Alice's expression told me that she was not fooled. Her narrowed eyes, focused with burning intensity on my borrowed shirt, seemed more worried about what I'd done to my dress than anything else.
"Edward!" Carlisle chastened. "How could you be so irresponsible?"
"I know, Carlisle, I know. I was just plain stupid. I should have taken the time to make sure we were in a safe
zone before I set her loose."
"Edward," I mumbled, embarrassed by the way they stared at me. It was like they were trying to see a brighter red in my eyes.
"He's absolutely right to rebuke me, Bella," Edward said with a grin. "I made a huge mistake. The fact that you are stronger than anyone I've ever known doesn't change that."
Alice rolled her eyes. "Tasteful joke, Edward."
"I wasn't making a joke. I was explaining to Jasper why I know Bella can handle this. It's not my fault everyone jumped to conclusions."
"Wait," Jasper gasped. "She didn't hunt the humans?"
"She started to," Edward said, clearly enjoying himself. My teeth ground together. "She was entirely focused on the hunt."
"What happened?" Carlisle interjected. His eyes were suddenly bright, an amazed smile beginning to form on his face. It reminded me of before, when he'd wanted the details on my transformation experience. The thrill of new information.
Edward leaned toward him, animated. "She heard me behind her and reacted defensively. As soon as my pursuit broke into her concentration, she snapped right out of it. I've never seen anything to equal her. She realized at once what was happening, and then... she held her breath and ran away"
"Whoa," Emmett murmured. "Seriously?"
"He's not telling it right," I muttered, more embarrassed than before. "He left out the part where I
growled at him."
"Did ya get in a couple of good swipes?" Emmett asked eagerly.
"No! Of course not."
"No, not really? You really didn't attack him?"
"Emmett!" I protested.
"Aw, what a waste," Emmett groaned. "And here you're probably the one person who could take him - since he can't get in your head to cheat - and you had a perfect excuse, too." He sighed. "I've been dying to see how he'd do without that advantage."
I glared at him frostily. "I would never."
Jasper's frown caught my attention; he seemed even more disturbed than before.
Edward touched his fist lightly to Jasper's shoulder in a mock punch. "You see what I mean?"
"It's not natural," Jasper muttered.
"She could have turned on you - she's only hours old!" Esme scolded, putting her hand against her heart. "Oh, we should have gone with you."
I wasn't paying so much attention, now that Edward was past the punch line of his joke. I was staring at the gorgeous child by the door, who was still staring at me. Her little dimpled hands reached out toward me like she knew exactly who I was. Automatically, my hand lifted to mimic hers.
"Edward," I said, leaning around Jasper to see her better. "Please?"
Jasper's teeth were set; he didn't move.
"Jazz, this isn't anything you've seen before," Alice said quietly. "Trust me."
Their eyes met for a short second, and then Jasper nodded. He moved out of my way, but put one hand on my shoulder and moved with me as I walked slowly forward.
I thought about every step before I took it, analyzing my mood, the burn in my throat, the position of the others around me. How strong I felt versus how well they would be able to contain me. It was a slow procession.
And then the child in Rosalie's arms, struggling and reaching all this time while her expression got more and more irritated, let out a high, ringing wail. Everyone reacted as if - like me - they'd never heard her voice before.
They swarmed around her in a second, leaving me standing alone, frozen in place. The sound of Renesmee's cry pierced right through me, spearing me to the floor. My eyes pricked in the strangest way, like they wanted to tear.
It seemed like everyone had a hand on her, patting and soothing. Everyone but me.
"What's the matter? Is she hurt? What happened?"
It was Jacob's voice that was loudest, that raised anxiously above the others. I watched in shock as he reached for Renesmee, and then in utter horror as Rosalie surrendered her to him without a fight.
"No, she's fine," Rosalie reassured him.
Rosalie was reassuring Jacob?
Renesmee went to Jacob willingly enough, pushing her tiny hand against his cheek and then squirming around to stretch toward me again.
"See?" Rosalie told him. "She just wants Bella."
"She wants me?" I whispered.
Renesmee's eyes - my eyes - stared impatiently at me.
Edward darted back to my side. He put his hands lightly on my arms and urged me forward.
"She's been waiting for you for almost three days," he told me.
We were only a few feet away from her now. Bursts of heat seemed to tremble out from her to touch me.
Or maybe it was Jacob who was trembling. I saw his hands shaking as I got closer. And yet, despite his obvious anxiety, his face was more serene than I had seen it in a long time.
"Jake - I'm fine," I told him. It made me panicky to see Renesmee in his shaking hands, but I worked to keep myself in control.
He frowned at me, eyes tight, like he was just as panicky at the thought of Renesmee in my arms.
Renesmee whimpered eagerly and stretched, her little hands grasping into fists again and again.
Something in me clicked into place at that moment. The sound of her cry, the familiarity of her eyes, the way she seemed even more impatient than I did for this reunion - all of it wove together into the most natural of patterns as she clutched the air between us. Suddenly, she was absolutely real, and of course I knew her. It was perfectly ordinary that I should take that last easy step and reach for her, putting my hands exactly where they would fit best