23. THE ANGEL
As I drifted, I dreamed.
Where I floated, under the dark water, I heard the happiest sound my mind could conjure up — as beautiful, as uplifting, as it was ghastly. It was another snarl; a deeper, wilder roar that rang with fury.
I was brought back, almost to the surface, by a sharp pain slashing my
upraised hand, but I couldn't find my way back far enough to open my eyes.
And then I knew I was dead.
Because, through the heavy water, I heard the sound of an angel calling my name, calling me to the only heaven I wanted.
"Oh no, Bella, no!" the angel's voice cried in horror.
Behind that longed-for sound was another noise — an awful tumult that my mind shied away from. A vicious bass growling, a shocking snapping sound, and a high keening, suddenly breaking off…
I tried to concentrate on the angel's voice instead.
"Bella, please! Bella, listen to me, please, please, Bella, please!" he begged.
Yes, I wanted to say. Anything. But I couldn't find my lips.
"Carlisle!" the angel called, agony in his perfect voice. "Bella, Bella, no, oh please, no, no!" And the angel was sobbing tearless, broken sobs.
The angel shouldn't weep, it was wrong. I tried to find him, to tell him everything was fine, but the water was so deep, it was pressing on me, and I couldn't breathe.
There was a point of pressure against my head. It hurt. Then, as that pain broke through the darkness to me, other pains came, stronger pains. I cried out, gasping, breaking through the dark pool.
"Bella!" the angel cried.
"She's lost some blood, but the head wound isn't deep," a calm voice informed me. "Watch out for her leg, it's broken."
A howl of rage strangled on the angel's lips.
I felt a sharp stab in my side. This couldn't be heaven, could it? There was too much pain for that.
"Some ribs, too, I think," the methodical voice continued.
But the sharp pains were fading. There was a new pain, a scalding pain in my hand that was overshadowing everything else.
Someone was burning me.
"Edward." I tried to tell him, but my voice was so heavy and slow. I couldn't understand myself.
"Bella, you're going to be fine. Can you hear me, Bella? I love you."
"Edward," I tried again. My voice was a little clearer.
"Yes, I'm here."
"It hurts," I whimpered.
"I know, Bella, I know" — and then, away from me, anguished — "can't you do anything?"
"My bag, please… Hold your breath, Alice, it will help," Carlisle promised.
"Alice?" I groaned.
"She's here, she knew where to find you."
"My hand hurts," I tried to tell him.
"I know, Bella. Carlisle will give you something, it will stop."
"My hand is burning!" I screamed, finally breaking through the last of the darkness, my eyes fluttering open. I couldn't see his face, something dark and warm was clouding my eyes. Why couldn't they see the fire and put it out?
His voice was frightened. "Bella?"
"The fire! Someone stop the fire!" I screamed as it burned me.
"Carlisle! Her hand!"
"He bit her." Carlisle's voice was no longer calm, it was appalled.
I heard Edward catch his breath in horror.
"Edward, you have to do it." It was Alice's voice, close by my head. Cool fingers brushed at the wetness in my eyes.
"No!" he bellowed.
"Alice," I moaned.
"There may be a chance," Carlisle said.
"What?" Edward begged.
"See if you can suck the venom back out. The wound is fairly clean." As Carlisle spoke, I could feel more pressure on my head, something poking and pulling at my scalp. The pain of it was lost in the pain of the fire.
"Will that work?" Alice's voice was strained.
"I don't know," Carlisle said. "But we have to hurry."
"Carlisle, I…" Edward hesitated. "I don't know if I can do that." There was agony in his beautiful voice again.
"It's your decision, Edward, either way. I can't help you. I have to get this bleeding stopped here if you're going to be taking blood from her hand."
I writhed in the grip of the fiery torture, the movement making the pain in my leg flare sickeningly.
"Edward!" I screamed. I realized my eyes were closed again. I opened them, desperate to find his face. And I found him. Finally, I could see his perfect face, staring at me, twisted into a mask of indecision and pain.
"Alice, get me something to brace her leg!" Carlisle was bent over me, working on my head. "Edward, you must do it now, or it will be too late."
Edward's face was drawn. I watched his eyes as the doubt was suddenly replaced with a blazing determination. His jaw tightened. I felt his cool, strong fingers on my burning hand, locking it in place. Then his head bent over it, and his cold lips pressed against my skin.
At first the pain was worse. I screamed and thrashed against the cool hands that held me back. I heard Alice's voice, trying to calm me. Something heavy held my leg to the floor, and Carlisle had my head locked in the vise of his stone arms.
Then, slowly, my writhing calmed as my hand grew more and more numb. The fire was dulling, focusing into an ever-smaller point.
I felt my consciousness slipping as the pain subsided. I was afraid to fall into the black waters again, afraid I would lose him in the darkness.
"Edward," I tried to say, but I couldn't hear my voice. They could hear me.
"He's right here, Bella."
"Stay, Edward, stay with me…"
"I will." His voice was strained, but somehow triumphant.
I sighed contentedly. The fire was gone, the other pains dulled by a sleepiness seeping through my body.
"Is it all out?" Carlisle asked from somewhere far away.
"Her blood tastes clean," Edward said quietly. "I can taste the morphine."
"Bella?" Carlisle called to me.
I tried to answer. "Mmmmm?"
"Is the fire gone?"
"Yes," I sighed. "Thank you, Edward."
"I love you," he answered.
"I know," I breathed, so tired.
I heard my favorite sound in the world: Edward's quiet laugh, weak with relief.
"Bella?" Carlisle asked again.
I frowned; I wanted to sleep. "What?"
"Where is your mother?"
"In Florida," I sighed. "He tricked me, Edward. He watched our videos." The outrage in my voice was pitifully frail.
But that reminded me.
"Alice." I tried to open my eyes. "Alice, the video — he knew you, Alice, he knew where you came from." I meant to speak urgently, but my voice was feeble. "I smell gasoline," I added, surprised through the haze in my brain.
"It's time to move her," Carlisle said.
"No, I want to sleep," I complained.
"You can sleep, sweetheart, I'll carry you," Edward soothed me.
And I was in his arms, cradled against his chest — floating, all the pain gone.
"Sleep now, Bella" were the last words I heard.