“Step on it, Emmett,” I growled through clenched teeth. My hands gripped the passenger upuan armrests as Emmett sped through the streets of Phoenix. Carlisle, Alice, and Jasper were sitting in the back seat.
Every muscle in my body was tense. If Bella was hurt, if that monster made one ilipat against her . . . When I had arrived at the airport with Carlisle and Emmett, and Alice had told me Bella had vanished, I had prayed that she wasn't going anything stupid, prayed that she had only gone back to the hotel for some reason.
But I knew Bella. She wouldn't have left that airport until I arrived.
Unless she had been forced out of the airport against her will . . .
And then we went to the hotel, and I had found the note she'd left for me . . .
Now we were tracking Bella through Phoenix. We had followed her scent to her house, but she wasn't there. We were on the ilipat again.
Bella! I thought. Why didn't you wait for me? I knew her mother's safety came first – in her opinion – but . . .
“Emmett,” Alice said, “look for the ballet studio. That's where she is, I know it.”
I glared at Alice. I was furious with her, and with Jasper. They'd let her go. If Bella was harmed in any way, shape, or form, I would blame them. It would be their fault.
“There's the studio,” sinabi Jasper, pointing to a building up ahead. The car screeched to a halt as Emmett slammed the brakes.
I could sense his thoughts. James. My gosh, Bella was in there with him now. His thoughts were frenzied, incomplete: Blood. Must drink. Can't wait. Any longer.
We burst through the door of the studio. I followed her scent into a room, entered.
When I saw her, I roared with intense fury and rage. Bella, my Bella, lay crumpled on the floor, unconscious, bleeding badly amidst a pile of glass that had once been a mirror. And James was kneeling over her, lifting her hand to his mouth . . .
Amazingly, Jasper and Emmett moved faster than I did. They crossed the room and wrenched James off the floor, dragged him out of the room.
I rushed to her. “Oh, no, Bella, no!” I cried. She wasn't moving. I was almost afraid to feel for her pulse. “Bella, please! Bella, listen to me, please, please, Bella, please!”
The floral scent of her blood filled my nostrils, but I ignored it. My worry for her was greater than my thirst.
Kneeling beside her, I turned to my father. “Carlise!” I cried, beseeching him to do something, anything. “Bella, Bella, no, oh please, no, no!” I began to sob, staring at her closed eyes, her lifeless expression. She couldn't be dead. She just couldn't be.
Carlisle was examining Bella's wounds. As he placed his hands on her head, Bella gasped in pain.
“Bella!” Relief filled me voice. She was alive.
Calmly, methodically, Carlisle said, “She's Nawawala some blood, but the head wound isn't deep. Watch out for her leg, it's broken.”
I roared again, my hatred towards James filling me.
“Some ribs too, I think,” Carlisle added. This made me even angrier. How badly had James hurt her?
Bella spoke, muttering my name. “Edward.”
I bent over her. “Bella, you're going to be fine,” I said, trying to convince myself madami than anything. “Can you hear me, Bella? I pag-ibig you.”
“Edward,” she sinabi again, madami loudly and clearly.
“Yes, I'm here.” And I'm never leaving your side again, I added in my thoughts.
“It hurts,” she whimpered.
“I know, Bella, I know.” To Carlisle, I asked, anguish in my voice, “Can't you do anything?”
“My bag, please.” Alice handed the bag to Carlisle. I saw a strained expression on Alice's face, and I realized the scent of Bella's blood was making her uncomfortable. Carlisle noticed it too. “Hold your breath, Alice, it will help.”
Bella groaned, “Alice?”
“She's here, she knew where to find you,” I told her.
“My hands hurt.”
“I know, Bell.” I smoothed her hair away from her face. “Carlisle will give you something, it will stop.”
“My hand is burning!” Bella screamed.
I was frightened now. What was wrong? “Bella?”
“The fire! Someone stopped the fire!” Her eyes were open now, filled with agony.
Desperately, I exclaimed, “Carlisle! Her hand!”
When Carlisle replied, he no longer sounded calm. His voice was disgusted. “He bit her.”
I gasped, filled with shock and horror and disbelief. This meant . . .
Alice looked me straight in the eye. “Edward, you have to do it.”
