A/N: Yes, I did steal things from Twilight and Midnight Sun. But, tis fanfiction afterall.

Chapter 2: By the Pricking of my Thumb

Another two weeks passed and he still avoided speaking to her. She didn't make an effort either, which, he was ashamed to admit even to himself, bothered him slightly. Rain or... well, not shine, but rain or no rain, he spent the second half of every lunch period under that same tree and she at the bench.

He liked to think that they were cultivating a sort of silent camaraderie, that this was their routine, an unspoken arrangement. Granted they never exchanged a single word and they were 20 yards away most of the time, but he knew from her mind that she had come to expect him to be there. That was something, at any rate. She wasn't overly pleased with his presence, nor was she resentful, which put him ahead of most the other males at the school, to whom she had remained implacably indifferent. At least she accepted his silent presence.

It had been a month since she first arrived when one day they heading back to class after the bell had rung and he had held the door open for her, something he had made a point of doing that week. Today was no different, she'd give him a shy smile in gratitude (yet she politely said thank you in her mind every time) and today they'd even walked down the hall side by side as they approached the classroom door.

He was disgusted with how similar his behaviour was to those of his fan girls, reading into each little moment they spent together.

Unable to resist seeing that grin again, he opened the door to the classroom for her, and as usual she smiled her thanks before taking her seat. It was only when he heard the unvoiced outraged protests from both sexes that he realized he had been smiling back. She appeared to be the only one in the room (apart from himself) who had missed it.

The next day he received the same smile, but a new thought. 'Always the gentleman.' Again, in a thankful tone of voice. It was like a treat she'd given him, and she wasn't even aware of it.

She took her habitual seat and he took his. Today they were reading Romeo and Juliet aloud. In keeping with Mr. Thompson's strategy, Edward was Romeo. Bella, though she'd rather not have any reading part at all, accepted the role of Paris...

Whom Romeo kills in a fit of passion.

Again, he was cast as her murder. If Edward were of an irrational nature, he would have seen a pattern forming and been unnerved. Instead, he simply believed that his unease sprung from Bella's discomfort at being forced to read in front of the class.

A week later in Biology, he had accidentally strayed into her head again, curious as to what she and her current lab partner were discussing. She was laughing politely at something he'd said.

'She's into me. She wouldn't have asked to be my lab partner if she didn't.' Edward reluctantly admitted that Kevin had a point.

"So Iz, I was wondering if you wanted to catch a movie this weekend or something."

Oh, very smooth approach, Edward thought crassly. Did he put any effort into it at all? Or was he aiming to be underwhelming...

"I'm not supposed to date until I'm 18," she told them. "My dad's rules." 'At least they had been when he was alive. No reason to discard them just because he's dead.

These melancholy thoughts she had from time to time always had a sobering effect on Edward. He respectfully retreated from her mind, eavesdropping solely with his physical ears.

"Oh."

It was silent for a while at their end of the room, and Edward politely responded to Jacqueline.

"So when is your birthday then?" Kevin's voice seemed to zing across the room into his eardrum. Unconsciously he jumped back into their minds.

"Um..." 'No point in lying, I guess. It's six months away. Perhaps he'll have forgotten by next year. "September 13th."

That was something he hadn't known before either.

'Of course, bad-luck Bella would be born on Friday the 13th.'

Bad Luck Bella? Did she have a reputation of being unlucky? Again, this was something he could only wonder about.

She laughed playfully, trying to put both of them back into a good mood. "Maybe next year, right?"

Kevin smiled back. "Right." 'At least it wasn't a total rejection.'

'She can't date till next year?'

'Does that include prom?'

'That's totally just an excuse, she just doesn't want him.'

Edward was annoyed at his classmates' nosiness, but seeing as he was the biggest eavesdropper of them all, he bit back his resentful sentiments.

'How much longer till the bell?' she thought desperately. Attention always made her nervous, he'd noticed. She looked at her watch as she tapped her foot nervously. 'Two minutes. Maybe this time I'll actually beat the Flash out of the room.' Her mental comment was tinted with amusement as the memories of him darting out the door before everyone else day after day played in her mind.

