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The Twilight Saga 2: New Moon

The Twilight Saga 2: New Moon: Page 74

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I couldn't remember what day of the week it was, but I was sure Jacob or school or work or something was waiting for me. I inhaled deeply, wondering how to face another day.

Something cold touched my forehead with the softest pressure.

I squeezed my eyes more tightly shut. I was still dreaming, it seemed, and it felt abnormally real. I was so close to waking�� any second now, and it would be gone.

But I realized that it felt too real, too real to be good for me. The stone arms I imagined wrapped around

me were far too substantial. If I let this go any further, I'd be sorry for it later. With a resigned sigh, I wrenched back my eyelids to dispel the illusion.

"Oh!" I gasped, and threw my fists over my eyes.

Well, clearly, I'd gone too far; it must have been a mistake to let my imagination get so out of hand. Okay, so "let" was the wrong word. I'd forced it to get out of hand��pretty much stalked my hallucinations��and now my mind had snapped.

It took less than half a second for me to realize that, as long as I was truly insane now, I might as well enjoy the delusions while they were pleasant.

I opened my eyes again��and Edward was still there, his perfect face just inches away from mine.

"Did I frighten you?" His low voice was anxious. This was very good, as delusions went. The face, the voice, the scent, everything��it was so much better than drowning. The beautiful figment of my imagination watched my changing expressions, with alarm. His irises were pitch-black, with bruise-like shadows under them. This surprised me; my hallucinatory Edwards were usually better fed.

I blinked twice, desperately trying to remember the last thing that I was sure was real. Alice was part of my dream, and I wondered if she had really come back at all, or if that was just the preamble. I thought she'd returned the day I'd nearly drowned��

"Oh, crap" I croaked. My throat was thick with sleeping.

"What's wrong, Bella?"

I frowned at him unhappily. His face was even more anxious than before.

"I'm dead, right?" I moaned. "I did drown. Crap, crap, crap! This is gonna kill Charlie."

Edward frowned, too. "You're not dead."

"Then why am I not waking up?" I challenged, raising my eyebrows.

"You are awake, Bella."

I shook my head. "Sure, sure. That's what you want me to think.
And then it will be worse when I do wake up. If I wake up, which I won't, because I'm dead. This is awful. Poor Charlie. And Renee and Jake��" I trailed off in horror at what I had done.

"I can see where you might confuse me with a nightmare." His short-lived smile was grim. "But I can't imagine what you could have done to wind up in hell. Did you commit many murders while I was away?"

I grimaced. "Obviously not. If I was in hell, you wouldn't be with me."

He sighed.

My head was getting clearer. My eyes flickered away from his face��unwillingly��for one second, to the dark, open window, and then back to him. I started to remember details�� and I felt a faint, unfamiliar blush warm the skin over my cheekbones as I slowly realized that Edward was really, truly here with me, and I was wasting time being an idiot.

"Did all of that really happen, then?" It was almost impossible to reassign my dream as reality. I couldn't wrap my head around the concept.

"That depends." Edward's smile was still hard. "If you're referring to us nearly being massacred in Italy, then, yes."

"How strange," I mused. "I really went to Italy. Did you know I'd never been farther east than Albuquerque?"

He rolled his eyes. "Maybe you should go back to sleep. You're not coherent."

"I'm not tired anymore." It was all coming clear now. "What time is it? How long have I been sleeping?"

"It's just after one in the morning. So, about fourteen hours."

I stretched as he spoke. I was so stiff.

"Charlie?" I asked.

Edward frowned. "Sleeping. You should probably know that I'm breaking the rules right now. Well, not technically, since he said I was never to walk through his door again, and I came in the window�� But, still, the intent was clear."

"Charlie banned you from the house?" I asked, disbelief quickly melting into fury.

His eyes were sad. "Did you expect anything else?"

My eyes were mad. I was going to have a few words with my father��perhaps it would be a good time to remind him that I was over the legal age of adulthood. It didn't matter so much, of course, except in principle. All too soon there would be no reason for the prohibition. I turned my thoughts to less painful avenues.

"What's the story?" I asked, genuinely curious, but also trying desperately to keep the conversation casual, to keep a firm grip on myself, so I wouldn't scare him away with the frantic, gnawing craving that was raging inside me.

"What do you mean?"

"What am I telling Charlie? What's my excuse for disappearing for�� how long was I gone, anyway?" I tried to count the hours in my head.

"Just three days." His eyes tightened, but he smiled more naturally this time. "Actually, I was hoping you might have a good explanation. I've got nothing."

I groaned. "Fabulous."

"Well, maybe Alice will come up with something," he offered, trying to comfort me.

And I was comforted. Who cared what I had to deal with later? Every second that he was here��so close, his flawless face glowing in the dim light from the numbers on my alarm clock��was precious and not to be wasted.

"So," I began, picking the least important��though still vitally interesting��question to start with. I was safely delivered home, and he might decide to leave at any moment. I had to keep him talking. Besides, this temporary heaven wasn't entirely complete without the sound of his voice. "What have you been doing, up until three days ago?"

His face turned wary in an instant. "Nothing terribly exciting."

"Of course not," I mumbled.

"Why are you making that face?"

"Well��" I pursed my lips, considering. "If you were, after all, just a dream, that's exactly the kind of thing you would say. My imagination must be used up."

He sighed. "If I tell you, will you finally believe that you're not having a nightmare?"

"Nightmare!" I repeated scornfully. He waited for my answer. "Maybe," I said after a second of thought. "If you tell me."

"I was�� hunting."

"Is that the best you can do?" I criticized. "That definitely doesn't prove I'm awake."

He hesitated, and then spoke slowly, choosing his words with care. "I wasn't hunting fot food�� I was actually trying my hand at�� tracking. I'm not very good at it."

"What were you tracking?" I asked, intrigued.

"Nothing of consequence." His words didn't match his expression; he looked upset, uncomfortable.

"I don't understand."

He hesitated; his face, shining with an odd green cast from the light of the clock, was torn.

"I��" He took a deep breath. "I owe you an apology. No, of course I owe you much, much more than that. But you have to know,"��the words began to flow so fast, the way I remembered he spoke sometimes when he was agitated, that I really had to concentrate to catch them all��"that I had no idea. I didn't realize the mess I was leaving behind. I thought it was safe for you here. So safe. I had no idea that Victoria,"��his lips curled back when he said the name��"would come back. I'll admit, when I saw her that one time, I was paying much more attention to James's thoughts. But I just didn't see that she had this kind of response in her. That she even had such a tie to him. I think I realize why now��she was so sure of him, the thought of him failing never occurred to her. It was her overconfidence that clouded her feelings about him��that kept me from seeing the depth of them, the bond there.

"Not that there's any excuse for what I left you to face. When I heard what you told Alice��what she saw herself��when I realized that you had to put your life in the hands of werewolves, immature, volatile, the worst thing out there besides Victoria herself��he shuddered and the gush of words halted for a short second. "Please know that I had no idea of any of this. I feel sick, sick to my core, even now, when I can see and feel you safe in my arms. I am the most miserable excuse for��"

"Stop," I interrupted him. He stared at me with agonized eyes, and I tried to find the right words��the words that would free him from this imagined obligation that caused him so much pain. They were very hard words to say. I didn't know if I could get them out without breaking down. But I had to try to do it right. I didn't want to be a source of guilt and anguish in his life. He should be happy, no matter what it cost me.

I'd really been hoping to put off this part of our last conversation. It was going to bring things to an end so much sooner.

Drawing on all my months of practice with trying to be normal for Charlie, I kept my face smooth.

"Edward," I said. His name burned my throat a little on the way out.

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