"What's a good one?"

"How about, 'Jacob, I get a kick out of your pain.'"

I felt her flinch.

"You'd like that better?" she whispered.

"It's easier, at least. I could wrap my head around it. I could deal with it."

I looked back down at her face then, so close to mine. Her eyes were shut and she was frowning. "We got off track, Jake. Out of balance. You're supposed to be part of my life - I can feel that, and so can you." She paused for a second without opening her eyes - like she was waiting for me to deny it. When I didn't say anything, she went on. "But not like this. We did something wrong. No. I did. I did something wrong, and we got off track___"

Her voice trailed off, and the frown on her face relaxed until it was just a little pucker at the corner of her lips. I waited for her to pour some more lemon juice into my paper cuts, but then a soft snore came from the back of her throat.

"She's exhausted," Edward murmured. "It's been a long day. A hard day. I think she would have gone to sleep earlier, but she was waiting for you."

I didn't look at him.

"Seth said it broke another of her ribs."

"Yes. It's making it hard for her to breathe."


"Let me know when she gets hot again."


She still had goose bumps on the arm that wasn't touching mine. I'd barely raised my head to look for a blanket when Edward snagged one draped over the arm of the sofa and flung it out so that it settled over her.

Occasionally, the mind-reading thing saved time. For example, maybe I wouldn't have to make a big production out of the accusation about what was going on with Charlie. That mess. Edward would just hear exactly how furious -

"Yes," he agreed. "It's not a good idea."

"Then why?" Why was Bella telling her father she was on the mend when it would only make him more miserable?

"She can't bear his anxiety."

"So it's better - "

"No. It's not better. But I'm not going to force her to do anything that makes her unhappy now. Whatever happens, this makes her feel better. I'll deal with the rest afterward."

That didn't sound right. Bella wouldn't just shuffle Charlie's pain off to some later date, for someone else to face. Even dying. That wasn't her. If I knew Bella, she had to have some other plan.

"She's very sure she's going to live," Edward said.

"But not human," I protested.

"No, not human. But she hopes to see Charlie again, anyway."

Oh, this just got better and better.

"See. Charlie." I finally looked at him, my eyes bugging. "Afterwards. See Charlie when she's all sparkly white with the bright red eyes. I'm not a bloodsucker, so maybe I'm missing something, but Charlie seems like kind of a strange choice for her first meal."

Edward sighed. "She knows she won't be able to be near him for at least a year. She thinks she can stall. Tell Charlie she has to go to a special hospital on the other side of the world. Keep in contact through phone calls___"

"That's insane."


"Charlie's not stupid. Even if she doesn't kill him, he's going to notice a difference."

"She's sort of banking on that."

I continued to stare, waiting for him to explain.

"She wouldn't be aging, of course, so that would set a time limit, even if Charlie accepted whatever excuse she comes up with for the changes." He smiled faintly. "Do you remember when you tried to tell her about your transformation? How you made her guess?"

My free hand flexed into a fist. "She told you about that?"

"Yes. She was explaining her... idea. You see, she's not allowed totell Charlie the truth - it would be very dangerous for him. But he's a smart, practical man. She thinks he'll come up with his own explanation. She assumes he'll get it wrong." Edward snorted. "After all, we hardly adhere to vampire canon. He'll make some wrong assumption about us, like she did in the beginning, and we'll go along with

it. She thinks she'll be able to see him... from time to time."

"Insane," I repeated.

"Yes," he agreed again.

It was weak of him to let her get her way on this, just to keep her happy now. It wouldn't turn out well.

Which made me think that he probably wasn't expecting her to live to try out her crazy plan. Placating her, so that she could be happy for a little while longer.

Like four more days.

"I'll deal with whatever comes," he whispered, and he turned his face down and away so that I couldn't even read his reflection. "I won't cause her pain now."

"Four days?"I asked.

He didn't look up. "Approximately."

"Then what?"

"What do you mean, exactly?"

I thought about what Bella had said. About the thing being wrapped up nice and tight in something strong, something like vampire skin. So how did that work? How did it get out?

"From what little research we've been able to do, it would appear the creatures use their own teeth to escape the womb," he whispered.

I had to pause to swallow back the bile.

"Research?" I asked weakly.

"That's why you haven't seen Jasper and Emmett around. That's what Carlisle is doing now. Trying to decipher ancient stories and myths, as much as we can with what we have to work with here, looking for anything that might help us predict the creature's behavior."

Stories? If there were myths, then...

"Then is this thing not the first of its kind?" Edward asked, anticipating my question. "Maybe. It's all very sketchy. The myths could easily be the products of fear and imagination. Though .. ." - he hesitated - "your myths are true, are they not? Perhaps these are, too. They do seem to be localized, linked___"