That hint of fondness elated him. When the bell sounded the end of the lesson they both bolted to the door. He, being the gentleman, let her pass by first. 'So chivalry isn't dead,' she thought sarcastically as she escaped into the hallway. She didn't even look back to see him, but she thought, 'He let me win, it doesn't count.'

He cast a perfunctory look about the cafeteria, knowing from his mind's eye that Bella hadn't stayed; he turned back around and went outside. She sat there as she always did, with an apple and a small box of milk. She had a book lying face down on the table next to her, he had no idea which one. She herself was listening to her own music as she ate. Schubert's Gute Nacht. One of his favourite pieces. He was pleased to know that they did have more than relative anti-social behaviour in common.

Feeling suddenly emboldened by this realization he went up to her. She stiffened at his approach, the normal healthy response any human should feel, he reminded himself. Her mind was oddly blank. Just a whir of curiosity. He picked up her book, inspecting it. It was a John Le Carré novel, taken from the local library. He smirked approvingly at her choice and continued to his accustomed place under the tree. Only after he was a good 20 feet away did she release the breath she'd been holding.

'That's the best thing about him... He doesn't hover,' she thought. Edward desperately wished she would clarify, but she didn't need to, she knew what she meant by that. It was only he who was left in the dark. Did she just appreciate that he kept his distance, or did she appreciate him because he knew to keep his distance? There was a clear line of distinction there, he knew it, he just didn't know on which side he fell. It was entirely frustrating.

Either way, keeping away seemed to be the only method of staying close. Not that he'd ever really try to be more. What was the point in getting close to a human after all? He'd been an utter fool these past few weeks and he resolved to forget about Isabella.

.

That night he went hunting. He drove far away, really wanting to make a night of it. With any luck it would make state news, that's how much fun he was planning to have. He took his time in choosing his prey. The temptation to go up and talk to him was intense, but it was bad form to play with one's food. Besides, if people saw them talking he might be suspected. No, he was patient. He waited outside in the dark, hidden, listening to what he was going to do, and when he was going to leave. It was more thrilling to do this downtown, with thousands of people about. More of a challenge. He'd singled him out by scent, the most delicious smelling human in the area. When the time came he pounced, but exercised incredible restraint in the careful way he handled him. He couldn't drink right there in the parking lot, he'd had to take him somewhere else. He was careful not to break a single bone of the fragile human body, and leave not a scratch. He wanted first blood to be from the initial bite. A casual cut would ruin the effect.

He moved with lightning speed, descending on the man and carrying him away, up the side of a tall building. The man was too shocked, and it had happened so quickly, he didn't even have time to scream... yet. Edward would wait for it. Until then he listened to the bustling city below, any one of the thousands that teamed there could be next. The thought excited him the way nothing else could. Then, he heard it; knew that his victim's mind had finally caught up with the situation and he raked oxygen down his throat into his lungs to yell. It never came of course. Halfway through the breath, while the air was still travelling, he took that first, euphoric bite. Warm blood gushed into his mouth along with the dying effort of the scream. He liked the gurgling sound it made. That's why he always waited.

.

He had made four kills, each one as exquisite as the last. The high it gave him lasted him through first period calculus. The fact that he was in a good mood didn't go unnoticed, his giddiness caused him to smile at all and sundry. He even winked at a few girls, what the hell, give them a thrill. All the while he was lost in his own fantasy; he imagined eating them all, concocted manners to lure away and devour each and every one of them. Or maybe he'd take several at a time. He floated happily in the thought of his bloodbath. It could never happen, but a vampire can always dream...

'It's nice to see him looking so cheerful. He always seems so...pensive, weighed down by his own thoughts.' He recognized Bella's voice in his head. He almost whipped around to look at her, but such actions could give him away. It was the longest thing she'd ever thought about him. Again, her perceptions were almost entirely accurate. Except that he was weighed down by everyone else's thoughts too, but there was no way should could know that or even begin to imagine it was a possibility.

