The scent ruled completely. I was single-minded as I traced it, aware only of the thirst and the smell that promised to quench it. The thirst got worse, so painful now that it confused all my other thoughts and began to remind me of the burn of venom in my veins.
There was only one thing that had any chance of penetrating my focus now, an instinct more powerful, more basic than the need to quench the fire - it was the instinct to protect myself from danger. Self-preservation.
I was suddenly alert to the fact that I was being followed. The pull of the irresistible scent warred with the impulse to turn and defend my hunt. A bubble of sound built in my chest, my lips pulled back of their own accord to expose my teeth in warning. My feet slowed, the need to protect my back struggling against the desire to quench my thirst.
And then I could hear my pursuer gaining, and defense won. As I spun, the rising sound ripped its way up my throat and out.
The feral snarl, coming from my own mouth, was so unexpected that it brought me up short. It unsettled me, and it cleared my head for a second - the thirst-driven haze receded, though the thirst burned on.
The wind shifted, blowing the smell of wet earth and coming rain across my face, further freeing me from the other scent's fiery grip - a scent so delicious it could only be human.
Edward hesitated a few feet away, his arms raised as if to embrace me - or restrain me. His face was intent and cautious as I froze, horrified.
I realized that I had been about to attack him. With a hard jerk, I straightened out of my defensive crouch. I held my breath as I refocused, fearing the power of the fragrance swirling up from the south.
He could see reason return to my face, and he took a step toward me, lowering his arms.
"I have to get away from here," I spit through my teeth, using the breath I had.
Shock crossed his face. "Can you leave?"
I didn't have time to ask him what he meant by that. I knew the ability to think clearly would last only as long as I could stop myself from thinking of -
I burst into a run again, a flat-out sprint straight north, concentrating solely on the uncomfortable feeling of sensory deprivation that seemed to be my body's only response to the lack of air. My one goal was to run far
enough away that the scent behind me would be completely lost. Impossible to find, even if I changed my mind...
Once again, I was aware of being followed, but I was sane this time. I fought the instinct to breathe - to use the flavors in the air to be sure it was Edward. I didn't have to fight long; though I was running faster than I ever had before, shooting like a comet through the straightest path I could find in the trees; Edward caught up with me after a short minute.
A new thought occurred to me, and I stopped dead, my feet planted. I was sure it must be safe here, but I held my breath just in case.
Edward blew past me, surprised by my sudden freeze. He wheeled around and was at my side in a second. He put his hands on my shoulders and stared into my eyes, shock still the dominant emotion on his face.
"How did you do that?" he demanded.
"You let me beat you before, didn't you?" I demanded back, ignoring his question. And I'd thought I'd been doing sowell!
When I opened my mouth, I could taste the air - it was unpolluted now, with no trace of the compelling perfume to torment my thirst. I took a cautious breath.
He shrugged and shook his head, refusing to be deflected. "Bella, how did you do it?"
"Run away? I held my breath."
"But how did you stop hunting?"
"When you came up behind me... I'm so sorry about that."
"Why are you apologizing to me? I'm the one who was horribly careless. I assumed no one would be so far from the trails, but I should have checked first. Such a stupid mistake! You have nothing to apologize for."
"But I growled at you!" I was still horrified that I was physically capable of such blasphemy.
"Of course you did. That's only natural. But I can't understand how you ran away."
"What else could I do?" I asked. His attitude confused me - what did he want to have happened? "It might have been someone I know!"
He startled me, suddenly bursting into a spasm of loud laughter, throwing his head back and letting the sound echo off the trees.
"Why are you laughing at me?"
He stopped at once, and I could see he was wary again.
Keep it under control,I thought to myself. I had to watch my temper. Just like I was a young werewolf rather than a vampire.
"I'm not laughing at you,Bella. I'm laughing because I am in shock. And I am in shock because I am completely amazed."
"You shouldn't be able to do any of this. You shouldn't be so... so rational. You shouldn't be able to stand here discussing this with me calmly and coolly. And, much more than any of that, you should not have been able to break
off mid-hunt with the scent of human blood in the air. Even mature vampires have difficulty with that - we're always very careful of where we hunt so as not to put ourselves in the path of temptation. Bella, you're behaving like you're decades rather than days old."
"Oh." But I'd known it was going to be hard. That was why I'd been so on guard. I'd been expecting it to be difficult.
He put his hands on my face again, and his eyes were full of wonder. "What wouldn't I give to be able to see into your mind for just this one moment."
Such powerful emotions. I'd been prepared for the thirst part, but not this. I'd been so sure it wouldn't be the same when he touched me. Well, truthfully, it wasn't the same.
It was stronger.
I reached up to trace the planes of his face; my fingers lingered on his lips.