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The Twilight Saga 2: New Moon: Page 67
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His arms spread wide, protectively, in front of me.
I peeked under his arm to see two dark shapes detach themselves from the gloom.
"Greetings, gentlemen," Edward's voice was calm and pleasant, on the surface. "I don't think I'll be requiring your services today. I would appreciate it very much, however, if you would send my thanks to your masters."
"Shall we take this conversation to a more appropriate venue?" a smooth voice whispered menacingly.
"I don't believe that will be necessary." Edward's voice was harder now. "I know your instructions, Felix. I haven't broken any rules."
"Felix merely meant to point out the proximity of the sun," the other shadow said in a soothing tone. They were both concealed within smoky gray cloaks that reached to the ground and undulated in the wind. "Let us seek better cover."
"I'll be right behind you," Edward said dryly. "Bella, why don't you go back to the square and enjoy the festival?"
"No, bring the girl," the first shadow said, somehow injecting a leer into his whisper.
"I don't think so." The pretense of civility disappeared. Edward's voice was flat and icy. His weight shifted infinitesimally, and I could see that he was preparing to fight.
"No." I mouthed the word.
"Shh," he murmured, only for me.
"Felix," the second, more reasonable shadow cautioned. "Not here." He turned to Edward. "Aro would simply like to speak with you again, if you have decided not to force our hand after all."
"Certainly," Edward agreed. '"But the girl goes free."
"I'm afraid that's not possible," the polite shadow said regretfully. "We do have rules to obey."
"Then I'm afraid that I'll be unable to accept Aro's invitation, Demetri."
"That's just fine," Felix purred. My eyes were adjusting to the deep shade, and I could see that Felix was very big, tall and thick through the shoulders. His size reminded me of Emmett.
"Aro will be disappointed," Demetri sighed.
"I'm sure he'll survive the letdown," Edward replied.
Felix and Demetri stole closer toward the mouth of the alley, spreading out slightly so they could come at Edward from two sides. They meant to force him deeper into the alley, to avoid a scene. No reflected light found access to their skin; they were safe inside their cloaks.
Edward didn't move an inch. He was dooming himself by protecting me.
Abruptly, Edward's head whipped around, toward the darkness of the winding alley, and Demetri and Felix did the same, in response to some sound or movement too subtle for my senses.
"Let's behave ourselves, shall we?" a lilting voice suggested. "There are ladies present."
Alice tripped lightly to Edward's side, her stance casual. There was no hint of any underlying tension. She looked so tiny, so fragile. Her little arms swung like a child's.
Yet Demetri and Felix both straightened up, their cloaks swirling slightly as a gust of wind funneled through the alley. Felix's face soured. Apparently, they didn't like even numbers.
"We're not alone," she reminded them.
Demetri glanced over his shoulder. A few yards into the square, the little family, with the girls in their red dresses, was watching us. The mother was speaking urgently to her husband, her eyes on the five of us. She looked away when Demetri met her gaze. The man walked a few steps farther into the plaza, and tapped one of the red-blazered men on the shoulder.
Demetri shook his head. "Please, Edward, let's be reasonable," he said.
"Let's," Edward agreed. "And we'll leave quietly now, with no one the wiser."
Demetri sighed in frustration. "At least let us discuss this more privately."
Six men in red now joined the family as they watched us with anxious expressions. I was very conscious of Edward's protective stance in front of me��sure that this was what caused their alarm. I wanted to scream to them to run.
Edward's teeth came together audibly. "No."
The voice was high, reedy, and n came from behind us.
I peeked under Edward's other arm to see a small, dark shape coming toward us. By the way the edges billowed, I knew it would be another one of them. Who else?
At first I thought it was a young boy. The newcomer was as tiny as Alice, with lank, pale brown hair
trimmed short. The body under the cloak��which was darker, almost black��was slim and androgynous. But the face was too pretty for a boy. The wide-eyed, full-lipped face would make a Botticelli angel look like a gargoyle. Even allowing for the dull crimson irises.