He wasn't weighed down today though. No, he was soaring above them all. Happy sanguine images floating through his head, lifting his spirits. Oh, to kill. He would take his time with Bella if he were going to kill her. She would be worth playing with first. She wasn't physically strong, so it would be the only pleasure he'd get from her. He'd make her trust him first. He'd actually have to talk to her, put her at ease around him. She wouldn't stiffen when he got too close. He would make her like him. He would make her lower all her defenses, welcome him into her personal space. She'd smile that sheepish smile, unknowing that she was inviting a killer...

He was devising ways to get her to trust and admire him when Mr. Banner walked into the room and Edward suddenly lost his appetite. Banner always affected him that way, his blood stank so. He could almost feel the resounding thud that was the plummeting fall of his high. He felt it dissipate with reluctance. Ah well, it was good while it lasted. He tried to replay his fantasies in his head that had kept him so entertained the hour previous, but now they only served to annoy and depress him, taunting him of something he could never have.

Taking Bella was the only one that didn't sting with Banner's pungency effectively fumigating the room of his thirst. He realized it was probably because he never actually got to the eating her part. He knew it must have been coming soon; he was just distracted before he got to that happy moment.

He was struck with an idea. That dream could come true. The Bella project would take time, which was alright because he couldn't take her before graduation anyway. After that, either she would move away or he would. He'd be free to act as he wanted. His head reeled at the idea. He'd never taken so much time and effort with prey before, but it might be worth it. Give him something to do, a justifiable reason for taking an interest in the girl and spending an inordinate amount of time contemplating her thoughts and desires. If it was for the sake of the kill, it was alright.

At lunch that day he scoured her mind even more thoroughly than ever he had but with no luck. Two more days of the same results, whether she was reading or not, left him frustrated. It was that Friday he realized why, and another piece of her personality puzzle fell into place. She used this time after lunch specifically not to think. To lose herself in a book, or simply clear her head of all thoughts and just listen to music. This was her down time. Her relaxation time. Her Edward time, he couldn't help but adding hopefully. She expected him to be there, he could sense that. Did his presence add or detract from her respite? That would be his experiment next week.

He was content with the progress that he'd made, for it was progress, achingly slow though it was. Every iota of information he learned about her could prove helpful in accomplishing his final goal. Of course, he could take her after graduation whether he had earned her trust or not, but that wasn't fair, not the point of the game. Where was the challenge in that?

He mentally peeked in on her throughout the weekend. He saw her at work, he saw her returning a book at the library, checking out another one, saw her doing her shopping at the grocery store, (and he carefully noted what kind of food she seemed to enjoy.) And despite his gentlemanly desire to give her some privacy, he found himself watching her in her own home, cooking, cleaning, studying, listening to classic hits of the 1930s. He remembered those days and grinned, thinking that this 17 year old girl was just an old a soul (providing that he had one, which he doubted) as he was. She even wore an apron while she cooked. Her mind was on auto-pilot. She didn't actually need to think about cooking, she just did it, out of habit no doubt. This was a routine. The pleasant enough ambience was broken however when she abruptly started crying, with no more reason than she made too much food. Granted, he could understand not wanting things to go to waste, but wasn't that a bit of an over reaction? Wasn't she more sensible than that?

"You cook for one now, Bella. Get it into your head," she chided herself aloud through her tears, which she bitterly wiped away, silently cursing herself for weeping.

Ah, he understood now. He knew that she conditioned herself not to think about it, anytime her mind started straying into the direction of her father's death she'd reign it right back again as if it were a disobedient horse. She didn't often give way to tears like this. He was overcome by the odd urge to comfort the girl.

Again, impossible. Not only was he actually miles away, but his sudden appearance would only startle her, put her on her guard. Not only that but she didn't need him. She didn't need anyone to comfort her, for abruptly, her mind was wiped clear of thought as she took deep calming breaths. Never had he met- no, met isn't the right word because they had never even been introduced- but never had he come across a human so in control of their own thoughts, who kept herself so closely guarded.

