the narrow chimneypiece with a row of odd smoke-browned china ornaments he had collected. His most prized article was a little Dutch clock with a busy pendulum swinging openly and candidly. For some reason, the passage of time was a comfort to him. Regardless, Edward's anger never left him. At times, he would see his father's daughter—his own halfsister—being carted around by her nurse and servants, wrapped in fleece and furs, conveyed to and fro in ornate phaetons as though she were Victoria's own child. His mind would reel with envy, watching the comforts he might have one day known were it not for her birth. She was an easy target for his hatred—a spoiled child with no understanding of hunger pangs, no roughness to her palms or scars from hard labor. She would never know these things, and she had robbed Edward of his claim to inheritance. One day, he swore, when she was old enough to understand, he would call out to her from the filth of the street and tell her what her life had cost him. For the time being, however, Edward found solace in words, so he spent the majority of the afternoon immersed in those written by Alexandre Dumas. At last, the time came when the shade of evening whispered its approach on the horizon, and Edward's cousins flooded into the house, filling his ears with insufferable whining and clatter. Eager for some respite from the cacophony of the pre-dinner hour, he slipped out the street-door into the cobbled alley. Edward strode back toward the mill with the intention of relaxing against the bales of unprocessed cotton until the lamps were lit. However, after reaching the site, he hadn't spent more than three minutes with his book open before he felt someone poking his shoulder. Startled, he dropped his book and snapped his head up. His vision collided with the image of a four-yearold girl, her head enveloped by wild red hair that had partially deserted the plaits someone had attempted. It was his detested half-sister, and she was poking him in the shoulder. "What do you want, missy?" he snapped, retrieving his book and shifting his weight to stand. "You're a ginger too," she said, her voice small and innocent. She pointed her tiny finger at Edward's hair. "Bessie says it makes me an… ill-temper." She pronounced the last word slowly, probably with no notion of its meaning. "Are you an ill-temper too?"

Ignoring the girl's chatter, Edward peered around her and noticed that 'Bessie,' who was probably a family servant or governess, was having some kind of conversation with a young man up the way—a conversation which left her heedless of her charge's location. "You need to run back to Bessie now," he commanded. "You shouldn't be talking to strangers." Particularly ones who despise you, he added in his mind. "You're not a stranger," she exclaimed, trying to climb onto the bale beside him. "Bessie says you know Papa." Edward rolled his eyes. "Bessie says I know Papa, eh?" Clearly, the little girl didn't understand their relatedness. She was still grabbing at the fabric covering the bale and trying to find footholds in an effort to sit on top of it. Annoyed by the pathetic noises of her struggling, Edward picked her up from beneath her arms and placed her next to him. "I know your papa, yes. He gave me my red hair. Same as he gave you yours." "Like a gift?" she said, bouncing a little in her seat. "I like gifts." "Not exactly," he sighed. He rubbed his hand across his forehead, entirely disinterested in conversing with his over-privileged half-sister. "I'm Rosalie," she announced brightly, grinning so that her cheeks dimpled. Before Edward realized what had happened, his face had bent into his own uneven smile, mimicking hers. It was an impulsive movement, and upon noticing his own expression, he was greatly annoyed with himself. Rosalie was looking up at him, her face still flushed and happy, waiting for him to reply. "I'm Edward," he admitted at last, trying not to look at her. "Ed—" she tried, "Ed-a…" Having the speech skills of a child hardly past the toddler stage, Rosalie seemed unable to pronounce her older brother's name. "Ed—" she tried again. "—ward" he finished for her. "Edward." She looked up at him, her eyes wide—the same shade of green as his own—and opened her mouth to try again. "You can call me Eddie if you'd like…" he muttered before she could fail at saying his name again. "Can you manage that, Miss Rosalie?" "Eddie!" she cried with delight, wrapping her little arms around his ribcage so suddenly that his own arms automatically lifted in permission of the hug. He was appalled with himself. She was adorable and he couldn't deny it. What kind of ruffian bastard was he, anyway?

