Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined (Page 78)

It was so strange, seeing my memories again, but this time with subtitles. Understanding for the first time what it had all meant, understanding the danger. Poor Mr. Cope. I flinched at the thought of how close I’d come to being inadvertently responsible for his death.

“But I resisted. I don’t know how. I forced myself not to wait for you, not to follow you from the school. It was easier outside, when I couldn’t smell you anymore, to think clearly, to make the right decision. I left the others near home—I was too ashamed to tell them how weak I was, they only knew something was very wrong—and then I went straight to Carine, at the hospital, to tell her I was leaving.”

I stared in surprise.

“I traded cars with her—she had a full tank of gas and I was afraid to stop. I didn’t dare to go home, to face Earnest. He wouldn’t have let me go without a fight. He would have tried to convince me that it wasn’t necessary.…

“By the next morning I was in Alaska.” She sounded ashamed, as if she was admitting some huge display of cowardice. “I spent two days there, with some old acquaintances… but I was homesick. I hated knowing I’d upset Earnest, and the rest of them, my adopted family. In the pure air of the mountains it was hard to believe you were so irresistible. I convinced myself it was weak to run away. I’d dealt with temptation before, not of this magnitude, not even close, but I was strong. Who were you, an insignificant human boy”—she grinned suddenly—“to chase me from the place I wanted to be? Ah, the deadly sin of pride.” She shook her head. “So I came back.…”

I couldn’t speak.

“I took precautions, hunting, feeding more than usual before seeing you again. I was sure that I was strong enough to treat you like any other human. I was arrogant about it.

“It was unquestionably a complication that I couldn’t simply read your thoughts to know what your reaction was to me. I wasn’t used to having to go to such circuitous measures, listening to your words in Jeremy’s mind.… His mind isn’t very original, and it was annoying to have to stoop to that. And then I couldn’t know if you really meant what you were saying, or just saying what you thought your audience wanted to hear. It was all extremely irritating.” She frowned at the memory.

“I wanted you to forget my behavior that first day, if possible, so I tried to talk with you like I would with any person. I was eager, actually, hoping to decipher some of your thoughts. But you were too interesting, I found myself caught up in your expressions… and every now and then you would move and the air would stir around you.… The scent would stun me again.…

“Of course, then you were nearly crushed to death in front of my eyes. Later I thought of a perfectly good excuse for why I acted at that moment—because if I hadn’t saved you, if your blood had been spilled there in front of me, I don’t think I could have stopped myself from exposing us for what we are. But I only thought of that excuse later. At the time, all I could think was, Not him.”

She shut her eyes, her expression agonized. For a long moment she was silent. I waited eagerly, which probably wasn’t the brightest reaction. But it was such a relief to finally understand the other half of the story.

“In the hospital?” I asked.

Her eyes flashed up to mine. “I was appalled. I couldn’t believe I had put us in danger after all, put myself in your power—you of all people. As if I needed another motive to kill you.” We both flinched as that word slipped out, and she continued quickly. “But the disaster had the opposite effect. I fought with Royal, El, and Jessamine when they suggested that now was the time… the worst fight we’ve ever had. Carine sided with me, and Archie.” She frowned sourly when she said his name. I couldn’t imagine why. “Earnest told me to do whatever I had to in order to stay.” She shook her head, a little indulgent smile on her lips.

“All that next day I eavesdropped on the minds of everyone you spoke to, shocked that you kept your word. I didn’t understand you at all. But I knew that I couldn’t become more involved with you. I did my very best to stay as far from you as possible. And every day the perfume of your skin, your breath… it hit me as hard as the very first day.”

She met my eyes again, and hers were oddly tender.

“And for all that,” she continued, “I’d have fared better if I had exposed us all at that first moment, than if now, here—with no witnesses and nothing to stop me—I were to hurt you.”

“Why?”

“Oh, Beau.” She touched my cheekbone lightly with her fingertips. A shock ran through me at this casual contact. “Beau, I couldn’t survive hurting you. You don’t know how it’s tortured me”—she looked down, ashamed again—“the thought of you, still, white, cold… to never see your face turn red again, to never see that flash of intuition in your eyes when you see through my pretenses… I couldn’t bear it.” She lifted her glorious, agonized eyes to mine. “You are the most important thing to me now. The most important thing to me ever.”

My head was spinning at this rapid change in direction. Just minutes ago I’d thought we were talking about my imminent death. Now, suddenly, we were making declarations.

I gripped her hand tighter, staring into her golden eyes.

“You already know how I feel. I’m here because I would rather die with you than live without you.” I realized how melodramatic that sounded. “Sorry, I’m an idiot.”

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