Calm once again, she took the extra portion she'd made, wrapped it up, and put it away in the refrigerator to be eaten the next day.

.

The following Wednesday, Edward waited in the men's room after lunch, following Bella outside to her table through his mind's eye. She nibbled on her granola bar and drank from her milk, feeling anxious. Not the common emotion for her at these times. He allowed himself to hope. Unfortunately, she didn't seem to be able to pinpoint to source of her unease herself. If he had come to be a part of her afternoon relaxing ritual, she wasn't aware of it. Well, there was an easy way to know for sure.

He ambled out casually, heading for his tree 20 yards away. He watched himself through her eyes, heard her breathing ease, her mind relax. Her mind said nothing about him, merely sighed an 'ah.' Not a very helpful sound. He'd rather her say 'Yes! At last Edward is here, now I feel safe and can go back to my lunchtime routine of which he plays an integral part.' Of course she thought no such thing. It might have been simply her thinking something was different, off, and when she saw him, merely realized that it was his absence that was different. Perhaps once she had come to that conclusion she wouldn't have been bothered. Perhaps his presence wasn't actually required. He wanted to find out once and for all if she found solace in his company.

The sunshine the next day forced him to stay inside, so he'd have his answer, even if it was sooner than he'd planned on testing it out. He'd been sitting in Biology when the clouds broke, contrary to the weather forecast. Sitting by the window was necessary for him to keep his head, he needed to be by fresh air to keep his thirst at bay, but the seating arrangement occasionally backfired. Being by the window meant got the first and most direct hit of sun. When he felt the clouds break and a sliver of solar light burn into his skin it was all he could do to keep from jerking back away. It was three minutes until the bell so he just left early.

'Well that's just cheating,' thought Bella amusedly. 'Winning the race before it even begins.' If it didn't feel as if his skin was roasting off his body he would have chuckled at her comment directed toward him. But he wasn't in the chuckling mood. He was first in the cafeteria, and seeing no one but the lunch lady around, he plunged his arm into the ice chest which kept the bottles of soda offered cool. Ah, relief. Glorious relief. He removed his arm after a few moments and grabbed a piece of ice and left, rubbing it on his cheek. It didn't melt, just stayed there perfectly cool against his likewise perfectly cool skin.

While he holed up in an empty classroom during the lunch, as far away from the windows as possible, he waited for Bella's reaction to his absence. At first he felt nothing but thrilled pleasure, and his heart sank. She was ecstatic he wasn't there. But then one thought changed that.

'Pity he isn't here to enjoy the sun.' She didn't read that day, she lay down on top of the table, spreading out, trying to soak up as much of it as possible. The sun made her happy. It was oddly satisfying in a way, to experience the sun through her. It wasn't an evil fiery orb that burnt his flesh. It was delicious, relaxing, comfortable; it made it hard not to smile. And when she smiled he couldn't help but do so.

Their happiness was spoiled all too soon when most everyone else came spilling out onto the lawn, taking over tables and scattering themselves about to enjoy the heat as well. He felt Bella become instantly uncomfortable again. 'He must have known this would happen. That's why he didn't come. Smart boy.'

Edward couldn't help but hear the thoughts Bella inspired in others, lying on her back, dark hair splayed behind her on the table, dark hair catching the sun giving it an unsuspected red tint. She'd removed her sweater to expose more of her flesh to the innocent sun's touch. Unfortunately it exposed her to the not so innocent eyes of her male classmates. Their thoughts were repulsive and he tried to escape them, but they were so thick, so potent.

When Bella had sat up to collect her things and leave one of them had grabbed her arm to entreat her to stay. It was a good thing he was alone in the room because an unbidden growl escaped violently from the back of his throat, baring his teeth.

"Come on, Iz, stay."

