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Chapter 9 Theory

Chapter 9 Theory

"Can I ask just one more?" I pleaded as Edward accelerated much tooquickly down the quiet street. He didn't seem to be paying any attentionto the road.

  He sighed.

  "One," he agreed. His lips pressed together into a cautious line.

  "Well… you said you knew I hadn't gone into the bookstore, and that I hadgone south. I was just wondering how you knew that."He looked away, deliberating.

  "I thought we were past all the evasiveness," I grumbled.

  He almost smiled.

  "Fine, then. I followed your scent." He looked at the road, giving metime to compose my face. I couldn't think of an acceptable response tothat, but I filed it carefully away for future study. I tried to refocus.

  I wasn't ready to let him be finished, now that he was finally explainingthings.

  "And then you didn't answer one of my first questions…" I stalled.

  He looked at me with disapproval. "Which one?""How does it work — the mind-reading thing? Can you read anybody's mind,anywhere? How do you do it? Can the rest of your family… ?" I felt silly,asking for clarification on make-believe.

  "That's more than one," he pointed out. I simply intertwined my fingersand gazed at him, waiting.

  "No, it's just me. And I can't hear anyone, anywhere. I have to be fairlyclose. The more familiar someone's… 'voice' is, the farther away I canhear them. But still, no more than a few miles." He paused thoughtfully.

  "It's a little like being in a huge hall filled with people, everyonetalking at once. It's just a hum — a buzzing of voices in the background.

  Until I focus on one voice, and then what they're thinking is clear.

  "Most of the time I tune it all out — it can be very distracting. Andthen it's easier to seem normal" — he frowned as he said the word — "whenI'm not accidentally answering someone's thoughts rather than theirwords.""Why do you think you can't hear me?" I asked curiously.

  He looked at me, his eyes enigmatic.

  "I don't know," he murmured. "The only guess I have is that maybe your mind doesn't work the same way the rest of theirs do. Like your thoughtsare on the AM frequency and I'm only getting FM." He grinned at me,suddenly amused.

  "My mind doesn't work right? I'm a freak?" The words bothered me morethan they should — probably because his speculation hit home. I'd alwayssuspected as much, and it embarrassed me to have it confirmed.

  "I hear voices in my mind and you're worried that you're the freak," helaughed. "Don't worry, it's just a theory…" His face tightened. "Whichbrings us back to you."I sighed. How to begin?

  "Aren't we past all the evasions now?" he reminded me softly.

  I looked away from his face for the first time, trying to find words. Ihappened to notice the speedometer.

  "Holy crow!" I shouted. "Slow down!""What's wrong?" He was startled. But the car didn't decelerate.

  "You're going a hundred miles an hour!" I was still shouting. I shot apanicky glance out the window, but it was too dark to see much. The roadwas only visible in the long patch of bluish brightness from theheadlights. The forest along both sides of the road was like a black wall— as hard as a wall of steel if we veered off the road at this speed.

  "Relax, Bella." He rolled his eyes, still not slowing.

  "Are you trying to kill us?" I demanded.

  "We're not going to crash."I tried to modulate my voice. "Why are you in such a hurry?""I always drive like this." He turned to smile crookedly at me.

  "Keep your eyes on the road!""I've never been in an accident, Bella — I've never even gotten aticket." He grinned and tapped his forehead. "Built-in radar detector.""Very funny." I fumed. "Charlie's a cop, remember? I was raised to abideby traffic laws. Besides, if you turn us into a Volvo pretzel around atree trunk, you can probably just walk away.""Probably," he agreed with a short, hard laugh. "But you can't." Hesighed, and I watched with relief as the needle gradually drifted towardeighty. "Happy?""Almost.""I hate driving slow," he muttered.

  "This is slow?""Enough commentary on my driving," he snapped. "I'm still waiting foryour latest theory."I bit my lip. He looked down at me, his honey eyes unexpectedly gentle.

  "I won't laugh," he promised.

