I liked the way he said our child. The words made her more real.
"She has exactly your color eyes - so that didn't get lost, after all." He smiled at me. "They're so beautiful."
"And the vampire parts?" I asked.
"Her skin seems about as impenetrable as ours. Not that anyone would dream of testing that."
I blinked at him, a little shocked.
"Of course no one would," he assured me again. "Her diet... well, she prefers to drink blood. Carlisle continues to try to persuade her to drink some baby formula, too, but she doesn't have much patience with it. Can't say that I
blame her - nasty-smelling stuff, even for human food."
I gaped openly at him now. He made it sound like they were having conversations. "Persuade her?"
"She's intelligent, shockingly so, and progressing at an immense pace. Though she doesn't speak - yet - she communicates quite effectively."
"Doesn't. Speak. Yet"
He slowed our pace further, letting me absorb this.
"What do you mean, she communicates effectively?" I demanded.
"I think it will be easier for you to... see for yourself. It's rather difficult to describe."
I considered that. I knew there was a lot that I needed to see for myself before it would be real. I wasn't sure how much more I was ready for, so I changed the subject.
"Why is Jacob still here?" I asked. "How can he stand it? Why should he?" My ringing voice trembled a little. "Why should he have to suffer more?"
"Jacob isn't suffering," he said in a strange new tone. "Though I might be willing to change his condition," Edward added through his teeth.
"Edward!" I hissed, yanking him to a stop (and feeling a little thrill of smugness that I was able to do it). "How can you say that? Jacob has given up everything to protect us! What I've put him through - !" I cringed at the dim memory of shame and guilt. It seemed odd now that I had needed him so much then. That sense of absence without him near had vanished; it must have been a human weakness.
"You'll see exactly how I can say that," Edward muttered. "I promised him that I would let him explain, but I doubt you'll see it much differently than I do. Of course, I'm often wrong about your thoughts, aren't I?" He pursed his lips and eyed me.
Edward shook his head. "I promised. Though I don't know if I really owe him anything at all anymore. . . ." His teeth ground together.
"Edward, I don't understand." Frustration and indignation took over my head.
He stroked my cheek and then smiled gently when my face smoothed out in response, desire momentarily overruling annoyance. "It's harder than you make it look, I know. I remember."
"I don't like feeling confused."
"I know. And so let's get you home, so that you can see it all for yourself." His eyes ran over the remains of my dress as he spoke of going home, and he frowned. "Hmm." After a half second of thought, he unbuttoned his white shirt and held it out for me to put my arms through.
I slipped my arms into his sleeves and then buttoned it swiftly over my ragged bodice. Of course, that left him without a shirt, and it was impossible not to find that distracting.
'Til race you," I said, and then cautioned, "no throwing the game this time!"
He dropped my hand and grinned. "On your mark ..."
Finding my way to my new home was simpler than walking down Charlie's street to my old one. Our scent left a clear and easy trail to follow, even running as fast as I could.
Edward had me beat till we hit the river. I took a chance and made my leap early, trying to use my extra strength to win.
"Ha!" I exulted when I heard my feet touch the grass first.
Listening for his landing, I heard something I did not expect. Something loud and much too close. A thudding heart.
Edward was beside me in the same second, his hands clamped down hard on the tops of my arms.
"Don't breathe," he cautioned me urgently.
I tried not to panic as I froze mid-breath. My eyes were the only things that moved, wheeling instinctively to find the source of the sound.
Jacob stood at the line where the forest touched the Cullens' lawn, his arms folded across his body, his jaw clenched tight. Invisible in the woods behind him, I heard now two larger hearts, and the faint crush of bracken under huge, pacing paws.
"Carefully, Jacob," Edward said. A snarl from the forest echoed the concern in his voice. "Maybe this isn't the best way - "
"You think it would be better to let her near the baby first?" Jacob interrupted. "It's safer to see how Bella does with me. I heal fast."
This was a test? To see if I could not kill Jacob before I tried to not kill Renesmee? I felt sick in the strangest way - it had nothing to do with my stomach, only my mind. Was this Edward's idea?
I glanced at his face anxiously; Edward seemed to deliberate for a moment, and then his expression twisted from concern into something else. He shrugged, and there was an undercurrent of hostility in his voice when he said, "It's your neck, I guess."
The growl from the forest was furious this time; Leah, I had no doubt.
What was with Edward? After all that we'd been through, shouldn't he have been able to feel some kindness for my best friend? I'd thought - maybe foolishly - that Edward was sort of Jacob's friend now, too. I must have misread them.
But what was Jacob doing? Why would he offer himself as a test to protect Renesmee?
It didn't make any sense to me. Even if our friendship had survived...