"I know, I'm such a spoil sport," she joked. "But I completely forgot to do my History questions. Another time!" she shouted back at him as she retreated inside the building. He estimated he had about 12 seconds before she reached the classroom. More than enough time, he thought. By way of the ceiling, so as to escape the sun, he crawled to the window furthest back and closed the blinds. There was a tiny hole that let in a pinprick of light onto his desk but he could easily avoid that. In another half second he had collected his things from the other side of the room, ordered them on his own desk and sat down.

The next 10 seconds seemed to crawl after that. She wasn't surprised to see him, in fact, she seemed happy that she had been correct to suspect he'd be there. She set her bag down at and sat in her usual seat, resting her head on her arms and closing her eyes, enjoying the feel of the golden glow of the sun on her face as she listened to Pachelbel's Canon in D major. She was relaxed and content again. Not only that but she couldn't be that way around other people, himself being the one exception.

He was already closer to his goal. He inhaled deeply, taking in her scent, imaging how satisfying the reward would be in the end after all his work had finally paid off. He imagined the warmth of her neck, and the pulsing rhythm beneath that soft, oh so fragile human skin. He'd place his nose against that flesh, smell the blood, feel for himself the heart that beat beneath her breast. Once again, the reverie was incomplete. The bell rang before he actually went so far as to picture that meaningful bite.

Elizabeth sat next to him that day, flushed and glowing from those brief minutes in the sun. Mouthwateringly so. His fantasy skipped from Bella to the girl sitting next to him. Easy, he thought. It would take nothing, no effort at all to break that flesh and let the blood flow out. There would be less gratification in killing her than Bella, but at least it would be instant. Prey like her could tide him over until he won his prize.

She wasn't even that much of a prize, she didn't smell any better than the others, and if she did it was only slightly. There really was no reason he should have singled her out to be his goal; severe lack of anything better to do was all it amounted to, an arbitrarily chosen hobby.

Mr. Mathews had apparently asked him a question which he hadn't heard. 'I know you weren't paying attention, don't try to pull an answer from your ass. The nun is the only correct one.'

"The nun," he answered confidently. He'd read the Canterbury Tales several times, paying attention in this class could give him no better insight into Chaucer's work.

While Mathew's thoughts were bitter, his classmates- correction, his female classmates- were impressed.

'He's so smart.'

'Maybe I could ask him to tutor me in Trig.'

'Only Edward Cullen could make the word 'nun' sound sexy.'

And so on and so forth.

When he dropped back in on Bella he heard Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata playing. Sneaky woman, he thought proudly. She'd hidden the ear bud of her head phones with her curtain of hair. Jumping to the teacher's perspective of her he could see it was entirely imperceptible. Pity Edward didn't have a concealing cloak of satiny tresses to hide his iPod earphones. But, he considered, it didn't matter so long as Bella did. Eavesdropping on her music was much easier on his mind than the violent shouting dubiously termed music he often had the misfortune to overhear, not that he had any choice in the matter. He knew humans had limited hearing abilities but how kids didn't burst their own eardrums was a wonder to him.

.

It was another two weeks before he made his first move, silent though it was. Since that sunny day he'd made it a point to let her see him look at which book she was reading; a hint that he was curious about her, even if it was an idle curiosity. Now mid April, he approached her table on his way to his tree. She held up he book at an angle so he could read the title, as she had begun to do, another acceptance of his presence. He placed something on the table beside her before he went to his tree. He lay down, trying to look as unconcerned as possible, all the while listening vicariously to her thoughts.

'Hmm, haven't read it.' She opened it to the first page where his name was written in the corner. 'Edward Cullen.' A jolt when through him when he heard her voice his name in her mind. It was curious and warm. She flipped to the next page to see the note he'd left for her on a slip of paper.

You might like it.

A simple missive, true, but less is often more. He was merely baiting the hook, waiting for the bite. No need to set out a banquet when a morsel would work just as well. Then all that was needed was to slowly reel her in. Yes, he could see it now. His gesture intrigued her; he'd opened up a gateway of opportunity. In just over a year's time, an eye blink really, she'd be warm and willing in his hands, trusting, completely unaware, completely at his mercy.

