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Midnight Sun (19. Baseball)

As I pounced on Bella I brought her into my arms and held her there securely while flying through the room at a ferocious velocity. When we collided with the couch it went flying across the room until it settled against the wall with a large crashing blast. She was breathing in large heavy gasps of air and her heart was drumming madly. She tried to move out of my protective arms and I refused.

I moved her closer into my embrace letting her warm my body. She eyed me suspiciously and a playful grin spread across my face without my permission. It was just something I did naturally when I was around her.

"You were saying?" I pretended to growl.

"That you are a very, very terrifying monster," her voice was sagging with sarcasm under her heavy panting.

"Much better," I agreed.

She looked up at me, still a little jarred by my sudden movement, "Um…" she paused and continued to struggle, "Can I get up now?" she asked.

"What the hell was that noise?" Jasper asked Alice.

"Ha-ha. Edward is wrestling with Bella." Alice answered cheerily.

Oh my, Jasper began thinking, but his thoughts turned frenzied.

I began laughing at Bella and Jaspers now frantic thoughts.

"Can we come in?" Alice asked from the hall.

Bella continued to struggle in my arms but I refused to let her go. I repositioned her so she was on my lap. I could feel the warmth of Bella's blood as it raced up her cheeks when she realized that Alice and Jasper were in the door way.

"Go ahead," I barked a laugh.

How can he get that close to her? It seriously blows my mind, Jasper was panicking mentally.

Jasper had a strong belief that being this close to a human was impossible without feeding. His belief was now being thrown out the window.

Alice's thoughts were just a humming of approval. She was radiating with glee as she moved fluidly into the room, dropping to the ground and crossing her legs with a gleaming smile across her face.

Jasper continued to stay in the door way. His thoughts were still fanatically stunned.

"It sounded like you were having Bella for lunch, and we came to see if you would share," Alice said while she failed extravagantly at trying to suppress laughter.

Bella stiffened like a board in my arms but met her gaze unflinchingly and I couldn't help but grin at both of them. When Bella saw my face she relaxed. I looked at Alice and answered back playfully, "Sorry, I don't believe I have enough to spare."

I tightened my arms around her. Her heart was still humming quickly and her blush was still pronounced on her cheeks. Jasper finally got his thoughts out of a tangle as the mood of the room finally hit him.

Wow, I've never felt Edward feel so…happy…and…in love. A smile spread across Jaspers face automatically at the cheerfulness in the room. "Actually, Alice says there's going to be a real storm tonight, and Emmett wants to play ball. Are you game?" he asked while walking into the room.

Playing ball did sound fun. I knew Emmett would be thoroughly pissed if I didn't show up this time. I remembered the vampires that are visiting in the area and without thinking about it I looked at Bella and realized I would never leave her for a moment with those creatures at large. Before I could respond Alice chimed in, "Of course you should bring Bella."

What? Jasper looked mildly surprised and sent Alice a quick look but turned back so quickly I wasn't sure if Bella caught it. Once again I had to remind myself that it was always her choice, "Do you want to go?" I asked as excitement burst through me.

She looked at me and without hesitating she said, "Sure. Um, where are we going?"

This is going to be so much fun! Alice's thoughts flitted through my mind.

I can't believe this. Oh well this should be…interesting. Jasper thought while curiosity was willing inside him.

"We have to wait for thunder to play ball �C you'll see why," I smiled at her.

A sign of nervousness was evident on her face when she bit her lower lip. She didn't realize she was doing it when she looked at me and asked anxiously, "Will Ineed an umbrella?"

We all started laughing but I was relieved because I was finally aware of what her sudden apprehension was.

"Will she?" Jasper asked with a most peculiar expression.

"No. The storm will hit over town. It should be dry enough in the clearing." Alice said while the vision of the clearing ran through her head.

Jasper was so full of happiness and joyfulness from the situation happening in the room that he couldn't contain his smile, "Good, then," he exclaimed.

