Eclipse (Twilight #3)(7) by Stephenie Meyer

"Sure, sure," I agreed. The automatic response almost made me smile - it was something I'd picked up from Jacob. I even said it in the same patronizing tone he used with his own father.

Charlie grinned and turned the sound back on. He slumped lower into the cushions, pleased with his night's work. I could tell he would be up with the game for a while.

"'Night, Bells."

"See you in the morning!" I sprinted for the stairs.

Edward was long gone and he wouldn't be back until Charlie was asleep - he was probably out hunting or something to pass the time - so I was in no hurry to undress for bed. I wasn't in the mood to be alone, but I certainly wasn't going to go back downstairs to hang out with my Dad, just in case he thought of some topic of sex education that he hadn't touched on before; I shuddered.

So, thanks to Charlie, I was wound up and anxious. My homework was done and I didn't feel mellow enough for reading or just listening to music. I considered calling Renée with the news of my visit, but then I realized that it was three hours later in Florida, and she would be asleep.

I could call Angela, I supposed.

But suddenly I knew that it wasn't Angela that I wanted to talk to. That I needed to talk to.

I stared at the blank black window, biting my lip. I don't know how long I stood there weighing the pros against the cons - doing the right thing by Jacob, seeing my closest friend again, being a good person, versus making Edward furious with me. Ten minutes maybe. Long enough to decide that the pros were valid while the cons were not. Edward was only concerned about my safety, and I knew that there was really no problem on that count.

The phone wasn't any help; Jacob had refused to answer my phone calls since Edward's return. Besides, I needed to see him - see him smiling again the way he used to. I needed to replace that awful last memory of his face warped and twisted by pain if I was ever going to have any peace of mind.

I had an hour probably. I could make a quick run down to La Push and be back before Edward realized I had gone. It was past my curfew, but would Charlie really care about that when Edward wasn't involved? One way to find out.

I grabbed my jacket and shoved my arms through the sleeves as I ran down the stairs.

Charlie looked up from the game, instantly suspicious.

"You care if I go see Jake tonight?" I asked breathlessly. "I won't stay long."

As soon as I said Jake's name, Charlie's expression relaxed into a smug smile. He didn't seem surprised at all that his lecture had taken effect so quickly. "Sure, kid. No problem. Stay as long as you like."

"Thanks, Dad," I said as I darted out the door.

Like any fugitive, I couldn't help looking over my shoulder a few times while I jogged to my truck, but the night was so black that there really was no point. I had to feel my way along the side of the truck to the handle.

My eyes were just beginning to adjust as I shoved my keys in the ignition. I twisted them hard to the left, but instead of roaring deafeningly to life, the engine just clicked. I tried it again with the same results.

And then a small motion in my peripheral vision made me jump.

"Gah!" I gasped in shock when I saw that I was not alone in the cab.

Edward sat very still, a faint bright spot in the darkness, only his hands moving as he turned a mysterious black object around and around. He stared at the object as he spoke.

"Alice called," he murmured.

Alice! Damn. I'd forgotten to account for her in my plans. He must have her watching me.

"She got nervous when your future rather abruptly disappeared five minutes ago."

My eyes, already wide with surprise, popped wider.

"Because she can't see the wolves, you know," he explained in the same low murmur. "Had you forgotten that? When you decide to mingle your fate with theirs, you disappear, too. You couldn't know that part, I realize that. But can you understand why that might make me a little . . . anxious? Alice saw you disappear, and she couldn't even tell if you'd come home or not. Your future got lost, just like theirs.

"We're not sure why this is. Some natural defense they're born with?" He spoke as if he were talking to himself now, still looking at the piece of my truck's engine as he twirled it in his hands. "That doesn't seem entirely likely, since I haven't had any trouble reading their thoughts. The Blacks' at least. Carlisle theorizes that it's because their lives are so ruled by their transformations. It's more an involuntary reaction than a decision. Utterly unpredictable, and it changes everything about them. In that instant when they shift from one form to the other, they don't really even exist. The future can't hold them. . . ."

I listened to his musing in stony silence.

"I'll put your car back together in time for school, in case you'd like to drive yourself," he assured me after a minute.

With my lips mashed together, I retrieved my keys and stiffly climbed out of the truck.

"Shut your window if you want me to stay away tonight. I'll understand," he whispered just before I slammed the door.

I stomped into the house, slamming that door, too.

"What's wrong?" Charlie demanded from the couch.

"Truck won't start," I growled.

"Want me to look at it?"

"No. I'll try it in the morning."

"Want to use my car?"

I wasn't supposed to drive his police cruiser. Charlie must be really desperate to get me to La Push. Nearly as desperate as I was.

"No. I'm tired," I grumbled. "'Night."

I stamped my way up the stairs, and went straight to my window. I shoved the metal frame roughly - it crashed shut and the glass trembled.

I stared at the shivering black glass for a long moment, until it was still. Then I sighed, and opened the window as wide as it would go.

Chapter 3. MOTIVES

THE SUN WAS SO DEEPLY BURIED BEHIND THE CLOUDS that there was no way to tell if it had set or not. After the long flight - chasing the sun westward so that it seemed unmoving in the sky - it was especially disorienting; time seemed oddly variable. It took me by surprise when the forest gave way to the first buildings, signaling that we were nearly home.