He was enjoying the idea of this hobby more and more. Why shouldn't he play with his food first? Why not enjoy himself? Why not make it a challenge? What else was there worth existing for but for amusement? The world was his oyster...

.

Unfortunately, things didn't go as swimmingly as he had planned. Two days later she'd finished his recommended reading and when he passed by her table she was holding it out to him to return it. He lifted his eyebrows curiously, entreatingly. She seemed to immediately interpret this unasked question correctly and smiled and nodded. 'Good read.' And likewise offered him something in return. The same note was stuck between the first to pages but this time in her feminine scrawl.

You might like it.

His brows drew together. Was she that reluctant to talk to anyone? He'd heard her make polite conversation before, why not with him now? He'd thought this would have bridged the gap and she'd at least say something about the book, but she didn't. She remained unwaveringly silent.

'He obviously wants to keep people at a distance, so I'll keep my distance. I can tell how annoyed he gets when people try to talk to him.'

He couldn't say you aren't "people" without sounding like a fool, nor could he respond at all without revealing that he could hear her personal thoughts, so he simply nodded at her to acknowledge her offering (which he had already read) and left. Under his tree he brooded. Her perceptiveness was working against him. She was of course, entirely correct in her assertions, however, she assumed she wasn't special, which she wasn't really, he'd just singled her out for the sake of amusement. So those assumptions didn't apply to her.

He supposed that simply meant it was up to him to make the first foray into the world of actually speaking.

Turns out that simple conversation was not as easy as he'd thought it would be. And to think the other day he had scorned her lab partner Kevin for its lack of suavity. It was only after Edward had approached her and opened his mouth to speak that he remembered he hadn't made real conversation with a human in... well, probably that girl's lifetime. He promptly shut it again and headed back to the building, knowing that he looked like a fool, but taking consolation in the fact that if he'd actually tried to talk to her, he'd appear and even greater one.

'How can someone so popular be so shy?' she thought, almost maternally.

He would definitely need to practice before he tried that again.

.

That night before work he went to work practicing. He didn't have a spot of trouble charming them, he cracked jokes, shared a few witticisms, tastefully complimented them. The only social faux pas he committed was eating them afterwards. There was nothing wrong with his ability to converse. It must be her fault after all, he reasoned. Yet she spoke easily with her classmates, chatted effortlessly on a number of topics, serious or spurious. Were they just linguistically incompatible?

.

He might spend four of every ten years in the purgatory that was high school, but his masochism wasn't as all inclusive as to tempt him to go to Biology that morning. Blood testing. Not a good idea.

So he spent the period in his car, listening to music. Like idly flipping through channels on the television to see if anything good is on, he skipped from mind to mind, looking for, but not really expecting, something worth his time. He was surprised, therefore, to find something that garnered his immediate and undivided attention.

"Iz! Iz!" 'Christ did she faint? Howm'I gonna get her to the nurse's office? She looks bad.'

He very nearly tore of the car door in his haste to exit the vehicle. In a second he was around the corner from where he'd seen them, Bella was on the ground looking paler than a freshly drained corpse, and he'd seen a lot of those.

"Something wicked this way comes." Bella said weakly. That caused him to freeze in his tracks, had she somehow figured out he was on his way? How did she find out he was even a vampire? That had never been in her thoughts. When he felt her suffer another wave of nausea and complain that she should have never tried to prick herself for the blood testing, he realized that she had merely been quoting Shakespeare again.

He started again at a more humanly pace, still jogging though. "Bella!" he called. He received no reply, verbal or mental, just a moan of discomfort. "Is she alright?" he asked Kevin. It was the first time he'd ever actually spoken to him.

"She got sick in Bio, I'm taking her to the nurse. Apparently she can't stand the sight of blood." 'What do you care? Prick.'