Sighing, Edward brought his own arms forward to support her weight, lifting her up to the height of his shoulder. Slowly, he stood and carried her back to Bessie, who was now turning in rapid circles, desperately trying to locate young Miss Cullen in the fading light. "She's here," he called, approaching the frantic young woman. "Watch her better next time, Miss. If I know my father at all, he'll be right mad with anger if you let his bastard son get near her again." Bessie stiffened with fear. Edward wasn't sure if it was because of his reputation, or because she was worried Anthony Cullen would discover her blunder. Nevertheless, he gently transferred Rosalie to Bessie's arms, suspecting the little girl was growing tired. Bessie nodded briefly, avoiding eye contact with Edward, and scurried away. Just as Edward had resolved to turn and leave, Rosalie turned her redhaloed head back to him and called, "G'bye, Eddie!" He doubtfully raised his hand and gave her a brief wave before she and Bessie disappeared around the corner. — Despite the warning Edward had given Bessie in looking after Rosalie more attentively, the intrepid little girl seemed to have the ability to track down her brother if he happened to be anywhere in her vicinity. Whether she caught the glimmer of his hair in a crowd, or in a back alley, or anywhere else, she would break free of her guardians and run in his direction. Usually, she would seek him out to show him some pretty little pebble she'd found, or a doll her father had brought to her from London. As the months passed, she gained no greater understanding of who Edward was in terms of her family. He was simply Eddie, her ill-tempered friend who knew her papa. For Edward, however, Rosalie was a dangerous force. For the first time, his mind was introduced to the sensation of fondness. His entire life had driven him away from the people around him. He hadn't the affection of a father or a mother, nor had his aunt shown him anything beyond indifferent tolerance. In general, he returned to others the behavior he received. But Rosalie, in her innocence and natural kindheartedness, was the first creature he had ever cared for. It was because of the weakness Rosalie exposed in him, the way she softened his manner and obstinacy, that Edward was eventually forbidden to see her. That order was the result of a damp spring morning when Rosalie, trailing behind Bessie as she purchased a pair of hens at the market, had seen her brother walking toward his home district. Excitedly, she ran over to him, grasping his hand and tugging on his arm until he followed her down the street. The bustle of people trying to make purchases prohibited Edward from spotting Bessie in the crowd, but he followed his sister anyway, if only for the chance to be near her for a few minutes. "I want to show you, Eddie!" she exclaimed, short of breath from her eager scurrying. Five of Rosalie's strides were required to equal one of Edward's.

"Show me what?" he asked, crouching to regard her. "Papa bought me a pianoforte! He says Bessie will show me how to play!" Before Edward had the time to contemplate the complications of Rosalie actually showing him her pianoforte, he looked up and realized she had led him straight to the front door of her house—of Anthony Cullen's house. She was pulling on his arm, trying to coax him up the granite steps toward the imposing door. "Rose," he said, pulling his hand free from hers and backing away a little. "I'm not sure your papa likes guests to come inside uninvited." His eyes were fixed on the house. "But papa isn't home." She stood expectantly on the stairs. "I want you to see, Eddie." "I cannot see it now, Rosalie." He spoke as firmly as he was able. And then he saw the tears well in her green eyes, threatening to spill over onto her cheeks. She looked at the ground, already trying to hide her feelings at just four years old. This movement alone was enough to convince him to walk into the house he had long ago been denied the right to enter. "As you wish, Rose," he said, picking her up and pushing on the door. It had been left unlocked—a dangerous habit indeed for a mill master's home. The piano was easily visible from the entrance, stationed at the center of the parlor. With Rosalie still in his arms, Edward cautiously walked over to the instrument, feeling like a thief in Anthony Cullen's home. Every step he took stung as though he were walking on eggshells with bare feet. He tried to keep his eyes from the details of his father's home. He would simply acknowledge Rosalie's new pianoforte and then return her to Bessie, wherever she was. Edward placed Rosalie on the piano bench so that she was standing on it, and she bent over slightly so that she could poke at the keys. He held her steady with his own hands, for fear that she would fall. "Do you play the pianoforte, Eddie?" He chuckled. "No, Rose, not at all." "But do you like it?" she asked enthusiastically. "It is a fine instrument," he replied, feeling his heartbeat race with nervousness. "But we must return to Bessie. She is, no doubt, very worried." "Wait, wait!" exclaimed Rosalie, wriggling out of his arms and hopping down from the bench with surprising agility. "I have a gift for you!" Before Edward could catch her, she dashed into another room. He was too afraid to follow her any further into the house. He began pacing, waiting for her to return, and running his hand through his hair with such frequency that he caused nearly every strand to stand on end. At last, she appeared in the doorway with some kind

