Main Midnight Sun (Twilight series Book 5)
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It's here! #1 bestselling author Stephenie Meyer makes a triumphant return to the world of Twilight with this highly-anticipated companion: the iconic love story of Bella and Edward told from the vampire's point of view.
When Edward Cullen and Bella Swan met in Twilight, an iconic love story was born. But until now, fans have heard only Bella's side of the story. At last, readers can experience Edward's version in the long-awaited companion novel, Midnight Sun.
This unforgettable tale as told through Edward's eyes takes on a new and decidedly dark twist. Meeting Bella is both the most unnerving and intriguing event he has experienced in all his years as a vampire. As we learn more fascinating details about Edward's past and the complexity of his inner thoughts, we understand why this is the defining struggle of his life. How can he justify following his heart if it means leading Bella into danger?
In Midnight Sun, Stephenie Meyer transports us back to a world that has captivated millions of readers and brings us an epic novel about the profound pleasures and devastating consequences of immortal love.
When Edward Cullen and Bella Swan met in Twilight, an iconic love story was born. But until now, fans have heard only Bella's side of the story. At last, readers can experience Edward's version in the long-awaited companion novel, Midnight Sun.
This unforgettable tale as told through Edward's eyes takes on a new and decidedly dark twist. Meeting Bella is both the most unnerving and intriguing event he has experienced in all his years as a vampire. As we learn more fascinating details about Edward's past and the complexity of his inner thoughts, we understand why this is the defining struggle of his life. How can he justify following his heart if it means leading Bella into danger?
In Midnight Sun, Stephenie Meyer transports us back to a world that has captivated millions of readers and brings us an epic novel about the profound pleasures and devastating consequences of immortal love.
17 July 2020 (16:17)
Partial draft copy originally leaked online in 2008.
28 July 2020 (15:59)
Not full book. Only partially leaked 12 chapters from 12 years ago.
06 August 2020 (18:26)
This is not the full book. I’m hoping the full version with the correct cover is uploaded soon! I’m really excited to read this
11 August 2020 (14:20)
This is the old version as others have stated, but the 2020 version is now available on this site.
13 August 2020 (14:09)
Frank C. Eluwa
I truly need to read this book
15 February 2021 (10:45)
Again, the incompleto draft. Not the 2020 edition.
26 April 2021 (18:45)
I have seen the movie and that's what drove into wanting to read the book if the book is as nice as the movie then I recommend everyone to read it, it mind blowing
22 May 2021 (17:49)
Midnight Sun is an unreleased companion novel to the book Twilight by author Stephenie Meyer. It would be the retelling of the events of Twilight, but written from the perspective of Edward Cullen as opposed to that of Bella Swan . Meyer has stated that Twilight is the only book from the series that she plans to rewrite from Edward's perspective. To give them a better feel of Edward's character, Meyer allowed Catherine Hardwicke, the director of the film adaptation of Twilight, and Robert Pattinson, the actor playing Edward, to read some completed chapters of the novel while they filmed the movie. Pre-release history On August 28, 2008, Meyer halted the writing of Midnight Sun in response to the illegal leak of twelve chapters of the unfinished manuscript on the Internet. She stated, "If I tried to write Midnight Sun now, in my current frame of mind, James would probably win and all the Cullens would die, which wouldn't dovetail too well with the original story. In any case, I feel too sad about what has happened to continue working on Midnight Sun, and so it is on hold indefinitely." She made the twelve-chaptered draft available on her website in fairness to her readers, now that the novel has been compromised before its intended publication date. Meyer also stated that she doesn't believe the manuscript was leaked with any malicious intent, and would not give any names. In a November 2008 interview, Meyer said that, "It's really complicated, because everyone now is in the driver's seat, where they can make judgment calls. [...] I do not feel alone with the manuscript. And I cannot write when I don't feel alone." She said that her goal was to go for around two years without hearing about Midnight Sun, and she thought that she would begin working on the novel again once she was sure that "everyone's forgotten about it". Chapter One First Sight This was the time of day when I wished I were able to sleep. High school. Or was purgatory the rig; ht word? If there was any way to atone for my sins, this ought to count toward the tally in some measure. The tedium was not something I grew used to; every day seemed more impossibly monotonous than the last. I suppose this was my form of sleep—if sleep was defined as the inert state between active periods. I stared at the cracks running through the plaster in the far corner of the cafeteria, imagining patterns into them that were not there. It was one way to tune out the voices that babbled like the gush of a river inside my head. Several hundred of these voices I ignored out of boredom. When it came to the human mind, I’d heard it all before and then some. Today, all thoughts were consumed with the trivial drama of a new addition to the small student body here. It took so little to work them all up. I’d seen the new face repeated in thought after thought from every angle. Just an ordinary human girl. The excitement over her arrival was tiresomely predictable—like flashing a shiny object at a child. Half the sheep-like males were already imagining themselves in love with her, just because she was something new to look at. I tried harder to tune them out. Only four voices did I block out of courtesy rather than distaste: my family, my two brothers and two sisters, who were so used to the lack of privacy in my presence that they rarely gave it a thought. I gave them what privacy I could. I tried not to listen if I could help it. Try as I may, still…I knew. Rosalie was thinking, as usual, about herself. She’d caught sight of her profile in the reflection off someone’s glasses, and she was mulling over her own perfection. Rosalie’s mind was a shallow pool with few surprises. Emmett was fuming over a wrestling match he’d lost to Jasper during the night. It would take all his limited patience to make it to the end of the school day to orchestrate a rematch. I never really felt intrusive hearing Emmett’s thoughts, because he never thought one thing that he would not say aloud or put into action. Perhaps I only felt guilty reading the others’ minds because I knew there were things there that they wouldn’t want me to know. If Rosalie’s mind was a shallow pool, then Emmett’s was a lake with no shadows, glass clear. And Jasper was…suffering. I suppressed a sigh. Edward. Alice called my name in her head, and had my attention at once. It was just the same as having my name called aloud. I was glad my given name had fallen out of style lately—it had been annoying; anytime anyone thought of any Edward, my head would turn automatically… My head didn’t turn now. Alice and I were good at these private conversations. It was rare that anyone caught us. I kept my eyes on the lines in the plaster. How is he holding up? she asked me. I frowned, just a small change in the set of my mouth. Nothing that would tip the others off. I could easily be frowning out of boredom. Alice’s mental tone was alarmed now, and I saw in her mind that she was watching Jasper in her peripheral vision. Is there any danger? She searched ahead, into the immediate future, skimming through visions of monotony for the source behind my frown. I turned my head slowly to the left, as if looking at the bricks of the wall, sighed, and then to the right, back to the cracks in the ceiling. Only Alice knew I was shaking my head. She relaxed. Let me know if it gets too bad. I moved only my eyes, up to the ceiling above, and back down. Thanks for doing this. I was glad I couldn’t answer her aloud. What would I say? ‘My pleasure’? It was hardly that. I didn’t enjoy listening to Jasper’s struggles. Was it really necessary to experiment like this? Wouldn’t the safer path be to just admit that he might never be able to handle the thirst the way the rest of us could, and not push his limits? Why flirt with disaster? It had been two weeks since our last hunting trip. That was not an immensely difficult time span for the rest of us. A little uncomfortable occasionally —if a human walked too close, if the wind blew the wrong way. But humans rarely walked too close. Their instincts told them what their conscious minds would never understand: we were dangerous. Jasper was very dangerous right now. At that moment, a small girl paused at the end of the closest table to ours, stopping to talk to a friend. She tossed her short, sandy hair, running her fingers through it. The heaters blew her scent in our direction. I was used to the way that scent made me feel— the dry ache in my throat, the hollow yearn in my stomach, the automatic tightening of my muscles, the excess flow of venom in my mouth… This was all quite normal, usually easy to ignore. It was harder just now, with the feelings stronger, doubled, as I monitored Jasper’s reaction. Twin thirsts, rather than just mine. Jasper was letting his imagination get away from him. He was picturing it—picturing himself getting up from his seat next to Alice and going to stand beside the little girl. Thinking of leaning down and in, as if he were going to whisper in her ear, and letting his lips touch the arch of her throat. Imagining how the hot flow of her pulse beneath the fine skin would feel under his mouth… I kicked his chair. He met my gaze for a minute, and then looked down. I could hear shame and rebellion war in his head. “Sorry,” Jasper muttered. I shrugged. “You weren’t going to do anything,” Alice murmured to him, soothing his chagrin. “I could see that.” I fought back the grimace that would give her lie away. We had to stick together, Alice and I. It wasn’t easy, hearing voices or seeing visions of the future. Both freaks among those who were already freaks. We protected each other’s secrets. “It helps a little if you think of them as people,” Alice suggested, her high, musical voice too fast for human ears to understand, if any had been close enough to hear. “Her name is Whitney. She has a baby sister she adores. Her mother invited Esme to that garden party, do you remember?” “I know who she is,” Jasper said curtly. He turned away to stare out one of the small windows that were spaced just under the eaves around the long room. His tone ended the conversation. He would have to hunt tonight. It was ridiculous to take risks like this, trying to test his strength, to build his endurance. Jasper should just accept his limitations and work within them. His former habits were not conducive to our chosen lifestyle; he shouldn’t push himself in this way. Alice sighed silently and stood, taking her tray of food—her prop, as it were—with her and leaving him alone. She knew when he’d had enough of her encouragement. Though Rosalie and Emmett were more flagrant about their relationship, it was Alice and Jasper who knew each other’s every mood as well as their own. As if they could read minds, too—only just each other’s. Edward Cullen. Reflex reaction. I turned to the sound of my name being called, though it wasn’t being called, just thought. My eyes locked for a small portion of a second with a pair of wide, chocolate-brown human eyes set in a pale, heart-shaped face. I knew the face, though I’d never seen it myself before this moment. It had been foremost in every human head today. The new student, Isabella Swan. Daughter of the town’s chief of police, brought to live here by some new custody situation. Bella. She’d corrected everyone who’d used her full name… I looked away, bored. It took me a second to realize that she had not been the one to think my name. Of course she’s already crushing on the Cullens, I heard the first thought continue. Now I recognized the ‘voice.’ Jessica Stanley—it had been a while since she’d bothered me with her internal chatter. What a relief it had been when she’d gotten over her misplaced infatuation. It used to be nearly impossible to escape her constant, ridiculous daydreams. I’d wished, at the time, that I could explain to her exactly what would have happened if my lips, and the teeth behind them, had gotten anywhere near her. That would have silenced those annoying fantasies. The thought of her reaction almost made me smile. Fat lot of good it will do her, Jessica went on. She’s really not even pretty. I don’t know why Eric is staring so much…or Mike. She winced mentally on the last name. Her new infatuation, the generically popular Mike Newton, was completely oblivious to her. Apparently, he was not as oblivious to the new girl. Like the child with the shiny object again. This put a mean edge to Jessica’s thoughts, though she was outwardly cordial to the newcomer as she explained to her the commonly held knowledge about my family. The new student must have asked about us. Everyone’s looking at me today, too, Jessica thought smugly in an aside. Isn’t it lucky Bella had two classes with me…I’ll bet Mike will want to ask me what she’s— I tried to block the inane chatter out of my head before the petty and the trivial could drive me mad. “Jessica Stanley is giving the new Swan girl all the dirty laundry on the Cullen clan,” I murmured to Emmett as a distraction. He chuckled under his breath. I hope she’s making it good, he thought. “Rather unimaginative, actually. Just the barest hint of scandal. Not an ounce of horror. I’m a little disappointed.” And the new girl? Is she disappointed in the gossip as well? I listened to hear what this new girl, Bella, thought of Jessica’s story. What did she see when she looked at the strange, chalky-skinned family that was universally avoided? It was sort of my responsibility to know her reaction. I acted as a lookout, for lack of a better word, for my family. To protect us. If anyone ever grew suspicious, I could give us early warning and an easy retreat. It happened occasionally—some human with an active imagination would see in us the characters of a book or a movie. Usually they got it wrong, but it was better to move on somewhere new than to risk scrutiny. Very, very rarely, someone would guess right. We didn’t give them a chance to test their hypothesis. We simply disappeared, to become no more than a frightening memory… I heard nothing, though I listened close beside where Jessica’s frivolous internal monologue continued to gush. It was as if there was no one sitting beside her. How peculiar, had the girl moved? That didn’t seem likely, as Jessica was still babbling to her. I looked up to check, feeling off-balance. Checking on what my extra ‘hearing’ could tell me—it wasn’t something I ever had to do. Again, my gaze locked on those same wide brown eyes. She was sitting right where she had been before, and looking at us, a natural thing to be doing, I supposed, as Jessica was still regaling her with the local gossip about the Cullens. Thinking about us, too, would be natural. But I couldn’t hear a whisper. Inviting warm red stained her cheeks as she looked down, away from the embarrassing gaffe of getting caught staring at a stranger. It was good that Jasper was still gazing out the window. I didn’t like to imagine what that easy pooling of blood would do to his control. The emotions had been as clear on her face as if they were spelled out in words across her forehead: surprise, as she unknowingly absorbed the signs of the subtle differences between her kind and mine, curiosity, as she listened to Jessica’s tale, and something more…fascination? It wouldn’t be the first time. We were beautiful to them, our intended prey. Then, finally, embarrassment as I caught her staring at me. And yet, though her thoughts had been so clear in her odd eyes—odd, because of the depth to them; brown eyes often seemed flat in their darkness—I could hear nothing but silence from the place she was sitting. Nothing at all. I felt a moment of unease. This was nothing I’d ever encountered before. Was there something wrong with me? I felt exactly the same as I always did. Worried, I listened harder. All the voices I’d been blocking were suddenly shouting in my head. …wonder what music she likes…maybe I could mention that new CD… Mike Newton was thinking, two tables away—fixated on Bella Swan. Look at him staring at her. Isn’t it enough that he has half the girls in school waiting for him to… Eric Yorkie was thinking sulfurous thoughts, also revolving around the girl. …so disgusting. You’d think she was famous or something… Even Edward Cullen , staring… Lauren Mal ory was so jealous that her face, by all rights, should be dark jade in color. And Jessica, flaunting her new best friend. What a joke… Vitriol continued to spew from the girl’s thoughts. …I bet everyone has asked her that. But I’d like to talk to her. I’ll think of a more original question… Ashley Dowling mused. …maybe she’ll be in my Spanish… June Richardson hoped. …tons left to do tonight! Trig, and the English test. I hope my mom… Angela Weber, a quiet girl, whose thoughts were unusually kind, was the only one at the table who wasn’t obsessed with this Bel a. I could hear them all, hear every insignificant thing they were thinking as it passed through their minds. But nothing at all from the new student with the deceptively communicative eyes. And, of course, I could hear what the girl said when she spoke to Jessica. I didn’t have to read minds to be able to hear her low, clear voice on the far side of the long room. “Which one is the boy with the reddish brown hair?” I heard her ask, sneaking a look at me from the corner of her eye, only to look quickly away when she saw that I was still staring. If I’d had time to hope that hearing the sound of her voice would help me pinpoint the tone of her thoughts, lost somewhere where I couldn’t access them, I was instantly disappointed. Usually, people’s thoughts came to them in a similar pitch as their physical voices. But this quiet, shy voice was unfamiliar, not one of the hundreds of thoughts bouncing around the room, I was sure of that. Entirely new. Oh, good luck, idiot! Jessica thought before answering the girl’s question. “That’s Edward. He’s gorgeous, of course, but don’t waste your time. He doesn’t date. Apparently none of the girls here are good-looking enough for him.” She sniffed. I turned my head away to hide my smile. Jessica and her classmates had no idea how lucky they were that none of them particularly appealed to me. Beneath the transient humor, I felt a strange impulse, one I did not clearly understand. It had something to do with the vicious edge to Jessica’s thoughts that the new girl was unaware of… I felt the strangest urge to step in between them, to shield this Bella Swan from the darker workings of Jessica’s mind. What an odd thing to feel. Trying to ferret out the motivations behind the impulse, I examined the new girl one more time. Perhaps it was just some long buried protective instinct—the strong for the weak. This girl looked more fragile than her new classmates. Her skin was so translucent it was hard to believe it offered her much defense from the outside world. I could see the rhythmic pulse of blood through her veins under the clear, pale membrane… But I should not concentrate on that. I was good at this life I’d chosen, but I was just as thirsty as Jasper and there was no point in inviting temptation. There was a faint crease between her eyebrows that she seemed unaware of. It was unbelievable frustrating! I could clearly see that it was a strain for her to sit there, to make conversation with strangers, to be the center of attention. I could sense her shyness from the way she held her frail-looking shoulders, slightly hunched, as if she was expecting a rebuff at any moment. And yet I could only sense, could only see, could only imagine. There was nothing but silence from the very unexceptional human girl. I could hear nothing. Why? “Shall we?” Rosalie murmured, interrupting my focus. I looked away from the girl with a sense of relief. I didn’t want to continue to fail at this— it irritated me. And I didn’t want to develop any interest in her hidden thoughts simply because they were hidden from me. No doubt, when I did decipher her thoughts—and I would find a way to do so—they would be just as petty and trivial as any human’s thoughts. Not worth the effort I would expend to reach them. “So, is the new one afraid of us yet?” Emmett asked, stil waiting for my response to his question before. I shrugged. He wasn’t interested enough to press for a more information. Nor should I be interested. We got up from the table and walked out of the cafeteria. Emmett, Rosalie, and Jasper were pretending to be seniors; they left for their classes. I was playing a younger role than they. I headed off for my junior level biology class, preparing my mind for the tedium. It was doubtful Mr. Banner, a man of no more than average intellect, would manage to pull out anything in his lecture that would surprise someone holding two graduate degrees in medicine. In the classroom, I settled into my chair and let my books—props, again; they held nothing I didn’t already know—spill across the table. I was the only student who had a table to himself. The humans weren’t smart enough to know that they feared me, but their survival instincts were enough to keep them away. The room slowly filled as they trickled in from lunch. I leaned back in my chair and waited for the time to pass. Again, I wished I was able to sleep. Because I’d been thinking about her, when Angela Weber escorted the new girl through the door, her name intruded on my attention. Bella seems just as shy as me. I’ll bet today is really hard for her. I wish I could say something…but it would probably just sound stupid… Yes! Mike Newton thought, turning in his seat to watch the girls enter. Still, from the place where Bella Swan stood, nothing. The empty space where her thoughts should be irritated and unnerved me. She came closer, walking down the aisle beside me to get to the teacher’s desk. Poor girl; the seat next to me was the only one available. Automatically, I cleared what would be her side of the desk, shoving my books into a pile. I doubted she would feel very comfortable there. She was in for a long semester—in this class, at least. Perhaps, though, sitting beside her, I’d be able to flush out her secrets…not that I’d ever needed close proximity before…not that I would find anything worth listening to… Bella Swan walked into the flow of the heated air that blew toward me from the vent. Her scent hit me like wrecking ball, like a battering ram. There was no image violent enough to encapsulate the force of what happened to me in that moment. In that instant, I was nothing close to the human I’d once been; no trace of the shreds of humanity I’d managed to cloak myself in remained. I was a predator. She was my prey. There was nothing else in the whole world but that truth. There was no room full of witnesses—they were already collateral damage in my head. The mystery of her thoughts was forgotten. Her thoughts meant nothing, for she would not go on thinking them much longer. I was a vampire, and she had the sweetest blood I’d smelled in eighty years. I hadn’t imagined such a scent could exist. If I’d known it did, I would have gone searching for it long ago. I would have combed the planet for her. I could imagine the taste… Thirst burned through my throat like fire. My mouth was baked and desiccated. The fresh flow of venom did nothing to dispel that sensation. My stomach twisted with the hunger that was an echo of the thirst. My muscles coiled to spring. Not a full second had passed. She was still taking the same step that had put her downwind from me. As her foot touched the ground, her eyes slid toward me, a movement she clearly meant to be stealthy. Her glance met mine, and I saw myself reflected in the wide mirror of her eyes. The shock of the face I saw there saved her life for a few thorny moments. She didn’t make it easier. When she processed the expression on my face, blood flooded her cheeks again, turning her skin the most delicious color I’d ever seen. The scent was a thick haze in my brain. I could barely think through it. My thoughts raged, resisting control, incoherent. She walked more quickly now, as if she understood the need to escape. Her haste made her clumsy—she tripped and stumbled forward, almost falling into the girl seated in front of me. Vulnerable, weak. Even more than usual for a human. I tried to focus on the face I’d seen in her eyes, a face I recognized with revulsion. The face of the monster in me—the face I’d beaten back with decades of effort and uncompromising discipline. How easily it sprang to the surface now! The scent swirled around me again, scattering my thoughts and nearly propelling me out of my seat. No. My hand gripped under the edge of the table as I tried to hold myself in my chair. The wood was not up to the task. My hand crushed through the strut and came away with a palmful of splintered pulp, leaving the shape of my fingers carved into the remaining wood. Destroy evidence. That was a fundamental rule. I quickly pulverized the edges of the shape with my fingertips, leaving