Summer Daze, Austen Nights


Olivia Tannis Moore

Chapter Three:

Sisterly Love

I barely remember Charlotte taking my hand and leading me off the ballroom floor. We seemed to move in exaggerated slowness as the inquisitive crowd refused to part. My interaction with Edward Cullen, however unsociable and unwanted, had made me a source of their entertainment. A few were so brazen as to come up to me and ask what it was that I had done to cause Mr. Cullen's distain. Even if I had known, I doubt I would have whetted their curiosity; there was something vicious and frenzied about it. I was convinced that if Charlotte let go of me, I'd sink unaided to the floor to be trampled upon.

Charlotte led me to one of the sitting rooms off the ballroom and we quickly took refuge behind a painted screen in the corner of the room. Someone had placed a narrow bench here and we sat down, grateful to be away from the crush of the crowd.

Charlotte's eyes were wide with shock. "I can't believe he did that to you, I just can't believe it. No wonder he's not attached…who would have him?" She took my hand between her own. "He must not be of sound mind, Isabella. There can be no other explanation for his conduct."

I pressed my palms against my eyes and groaned. "Oh, Charlotte…I should have stayed at home. You know trouble always finds me. And here I was worrying about chairs—" but I got no further as we were startled by someone whooshing into the sitting room.

The door closed with a loud click, muffling the music and voices out on the ballroom floor. I held my breath and squeezed Charlotte's hand, hoping our refuge would not be discovered.

"Would you like to tell me what that was all about?" a distinctly female voice asked.

Silence ensued, so she went on, "Carlisle will be bitterly disappointed. You know how long Esme has wanted a night out."

"I did what I had to do, Alice."

I covered my mouth; I knew that voice tone still had a touch of angry hysterics in it. My heart beat fiercely against my ribcage just knowing how close we were now, just minutes after he had shouted for me to stay away from him. I felt defiant as I sat there on the edge of the bench listening to the echo of his footsteps as he paced the floor in front of the screen.

Charlotte's face turned red and she started to stand. But I shook my head and pulled her back down to the bench. We were in the perfect place to eavesdrop and I wanted to know why Edward had created such a scene. I felt I deserved an explanation, not that any explanation could excuse his behavior.

"What did the poor girl do to you to warrant such a despicable outburst?" Alice asked.

"Do to me?" Edward sounded surprised. "Did you not get close enough? Did you not smell her?"

I froze, mortified by his words. And even though Charlotte was my best friend, I would not have wanted her to witness this second personal humiliation.

"Smell her?" Alice asked vaguely. "Edward…I was across the room when you shouted at her. You must control yourself—you cannot show hostility in such a public place. It is too dangerous."

Edward's voice rose. "I did control myself—she still breathes, does she not? And how could you not smell her when you entered the God forsaken ballroom? I was attempting to isolate the scent when she practically ran over me…oh god, I can still smell her…her scent must have embedded itself in my coat…I'm going to have to go back to the manor and change my clothes…"

Alice's tone was both incredulous and teasing at the same time. "Why, Edward Cullen, I do believe you are affected by this girl."

I could have sworn I heard him growl; the sound was low and menacing, and not altogether human. "Think what you like, Alice. But if she wants to stay alive, she will stay as far away from me as possible," he warned.

"I do not understand the difficulty…you hunted last night…we all did."

I heard him sigh heavily. "I wish I understood…perhaps I am still thirsty. That would explain the effort it took to restrain myself in her presence. It was as if she was the only one in the room…"

"I saw how much you drank, Edward. You had plenty, but maybe you were unusually thirsty."

He paused for a moment before saying, "Alice? Would you determine whether I am going mad? It will only take a whiff…"

Her voice was soothing and melodic, "Of course I will. Now come, perhaps it would be wise if you left for the rest of the evening…so Esme can reclaim what is left of her night."

I heard the door to the sitting room open.

For the first time Edward sounded contrite as he asked, "Where is Carlisle? I had better apologize."

"He is making inquiries. Now is not the time to approach him," she warned. "It would be best to wait until after the ball. If nothing else happens, perhaps his good mood will be restored."

"Ah, you are right, of course. I will wait." He paused for a moment before asking, "Will you meet me at the east wall in an hour with your results?"

Their voices were fading so I stood and chanced a quick peek around the screen. Alice had tucked her hand in the crook of Edward's arm and was smiling up at him as they disappeared into the crowded ballroom.

I sat back down on the bench and held my arm to my nose, inhaling deeply. I did not smell anything peculiar. I turned to Charlotte. "You would tell me if—"

She grabbed my arm and lifted my elbow to her nose. "I smell soap…nothing else." She let my arm go. "Breathe out," she demanded.

Timidly, I exhaled in her face and waited for her reaction.

She shrugged. "Nothing… Oh well, I would not let it bother me if I were you. You heard what his sister said—he is prone to drink heavily. Apparently it has addled his mind since certain people's scent can drive him to drink." She shook her head. "That was the oddest conversation I have ever heard…from the strangest family I have ever encountered."

Charlotte fixed me with her gaze. "And worse yet, it is not over for you. His sister plans to seek you out to sniff you. It is beyond odd…"

It was odd. But, I felt as if there was more to this beneath the surface. My curiosity was urging me along as I now had more questions than before. And I had no intention of abandoning that curiosity.

It was then that I decided that I would go to the east wall to hear what Alice had to say. Of course, that meant that I had to allow her close enough to get the whiff that Edward had asked for.

( Okay, this was chapter 3 and the response was pretty good. So as long as the story keeps you guys interested, I'll continue. Thanks for reading. OTM )