  "I'm more afraid that you'll be angry with me.""Is it that bad?""Pretty much, yeah."He waited. I was looking down at my hands, so I couldn't see his expression.

  "Go ahead." His voice was calm.

  "I don't know how to start," I admitted.

  "Why don't you start at the beginning… you said you didn't come up withthis on your own.""No.""What got you started — a book? A movie?" he probed.

  "No — it was Saturday, at the beach." I risked a glance up at his face.

  He looked puzzled.

  "I ran into an old family friend —Jacob Black," I continued. "His dad andCharlie have been friends since I was a baby."He still looked confused.

  "His dad is one of the Quileute elders." I watched him carefully. Hisconfused expression froze in place. "We went for a walk —" I edited allmy scheming out of the story "— and he was telling me some old legends —trying to scare me, I think. He told me one…" I hesitated.

  "Go on," he said.

  "About vampires." I realized I was whispering. I couldn't look at hisface now. But I saw his knuckles tighten convulsively on the wheel.

  "And you immediately thought of me?" Still calm.

  "No. He… mentioned your family."He was silent, staring at the road.

  I was worried suddenly, worried about protecting Jacob.

  "He just thought it was a silly superstition," I said quickly. "He didn'texpect me to think anything of it." It didn't seem like enough; I had toconfess. "It was my fault, I forced him to tell me.""Why?""Lauren said something about you — she was trying to provoke me. And anolder boy from the tribe said your family didn't come to the reservation,only it sounded like he meant something different. So I got Jacob aloneand I tricked it out of him," I admitted, hanging my head.

  He startled me by laughing. I glared up at him. He was laughing, but hiseyes were fierce, staring ahead.

  "Tricked him how?" he asked.

  "I tried to flirt — it worked better than I thought it would." Disbeliefcolored my tone as I remembered.

  "I'd like to have seen that." He chuckled darkly. "And you accused me ofdazzling people — poor Jacob Black."I blushed and looked out my window into the night.

  "What did you do then?" he asked after a minute.

  "I did some research on the Internet.""And did that convince you?" His voice sounded barely interested. But hishands were clamped hard onto the steering wheel.

  "No. Nothing fit. Most of it was kind of silly. And then…" I stopped.

   "What?""I decided it didn't matter," I whispered.

  "It didn't matter?" His tone made me look up — I had finally brokenthrough his carefully composed mask. His face was incredulous, with justa hint of the anger I'd feared.

  "No," I said softly. "It doesn't matter to me what you are."A hard, mocking edge entered his voice. "You don't care if I'm a monster?

  If I'm not human!""No."He was silent, staring straight ahead again. His face was bleak and cold.

  "You're angry," I sighed. "I shouldn't have said anything.""No," he said, but his tone was as hard as his face. "I'd rather knowwhat you're thinking — even if what you're thinking is insane.""So I'm wrong again?" I challenged.

  "That's not what I was referring to. 'It doesn't matter'!" he quoted,gritting his teeth together.

  "I'm right?" I gasped.

  "Does it matter?"I took a deep breath.

  "Not really." I paused. "But I am curious." My voice, at least, wascomposed.

  He was suddenly resigned. "What are you curious about?""How old are you?""Seventeen," he answered promptly.

  "And how long have you been seventeen?"His lips twitched as he stared at the road. "A while," he admitted atlast.

  "Okay." I smiled, pleased that he was still being honest with me. Hestared down at me with watchful eyes, much as he had before, when he wasworried I would go into shock. I smiled wider in encouragement, and hefrowned.

  "Don't laugh — but how can you come out during the daytime?"He laughed anyway. "Myth.""Burned by the sun?""Myth.""Sleeping in coffins?""Myth." He hesitated for a moment, and a peculiar tone entered his voice.

  "I can't sleep."It took me a minute to absorb that. "At all?""Never," he said, his voice nearly inaudible. He turned to look at mewith a wistful expression. The golden eyes held mine, and I lost my trainof thought. I stared at him until he looked away.