Being around Alice was always a little strange because I was constantly seeing the future. This time it was just the coming minutes going through her mind. I saw her going to Carlisle and asking about playing ball.

"Let's go see if Carlisle will come," Alice jumped off the ground and headed toward the door with a wink in Jaspers direction.

"Like you don't know," Jasper teased.

Jasper closed the door behind him, Have fun bro.

Bella turned in my lap, her heart fluttering at our closeness, "What will we be playing?" she wondered.

I laughed at the thought of letting her hold a bat, or worse, letting her try to hit a ball with a bat.

"You will be watching," I clarified, "We will be playing baseball," I explained.

She rolled her eyes at me, "Vampires like baseball?" she asked in disbelief.

"It's the American pastime," I said in mock seriousness.

Some very annoying sound was in my ear. I was driving down Bella's street when little droplets of rain began splattering onto the windshield. That was not what was bothering me. Billy Black was waiting for Charlie in his driveway so he could tattle tale like a little kid on Bella's new found relationship with me.

"Damn Quileute legends," I muttered so low that Bella couldn't hear me.

Jacob and his father were taking shelter on Bella's front porch and I was instantly tense.

Can't she tell there is something wrong with that kid? His cold white skin, his aversion to the sun…I will settle this though. Charlie will listen to me and force her to stop seeing the Cullen kid. Billy Black thought with a sneer and a curse in each thought with my name.

Charlie isn't even here, why are we waiting here in the rain like idiots? Jacob thought until he saw Bella, Oh, well…maybe this wasn't a wasted trip after all.

I had heard enough. The thoughts radiating off of them were about to drive me to let the monster free. I couldn't let that happen when Bella was around.

"This is crossing the line," I said vehemently.

Bella's eyes found mine and they were worried. "He came to warn Charlie?" she asked horrified.

I gave her a grave look and nodded. I turned toward Billy then and I was seeing red. My eyes were narrowed into tiny slits. I can just get out of the car and scare them off. Or maybe I could…

"Let me deal with this," Bella interrupted my internal rage.

I didn't want to let her leave my side. To think of the things she was going to hear from Billy's mouth. His thoughts continued to get snippier and nastier each time he glared in my direction. I knew if I left the vehicle now and released my anger that I would lose Bella, so I quickly agreed, "That's probably best. Be careful, though. The child has no idea."

"Jacob is not that much younger than I am," she reminded me crisply.

I turned my gaze on her because she pulled me from my anger. She always knew exactly what to say to calm my nerves and bring me back to earth. I grinned at her, "Oh, I know," I assured her.

She looked exasperated. She reached for the door handle and sighed. I needed to leave here before my temper came back.

What the hell are they doing? What is taking so long? Billy thought angrily.

"Get them inside so I can leave. I'll be back around dusk," I commanded.

Her eyes met mine again, "Do you want my truck?" she asked.

Hasn't she learned better by now? I rolled my eyes, "I could walk home faster than this truck moves."

A sad look entered her eyes, "You don't have to leave," she said longingly.

She had no idea how difficult it was for me to leave while there were vampires lurking in the vicinity and the Blacks were here to cause trouble. I looked at her expression realizing she didn't want me to leave just as much as I didn't want to leave her. "Actually, I do. After you get rid of them," I glared in the Blacks direction, "you still have to prepare Charlie to meet your new boyfriend," a smile spread across my face.

She groaned loudly, "Thanks a lot."

Her face was so adorable when she was upset or angry. I couldn't help but smile at her. "I'll be back soon," I promised.

If she doesn't exit that truck in one minute I am going to go over there and make sure she is okay, Billy swelled ominously.

