When I woke up I was confused. My thoughts were hazy, still twisted up in dreams and nightmares; it took me longer than it should have to realize where I was.
This room was too bland to belong anywhere but in a hotel. The bedside lamps, bolted to the tables, were a dead giveaway, as were the long drapes made from the same fabric as the bedspread, and the generic watercolor prints on the walls.
I tried to remember how I got here, but nothing came at first.
I did remember the sleek black car, the glass in the windows darker than that on a limousine. The engine was almost silent, though we'd raced across the black freeways at more than twice the legal speed.
And I remembered Alice sitting with me on the dark leather backseat. Somehow, during the long night, my head had ended up against her granite neck. My closeness didn't seem to bother her at all, and her cool, hard skin was oddly comforting to me. The front of her thin cotton shirt was cold, damp with the tears that streamed from my eyes until, red and sore, they ran dry.
Sleep had evaded me; my aching eyes strained open even though the night finally ended and dawn broke over a low peak somewhere in California. The gray light, streaking across the cloudless sky, stung my eyes. But I couldn't close them; when I did, the images that flashed all too vividly, like still slides behind my lids, were unbearable. Charlie's broken expression — Edward's brutal snarl, teeth bared — Rosalie's resentful glare — the keen-eyed scrutiny of the tracker — the dead look in Edward's eyes after he kissed me the last time… I couldn't stand to see them. So I fought against my weariness and the sun rose higher.
I was still awake when we came through a shallow mountain pass and the sun, behind us now, reflected off the tiled rooftops of the Valley of the Sun. I didn't have enough emotion left to be surprised that we'd made a three-day journey in one. I stared blankly at the wide, flat expanse laid out in front of me. Phoenix — the palm trees, the scrubby creosote, the haphazard lines of the intersecting freeways, the green swaths of golf courses and turquoise splotches of swimming pools, all submerged in a thin smog and embraced by the short, rocky ridges that weren't really big enough to be called mountains.
The shadows of the palm trees slanted across the freeway — defined, sharper than I remembered, paler than they should be. Nothing could hide in these shadows. The bright, open freeway seemed benign enough. But I felt no relief, no sense of homecoming.
"Which way to the airport, Bella?" Jasper had asked, and I flinched, though his voice was quite soft and un-alarming. It was the first sound, besides the purr of the car, to break the long night's silence.
"Stay on the I-ten," I'd answered automatically. "We'll pass right by it."
My brain had worked slowly through the fog of sleep deprivation.
"Are we flying somewhere?" I'd asked Alice.
"No, but it's better to be close, just in case."
I remembered beginning the loop around Sky Harbor International… but not ending it. I suppose that must have been when I'd fallen asleep.
Though, now that I'd chased the memories down, I did have a vague impression of leaving the car — the sun was just falling behind the horizon — my arm draped over Alice's shoulder and her arm firm around my waist, dragging me along as I stumbled through the warm, dry shadows.
I had no memory of this room.
I looked at the digital clock on the nightstand. The red numbers claimed it was three o'clock, but they gave no indication if it was night or day. No edge of light escaped the thick curtains, but the room was bright with the light from the lamps.
I rose stiffly and staggered to the window, pulling back the drapes.
It was dark outside. Three in the morning, then. My room looked out on a deserted section of the freeway and the new long-term parking garage for the airport. It was slightly comforting to be able to pinpoint time and place.
I looked down at myself. I was still wearing Esme's clothes, and they didn't fit very well at all. I looked around the room, glad when I discovered my duffel bag on top of the low dresser.
I was on my way to find new clothes when a light tap on the door made me jump.
"Can I come in?" Alice asked.
I took a deep breath. "Sure."
She walked in, and looked me over cautiously. "You look like you could sleep longer," she said.
I just shook my head.
She drifted silently to the curtains and closed them securely before turning back to me.
"We'll need to stay inside," she told me.
"Okay." My voice was hoarse; it cracked.
"Thirsty?" she asked.
I shrugged. "I'm okay. How about you?"
"Nothing unmanageable." She smiled. "I ordered some food for you, it's in the front room. Edward reminded me that you have to eat a lot more frequently than we do."
I was instantly more alert. "He called?"
"No," she said, and watched as my face fell. "It was before we left."
She took my hand carefully and led me through the door into the living room of the hotel suite. I could hear a low buzz of voices coming from the TV. Jasper sat motionlessly at the desk in the corner, his eyes watching the news with no glimmer of interest.
I sat on the floor next to the coffee table, where a tray of food waited, and began picking at it without noticing what I was eating.
Alice perched on the arm of the sofa and stared blankly at the TV like Jasper.
I ate slowly, watching her, turning now and then to glance quickly at Jasper. It began to dawn on me that they were too still. They never looked away from the screen, though commercials were playing now. I pushed the tray away, my stomach abruptly uneasy. Alice looked down at me.
"What's wrong, Alice?" I asked.
"Nothing's wrong." Her eyes were wide, honest… and I didn't trust them.
"What do we do now?"
"We wait for Carlisle to call."
"And should he have called by now?" I could see that I was near the mark.
Alice's eyes flitted from mine to the phone on top of her leather bag and back.
"What does that mean?" My voice quavered, and I fought to control it. "That he hasn't called yet?"
"It just means that they don't have anything to tell us."
But her voice was too even, and the air was harder to breathe.
Jasper was suddenly beside Alice, closer to me than usual.
"Bella," he said in a suspiciously soothing voice. "You have nothing to worry about. You are completely safe here."
"I know that."
"Then why are you frightened?" he asked, confused. He might feel the tenor of my emotions, but he couldn't read the reasons behind them.
"You heard what Laurent said." My voice was just a whisper, but I was sure they could hear me. "He said James was lethal. What if something goes wrong, and they get separated? If something happens to any of them, Carlisle, Emmett… Edward…" I gulped. "If that wild female hurts Esme…" My voice had grown higher, a note of hysteria beginning to rise in it. "How could I live with myself when it's my fault? None of you should be risking yourselves for me —"
"Bella, Bella, stop," he interrupted me, his words pouring out so quickly they were hard to understand. "You're worrying about all the wrong things, Bella. Trust me on this — none of us are in jeopardy. You are under too much strain as it is; don't add to it with wholly unnecessary worries. Listen to me!" he ordered, for I had looked away. "Our family is strong. Our only fear is losing you."
"But why should you —"
Alice interrupted this time, touching my cheek with her cold fingers. "It's been almost a century that Edward's been alone. Now he's found you. You can't see the changes that we see, we who have been with him for so long. Do you think any of us want to look into his eyes for the next hundred years if he loses you?"
My guilt slowly subsided as I looked into her dark eyes. But, even as the calm spread over me, I knew I couldn't trust my feelings with Jasper there.