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Chapter 8 Port Angeles

Chapter 8 Port Angeles

Jess drove faster than the Chief, so we made it to Port Angeles by four.

  It had been a while since I'd had a girls' night out, and the estrogenrush was invigorating. We listened to whiny rock songs while Jessicajabbered on about the boys we hung out with. Jessica's dinner with Mikehad gone very well, and she was hoping that by Saturday night they would have progressed to the first-kiss stage. I smiled to myself, pleased.

  Angela was passively happy to be going to the dance, but not reallyinterested in Eric. Jess tried to get her to confess who her type was,but I interrupted with a question about dresses after a bit, to spareher. Angela threw a grateful glance my way.

  Port Angeles was a beautiful little tourist trap, much more polished andquaint than Forks. But Jessica and Angela knew it well, so they didn'tplan to waste time on the picturesque boardwalk by the bay. Jess drovestraight to the one big department store in town, which was a few streetsin from the bay area's visitor-friendly face.

  The dance was billed as semiformal, and we weren't exactly sure what thatmeant. Both Jessica and Angela seemed surprised and almost disbelievingwhen I told them I'd never been to a dance in Phoenix.

  "Didn't you ever go with a boyfriend or something?" Jess asked dubiouslyas we walked through the front doors of the store.

  "Really," I tried to convince her, not wanting to confess my dancingproblems. "I've never had a boyfriend or anything close. I didn't go outmuch.""Why not?" Jessica demanded.

  "No one asked me," I answered honestly.

  She looked skeptical. "People ask you out here," she reminded me, "andyou tell them no." We were in the juniors' section now, scanning theracks for dress-up clothes.

  "Well, except for Tyler," Angela amended quietly.

  "Excuse me?" I gasped. "What did you say?""Tyler told everyone he's taking you to prom," Jessica informed me withsuspicious eyes.

  "He said what?" I sounded like I was choking.

  "I told you it wasn't true," Angela murmured to Jessica.

  I was silent, still lost in shock that was quickly turning to irritation.

  But we had found the dress racks, and now we had work to do.

  "That's why Lauren doesn't like you," Jessica giggled while we pawedthrough the clothes.

  I ground my teeth. "Do you think that if I ran him over with my truck hewould stop feeling guilty about the accident? That he might give up onmaking amends and call it even?""Maybe," Jess snickered. '"If that's why he's doing this."The dress selection wasn't large, but both of them found a few things totry on. I sat on a low chair just inside the dressing room, by thethree-way mirror, trying to control my fuming.

  Jess was torn between two — one a long, strapless, basic black number,the other a knee-length electric blue with spaghetti straps. I encouragedher to go with the blue; why not play up the eyes? Angela chose a palepink dress that draped around her tall frame nicely and brought out honeytints in her light brown hair. I complimented them both generously andhelped by returning the rejects to their racks. The whole process wasmuch shorter and easier than similar trips I'd taken with Renée at home.

  I guess there was something to be said for limited choices.

  We headed over to shoes and accessories. While they tried things on Imerely watched and critiqued, not in the mood to shop for myself, thoughI did need new shoes. The girls'-night high was wearing off in the wakeof my annoyance at Tyler, leaving room for the gloom to move back in.

   "Angela?" I began, hesitant, while she was trying on a pair of pinkstrappy heels — she was overjoyed to have a date tall enough that shecould wear high heels at all.

  Jessica had drifted to the jewelry counter and we were alone.

  "Yes?" She held her leg out, twisting her ankle to get a better view ofthe shoe.

  I chickened out. "I like those.""I think I'll get them — though they'll never match anything but the onedress," she mused.

  "Oh, go ahead — they're on sale," I encouraged. She smiled, putting thelid back on a box that contained more practical-looking off-white shoes.

  I tried again. "Um, Angela…" She looked up curiously.

  "Is it normal for the… Cullens" — I kept my eyes on the shoes — "to beout of school a lot?" I failed miserably in my attempt to soundnonchalant.

  "Yes, when the weather is good they go backpacking all the time — eventhe doctor. They're all real outdoorsy," she told me quietly, examiningher shoes, too. She didn't ask one question, let alone the hundreds thatJessica would have unleashed. I was beginning to really like Angela.

