The next morning was much more relaxed. It was Monday, and Bella and I were driving to school. We were both in good spirits until a block away from the parking lot. That’s when I picked up on his scent. A werewolf was waiting in the Forks High School parking lot, and I had a pretty good idea about who it would be. I scanned the parking lot for thoughts, and found Jacob’s face in some of the students minds whom had passed him by. This would not be good.

“If I asked you to do something, would you trust me?” I asked Bella.

She looked at me carefully, and I knew she could sense the stress I was feeling. My hands were gripping the steering wheel dangerously hard, and I’m surprised it didn’t turn to dust beneath my palms. My eyes were narrowed and hard. She gulped and her heartbeat soared. “That depends.”

“I was afraid you would say that,” I said, pulling into my usual parking spot.

“What do you want me to do, Edward?” She asked, sounding nervous.

“I want you to stay in the car. I want you to wait here until I come back for you.” I looked at Jacob Black then, trying to pick his thoughts out of the crowd. They weren’t hard to miss, he was practically shouting in his mind. Good, they’re here. I just want to get this over with.

“But…why?” Bella asked before following my eyes and seeing Jacob, parked with his motorcycle on the sidewalk. “Oh.”

Jacob’s mind was contemplating what he wanted to say to us. Well at least Bella didn’t lie when she said she’d be here. That’s good, I needed the witnesses. Wouldn’t want to phase in front of everyone, now, would I? It’ll help me keep my emotions in check. Calm, Jake. Just stay calm.

“You jumped to the wrong conclusion last night,” I told her. “He asked about school because he knew that I would be where you were. He was looking for a safe place to talk to me. A place with witnesses.”

Just tell the bloodsucker that if any of his family crosses the Quileute boarder again, we’ll tear them apart without a second thought. That’s all. Nothing to it. He seemed to be talking himself into this conversation.

“I’m not staying in the car,” Bella said indignantly.

“Of course not,” I groaned, although I expected her reaction. “Well, let’s get this over with.”

We walked to where Jacob was standing, students scurrying past him, their thoughts intimidated. I suppose he would seem frightening until you realized that he’s just an overgrown mutt. “You could have called us,” I muttered harshly as we closed the distance between us.

Yeah, right. “Sorry. I don’t have any leeches on my speed dial,” he replied.

“You could have reached me at Bella’s house, of course,” I retorted smugly.

You don’t deserve her. She may not be able to see it, but everyone else can. It’s only a matter of time before she figures it out herself. Once you and your family get ripped apart for breaking the treaty…

“This is hardly the place, Jacob. Could we discuss this later?” I asked, answering his thoughts.

“Sure, sure. I’ll stop by your crypt after school,” he snorted at his joke. Well at least he thought he was funny. “What’s wrong with now?”

I looked pointedly at the students who were now openly staring at the situation at hand. Their thoughts were confused, some were excited to be seeing what they thought would be escalating into a fight. “I already know what you came to say,” I whispered lowly. “Message delivered. Consider us warned.”

I glanced at Bella, hoping she wasn’t paying close attention, although I knew she would be. I really didn’t want to do this right now. “Warned?” she asked. “What are you talking about?”

It figures that he’d hide it from her. “You didn’t tell her? What, were you afraid she’d take our side?” Jacob asked.

“Please drop it, Jacob,” I said, trying to remain calm. I glanced at Bella, worry and confusion forming in her eyes.

“Why?” Jacob challenged. Afraid of what she’ll do when she finds out you lied to her again? Maybe she’ll change her mind about who she should trust when she realizes you’ll never tell her the truth.

“What don’t I know? Edward?” Bella asked, but I continued glaring at Jacob.

“Jake?”

This should be good. ”He didn’t tell you that his big…brother crossed the line Saturday night?” he asked her, feigning surprise. He deserves to die for that, bloodsucker. “Paul was totally justified in –“

“It was no man’s land!” I hissed at him.

“Was not!” he replied, his thoughts turning angry. He began shaking, and I knew it was taking all he had to not phase then.

Bella contemplated a moment before whispering, “Emmett and Paul? What happened? Where they fighting? Why? Did Paul get hurt?” She was panicking now.

“No one fought. No one got hurt. Don’t be anxious,” I said quietly, attempting to placate her.

She has no idea what’s going on, does she? You never told her about the female bloodsucker coming back this weekend, did you? “You didn’t tell her anything at all, did you? Is that why you took her away? So she wouldn’t know that --?”

“Leave now,” I cut him off before he could mention Victoria’s return. I didn’t want Bella to find out this way. I wanted to shield her from the worry I knew would consume her when she knew. I didn’t want to have to mention Victoria until she had been killed, and I could assure her that it was over and she had nothing to fear. But of course, perceptive human that she is, I saw the realization in her eyes at that moment.

She began trembling and gasping, and I was fully expecting her to go into shock. “She came back for me,” she managed out between gasps.