nothing but a ragged hole and a pile of shavings on the floor, which I scattered with my foot. Destroy evidence. Collateral damage…. I knew what had to happen now. The girl would have to come sit beside me, and I would have to kill her. The innocent bystanders in this classroom, eighteen other children and one man, could not be allowed to leave this room, having seen what they would soon see. I flinched at the thought of what I must do. Even at my very worst, I had never committed this kind of atrocity. I had never killed innocents, not in over eight decades. And now I planned to slaughter twenty of them at once. The face of the monster in the mirror mocked me. Even as part of me shuddered away from the monster, another part was planning it. If I killed the girl first, I would have only fifteen or twenty seconds with her before the humans in the room would react. Maybe a little bit longer, if at first they did not realize what I was doing. She would not have time to scream or feel pain; I would not kill her cruelly. That much I could give this stranger with her horribly desirable blood. But then I would have to stop them from escaping. I wouldn’t have to worry about the windows, too high up and small to provide an escape for anyone. Just the door—block that and they were trapped. It would be slower and more difficult, trying to take them all down when they were panicked and scrambling, moving in chaos. Not impossible, but there would be much more noise. Time for lots of screaming. Someone would hear…and I’d be forced to kill even more innocents in this black hour. And her blood would cool, while I murdered the others. The scent punished me, closing my throat with dry aching… So the witnesses first then. I mapped it out in my head. I was in the middle of the room, the furthest row in the back. I would take my right side first. I could snap four or five of their necks per second, I estimated. It would not be noisy. The right side would be the lucky side; they would not see me coming. Moving around the front and back up the left side, it would take me, at most, five seconds to end every life in this room. Long enough for Bella Swan to see, briefly, what was coming for her. Long enough for her to feel fear. Long enough, maybe, if shock didn’t freeze her in place, for her to work up a scream. One soft scream that would not bring anyone running. I took a deep breath, and the scent was a fire that raced through my dry veins, burning out from my chest to consume every better impulse that I was capable of. She was just turning now. In a few seconds, she would sit down inches away from me. The monster in my head smiled in anticipation. Someone slammed shut a folder on my left. I didn’t look up to see which of the doomed humans it was. But the motion sent a wave of ordinary, unscented air wafting across my face. For one short second, I was able to think clearly. In that precious second, I saw two faces in my head, side by side. One was mine, or rather had been: the red-eyed monster that had killed so many people that I’d stop counting their numbers. Rationalized, justified murders. A killer of killers, a killer of other, less powerful monsters. It was a god complex, I acknowledged that— deciding who deserved a death sentence. It was a compromise with myself. I had fed on human blood, but only by the loosest definition. My victims were, in their various dark pastimes, barely more human than I was. The other face was Carlisle’s. There was no resemblance between the two faces. They were bright day and blackest night. There was no reason for there to be a resemblance. Carlisle was not my father in the basic biological sense. We shared no common features. The similarity in our coloring was a product of what we were; every vampire had the same ice pale skin. The similarity in the color of our eyes was another matter—a reflection of a mutual choice. And yet, though there was no basis for a resemblance, I’d imagined that my face had begun to reflect his, to an extent, in the last seventy-odd years that I had embraced his choice and followed in his steps. My features had not changed, but it seemed to me like some of his wisdom had marked my expression, that a little of his compassion could be traced in the shape of my mouth, and hints of his patience were evident on my brow. All those tiny improvements were lost in the face of the monster. In a few moments, there would be nothing left in me that would reflect the years I’d spent with my creator, my mentor, my father in all the ways that counted. My eyes would glow red as a devil’s; all likeness would be lost forever. In my head, Carlisle’s kind eyes did not judge me. I knew that he would forgive me for this horrible act that I would do. Because he loved me. Because he thought I was better than I was. And he would still love me, even as I now proved him wrong. Bella Swan sat down in the chair next to me, her movements stiff and awkward—with fear?—and the scent of her blood bloomed in an inexorable cloud around me. I would prove my father wrong about me. The misery of this fact hurt almost as much as the fire in my throat. I leaned away from her in revulsion—revolted by the monster aching to take her. Why did she have to come here? Why did she have to exist? Why did she have to ruin the little peace I had in this non-life of mine? Why had this aggravating human ever been born? She would ruin me. I turned my face away from her, as a sudden fierce, unreasoning hatred washed through me. Who was this creature? Why me, why now? Why did I have to lose everything just because she happened to choose this unlikely town to appear in? Why had she come here! I didn’t want to be the monster! I didn’t want to kill this room full of harmless children! I didn’t want to lose everything I’d gained in a lifetime of sacrifice and denial! I wouldn’t. She couldn’t make me. The scent was the problem, the hideously appealing scent of her blood. If there was only some way to resist…if only another gust of fresh air could clear my head. Bella Swan shook out her long, thick, mahogany hair in my direction. Was she insane? It was as if she were encouraging the monster! Taunting him. There was no friendly breeze to blow the smell away from me now. All would soon be lost. No, there was no helpful breeze. But I didn’t have to breathe. I stopped the flow of air through my lungs; the relief was instantaneous, but incomplete. I still had the memory of the scent in my head, the taste of it on the back of my tongue. I wouldn’t be able to resist even that for long. But perhaps I could resist for an hour. One hour. Just enough time to get out of this room full of victims, victims that maybe didn’t have to be victims. If I could resist for one short hour. It was an uncomfortable feeling, not breathing. My body did not need oxygen, but it went against my instincts. I relied on scent more than my other senses in times of stress. It led the way in the hunt, it was the first warning in case of danger. I did not often came across something as dangerous as I was, but self-preservation was just as strong in my kind as it was in the average human. Uncomfortable, but manageable. More bearable than smelling her and not sinking my teeth through that fine, thin, see-through skin to the hot, wet, pulsing— An hour! Just one hour. I must not think of the scent, the taste. The silent girl kept her hair between us, leaning forward so that it spilled across her folder. I couldn’t see her face, to try to read the emotions in her clear, deep eyes. Was this why she’d let her tresses fan out between us? To hide those eyes from me? Out of fear? Shyness? To keep her secrets from me? My former irritation at being stymied by her soundless thoughts was weak and pale in comparison to the need—and the hate—that possessed me now. For I hated this frail woman-child beside me, hated her with all the fervor with which I clung to my former self, my love of my family, my dreams of being something better than what I was… Hating her, hating how she made me feel—it helped a little. Yes, the irritation I’d felt before was weak, but it, too, helped a little. I clung to any emotion that distracted me from imagining what she would taste like… Hate and irritation. Impatience. Would the hour never pass? And when the hour ended… Then she would walk out of this room. And I would do what? I could introduce myself. Hello, my name is Edward Cullen. May I walk you to your next class? She would say yes. It would be the polite thing to do. Even already fearing me, as I suspected she did, she would follow convention and walk beside me. It should be easy enough to lead her in the wrong direction. A spur of the forest reached out like a finger to touch the back corner of the parking lot. I could tell her I’d forgotten a book in my car… Would anyone notice that I was the last person she’d been seen with? It was raining, as usual; two dark raincoats heading the wrong direction wouldn’t pique too much interest, or give me away. Except that I was not the only student who was aware of her today—though no one was as blisteringly aware as I was. Mike Newton, in particular, was conscious of every shift in her weight as she fidgeted in her chair—she was uncomfortable so close to me, just as anyone would be, just as I’d expected before her scent had destroyed all charitable concern. Mike Newton would notice if she left the classroom with me. If I could last an hour, could I last two? I flinched at the pain of the burning. She would go home to an empty house. Police Chief Swan worked a full day. I knew his house, as I knew every house in the tiny town. His home was nestled right up against thick woods, with no close neighbors. Even if she had time to scream, which she would not, there would be no one to hear. That would be the responsible way to deal with this. I’d gone seven decades without human blood. If I held my breath, I could last two hours. And when I had her alone, there would be no chance of anyone else getting hurt. And no reason to rush through the experience, the monster in my head agreed. It was sophistry to think that by saving the nineteen humans in this room with effort and patience, I would be less a monster when I killed this innocent girl. Though I hated her, I knew my hatred was unjust. I knew that what I really hated was myself. And I would hate us both so much more when she was dead. I made it through the hour in this way—imagining the best ways to kill her. I tried to avoid imagining the actual act. That might be too much for me; I might lose this battle and end up killing everyone in sight. So I planned strategy, and nothing more. It carried me through the hour. Once, toward the very end, she peeked up at me through the fluid wall of her hair. I could feel the unjustified hatred burning out of me as I met her gaze—see the reflection of it in her frightened eyes. Blood painted her cheek before she could hide in her hair again, and I was nearly undone. But the bell rang. Saved by the bell—how cliché. We were both saved. She, saved from death. I, saved for just a short time from being the nightmarish creature I feared and loathed. I couldn’t walk as slowly as I should as I darted from the room. If anyone had been looking at me, they might have suspected that there was something not right about the way I moved. No one was paying attention to me. All human thoughts still swirled around the girl who was condemned to die in little more than an hour’s time. I hid in my car. I didn’t like to think of myself having to hide. How cowardly that sounded. But it was unquestionably the case now I didn’t have enough discipline left to be around humans now. Focusing so much of my efforts on not killing one of them left me no resources to resist the others. What a waste that would be. If I were to give in to the monster, I might as well make it worth the defeat. I played a CD of music that usually calmed me, but it did little for me now. No, what helped most now was the cool, wet, clean air that drifted with the light rain through my open windows. Though I could remember the scent of Bella Swan’s blood with perfect clarity, inhaling the clean air was like washing out the inside of my body from its infection. I was sane again. I could think again. And I could fight again. I could fight against what I didn’t want to be. I didn’t have to go to her home. I didn’t have to kill her. Obviously, I was a rational, thinking creature, and I had a choice. There was always a choice. It hadn’t felt that way in the classroom…but I was away from her now. Perhaps, if I avoided her very, very carefully, there was no need for my life to change. I had things ordered the way I liked them now. Why should I let some aggravating and delicious nobody ruin that? I didn’t have to disappoint my father. I didn’t have to cause my mother stress, worry…pain. Yes, it would hurt my adopted mother, too. And Esme was so gentle, so tender and soft. Causing someone like Esme pain was truly inexcusable. How ironic that I’d wanted to protect this human girl from the paltry, toothless threat of Jessica Stanley’s snide thoughts. I was the last person who would ever stand as a protector for Isabella Swan. She would never need protection from anything more than she needed it from me. Where was Alice, I suddenly wondered? Hadn’t she seen me killing the Swan girl in a multitude of ways? Why hadn’t she come to help—to stop me or help me clean up the evidence, whichever? Was she so absorbed with watching for trouble with Jasper that she’d missed this much more horrific possibility? Was I stronger than I thought? Would I really not have done anything to the girl? No. I knew that wasn’t true. Alice must be concentrating on Jasper very hard. I searched in the direction I knew she would be, in the small building used for English classes. It did not take me long to locate her familiar ‘voice.’ And I was right. Her every thought was turned to Jasper, watching his small choices with minute scrutiny. I wished I could ask her advice, but at the same time, I was glad she didn’t know what I was capable of. That she was unaware of the massacre I had considered in the last hour. I felt a new burn through my body—the burn of shame. I didn’t want any of them to know. If I could avoid Bella Swan, if I could manage not to kill her—even as I thought that, the monster writhed and gnashed his teeth in frustration—then no one would have to know. If I could keep away from her scent… There was no reason why I shouldn’t try, at least. Make a good choice. Try to be what Carlisle thought I was. The last hour of school was almost over. I decided to put my new plan into action at once. Better than sitting here in the parking lot where she might pass me and ruin my attempt. Again, I felt the unjust hatred for the girl. I hated that she had this unconscious power over me. That she could make me be something I reviled. I walked swiftly—a little too swiftly, but there were no witnesses—across the tiny campus to the office. There was no reason for Bella Swan to cross paths with me. She would be avoided like the plague she was. The office was empty except for the secretary, the one I wanted to see. She didn’t notice my silent entrance. “Mrs. Cope?” The woman with the unnaturally red hair looked up and her eyes widened. It always caught them off guard, the little markers they didn’t understand, no matter how many times they’d seen one of us before. “Oh,” she gasped, a little flustered. She smoothed her shirt. Silly, she thought to herself. He’s almost young enough to be my son. Too young to think of that way… “Hello, Edward. What can I do for you?” Her eyelashes fluttered behind her thick glasses. Uncomfortable. But I knew how to be charming when I wanted to be. It was easy, since I was able to know instantly how any tone or gesture was taken. I leaned forward, meeting her gaze as if I were staring deeply into her depthless, small brown eyes. Her thoughts were already in a flutter. This should be simple. “I was wondering if you could help me with my schedule,” I said in the soft voice I reserved for not scaring humans. I heard the tempo of her heart increase. “Of course, Edward. How can I help?” Too young, too young, she chanted to herself. Wrong, of course. I was older than her grandfather. But according to my driver’s license, she was right. “I was wondering if I could move from my biology class to a senior level science? Physics, perhaps?” “It there a problem with Mr. Banner, Edward?” “Not at all, it’s just that I’ve already studied this material…” “In that accelerated school you all went to in Alaska, right.” Her thin lips pursed as she considered this. They should all be in college. I’ve heard the teachers complain. Perfect four point ohs, never a hesitation with a response, never a wrong answer on a test—like they’ve found some way to cheat in every subject. Mr. Varner would rather believe that anyone was cheating than think a student was smarter than him… I’ll bet their mother tutors them… “Actually, Edward, physics is pretty much full right now. Mr. Banner hates to have more than twenty-five students in a class—” “I wouldn’t be any trouble.” Of course not. Not a perfect Cullen. “I know that, Edward. But there just aren’t enough seats as it is…” “Could I drop the class, then? I could use the period for independent study.” “Drop biology?” He mouth fell open. That’s crazy. How hard is it to sit through a subject you already know? There must be a problem with Mr. Banner. I wonder if I should talk to Bob about it? “You won’t have enough credits to graduate.” “I’ll catch up next year.” “Maybe you should talk to your parents about that.” The door opened behind me, but who ever it was did not think of me, so I ignored the arrival and concentrated on Mrs. Cope. I leaned slightly closer, and held my eyes a little wider. This would work better if they were gold instead of black. The blackness frightened people, as it should. “Please, Mrs. Cope?” I made my voice as smooth and compelling as it could be—and it could be considerably compelling. “Isn’t there some other section I could switch to? I’m sure there has to be an open slot somewhere? Sixth hour biology can’t be the only option…” I smiled at her, careful not to flash my teeth so widely that it would scare her, letting the expression soften my face. Her heart drummed faster. Too young, she reminded herself frantically. “Well, maybe I could talk to Bob—I mean Mr. Banner. I could see if—” A second was all it took to change everything: the atmosphere in the room, my mission here, the reason I leaned toward the red-haired woman… What had been for one purpose before was now for another. A second was all it took for Samantha Wells to open the door and place a signed tardy slip in the basket by the door, and hurry out again, in a rush to be away from school. A second was all it took for the sudden gust of wind through the open door to crash into me. A second was all it took for me to realize why that first person through the door had not interrupted me with her thoughts. I turned, though I did not need to make sure. I turned slowly, fighting to control the muscles that rebelled against me. Bella Swan stood with her back pressed to the wall beside the door, a piece of paper clutched in her hands. Her eyes were even wider than usual as she took in my ferocious, inhuman glare. The smell of her blood saturated every particle of air in the tiny, hot room. My throat burst into flames. The monster glared back at me from the mirror of her eyes again, a mask of evil. My hand hesitated in the air above the counter. I would not have to look back in order to reach across it and slam Mrs. Cope’s head into her desk with enough force to kill her. Two lives, rather than twenty. A trade. The monster waited anxiously, hungrily, for me to do it. But there was always a choice—there had to be. I cut off the motion of my lungs, and fixed Carlisle’s face in front of my eyes. I turned back to face Mrs. Cope, and heard her internal surprise at the change in my expression. She shrank away from me, but her fear did not form into coherent words. Using all the control I’d mastered in my decades of self-denial, I made my voice even and smooth. There was just enough air left in my lungs to speak once more, rushing through the words. “Nevermind, then. I can see that it’s impossible. Thank you so much for your help.” I spun and launched myself from the room, trying not to feel the warm-blooded heat of the girl’s body as I passed within inches of it. I didn’t stop until I was in my car, moving too fast the entire way there. Most of the humans had cleared out already, so there weren’t a lot of witnesses. I heard a sophomore, D.J. Garrett, notice, and then disregard… Where did Cullen come from—it was like he just came out of thin air… There I go, with the imagination again. Mom always says… When I slid into my Volvo, the others were already there. I tried to control my breathing, but I was gasping at the fresh air like I’d been suffocated. “Edward?” Alice asked, alarm in her voice. I just shook my head at her. “What the hell happened to you?” Emmett demanded, distracted, for the moment, from the fact that Jasper was not in the mood for his rematch. Instead of answering, I threw the car into reverse. I had to get out of this lot before Bella Swan could follow me here, too. My own person demon, haunting me… I swung the car around and accelerated. I hit forty before I was on the road. On the road, I hit seventy before I made the corner. Without looking, I knew that Emmett, Rosalie and Jasper had all turned to stare at Alice. She shrugged. She couldn’t see what had passed, only what was coming. She looked ahead for me now. We both processed what she saw in her head, and we were both surprised. “You’re leaving?” she whispered. The others stared at me now. “Am I?” I hissed through my teeth. She saw it then, as my resolve wavered and another choice spun my future in a darker direction. “Oh.” Bella Swan, dead. My eyes, glowing crimson with fresh blood. The search that would follow. The careful time we would wait before it was safe for us to pull out and start again… “Oh,” she said again. The picture grew more specific. I saw the inside of Chief Swan’s house for the first time, saw Bella in a small kitchen with the yellow cupboards, her back to me as I stalked her from the shadows…let the scent pull me toward her… “Stop!” I groaned, not able to bear more. “Sorry,” she whispered, her eyes wide. The monster rejoiced. And the vision in her head shifted again. An empty highway at night, the trees beside it coated in snow, flashing by at almost two hundred miles per hour. “I’ll miss you,” she said. “No matter how short a time you’re gone.” Emmett and Rosalie exchanged an apprehensive glance. We were almost to the turn off onto the long drive that led to our home. “Drop us here,” Alice instructed. “You should tell Carlisle yourself.” I nodded, and the car squealed to a sudden stop. Emmett, Rosalie and Jasper got out in silence; they would make Alice explain when I was gone. Alice touched my shoulder. “You will do the right thing,” she murmured. Not a vision this time—an order. “She’s Charlie Swan’s only family. It would kill him, too.” “Yes,” I said, agreeing only with the last part. She slid out to join the others, her eyebrows pulling together in anxiety. They melted into woods, out of sight before I could turn the car around. I accelerated back toward town, and I knew the visions in Alice’s head would be flashing from dark to bright like a strobe light. As I sped back to Forks doing ninety, I wasn’t sure where I was going. To say goodbye to my father? Or to embrace the monster inside me? The road flew away beneath my tires. Chapter Two Open Book I leaned back against the soft snow bank, letting the dry powder reshape itself around my weight. My skin had cooled to match the air around me, and the tiny pieces of ice felt like velvet under my skin. The sky above me was clear, bril iant with stars, glowing blue in some places, yellow in others. The stars created majestic, swirling shapes against the black universe—an awesome sight. Exquisitely beautiful. Or rather, it should have been exquisite. Would have been, if I’d been able to really see it. It wasn’t getting any better. Six days had passed, six days I’d hidden here in the empty Denali wilderness, but I was no closer to freedom than I had been since the first moment that I’d caught her scent. When I stared up at the jeweled sky, it was as if there were an obstruction between my eyes and their beauty. The obstruction was a face, just an unremarkable human face, but I couldn’t quite seem to banish it from my mind. I heard the approaching thoughts before I heard the footsteps that accompanied them. The sound of movement was only a faint whisper against the powder. I was not surprised that Tanya had followed me here. I knew she’d been mulling over this coming conversation for the last few days, putting it off until she was sure of exactly what she wanted to say. She sprang into sight about sixty yards away, leaping onto the tip of an outcropping of black rock and balancing there on the balls of her bare feet. Tanya’s skin was silver in the starlight, and her long blond curls shone pale, almost pink with their strawberry tint. Her amber eyes glinted as she spied me, half-buried in the snow, and her full lips stretched slowly into a smile. Exquisite. If I’d really been able to see her. I sighed. She crouched down on the point of the stone, her fingertips touching the rock, her body coiled. Cannonball, she thought. She launched herself into the air; her shape became a dark, twisting shadow as she spun gracefully between me and the stars. She curled herself into a ball just as she struck the piled snow bank