6. DISTRACTIONS

My entertainment became the number-one priority on isle Esme. We snorkeled (well, I snorkeled while he flaunted his ability to go without oxygen indefinitely). We explored the small jungle that ringed the rocky little peak. We visited the parrots that lived in the canopy on the south end of the island. We watched the sunset from the rocky western cove. We swam with the porpoises that played in the warm,

shallow waters there. Or at least I did; when Edward was in the water, the porpoises disappeared as if a shark was near.

I knew what was going on. He was trying to keep me busy, distracted, so I that wouldn't continue badgering him about the sex thing. Whenever I tried to talk him into taking it easy with one of the million DVDs under the big-screen plasma TV, he would lure me out of the house with magic words like coral reefs and submerged caves and sea turtles. We were going, going, going all day, so that I found myself completely famished and exhausted when the sun eventually set.

I drooped over my plate after I finished dinner every night; once I'd actually fallen asleep right at the table and he'd had to carry me to bed. Part of it was that Edward always made too much food for one, but I was so hungry after swimming and climbing all day that I ate most of it. Then, full and worn out, I could barely keep my eyes open. All part of the plan, no doubt.

Exhaustion didn't help much with my attempts at persuasion. But I didn't give up. I tried reasoning, pleading, and grouching, all to no avail. I was usually unconscious before I could really press my case far. And then my dreams felt so real - nightmares mostly, made more vivid, I guessed, by the too-bright colors of the island - that I woke up tired no matter how long I slept.

About a week or so after we'd gotten to the island, I decided to try compromise. It had worked for us in the past.

I was sleeping in the blue room now. The cleaning crew wasn't due until the next day, and so the white room still had a snowy blanket of down. The blue room was smaller, the bed more reasonably proportioned. The walls were

dark, paneled in teak, and the fittings were all luxurious blue silk.

I'd taken to wearing some of Alice's lingerie collection to sleep in at night - which weren't so revealing compared to the scanty bikinis she'd packed for me when it came right down to it. I wondered if she'd seen a vision of why I would want such things, and then shuddered, embarrassed by that thought.

I'd started out slow with innocent ivory satins, worried that revealing more of my skin would be the opposite of helpful, but ready to try anything. Edward seemed to notice nothing, as if I were wearing the same ratty old sweats I wore at home.

The bruises were much better now - yellowing in some places and disappearing altogether in others - so tonight I pulled out one of the scarier pieces as I got ready in the paneled bathroom. It was black, lacy, and embarrassing to look at even when it wasn't on. I was careful not to look in the mirror before I went back to the bedroom. I didn't want to lose my nerve.

I had the satisfaction of watching his eyes pop open wide for just a second before he controlled his expression.

"What do you think?" I asked, pirouetting so that he could see every angle.

He cleared his throat. "You look beautiful. You always do."

"Thanks," I said a bit sourly.

I was too tired to resist climbing quickly into the soft bed. He put his arms around me and pulled me

against his chest, but this was routine - it was too hot to sleep without his cool body close.

"I'll make you a deal," I said sleepily.

"I will not make any deals with you," he answered.

"You haven't even heard what I'm offering."

"It doesn't matter."

I sighed. "Dang it. And I really wanted... Oh well."

He rolled his eyes.

I closed mine and let the bait sit there. I yawned.

It took only a minute - not long enough for me to zonk out.

"All right. What is it you want?"

I gritted my teeth for a second, fighting a smile. If there was one thing he couldn't resist, it was an opportunity to give me something.

"Well, I was thinking... I know that the whole Dartmouth thing was just supposed to be a cover story, but honestly, one semester of college probably wouldn't kill me," I said, echoing his words from long ago, when he'd tried to persuade me to put off becoming a vampire. "Charlie would get a thrill out of Dartmouth stories, I bet. Sure, it might be embarrassing if I can't keep up with all the brainiacs. Still... eighteen, nineteen. It's really not such a big difference. It's not like I'm going to get crow's feet in the next year."

He was silent for a long moment. Then, in a low voice, he said, "You would wait. You would stay human."

I held my tongue, letting the offer sink in.

"Why are you doing this to me?" he said through his teeth, his tone suddenly angry. "Isn't it hard enough without all of this?" He grabbed a handful of lace that was ruffled on my thigh. For a moment, I thought he was going to rip it from the seam. Then his hand relaxed. "It doesn't matter. I won't make any deals with you."

"I want to goto college."

"No, you don't. And there is nothing that is worth risking your life again. That's worth hurting you."

"But I do want to go. Well, it's not college as much as it's that I want - I want to be human a little while longer."

He closed his eyes and exhaled through his nose. "You are making me insane, Bella. Haven't we had this argument a million times, you always begging to be a vampire without delay?"

"Yes, but... well, I have a reason to be human that I didn't have before."

"What's that?"

"Guess," I said, and I dragged myself off the pillows to kiss him.

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