2011-1-11 10:37




He seemed to be wavering, torn by some internal dilemma. His eyes locked with mine, and I guessed he was making the decision right then whether or not to simply tell me the truth.

"You can trust me, you know," I murmured. I reached forward, without thinking, to touch his folded hands, but he slid them away minutely, and I pulled my hand back.

"I don't know if I have a choice anymore." His voice was almost a whisper. "I was wrong — you're much more observant than I gave you credit for."

"I thought you were always right."

"I used to be." He shook his head again. "I was wrong about you on one other thing, as well. You're not a magnet for accidents — that's not a broad enough classification. You are a magnet for trouble. If there is anything dangerous within a ten-mile radius, it will invariably find you."

"And you put yourself into that category?" I guessed.

His face turned cold, expressionless. "Unequivocally."

I stretched my hand across the table again — ignoring him when he pulled back slightly once more — to touch the back of his hand shyly with my fingertips. His skin was cold and hard, like a stone.

"Thank you." My voice was fervent with gratitude. "That's twice now."

His face softened. "Let's not try for three, agreed?"

I scowled, but nodded. He moved his hand out from under mine, placing both of his under the table. But he leaned toward me.

"I followed you to Port Angeles," he admitted, speaking in a rush. "I've never tried to keep a specific person alive before, and it's much more troublesome than I would have believed. But that's probably just because it's you. Ordinary people seem to make it through the day without so many catastrophes." He paused. I wondered if it should bother me that he was following me; instead I felt a strange surge of pleasure. He stared, maybe wondering why my lips were curving into an involuntary smile.

"Did you ever think that maybe my number was up the first time, with the van, and that you've been interfering with fate?" I speculated, distracting myself.

"That wasn't the first time," he said, and his voice was hard to hear. I stared at him in amazement, but he was looking down. "Your number was up the first time I met you."

I felt a spasm of fear at his words, and the abrupt memory of his violent black glare that first day… but the overwhelming sense of safety I felt in his presence stifled it. By the time he looked up to read my eyes, there was no trace of fear in them.

"You remember?" he asked, his angel's face grave.

"Yes." I was calm.

"And yet here you sit." There was a trace of disbelief in his voice; he raised one eyebrow.

"Yes, here I sit… because of you." I paused. "Because somehow you knew how to find me today… ?" I prompted.

He pressed his lips together, staring at me through narrowed eyes, deciding again. His eyes flashed down to my full plate, and then back to me.

"You eat, I'll talk," he bargained.

I quickly scooped up another ravioli and popped it in my mouth.

"It's harder than it should be — keeping track of you. Usually I can find someone very easily, once I've heard their mind before." He looked at me anxiously, and I realized I had frozen. I made myself swallow, then stabbed another ravioli and tossed it in.

"I was keeping tabs on Jessica, not carefully — like I said, only you could find trouble in Port Angeles — and at first I didn't notice when you took off on your own. Then, when I realized that you weren't with her anymore, I went looking for you at the bookstore I saw in her head. I could tell that you hadn't gone in, and that you'd gone south… and I knew you would have to turn around soon. So I was just waiting for you, randomly searching through the thoughts of people on the street — to see if anyone had noticed you so I would know where you were. I had no reason to be worried… but I was strangely anxious…" He was lost in thought, staring past me, seeing things I couldn't imagine.

"I started to drive in circles, still… listening. The sun was finally setting, and I was about to get out and follow you on foot. And then —" He stopped, clenching his teeth together in sudden fury. He made an effort to calm himself.

"Then what?" I whispered. He continued to stare over my head.

"I heard what they were thinking," he growled, his upper lip curling slightly back over his teeth. "I saw your face in his mind." He suddenly leaned forward, one elbow appearing on the table, his hand covering his eyes. The movement was so swift it startled me.

"It was very… hard — you can't imagine how hard — for me to simply take you away, and leave them… alive." His voice was muffled by his arm. "I could have let you go with Jessica and Angela, but I was afraid if you left me alone, I would go looking for them," he admitted in a whisper.

I sat quietly, dazed, my thoughts incoherent. My hands were folded in my lap, and I was leaning weakly against the back of the seat. He still had his face in his hand, and he was as still as if he'd been carved from the stone his skin resembled.

Finally he looked up, his eyes seeking mine, full of his own questions.

"Are you ready to go home?" he asked.

"I'm ready to leave," I qualified, overly grateful that we had the hour-long ride home together. I wasn't ready to say goodbye to him.

The waitress appeared as if she'd been called. Or watching.

"How are we doing?" she asked Edward.

"We're ready for the check, thank you." His voice was quiet, rougher, still reflecting the strain of our conversation. It seemed to muddle her. He looked up, waiting.

"S-sure," she stuttered. "Here you go." She pulled a small leather folder from the front pocket of her black apron and handed it to him.

There was a bill in his hand already. He slipped it into the folder and handed it right back to her.

"No change." He smiled. Then he stood up, and I scrambled awkwardly to my feet.

She smiled invitingly at him again. "You have a nice evening."

He didn't look away from me as he thanked her. I suppressed a smile.

He walked close beside me to the door, still careful not to touch me. I remembered what Jessica had said about her relationship with Mike, how they were almost to the first-kiss stage. I sighed. Edward seemed to hear me, and he looked down curiously. I looked at the sidewalk, grateful that he didn't seem to be able to know what I was thinking.

He opened the passenger door, holding it for me as I stepped in, shutting it softly behind me. I watched him walk around the front of the car, amazed, yet again, by how graceful he was. I probably should have been used to that by now — but I wasn't. I had a feeling Edward wasn't the kind of person anyone got used to.

Once inside the car, he started the engine and turned the heater on high. It had gotten very cold, and I guessed the good weather was at an end. I was warm in his jacket, though, breathing in the scent of it when I thought he couldn't see.

Edward pulled out through the traffic, apparently without a glance, flipping around to head toward the freeway.

"Now," he said significantly, "it's your turn."