beside me. A blizzard of snow flew up around me. The stars went black and I was buried deep in the feathery ice crystals. I sighed again, but didn’t move to unearth myself. The blackness under the snow neither hurt nor improved the view. I still saw the same face. “Edward?” Then snow was flying again as Tanya swiftly disinterred me. She brushed the powder from my unmoving face, not quite meeting my eyes. “Sorry,” she murmured. “It was a joke.” “I know. It was funny.” Her mouth twisted down. “Irina and Kate said I should leave you alone. They think I’m annoying you.” “Not at all,” I assured her. “On the contrary, I’m the one who’s being rude—abominably rude. I’m very sorry.” You’re going home, aren’t you? she thought. “I haven’t…entirely…decided that yet.” But you’re not staying here. Her thought was wistful now, sad. “No. It doesn’t seem to be…helping.” She grimaced. “That’s my fault, isn’t it?” “Of course not,” I lied smoothly. Don’t be a gentleman. I smiled. I make you uncomfortable, she accused. “No.” She raised one eyebrow, her expression so disbelieving that I had to laugh. One short laugh, followed by another sigh. “All right,” I admitted. “A little bit.” She sighed, too, and put her chin in her hands. Her thoughts were chagrined. “You’re a thousand times lovelier than the stars, Tanya. Of course, you’re already well aware of that. Don’t let my stubbornness undermine your confidence.” I chuckled at the unlikeliness of that. “I’m not used to rejection,” she grumbled, her lower lip pushing out into an attractive pout. “Certainly not,” I agreed, trying with little success to block out her thoughts as she fleetingly sifted through memories of her thousands of successful conquests. Mostly Tanya preferred human men—they were much more populous for one thing, with the added advantage of being soft and warm. And always eager, definitely. “Succubus,” I teased, hoping to interrupt the images flickering in her head. She grinned, flashing her teeth. “The original.” Unlike Carlisle, Tanya and her sisters had discovered their consciences slowly. In the end, it was their fondness for human men that turned the sisters against the slaughter. Now the men they loved…lived. “When you showed up here,” Tanya said slowly. “I thought that…” I’d known what she’d thought. And I should have guessed that she would have felt that way. But I hadn’t been at my best for analytical thinking in that moment. “You thought that I’d changed my mind.” “Yes.” She scowled. “I feel horrible for toying with your expectations, Tanya. I didn’t mean to—I wasn’t thinking. It’s just that I left in…quite a hurry.” “I don’t suppose you’d tell me why…?” I sat up and wrapped my arms around my legs, curling defensively. “I don’t want to talk about it.” Tanya, Irina and Kate were very good at this life they’d committed to. Better, in some ways, than even Carlisle. Despite the insanely close proximity they allowed themselves with those who should be—and once were—their prey, they did not make mistakes. I was too ashamed to admit my weakness to Tanya. “Woman troubles?” she guessed, ignoring my reluctance. I laughed a bleak laugh. “Not the way you mean it.” She was quiet then. I listened to her thoughts as she ran through different guesses, tried to decipher the meaning of my words. “You’re not even close,” I told her. “One hint?” she asked. “Please let it go, Tanya.” She was quiet again, still speculating. I ignored her, trying in vain to appreciate the stars. She gave up after a silent moment, and her thoughts pursued a new direction. Where will you go, Edward, if you leave? Back to Carlisle? “I don’t think so,” I whispered. Where would I go? I could not think of one place on the entire planet that held any interest for me. There was nothing I wanted to see or do. Because, no matter where I went, I would not be going to anywhere—I would only be running from. I hated that. When had I become such a coward? Tanya threw her slender arm around my shoulders. I stiffened, but did not flinch out from under her touch. She meant it as nothing more than friendly comfort. Mostly. “I think that you will go back,” she said, her voice taking on just a hint of her long lost Russian accent. “No matter what it is…or who it is...that is haunting you. You’ll face it head on. You’re the type.” Her thoughts were as certain as her words. I tried to embrace the vision of myself that she carried in her head. The one who faced things head on. It was pleasant to think of myself that way again. I’d never doubted my courage, my ability to face difficulty, before that horrible hour in a high school biology class such a short time ago. I kissed her cheek, pulling back swiftly when she twisted her face toward mine, her lips already puckered. She smiled ruefully at my quickness. “Thank you, Tanya. I needed to hear that.” Her thoughts turned petulant. “You’re welcome, I guess. I wish you would be more reasonable about things, Edward.” “I’m sorry, Tanya. You know you’re too good for me. I just…haven’t found what I’m looking for yet.” “Well, if you leave before I see you again…goodbye, Edward.” “Goodbye, Tanya.” As I said the words, I could see it. I could see myself leaving. Being strong enough to go back to the one place where I wanted to be. “Thanks again.” She was on her feet in one nimble move, and then she was running away, ghosting across the snow so quickly that her feet had no time to sink into the snow; she left no prints behind her. She didn’t look back. My rejection bothered her more than she’d let on before, even in her thoughts. She wouldn’t want to see me again before I left. My mouth twisted with chagrin. I didn’t like hurting Tanya, though her feelings were not deep, hardly pure, and, in any case, not something I could return. It still made me feel less than a gentleman. I put my chin on my knees and stared up at the stars again, though I was suddenly anxious to be on my way. I knew that Alice would see me coming home, that she would tell the others. This would make them happy—Carlisle and Esme especially. But I gazed at the stars for one more moment, trying to see past the face in my head. Between me and the brilliant lights in the sky, a pair of bewildered chocolate-brown eyes stared back at me, seeming to ask what this decision would mean for her. Of course, I couldn’t be sure if that was really the information her curious eyes sought. Even in my imagination, I couldn’t hear her thoughts. Bella Swan’s eyes continued to question, and an unobstructed view of the stars continued to elude me. With a heavy sigh, I gave up, and got to my feet. If I ran, I would be back to Carlisle’s car in less than an hour… In a hurry to see my family—and wanting very much to be the Edward that faced things head on—I raced across the starlit snowfield, leaving no footprints. “It’s going to be okay,” Alice breathed. Her eyes were unfocused, and Jasper had one hand lightly under her elbow, guiding her forward as we walked into the rundown cafeteria in a close group. Rosalie and Emmett led the way, Emmett looking ridiculously like a bodyguard in the middle of hostile territory. Rose looked wary, too, but much more irritated than protective. “Of course it is,” I grumbled. Their behavior was ludicrous. If I wasn’t positive that I could handle this moment, I would have stayed home. The sudden shift from our normal, even playful morning—it had snowed in the night, and Emmett and Jasper were not above taking advantage of my distraction to bombard me with slushballs; when they got bored with my lack of response, they’d turned on each other—to this overdone vigilance would have been comical if it weren’t so irritating. “She’s not here yet, but the way she’s going to come in…she won’t be downwind if we sit in our regular spot.” “Of course we’ll sit in our regular spot. Stop it, Alice. You’re getting on my nerves. I’ll be absolutely fine.” She blinked once as Jasper helped her into her seat, and her eyes finally focused on my face. “Hmm,” she said, sounding surprised. “I think you’re right.” “Of course I am,” I muttered. I hated being the focus of their concern. I felt a sudden sympathy for Jasper, remembering all the times we’d hovered protectively over him. He met my glance briefly, and grinned. Annoying, isn’t it? I grimaced at him. Was it just last week that this long, drab room had seemed so killingly dull to me? That it had seemed almost like sleep, like a coma, to be here? Today my nerves were stretched tight—piano wires, tensed to sing at the lightest pressure. My senses were hyper-alert; I scanned every sound, every sight, every movement of the air that touched my skin, every thought. Especial y the thoughts. There was only one sense that I kept locked down, refused to use. Smell, of course. I didn’t breathe. I was expecting to hear more about the Cullens in the thoughts that I sifted through. Al day I’d been waiting, searching for whichever new acquaintance Bella Swan might have confided in, trying to see the direction the new gossip would take. But there was nothing. No one noticed the five vampires in the cafeteria, just the same as before the new girl had come. Several of the humans here were still thinking of that girl, still thinking the same thoughts from last week. Instead of finding this unutterably boring, I was now fascinated. Had she said nothing to anyone about me? There was no way that she had not noticed my black, murderous glare. I had seen her react to it. Surely, I’d scared her silly. I had been convinced that she would have mentioned it to someone, maybe even exaggerated the story a bit to make it better. Given me a few menacing lines. And then, she’d also heard me trying to get out of our shared biology class. She must have wondered, after seeing my expression, whether she were the cause. A normal girl would have asked around, compared her experience to others, looked for common ground that would explain my behavior so she didn’t feel singled out. Humans were constantly desperate to feel normal, to fit in. To blend in with everyone else around them, like a featureless flock of sheep. The need was particularly strong during the insecure adolescent years. This girl would be no exception to that rule. But no one at all took any notice of us sitting here, at our normal table. Bella must be exceptionally shy, if she’d confided in no one. Perhaps she had spoken to her father, maybe that was the strongest relationship…though that seemed unlikely, given the fact that she had spent so little time with him throughout her life. She would be closer to her mother. Still, I would have to pass by Chief Swan sometime soon and listen to what he was thinking. “Anything new?” Jasper asked. “Nothing. She…must not have said anything.” All of them raised an eyebrow at this news. “Maybe you’re not as scary as you think you are,” Emmett said, chuckling. “I bet I could have frightened her better than that.” I rolled my eyes at him. “Wonder why…?” He puzzled again over my revelation about the girl’s unique silence. “We’ve been over that. I don’t know.” “She’s coming in,” Alice murmured then. I felt my body go rigid. “Try to look human.” “Human, you say?” Emmett asked. He held up his right fist, twisting his fingers to reveal the snowball he’d saved in his palm. Of course it had not melted there. He’d squeezed it into a lumpy block of ice. He had his eyes on Jasper, but I saw the direction of his thoughts. So did Alice, of course. When he abruptly hurled the ice chunk at her, she flicked it away with a casual flutter of her fingers. The ice ricocheted across the length of the cafeteria, too fast to be visible to human eyes, and shattered with a sharp crack against the brick wall. The brick cracked, too. The heads in that corner of the room all turned to stare at the pile of broken ice on the floor, and then swiveled to find the culprit. They didn’t look further than a few tables away. No one looked at us. “Very human, Emmett,” Rosalie said scathingly. “Why don’t you punch through the wall while you’re at it?” “It would look more impressive if you did it, baby.” I tried to pay attention to them, keeping a grin fixed on my face like I was part of their banter. I did not allow myself to look toward the line where I knew she was standing. But that was all that I was listening to. I could hear Jessica’s impatience with the new girl, who seemed to be distracted, too, standing motionless in the moving line. I saw, in Jessica’s thoughts, that Bel a Swan’s cheeks were once more colored bright pink with blood. I pulled in short, shallow breaths, ready to quit breathing if any hint of her scent touched the air near me. Mike Newton was with the two girls. I heard both his voices, mental and verbal, when he asked Jessica what was wrong with the Swan girl. I didn’t like the way his thoughts wrapped around her, the flicker of already established fantasies that clouded his mind while he watched her start and look up