"That's just..." I couldn't find the right word.

"Monstrous?" Edward suggested. "Repulsive?"

"Pretty much."

"But what if it helps her?" he whispered.

I shook my head angrily. "What are you gonna do, shove a tube down her throat?"

"I plan to ask her what she thinks. I just wanted to run it past Carlisle first."

Rosalie nodded. "If you tell her it might help the baby, she'll be willing to do anything. Even if we do have to feed them through a tube."

I realized then - when I heard how her voice got all loveydovey as she said the word baby - that Blondie would be in line with anything that helped the little life-sucking monster. Was that what was going on, the mystery factor that was bonding the two of them? Was Rosalie after the kid?

From the corner of my eye, I saw Edward nod once, absently, not looking in my direction. But I knew he was answering my questions.

Huh. I wouldn't have thought the ice-cold Barbie would have a maternal side. So much for protecting Bella - Rosalie'd probably jam the tube down Bella's throat herself.

Edward's mouth mashed into a hard line, and I knew I was right again.

"Well, we don't have time to sit around discussing this," Rosalie said impatiently. "What do you think, Carlisle? Can we try?"

Carlisle took a deep breath, and then he was on his feet. "We'll ask Bella."

Blondie smiled smugly - sure that, if it was up to Bella, she would get her way.

I dragged myself up from the stairs and followed after them as they disappeared into the house. I wasn't sure why. Just morbid curiosity, maybe. It was like a horror movie. Monsters and blood all over the place.

Maybe I just couldn't resist another hit of my dwindling drug supply.

Bella lay flat on the hospital bed, her belly a mountain under the sheet. She looked like wax - colorless and sort of see-through. You'd think she was already dead, except for the tiny movement of her chest, her shallow breathing. And then her eyes, following the four of us with exhausted suspicion.

The others were at her side already, flitting across the room with sudden darting motions. It was creepy to watch. 1 ambled along at a slow walk.

"What's going on?" Bella demanded in a scratchy whisper. Her waxy hand twitched up - like she was trying to protect her balloon-shaped stomach.

"Jacob had an idea that might help you," Carlisle said. I wished he would leave me out of it. I hadn't suggested anything. Give the credit to her bloodsucking husband, where it belonged. "It won't be... pleasant, but - "

"But it will help the baby," Rosalie interrupted eagerly. "We've thought of a better way to feed him. Maybe."

Bella's eyelids fluttered. Then she coughed out a weak chuckle. "Not pleasant?" she whispered. "Gosh, that'll be such a change." She eyed the tube stuck into her arm and coughed again.

Blondie laughed with her.

The girl looked like she only had hours left, and she had to be in pain, but she was making jokes. So Bella.

Trying to ease the tension, make it better for everyone else.

Edward stepped around Rosalie, no humor touching his intense expression. I was glad for that. It helped, just a little bit, that he was suffering worse than me. He took her hand, not the one that was still protecting her swollen belly.

"Bella, love, we're going to ask you to do something monstrous," he said, using the same adjectives he'd offered me. "Repulsive."

Well, at least he was giving it to her straight.

She took a shallow, fluttery breath. "How bad?"

Carlisle answered. "We think the fetus might have an appetite closer to ours than to yours. We think it's thirsty."

She blinked. "Oh. Oh."

"Your condition - both of your conditions - are deteriorating rapidly. We don't have time to waste, to come up with more palatable ways to do this. The fastest way to test the theory - "

"I've got to drink it," she whispered. She nodded slightly - barely enough energy for a little head bob. "I can do that. Practice for the future, right?" Her colorless lips stretched into a faint grin as she looked at Edward. He didn't smile back.

Rosalie started tapping her toe impatiently. The sound was really irritating. I wondered what she would do if I threw her through a wall right now.

"So, who's going to catch me a grizzly bear?" Bella whispered.

Carlisle and Edward exchanged a quick glance. Rosalie stopped tapping.

"What?" Bella asked.

"It will be a more effective test if we don't cut corners, Bella," Carlisle said.

"Ifthe fetus is craving blood," Edward explained, "it's not craving animal blood."

"It won't make a difference to you, Bella. Don't think about it," Rosalie encouraged.

Bella's eyes widened. "Who?" she breathed, and her gaze flickered to me.

"I'm not here as a donor, Bells," I grumbled. "'Sides, it's human blood that thing's after, and I don't think mine applies - "

"We have blood on hand," Rosalie told her, talking over me before I'd finished, like I wasn't there. "For you - just in case. Don't worry about anything at all. It's going to be fine. I have a good feeling about this, Bella. I think the baby will be so much better."

Bella:s hand ran across her stomach.

"Well," she rasped, barely audible. "I'm starving, so I'll bet he is, too." Trying to make another joke. "Let's go for it. My first vampire act."

13. GOOD THING I'VE GOT A STRONG STOMACH

Carlisle and Rosalie were off in a flash, darting upstairs. I could hear them debating whether they should warm it up for her. Ugh. i wondered what all house-of-horrors stuff they kept around here. Fridge full of blood, check. What else? Torture chamber? Coffin room?

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