How ironic. "I'll take her, you can go back to class." It was a clear dismissal. Unconsciously, Kevin wanted to do as he was told and get away from Edward as soon as possible, but his human ego kept his feet planted, despite nature's wisdom.

"I'm taking her." 'She's mine.'

"Yes, I can see that," he said sarcastically. The poor girl was still on the ground, half conscious. The boy's attempts had been pitiful. Not giving him another chance to make a feeble argument, he bent down and picked up the girl in his arms, keeping her as far away from his cold hard chest as his arms would allow, and walked off.

'Show off, jack ass, bastard, fucking Edward Cullen piece of shit.' The stream of invectives never seemed to end. Edward just stopped listening. He turned his attention back to the sick girl he was carrying.

"Bella? Are you alright?"

'Wha- Who? I'm going to be sick.' "P—Put me down, please."

He carefully set her down on her feet, keeping his hands at her elbows to steady her. She sat down immediately.

"Put your head between your legs. Take deep breaths. It will pass."

'Is it...' "Edward?"

"Can you stand?"

"Yes, I think so." She pushed herself off the ground and wobbled on her feet. 'Woah, dizzy...'

"Light headed?"

"No, I'm fine," 'Or will be in a minute.' It was then she noticed the crimson droplets were bleeding through the thin tissue on her hand.

Their reactions to the sight were astronomically different. She fought to keep down the rising bile in her throat, while he had to swallow back the rush venom that flooded his mouth, he had to swallow every few seconds to keep himself from drooling like some ravenous animal. He was almost shaking with the repressed urge to end it all and take his prize now. No, he couldn't do that. Must... resist... Oh but what he'd give to suck on that dripping digit, just a drop, a hint, a little taste of his trophy.

"Put it in your mouth," he whispered softly, urging her to do what he could only wish for himself.

"God, I can't look at it."

"Put it in your mouth," he said again, this time with more conviction. "Then you won't have to look at it or see it dripping on anything else. It'll keep you from vomiting. Just suck on it till we get to the nurses office." He pocketed the bloody tissue. "Trust me," he told her, feeling very much like the wolf in Little Red's grandmother's pyjamas.

She did as he told her to. He watched as her trembling mouth surrounded the bleeding area. Watched as her cheeks hollowed with the suction. Watched as her throat bobbed, swallowing her own blood. He groaned slightly and looked away. He'd never seen anything so frustrating in his entire life, nor anything as thrilling.

She'd clung to his arm the rest of the way, refusing to be carried. 'I've made a large enough nuisance of myself as it is.'

"There's one every year," said the nurse rolling her eyes. "You can go now, Edward."

"I'm supposed to stay with her," he lied confidently. Confidence was the key. Of course there was very little for the nurse to do, other than put a band-aid on her finger and give her a cold compress for her head until she felt better.

She sat there on the cot and he patiently stood by her side. 'He doesn't have to do this. I'm being such an imposition. I hate that everyone saw me like that, so weak. I don't want anyone to pity me.' It was all in keeping with what he'd gathered of her personality. 'He's being so nice, I feel bad. He actually carried me. Ugh. If I'd slept at all last night I probably wouldn't have fainted like that...'

She hadn't slept? He'd checked on her several times throughout the evening before 11, but after that he'd assumed she'd be asleep. He hadn't thought to check on her. He'd been remiss, it seemed. A plan formed in his mind as he heard the approach of another sick student coming in.

"Close your eyes," he told her as the door opened. Seeing her promptly obey pleased him. "Keep them closed," he told her, taking her by the elbow again and guiding her out of the room. "You can open them now." They stood in the student reception and the secretary was eyeing them both curiously.

"More blood?" she asked him embarrassedly.

"David O'Malley," he replied, nodding.

'At least I'm not the only one.' "Thank you, by the way. For all your help. You uh... you didn't have to."

He didn't want to sound pompous by saying 'your welcome' and he didn't want be dismissive by ignoring the situation. "You alright? You still look a bit ill. Perhaps you should go home and rest."

