He winced at my words, but the haunted look didn't leave his eyes.
"That's not the worst part, though," he continued to whisper. He acted as if I hadn't spoken. "Not seeing you there on the floor… crumpled and broken." His voice was choked. "Not thinking I was too late. Not even hearing you scream in pain — all those unbearable memories that I'll carry with me for the rest of eternity. No, the very worst was feeling… knowing that I couldn't stop. Believing that I was going to kill you myself."
"But you didn't."
"I could have. So easily."
I knew I needed to stay calm… but he was trying to talk himself into leaving me, and the panic fluttered in my lungs, trying to get out.
"Promise me," I whispered.
"You know what." I was starting to get angry now. He was so stubbornly determined to dwell on the negative.
He heard the change in my tone. His eyes tightened. "I don't seem to be strong enough to stay away from you, so I suppose that you'll get your way… whether it kills you or not," he added roughly.
"Good." He hadn't promised, though — a fact that I had not missed. The panic was only barely contained; I had no strength left to control the anger. "You told me how you stopped… now I want to know why," I demanded.
"Why?" he repeated warily.
"Why you did it. Why didn't you just let the venom spread? By now I would be just like you."
Edward's eyes seemed to turn flat black, and I remembered that this was something he'd never intended me to know. Alice must have been preoccupied by the things she'd learned about herself… or she'd been very careful with her thoughts around him — clearly, he'd had no idea that she'd filled me in on the mechanics of vampire conversions. He was surprised, and infuriated. His nostrils flared, his mouth looked as if it was chiseled from stone.
He wasn't going to answer, that much was clear.
"I'll be the first to admit that I have no experience with relationships," I said. "But it just seems logical… a man and woman have to be somewhat equal… as in, one of them can't always be swooping in and saving the other one. They have to save each other equally."
He folded his arms on the side of my bed and rested his chin on his arms. His expression was smooth, the anger reined in. Evidently he'd decided he wasn't angry with me. I hoped I'd get a chance to warn Alice before he caught up with her.
"You have saved me," he said quietly.
"I can't always be Lois Lane," I insisted. "I want to be Superman, too."
"You don't know what you're asking." His voice was soft; he stared intently at the edge of the pillowcase.
"I think I do."
"Bella, you don't know. I've had almost ninety years to think about this, and I'm still not sure."
"Do you wish that Carlisle hadn't saved you?"
"No, I don't wish that." He paused before continuing. "But my life was over. I wasn't giving anything up."
"You are my life. You're the only thing it would hurt me to lose." I was getting better at this. It was easy to admit how much I needed him.
He was very calm, though. Decided.
"I can't do it, Bella. I won't do that to you."
"Why not?" My throat rasped and the words weren't as loud as I'd meant them to be. "Don't tell me it's too hard! After today, or I guess it was a few days ago… anyway, after that, it should be nothing."
He glared at me.
"And the pain?" he asked.
I blanched. I couldn't help it. But I tried to keep my expression from showing how clearly I remembered the feeling… the fire in my veins.
"That's my problem," I said. "I can handle it."
"It's possible to take bravery to the point where it becomes insanity."
"It's not an issue. Three days. Big deal."
Edward grimaced again as my words reminded him that I was more informed than he had ever intended me to be. I watched him repress the anger, watched as his eyes grew speculative.
"Charlie?" he asked curtly. "Renée?"
Minutes passed in silence as I struggled to answer his question. I opened my mouth, but no sound came out. I closed it again. He waited, and his expression became triumphant because he knew I had no true answer.
"Look, that's not an issue either," I finally muttered; my voice was as unconvincing as it always was when I lied. "Renée has always made the choices that work for her — she'd want me to do the same. And Charlie's resilient, he's used to being on his own. I can't take care of them forever. I have my own life to live."
"Exactly," he snapped. "And I won't end it for you."
"If you're waiting for me to be on my deathbed, I've got news for you! I was just there!"
"You're going to recover," he reminded me.
I took a deep breath to calm myself, ignoring the spasm of pain it triggered. I stared at him, and he stared back. There was no compromise in his face.
"No," I said slowly. "I'm not."
His forehead creased. "Of course you are. You may have a scar or two…"
"You're wrong," I insisted. "I'm going to die."
"Really, Bella." He was anxious now. "You'll be out of here in a few
days. Two week at most."