from her reverie like she’d forgotten he was there. “Nothing,” I heard Bella say in that quiet, clear voice. It seemed to ring like a bell over the babble in the cafeteria, but I knew that was just because I was listening for it so intently. “I’ll just get a soda today,” she continued as she moved to catch up with the line. I couldn’t help flickering one glance in her direction. She was staring at the floor, the blood slowly fading from her face. I looked away quickly, to Emmett, who laughed at the now pained-looking smile on my face. You look sick, bro. I rearranged my features so the expression would seem casual and effortless. Jessica was wondering aloud about the girl’s lack of appetite. “Aren’t you hungry?” “Actually, I feel a little sick.” Her voice was lower, but still very clear. Why did it bother me, the protective concern that suddenly emanated from Mike Newton’s thoughts? What did it matter that there was a possessive edge to them? It wasn’t my business if Mike Newton felt unnecessarily anxious for her. Perhaps this was the way everyone responded to her. Hadn’t I wanted, instinctively, to protect her, too? Before I’d wanted to kill her, that is… But was the girl ill? It was hard to judge—she looked so delicate with her translucent skin… Then I realized that I was worrying, too, just like that dimwitted boy, and I forced myself not to think about her health. Regardless, I didn’t like monitoring her through Mike’s thoughts. I switched to Jessica’s, watching carefully as the three of them chose which table to sit at. Fortunately, they sat with Jessica’s usual companions, at one of the first tables in the room. Not downwind, just as Alice had promised. Alice elbowed me. She’s going to look soon, act human. I clenched my teeth behind my grin. “Ease up, Edward,” Emmett said. “Honestly. So you kill one human. That’s hardly the end of the world.” “You would know,” I murmured. Emmett laughed. “You’ve got to learn to get over things. Like I do. Eternity is a long time to wallow in guilt.” Just then, Alice tossed a smaller handful of ice that she’d been hiding into Emmett’s unsuspecting face. He blinked, surprised, and then grinned in anticipation. “You asked for it,” he said as he leaned across the table and shook his ice-encrusted hair in her direction. The snow, melting in the warm room, flew out from his hair in a thick shower of half-liquid, half-ice. “Ew!” Rose complained, as she and Alice recoiled from the deluge. Alice laughed, and we all joined in. I could see in Alice’s head how she’d orchestrated this perfect moment, and I knew that the girl—I should stop thinking of her that way, as if she were the only girl in the world—that Bella would be watching us laugh and play, looking as happy and human and unrealistically ideal as a Norman Rockwell painting. Alice kept laughing, and held her tray up as a shield. The girl—Bel a must still be staring at us. …staring at the Cullens again, someone thought, catching my attention. I looked automatically toward the unintentional call, realizing as my eyes found their destination that I recognized the voice—I’d been listening to it so much today. But my eyes slid right past Jessica, and focused on the girl’s penetrating gaze. She looked down quickly, hiding behind her thick hair again. What was she thinking? The frustration seemed to be getting more acute as time went on, rather than dulling. I tried—uncertain in what I was doing for I’d never tried this before—to probe with my mind at the silence around her. My extra hearing had always come to me naturally, without asking; I’d never had to work at it. But I concentrated now, trying to break through whatever shield surrounded her. Nothing but silence. What is it about her? Jessica thought, echoing my own frustration. “Edward Cullen is staring at you,” she whispered in the Swan girl’s ear, adding a giggle. There was no hint of her jealous irritation in her tone. Jessica seemed to be skilled at feigning friendship. I listened, too engrossed, to the girl’s response. “He doesn’t look angry, does he?” she whispered back. So she had noticed my wild reaction last week. Of course she had. The question confused Jessica. I saw my own face in her thoughts as she checked my expression, but I did not meet her glance. I was still concentrating on the girl, trying to hear something. My intent focus didn’t seem to be helping at all. “No,” Jess told her, and I knew that she wished she could say yes—how it rankled inside her, my staring—though there was no trace of that in her voice. “Should he be?” “I don’t think he likes me,” the girl whispered back, laying her head down on her arm as if she were suddenly tired. I tried to understand the motion, but I could only make guesses. Maybe she was tired. “The Cullens don’t like anybody,” Jess reassured her. “Well, they don’t notice anybody enough to like them.” They never used to. Her thought was a grumble of complaint. “But he’s still staring at you.” “Stop looking at him,” the girl said anxiously, lifting her head from her arm to make sure Jessica obeyed the order. Jessica giggled, but did as she was asked. The girl did not look away from her table for the rest of the hour. I thought—though, of course, I could not be sure—that this was deliberate. It seemed like she wanted to look at me. Her body would shift slightly in my direction, her chin would begin to turn, and then she would catch herself, take a deep breath, and stare fixedly at whoever was speaking. I ignored the other thoughts around the girl for the most part, as they were not, momentarily, about her. Mike Newton was planning a snow fight in the parking lot after school, not seeming to realize that the snow had already shifted to rain. The flutter of soft flakes against the roof had become the more common patter of raindrops. Could he really not hear the change? It seemed loud to me. When the lunch period ended, I stayed in my seat. The humans filed out, and I caught myself trying to distinguish the sound of her footsteps from the sound of the rest, as if there was something important or unusual about them. How stupid. My family made no move to leave, either. They waited to see what I would do. Would I go to class, sit beside the girl where I could smell the absurdly potent scent of her blood and feel the warmth of her pulse in the air on my skin? Was I strong enough for that? Or had I had enough for one day? “I… think it’s okay,” Alice said, hesitant. “Your mind is set. I think you’ll make it through the hour.” But Alice knew well how quickly a mind could change. “Why push it, Edward?” Jasper asked. Though he didn’t want to feel smug that I was the one who was weak now, I could hear that he did, just a little. “Go home. Take it slow.” “What’s the big deal?” Emmett disagreed. “Either he will or he won’t kill her. Might as well get it over with, either way.” “I don’t want to move yet,” Rosalie complained. “I don’t want to start over. We’re almost out of high school, Emmett. Finally.” I was evenly torn on the decision. I wanted, wanted badly, to face this head on rather than running away again. But I didn’t want to push myself too far, either. It had been a mistake last week for Jasper to go so long without hunting; was this just as pointless a mistake? I didn’t want to uproot my family. None of them would thank me for that. But I wanted to go to my biology class. I realized that I wanted to see her face again. That’s what decided it for me. That curiosity. I was angry with myself for feeling it. Hadn’t I promised myself that I wouldn’t let the silence of the girl’s mind make me unduly interested in her? And yet, here I was, most unduly interested. I wanted to know what she was thinking. Her mind was closed, but her eyes were very open. Perhaps I could read them instead. “No, Rose, I think it really will be okay,” Alice said. “It’s…firming up. I’m ninety-three percent sure that nothing bad will happen if he goes to class.” She looked at me inquisitively, wondering what had changed in my thoughts that made her vision of the future more secure. Would curiosity be enough to keep Bella Swan alive? Emmett was right, though—why not get it over with, either way? I would face the temptation head on. “Go to class,” I ordered, pushing away from the table. I turned and strode away from them without looking back. I could hear Alice’s worry, Jasper’s censure, Emmett’s approval, and Rosalie’s irritation trailing after me. I took one last deep breath at the door of the classroom, and then held it in my lungs as I walked into the small, warm space. I was not late. Mr. Banner was stil setting up for today’s lab. The girl sat at my—at our table, her face down again, staring at the folder she was doodling on. I examined the sketch as I approached, interested in even this trivial creation of her mind, but it was meaningless. Just a random scribbling of loops within loops. Perhaps she was not concentrating on the pattern, but thinking of something else? I pulled my chair back with unnecessary roughness, letting it scrape across the linoleum; humans always felt more comfortable when noise announced someone’s approach. I knew she heard the sound; she did not look up, but her hand missed a loop in the design she was drawing, making it unbalanced. Why didn’t she look up? Probably she was frightened. I must be sure to leave her with a different impression this time. Make her think she’d been imagining things before. “Hello,” I said in the quiet voice I used when I wanted to make humans more comfortable, forming a polite smile with my lips that would not show any teeth. She looked up then, her wide brown eyes startled—almost bewildered—and full of silent questions. It was the same expression that had been obstructing my vision for the last week. As I stared into those oddly deep brown eyes, I realized that the hate—the hate I’d imagined this girl somehow deserved for simply existing—had evaporated. Not breathing now, not tasting her scent, it was hard to believe that anyone so vulnerable could ever justify hatred. Her cheeks began to flush, and she said nothing. I kept my eyes on hers, focusing only on their questioning depths, and tried to ignore the appetizing color of her skin. I had enough breath to speak for a while longer without inhaling. “My name is Edward Cullen,” I said, though I knew she knew that. It was the polite way to begin. “I didn’t have a chance to introduce myself last week. You must be Bella Swan.” She seemed confused—there was that little pucker between her eyes again. It took her half a second longer than it should have for her to respond. “How do you know my name?” she demanded, and her voice shook just a little. I must have truly terrified her. This made me feel guilty; she was just so defenseless. I laughed gently—it was a sound that I knew made humans more at ease. Again, I was careful about my teeth. “Oh, I think everyone knows your name.” Surely she must have realized that she’d become the center of attention in this monotonous place. “The whole town’s been waiting for you to arrive.” She frowned as if this information was unpleasant. I supposed, being shy as she seemed to be, attention would seem like a bad thing to her. Most humans felt the opposite. Though they didn’t want to stand out from the herd, at the same time they craved a spotlight for their individual uniformity. “No,” she said. “I meant, why did you call me Bella?” “Do you prefer Isabella?” I asked, perplexed by the fact that I couldn’t see where this question was leading. I didn’t understand. Surely, she’d made her preference clear many times that first day. Were all humans this incomprehensible without the mental context as a guide? “No, I like Bella,” she answered, leaning her head slightly to one side. Her expression—if I was reading it correctly—was torn between embarrassment and confusion. “But I think Charlie—I mean my dad—must call me Isabella behind my back. That’s what everyone here seems to know me as.” Her skin darkened one shade pinker. “Oh,” I said lamely, and quickly looked away from her face. I’d just realized what her questions meant: I had slipped up—made an error. If I hadn’t been eavesdropping on all the others that first day, then I would have addressed her initially by her full name, just like everyone else. She’d noticed the difference. I felt a pang of unease. It was very quick of her to pick up on my slip. Quite astute, especially for someone who was supposed to be terrified by my nearness. But I had bigger problems than whatever suspicions about me she might be keeping locked inside her head. I was out of air. If I were going to speak to her again, I would have to inhale. It would be hard to avoid speaking. Unfortunately for her, sharing this table made her my lab partner, and we would have to work together today. It would seem odd—and incomprehensibly rude—for me to ignore her while we did the lab. It would make her more