Her size was so insignificant that the reaction to her appearance confused me. Felix and Demetri relaxed immediately, stepping back from their offensive positions to blend again with the shadows of the overhanging walls.
Edward dropped his arms and relaxed his position as well��but in defeat.
"Jane," he sighed in recognition and resignation.
Alice folded her arms across her chest, her expression impassive.
"Follow me," Jane spoke again, her childish voice a monotone. She turned her back on us and drifted silently into the dark.
Felix gestured for us to go first, smirking.
Alice walked after the little Jane at once. Edward wrapped his arm around my waist and pulled me along beside her. The alley angled slightly downward as it narrowed. I looked up at him with frantic questions in my eyes, but he just shook his head.
Though I couldn't hear the others behind us, I was sure they were there.
"Well, Alice," Edward said conversationally as we walked. "I suppose I shouldn't be surprised to see you here."
"It was my mistake," Alice answered in the same tone. "It was my job to set it right."
"What happened?" His voice was polite, as if he were barely interested. I imagined this was due to the listening ears behind us.
"It's a long story." Alice's eyes flickered toward me and away. "In summary, she did jump off a cliff, but she wasn't trying to kill herself. Bella's all about the extreme sports these days."
I flushed and turned my eyes straight ahead, looking after the dark shadow that I could no longer see. I could imagine what he was hearing in Alice's thoughts now. Near-drownings, stalking vampires, werewolf friends��
"Hm," Edward said curtly, and the casual tone of his voice was gone.
There was a loose curve to the alley, still slanting downward, so I didn't see the squared-off dead end coming until we reached the flat, windowless, brick face. The little one called Jane was nowhere to be seen.
Alice didn't hesitate, didn't break pace as she strode toward the wall. Then, with easy grace, she slid down an open hole in the street.
It looked like a drain, sunk into the lowest point of the paving. I hadn't noticed it until Alice disappeared, but the grate was halfway pushed aside. The hole was small, and black.
"It's all right, Bella," Edward said in a low voice. "Alice will catch you."
I eyed the hole doubtfully. I imagine he would have gone first, if Demetri and Felix hadn't been waiting, smug and silent, behind us.
I crouched down, swinging my legs into the narrow gap.
"Alice?" I whispered, voice trembling.
"I'm right here, Bella," she reassured me. Her voice came from too far below to make me feel better.
Edward took my wrists��his hands felt like stones in winter��and lowered me into the blackness.
"Ready?" he asked.
"Drop her," Alice called.
I closed my eyes so I couldn't see the darkness, scrunching them together in terror, clamping my mouth shut so I wouldn't scream. Edward let me fall.
It was silent and short. The air whipped past me for just half a second, and then, with a huff as I exhaled, Alice's waiting arms caught me.
I was going to have bruises; her arms were very hard. She stood me upright.
It was dim, but not black at the bottom. The light from the hole above provided a faint glow, reflecting wetly from the stones under my feet. The light vanished for a second, and then Edward was a faint, white radiance beside me. He put his arm around me, holding me close to his side, and began to tow me swiftly forward. I wrapped both arms around his cold waist, and tripped and stumbled my way across the uneven stone surface. The sound of the heavy grate sliding over the drain hole behind us rang with metallicfinality.
The dim light from the street was quickly lost in the gloom. The sound of my staggering footsteps echoed through the black space; it sounded very wide, but I couldn't be sure. There were no sounds other than my frantic heartbeat and my feet on the wet stones��except for once, when an impatient sigh whispered from behind me.
Edward held me tightly. He reached his free hand across his body to hold my face, too, his smooth thumb tracing across my lips. Now and then, I felt his face press into my hair. I realized that this was the only reunion we would get, and I clutched myself closer to him.
For now, it felt like he wanted me, and that was enough to offset the horror of the subterranean tunnel and the prowling vampires behind us.
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