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The Twilight Saga 2: New Moon: Page 78
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"Hold on a second. I think I'm having an epiphany here."
I thought of that night in Port Angeles when I'd had my first delusion. I'd come up with two options. Insanity or wish fulfillment. I'd seen no third option.
But what if��
What if you sincerely believed something was true, but you were dead wrong? What if you were so stubbornly sure that you were right, that you wouldn't even consider the truth? Would the truth be silenced, or would it try to break through?
Option three: Edward loved me. The bond forged between us was not one that could be broken by absence, distance, or time. And no matter how much more special or beautiful or brilliant or perfect than me he might be, he was as irreversibly altered as I was. As I would always belong to him, so would he always be mine.
Was that what I'd been trying to tell myself?
"Oh. Okay. I see."
"Your epiphany?" he asked, his voice uneven and strained.
"You love me," I marveled. The sense of conviction and Tightness washed through me again.
Though his eyes were still anxious, the crooked smile I loved best flashed across his face. "Truly, I do."
My heart inflated like it was going to crack right through my ribs. It filled my chest and blocked my throat so that I could not speak.
He really did want me the way I wanted him��forever. It was only fear for my soul, for the human things he didn't want to take from me, that made him so desperate to leave me mortal. Compared to the fear that he didn't want me, this hurdle��my soul��seemed almost insignificant.
He took my face tightly between his cool hands and kissed me until I was so dizzy the forest was spinning. Then he leaned his forehead against mine, and I was not the only one breathing harder than usual.
"You were better at it than I was, you know," he told me.
"Better at what?"
"Surviving. You, at least, made an effort. You got up in the morning, tried to be normal for Charlie, followed the pattern of your life. When I wasn't actively tracking, I was�� totally useless. I couldn't be around my family��I couldn't be around anyone. I'm embarrassed to admit that I more or less curled up into a ball and let the misery have me." He grinned, sheepish. "It was much more pathetic than hearing voices. And, of course, you know I do that, too."
I was deeply relieved that he really seemed to understand��comforted that this all made sense to him. At any rate, he wasn't looking at me like I was crazy. He was looking at me like�� he loved me.
"I only heard one voice," I corrected him.
He laughed and then pulled me tight against his right side and started to lead me forward.
"I'm just humoring you with this." He motioned broadly with his hand toward the darkness in front of us as we walked. There was something pale and immense there��the house, I realized. "It doesn't matter in the slightest what they say."
"This affects them now, too."
He shrugged indifferently.
He led me through the open front door into the dark house and flipped the lights on. The room was just as I'd remembered it��the piano and the white couches and the pale, massive staircase. No dust, no white sheets.
Edward called out the names with no more volume than I'd use in regular conversation. "Carlisle? Esme? Rosalie? Emmett? Jasper? Alice?" They would hear.
Carlisle was suddenly standing beside me, as if he'd been there all along. "Welcome back, Bella." He smiled. "What can we do for you this morning? I imagine, due to the hour, that this is not a purely social visit?"
I nodded. "I'd like to talk to everyone at once, if that's okay. About something important."
I couldn't help glancing up at Edward's face as I spoke. His expression was critical, but resigned. When I looked back to Carlisle, he was looking at Edward, too.
"Of course," Carlisle said. "Why don't we talk in the other room?"
Carlisle led the way through the bright living room, around the corner to the dining room, turning on lights as he went. The walls were white, the ceilings high, like the living room. In the center of the room, under the low-hanging chandelier, was a large, polished oval table surrounded by eight chairs. Carlisle held out a chair for me at the head.
I'd never seen the Cullens use the dining room table before��it was just a prop. They didn't eat in the house.
As soon as I turned to sit in the chair, I saw that we were not alone. Esme had followed Edward, and behind her the rest of the family filed in.
Carlisle sat down on my right, and Edward on my left. Everyone else took their seats in silence. Alice was grinning at me, already in on the plot. Emmett and Jasper looked curious, and Rosalie smiled at me tentatively. My answering smile was just as timid. That was going to take some getting used to.
Carlisle nodded toward me. "The floor is yours."
I swallowed. Their gazing eyes made me nervous. Edward took my hand under the table. I peeked at him, but he was watching the others, his fate suddenly fierce.
"Well," I paused. "I'm hoping Alice has already told you everything that happened in Volterra?"
"Everything," Alice assured me.
I threw her a meaningful look. "And on the way?"
"That, too," she nodded.
"Good," I sighed with relief. "Then we're all on the same page."
They waited patiently while I tried to order my thoughts.
"So, I have a problem," I began. "Alice promised the Volturi that I would become one of you. They're going to send someone to check, and I'm sure that's a bad thing��something to avoid.
"And so, now, this involves you all. I'm sorry about that." I looked at each one of their beautiful faces, saving the most beautiful for last. Edward's mouth was turned down into a grimace. "But, if you don't want me, then I'm not going to force myself on you, whether Alice is willing or not."
Esme opened her mouth to speak, but I held up one finger to stop her.
"Please, let me finish. You all know what I want. And I'm sure you know what Edward thinks, too. I think the only fair way to decide is for everyone to have a vote. If you decide you don't want me, then�� I guess I'll go back to Italy alone. I can't have them coming here." My forehead creased as I considered that.
There was the faint rumble of a growl in Edward's chest.
I ignored him.
"Taking into account, then, that I won't put any of you in danger either way, I want you to vote yes or no on the issue of me becoming a vampire."
I half-smiled on the last word, and gestured toward Carlisle to begin.
"Just a minute," Edward interrupted.
I glared at him through narrowed eyes. He raised his eyebrows at me, squeezing my hand.
"I have something to add before we vote."
"About the danger Bella's referring to," he continued. "I don't think we need to be overly anxious."
His expression became more animated. He put his free hand on the shining table and leaned forward.
"You see," he explained, looking around the table while he spoke, "there was more than one reason why I didn't want to shake Aro's hand there at the end. There's something they didn't think of, and I didn't want to cine them in." He grinned.
"Which was?" Alice prodded. I was sure my expression was just as skeptical as hers.
"The Volturi are overconfident, and with good reason. When they decide to find someone, it's not really a problem. Do you remember Demetri?" He glanced down at me.
I shuddered. He took that as a yes.
"He finds people��that's his talent, why they keep him.
"Now, the whole time we were with any of them, I was picking their brains for anything that might save us, getting as much information as possible. So I saw how Demetri's talent works. He's a tracker��a tracker a thousand times more gifted than Jarres was. His ability is loosely related to what I do, or what Aro does. He catches the�� flavor? I don't know how to describe it�� the tenor�� of someone's mind, and then he follows that. It works over immense distances.
"But after Aro's little experiments, well��" Edward shrugged.
"You think he won't be able to find me," I said flatly.
He was smug. "I'm sure of it. He relies totally on that other sense. When it doesn't work with you, they'll all be blind."
"And how does that solve anything?"
"Quite obviously, Alice will be able to tell when they're planning a visit, and I'll hide you. They'll be helpless," he said with fierce enjoyment. "It will be like looking for a piece of straw in a haystack!"
He and Emmett exchanged a glance and a smirk.
This made no sense. "But they can find you," I reminded him.
"And I can take care of myself."
Emmett laughed, and reached across the table toward his brother, extending a fist.
"Excellent plan, my brother," he said with enthusiasm.
Edward stretched out his arm to smack Emmett's fist with his own.
"No," Rosalie hissed.
"Absolutely not," I agreed.
"Nice." Jasper's voice was appreciative.
"Idiots," Alice muttered.
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