I turned my glare back in the direction of the porch at the last thought. I wanted to taunt Billy just a little bit and Jacob too. I leaned down and slowly brought my lips to Bella's jaw. I kissed lightly and her heart jumped up in her chest. Her blood was pulsing quickly and the scent made me go wild. The kiss was all flames and electricity down my throat. When I moved away from her, she looked towards the porch and could see the same thing I could. Billy had a death grip on his wheel chair and his thoughts were in frantic disarray.

Oh, how… oh, goodness. I… Well…disgusting! Billy's thoughts were choked.

Bella realized how panicked Billy was now and she was suddenly in a rush, "Soon," she ordered while opening the door to the truck and stepping out into the rain.

When the rain droplets ran down her face I could see them evaporate while the wind blew her rainy scent in my direction. I gripped her steering wheel so tightly I almost broke it off. She shut the door quickly and ran to the porch for protection from the rain.

I decided to keep my attention on the Blacks and not on the way Bella's scent was covered in a delicious sweetness.

"Hey, Billy. Hi, Jacob," Bella greeted them in a incredibly false pleased voice, "Charlie's gone for the day �C I hope you haven't been waiting long."

Right, right, I don't believe she is worried about our wait at all. Billy thought with disappointment etched in every sagging line of his face. "Not long," Billy replied dully, "I just wanted to bring this up," he pointed to a brown paper sack in his lap.

I wonder when Charlie will be home. I still can't believe what I saw in her truck. Billy thoughts continued to curse me.

"Thanks," Bella responded in a confused voice, "Why don't you come in for a minute and dry off?" she offered.

She doesn't seem scared or nervous…not at all like she was just with a vampire. Billy was alight with a feverous fanatical burn.

Bella opened the door and showed them in. Before the door was shut I was out of the truck and pelting through the woods.

Each step dragged as I was contemplating going back and scoping up Bella and running for it. The only reason I didn't was because Billy was right about everything. She shouldn't be with me. She should realize the appalling creature that I am and run away screaming. But she didn't; she continued to pull herself ever closer to me and I allowed it. I embraced her and wanted her in my arms. The love I was feeling for her was overwhelming. If anything were to happen to her… I stopped running in the forest to take several unneeded deep breaths. When the fear and anxiety finally dulled I swiftly made my way back home.

For the first time in ages Alice wasn't waiting for me at the porch steps; Emmett was.

"Hey! I heard that you and Bella are coming out to play ball tonight!" Emmett laughed loudly while his face twisted with glee.

"No, Bella will not be playing," I said with a grim smile.

"Oh, damn it. I was hoping to see Bella with a bat in her hand," Emmett smiled sinisterly.

"Please, like I would place a bat in her hands!"

Yeah, yeah I get it. You just don't understand how funny it is when she does something human, Emmett chortled a wild little laugh as he walked into the house.

Alice walked over the threshold then, You know this is going to be a good game. There will be a tie breaker. Do you remember what happened last time between Jasper and Emmett? Esme is going to have to come up with a better idea for tie breaking.

I smiled at her, "So are you pitching?"

Of course, you can't let Carlisle do it; he's just not that good at pitching. Alice thought.

We were both silent for a few seconds and I could tell what topic of conversation Alice really wanted to cover, "Go ahead, ask me," I suggested.

When can I take Bella shopping? Please let me take her soon! Have you seen the dreadful attire she was wearing? Just wait until you see what she is wearing tonight. Ugh! Alice pouted.

"We'll see," I replied.

Fine, okay… Want to throw the ball around? Alice asked, bored.

"Sure."

Alice flew through the house, grabbed a baseball and flew to the backyard. I was already waiting for her. We threw the ball back and forth for several minutes until Jasper and Emmett came outside to join us. Emmett and Jasper decided that throwing the ball back and forth was 'boring' and needed some spice.

They began throwing the ball as far as they could to see who would be the first to not catch it. This went on for several long minutes. I sat on the grass watching the sun slowly descending behind the trees. I got up in a hurry to pick Bella up.

Take Emmett's Jeep. Trust me. Alice sent a vision of us running through the forest, She would appreciate it if part of the way there wasn't on your back, she giggled.

