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The Twilight Saga 2: New Moon


The Twilight Saga 2: New Moon: Page 16


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This was a different road, a different night, but the scene was so much the same. One of them was even short and dark. As I stopped and turned toward them, that one looked up in interest.

I stared back at him, frozen on the sidewalk.

"Bella?" Jess whispered. "What are you doing?"

I shook my head, not sure myself. "I think I know them��" I muttered.

What was I doing? I should be running from this memory as fast as I could, blocking the image of the four lounging men from my mind, protecting myself with the numbness I couldn't function without. Why was I stepping, dazed, into the street?

It seemed too coincidental that I should be in Port Angeles with Jessica, on a dark street even. My eyes focused on the short one, trying to match the features to my memory of the man who had threatened me that night almost a year ago. I wondered if there was any way I would recognize the man, if it was really him. That particular part of that particular evening was just a blur. My body remembered it better than my mind did; the tension in my legs as I tried to decide whether to run or to stand my ground, the dryness in my throat as I struggled to build a decent scream, the tight stretch of skin across my knuckles as I clenched my hands into fists, the chills on the back of my neck when the dark-haired man called me "sugar."��

There was an indefinite, implied kind of menace to these men that had nothing to do with that other night. It sprung from the fact that they were strangers, and it was dark here, and they outnumbered us��nothing more specific than that. But it was enough that Jessica's voice cracked in panic as she called after me.

"Bella, come on!"

I ignored her, walking slowly forward without ever making the conscious decision to move my feet. I didn't understand why, but the nebulous threat the men presented drew me toward them. It was a senseless impulse, but I hadn't felt any kind of impulse in so long�� I followed it.

Something unfamiliar beat through my veins. Adrenaline, I realized, long absent from my system, drumming my pulse faster and fighting against the lack of sensation. It was strange��why the adrenaline when there was no fear? It was almost as if it were an echo of the last time I'd stood like this, on a dark street in Port Angeles with strangers.

I saw no reason for fear. I couldn't imagine anything in the world that there was left to be afraid of, not physically at least. One of the few advantages of losing everything.

I was halfway across the street when Jess caught up to me and grabbed my arm.

"Bella! You can't go in a bar!" she hissed.

"I'm not going in," I said absently, shaking her hand off. "I just want to see something��"

"Are you crazy?" she whispered. "Are you suicidal?"

That question caught my attention, and my eyes focused on her.

"No, I'm not." My voice sounded defensive, but it was true. I wasn't suicidal. Even in the beginning, when

death unquestionably would have been a relief, I didn't consider it. I owed too much to Charlie. I felt too responsible for Renee. I had to think of them.

And I'd made a promise not to do anything stupid or reckless. For all those reasons, I was still breathing.

Remembering that promise. I felt a twinge of guilt.

but what I was doing fight now didn't really count. It wasn't like I was taking a blade to my wrists.

Jess's eyes were round, her mouth hung open. Her question about suicide had been rhetorical, I realized too late.

"Go eat," I encouraged her, waving toward the fast food. I didn't like the way she looked at me. "I'll catch up in a minute."

I turned away from her, back to the men who were watching us with amused, curious eyes.

"Bella, stop this right now!"

My muscles locked into place, froze me where I stood. Because it wasn't Jessica's voice that rebuked me now. It was a furious voice, a familiar voice, a beautiful voice��soft like velvet even though it was irate.

It was his voice��I was exceptionally careful not to think his name��and I was surprised that the sound of it did not knock me to my knees, did not curl me onto the pavement in a torture of loss. But there was no pain, none at all.

In the instant that I heard his voice, everything was very clear.
Like my head had suddenly surfaced out of some dark pool. I was more aware of everything��sight, sound, the feel of the cold air that I hadn't noticed was blowing sharply against my face, the smells coming from the open bar door.

I looked around myself in shock.

"Go back to Jessica," the lovely voice ordered, still angry. "You promised��nothing stupid."

I was alone. Jessica stood a few feet from me, staring at me with frightened eyes. Against the wall, the strangers watched, confused, wondering what I was doing, standing there motionless in the middle of the street.

I shook my head, trying to understand. I knew he wasn't there, and yet, he felt improbably close, close for the first time since�� since the end. The anger in his voice was concern, the same anger that was once very familiar��something I hadn't heard in what felt like a lifetime.

"Keep your promise." The voice was slipping away, as if the volume was being turned down on a radio.

I began to suspect that I was having some kind of hallucination. Triggered, no doubt, by the memory��the deja vu, the strange familiarity of the situation.

I ran through the possibilities quickly in my head.

Option one: I was crazy. That was the layman's term for people who heard voices in their heads.

Possible.

Option two: My subconscious mind was giving me what it thought I wanted. This was wish fulfillment��a

momentary relief from pain by embracing the incorrect idea that he cared whether I lived or died. Projecting what he would have said if A) he were here, and B) he would be in any way bothered by something bad happening to me.

Probable.

I could see no option three, so I hoped it was the second option and this was just my subconscious running amuck, rather than something I would need to be hospitalized for.

My reaction was hardly sane, though��I was grateful. The sound of his voice was something that I'd feared I was losing, and so, more than anything else, I felt overwhelming gratitude that my unconscious mind had held onto that sound better than my conscious one had.

I was not allowed to think of him. That was something I tried to be very strict about. Of course I slipped; I was only human. But I was getting better, and so the pain was something I could avoid for days at a time now. The tradeoff was the never-ending numbness. Between pain and nothing, I'd chosen nothing.

I waited for the pain now. I was not numb��my senses felt unusually intense after so many months of the haze��but the normal pain held off. The only ache was the disappointment that his voice was fading.

There was a second of choice.

The wise thing would be to run away from this potentially destructive��and certainly mentally unstable��development. It would be stupid to encourage hallucinations.

But his voice was fading.

I took another step forward, testing.

"Bella, turn around," he growled.

I sighed in relief. The anger was what I wanted to hear��false, fabricated evidence that he cared, a dubious gift from my subconscious.

Very few seconds had passed while I sorted this all out. My little audience watched, curious. It probably looked like I was just dithering over whether or not I was going to approach them. How could they guess that I was standing there enjoying an unexpected moment of insanity?

"Hi," one of the men called, his tone both confident and a bit sarcastic. He was fair-skinned and fair-haired, and he stood with the assurance of someone who thought of himself as quite good-looking. I couldn't tell whether he was or not. I was prejudiced.

The voice in my head answered with an exquisite snarl. I smiled, and the confident man seemed to take that as encouragement.

"Can I help you with something? You look lost." He grinned and winked.

I stepped carefully over the gutter, running with water that was black in the darkness.

"No. I'm not lost."

Now that I was closer��and my eyes felt oddly in focus��I analyzed the short, dark man's face. It was not familiar in any way. I suffered a curious sensation of disappointment that this was not the terrible man who had tried to hurt me almost a year ago.

The voice in my head was quiet now.

The short man noticed my stare. "Can I buy you a drink?" he offered, nervous, seeming flattered that I'd singled him out to stare at.

"I'm too young," I answered automatically.

He was baffled��wondering why I had approached them. I felt compelled to explain.

"From across the street, you looked like someone I knew. Sorry, my mistake."

The threat that had pulled me across the street had evaporated. These were not the dangerous men I remembered. They were probably nice guys. Safe. I lost interest.

"That's okay," the confident blonde said.

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