  "Oh." I let the subject drop as Jessica returned to show us therhinestone jewelry she'd found to match her silver shoes.

  We planned to go to dinner at a little Italian restaurant on theboardwalk, but the dress shopping hadn't taken as long as we'd expected.

  Jess and Angela were going to take their clothes back to the car and thenwalk down to the bay. I told them I would meet them at the restaurant inan hour — I wanted to look for a bookstore. They were both willing tocome with me, but I encouraged them to go have fun — they didn't know howpreoccupied I could get when surrounded by books; it was something Ipreferred to do alone. They walked off to the car chattering happily, andI headed in the direction Jess pointed out.

  I had no trouble finding the bookstore, but it wasn't what I was lookingfor. The windows were full of crystals, dream-catchers, and books aboutspiritual healing. I didn't even go inside. Through the glass I could seea fifty-year-old woman with long, gray hair worn straight down her back,clad in a dress right out of the sixties, smiling welcomingly from behindthe counter. I decided that was one conversation I could skip. There hadto be a normal bookstore in town.

  I meandered through the streets, which were filling up withend-of-the-workday traffic, and hoped I was headed toward downtown. Iwasn't paying as much attention as I should to where I was going; I waswrestling with despair. I was trying so hard not to think about him, andwhat Angela had said… and more than anything trying to beat down my hopesfor Saturday, fearing a disappointment more painful than the rest, when Ilooked up to see someone's silver Volvo parked along the street and itall came crashing down on me. Stupid, unreliable vampire, I thought tomyself.

  I stomped along in a southerly direction, toward some glass-fronted shopsthat looked promising. But when I got to them, they were just a repairshop and a vacant space. I still had too much time to go looking for Jessand Angela yet, and I definitely needed to get my mood in hand before Imet back up with them. I ran my fingers through my hair a couple of timesand took some deep breaths before I continued around the corner.

  I started to realize, as I crossed another road, that I was going thewrong direction. The little foot traffic I had seen was going north, andit looked like the buildings here were mostly warehouses. I decided toturn east at the next corner, and then loop around after a few blocks andtry my luck on a different street on my way back to the boardwalk.

   A group of four men turned around the corner I was heading for, dressedtoo casually to be heading home from the office, but they were too grimyto be tourists. As they approached me, I realized they weren't too manyyears older than I was. They were joking loudly among themselves,laughing raucously and punching each other's arms. I scooted as far tothe inside of the sidewalk as I could to give them room, walking swiftly,looking past them to the corner.

  "Hey, there!" one of them called as they passed, and he had to be talkingto me since no one else was around. I glanced up automatically. Two ofthem had paused, the other two were slowing. The closest, a heavyset,dark-haired man in his early twenties, seemed to be the one who hadspoken. He was wearing a flannel shirt open over a dirty t-shirt, cut-offjeans, and sandals. He took half a step toward me.

  "Hello," I mumbled, a knee-jerk reaction. Then I quickly looked away andwalked faster toward the corner. I could hear them laughing at fullvolume behind me.

  "Hey, wait!" one of them called after me again, but I kept my head downand rounded the corner with a sigh of relief. I could still hear themchortling behind me.

  I found myself on a sidewalk leading past the backs of severalsomber-colored warehouses, each with large bay doors for unloadingtrucks, padlocked for the night. The south side of the street had nosidewalk, only a chain-link fence topped with barbed wire protecting somekind of engine parts storage yard. I'd wandered far past the part of PortAngeles that I, as a guest, was intended to see. It was getting dark, Irealized, the clouds finally returning, piling up on the western horizon,creating an early sunset. The eastern sky was still clear, but graying,shot through with streaks of pink and orange. I'd left my jacket in thecar, and a sudden shiver made me cross my arms tightly across my chest. Asingle van passed me, and then the road was empty.

  The sky suddenly darkened further, and, as I looked over my shoulder toglare at the offending cloud, I realized with a shock that two men werewalking quietly twenty feet behind me.