"Hey, Emmett, I'm taking your jeep," I informed him.

"Okay, bring it back in one piece, oh, and you better help Bella get into the Jeep. I wouldn't want to see her get hurt trying to get in it," Emmett's bellowing laugh echoed and reverberated off of the trees.

"Funny," I muttered.

I could hear Charlie and Bella's conversation from a mile down the road. I caught the very end of it. Bella had informed Charlie that we were going on a date and Charlie was having a hard time comprehending the match. "Where is he taking you?" he asked protectively.

I could hear Bella groan loudly, "I hope you're getting the Spanish Inquisition out of your system now. We're going to play baseball with his family," she explained.

Baseball? Hum, maybe I had things all wrong with this Edward kid, Charlie mumbled in his thoughts, But, Bella, playing ball? A loud chuckle erupted from him. "You're playing baseball?" he asked in disbelief.

I was extremely pleased that she finally told Charlie the truth about our plans.

"Well, I'll probably watch most of the time," she responded.

All of the time, I amended in my mind.

"You must really like this guy," Charlie observed suspiciously.

I heard Bella sigh as I parked in the driveway. I heard the water going in the kitchen. "Leave the dishes, I can do them tonight. You baby me too much," said Charlie.

I promptly made my way to the front door and lightly pressed the door bell. Bells began ringing throughout the house. I heard Charlie's footsteps followed by Bella's coming towards the door. He opened the door swiftly sending their scent flying out into the rain. Every particle of air around me began soaking up Bella's scent instantly. Charlie's scent could have been non-existent compared to hers. I could almost catch her taste on the saturated air.

"Come on in, Edward," Charlie greeted me.

Bella exhaled a large gust of air sending another tantalizing scent ripping down my throat and sending my stomach into knots at the fragrance.

"Thanks, Chief Swan," I replied respectfully.

"Go ahead and call me Charlie. Here, I'll take your jacket," he reached for it.

I pulled it off quickly and replied, "Thanks, sir," before handing it over.

"Have a seat there, Edward," he ordered while pointing to the seat.

I saw Bella's face in my peripheral vision and she looked like she was going to be sick with anxiety. I sat down in the only chair. Bella and Charlie sat on the sofa. Bella glared at me with her arms folded around her stomach. Her kittenish out-rage was comical at best and so I winked when Charlie's back was turned. Her cheeks turned bright pink – in horror or embarrassment I wasn't sure.

"So I hear you're getting my girl to watch baseball," Charlie mused.

"Yes, sir, that's the plan," I answered courteously.

"Well, more power to you, I guess," he said incredulously and we both broke into hooting laughs.

Blood had boiled to the surface of Bella's face and rage flowed out of her mouth. She stood up, "Okay. Enough humor at my expense. Let's go," she ordered.

I waited for Charlie to stand up and then followed him. We met Bella in the hall while she angrily pulled her jacket over her flannel shirt. I don't care what Alice said, the flannel looks pleasant on her. When she flipped her hair it sent a wave of her bouquet my direction and I inhaled deeply at the pleasurable pain that was echoing in my throat.

"Not too late, Bell," Charlie instructed.

"Don't worry, Charlie, I'll have her home early," I promised.

What he didn't know was that I would be staying the night in his daughter's room…again. Holding her tightly against my body and tracing every line of her face, arms, and shoulders. I imagined her trembling under my touch when Charlie finally distracted me.

"You take care of my girl, all right?" Charlie ordered and I could hear the mental humming of his love for his only daughter spilling from his mind in large waves crashing into me all at once. I wondered briefly if this is what Jasper felt like when he absorbed someone's mood.

Bella groaned again but we both ignored her.

"She'll be safe with me, I promise, sir."