of chain dangling from her closed fist. "Look, Eddie!" She skipped up to him and revealed a delicately crafted, and surely very expensive, necklace—garnet and silver. "It's for you." Edward was sure that Rosalie was too young to understand why a man would not find equal enjoyment in jewelry as do young ladies, but even still, he wouldn't dare take something from his father's home, no matter what its nature may be. "I cannot accept that, Rose. That necklace belongs to you." "Papa gave it to me. I don't like it. I like the pianoforte much better." She reached out and placed it in his hand. Then, just before Edward was going to demand she return it to her room, he heard the front door creak open. His father stepped into the room, his eyes surveying the scene with quick comprehension. There was his bastard son in the middle of his parlor, an expensive piece of jewelry dangling from his grasp, and his only daughter completely without the protection of her governess. Acting rapidly, Anthony Cullen grabbed the fabric of Edward's vest and threw him into the hard corner of the wall, causing him to crumple to the floor. Striding toward Edward's fallen form, he kicked his son hard in the ribs, eliciting a muffled groan of pain. "Papa!" shrieked Rosalie, crying uncontrollably. "No! Papa… Stop, stop!" But Bessie had hurried through the door and was dragging Rosalie to her room. Anthony Cullen did not stop. He beat his son until he heard the snapping of ribs against his blows, at which point he paused only to pry the garnet necklace from Edward's hand. Lifting Edward to his feat, his father checked to make sure he was still conscious, then opened his door and tossed him down the granite steps of his house. "Never come near my house or my daughter again, or I will kill you." — Edward was lucky that his father's actions hadn't been the cause of his death that very day. He managed to drag himself home, placing his life at the mercy of his aunt's care, which, after years of dealing with her violent nephew, was better than could be expected. Edward's body healed—though perhaps not as thoroughly as it should have, for he continued to experience stabs of pain where his ribs had been fractured. But Edward had been broken in more than one way. He truly thought he would never see his sister again, but for one day outside the mill when Rosalie saw her brother from afar. She had come running up to him, against her own father's strict ruling, and placed her garnet necklace in his hand. "You forgot your gift," she had said simply, her green eyes devoid of the same innocence that had once lighted them, though she had hardly grown older. Almost immediately, she had turned back to find Bessie, but not before adding, "G'bye, brother." Edward wasn't sure who had told her, or how much she understood, but he did know that he would never sell her necklace.

It was true, however, that in the coming days, Edward would be tempted to sell Rosalie's jewelry for fear of starvation. A year of risky investment left Anthony Cullen unable to pay his Manchester workers any longer. Some were cast out from their jobs, the others suffered lowered wages, and Irish workers were imported who would work for nothing more than a handful of pence. What no one knew, however, was that with the Irish workers traveled Dáire MacBrádaigh, one of the oldest and most powerful vampires in existence.

