The restaurant wasn't crowded — it was the off-season in Port Angeles. The host was female, and I understood the look in her eyes as she assessed Edward. She welcomed him a little more warmly than necessary. I was surprised by how much that bothered me. She was several inches taller than I was, and unnaturally blond.
"A table for two?" His voice was alluring, whether he was aiming for that or not. I saw her eyes flicker to me and then away, satisfied by my obvious ordinariness, and by the cautious, no-contact space Edward kept between us. She led us to a table big enough for four in the center of the most crowded area of the dining floor.
I was about to sit, but Edward shook his head at me.
"Perhaps something more private?" he insisted quietly to the host. I wasn't sure, but it looked like he smoothly handed her a tip. I'd never seen anyone refuse a table except in old movies.
"Sure." She sounded as surprised as I was. She turned and led us around a partition to a small ring of booths — all of them empty. "How's this?"
"Perfect." He flashed his gleaming smile, dazing her momentarily.
"Um" — she shook her head, blinking — "your server will be right out." She walked away unsteadily.
"You really shouldn't do that to people," I criticized. "It's hardly fair."
"Dazzle them like that — she's probably hyperventilating in the kitchen right now."
He seemed confused.
"Oh, come on," I said dubiously. "You have to know the effect you have on people."
He tilted his head to one side, and his eyes were curious. "I dazzle people?"
"You haven't noticed? Do you think everybody gets their way so easily?"
He ignored my questions. "Do I dazzle you?"
"Frequently," I admitted.
And then our server arrived, her face expectant. The hostess had definitely dished behind the scenes, and this new girl didn't look disappointed. She flipped a strand of short black hair behind one ear and smiled with unnecessary warmth.
"Hello. My name is Amber, and I'll be your server tonight. What can I get you to drink?" I didn't miss that she was speaking only to him.
He looked at me.
"I'll have a Coke." It sounded like a question.
"Two Cokes," he said.
"I'll be right back with that," she assured him with another unnecessary smile. But he didn't see it. He was watching me.
"What?" I asked when she left.
His eyes stayed fixed on my face. "How are you feeling?"
"I'm fine," I replied, surprised by his intensity.
"You don't feel dizzy, sick, cold… ?"
He chuckled at my puzzled tone.
"Well, I'm actually waiting for you to go into shock." His face twisted up into that perfect crooked smile.
"I don't think that will happen," I said after I could breathe again.
"I've always been very good at repressing unpleasant things."
"Just the same, I'll feel better when you have some sugar and food in
Right on cue, the waitress appeared with our drinks and a basket of breadsticks. She stood with her back to me as she placed them on the table.
"Are you ready to order?" she asked Edward.
"Bella?" he asked. She turned unwillingly toward me.
I picked the first thing I saw on the menu. "Um… I'll have the mushroom ravioli."
"And you?" She turned back to him with a smile.
"Nothing for me," he said. Of course not.
"Let me know if you change your mind." The coy smile was still in place, but he wasn't looking at her, and she left dissatisfied.
"Drink," he ordered.
I sipped at my soda obediently, and then drank more deeply, surprised by how thirsty I was. I realized I had finished the whole thing when he pushed his glass toward me.
"Thanks," I muttered, still thirsty. The cold from the icy soda was radiating through my chest, and I shivered.
"Are you cold?"
"It's just the Coke," I explained, shivering again.
"Don't you have a jacket?" His voice was disapproving.
"Yes." I looked at the empty bench next to me. "Oh — I left it in Jessica's car," I realized.
Edward was shrugging out of his jacket. I suddenly realized that I had never once noticed what he was wearing — not just tonight, but ever. I just couldn't seem to look away from his face. I made myself look now, focusing. He was removing a light beige leather jacket now; underneath he wore an ivory turtleneck sweater. It fit him snugly, emphasizing how muscular his chest was.
He handed me the jacket, interrupting my ogling.