There was no doubt that she would always be safe with me, that I would never let any harm come to her. Charlie's thoughts became muffled like they did at times but I could still tell that he believed me. I grabbed my jacket and watched Bella walk angrily down the hall. Bella, still in her kittenish rage, turned to look at me and then marched out of the house. Charlie and I both laughed and I followed her. When she reached the porch her jaw almost dropped to the ground when she caught sight of the Jeep. Charlie came into view of the Jeep too and whistled.

"Wear your seat belts," he stammered.

Bella finally got her act together after taking in the whole jeep. Her eyes had roamed from the monster tires to the metal guards over the headlights and the crash bar. She stalked forward and I followed her, opening the passenger side door. I saw her look at the ground and then at the seat while her eyes slightly popped. She crouched like she was about to spring up into the seat. I sighed remembering Emmetts taunts and I carefully grabbed her around the waist and lifted her into the Jeep with one hand. It was pouring down rain and her scent was teasing me by swirling around my nose and deep in my lungs as I inhaled.

I walked around to the front of the Jeep while watching Bella struggle with the seat belt. I suppressed a chuckle. I opened the driver's side door and she looked at me confused, "What's all this?" she asked pointing to the buckles.

"It's an off-roading harness."

"Oh-oh," she looked nervous.

I watched her struggle some more, delighting in the blood flushing her face at her frustration. She wasn't going to give up the fight and I finally sighed, reaching over her to help. I brought the seat belt over her neck caressing her lightly and brought my finger tips across her collarbone. Her hands went limp in her lap and her heart was like a humming bird's wings. She began breathing heavily. The scent of her breath hit me like a ton of bricks, sweet and delicious. I pulled away once she was buckled. I did enjoy dazzeling her.

I turned the key in the ignition and the engine roared the life. Bella was looking rather nervous. "This is a…um…big Jeep you have."

"It's Emmett's," I informed her, "I didn't think you'd want to run the whole way."

She was still breathless, "Where do you keep this thing?"

"We remodeled one of the outbuildings into a garage," I explained.

She looked at me with one eyebrow raised, "Aren't you going to put on your seat belt?"

I threw her a disbelieving look. She was being ridiculous. She continued to stare at me and her look suddenly became horror struck, "Run the whole way? As in, we're still going to run part of the way?" her voice rose a few intervals.

I tried to prevent a grin from spreading across my face but it was a hopeless attempt. My lips turned up at the corners no matter how hard I tried to suppress it, "You're not going to run."

"I'm going to be sick," she pulled her lips together tightly like she was preventing herself from getting sick right then.

Again, I tried to prevent a smile from appearing and yet there it was.

"Keep your eyes closed, you'll be fine."

With her normal nervous gesture she began biting at her lower lip. When she did this it always made me a little anxious that she might hurt herself, but she never did. I watched her carefully as the panic was racing through her veins. Her pulse was hammering and her breath was heavy on the air. Her hair was slightly wet from the rain and I couldn't help it – I brought my nose to her head and kissed her hair. A groan came out of my throat without my permission. I pulled away and she gave me a questioning look.

"You smell so good in the rain," I explained.

I took more air into my lungs, a whirl wind of her warm scent swirled into them. I held it there for a second before exhaling and doing it all over again; reveling in her aroma.

"In a good way or a bad way?" she gave me a furtive look.

I sighed, "Both, always both."

Once our journey took us off the paved road and into the forest conversation became impossible for Bella because she was bouncing up and down. I swear I could see her eyes rattling around. I couldn't help but smile at her look. It was hilarious and no matter how hard I tried to hide my smile, it was brilliant and brightly plastered across my face. The end of the path loomed into view and we could no longer drive any farther. I stopped the Jeep turning the key as the engine became silent.

"Sorry, Bella, we have to go on foot from here," I explained.

"You know what? I'll just wait here," she answered sarcastically.

"What happened to all your courage?" I asked with a smile, "You were extraordinary this morning."

Her face started draining of all color, "I haven't forgotten last time yet."