suspicious, more afraid… I leaned as far away from her as I could without moving my seat, twisting my head out into the aisle. I braced myself, locking my muscles in place, and then sucked in one quick chest-full of air, breathing through my mouth alone. Ahh! It was genuinely painful. Even without smelling her, I could taste her on my tongue. My throat was suddenly in flames again, the craving every bit as strong as that first moment I’d caught her scent last week. I gritted my teeth together and tried to compose myself. “Get started,” Mr. Banner commanded. It felt like it took every single ounce of self-control that I’d achieved in seventy years of hard work to turn back to the girl, who was staring down at the table, and smile. “Ladies first, partner?” I offered. She looked up at my expression and her face went blank, her eyes wide. Was there something off in my expression? Was she frightened again? She didn’t speak. “Or, I could start, if you wish,” I said quietly. “No,” she said, and her face went from white to red again. “I’ll go first.” I stared at the equipment on the table, the battered microscope, the box of slides, rather than watch the blood swirl under her clear skin. I took another quick breath, through my teeth, and winced as the taste made my throat ache. “Prophase,” she said after a quick examination. She started to remove the slide, though she’d barely examined it. “Do you mind if I look?” Instinctively—stupidly, as if I were one of her kind—I reached out to stop her hand from removing the slide. For one second, the heat of her skin burned into mine. It was like an electric pulse—surely much hotter than a mere ninety-eight point six degrees. The heat shot through my hand and up my arm. She yanked her hand out from under mine. “I’m sorry,” I muttered through my clenched teeth. Needing somewhere to look, I grasped the microscope and stared briefly into the eyepiece. She was right. “Prophase,” I agreed. I was still too unsettled to look at her. Breathing as quietly as I could through my gritted teeth and trying to ignore the fiery thirst, I concentrated on the simple assignment, writing the word on the appropriate line on the lab sheet, and then switching out the first slide for the next. What was she thinking now? What had that felt like to her, when I had touched her hand? My skin must have been ice cold—repulsive. No wonder she was so quiet. I glanced at the slide. “Anaphase,” I said to myself as I wrote it on the second line. “May I?” she asked. I looked up at her, surprised to see that she was waiting expectantly, one hand half-stretched toward the microscope. She didn’t look afraid. Did she really think I’d gotten the answer wrong? I couldn’t help but smile at the hopeful look on her face as I slid the microscope toward her. She stared into the eyepiece with an eagerness that quickly faded. The corners of her mouth turned down. “Slide three?” she asked, not looking up from the microscope, but holding out her hand. I dropped the next slide into her hand, not letting my skin come anywhere close to hers this time. Sitting beside her was like sitting next to a heat lamp. I could feel myself warming slightly to the higher temperature. She did not look at the slide for long. “Interphase,” she said nonchalantly—perhaps trying a little too hard to sound that way—and pushed the microscope to me. She did not touch the paper, but waited for me to write the answer. I checked—she was correct again. We finished this way, speaking one word at a time and never meeting each other’s eyes. We were the only ones done—the others in the class were having a harder time with the lab. Mike Newton seemed to be having trouble concentrating—he was trying to watch Bella and me. Wish he’d stayed wherever he went, Mike thought, eyeing me sulfurously. Hmm, interesting. I hadn’t realized the boy harbored any ill will towards me. This was a new development, about as recent as the girl’s arrival it seemed. Even more interesting, I found—to my surprise—that the feeling was mutual. I looked down at the girl again, bemused by the wide range of havoc and upheaval that, despite her ordinary, unthreatening appearance, she was wreaking on my life. It wasn’t that I couldn’t see what Mike was going on about. She was actually rather pretty…in an unusual way. Better than being beautiful, her face was interesting. Not quite symmetrical—her narrow chin out of balance with her wide cheekbones; extreme in the coloring—the light and dark contrast of her skin and her hair; and then there were the eyes, brimming over with silent secrets… Eyes that were suddenly boring into mine. I stared back at her, trying to guess even one of those secrets. “Did you get contacts?” she asked abruptly. What a strange question. “No.” I almost smiled at the idea of improving my eyesight. “Oh,” she mumbled. “I thought there was something different about your eyes.” I felt suddenly colder again as I realized that I was apparently not the only one attempting to ferret out secrets today. I shrugged, my shoulders stiff, and glared straight ahead to where the teacher was making his rounds. Of course there was something different about my eyes since the last time she’d stared into them. To prepare myself for today’s ordeal, today’s temptation, I’d spent the entire weekend hunting, satiating my thirst as much as possible, overdoing it really. I’d glutted myself on the blood of animals, not that it made much difference in the face of the outrageous flavor floating on the air around her. When I’d glared at her last, my eyes had been black with thirst. Now, my body swimming with blood, my eyes were a warmer gold. Light amber from my excessive attempt at thirst-quenching. Another slip. If I’d seen what she’d meant with her question, I could have just told her yes. I’d sat beside humans for two years now at this school, and she was the first to examine me closely enough to note the change in my eye color. The others, while admiring the beauty of my family, tended to look down quickly when we returned their stares. They shied away, blocking the details of our appearances in an instinctive endeavor to keep themselves from understanding. Ignorance was bliss to the human mind. Why did it have to be this girl who would see too much? Mr. Banner approached our table. I gratefully inhaled the gush of clean air he brought with him before it could mix with her scent. “So, Edward,” he said, looking over our answers, “didn’t you think Isabella should get a chance with the microscope?” “Bella,” I corrected him reflexively. “Actually, she identified three of the five.” Mr. Banner’s thoughts were skeptical as he turned to look at the girl. “Have you done this lab before?” I watched, engrossed, as she smiled, looking slightly embarrassed. “Not with onion root.” “Whitefish blastula?” Mr. Banner probed. “Yeah.” This surprised him. Today’s lab was something he’d pulled from a more advanced course. He nodded thoughtfully at the girl. “Were you in an advanced placement program in Phoenix?” “Yes.” She was advanced then, intelligent for a human. This did not surprise me. “Well,” Mr. Banner said, pursing his lips. “I guess it’s good you two are lab partners.” He turned and walked away mumbling, “So the other kids can get a chance to learn something for themselves,” under his breath. I doubted the girl could hear that. She began scrawling loops across her folder again. Two slips so far in one half hour. A very poor showing on my part. Though I had no idea at all what the girl thought of me—how much did she fear, how much did she suspect?—I knew I needed to put forth a better effort to leave her with a new impression of me. Something to better drown her memories of our ferocious last encounter. “It’s too bad about the snow, isn’t it?” I said, repeating the small talk that I’d heard a dozen students discuss already. A boring, standard topic of conversation. The weather—always safe. She stared at me with obvious doubt in her eyes—an abnormal reaction to my very normal words. “Not really,” she said, surprising me again. I tried to steer the conversation back to trite paths. She was from a much brighter, warmer place—her skin seemed to reflect that somehow, despite its fairness—and the cold must make her uncomfortable. My icy touch certainly had… “You don’t like the cold,” I guessed. “Or the wet,” she agreed. “Forks must be a difficult place for you to live.” Perhaps you should not have come here, I wanted to add. Perhaps you should go back where you belong. I wasn’t sure I wanted that, though. I would always remember the scent of her blood— was there any guarantee that I wouldn’t eventually follow after her? Besides, if she left, her mind would forever remain a mystery. A constant, nagging puzzle. “You have no idea,” she said in a low voice, glowering past me for a moment. Her answers were never what I expected. They made me want to ask more questions. “Why did you come here, then?” I demanded, realizing instantly that my tone was too accusatory, not casual enough for the conversation. The question sounded rude, prying. “It’s…complicated.” She blinked her wide eyes, leaving it at that, and I nearly imploded out of curiosity—the curiosity burned as hot as the thirst in my throat. Actually, I found that it was getting slightly easier to breathe; the agony was becoming more bearable through familiarity. “I think I can keep up,” I insisted. Perhaps common courtesy would keep her answering my questions as long as I was rude enough to ask them. She stared down silently at her hands. This made me impatient; I wanted to put my hand under her chin and tilt her head up so that I could read her eyes. But it would be foolish of me—dangerous—to touch her skin again. She looked up suddenly. It was a relief to be able to see the emotions in her eyes again. She spoke in a rush, hurrying through the words. “My mother got remarried.” Ah, this was human enough, easy to understand. Sadness passed through her clear eyes and brought the pucker back between them. “That doesn’t sound so complex,” I said. My voice was gentle without my working to make it that way. Her sadness left me feeling oddly helpless, wishing there was something I could do to make her feel better. A strange impulse. “When did that happen?” “Last September.” She exhaled heavily—not quite a sigh. I held my breath as her warm breath brushed my face. “And you don’t like him,” I guessed, fishing for more information. “No, Phil is fine,” she said, correcting my assumption. There was a hint of a smile now around the corners of her full lips. “Too young, maybe, but nice enough.” This didn’t fit with the scenario I’d been constructing in my head. “Why didn’t you stay with them?” I asked, my voice a little too curious. It sounded like I was being nosy. Which I was, admittedly. “Phil travels a lot. He plays ball for a living.” The little smile grew more pronounced; this career choice amused her. I smiled, too, without choosing to. I wasn’t trying to make her feel at ease. Her smile just made me want to smile in response—to be in on the secret. “Have I heard of him?” I ran through the rosters of professional ball players in my head, wondering which Phil was hers… “Probably not. He doesn’t play well.” Another smile. “Strictly minor league. He moves around a lot.” The rosters in my head shifted instantly, and I’d tabulated a list of possibilities in less than a second. At the same time, I was imagining the new scenario. “And your mother sent you here so that she could travel with him,” I said. Making assumptions seemed to get more information out of her than questions did. It worked again. Her chin jutted out, and her expression was suddenly stubborn. “No, she did not send me here,” she said, and her voice had a new, hard edge to it. My assumption had upset her, though I couldn’t quite see how. “I sent myself.” I could not guess at her meaning, or the source behind her pique. I was entirely lost. So I gave up. There was just no making sense of the girl. She wasn’t like other humans. Maybe the silence of her thoughts and the perfume of her scent were not the only unusual things about her. “I don’t understand,” I admitted, hating to concede. She sighed, and stared into my eyes for longer than most normal humans were able to stand. “She stayed with me at first, but she missed him,” she explained slowly, her tone growing more forlorn with each word. “It made her unhappy…so I decided it was time to spend some quality time with Charlie.” The tiny pucker between her eyes deepened. “But now you’re unhappy,” I murmured. I couldn’t seem to stop speaking my hypotheses aloud, hoping to learn from her reactions. This one, however, did not seem as far off the mark. “And?” she said, as if this was not even an aspect to be considered. I continued to stare into her eyes, feeling that I’d finally gotten my first real glimpse into her soul. I saw in that one word where she ranked herself