I turned to her, stroking her face with my hands, trying to calm her down. “It’s fine. It’s fine. I’ll never let her get close to you, it’s fine.” I whispered.

I turned back to Jacob, anger consuming me. He was the reason Bella was going to worry herself sick until Victoria was destroyed. He was the reason her nightmares would surely be returning. I had wanted to protect her, and he was ruining the sense of security I had worked so hard to give to her.

“Does that answer your question, mongrel?”

Wow, she doesn’t look so hot. But she needed to know…I did the right thing. “You don’t think Bella has a right to know? It’s her life,” he stated.

I kept my voice too low for human ears. There were people surrounding us now, openly staring, waiting for someone to throw the first punch. “Why should she be frightened when she was never in danger?”

“Better frightened then lied to.”

Bella was crying now, hot tears spilling over her cheeks. I wiped them away quickly, cursing Jacob Black’s name under my breath. “Do you really think hurting her is better than protecting her?” I challenged.

I’m not the one that hurts her. “She’s tougher than you think. And she’s been through worse.”

At that moment, Jacob’s thoughts twisted into memories. Bella, found broken on the forest floor the night I left her. The way her eyes held no more life, the way she wouldn’t respond to anyone, almost as if her mind had retreated into itself. She was a shell of a person, so far gone from the Bella I knew and loved. The memory shifted to Bella screaming out at night, and crying for me, but I wasn’t there. Apparently the dog checked up on her sometimes, hoping she was all right. I couldn’t stop the all-consuming pain and regret that hit me with these memories of his. I tried to compose my face before Bella could notice, but of course she saw.

“What are you doing to him?” She demanded protectively.

“It’s nothing, Bella,” I tried to calm her. “Jacob just has a good memory, that’s all.”

Jacob grinned a smug grin, and this time his memories switched to him and Bella, walking on the beach, hand in hand. This Bella seemed better, happy even. His thoughts shifted quickly then, to all the touches, the longing looks, the small kisses on the cheek between them. He loved her, not in the way that I did, I was sure, but loved her none the less. That strange sense of jealousy overwhelmed me again, and I winced.

“Stop it!” Bella yelled. “Whatever you’re doing.”

“Sure, if you want,” Jacob shrugged, the memories fading. “It’s his own fault if he doesn’t like the things I remember, though.”

He had a point. If I hadn’t left, he wouldn’t have those memories at all. It was my own fault that he could use them against me now. Suddenly the principal’s thoughts broke through the circle of students surrounding us.

“The principal’s on his way to discourage loitering on school property,” I whispered to Bella. “Let’s get to English, Bella, so you’re not involved.”

Do you always tell her what to do and when to do it? “Overprotective, isn’t he? A little trouble makes life fun. Let me guess, you’re not allowed to have fun, are you?” Jacob asked Bella. I could show her fun…

His mind wandered to things he’d like to do with Bella, not all of which would be considered appropriate. My lips pulled back into a slight snarl protectively.

“Shut up, Jake,” Bella said, obviously wanting this conversation to be over.

“That sounds like a no,” Jacob laughed. “Hey, if you ever feel like having a life again, you could come see me. I’ve still got your motorcycle in my garage.”

He was obviously trying to annoy me. And it was working.

“You were supposed to sell that,” Bella replied. “You promised Charlie you would.”

“Yeah, right. Like I would do that. It belongs to you, not me. Anyway, I’ll hold onto it until you want it back.” If she comes to visit, I know I can get her to come riding with me. It’ll be just like old times.

“Jake…” Bella started.

“I think I might have been wrong before, you know, about not being able to be friends. Maybe we could manage it, on my side of the line. Come see me.” If I could just get her away from the bloodsucker, I know she’d see what she’s missing.

His mind was formulating a plan to get Bella away from me. I decided that, as there was no way I would be allowing Bella to go to La Push by herself anyway, I wouldn’t let Jacob Black get to me. When Bella quickly glanced at my face, it was completely at ease, which surprised her.

“I, er, don’t know about that, Jake,” she said, somewhat awkwardly.

Please, Bella…”I miss you every day, Bella. It’s not the same without you,” I don’t care that the leech is standing right there. She needs to know how I feel.

”I know, and I’m sorry, Jake, I just…” she trailed off, well aware of my presence.

Stupid bloodsucker has her brainwashed! Doesn’t matter, I don’t need anybody anyway. “I know,” he sighed. “Doesn’t matter, right? I guess I’ll survive or something. Who needs friends?”

He was somewhere between trying to guilt Bella into going against me, and talking himself into not needing her when she wouldn’t. I held her tightly, knowing that if I wasn’t there she would be running over to comfort him.

“Okay, get to class,” the principal’s voice broke through the crowd that had surrounded us. “Move along, Mr. Crowley.”

I loosened my hold on Bella’s waist, grabbing only her hand, as I started to pull her away from the scene.