  They were from the same group I'd passed at the corner, though neitherwas the dark one who'd spoken to me. I turned my head forward at once,quickening my pace. A chill that had nothing to do with the weather mademe shiver again. My purse was on a shoulder strap and I had it slungacross my body, the way you were supposed to wear it so it wouldn't getsnatched. I knew exactly where my pepper spray was — still in my dufflebag under the bed, never unpacked. I didn't have much money with me, justa twenty and some ones, and I thought about "accidentally" dropping mybag and walking away. But a small, frightened voice in the back of mymind warned me that they might be something worse than thieves.

  I listened intently to their quiet footsteps, which were much too quietwhen compared to the boisterous noise they'd been making earlier, and itdidn't sound like they were speeding up, or getting any closer to me.

  Breathe, I had to remind myself. You don't know they're following you. Icontinued to walk as quickly as I could without actually running,focusing on the right-hand turn that was only a few yards away from menow. I could hear them, staying as far back as they'd been before. A bluecar turned onto the street from the south and drove quickly past me. Ithought of jumping out in front of it, but I hesitated, inhibited, unsurethat I was really being pursued, and then it was too late.

  I reached the corner, but a swift glance revealed that it was only ablind drive to the back of another building. I was half-turned inanticipation; I had to hurriedly correct and dash across the narrowdrive, back to the sidewalk. The street ended at the next corner, wherethere was a stop sign. I concentrated on the faint footsteps behind me,deciding whether or not to run. They sounded farther back, though, and Iknew they could outrun me in any case. I was sure to trip and gosprawling if I tried to go any faster. The footfalls were definitelyfarther back. I risked a quick glance over my shoulder, and they weremaybe forty feet back now, I saw with relief. But they were both staringat me.

   It seemed to take forever for me to get to the corner. I kept my pacesteady, the men behind me falling ever so slightly farther behind withevery step. Maybe they realized they had scared me and were sorry. I sawtwo cars going north pass the intersection I was heading for, and Iexhaled in relief. There would be more people around once I got off thisdeserted street. I skipped around the corner with a grateful sigh.

  And skidded to a stop.

  The street was lined on both sides by blank, doorless, windowless walls.

  I could see in the distance, two intersections down, streetlamps, cars,and more pedestrians, but they were all too far away. Because loungingagainst the western building, midway down the street, were the other twomen from the group, both watching with excited smiles as I froze dead onthe sidewalk. I realized then that I wasn't being followed.

  I was being herded.

  I paused for only a second, but it felt like a very long time. I turnedthen and darted to the other side of the road. I had a sinking feelingthat it was a wasted attempt. The footsteps behind me were louder now.

  "There you are!" The booming voice of the stocky, dark-haired manshattered the intense quiet and made me jump. In the gathering darkness,it seemed like he was looking past me.

  "Yeah," a voice called loudly from behind me, making me jump again as Itried to hurry down the street. "We just took a little detour."My steps had to slow now. I was closing the distance between myself andthe lounging pair too quickly. I had a good loud scream, and I sucked inair, preparing to use it, but my throat was so dry I wasn't sure how muchvolume I could manage. With a quick movement I slipped my purse over myhead, gripping the strap with one hand, ready to surrender it or use itas weapon as need demanded.

  The thickset man shrugged away from the wall as I warily came to a stop,and walked slowly into the street.

  "Stay away from me," I warned in a voice that was supposed to soundstrong and fearless. But I was right about the dry throat — no volume.

  "Don't be like that, sugar," he called, and the raucous laughter startedagain behind me.

  I braced myself, feet apart, trying to remember through my panic whatlittle self-defense I knew. Heel of the hand thrust upward, hopefullybreaking the nose or shoving it into the brain. Finger through the eyesocket — try to hook around and pop the eye out. And the standard knee tothe groin, of course. That same pessimistic voice in my mind spoke upthen, reminding me that I probably wouldn't have a chance against one ofthem, and there were four. Shut up! I commanded the voice before terrorcould incapacitate me. I wasn't going out without taking someone with me.

  I tried to swallow so I could build up a decent scream.

  Headlights suddenly flew around the corner, the car almost hitting thestocky one, forcing him to jump back toward the sidewalk. I dove into theroad — this car was going to stop, or have to hit me. But the silver carunexpectedly fishtailed around, skidding to a stop with the passengerdoor open just a few feet from me.