15. Question
Bella watched Edward as he spoke, enraptured by his words. He had led her to a different room which looked out upon the sloping green forest, facing the west so that the sparse sunlight slid dimly between the mossy tree trunks. They both sat on a leather sofa—Bella clutching a pillow to her chest and Edward perched next to her on the backrest with perfect balance. He was hunched over slightly, resting his chin against his knuckles much like Rodin's statue of the Thinker. He didn't look at her as he told his story. Instead, as he gazed out the window, his eyes seemed to be seeing the past with more clarity than he saw the trees in the forest. His voice had slipped into his native inflection, sweeping into her ears with the full richness of northern English vowels. His free hand moved to cover his eyes as he uttered the name Dáire MacBrádaigh. Then he paused, made blind by his own hand, and breathed. Bella had never seen the rise and fall of Edward's shoulders before, and she suspected he had no need for oxygen. Something about Dáire MacBrádaigh, however, made Edward seem more human—more vulnerable—than she had ever seen him. During this brief interruption, Bella realized that she was gripping the pillow with an unconscious intensity. Relaxing her muscles, she set the cushion on her lap for fear of damaging the stuffing with her tight grasp. Just then, right when Edward looked like he was about to continue, her cell phone rang. Glancing up at Edward apologetically, she answered the call, already knowing it was her father. "Dad," she said. "Bella," he replied through the speaker. "I'm headed home, okay? Nathan and Joe have decently cleaned things up at the house. Do you need me to pick you up at the Newtons'?" For a moment, Bella debated whether or not to inform her father that she was actually with Edward. She very quickly decided to save the explaining for a face-to-face moment. She looked up at Edward, whose mind seemed to have returned to the current century, and noticed that his eyebrows were raised skeptically. She wondered if he had superhuman hearing and was listening in on what her father was saying. "No, Dad," she said, still looking at Edward, "I can get a ride home."

"I'll see you soon then, Bella." Her father's voice was still smothered by forced stoicism. His tone made her uncomfortable. Waiting for the click of his receiver, she tucked the phone back into her jacket pocket. "You didn't tell your father you were here?" asked Edward, shaking his head. "Brilliant." "Well, I didn't have much of a choice. I'm not sure he would've accepted my random desire to see you without a tedious amount of questioning." "I don't blame him," he muttered. "Though knowing you, no amount of tedious questioning would be the least bit enlightening as to your motives." Before Bella could respond, Edward had hopped off the couch and was holding out his hand to help her up. "Come on, you," he said. "Since you offered my driving services to yourself, I might as well take you home." "But your story!" she exclaimed, not moving from her seat. "You haven't finished." "As bizarre as you are, Bella," he sighed, "I'm sure you still possess that thing called patience." "Did you ever get to see Rosalie again?" she asked, ignoring him. He frowned. "The question and answer portion of my presentation is reserved for the end." Even as he spoke, she saw something ominous blooming behind his wine-red eyes. She stayed firmly planted on the cushions of the sofa. Seemingly losing his own patience, Edward gave up waiting for Bella to take his hand. Leaning toward her, he wrapped both of his arms around her waist. Before she could protest, he had swung her over his shoulder like a wounded soldier and took off through his enormous house. Within a matter of nauseating seconds, before Bella was provided sufficient kicking and screaming time, they were in the gravel driveway next to Edward's car. Gingerly, he lowered her to the ground and chuckled as she tried to regain her balance. "Jerk," she breathed, jabbing him hard in the chest and then cradling her hand, which was instantly throbbing with the pain of the collision. Edward did nothing more than raise an eyebrow and then held the car door open for her. "I know a fun game we can play," he said, sliding behind the wheel and playfully jingling his car keys. His voice contained the kind of excitement that was sure to spell doom for her nerves. "Let's see if we can get to your house before your father does." Bella stiffened. "Let's not." In the context of human driving practices, her father had a ten minute drive. They had a thirty minute drive. "Oh come on, Ducky. Live a little." With that, he turned the key in the ignition and started off on the most terrifying car ride Bella had ever experienced. It was only after hearing Edward yank on the

