Charlie refocused on me. "How do you feel about this? Maybe Carlisle and Esme could - "
"She's mine," I interrupted. "I want her."
Charlie frowned. "You gonna make me a grandpa so young?"
Edward smiled. "Carlisle is a grandfather, too."
Charlie shot an incredulous glance at Carlisle, still standing by the front door; he looked like Zeus's younger, better-looking brother.
Charlie snorted and then laughed. "I guess that does sort of make me feel better."His eyes strayed back to Renesmee. "She sure is something to look at." His warm breath blew lightly across the space between us.
Renesmee leaned toward the smell, shaking off my hair and looking him full in the face for the first time. Charlie gasped.
I knew what he was seeing. My eyes - his eyes - copied exactly into her perfect face.
Charlie started hyperventilating. His lips trembled, and I could read the numbers he mouthed. He was counting backward, trying to fit nine months into one. Trying to put it together but not able to force the evidence right in front of him to make any sense.
Jacob got up and came over to pat Charlie on the back. He leaned in to whisper something in Charlie's ear; only Charlie didn't know we could all hear.
"Need to know, Charlie. It's okay. I promise."
Charlie swallowed and nodded. And then his eyes blazed as he took a step closer to Edward with his fists tightly clenched.
"I don't want to know everything, but I'm done with the lies!"
"I'm sorry," Edward said calmly, "but you need to know the public story more than you need to know the truth. If you're going to be part of this secret, the public story is the one that counts. It's to protect Bella and Renesmee as well as the rest of us. Can you go along with the lies for them?"
The room wasfull of statues. I crossed my ankles.
Charlie huffed once and then turned his glare on me. "You might've given me some warning, kid."
"Would it really have made this any easier?"
He frowned, and then he knelt on the floor in front of me. I could see the movement of the blood in his neck under his skin. I could feel the warm vibration of it.
So could Renesmee. She smiled and reached one pink palm out to him. I held her back. She pushed her other
hand against my neck, thirst, curiosity, and Charlie's face in her thoughts. There was a subtle edge to the message that made me think that she'd understood Edward's words perfectly; she acknowledged thirst, but overrode it in the same thought.
"Whoa," Charlie gasped, his eyes on her perfect teeth. "How old is she?"
"Three months," Edward said, and then added slowly, "rather, she's the size of a three-month-old, more or less. She's younger in some ways, more mature in others."
Very deliberately, Renesmee waved at him.
Charlie blinked spastically.
Jacob elbowed him. "Told you she was special, didn't I?"
Charlie cringed away from the contact.
"Oh, c'mon, Charlie," Jacob groaned. "I'm the same person I've always been. Just pretend this afternoon didn't happen."
The reminder made Charlie's lips go white, but he nodded once. "Just what is your part in all this, Jake?" he asked. "How much does Billy know? Why are you here?" He looked at Jacob's face, which was glowing as he stared at Renesmee.
"Well, I could tell you all about it - Billy knows absolutely everything - but it involves a lot of stuff about werewo - "
"Ungh!" Charlie protested, covering his ears. "Never mind."
Jacob grinned. "Everything's going to be great, Charlie. Just try to not believe anything you see."
My dad mumbled something unintelligible.
"Woo!" Emmett suddenly boomed in his deep bass. "Go Gators!"
Jacob and Charlie jumped. The rest of us froze.
Charlie recovered, then looked at Emmett over his shoulder. "Florida winning?"
"Just scored the first touchdown," Emmett confirmed. He shot a look in my direction, wagging his eyebrows like a villain in vaudeville. "'Bout time somebody scored around here."
I fought back a hiss. In front of Charlie? That was over the line.
But Charlie was beyond noticing innuendos. He took yet another deep breath, sucking the air in like he was trying to pull it down to his toes. I envied him. He lurched to his feet, stepped around Jacob, and half-fell into an open chair. "Well," he sighed, "I guess we should see if they can hold on to the lead."
"I don't know how much we should tell Renee about this," Charlie said, hesitating with one foot out the door. He stretched, and then his stomach growled.
I nodded. "I know, i don't want to freak her out. Better to protect her. This stuff isn't for the fainthearted."
His lips twisted up to the side ruefully. "I would have tried to protect you, too, if I'd known how. But I guess you've never fit into the fainthearted category, have you?"
I smiled back, pulling a blazing breath in through my teeth.
Charlie patted his stomach absently. "I'll think of something. We've got time to discuss this, right?"
"Right," I promised him.
It had been a long day in some ways, and so short in others. Charlie was late for dinner - Sue Clearwater was cooking for him and Billy. That was going to be an awkward evening, but at least he'd be eating real food; I was glad someone was trying to keep him from starving due to his lack of cooking ability.
All day the tension had made the minutes pass slowly; Charlie had never relaxed the stiff set of his shoulders. But he'd been in no hurry to leave, either. He'd watched two whole games - thankfully so absorbed in his thoughts that he was totally oblivious to Emmett's suggestive jokes that got more pointed and less football-related with each aside - and the after-game commentaries, and then the news, not moving until Seth had reminded him of the time.
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