Immediately, I bellowed, “No!” I would not do what Alice was implying.
Bella moaned again, “Alice.”
“There may be a chance,” sinabi Carlisle.
“What?” I asked, distraught. What chance was there, could there possibly be?
“See if you can suck the venom back out. The wound is fairly clean.” Carlisle was cleaning Bella's head wound.
“Will that work?” Alice asked. I was unable to speak.
“I don't know,” Carlisle admitted. “But we have to try.”
“Carlisle, I . . .” I trailed off, filled with desperation and torment. “I don't know if I can do that.” What if I killed her? What if I couldn't stop drinking, gave into the thirst that had been torturing me since the first time I laid eyes on Bella? What if I destroyed the one thing that I loved madami than anything else in the universe?
But if I didn't do it, Bella would become . . . One of us. I couldn't do that to her, couldn't sacrifice her soul.
“It's your decision, Edward, either way.” He was still working on the head wound. “I can't help you. I have to get this bleeding stopped here if you're going to be taking blood from her hand.”
Bella writhed in pain, her face – the most beautiful face in the world – twisted with agony. “Edward!” she screamed. Her eyes, which had closed, opened again. She looked at me, her gaze tortured. I wanted to help her, wanted to stop the pain, wanted to do anything in my power to ease her suffering.
“Alice, get me something to brace her leg.” To me, Carlisle said, “Edward, you must do t now, or it will be too late.”
In that moment, my indecision was replaced with determination. I wasn't going to let Bella become a vampire. I grasped Bella's wrist, her skin warm against mine. If I'd had a heart, it would have been racing.
Bending down, I pressed my lips to the bite.
The instant I tasted her blood, I wanted to keep drinking forever, never stopping, savouring the taste . . .
No! I told myself. I – will – not – kill – her, I kept repeating in a silent mantra. Memories cycled through my mind. Seeing Bella for the first time, her shrouded thoughts perplexing me. That araw in the meadow. halik her for the first time, feeling her soft lips on mine. Those nights in her room, watching her sleep. Hearing her laugh, talk, say my name, tell me she loved me. Knowing that she loved me in spite of the face that I was a vampire.
And suddenly, the venom was gone. I could tell sa pamamagitan ng the taste. But I couldn't stop, couldn't stop drinking . . .
In my mind, I saw Bella's face. So warm, alive, devoted.
Then I saw how that face would look if I didn't stop. Cold. Lifeless. Forever still.
I pulled my mouth away from her hand and sighed in relief, feeling triumphant. I had stopped myself. She was safe.
“Edward,” Bella murmured.
“He's right here, Bella,” sinabi Carlisle as I wiped my mouth on my sleeve.
“Stay with me, Edward, stay with me . . .” Bella trailed off, obviously exhausted.
“I will,” I promised. She sighed, her eyes slowly closing.
Carlisle asked, “Is it all out?”
Quietly, I answered, “Her blood taste clean. I can taste the morphine.”
“Bella?” sinabi Carlisle.
“Is the apoy gone?”
Sighing, she said, her voice somewhat slurred, “Yes. Thank you, Edward.”
Unable to say anything else, I said, “I pag-ibig you.
“I know,” she breathed.
I laughed weakly, wondering if Bella would ever know just how much I loved her, how much I needed her, how I would cease to exist if I Nawawala her.
“Bella?” Carlisle asked.
“Where is your mother?”
“In Florida. He tricked me, Edward. He watched our videos.” Bella was trying to sound angry. She didn't need to. My outrage was enough for both of us. So James had tricked her into coming here. She'd been nearly killed for nothing.
Bella spoke again. “Alice. Alice, the video – he knew you, Alice, he knew where you came from.” Her voice was feeble. Sniffing, she added dazedly, “I smell gasoline.”
So Jasper and Emmett were done then. Good. I only regretted that I hadn't been able to take care of James myself.
Carlisle, packing his bag, said, “It's time to ilipat her.”
“No, I want to sleep,” Bella complained.
“You can sleep, sweetheart, I'll carry you.” I picked her up and cradled her against my chest, relishing the feeling of having her alive and ligtas in my arms. “Sleep now, Bella,” I whispered.
She was already out. I smiled and kissed her head as we left.