  "Get in," a furious voice commanded.

  It was amazing how instantaneously the choking fear vanished, amazing howsuddenly the feeling of security washed over me — even before I was offthe street — as soon as I heard his voice. I jumped into the seat,slamming the door shut behind me.

  It was dark in the car, no light had come on with the opening of thedoor, and I could barely see his face in the glow from the dashboard. Thetires squealed as he spun around to face north, accelerating too quickly, swerving toward the stunned men on the street. I caught a glimpse of themdiving for the sidewalk as we straightened out and sped toward the harbor.

  "Put on your seat belt," he commanded, and I realized I was clutching theseat with both hands. I quickly obeyed; the snap as the belt connectedwas loud in the darkness. He took a sharp left, racing forward, blowingthrough several stop signs without a pause.

  But I felt utterly safe and, for the moment, totally unconcerned aboutwhere we were going. I stared at his face in profound relief, relief thatwent beyond my sudden deliverance. I studied his flawless features in thelimited light, waiting for my breath to return to normal, until itoccurred to me that his expression was murderously angry.

  "Are you okay?" I asked, surprised at how hoarse my voice sounded.

  "No," he said curtly, and his tone was livid.

  I sat in silence, watching his face while his blazing eyes staredstraight ahead, until the car came to a sudden stop. I glanced around,but it was too dark to see anything beside the vague outline of darktrees crowding the roadside. We weren't in town anymore.

  "Bella?" he asked, his voice tight, controlled.

  "Yes?" My voice was still rough. I tried to clear my throat quietly.

  "Are you all right?" He still didn't look at me, but the fury was plainon his face.

  "Yes," I croaked softly.

  "Distract me, please," he ordered.

  "I'm sorry, what?"He exhaled sharply.

  "Just prattle about something unimportant until I calm down," heclarified, closing his eyes and pinching the bridge of his nose with histhumb and forefinger.

  "Um." I wracked my brain for something trivial. "I'm going to run overTyler Crowley tomorrow before school?"He was still squeezing his eyes closed, but the corner of his mouthtwitched.

  "Why?""He's telling everyone that he's taking me to prom — either he's insaneor he's still trying to make up for almost killing me last… well, youremember it, and he thinks prom is somehow the correct way to do this. SoI figure if I endanger his life, then we're even, and he can't keeptrying to make amends. I don't need enemies and maybe Lauren would backoff if he left me alone. I might have to total his Sentra, though. If hedoesn't have a ride he can't take anyone to prom…" I babbled on.

  "I heard about that." He sounded a bit more composed.

  "You did?" I asked in disbelief, my previous irritation flaring. "If he'sparalyzed from the neck down, he can't go to the prom, either," Imuttered, refining my plan.

  Edward sighed, and finally opened his eyes.

  "Better?""Not really."I waited, but he didn't speak again. He leaned his head back against theseat, staring at the ceiling of the car. His face was rigid.

   "What's wrong?" My voice came out in a whisper.

  "Sometimes I have a problem with my temper, Bella." He was whispering,too, and as he stared out the window, his eyes narrowed into slits. "Butit wouldn't be helpful for me to turn around and hunt down those…" Hedidn't finish his sentence, looking away, struggling for a moment tocontrol his anger again. "At least," he continued, "that's what I'mtrying to convince myself.""Oh." The word seemed inadequate, but I couldn't think of a betterresponse.

  We sat in silence again. I glanced at the clock on the dashboard. It waspast six-thirty.

  "Jessica and Angela will be worried," I murmured. "I was supposed to meetthem."He started the engine without another word, turning around smoothly andspeeding back toward town. We were under the streetlights in no time atall, still going too fast, weaving with ease through the cars slowlycruising the boardwalk. He parallel-parked against the curb in a space Iwould have thought much too small for the Volvo, but he slid ineffortlessly in one try. I looked out the window to see the lights of LaBella Italia, and Jess and Angela just leaving, pacing anxiously awayfrom us.

  "How did you know where… ?" I began, but then I just shook my head. Iheard the door open and turned to see him getting out.

