*by Stephenie Meyer*
TWILIGHT - chapter 8 - PORT ANGELES
"Get in," a furious voice commanded.
It was amazing how instantaneously he choking fear vanished, amazing how suddenly the feeling of security washed over me - even before I was off the 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 the door, and I could barely see his face in the glow from the dashboard. The tires squealed as he spun around to face north, accelerating too quickly, swerving toward the stunned men on the street. I caught a glimpse of them diving 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 the seat with both hands. I quickly obeyed; the snap as the belt connected was loud in the darkness. He took a sharp left, racing forward, blowing through several stop signs without a pause.
But I felt utterly safe and, for the moment, totally unconcerned about where we were going. I stared at his face in profound relief, relief that went beyond my sudden deliverance. I studied his flawless features in the limited light, waiting for my breath to return to normal, until it occurred 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 stared straight 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 dark trees crowding the raodside. 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 plain on his face.
"Yes," I croaked soflty.
"Distract me, please," he ordered.
"I'm sorry, what?"
He exhaled sharply.
"Just prattle about something unimportant until I calm down," he clarified, closing his eyes and pinching the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger.
"Um." I racked my brain for something trivial. "I'm going to run over Tyler Crowley tomorrow before school?"
He was still squeezing his eyes closed, but the corner of his mouth twitched.
"He's telling everyong that he's taking em to prom - either he's insane or he's still trying to make up for almost killing me last... well, you remember it, and he thinks prom is somehow the correct way to do this. So I figure if I endanger his life, then we're even, and he can't keep trying to make amends. I don't need enemies and maybe Lauren would back off if he left me alone. I might have to total his Sentra, though. If he doesn'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's paralyzed from the neck down, he can't go to the prom, either," I muttered, refining my plan.
Edward sighed, and finally opened his eyes.
I waited, but he didn't speak again. He leaned his head back against the seat, 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. "But it wouldn't be helpful for me to turn around and hunt down those..." He didn't finish his sentence, looking away, struggling for a moment to control his anger again. "At least," he continued, "that's what I'm trying to convince myself."
"Oh." The word seemed inadequate, but I couldn't think of a better response.
We sat in silence again. I glanced at the clock on the dashboard. It was past six-thirty.
"Jessica and Angela will be worried," I murmured. "I was supposed to meet them."
He started the engine without another word, turning around smoothly and speeding back toward town. We were under the streetlights in no time at all, still going too fast, weaving with ease through the cars slowing cruising the boardwalk. He parallel-parked against the curn in a space I would have thought much too small for the Volvo, but he slid in effortlessly in one try I looked out the window to see the lights of La Bella Italia, and Jess and Angela juts leaving, pacing anxiously away from us.
"How did you know where...?" I began, but then I just shook my head. I heard 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 seat belt, and then hurried to get out of the car as well. He was waiting for me on the sidewalk.
He spoke befor I could. "Go stop Jessica and Angela before I have to track them down, too. I don't think I could restrain myself if I ran into your other friends again."
I shivered at the threat in his voice.
"Jess! Angela!" I yelled after them, waving when they turned. They rushed back to me, the pronounced relief on both their faces simultaneously changing to surprise as they saw who I was standing next to. They hesitated 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." I gestured toward him.
"Would it be alright if I joined you?" he asked in his silken, irresistable voice. I could see from their staggered expressions that he had 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 of authority. He looked up at Jessica and spoke slightly louder. "Do you mind if I drive Bella home tonight? hat way you won't have to wait while she eats."
"Uh, no problem, I guess..." She bit her lip, trying to figure out from my expression whether that was what I wanted. I winked at ehr. I wanted nothing more than to be alone with my perpetual savior. There were so many 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, which I could see a little ways away, parked across First Street. As they got in, 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 his face. His expression was ubreadable.
He walked to the door of the restaurant and held it open with an obstinate expression. Obviously, there would be no further discussion. I walked 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 she assessed Edward. She welcomed him a little more warmly then necessary. I was surprised by how much that bothered me. She was several inches taller than I was, and unnaturally blond.