I glared at him. "I may not die now… but I'm going to die sometime. Every minute of the day, I get closer. And I'm going to get old."
He frowned as what I was saying sunk in, pressing his long fingers to his temples and closing his eyes. "That's how it's supposed to happen. How it should happen. How it would have happened if I didn't exist — and I shouldn't exist."
I snorted. He opened his eyes in surprise. "That's stupid. That's like going to someone who's just won the lottery, taking their money, and saying, 'Look, let's just go back to how things should be. It's better that way.' And I'm not buying it."
"I'm hardly a lottery prize," he growled.
"That's right. You're much better."
He rolled his eyes and set his lips. "Bella, we're not having this discussion anymore. I refuse to damn you to an eternity of night and that's the end of it."
"If you think that's the end, then you don't know me very well," I warned him. "You're not the only vampire I know."
His eyes went black again. "Alice wouldn't dare."
And for a moment he looked so frightening that I couldn't help but believe it — I couldn't imagine someone brave enough to cross him.
"Alice already saw it, didn't she?" I guessed. "That's why the things she says upset you. She knows I'm going to be like you… someday."
"She's wrong. She also saw you dead, but that didn't happen, either."
"You'll never catch me betting against Alice."
We stared at each other for a very long time. It was quiet except for the whirring of the machines, the beeping, the dripping, the ticking of the big clock on the wall. Finally, his expression softened.
"So where does that leave us?" I wondered.
He chuckled humorlessly. "I believe it's called an impasse."
I sighed. "Ouch," I muttered.
"How are you feeling?" he asked, eyeing the button for the nurse.
"I'm fine," I lied.
"I don't believe you," he said gently.
"I'm not going back to sleep."
"You need rest. All this arguing isn't good for you."
"So give in," I hinted.
"Nice try." He reached for the button.
He ignored me.
"Yes?" the speaker on the wall squawked.
"I think we're ready for more pain medication," he said calmly, ignoring my furious expression.
"I'll send in the nurse." The voice sounded very bored.
"I won't take it," I promised.
He looked toward the sack of fluids hanging beside my bed. "I don't think they're going to ask you to swallow anything."
My heart rate started to climb. He read the fear in my eyes, and sighed in frustration.
"Bella, you're in pain. You need to relax so you can heal. Why are you being so difficult? They're not going to put any more needles in you now."
"I'm not afraid of the needles," I mumbled. "I'm afraid to close my eyes."
Then he smiled his crooked smile, and took my face between his hands. "I told you I'm not going anywhere. Don't be afraid. As long as it makes you happy, I'll be here."
I smiled back, ignoring the ache in my cheeks. "You're talking about forever, you know."
"Oh, you'll get over it — it's just a crush."
I shook my head in disbelief— it made me dizzy. "I was shocked when Renée swallowed that one. I know you know better."
"That's the beautiful thing about being human," he told me. "Things change."
My eyes narrowed. "Don't hold your breath."
He was laughing when the nurse came in, brandishing a syringe.
"Excuse me," she said brusquely to Edward.
He got up and crossed to the end of the small room, leaning against the wall. He folded his arms and waited. I kept my eyes on him, still apprehensive. He met my gaze calmly.
"Here you go, honey." The nurse smiled as she injected the medicine into my tube. "You'll feel better now."
"Thanks," I mumbled, unenthusiastic. It didn't take long. I could feel the drowsiness trickling through my bloodstream almost immediately.
"That ought to do it," she muttered as my eyelids drooped.
She must have left the room, because something cold and smooth touched my face.
"Stay." The word was slurred.
"I will," he promised. His voice was beautiful, like a lullaby. "Like I said, as long as it makes you happy… as long as it's what's best for you."
I tried to shake my head, but it was too heavy. "'S not the same thing," I mumbled.
He laughed. "Don't worry about that now, Bella. You can argue with me when you wake up."
I think I smiled. '"Kay."
I could feel his lips at my ear.
"I love you," he whispered.
"I know," he laughed quietly.
I turned my head slightly… searching. He knew what I was after. His lips
touched mine gently.
"Thanks," I sighed.
I wasn't really there at all anymore. But I fought against the stupor weakly. There was just one more thing I wanted to tell him.
"Edward?" I struggled to pronounce his name clearly.
"I'm betting on Alice," I mumbled.
And then the night closed over me.