  "You haven't asked me the most important question yet." His voice was hard now, and when he looked at me again his eyes were cold.

  I blinked, still dazed. "Which one is that?""You aren't concerned about my diet?" he asked sarcastically.

  "Oh," I murmured, "that.""Yes, that." His voice was bleak. "Don't you want to know if I drinkblood?"I flinched. "Well, Jacob said something about that.""What did Jacob say?" he asked flatly.

  "He said you didn't… hunt people. He said your family wasn't supposed tobe dangerous because you only hunted animals.""He said we weren't dangerous?" His voice was deeply skeptical.

  "Not exactly. He said you weren't supposed to be dangerous. But theQuileutes still didn't want you on their land, just in case."He looked forward, but I couldn't tell if he was watching the road or not.

  "So was he right? About not hunting people?" I tried to keep my voice aseven as possible.

  "The Quileutes have a long memory," he whispered.

  I took it as a confirmation.

  "Don't let that make you complacent, though," he warned me. "They'reright to keep their distance from us. We are still dangerous.""I don't understand.""We try," he explained slowly. "We're usually very good at what we do.

  Sometimes we make mistakes. Me, for example, allowing myself to be alonewith you.""This is a mistake?" I heard the sadness in my voice, but I didn't knowif he could as well.

  "A very dangerous one," he murmured.

  We were both silent then. I watched the headlights twist with the curvesof the road. They moved too fast; it didn't look real, it looked like avideo game. I was aware of the time slipping away so quickly, like theblack road beneath us, and I was hideously afraid that I would never haveanother chance to be with him like this again — openly, the walls betweenus gone for once. His words hinted at an end, and I recoiled from theidea. I couldn't waste one minute I had with him.

  "Tell me more," I asked desperately, not caring what he said, just so Icould hear his voice again.

  He looked at me quickly, startled by the change in my tone. "What more doyou want to know?""Tell me why you hunt animals instead of people," I suggested, my voicestill tinged with desperation. I realized my eyes were wet, and I foughtagainst the grief that was trying to overpower me.

  "I don't want to be a monster." His voice was very low.

  "But animals aren't enough?"He paused. "I can't be sure, of course, but I'd compare it to living ontofu and soy milk; we call ourselves vegetarians, our little inside joke.

  It doesn't completely satiate the hunger — or rather thirst. But it keensus strong enough to resist. Most of the time." His tone turned ominous.

   "Sometimes it's more difficult than others.""Is it very difficult for you now?" I asked.

  He sighed. "Yes.""But you're not hungry now," I said confidently — stating, not asking.

  "Why do you think that?""Your eyes. I told you I had a theory. I've noticed that people — men inparticular — are crabbier when they're hungry."He chuckled. "You are observant, aren't you?"I didn't answer; I just listened to the sound of his laugh, committing itto memory.

  "Were you hunting this weekend, with Emmett?" I asked when it was quietagain.

  "Yes." He paused for a second, as if deciding whether or not to saysomething. "I didn't want to leave, but it was necessary. It's a biteasier to be around you when I'm not thirsty.""Why didn't you want to leave?""It makes me… anxious… to be away from you." His eyes were gentle butintense, and they seemed to be making my bones turn soft. "I wasn'tjoking when I asked you to try not to fall in the ocean or get run overlast Thursday. I was distracted all weekend, worrying about you. Andafter what happened tonight, I'm surprised that you did make it through awhole weekend unscathed." He shook his head, and then seemed to remembersomething. "Well, not totally unscathed.""What?""Your hands," he reminded me. I looked down at my palms, at thealmost-healed scrapes across the heels of my hands. His eyes missednothing.

  "I fell," I sighed.

  "That's what I thought." His lips curved up at the corners. "I suppose,being you, it could have been much worse — and that possibility tormentedme the entire time I was away. It was a very long three days. I reallygot on Emmett's nerves." He smiled ruefully at me.

