Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined (Page 87)

“Never go away,” I suggested.

Her face relaxed into a smile. “That suits me. Bring on the shackles—I am your prisoner.” While she spoke, she laced her cold fingers around my wrist like a manacle. “And now, if you don’t mind, may I borrow a blanket?”

It took me a second. “Oh, um, sure. Here.”

I reached behind her with my free hand and snagged the old quilt that was folded over the foot of my bed, then offered it to her. She dropped my wrist, took the blanket and shook it out, then handed it back to me.

“I’d be happier if I knew you were comfortable.”

“I’m very comfortable.”

“Please?”

Quickly, I threw the quilt over my shoulders like a cape.

She chuckled quietly. “Not exactly what I was thinking.” She was already on her feet, rearranging the blanket over my legs and pulling it all the way up to my shoulders. Before I could understand what she was doing, she had climbed onto my lap again and nestled against my chest. The quilt made a barrier between any place that our skin might touch.

“Better?” she asked.

“I’m not sure about that.”

“Good enough?”

“Better than that.”

She laughed. I stroked her hair. That seemed careful.

“It’s so strange,” she said. “You read about something… you hear about it in other people’s minds, you watch it happen to them… and it doesn’t prepare you even in the slightest for experiencing it yourself. The glory of first love. It’s more than I was expecting.”

“Much more,” I agreed fervently.

“And other emotions, too—jealousy, for example. I thought I understood that one clearly. I’ve read about it a hundred thousand times, seen actors portray it in a thousand plays and movies, listened to it in the minds around me daily—even felt it myself in a shallow way, wishing I had what I didn’t.… But I was shocked.” She scowled. “Do you remember the day that McKayla asked you to the dance?”

I nodded, though that day was most memorable to me for a different reason. “The day you started talking to me again.”

“I was stunned by the flare of resentment, almost fury, that I felt—I didn’t recognize what it was at first. I didn’t know jealousy could be so powerful… so painful. And then you refused her, and I didn’t know why. It was more aggravating than usual that I couldn’t just hear what you were thinking. Was there someone else? Was it simply for Jeremy’s sake? I knew I had no right to care either way. I tried not to care.

“And then the line started forming.”

I groaned, and she laughed.

“I waited,” she went on, “more anxious than I should be to hear what you would say to them, to try to decipher your expressions. I couldn’t deny the relief I felt, watching the annoyance on your face. But I couldn’t be sure. I didn’t know what your answer would have been, if I’d asked.…”

She looked up at me. “That was the first night I came here. I wrestled all night, watching you sleep, with the chasm between what I knew was right, moral, ethical, honorable, and what I wanted. I knew that if I continued to ignore you as I should, or if I left for a few years, till you were gone, that someday you would find someone you wanted, someone human like McKayla. It made me sad.

“And then”—her voice dropped to an even quieter whisper—“as you were sleeping, you said my name. You spoke so clearly, at first I thought you’d woken. But you rolled over restlessly and mumbled my name once more, and sighed. The emotion that coursed through me then was unnerving… staggering. And I knew I couldn’t ignore you any longer.”

She was quiet for a moment, probably listening to the uneven pounding of my heart.

“But jealousy… it’s so irrational. Just now, when Charlie asked you about that annoying girl…”

“That made you jealous. Really?”

“I’m new at this. You’re resurrecting the human in me, and everything feels stronger because it’s fresh.”

“Honestly, though, for that to bother you, after I have to hear that Royal—male model of the year, Royal, Mr. Perfect, Royal—was meant for you. Eleanor or no Eleanor, how can I compete with that?”

Her teeth gleamed and her arms wove around my neck again. “There’s no competition.”

“That’s what I’m afraid of.” Tentatively, I folded my arms around her. “Is this okay?” I checked.

“Very.” She sighed happily. “Of course Royal is beautiful in his way, but even if he wasn’t like a brother to me, even if he didn’t belong with Eleanor, he could never have one tenth, no, one hundredth of the attraction you hold for me.” She was serious now, thoughtful. “For almost ninety years I’ve walked among my kind, and yours… all the time thinking I was complete in myself, not realizing what I was seeking. And not finding anything, because you weren’t alive yet.”

“It doesn’t seem fair,” I whispered into her hair. “I haven’t had to wait at all. Why do I get off so easily?”

“You’re right,” she agreed. “I should make this harder for you, definitely.” Her hand stroked my cheek. “You only have to risk your life every second you spend with me, surely that’s not much. You only have to turn your back on nature, on humanity… what is that worth?”

“I’m not feeling deprived.”

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