"Thanks," I said again, sliding my arms into his jacket. It was cold — the way my jacket felt when I first picked it up in the morning, hanging in the drafty hallway. I shivered again. It smelled amazing. I inhaled, trying to identify the delicious scent. It didn't smell like cologne. The sleeves were much too long; I shoved them back so I could free my hands.
"That color blue looks lovely with your skin," he said, watching me. I was surprised; I looked down, flushing, of course.
He pushed the bread basket toward me.
"Really, I'm not going into shock," I protested.
"You should be — a normal person would be. You don't even look shaken." He seemed unsettled. He stared into my eyes, and I saw how light his eyes were, lighter than I'd ever seen them, golden butterscotch.
"I feel very safe with you," I confessed, mesmerized into telling the truth again.
That displeased him; his alabaster brow furrowed. He shook his head, frowning.
"This is more complicated than I'd planned," he murmured to himself.
I picked up a breadstick and began nibbling on the end, measuring his expression. I wondered when it would be okay to start questioning him.
"Usually you're in a better mood when your eyes are so light," I commented, trying to distract him from whatever thought had left him frowning and somber.
He stared at me, stunned. "What?"
"You're always crabbier when your eyes are black — I expect it then," I went on. "I have a theory about that."
His eyes narrowed. "More theories?"
"Mm-hm." I chewed on a small bite of the bread, trying to look indifferent.
"I hope you were more creative this time… or are you still stealing from comic books?" His faint smile was mocking; his eyes were still tight.
"Well, no, I didn't get it from a comic book, but I didn't come up with it on my own, either," I confessed.
"And?" he prompted.
But then the waitress strode around the partition with my food. I realized we'd been unconsciously leaning toward each other across the table, because we both straightened up as she approached. She set the dish in front of me — it looked pretty good — and turned quickly to Edward.
"Did you change your mind?" she asked. "Isn't there anything I can get you?" I may have been imagining the double meaning in her words.
"No, thank you, but some more soda would be nice." He gestured with a long white hand to the empty cups in front of me.
"Sure." She removed the empty glasses and walked away.
"You were saying?" he asked.
"I'll tell you about it in the car. If…" I paused.
"There are conditions?" He raised one eyebrow, his voice ominous.
"I do have a few questions, of course."
The waitress was back with two more Cokes. She sat them down without a word this time, and left again.
I took a sip.
"Well, go ahead," he pushed, his voice still hard.
I started with the most undemanding. Or so I thought. "Why are you in Port Angeles?"
He looked down, folding his large hands together slowly on the table. His eyes flickered up at me from under his lashes, the hint of a smirk on his face.
"But that's the easiest one," I objected.
"Next," he repeated.
I looked down, frustrated. I unrolled my silverware, picked up my fork, and carefully speared a ravioli. I put it in my mouth slowly, still looking down, chewing while I thought. The mushrooms were good. I swallowed and took another sip of Coke before I looked up.
"Okay, then." I glared at him, and continued slowly. "Let's say, hypothetically of course, that… someone… could know what people are thinking, read minds, you know — with a few exceptions."
"Just one exception," he corrected, "hypothetically."
"All right, with one exception, then." I was thrilled that he was playing along, but I tried to seem casual.
"How does that work? What are the limitations? How would… that someone… find someone else at exactly the right time? How would he know she was in trouble?" I wondered if my convoluted questions even made sense.
"Hypothetically?" he asked.
"Well, if… that someone…"
"Let's call him 'Joe,'" I suggested.
He smiled wryly. "Joe, then. If Joe had been paying attention, the timing wouldn't have needed to be quite so exact." He shook his head, rolling his eyes. "Only you could get into trouble in a town this small. You would have devastated their crime rate statistics for a decade, you know."
"We were speaking of a hypothetical case," I reminded him frostily.
He laughed at me, his eyes warm.
"Yes, we were," he agreed. "Shall we call you 'Jane'?"
"How did you know?" I asked, unable to curb my intensity. I realized I was leaning toward him again.