“I mean it. Detention for anyone who’s still standing here when I turn around again.” He said as the crowd dissipated. “Ah, Mr. Cullen. Do we have a problem here?” It figures that one of the Cullen’s would be the center of this circus. They are a strange bunch.

“Not at all, Mr. Greene. We were just on our way to class,” I replied, a persuasive smile on my face.

“Excellent,” he replied, turning to Jacob. “I don’t seem to recognize your friend. Are you a new student here?” I sure hope not. Everything about this one screams trouble. That’s just what I need right now.

“Nope.”

“Then I suggest you remove yourself from school property at once, young man, before I call the police,” Mr. Greene threatened.

Ha! That would be interesting, wouldn’t it? Charlie arresting me? Jacob grinned at the thought. ”Yes, sir,” he saluted the principal before getting on his motorcycle and peeling off the sidewalk obnoxiously.

Stupid kids these days. Why I decided to become a principal, I’ll never understand. “Mr. Cullen, I expect you to ask your friend to refrain from trespassing again,” Mr. Greene turned to me.

“He’s no friend of mine, Mr. Greene, but I’ll pass the message along.”

Hmm…Edward has never been in any trouble before. He doesn’t seem like the type to get into fights. I’d expect that from the older one, but not him. “I see,” he started. “If you’re worried about any trouble, I’d be happy to –“

“There’s nothing to worry about, Mr. Greene,” I interrupted him. “There won’t be any trouble.”

“I hope that’s correct. Well, then. On to class. You, too, Miss Swan.”

I nodded, pulling Bella along. When we were out of earshot of the principal, I turned to her. “Do you feel well enough to go to class?”

“Yes,” she whispered. I knew it was a lie, but there was no point in arguing with her when Mr. Greene was right behind us.

We arrived late, and took our seats. Immediately, Bella tore out a notebook page and began writing. She shoved the paper towards me:

What happened? Tell me everything. And screw the protecting me crap, please.

I almost laughed at her choice of words, but decided against it. Sighing, I explained as best I could in writing what had happened over the weekend:

Alice saw that Victoria was coming back. I took you out of town merely as a precaution — there was never a chance that she would have gotten anywhere close to you. Emmett and Jasper very nearly had her, but Victoria seems to have some instinct for evasion. She escaped right down the Quileute boundary line as if she were reading it from a map. It didn’t help that Alice’s abilities were nullified by the Quileute’s’ involvement. To be fair, the Quileutes might have had her, too, if we hadn’t gotten in the way.
The big gray one thought Emmett was over the line, and he got defensive. Of course Rosalie reacted to that, and everyone left the chase to protect their companions. Carlisle and Jasper got things calmed down before it got out of hand. But by then, Victoria had slipped away. That’s everything.


She frowned and shuddered as she read the note, obviously displeased that I didn’t tell her what was going on. I knew she would be upset about my overprotective nature, but I truly only meant the best. She erased my words quickly and wrote her own:

What about Charlie? She could have been after him.

I started shaking my head, wanting to explain that we had made sure Charlie was safe from harm, but she ignored me and continued writing:

You can’t know that she wasn’t thinking that, because you weren’t here. Florida was a bad idea.

I took the paper from her then, trying to lighten the situation:

I wasn’t about to send you off alone. With your luck, not even the black box would survive.

She frowned at my note, apparently not finding me funny. She was, however, distracted, because she wrote:

So let’s say my bad luck did crash the plane. What exactly were you going to do about it?

She was angry with me. I had to stifle laughter

Why is the plane crashing?

She rolled her eyes.

The pilots are passed out drunk.

Well my aviation skills would definitely come in handy in that situation.

Easy. I’d fly the plane.

She looked somewhere between disgruntled and determined as she wrote:

Both engines have exploded and we’re falling in a death spiral toward the Earth.

That one took some thought, but I quickly came up with:

I’d wait till we were close enough to the ground, get a good grip on you, kick out the wall, and jump. Then I’d run you back to the scene of the accident, and we’d stumble around like the two luckiest survivors in history.

She stared at me like I had two heads.

“What?” I whispered to her.

She mouthed “nothing” and wrote one final note.

You will tell me next time.

I stared at her face. Her cheeks were tearstained, her eyes frightened and red from crying. I wished there wouldn’t have to be a next time, but I knew it was inevitable. I nodded at her, promising to tell her the truth. She began to write again when I heard our teacher’s thoughts.

What are they doing? Passing notes in my class?

I grabbed the paper from Bella and stuffed it in my pocket, faster than the human eye could catch.

“Is that something you’d like to share there, Mr. Cullen?” he asked me.

Feigning innocence, I replied, “My notes?” and handed him a sheet of paper covered with an accurate summary of his lecture. He was irritated as he walked away.

I was dreading the end of the school day. I knew Bella would overreact about Victoria coming back for her, especially as she had gotten away again, and I was sure there would be an argument concerning her mortality soon. I had to get my family on my side, before Bella got to them first.