"A table for two?" His voice was alluring, whether he was aiming for that or not. I saw her eyes flicker to me and then away, satisfied by my obvious ordinariness, and by the cautious, no-contact space Edward kept between us. She led us to a table big enough for four in the center of the 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. I wasn't sure, but it looked like he smoothly handed her a tip. I'd never seen anyone refuse a table except in old movies.
"Sure." She sounded as surprised as I was. She turned and led us around a partition 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 hardly fair."
"Dazzle them like that - she's probably hyperventilating in the kitchen right now."
He seemed confused.
"Oh, come on," I said dubiously. "You have to know the effect you have on people."
He tilted his head to one side, his eyes were curious. "I dazzle people?"
"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 host had definitely dished behind the scenes, and this new girl didn't look disappointed. She flipped a strand of short black hair behind one ear and smiled 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 anothe unnecessary smile. 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...?"
He chuckled at my puzzled tone.
"Well, I'm actually waiting for you to go into shock." His face twisted up 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 in you."
Right on cue, the waitress appeared with our drinks and a basket of breadsticks. She stood with her back to me as she placed them on the table.
"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 mushroom ravioli."
"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 by how thirsty I was. I realized I had finished the whole thing when he pushed his glass toward me.
"Thanks," I muttered, still thirsty. The cold from the icy soda was radiating 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 in Jessica's car," I realized.
Edward was shrugging out of his jacket. I suddenly realized that I had never once noticed what he was wearing - not just tonight, but ever. I just wouldn't seem to look away from his face. I made myself look now, focusing. He was removing a light beige lether jacket now; underneath he wore an ivory turtleneck sweater. It git him snugly, emphasizing how muscular 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, hanging in the drafty hallway. I shivered again. It smelled amazing. I inhaled, trying to identify the delicious scent. It didn't smell like cologne. The sleeves 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. I was 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 eyes were, lighter than I'd ever seen them, golden butterscotch.
"I feel very safe with you," I confessed, mesmerized into telling the truth again.
The dipleased him; his alabaster brow furrowed. He shook his head, frowning.
"This is more complicated than I planned," he murmured to himself.
I picked up a breadstick and began nibbling on the end, measuring his expression. I wondered when it would be okay to start questioning him.
"Usually you're in a better mood when your eyes are so light," I commented, trying to distract him frmo whatever thought had left him frowning and somber.
He stared at me, stunned. "What?"
"You're always crabbier when your eyes are black - I expect it then," I went on." I have a theory about that."
His eyes narrowed. "More theories?"
"Mm-hm." I chewed on a small bite of bread, trying to look indifferent.
"I hope you were more creative this time... or are you still stealing from comic 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 with it on my own, either," I confessed.
"And?" he prompted.
But then the waitress strode around the partition with my food. I realized we'd been unconsciously leaning toward each other across the table, because we both straightened up as she approached. She set the dish in front of me - it looked pretty good - and turned quickly to Edward.
"Did you change your mind?" she asked. "Isn't there anything I can get for you?" I may have been imagining the double meaning in her words.
"No, thank you, but some more soda would be nice." He gestured with a long 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."
The waitress was back with two more Cokes. She sat them down without a word 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 in Port Angeles?"
He looked down, folding his large hands together slowly on the table. His eyes flickered up at me from under his lashes, the hint of smirk on his face.
"But that's the easiest one," I objected.
"Next," he repeated.
I looked down, frustrated. I unrolled my silerware, picked up my fork, and carefully speared a ravioli. I put it in my mouth slowly, still looking down, chewing while I thought. The mushrooms were good. I swallowed and took another sip of Coke before I looked up.
"Okay, then." I glared at him, and continued slowly. "Let's say, hypothetically of couse, that... someone... could know what people are thinking, 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 playing along, 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 in trouble?" I wondered if my convoluted questiond even made sense.
"Hypothetically?" he asked.
"Well, if... that someone..."
"Let's call him 'Joe,'" I suggested.