  "What are you doing?" I asked.

  "I'm taking you to dinner." He smiled slightly, but his eyes were hard.

  He stepped out of the car and slammed the door. I fumbled with my seatbelt, and then hurried to get out of the car as well. He was waiting forme on the sidewalk.

  He spoke before I could. "Go stop Jessica and Angela before I have totrack them down, too. I don't think I could restrain myself if I ran intoyour other friends again."I shivered at the threat in his voice.

  "Jess! Angela!" I yelled after them, waving when they turned. They rushedback to me, the pronounced relief on both their faces simultaneouslychanging to surprise as they saw who I was standing next to. Theyhesitated a few feet from us.

  "Where have you been?" Jessica's voice was suspicious.

  "I got lost," I admitted sheepishly. "And then I ran into Edward." Igestured toward him.

  "Would it be all right if I joined you?" he asked in his silken,irresistible voice. I could see from their staggered expressions that hehad never unleashed his talents on them before.

  "Er… sure," Jessica breathed.

  "Um, actually, Bella, we already ate while we were waiting — sorry,"Angela confessed.

  "That's fine — I'm not hungry." I shrugged.

  "I think you should eat something." Edward's voice was low, but full ofauthority. He looked up at Jessica and spoke slightly louder. "Do youmind if I drive Bella home tonight? That way you won't have to wait whileshe eats.""Uh, no problem, I guess…" She bit her lip, trying to figure out from myexpression whether that was what I wanted. I winked at her. I wanted nothing more than to be alone with my perpetual savior. There were somany questions that I couldn't bombard him with till we were by ourselves.

  "Okay." Angela was quicker than Jessica. "See you tomorrow, Bella…Edward." She grabbed Jessica's hand and pulled her toward the car, whichI could see a little ways away, parked across First Street. As they gotin, Jess turned and waved, her face eager with curiosity. I waved back,waiting for them to drive away before I turned to face him.

  "Honestly, I'm not hungry," I insisted, looking up to scrutinize hisface. His expression was unreadable.

  "Humor me."He walked to the door of the restaurant and held it open with anobstinate expression. Obviously, there would be no further discussion. Iwalked past him into the restaurant with a resigned sigh.

  The restaurant wasn't crowded — it was the off-season in Port Angeles.

  The host was female, and I understood the look in her eyes as sheassessed Edward. She welcomed him a little more warmly than necessary. Iwas surprised by how much that bothered me. She was several inches tallerthan I was, and unnaturally blond.

  "A table for two?" His voice was alluring, whether he was aiming for thator not. I saw her eyes flicker to me and then away, satisfied by myobvious ordinariness, and by the cautious, no-contact space Edward keptbetween us. She led us to a table big enough for four in the center ofthe most crowded area of the dining floor.

  I was about to sit, but Edward shook his head at me.

  "Perhaps something more private?" he insisted quietly to the host. Iwasn't sure, but it looked like he smoothly handed her a tip. I'd neverseen anyone refuse a table except in old movies.

  "Sure." She sounded as surprised as I was. She turned and led us around apartition to a small ring of booths — all of them empty. "How's this?""Perfect." He flashed his gleaming smile, dazing her momentarily.

  "Um" — she shook her head, blinking — "your server will be right out."She walked away unsteadily.

  "You really shouldn't do that to people," I criticized. "It's hardlyfair.""Do what?""Dazzle them like that — she's probably hyperventilating in the kitchenright now."He seemed confused.

  "Oh, come on," I said dubiously. "You have to know the effect you have onpeople."He tilted his head to one side, and his eyes were curious. "I dazzlepeople?""You haven't noticed? Do you think everybody gets their way so easily?"He ignored my questions. "Do I dazzle you?""Frequently," I admitted.

  And then our server arrived, her face expectant. The hostess haddefinitely dished behind the scenes, and this new girl didn't lookdisappointed. She flipped a strand of short black hair behind one ear andsmiled with unnecessary warmth.

  "Hello. My name is Amber, and I'll be your server tonight. What can I get you to drink?" I didn't miss that she was speaking only to him.

  He looked at me.

  "I'll have a Coke." It sounded like a question.