among her own priorities. Unlike most humans, her own needs were far down the list. She was selfless. As I saw this, the mystery of the person hiding inside this quiet mind began to thin a little. “That doesn’t seem fair,” I said. I shrugged, trying to seem casual, trying to conceal the intensity of my curiosity. She laughed, but there was no amusement the sound. “Hasn’t anyone ever told you? Life isn’t fair.” I wanted to laugh at her words, though I, too, felt no real amusement. I knew a little something about the unfairness of life. “I believe I have heard that somewhere before.” She stared back at me, seeming confused again. Her eyes flickered away, and then came back to mine. “So that’s all,” she told me. But I was not ready to let this conversation end. The little V between her eyes, a remnant of her sorrow, bothered me. I wanted to smooth it away with my fingertip. But, of course, I could not touch her. It was unsafe in so many ways. “You put on a good show.” I spoke slowly, still considering this next hypothesis. “But I’d be willing to bet that you’re suffering more than you let anyone see.” She made a face, her eyes narrowing and her mouth twisting into a lopsided pout, and she looked back towards the front of the class. She didn’t like it when I guessed right. She wasn’t the average martyr—she didn’t want an audience to her pain. “Am I wrong?” She flinched slightly, but otherwise pretended not to hear me. That made me smile. “I didn’t think so.” “Why does it matter to you?” she demanded, still staring away. “That’s a very good question,” I admitted, more to myself than to answer her. Her discernment was better than mine—she saw right to the core of things while I floundered around the edges, sifting blindly through clues. The details of her very human life should not matter to me. It was wrong for me to care what she thought. Beyond protecting my family from suspicion, human thoughts were not significant. I was not used to being the less intuitive of any pairing. I relied on my extra hearing too much—I clearly was not as perceptive as I gave myself credit for. The girl sighed and glowered toward the front of the classroom. Something about her frustrated expression was humorous. The whole situation, the whole conversation was humorous. No one had ever been in more danger from me than this little girl—at any moment I might, distracted by my ridiculous absorption in the conversation, inhale through my nose and attack her before I could stop myself—and she was irritated because I hadn’t answered her question. “Am I annoying you?” I asked, smiling at the absurdity of it all. She glanced at me quickly, and then her eyes seemed to get trapped by my gaze. “Not exactly,” she told me. “I’m more annoyed at myself. My face is so easy to read—my mother always calls me her open book.” She frowned, disgruntled. I stared at her in amazement. The reason she was upset was because she thought I saw through her too easily. How bizarre. I’d never expended so much effort to understand someone in all my life—or rather existence, as life was hardly the right word. I did not truly have a life. “On the contrary,” I disagreed, feeling strangely…wary, as if there were some hidden danger here that I was failing to see. I was suddenly on edge, the premonition making me anxious. “I find you very difficult to read.” “You must be a good reader then,” she guessed, making her own assumption that was, again, right on target. “Usually,” I agreed. I smiled at her widely then, letting my lips pull back to expose the rows of gleaming, razor sharp teeth behind them. It was a stupid thing to do, but I was abruptly, unexpectedly desperate to get some kind of warning through to the girl. Her body was closer to me than before, having shifted unconsciously in the course of our conversation. All the little markers and signs that were sufficient to scare off the rest of humanity did not seem to be working on her. Why did she not cringe away from me in terror? Surely she had seen enough of my darker side to realize the danger, intuitive as she seemed to be. I didn’t get to see if my warning had the intended effect. Mr. Banner called for the class’s attention just then, and she turned away from me at once. She seemed a little relieved for the interruption, so maybe she understood unconsciously. I hoped she did. I recognized the fascination growing inside me, even as I tried to root it out. I could not afford to find Bella Swan interesting. Or rather, she could not afford that. Already, I was anxious for another chance to talk to her. I wanted to know more about her mother, her life before she came here, her relationship with her father. All the meaningless details that would flesh out her character further. But every second I spent with her was a mistake, a risk she shouldn’t have to take. Absentmindedly, she tossed her thick hair just at the moment that I allowed myself another breath. A particularly concentrated wave of her scent hit the back of my throat. It was like the first day—like the wrecking ball. The pain of the burning dryness made me dizzy. I had to grasp the table again to keep myself in my seat. This time I had slightly more control. I didn’t break anything, at least. The monster growled inside me, but took no pleasure in my pain. He was too tightly bound. For the moment. I stopped breathing altogether, and leaned as far from the girl as I could. No, I could not afford to find her fascinating. The more interesting I found her, the more likely it was that I would kill her. I’d already made two minor slips today. Would I make a third, one that was not minor? As soon as the bell sounded, I fled from the classroom—probably destroying whatever impression of politeness I’d halfway constructed in the course of the hour. Again, I gasped at the clean, wet air outside like it was a healing attar. I hurried to put as much distance between myself and the girl as was possible. Emmett waited for me outside the door of our Spanish class. He read my wild expression for a moment. How did it go? he wondered warily. “Nobody died,” I mumbled. I guess that’s something. When I saw Alice ditching there at the end, I thought… As we walked into the classroom, I saw his memory from just a few moments ago, seen through the open door of his last class: Alice walking briskly and blank-faced across the grounds toward the science building. I felt his remembered urge to get up and join her, and then his decision to stay. If Alice needed his help, she would ask… I closed my eyes in horror and disgust as I slumped into my seat. “I hadn’t realized that it was that close. I didn’t think I was going to…I didn’t see that it was that bad,” I whispered. It wasn’t, he reassured me. Nobody died, right? “Right,” I said through my teeth. “Not this time.” Maybe it will get easier. “Sure.” Or, maybe you kill her. He shrugged. You wouldn’t be the first one to mess up. No one would judge you too harshly. Sometimes a person just smells too good. I’m impressed you’ve lasted this long. “Not helping, Emmett.” I was revolted by his acceptance of the idea that I would kill the girl, that this was somehow inevitable. Was it her fault that she smelled so good? I know when it happened to me…, he reminisced, taking me back with him half a century, to a country lane at dusk, where a middle-aged women was taking her dried sheets down from a line strung between apple trees. The scent of apples hung heavy in the air—the harvest was over and the rejected fruits were scattered on the ground, the bruises in their skin leaking their fragrance out in thick clouds. A fresh-mowed field of hay was a background to that scent, a harmony. He walked up the lane, all but oblivious to the woman, on an errand for Rosalie. The sky was purple overhead, orange over the western trees. He would have continued up the meandering cart path and there would have been no reason to remember the evening, except that a sudden night breeze blew the white sheets out like sails and fanned the woman’s scent across Emmett’s face. “Ah,” I groaned quietly. As if my own remembered thirst was not enough. I know. I didn’t last half a second. I didn’t even think about resisting. His memory became far too explicit for me to stand. I jumped to my feet, my teeth locked hard enough cut through steel. “Esta bien, Edward?” Senora Goff asked, startled by my sudden movement. I could see my face in her mind, and I knew that I looked far from well. “Me perdona,” I muttered, as I darted for the door. “Emmett—por favor, puedas tu ayuda a tu hermano?” she asked, gesturing helplessly toward me as I rushed out of the room. “Sure,” I heard him say. And then he was right behind me. He followed me to the far side of the building, where he caught up to me and put his hand on my shoulder. I shoved his hand away with unnecessary force. It would have shattered the bones in a human hand, and the bones in the arm attached to it. “Sorry, Edward.” “I know.” I drew in deep gasps of air, trying to clear my head and my lungs. “Is it as bad as that?” he asked, trying not to think of the scent and the flavor of his memory as he asked, and not quite succeeding. “Worse, Emmett, worse.” He was quiet for a moment. Maybe… “No, it would not be better if I got it over with. Go back to class, Emmett. I want to be alone.” He turned without another word or thought and walked quickly away. He would tell the Spanish teacher that I was sick, or ditching, or a dangerously out of control vampire. Did his excuse really matter? Maybe I wasn’t coming back. Maybe I had to leave. I went to my car again, to wait for school to end. To hide. Again. I should have spent the time making decisions or trying to bolster my resolve, but, like an addict, I found myself searching through the babble of thoughts emanating from the school buildings. The familiar voices stood out, but I wasn’t interested in listening to Alice’s visions or Rosalie’s complaints right now. I found Jessica easily, but the girl was not with her, so I continued searching. Mike Newton’s thoughts caught my attention, and I located her at last, in gym with him. He was unhappy, because I’d spoken to her today in biology. He was running over her response when he’d brought the subject up… I’ve never seen him actually talk to anyone for more than a word here or there. Of course he would decide to find Bella interesting. I don’t like the way he looks at her. But she didn’t seem too excited about him. What did she say? ‘Wonder what was with him last Monday.’ Something like that. Didn’t sound like she cared. It couldn’t have been much of a conversation… He talked himself out of his pessimism in that way, cheered by the idea that Bella had not been interested in her exchange with me. This annoyed me quite a bit more than was acceptable, so I stopped listening to him. I put a CD of violent music into the stereo, and then turned it up until it drowned out other voices. I had to concentrate on the music very hard to keep myself from drifting back to Mike Newton’s thoughts, to spy on the unsuspecting girl… I cheated a few times, as the hour drew to a close. Not spying, I tried to convince myself. I was just preparing. I wanted to know exactly when she would leave the gym, when she would be in the parking lot. I didn’t want her to take me by surprise. As the students started to file out of the gym doors, I got out of my car, not sure why I did it. The rain was light—I ignored it as it slowly saturated my hair. Did I want her to see me here? Did I hope she would come to speak to me? What was I doing? I didn’t move, though I tried to convince myself to get back in the car, knowing my behavior was reprehensible. I kept my arms folded across my chest and breathed very shallowly as I watched her walk slowly toward me, her mouth turning down at the corners. She didn’t look at me. A few times she glanced up at the clouds with a grimace, as if they offended her. I was disappointed when she reached her car before she had to pass me. Would she have spoken to me? Would I have spoken to her? She got into a faded red Chevy truck, a rusted behemoth that was older than her father. I watched her start the truck—the old engine roared louder than any other vehicle in the lot—and then hold her hands out toward the heating vents. The cold was uncomfortable to her—she didn’t like it. She combed her fingers through her thick hair, pulling locks through the stream of hot air like she was trying to dry them. I imagined what the cab of that truck would smell like, and then quickly drove out the thought. She glanced around as she prepared to back out, and finally looked in my direction. She stared back at me for only half a second, and all I could read in her eyes was surprise before she tore her eyes away and jerked the truck into reverse. And then squealed to a stop again, the back end of the truck missing a collision with Erin Teague’s compact by mere inc