"Come in, please, Jacob," Bella croaked more loudly.
Carlisle's eyes tightened.
I wondered if Bella was thirsty. My eyes narrowed, too.
"Excuse me," I said to the doctor as I stepped around him. It was hard - it went against all my instincts to turn my back to one of them. Not impossible, though. If there was such a thing as a safe vampire, it was the strangely gentle leader.
I would stay away from Carlisle when the fight started. There were enough of them to kill without includinghim.
I sidestepped into the house, keeping my back to the wall. My eyes swept the room - it was unfamiliar. The last time I'd been in here it had been all done up for a party. Everything was bright and pale now. Including the six vampires standing in a group by the white sofa.
They were all here, all together, but that was not what froze me where I stood and had my jaw dropping to thefloor.
Itwas Edward. It was the expression on his face.
I'd seen him angry, and I'd seen him arrogant, and onceI'd seen him in pain. But this - this was beyond agony. His eyes were half-crazed. He didn't look up to glare at me. He stared down at the couch beside him with an expression like someone had lit him on fire. His hands were rigid claws at his side.
I couldn't even enjoy his anguish. I could only think of one thing that would make him look like that, and my eyes followed his.
I saw her at the same moment that I caught her scent.
Her warm, clean, human scent.
Bella was half-hidden behind the arm of the sofa, curled up in a loose fetal position, her arms wrapped around her knees. For a long second I could see nothing except that she was still the Bella that I loved, her skin still a soft, pale peach, her eyes still the same chocolate brown. My heart thudded a strange, broken meter, and I wondered if this was just some lying dream that I was about to wake up from.
Then I really saw her.
There were deep circles under her eyes, dark circles that jumped out because her face was all haggard. Was she thinner? Her skin seemed tight - like her cheekbones might break right through it. Most of her dark hair was pulled away from her face into a messy knot, but a few strands stuck limply to her forehead and neck, to the sheen of sweat that covered her skin. There was something about her fingers and wrists that looked so fragile it was scary.
She was sick. Very sick.
Not a lie. The story Charlie'd told Billy was not a story. While I stared, eyes bugging, her skin turned light green.
The blond bloodsucker - the showy one, Rosalie - bent over her, cutting into my view, hovering in a strange, protective way.
This was wrong. I knew how Bella felt about almost everything - her thoughts were so obvious; sometimes it was like they were printed on her forehead. So she didn't have to tell me every detail of a situation for me to get it. I knew that Bella didn't like Rosalie. I'd seen it in the set of her lips when she talked about her. Not just that she didn't like her. She was afraid of Rosalie. Or she had been.
There was no fear as Bella glanced up at her now. Her expression was... apologetic or something. Then Rosalie snatched a basin from the floor and held it under Bella's chin just in time for Bella to throw up noisily into it.
Edward fell to his knees by Bella's side - his eyes all tortured-looking - and Rosalie held out her hand, warning him to keep back.
None of it made sense.
When she could raise her head, Bella smiled weakly at me, sort of embarrassed. "Sorry about that," she whispered to me.
Edward moaned real quiet. His head slumped against Bella's knees. She put one of her hands against his cheek. Like she was comforting him.
I didn't realize my legs had carried me forward until Rosalie hissed at me, suddenly appearing between me and the couch. She was like a person on a TV screen. I didn't care she was there. She didn't seem real.
"Rose, don't," Bella whispered. "It's fine."
Blondie moved out of my way, though I could tell she hated to do it. Scowling at me, she crouched by Bella's head, tensed to spring. She was easier to ignore than I ever would have dreamed.
"Bella, what's wrong?" I whispered. Without thinking about it, I found myself on my knees, too, leaning over the back of the couch across from her... husband. He didn't seem to notice me, and I barely glanced at him. I reached out for her free hand, taking it in both of mine. Her skin was icy. "Are you all right?"
It was a stupid question. She didn't answer it.
"I'm so glad you came to see me today, Jacob," she said.
Even though I knew Edward couldn't hear her thoughts, he seemed to hear some meaning I didn't. He moaned again, into the blanket that covered her, and she stroked his cheek.
"What is it, Bella?" I insisted, wrapping my hands tight around her cold, fragile fingers.
Instead of answering, she glanced around the room like she was searching for something, both a plea and a warning in her look. Six pairs of anxious yellow eyes stared back at her. Finally, she turned to Rosalie.
"Help me up, Rose?" she asked.
Rosalie's lips pulled back over her teeth, and she glared up at me like she wanted to rip my throat out. I was sure that was exactly the case.
The blonde made a face, but leaned over her again, next to Edward, who didn't move an inch. She put her arm carefully behind Bella's shoulders.
"No," I whispered. "Don't get up___" She looked so weak.
"I'm answering your question," she snapped, sounding a little bit more like the way she usually talked to me.
Rosalie pulled Bella off the couch. Edward stayed where he was, sagging forward till his face was buried in the cushions. The blanket fell to the ground at Bella's feet.
Bella:s body was swollen, her torso ballooning out in a strange, sick way. It strained against the faded gray sweatshirt that was way too big for her shoulders and arms. The rest of her seemed thinner, like the big bulge had grown out of what it had sucked from her. It took me a second to realize what the deformed part was - I didn't understand until she folded her hands tenderly around her bloated stomach, one above and one below. Like she was cradling it.