  "Three days? Didn't you just get back today?""No, we got back Sunday.""Then why weren't any of you in school?" I was frustrated, almost angryas I thought of how much disappointment I had suffered because of hisabsence.

  "Well, you asked if the sun hurt me, and it doesn't. But I can't go outin the sunlight — at least, not where anyone can see.""Why?""I'll show you sometime," he promised.

  I thought about it for a moment.

  "You might have called me," I decided.

  He was puzzled. "But I knew you were safe.""But I didn't know where you were. I —" I hesitated, dropping my eyes.

  "What?" His velvety voice was compelling.

   "I didn't like it. Not seeing you. It makes me anxious, too." I blushedto be saying this out loud.

  He was quiet. I glanced up, apprehensive, and saw that his expression waspained.

  "Ah," he groaned quietly. "This is wrong."I couldn't understand his response. "What did I say?""Don't you see, Bella? It's one thing for me to make myself miserable,but a wholly other thing for you to be so involved." He turned hisanguished eyes to the road, his words flowing almost too fast for me tounderstand. "I don't want to hear that you feel that way." His voice waslow but urgent. His words cut me. "It's wrong. It's not safe. I'mdangerous, Bella — please, grasp that.""No." I tried very hard not to look like a sulky child.

  "I'm serious," he growled.

  "So am I. I told you, it doesn't matter what you are. It's too late."His voice whipped out, low and harsh. "Never say that."I bit my lip and was glad he couldn't know how much that hurt. I staredout at the road. We must be close now. He was driving much too fast.

  "What are you thinking?" he asked, his voice still raw. I just shook myhead, not sure if I could speak. I could feel his gaze on my face, but Ikept my eyes forward.

  "Are you crying?" He sounded appalled. I hadn't realized the moisture inmy eyes had brimmed over. I quickly rubbed my hand across my cheek, andsure enough, traitor tears were there, betraying me.

  "No," I said, but my voice cracked.

  I saw him reach toward me hesitantly with his right hand, but then hestopped and placed it slowly back on the steering wheel.

  "I'm sorry." His voice burned with regret. I knew he wasn't justapologizing for the words that had upset me.

  The darkness slipped by us in silence.

  "Tell me something," he asked after another minute, and I could hear himstruggle to use a lighter tone.

  "Yes?""What were you thinking tonight, just before I came around the corner? Icouldn't understand your expression — you didn't look that scared, youlooked like you were concentrating very hard on something.""I was trying to remember how to incapacitate an attacker — you know,self-defense. I was going to smash his nose into his brain." I thought ofthe dark-haired man with a surge of hate.

  "You were going to fight them?" This upset him. "Didn't you think aboutrunning?""I fall down a lot when I run," I admitted.

  "What about screaming for help?""I was getting to that part."He shook his head. "You were right — I'm definitely fighting fate tryingto keep you alive." I sighed. We were slowing, passing into the boundaries of Forks. It hadtaken less than twenty minutes.

  "Will I see you tomorrow?" I demanded.

  "Yes — I have a paper due, too." He smiled. "I'll save you a seat atlunch."It was silly, after everything we'd been through tonight, how that littlepromise sent flutters through my stomach, and made me unable to speak.

  We were in front of Charlie's house. The lights were on, my truck in itsplace, everything utterly normal. It was like waking from a dream. Hestopped the car, but I didn't move.

  "Do you promise to be there tomorrow?""I promise."I considered that for a moment, then nodded. I pulled his jacket off,taking one last whiff.

  "You can keep it — you don't have a jacket for tomorrow," he reminded me.

  I handed it back to him. "I don't want to have to explain to Charlie.""Oh, right." He grinned.

  I hesitated, my hand on the door handle, trying to prolong the moment.

  "Bella?" he asked in a different tone — serious, but hesitant.

  "Yes?" I turned back to him too eagerly.