handbrake and feeling the car spin 180 degrees and coast to a halt, that Bella finally felt safe opening her eyes. "Have we stopped? Or have I just died in a terrible car accident?" she asked, letting her lids open infinitesimally. "I'd have to say the former," replied Edward. "You look a little too… intact to have been mangled in a crash at the speed I was driving." "That's encouraging." "But look!" exclaimed Edward, drumming his hands against the steering wheel. "We've won! We beat your father." "Oh joy," she said, unfastening her seatbelt. "Thanks for the… ride." She opened the door and put one foot on the pavement of her driveway. "Bella," said Edward, before she was out of the car entirely. He placed the tips of his fingers lightly against her arm. "I won't be in school tomorrow. I'm going to find out what I can about the vampire who murdered Tim. Do you think you can avoid being profoundly irrational while I'm gone?" "I think I can manage, yeah." "So you promise to refrain from nearly drowning?" "I promise." She colored. "And no encounters with drunken vagrants?" "That too." "And please try not to stab any more vampires. It makes us a little grouchy." Shifting her eyes to the ground, she said, "Look, Edward, thanks for doing this… I really don't know what I would do otherwise." He smiled. "You'd probably find some other poor schmuck to annoy into helping you." Bella heard the sound of a car approaching. Looking up, she saw her father's police cruiser appear from around the corner. She instinctively jumped out of Edward's car, causing him to shake his head dubiously, his eyes glistening with amusement. "I suppose this is my cue to leave," he said, putting the car in gear. "Catch you later, dollface." Although Bella knew first hand that Edward was capable of driving at incredible speeds, he let his car inch down the driveway so that her father had to wait for him to pull out. Then, much to her chagrin, she saw Edward give Charlie a friendly wave, then wink at her as he drove off.

"What an asshole," she grumbled to herself. She remained standing in the center of the driveway in anticipation of Charlie's questions. The questioning, as she had suspected, occurred immediately. "Was that Edward Cullen?" "Yeah," she replied. "It was." She walked next to her father toward the back door of the house. The front porch was completely enclosed by police tape. "And what were you doing with him? I thought you went home with the Newtons." He turned his key in the lock, not even looking in her direction. Bella's mind flooded with shame. She should have been honest with her father from the start, especially given the day he'd had. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you, Dad. You were so… I mean, I was just afraid you wouldn't let me see him—killer on the loose and all." "Well, Bella, I'm trying to sort out why it is you wanted to see him in the first place," he muttered, hanging his gun holster on the hook in the back hall. "Last I checked, it looked like you were buying into all the nasty rumors about him." Bella took a deep breath, trying to decide which pieces of truth she could tell her father without giving away Edward's secret. "He saved my life, Dad. I was stupid to listen to the kids at school. We're friends now." "Friends?" he said. The word had sounded strange when she had pronounced it—stranger still when her father did. She watched his thick eyebrows move upward suspiciously. "Such good friends that you had to see him right after my best friend was murdered?" His eyes finally met hers, bloodshot and weary. Bella didn't have the heart to deny him some kind of explanation. Unfortunately, there was little choice in how she could characterize her meeting with Edward Cullen. Either she could make herself seem mentally unstable by telling the whole truth, or make her actions suspect for an entirely different reason. She chose the latter. "I think Edward and I understand each other, Dad," she said, swallowing hard. "I was upset about what I saw this afternoon. You were busy… and well, Edward made me feel better." "Edward made you feel better?" he cried. "What is that supposed to mean?" Bella's face suddenly felt hot and she imagined that her cheeks had presently adopted the shade of Edward's eyes. "He played the piano for me. And we talked… that's all." Charlie rubbed his eyes and sighed. "All right, Bella. I won't pretend to be happy about you not telling me where you were, but I don't have the energy to lecture you right now. Consider yourself lucky… and warned. I don't have anything against Edward Cullen, but for God's sake at least tell me what you're up to next time." "I will," she said, then hesitated. "Dad… about Tim… I'm—"