  "Two Cokes," he said.

  "I'll be right back with that," she assured him with another unnecessarysmile. But he didn't see it. He was watching me.

  "What?" I asked when she left.

  His eyes stayed fixed on my face. "How are you feeling?""I'm fine," I replied, surprised by his intensity.

  "You don't feel dizzy, sick, cold… ?""Should I?"He chuckled at my puzzled tone.

  "Well, I'm actually waiting for you to go into shock." His face twistedup into that perfect crooked smile.

  "I don't think that will happen," I said after I could breathe again.

  "I've always been very good at repressing unpleasant things.""Just the same, I'll feel better when you have some sugar and food inyou."Right on cue, the waitress appeared with our drinks and a basket ofbreadsticks. She stood with her back to me as she placed them on thetable.

  "Are you ready to order?" she asked Edward.

  "Bella?" he asked. She turned unwillingly toward me.

  I picked the first thing I saw on the menu. "Um… I'll have the mushroomravioli.""And you?" She turned back to him with a smile.

  "Nothing for me," he said. Of course not.

  "Let me know if you change your mind." The coy smile was still in place,but he wasn't looking at her, and she left dissatisfied.

  "Drink," he ordered.

  I sipped at my soda obediently, and then drank more deeply, surprised byhow thirsty I was. I realized I had finished the whole thing when hepushed his glass toward me.

  "Thanks," I muttered, still thirsty. The cold from the icy soda wasradiating through my chest, and I shivered.

  "Are you cold?""It's just the Coke," I explained, shivering again.

  "Don't you have a jacket?" His voice was disapproving.

  "Yes." I looked at the empty bench next to me. "Oh — I left it inJessica's car," I realized.

  Edward was shrugging out of his jacket. I suddenly realized that I hadnever once noticed what he was wearing — not just tonight, but ever. Ijust couldn't seem to look away from his face. I made myself look now,focusing. He was removing a light beige leather jacket now; underneath he wore an ivory turtleneck sweater. It fit him snugly, emphasizing howmuscular his chest was.

  He handed me the jacket, interrupting my ogling.

  "Thanks," I said again, sliding my arms into his jacket. It was cold —the way my jacket felt when I first picked it up in the morning, hangingin the drafty hallway. I shivered again. It smelled amazing. I inhaled,trying to identify the delicious scent. It didn't smell like cologne. Thesleeves were much too long; I shoved them back so I could free my hands.

  "That color blue looks lovely with your skin," he said, watching me. Iwas surprised; I looked down, flushing, of course.

  He pushed the bread basket toward me.

  "Really, I'm not going into shock," I protested.

  "You should be — a normal person would be. You don't even look shaken."He seemed unsettled. He stared into my eyes, and I saw how light his eyeswere, lighter than I'd ever seen them, golden butterscotch.

  "I feel very safe with you," I confessed, mesmerized into telling thetruth again.

  That displeased him; his alabaster brow furrowed. He shook his head,frowning.

  "This is more complicated than I'd planned," he murmured to himself.

  I picked up a breadstick and began nibbling on the end, measuring hisexpression. I wondered when it would be okay to start questioning him.

  "Usually you're in a better mood when your eyes are so light," Icommented, trying to distract him from whatever thought had left himfrowning and somber.

  He stared at me, stunned. "What?""You're always crabbier when your eyes are black — I expect it then," Iwent on. "I have a theory about that."His eyes narrowed. "More theories?""Mm-hm." I chewed on a small bite of the bread, trying to lookindifferent.

  "I hope you were more creative this time… or are you still stealing fromcomic books?" His faint smile was mocking; his eyes were still tight.

  "Well, no, I didn't get it from a comic book, but I didn't come up withit on my own, either," I confessed.

  "And?" he prompted.

  But then the waitress strode around the partition with my food. Irealized we'd been unconsciously leaning toward each other across thetable, because we both straightened up as she approached. She set thedish in front of me — it looked pretty good — and turned quickly toEdward.

  "Did you change your mind?" she asked. "Isn't there anything I can getyou?" I may have been imagining the double meaning in her words.

