So by the time I found myself crouched against the wall defensively - about a sixteenth of a second later - I already understood what had startled me, and that I had overreacted.
Oh. Of course. Edward wouldn't feel cold to me. We were the same temperature now.
I held my pose for an eighth of a second longer, adjusting to the scene before me.
Edward was leaning across the operating table that had been my pyre, his hand reached out toward me, his expression anxious.
Edward's face was the most important thing, but my peripheral vision catalogued everything else, just in
case. Some instinct to defend had been triggered, and I automatically searched for any sign of danger.
My vampire family waited cautiously against the far wall by the door, Emmett and Jasper in the front. Like there was danger. My nostrils flared, searching for the threat. I could smell nothing out of place. That faint scent of something delicious - but marred by harsh chemicals - tickled my throat again, setting it to aching and burning.
Alice was peeking around Jasper's elbow with a huge grin on her face; the light sparkled off her teeth, another eight-color rainbow.
That grin reassured me and then put the pieces together. Jasper and Emmett were in the front to protect the others, as I had assumed. What I hadn't grasped immediately was that was the danger.
All this was a sideline. The greater part of my senses and my mind were still focused on Edward's face.
I had never seen it before this second.
How many times had I stared at Edward and marveled over his beauty? How many hours - days, weeks - of my life had I spent dreaming about what I then deemed to be perfection? I thought I'd known his face better than my own. I'd thought this was the one sure physical thing in my whole world: the flawlessness of Edward's face.
I may as well have been blind.
For the first time, with the dimming shadows and limiting weakness of humanity taken off my eyes, I saw his face. I gasped and then struggled with my vocabulary, unable to find the right words. I needed better words.
At this point, the other part of my attention had ascertained that there was no danger here besides myself, and I automatically straightened out of my crouch; almost a whole second had passed since I'd been on the table.
I was momentarily preoccupied by the way my body moved. The instant I'd considered standing erect, I was already straight. There was no brief fragment of time in which the action occurred; change was instantaneous, almost as if there was no movement at all.
I continued to stare at Edward's face, motionless again.
He moved slowly around the table - each step taking nearly half a second, each step flowing sinuously like river water weaving over smooth stones - his hand still outstretched.
I watched the grace of his advance, absorbing it with my new eyes.
"Bella?" he asked in a low, calming tone, but the worry in his voice layered my name with tension.
I could not answer immediately, lost as I was in the velvet folds of his voice. It was the most perfect symphony, a symphony in one instrument, an instrument more profound than any created by man___
"Bella, love? I'm sorry, I know it's disorienting. But you're all right. Everything is fine."
Everything? My mind spun out, spiraling back to my last human hour. Already, the memory seemed dim, like I was watching through a thick, dark veil - because my human eyes had been half blind. Everything had been so blurred.
When he said everything was fine, did that include Renesmee? Where was she? With Rosalie? I tried to remember her face - I knew that she had been beautiful - but it was irritating to try to see through the human memories. Her face was shrouded in darkness, so poorly lit___
What about Jacob? Was he fine? Did my long-suffering best friend hate me now? Had he gone back to Sam's pack? Seth and Leah, too?
Were the Cullens safe, or had my transformation ignited the war with the pack? Did Edward's blanket assurance cover all of that? Or was he just trying to calm me?
And Charlie? What would I tell him now? He must have called while I was burning. What had they told him? What did he think had happened to me?
As I deliberated for one small piece of a second over which question to ask first, Edward reached out tentatively and stroked his fingertips across my cheek. Smooth as satin, soft as a feather, and now exactly matched to the temperature of my skin.
His touch seemed to sweep beneath the surface of my skin, right through the bones of my face. The feeling was tingly, electric - it jolted through my bones, down my spine, and trembled in my stomach.
Wait,I thought as the trembling blossomed into a warmth, a yearning. Wasn't I supposed to lose this? Wasn't giving up this feeling a part of the bargain?
I was a newborn vampire. The dry, scorching ache in my throat gave proof to that. And I knew what being a newborn entailed. Human emotions and longings would come back to me later in some form, but I'd accepted that I would not feel them in the beginning. Only thirst. That was the deal, the price. I'd agreed to pay it.
But as Edward's hand curled to the shape of my face like satin-covered steel, desire raced through my dried-out veins, singing from my scalp to my toes.
He arched one perfect eyebrow, waiting for me to speak.
I threw my arms around him.
Again, it was like there was no movement. One moment I stood straight and still as a statue; in the same instant, he was in my arms.
Warm - or at least, that was my perception. With the sweet, delicious scent that I'd never been able to really take in with my dull human senses, but that was one hundred percent Edward. I pressed my face into his smooth chest.
And then he shifted his weight uncomfortably. Leaned away from my embrace. I stared up at his face, confused and frightened by the rejection.
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