"Bella, I'm going to go lie down, okay?" he said, preventing her from finishing. He turned and ascended the stairs. Suddenly overwhelmed by a confusing flood of emotion, Bella flopped down on the lumpy couch and stared blankly at the swirls in the plaster ceiling. — Bella would have been much happier had Mike Newton also found a reason to skip school. She had managed to provide a decently convincing explanation to her father to account for her desperation in seeing Edward, but no suitable half-truths came to mind to aid in her impending conversation with Mike. Once at school, she had managed to avoid him in the parking lot, and contrived to show up late to Biology so that he wouldn't have the chance to talk to her there. She could only hope that Jessica would take hold of Mike's attention at the lunch table if he showed any special interest in talking to Bella. However, Bella's plan was flawed in that avoiding Mike had simply made his curiosity unbearable, so much so that not even Jessica could distract him. "So tell me, Bella. Why did you have to see Cullen yesterday?" he said as soon as Bella had sat down. She instantly regretted her decision to sit with them, rather than alone on the other side of the cafeteria. Jessica, Angela and Eric simultaneously snapped their attention to her. "Like I said in the car, Mike," she murmured lamely, staring at her paper lunch bag. "I wanted to work on my essay with him." Mike leaned toward her, nearly crossing the border of her personal space. "Oh no. Don't give me that. Half the reason I made my father drive you was so that you'd tell me what the hell is going on. You owe me an explanation." Bella felt her muscles tense with anger. "I don't owe you anything." She saw Jessica smile in her peripheral vision. She wondered why Mike couldn't have waited until there wasn't an audience for his interrogation. "You wouldn't have even gotten to Cullen's house if it wasn't for me." Bella gripped the edge of the table to keep her hands from making fists. She spoke through gritted teeth. "You're right. I owe you thanks, which I already expressed. My essay benefited greatly from your assistance." "Bella!" exclaimed Mike, nearly shouting. Angela's shoulders hunched even more than usual at the sound. "The town's in an uproar because Tim got murdered, and the killer's still running around out there somewhere. You find a corpse on your front porch and suddenly you desperately need to see Edward Cullen. What's up with that, Bella, hm?" "Wait, really?" said Eric, staring at Bella with wide eyes. "You went right to Edward after you found Tim?"

"Wouldn't you, Eric?" sneered Jessica. "Psycho foster-boy must be an expert on all things morbid. Maybe he's friends with the murderer… Met him at the local creeper club or something." "Hey… shut up guys," said Angela in a quiet voice. She spoke so rarely that everyone immediately followed her order. "Tim is dead. Stop making jokes about it. I think it's obvious why Bella went to the Cullens' house." Bella furrowed her brow. It is? she thought. "Tim was friends with Bella's dad and Dr. Cullen. Don't you guys remember the time Edward's father set Tim's broken arm for free? She probably went to tell the Cullens what happened, right Bella? So stop harassing her, Mike… Jessica." While Bella felt a rush of gratitude for Angela's words, she noticed Jessica staring down her friend with boiling indignation. She wasn't sure that Angela had made the most personally beneficial move in crossing Jessica, but she was grateful nonetheless. The rest of the lunch period passed in what was essentially one extended awkward silence. When the bell rang, Bella hurried over to Angela as she made to exit the cafeteria, for once without the company of Jessica, who had stormed off. "Hey, Angela," she called. "Wait up." "Oh, Bella, hi," she said in her small voice, startled. "Thanks for sticking up for me today. Mike's really been on my case lately." "It's no problem. I don't know what's gotten into him. He's really not normally like this." Without warning, she grinned. "But I do know the real reason you went to see Edward." Bella thought her heart must have stopped just then. "You do?" her voice came out with a crack. "The others don't see it… but I do a lot of watching… kind of a wallflower, you know?" She smiled keenly. "See what…?" asked Bella, trying not to sound frantic. "The way Edward looks at you." "Pardon me?" stuttered Bella. She had expected an observation involving red eyes or the undead. "He looks at everyone else like he's about to strangle them or something. But with you… he's tender… fascinated." Bella wouldn't have used tender as a way to describe Edward's behavior toward her. She wanted to inform Angela that Edward got a kick out of throwing death threats her way, and that she had recently stabbed him outside the school parking lot—which was the kind of fodder for restraining orders, not a romance novel.