"You've been very quiet," Edward observed. "Did the plane make you sick?"

"No, I'm okay."

"Are you sad to leave?"

"More relieved than sad, I think."

He raised one eyebrow at me. I knew it was useless and - much as I hated to admit it - unnecessary to ask him to keep his eyes on the road.

"Renée is so much more . . . perceptive than Charlie in some ways. It was making me jumpy."

Edward laughed. "Your mother has a very interesting mind. Almost childlike, but very insightful. She sees things differently than other people."

Insightful. It was a good description of my mother - when she was paying attention. Most of the time Renée was so bewildered by her own life that she didn't notice much else. But this weekend she'd been paying plenty of attention to me.

Phil was busy - the high school baseball team he coached was in the playoffs - and being alone with Edward and me had only sharpened Renée's focus. As soon as the hugs and squeals of delight were out of the way, Renée began to watch. And as she'd watched, her wide blue eyes had become first confused and then concerned.

This morning we'd gone for a walk along the beach. She wanted to show off all the beauties of her new home, still hoping, I think, that the sun might lure me away from Forks. She'd also wanted to talk with me alone, and that was easily arranged. Edward had fabricated a term paper to give himself an excuse to stay indoors during the day.

In my head, I went through the conversation again. . . .

Renée and I ambled along the sidewalk, trying to stay in the range of the infrequent palm tree shadows. Though it was early, the heat was smothering. The air was so heavy with moisture that just breathing in and out was giving my lungs a workout.

"Bella?" my mother asked, looking out past the sand to the lightly crashing waves as she spoke.

"What is it, Mom?"

She sighed, not meeting my gaze. "I'm worried. . . ."

"What's wrong?" I asked, anxious at once. "What can I do?"

"It's not me." She shook her head. "I'm worried about you . . . and Edward."

Renée finally looked at me when she said his name, her face apologetic.

"Oh," I mumbled, fixing my eyes on a pair of joggers as they passed us, drenched with sweat.

"You two are more serious than I'd been thinking," she went on.

I frowned, quickly reviewing the last two days in my head. Edward and I had barely touched - in front of her, at least. I wondered if Renée was about to give me a lecture on responsibility, too. I didn't mind that the way I had with Charlie. It wasn't embarrassing with my mom. After all, I'd been the one giving her that lecture time and time again in the last ten years.

"There's something . . . strange about the way you two are together," she murmured, her forehead creasing over her troubled eyes. "The way he watches you - it's so . . . protective. Like he's about to throw himself in front of a bullet to save you or something."

I laughed, though I was still not able to meet her gaze. "That's a bad thing?"

"No." She frowned as she struggled for the words. "It's just different. He's very intense about you . . . and very careful. I feel like I don't really understand your relationship. Like there's some secret I'm missing. . . ."

"I think you're imagining things, Mom," I said quickly, struggling to keep my voice light. There was a flutter in my stomach. I'd forgotten how much my mother saw. Something about her simple view of the world cut through all the distractions and pierced right to the truth of things. This had never been a problem before. Until now, there had never been a secret I couldn't tell her.

"It's not just him." She set her lips defensively. "I wish you could see how you move around him."

"What do you mean?"

"The way you move - you orient yourself around him without even thinking about it. When he moves, even a little bit, you adjust your position at the same time. Like magnets . . . or gravity. You're like a . . . satellite, or something. I've never seen anything like it."

She pursed her lips and stared down.

"Don't tell me," I teased, forcing a smile. "You're reading mysteries again, aren't you? Or is it sci-fi this time?"

Renée flushed a delicate pink. "That's beside the point."

"Found anything good?"

"Well, there was one - but that doesn't matter. We're talking about you right now."

"You should stick to romance, Mom. You know how you freak yourself out."

Her lips turned up at the corners. "I'm being silly, aren't I?"

For half a second I couldn't answer. Renée was so easily swayed. Sometimes it was a good thing, because not all of her ideas were practical. But it pained me to see how quickly she caved in to my trivializing, especially since she was dead right this time.

She looked up, and I controlled my expression.

"Not silly - just being a mom."

She laughed and then gestured grandly toward the white sands stretching to the blue water.

"And all this isn't enough to get you to move back in with your silly mom?"

I wiped my hand dramatically across my forehead, and then pretended to wring my hair out.

"You get used to the humidity," she promised.

"You can get used to rain, too," I countered.

She elbowed me playfully and then took my hand as we walked back to her car.

Other than her worries about me, she seemed happy enough. Content. She still looked at Phil with goo- goo eyes, and that was comforting. Surely her life was full and satisfying. Surely she didn't miss me that much, even now. . . .

Edward's icy fingers brushed my cheek. I looked up, blinking, coming back to the present. He leaned down and kissed my forehead.

"We're home, Sleeping Beauty. Time to awake."

We were stopped in front of Charlie's house. The porch light was on and the cruiser was parked in the driveway. As I examined the house, I saw the curtain twitch in the living room window, flashing a line of yellow light across the dark lawn.

I sighed. Of course Charlie was waiting to pounce.

Edward must have been thinking the same thing, because his expression was stiff and his eyes remote as he came to get my door for me.

"How bad?" I asked.

"Charlie's not going to be difficult," Edward promised, his voice level with no hint of humor. "He missed you."

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