"No," he said, but his voice was unsure.
Edward stroked his hand down my arm, as if encouraging me to thaw. "It's very impressive, Bella, but we don't understand it. We don't know how long it can hold."
I considered that for a portion of a second. At any moment, would I snap? Turn into a monster?
I couldn't feel it coming on.... Maybe there was no way to anticipate such a thing.
"But what do you think?" Alice asked, a little impatient now, pointing to the mirror.
"I'm not sure," I hedged, not wanting to admit how frightened I really was.
I stared at the beautiful woman with the terrifying eyes, looking for pieces of me. There was something there in the shape of her lips - if you looked past the dizzying beauty, it was true that her upper lip was slightly out of balance, a bit too full to match the lower. Finding this familiar little flaw made me feel a tiny bit better. Maybe the rest of me was in there, too.
I raised my hand experimentally, and the woman in the mirror copied the movement, touching her face, too. Her crimson eyes watched me warily.
I turned away from her to look at him, raising one eyebrow.
"Disappointed?" I asked, my ringing voice impassive.
He laughed. "Yes," he admitted.
I felt the shock break through the composed mask on my face, followed instantly by the hurt.
Alice snarled. Jasper leaned forward again, waiting for me to snap.
But Edward ignored them and wrapped his arms tightly around my newly frozen form, pressing his lips against my cheek. "I was rather hoping that I'd be able to hear your mind, now that it is more similar to my own," he murmured. "And here I am, as frustrated as ever, wondering what could possibly be going on inside your head."
I felt better at once.
"Oh well," I said lightly, relieved that my thoughts were still my own. "I guess my brain will never work right. At least I'm pretty."
It was becoming easier to joke with him as I adjusted, to think in straight lines. To be myself.
Edward growled in my ear. "Bella, you have never been merely pretty."
Then his face pulled away from mine, and he sighed. "All right, all right," he said to someone.
"What?" I asked.
"You're making Jasper more edgy by the second. He may relax a little when you've hunted."
I looked at Jasper's worried expression and nodded. I didn't want to snap here, if that was coming. Better to be surrounded by trees than family.
"Okay. Let's hunt," I agreed, a thrill of nerves and anticipation making my stomach quiver. I unwrapped Edward's arms from around me, keeping one of his hands, and turned my back on the strange and beautiful woman in the mirror.
21. FIRST HUNT
"The window?" I asked, staring two stories down.
I'd never really been afraid of heights per se, but being able to see all the details with such clarity made the prospect less appealing. The angles of the rocks below were sharper than I would have imagined them.
Edward smiled. "It's the most convenient exit. If you're frightened, I can carry you."
"We have all eternity, and you're worried about the time it would take to walk to the back door?"
He frowned slightly. "Renesmee and Jacob are downstairs___"
Right. I was the monster now. I had to keep away from scents that might trigger my wild side. From the people that I loved in particular. Even the ones I didn't really know yet.
"Is Renesmee... okay... with Jacob there?" I whispered. I realized belatedly that it must havebeen Jacob's heart I'd heard below. I listened hard again, but I could only hear the one steady pulse. "He doesn't like her much."
Edward's lips tightened in an odd way. "Trust me, she is perfectly safe. I know exactly what Jacob is thinking."
"Of course," I murmured, and looked at the ground again.
"Stalling?" he challenged.
"A little. I don't know how...."
And I was very conscious of my family behind me, watching silently. Mostly silently. Emmett had already chuckled under his breath once. One mistake, and he'd be rolling on the floor. Then the jokes about the world's only clumsy vampire would start....
Also, this dress - that Alice must have put me in sometime when I was too lost in the burning to notice - was not what I would have picked out for either jumping or hunting. Tightly fitted ice-blue silk? What did she think I would need it for? Was there a cocktail party later?
"Watch me," Edward said. And then, very casually, he stepped out of the tall, open window and fell.
I watched carefully, analyzing the angle at which he bent his knees to absorb the impact. The sound of his landing was very low - a muted thud that could have been a door softly closed, or a book gently laid on a table.
It didn't look hard.
Clenching my teeth as I concentrated, I tried to copy his casual step into empty air.
Ha! The ground seemed to move toward me so slowly that it was nothing at all to place my feet - what shoes had Alice put me in? Stilettos? She'd lost her mind - to place mysilly shoes exactly right so that landing was no different than stepping one foot forward on a flat surface.
I absorbed the impact in the balls of my feet, not wanting to snap off the thin heels. My landing seemed just as quiet as his. I grinned at him.
He smiled back. "Bella?"
"That was quite graceful - even for a vampire."
I considered that for a moment, and then I beamed. If he'd just been saying that, then Emmett would have laughed. No one found his remark humorous, so it must have been true. It was the first time anyone had ever applied the word graceful 'to me in my entire life... or, well, existence anyway.
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