  "Will you promise me something?""Yes," I said, and instantly regretted my unconditional agreement. Whatif he asked me to stay away from him? I couldn't keep that promise.

  "Don't go into the woods alone."I stared at him in blank confusion. "Why?"He frowned, and his eyes were tight as he stared past me out the window.

  "I'm not always the most dangerous thing out there. Let's leave it atthat."I shuddered slightly at the sudden bleakness in his voice, but I wasrelieved. This, at least, was an easy promise to honor. "Whatever yousay.""I'll see you tomorrow," he sighed, and I knew he wanted me to leave now.

  "Tomorrow, then." I opened the door unwillingly.

  "Bella?" I turned and he was leaning toward me, his pale, glorious facejust inches from mine. My heart stopped beating.

  "Sleep well," he said. His breath blew in my face, stunning me. It wasthe same exquisite scent that clung to his jacket, but in a moreconcentrated form. I blinked, thoroughly dazed. He leaned away.

  I was unable to move until my brain had somewhat unscrambled itself. ThenI stepped out of the car awkwardly, having to use the frame for support.

  I thought I heard him chuckle, but the sound was too quiet for me to becertain.

  He waited till I had stumbled to the front door, and then I heard hisengine quietly rev. I turned to watch the silver car disappear around thecorner. I realized it was very cold.

   I reached for the key mechanically, unlocked the door, and stepped inside.

  Charlie called from the living room. "Bella?""Yeah, Dad, it's me." I walked in to see him. He was watching a baseballgame.

  "You're home early.""Am I?" I was surprised.

  "It's not even eight yet," he told me. "Did you girls have fun?""Yeah — it was lots of fun." My head was spinning as I tried to rememberall the way back to the girls' night out I had planned. "They both founddresses.""Are you all right?""I'm just tired. I did a lot of walking.""Well, maybe you should go lie down." He sounded concerned. I wonderedwhat my face looked like.

  "I'm just going to call Jessica first.""Weren't you just with her?" he asked, surprised.

  "Yes — but I left my jacket in her car. I want to make sure she brings ittomorrow.""Well, give her a chance to get home first.""Right," I agreed.

  I went to the kitchen and fell, exhausted, into a chair. I was reallyfeeling dizzy now. I wondered if I was going to go into shock after all.

  Get a grip, I told myself.

  The phone rang suddenly, startling me. I yanked it off the hook.

  "Hello?" I asked breathlessly.

  "Bella?""Hey, Jess, I was just going to call you.""You made it home?" Her voice was relieved… and surprised.

  "Yes. I left my jacket in your car — could you bring it to me tomorrow?""Sure. But tell me what happened!" she demanded.

  "Um, tomorrow — in Trig, okay?"She caught on quickly. "Oh, is your dad there?""Yes, that's right.""Okay, I'll talk to you tomorrow, then. Bye!" I could hear the impatiencein her voice.

  "Bye, Jess."I walked up the stairs slowly, a heavy stupor clouding my mind. I wentthrough the motions of getting ready for bed without paying any attentionto what I was doing. It wasn't until I was in the shower — the water toohot, burning my skin — that I realized I was freezing. I shudderedviolently for several minutes before the steaming spray could finallyrelax my rigid muscles. Then I stood in the shower, too tired to move,until the hot water began to run out.

   I stumbled out, wrapping myself securely in a towel, trying to hold theheat from the water in so the aching shivers wouldn't return. I dressedfor bed swiftly and climbed under my quilt, curling into a ball, huggingmyself to keep warm. A few small shudders trembled through me.

  My mind still swirled dizzily, full of images I couldn't understand, andsome I fought to repress. Nothing seemed clear at first, but as I fellgradually closer to unconsciousness, a few certainties became evident.

  About three things I was absolutely positive. First, Edward was avampire. Second, there was part of him — and I didn't know how potentthat part might be — that thirsted for my blood. And third, I wasunconditionally and irrevocably in love with him.