Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined (Page 76)

After ten very long seconds, she walked back, slowly for her. She stopped when she was still several feet away and sank gracefully to the ground, crossing her legs underneath her. Her eyes never left mine. She took two deep breaths, then smiled apologetically.

“I am so very sorry.” She hesitated. “Would you understand what I meant if I said I was only human?”

I nodded, not quite able to smile at her joke. Adrenaline pushed through my system as I realized what had almost happened. She could smell that from where she sat. Her smile turned mocking.

“I’m the world’s best predator, aren’t I? Everything about me invites you in—my voice, my face, even my smell. As if I needed any of that!”

Suddenly she was just a blur. I blinked and she’d vanished; then she was standing beneath the same tree as before, having circled the entire meadow in a fraction of a second.

“As if you could outrun me,” she said bitterly.

She leaped a dozen feet straight up, grabbing a two-foot-thick branch and wrenching it away from the trunk without any sign of effort. She was back on the ground in the same instant, balancing the huge, gnarled lance in one hand for just a second. Then with blinding speed she swung it—one-handed—like a bat at the tree she’d ripped it from.

With an explosive boom, both the branch and the tree shattered in half.

Before I even had time to shy away from the detonation, before the tree could even fall to the ground, she was right in front of me again, just two feet away, still as a sculpture.

“As if you could fight me off,” she said gently. Behind her, the sound of the tree crashing to the earth echoed through the forest.

I’d never seen her so completely freed of her careful human façade. She’d never been less human… or more beautiful. I couldn’t move, like a bird trapped by the eyes of a snake.

Her eyes seemed to glow with excitement. Then, as the seconds passed, they dimmed. Her expression slowly folded into a mask of sadness. She looked like she was about to cry, and I struggled up to my knees, one hand reaching toward her.

She held out her hand, cautioning me. “Wait.”

I froze again.

She took one step toward me. “Don’t be afraid,” she murmured, and her velvet voice was unintentionally seductive. “I promise…” She hesitated. “I swear I will not hurt you.” She seemed like she was trying to convince herself just as much as she was trying to convince me.

“You don’t have to be afraid,” she whispered again as she stepped closer with exaggerated slowness. She stopped just a foot away and gently touched her hand to the one I still had stretched toward her. I wrapped mine around hers tightly.

“Please forgive me,” she said in a formal tone. “I can control myself. You caught me off guard. I’m on my best behavior now.”

She waited for me to respond, but I just knelt there in front of her, staring, my brain totally scrambled.

“I’m not thirsty today, honestly.” She winked.

That made me laugh, though my laugh sounded a little winded.

“Are you all right?” she asked, reaching out—slowly, carefully—to put her other hand on top of mine.

I looked at her smooth, marble hand, and then at her eyes. They were soft, repentant, but I could see some of the sadness still in them.

I smiled up at her so widely that my cheeks hurt. Her answering smile was dazzling.

With a deliberately unhurried, sinuous movement, she sank down, curling her legs beneath her. Awkwardly I copied her, till we were sitting facing each other, knees touching, our hands still wrapped together between us.

“So where were we, before I behaved so rudely?”

“I honestly have no idea.”

She smiled, but her face was ashamed. “I think we were talking about why you were afraid, besides the obvious reason.”

“Oh, right.”

“Well?”

I looked down at our hands, turning mine so that the light would glisten across hers.

“How easily frustrated I am,” she sighed.

I looked into her eyes, suddenly realizing that this was every bit as new to her as it was to me. However many years of experience she’d had before we’d met, this was hard for her, too. That made me braver.

“I was afraid… because for, well, obvious reasons, I probably can’t stay with you, can I? And that’s what I want, much more than I should.”

“Yes,” she agreed slowly. “Being with me has never been in your best interest.”

I frowned.

“I should have left that first day and not come back. I should leave now.” She shook her head. “I might have been able to do it then. I don’t know how to do it now.”

“Don’t. Please.”

Her face turned brittle. “Don’t worry. I’m essentially a selfish creature. I crave your company too much to do what I should.”

“Good!”

She glared, carefully extricating her hands from mine and then folding them across her chest. Her voice was harsher when she spoke again.

“You should never forget that it’s not only your company I crave. Never forget that I am more dangerous to you than I am to anyone else.” She stared unseeingly into the forest.

I thought for a moment.

“I don’t think I understand exactly what you mean by that last part.”

She looked back and smiled at me, her unpredictable mood shifting again.

“How do I explain? And without horrifying you?”

Without seeming to think about it, she placed her hand back in mine. I held it tightly. She looked at our hands.

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