*by Stephenie Meyer*
TWILIGHT - chapter 19 - GOODBYES
Laurent took another long look around himself, and then hurried out the door.
The silence lasted less than a second.
"How close?" Carlisle looked to Edward.
Esme was already moving; her hand touched and inconspicuous keypad on the wall, and with a groan, huge metal shutters began sealing up the glass wall. I gaped.
"About three miles out past the river; he's circling around to meet up with the female."
"What's the plan?"
"We'll lead him off, and then Jasper and Alice will run her south."
Edward's tone was deadly. "As soon as Bella is clear, we hunt him."
"I guess there's no other choice," Carlisle agreed, his face grim.
Edward turned to Rosalie.
"Get her upstairs and trade clothes," Edward commanded. She stared back at him with livid disbelief.
"Why should I?" she hissed. "What is she to me? Except a menace - a danger you've chosen to inflict on all of us."
I flinched back from the venom in her voice.
"Rose...," Emmett murmured, putting one hand on her shoulder. She shook it off.
But I was watching Edward carefully, knowing his temper, worried about his reaction.
He surprised me. He looked away from Rosalie as if she hadn't spoken, as if she didn't exist.
"Esme?" he asked calmly.
"Of course," Esme murmured.
Esme was at my side in half a heartbeat, swinging me up easily into her arms, and dashing up the stairs before I could gasp in shock.
"What are we doing?" I asked breathlessly as she set me down in a dark room somewhere off the second-story hall.
"Trying to confuse the smell. It won't work for long, but it might help you get out." I could hear her clothes falling to the floor.
"I don't think I'll fit..." I hesitated, but her hands were abruptly pulling my shirt over my head. I quickly stripped my jeans off myself. She handed me something, it felt like a shirt. I struggled to get my arms through the right holes. As soon as I was done she handed me her slacks. I yanked them on, but I couldn't get my feet out; they were too long. She deftly rolled the hems a few times so I could stand. Somehow she was already in my clothes. She pulled me back to the stairs, where Alice stood, a small leather bag in one hand. They each grabbed one of my elbows and half-carried me as they flew down the stairs.
It appeared that everything had been settled downstairs in our absense. Edward and Emmett were ready to leave, Emmett carring a heavy-looking backpack over his shoulder. Carlisle was handing something small to Esme. He turned and handed Alice the same thing - it was a tiny silver cell phone.
"Esme and Rosalie will be taking your truck, Bella," he told me as he passed. I nodded, glancing warily at Rosalie. She was glowering at Carlisle with a resentful expression.
"Alice, Jasper - take the Mercedes. You'll need the dark tint in the south."
They nodded as well.
"We're taking the Jeep."
I was surprised to see that Carlisle intended to go with Edward. I realized suddenlt, with a stab of fear, that they made up the hunting party.
"Alice," Carlisle asked, "will they take the bait?"
Everyone watched Alice as she closed her eyes a became incredibly still.
Finally her eyes opened. "He'll track you. The woman will follow the truck. We should be able to leave after that." Her voice was certain.
"Let's go." Carlisle began to walk toward the kitchen.
But Edward was at my side at once. He caught me up in his iron grip, crushing me to him. He seemed unaware of his watching family as he pulled my face to his, lifting my feet off the floor. For the shortest second, his lips were icy and hard against mine. Then it was over. He set me down, still holding my face, his glorious eyes burning into mine.
His eyes went blank, curiously dead, as he turned away.
And they were gone.
We stood there, the others looking away from me as the tears streaked noiselessly down my face.
The silent moment dragged on, and then Esme's phone vibrated in her hand. It flashed to her ear.
"Now," she said. Rosalie stalked out the front door without another glance in my direction, but Esme touched my cheek as she passed.
"Be safe." Her whisper lingered behind them as they slipped out the door. I heard my truck start thunderously, and then fade away.
Jasper and Alice waited. Alice's phone seemed to be at her ear before it buzzed.
"Edward says the woman is on Esme's trail. I'll get the car." She vanished into the shadows the way Edward had gone.
Jasper and I looked at each other. He stood across the length of the entryway from me... being careful.
"You're wrong, you know," he said quietly.
"What?" I gasped.
"I can feel what you're feeling noow - and you are worth it."
"I'm not," I mumbled. "If anything happens to them, it will be for nothing."
"You're wrong," he repeated, smiling kindly at me.
I heard nothing, but then Alice stepped through the front door and came toward me with her arms held out.
"May I?" she asked.
"You're the first one to ask permission." I smiled wryly.
She lifted me in her slender arms as easily as Emmett had, shielding me protectively, and then we flew out the door, leaving the lights bright behind us.