Carlisle nodded, and the others left. I waited until they were out of sight, and then I looked at Edward questioningly.
"I couldn't let you walk away from me," he explained in a low voice. "It hurt just to imagine it."
I understood without more explanation than that. I thought of being divided from him now and realized I would have felt the same pain, no matter how short the separation.
There was so little time left to be together.
I held my hand out to him, and he took it.
"Let's hurry," he said. "Renesmee will be awake."
I nodded, and we were running again.
It was probably a silly thing, to waste the time away from Renesmee just for curiosity's sake. But the note bothered me. Alice could have carved the note into a boulder or tree trunk if she lacked writing utensils. She could have stolen a pad of Post-its from any of the houses by the highway. Why my book? When did she get it?
Sure enough, the trail led back to the cottage by a circuitous route that stayed far clear of the Cullens' house and the wolves in the nearby woods. Edward's brows tightened in confusion as it became obvious where the trail led.
He tried to reason it out. "She left Jasper to wait for her and came here?"
We were almost to the cottage now, and I felt uneasy. I was glad to have Edward's hand in mine, but I also felt as if I should be here alone. Tearing out the page and carrying it back to Jasper was such an odd thing for Alice to do. It felt like there was a message in her action - one I didn't understand at all. But it was my book, so the message must be for me. If it were something she wanted Edward to know, wouldn't she have pulled a page from one of his
"Give me just a minute," I said, pulling my hand free as we got to the door.
His forehead creased. "Bella?"
"Please? Thirty seconds."
I didn't wait for him to answer. I darted through the door, pulling it shut behind me. I went straight to the bookshelf. Alice's scent was fresh - less than a day old. A fire that I had not set burned low but hot in the fireplace. I yanked The Merchant of Venice off the shelf and flipped it open to the title page.
There, next to the feathered edge left by the torn page, under the words The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare, was a note.
Below that was a name and an address in Seattle.
When Edward came through the door after only thirteen seconds rather than thirty, I was watching the book burn.
"What's going on, Bella?"
"She was here. She ripped a page out of my book to write her note on."
"I don't know why."
"Why are you burning it?"
"I - I - " I frowned, letting all my frustration and pain show on my face. I did not know what Alice was trying to tell me, only that she'd gone to great lengths to keep it from anyone but me. The one person whose mind Edward could not read. So she must want to keep him in the dark, and it was probably for a good reason. "It seemed appropriate."
"We don't know what she's doing," he said quietly.
I stared into the flames. I was the only person in the world who could lie to Edward. Was that what Alice wanted from me? Her last request?
"When we were on the plane to Italy," I whispered - this was not a lie, except perhaps in context - "on our way to rescue you... she lied to Jasper so that he wouldn't come after us. She knew that if he faced the Volturi, he would die. She was willing to die herself rather than put him in danger. Willing for me to die, too. Willing for you to die."
Edward didn't answer.
"She has her priorities," I said. It made my still heart ache to realize that my explanation did not feel like a lie in any way.
"I don't believe it," Edward said. He didn't say it like he was arguing with me - he said it like he was arguing with himself. "Maybe it was just Jasper in danger. Her plan would work for the rest of us, but he'd be lost if he stayed.
"She could have told us that. Sent him away."
"But would Jasper have gone? Maybe she's lying to him again."
"Maybe," I pretended to agree. "We should go home. There's no time."
Edward took my hand, and we ran.
Alice's note did not make me hopeful. If there were any way to avoid the coming slaughter, Alice would have stayed. I couldn't see another possibility. So it was something else she was giving me. Not a way to escape. But what else would she think that I wanted? Maybe a way to salvage something? Was there anything I could still save?
Carlisle and the others had not been idle in our absence. We'd been separated from them for all of five minutes, and they were already prepared to leave. In the corner, Jacob was human again, with Renesmee on his lap, both of them watching us with wide eyes.
Rosalie had traded her silk wrap dress for a sturdy-looking pair of jeans, running shoes, and a button-down shirt made of the thick weave that backpackers used for long trips. Esme was dressed similarly. There was a globe on the coffee table, but they were done looking at it, just waiting for us.
The atmosphere was more positive now than before; it felt good to them to be in action. Their hopes
were pinned on Alice's instructions.
I looked at the globe and wondered where we were headed first.
"We're to stay here?" Edward asked, looking at Carlisle. He didn't sound happy.
"Alice said that we would have to show people Renesmee, and we would have to be careful about it," Carlisle said. "We'll send whomever we can find back here to you - Edward, you'll be the best at fielding that particular minefield."
Edward gave one sharp nod, still not happy. "There's a lot of ground to cover."