  "No, thank you, but some more soda would be nice." He gestured with along white hand to the empty cups in front of me.

  "Sure." She removed the empty glasses and walked away.

  "You were saying?" he asked.

  "I'll tell you about it in the car. If…" I paused.

   "There are conditions?" He raised one eyebrow, his voice ominous.

  "I do have a few questions, of course.""Of course."The waitress was back with two more Cokes. She sat them down without aword this time, and left again.

  I took a sip.

  "Well, go ahead," he pushed, his voice still hard.

  I started with the most undemanding. Or so I thought. "Why are you inPort Angeles?"He looked down, folding his large hands together slowly on the table. Hiseyes flickered up at me from under his lashes, the hint of a smirk on hisface.

  "Next.""But that's the easiest one," I objected.

  "Next," he repeated.

  I looked down, frustrated. I unrolled my silverware, picked up my fork,and carefully speared a ravioli. I put it in my mouth slowly, stilllooking down, chewing while I thought. The mushrooms were good. Iswallowed and took another sip of Coke before I looked up.

  "Okay, then." I glared at him, and continued slowly. "Let's say,hypothetically of course, that… someone… could know what people arethinking, read minds, you know — with a few exceptions.""Just one exception," he corrected, "hypothetically.""All right, with one exception, then." I was thrilled that he was playingalong, but I tried to seem casual.

  "How does that work? What are the limitations? How would… that someone…find someone else at exactly the right time? How would he know she was introuble?" I wondered if my convoluted questions even made sense.

  "Hypothetically?" he asked.

  "Sure.""Well, if… that someone…""Let's call him 'Joe,'" I suggested.

  He smiled wryly. "Joe, then. If Joe had been paying attention, the timingwouldn't have needed to be quite so exact." He shook his head, rollinghis eyes. "Only you could get into trouble in a town this small. Youwould have devastated their crime rate statistics for a decade, you know.""We were speaking of a hypothetical case," I reminded him frostily.

  He laughed at me, his eyes warm.

  "Yes, we were," he agreed. "Shall we call you 'Jane'?""How did you know?" I asked, unable to curb my intensity. I realized Iwas leaning toward him again.

  He seemed to be wavering, torn by some internal dilemma. His eyes lockedwith mine, and I guessed he was making the decision right then whether ornot to simply tell me the truth.

  "You can trust me, you know," I murmured. I reached forward, without thinking, to touch his folded hands, but he slid them away minutely, andI pulled my hand back.

  "I don't know if I have a choice anymore." His voice was almost awhisper. "I was wrong — you're much more observant than I gave you creditfor.""I thought you were always right.""I used to be." He shook his head again. "I was wrong about you on oneother thing, as well. You're not a magnet for accidents — that's not abroad enough classification. You are a magnet for trouble. If there isanything dangerous within a ten-mile radius, it will invariably find you.""And you put yourself into that category?" I guessed.

  His face turned cold, expressionless. "Unequivocally."I stretched my hand across the table again — ignoring him when he pulledback slightly once more — to touch the back of his hand shyly with myfingertips. His skin was cold and hard, like a stone.

  "Thank you." My voice was fervent with gratitude. "That's twice now."His face softened. "Let's not try for three, agreed?"I scowled, but nodded. He moved his hand out from under mine, placingboth of his under the table. But he leaned toward me.

  "I followed you to Port Angeles," he admitted, speaking in a rush. "I'venever tried to keep a specific person alive before, and it's much moretroublesome than I would have believed. But that's probably just becauseit's you. Ordinary people seem to make it through the day without so manycatastrophes." He paused. I wondered if it should bother me that he wasfollowing me; instead I felt a strange surge of pleasure. He stared,maybe wondering why my lips were curving into an involuntary smile.

  "Did you ever think that maybe my number was up the first time, with thevan, and that you've been interfering with fate?" I speculated,distracting myself.

  "That wasn't the first time," he said, and his voice was hard to hear. Istared at him in amazement, but he was looking down. "Your number was upthe first time I met you."I felt a spasm of fear at his words, and the abrupt memory of his violentblack glare that first day… but the overwhelming sense of safety I feltin his presence stifled it. By the time he looked up to read my eyes,there was no trace of fear in them.