He smiled wryly. "Joe, then. If Joe had been paying attention, the timing wouldn't have needed to be quite so exact." He shook his head, rolling his eyes. "Only you could get into trouble in a town this small. You would 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. realized I was leaning toward him again.
He seemed to be wavering, torn by some internal dilemma. His eyes locked with mine, and I guessed he was making the decision right then whether or not 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, and I pulled my hand back.
"I don't know if I have a choice anymore." His voice was slmost a whisper. "I was wrong - you're much more observant than I gave you credit for."
"I thought you were always right."
"I used to be." He shook his head again. "I was wrong about you on one other thing, as well. You're not a magnet for accidents - that's not a broad enough classification. You are a magnet for trouble. If there is anything dangerous within a ten-mile radiius, it will invariable 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 pulled back slightly once more - to touch the back of his hand shyly with my fingertips. 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 a third, agreed?"
I scowled, but nodded. He moved his hand out from under mine, placing both of his under the table. But he leaned toward me.
"I followed you to Port Angeles," he admitted, speaking in a rush. "I've never tried to keep a specific person alive before, and it's much more troublesome than I would have believed. But that's probably just because it's you. Ordinary people seem to make it through the day without so many catastrophes." He paused. I wondered if it should bother me that he was following me; instead I felt a strange surge of pleasure. He stared, maybe wonder why my lips were curving into and involuntary smile.
"Did you ever think that maybe my number was up the first time, with the van, 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. I stared at him in amazement, but he was looking down." Your number was up the first time I met you."
I felt a spasm of fear at his words, and the abrupt memory of his violent black glare that first day... but the overwhelming sense of safety I felt in 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; he raised one eyebrow.
"Yet, here I sit... because of you." I paused. "Because somehow you knew how to find me today...?" I prompted.
He pressed his lips together, staring at me though narrowed eyes, deciding again. His eyes flashed down to my full plate, and then back to me.
"You eat, I'll talk," he bargained.
I quickly scooped up another ravioli and popped it in my mouth.
"It's harder then it should be - keeping track of you. Usually I can find someone very easily, once I've heard their mind before." He looked at me anxiously, and realized I had frozed. I made myself swallow, then stabbed another ravioli and tossed it in.
"I was keeping tabs on Jessica, not carefully - like I said, only you can find trouble in Port Angeles - and at first I didn't notice when you took off on your own. Then, when I realized you weren't with her anymore, I went looking for you at the bookstore I saw in her head. I could tell that you hadn't gone in, and that you'd gone south... and I knew you would have to turn around soon. So I was just waiting for you, randomly searching through the thoughts of people on the street - to see if anyone had noticed you so I would know where you were. I had no reason to 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 finally setting, 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 and effort 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 curlinog slightly back over his teeth. "I saw your face in his mind." He suddenly leaned forward, one elbow appearing on the table, his hand covering his eyes. The movement was so swift it startled me.
"It was very... hard - you can't imagine how hard - for me to simply take you away, and leave them... alive." His voice was muffled by his arm. "I could have let you go with Jessica and Angela, but I was afraid if you left 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 my lap, and I was leaning weakly against the back of the seat. He still had his face in his hand, and he was as still as if he'd been carved from the stone 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 the hour-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 folder from the front pocket of her black apron and handed it to him.
There was a bill in his hadn already. He slipped it into the folder and handed it right back to her.
"No change." He smiled. Then he stood up, and I scrambled awkwardly to my feet.
She smiled invitingly at him again. "You have a nice evening."
He didn't look away from me as he thanked her. I supressed a smile.
He walked close beside me to the door, still carfeul not to touch me. I remembered what Jessica had said about her relationship with Mike, how they were almost to the first-kiss stage. I sighed. Edward seemed to hear me, and he looked down curiously. I looked at the sidewalk, grateful that he 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, shutting it 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 been used 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 to engine and turned the heater on high. It had gotten very cold, and I guessed the good weather was at an end. I was warm with his jacket, though, breathing in the scent of it when I thought 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."