"Ah, well…" began Bella, not sure how she was supposed to respond. "Thanks again. I guess I should be getting to class. See you around though, Angela." She tried to walk away in such a manner that didn't seem as though she were running from Angela's suggestion, but she wasn't entirely sure she was successful. — Bella spent the remainder of the school day trying to ignore Angela's observation. What she had probably seen was simply Edward's vampire instincts showing through. Bella tried to imagine Edward staring at her as if she were a delicious steak, or Swiss chocolate. That didn't seem to match the way he looked at her. Plus, if she smelled that delicious, she'd probably be dead. Maybe she smelled bad...like a cheap, overcooked hamburger… or dollar store Halloween candy. In any case, Bella promptly decided to wipe any image from her mind that involved Edward thinking of her as edible. As soon as she got home, she threw her backpack on the living room sofa, cracked open her Hamletbook and sat under the huge willow tree outside her father's house. Forks, which was never bright to begin with, offered minimal afternoon reading time, and before she had achieved satisfactory repose, she was forced to head back inside. She and her father shared an awkward dinner of reheated frozen-something-in-a-box and then she took a shower, hoping the steam would clear her mind. Finally, she started feeling relaxed enough to sleep, dressed in a warm pair of pajamas and listening to Schubert through the stereo speakers in her room. She sat down on her bed and began gently towel-drying her damp hair, gazing out her open bedroom window. Just then, Edward Cullen appeared out of nowhere, perched on her windowsill like some kind of cat. Startled, she automatically screamed. Thankfully her shriek wasn't loud enough to disturb her father, who was watching a noisy basketball match downstairs. Edward, on the other hand, seemed to find her scream particularly entertaining. He laughed. "Well good evening to you too, Bella. You should greet me like this all the time. It's original… like a secret handshake." Edward was balancing on the windowsill in a way that no human could, his head tilted a little to the side. At that moment, he looked nothing at all like a human being. "What the hell are you doing at my bedroom window?" "Oh, that's right," he said, "I forgot to knock." He rapped his knuckles against the glass. "Can I come in?" Bella sighed. "Do you have something useful to tell me?" "Oh, only the rest of my personal history." He smirked, knowing that she was eager to hear more. "Fine. I suppose I have room to take in one stray vampire tonight."

Instantly, he was gone from the window. For a moment, she thought he had left, but then she turned around and nearly screamed again. He was stretched out on her bed, fingers locked behind his head. He winked. "You're beyond sketchy, you know that?" she said. "Mmhmm." He closed his eyes briefly. "God. It's been ages since I've laid on a mattress. Is this memory foam?" He rolled back and forth very slightly, testing the firmness of the material. "Let me guess. You sleep in a coffin." "No," he said, reopening his eyes. "I don't sleep at all." "Really?" she blurted, shocked. "Don't you ever get bored?" He grinned. "You have no idea." "Look, if you're going to lay on my bed, at least take your shoes off." Stepping toward him, she untied the laces of his black leather shoes and pulled them off, one at a time. She saw him wiggle his toes beneath his socks. Looking up, she noticed that he was watching her, smirking wickedly. "Do you undress every man who visits you, Bella?" he said, seemingly stifling a laugh. "Oh yes, by principle," she replied, rolling her eyes. She set his shoes on the windowsill. "The Swan house is actually a brothel." "The Swan House." He was laughing now. "There might actually be a brothel named that." "And you've been to it, probably." "I haven't ever been hungry enough to eat at a place like that. Food at those types of establishments will give a vampire more heartburn than a McDonalds hamburger." He patted his stomach. "Your sense of humor astounds me," she replied, taking a seat on the bed next to him. "So did you find out anything about the bad vamp today?" "Not a thing," he sighed. "Whoever it is, he's good at covering his tracks. I went to your front porch and tried to pick up his scent. Nothing." "That's… disappointing." Bella felt the voice of panic begin its quiet hum in her mind. The feeling must have shown on her face, because Edward rolled over and looked up at her, propping his head up with his elbow. "Now where was I?" he said. "Oh that's right. Irish workers."

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