  "You remember?" he asked, his angel's face grave.

  "Yes." I was calm.

  "And yet here you sit." There was a trace of disbelief in his voice; heraised one eyebrow.

  "Yes, here I sit… because of you." I paused. "Because somehow you knewhow to find me today… ?" I prompted.

  He pressed his lips together, staring at me through narrowed eyes,deciding again. His eyes flashed down to my full plate, and then back tome.

  "You eat, I'll talk," he bargained.

  I quickly scooped up another ravioli and popped it in my mouth.

  "It's harder than it should be — keeping track of you. Usually I can findsomeone very easily, once I've heard their mind before." He looked at meanxiously, and I realized I had frozen. I made myself swallow, thenstabbed another ravioli and tossed it in.

   "I was keeping tabs on Jessica, not carefully — like I said, only youcould find trouble in Port Angeles — and at first I didn't notice whenyou took off on your own. Then, when I realized that you weren't with heranymore, I went looking for you at the bookstore I saw in her head. Icould tell that you hadn't gone in, and that you'd gone south… and I knewyou would have to turn around soon. So I was just waiting for you,randomly searching through the thoughts of people on the street — to seeif anyone had noticed you so I would know where you were. I had no reasonto be worried… but I was strangely anxious…" He was lost in thought,staring past me, seeing things I couldn't imagine.

  "I started to drive in circles, still… listening. The sun was finallysetting, and I was about to get out and follow you on foot. And then —"He stopped, clenching his teeth together in sudden fury. He made aneffort to calm himself.

  "Then what?" I whispered. He continued to stare over my head.

  "I heard what they were thinking," he growled, his upper lip curlingslightly back over his teeth. "I saw your face in his mind." He suddenlyleaned forward, one elbow appearing on the table, his hand covering hiseyes. The movement was so swift it startled me.

  "It was very… hard — you can't imagine how hard — for me to simply takeyou away, and leave them… alive." His voice was muffled by his arm. "Icould have let you go with Jessica and Angela, but I was afraid if youleft me alone, I would go looking for them," he admitted in a whisper.

  I sat quietly, dazed, my thoughts incoherent. My hands were folded in mylap, and I was leaning weakly against the back of the seat. He still hadhis face in his hand, and he was as still as if he'd been carved from thestone his skin resembled.

  Finally he looked up, his eyes seeking mine, full of his own questions.

  "Are you ready to go home?" he asked.

  "I'm ready to leave," I qualified, overly grateful that we had thehour-long ride home together. I wasn't ready to say goodbye to him.

  The waitress appeared as if she'd been called. Or watching.

  "How are we doing?" she asked Edward.

  "We're ready for the check, thank you." His voice was quiet, rougher,still reflecting the strain of our conversation. It seemed to muddle her.

  He looked up, waiting.

  "S-sure," she stuttered. "Here you go." She pulled a small leather folderfrom the front pocket of her black apron and handed it to him.

  There was a bill in his hand already. He slipped it into the folder andhanded it right back to her.

  "No change." He smiled. Then he stood up, and I scrambled awkwardly to myfeet.

  She smiled invitingly at him again. "You have a nice evening."He didn't look away from me as he thanked her. I suppressed a smile.

  He walked close beside me to the door, still careful not to touch me. Iremembered what Jessica had said about her relationship with Mike, howthey were almost to the first-kiss stage. I sighed. Edward seemed to hearme, and he looked down curiously. I looked at the sidewalk, grateful thathe didn't seem to be able to know what I was thinking.

  He opened the passenger door, holding it for me as I stepped in, shuttingit softly behind me. I watched him walk around the front of the car,amazed, yet again, by how graceful he was. I probably should have beenused to that by now — but I wasn't. I had a feeling Edward wasn't the kind of person anyone got used to.

  Once inside the car, he started the engine and turned the heater on high.

  It had gotten very cold, and I guessed the good weather was at an end. Iwas warm in his jacket, though, breathing in the scent of it when Ithought he couldn't see.

  Edward pulled out through the traffic, apparently without a glance,flipping around to head toward the freeway.

  "Now," he said significantly, "it's your turn."