'Oh to curl up in bed, happy thought.' "No, it's nothing I'll be fine," she said unconvincingly. Or at least, it was unconvincing to him, because he could hear the unspoken truth.

"Tough talk," he said lightly, then turned to give the secretary his most winsome smile. He knew he'd won his case before he even made it. "I should probably take her home; can you excuse her from her remaining classes?"

"Oh, I uh... I'm sure that won't be a problem. Do you need a note too?"

"Thank you, but no. I'll be back before lunch ends. Thank you Ms. Cobb."

'That boy is too... Stop it Gladys. He's too young, that's what he is.'

'Why is he doing this?' Bella thought. Then posed the question aloud once they'd left the office. "Why did you do that?"

"No offense, but you do look rather done in. You really should go home and sleep it off."

'Do I really look that bad? Clearly I must. And I really am exhausted.'

They were already in the parking lot by the time she'd finished the thought, he was steering her towards his silver Volvo.

"Oh, my car's over there."

He smiled. "Yes, but my car's over here." From back on campus, the bell rang. "Wait here, I'll go get your bag."

He left before she could protest, which she did silently in her mind. 'He's so nice. No wonder the girls flock to him. I feel so bad taking up his time. When he gets back I'll thank him for everything. I'll drive myself home. How else am I supposed to get to school tomorrow?'

He simply didn't breathe when he entered the now empty Biology classroom. He knew the lingering scent of blood would have a deleterious effect on his resolve. Her bag was still there. No one, though everyone in the class claimed to like her, had thought to bring her things to her. So much the better.

He returned to his car and a very resolved Bella. "Thank you again, Edward, really. You've been so kind, but I really can drive myself home."

Of course she could, that wasn't the point. He gave her a smile. "You wouldn't deprive me the pleasure of avoiding lunch entirely would you?"

"But, how would I get to school tomorrow."

"I'll pick you up."

"But I live outside of town."

"I enjoy a good drive."

She worried her bottom lip, contemplating how best to refuse without sounding ungrateful.

"Please," he said. "You'd be doing me the favour here. I meant what I said, I love driving, and I'd much rather be on the road in my car than anywhere else, especially the cafeteria."

'He sounds so genuine...' "Alright," she said resignedly.

"Thank you." He opened the car door for her and shut it again once she was inside.

'I can't believe I'm agreeing to this.'

When he started the ignition the music he'd been listening too automatically began playing again.

"Clair de Lune," she said approvingly.

"You know it?"

"I love it." 'He certainly makes himself easy to be around, that for sure. Breath of fresh air.'

"Where am I going?"

"Left out of the parking lot."

And so it was for the 20 minute drive home. Clair de Lune was obviously one of her relaxing songs and her mind went to that untroubled clear place that was usual for lunch time. Again, she didn't have her bench outside, but there was music and himself, and perhaps that's all she needed.

She'd call out 'left' or 'right' as required, but mostly the trip was silent, as their acquaintanceship had been up until today. He'd made more progress in one hour than he had in the entire previous two months.

He finally pulled up to her house and she got out, thanking him for the dozenth.

"I'll pick you up tomorrow morning."

"Thanks again."

"Bye Bella."

As he was pulling out of her driveway he heard her think, 'That's the third time. Why does he call me Bella, I don't know him from before do I?' The thought worried her. 'No, surely I'd remember... Then-? Oh right, that's the name that was inside the book I gave him.'

Of course her mind had quite impressively leapt to the most logical explanation. That he had read her thoughts was completely out of the question. He regretted that he'd used her name at all, for now she'd correct him and he'd be forced to refer to her as Iz, which he didn't like at all.

'It makes us sound like old friends, him calling me Bella,' the thought with a mixture of old pain and new pleasure. She liked the idea of having a friend. Good. That was his chance to move in closer. He'd have his prize.

As he drove down the road away from her house, he removed the bloody tissue from his pocket and breathed deeply from it as if it were a nosegay.