Chapter Thirty: Before Work

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The memories brought on a combination of feelings: deepest love and admiration; joy unbounded at her obvious happiness; and a definite tightness of my anatomy that required me to quickly refocus my thoughts from Bella atop the piano to a less desirable image....

I pinched the bridge of my nose between my fingers as I berated myself for my loss of control, both Saturday morning in the hotel room and right now in allowing the seductive memory of Bella to affect me so...intensely. I took several deep breaths, settling my mind on a far less pleasant line of thought: my father's and brothers' advice last night after our hunting trip, their insistence that I talk to Bella about her desire to become immortal. Immediately I felt overwhelmed by indecision and, yes, by fear at the ramifications of the possible decisions before us in the very near future.

An hour after Charlie had left for work and with the utmost reluctance, I tried to wake Bella so that she could get ready for her first day of work at Newton's.

She wasn't easy to wake.

Rising up on my elbow, I slid Bella's head off my chest and onto her pillow. I first kissed her sleep-warm cheek, sliding my icy lips along her high cheekbones to her ear.

She didn't budge.

I breathed my freezing breath into her ear for a moment, and her hand came up, restlessly rubbing her now-cold ear, but she still didn't wake.

Leaning over her, I pressed my lips to hers and her mouth parted, trying to deepen the kiss in her sleep. Her arms encircled my neck, tugging me closer to her. But when I pulled back to greet her with my usual loving “Good morning,” Bella's eyes remained closed, and her arms slackened around me.

She had kissed me in her sleep?

Somehow her kissing me while sound asleep wasn't a flattering thought. I could just hear Alice laughing at me. Not to mention Emmett...I cringed, hoping Alice would keep this little incident to herself.

“Bella, love,” I whispered in her ear, my icy breath caressing the side of her neck. “You need to wake, sweetheart. You need to get dressed for work.” I kissed the sweet spot beneath her ear that wafted her scent to me so powerfully. But Bella didn't move—even her face, relaxed in sleep, didn't indicate she heard or felt me. She must be very deeply asleep.

Swallowing the venom that gathered in my mouth at her intoxicating scent, I kissed under her ear again, gently shaking her shoulder at the same time. Raising my voice slightly, I tried again.

“Bella, today is your first day of work at Newton's. Do you want to be late?”

At last she shifted in my arms, groaning loudly. Not yet opening her eyes, she muttered in a rough, sleepy voice, “You have got to be kidding.”

“I'm so sorry, love. I wish you could sleep all morning.” I paused, willing myself to ask the question yet knowing all too well her answer. “Do you want me to call in sick on your behalf? Or at least let them know you'll be late?” I could not quell the worry that filled me; Bella had never acted this exhausted before.

In fact, it was extremely rare for her to fall asleep while waiting for me as she had the evening before. My brow furrowed as my concern increased. This exhaustion was not normal for Bella. I brushed her cheek and forehead slowly with my hand, caressing her while also checking her temperature at the same time. She didn't feel any warmer than usual, thankfully.

“No,” she moaned, pulling herself into a sitting position. “I'm fine. Just tired.” Her hair was truly a mess this morning—her somewhat restless night had caused it to stick up in the strangest ways. She yawned lazily, then pushed herself out of bed for her usual “human moment.” I tried not to grimace when she stumbled into the bedroom door frame on her way to the bathroom and could smell the fragrant, floral blood bruising beneath her delicate skin. I held my breath for a few moments, swallowing the rush of venom in my mouth while regaining complete control over my baser instincts that desired her blood above that of all other humans.

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