I wrenched the door open and hopped out of the Jeep and in less than a second I was on her side of the Jeep unbuckling her seat belt. She stared at me indignantly.

"I'll get those, you go on ahead," she protested.

I finally unbuckled all of the straps and decided teasing was the best way to go, "Hmmm…," I mused, "It seems I'm going to have to tamper with your memory."

I pulled her into my arms and sat her gently on the ground.

"Tamper with my memory?" she asked anxiously.

"Something like that," I teased.

It was no longer raining and the mist was falling into her hair sending the sweet seductive scent evaporating into every particle of air around us. I took in a generous amount of the air in between us. I decided a distraction was needed so I could get her into the clearing.

She was leaning against the Jeep and I took two hasty steps until I trapped her there by placing both of my hands on either side of her. I brought my body ever closer to hers. She backed away slightly but didn't seem to mind my closeness. Her warm body enveloped me as I brought my face ever closer to hers. I wanted to place my lips to hers. I was nervous to see what her reaction would be this time.

"Now," I breathed, "what exactly are you worrying about?"

"Well, um, hitting a tree -" she gulped, "�C and dying. And then getting sick."

I remembered both times when she got sick; at school and after running with me. I couldn't help but smile at the memories but quickly smoothed my face. I moved the few extra inches until her warm breath was now in my mouth. I brought my lips to the hollow at the base of her throat. I kissed lightly moving my nose under her jaw lightly.

"Are you still worried now?" I breathed on her skin making her tremble in pleasure.

"Yes." her voice quivered in bliss, "About hitting trees and getting sick."

Apparently I wasn't distracting her enough though I was thoroughly distracted. I was euphoric. I trailed the tip of my nose up her throat and down her jaw line to the tip of her chin.

"And now?" I whispered while breathing in her every breath.

"Trees," she inhaled, "Motion sickness."

I brought my lips to her eyes and kissed her eye lids, "Bella, you don't really think I would hit a tree, do you?"

"No, but I might," her confidence failing extravagantly.

I began my journey to her mouth. I kissed slowly down her cheek letting her skin warm them. I brought my lips to the corner of her mouth. Gently, I let my bottom lip softly brush against hers.

"Would I let a tree hurt you?"

My lips were barely touching her. A curious sensation crawled up my throat. With every touch of our lips electricity shot through my body sending a joyous feeling through my veins. Her bottom lip was trembling in absolute pleasure. I took in several generous gulps of her breath.

"No," she breathed against my lips.

"You see," I said my lips touching hers as I spoke, "There's nothing to be afraid of, is there?"

"No," she sighed and she became limp against the Jeep, giving up.

I pulled her face into my hands a little rougher than usual and brought my lips to hers fiercely. Our lips were moving together and we were both panting heavily at the sensations shooting through our bodies. She brought her arms around my neck bringing me closer to her. We embraced frantically while our bodies were welded together. My hands moved eagerly to her back bringing her closer to my chest while bowing her body against mine. She was quivering with delight as her lips parted slightly and she sighed heavily bringing her breath deep in my lungs. Excitement exploded in the pit of my stomach.

I let go and staggered back several steps, flustered, realizing this was the only sensible course of action. I couldn't believe I let myself get so out of control.

"Damn it, Bella!" I was gasping, "You'll be the death of me, I swear you will."

I watched as she leaned forward placing her hands on her knees and panting.

"You're indestructible," she mumbled while continuing to breathe heavily.

I was so angry at myself for letting it get that far. I monster inside me wanted me to lose control and I couldn't let that happen.

"I might have believed that before I met you. Now let's get out of here before I do something really stupid," I growled.

I pulled Bella onto my back while trying to be as gentle as possible. She secured herself to me by wrapping her legs around my waist and pulling her arms around my neck. The warmth rippled down my body.

"Don't forget to close your eyes," I reminded her.

She lodged her face into my shoulder and it sent a jolt of electricity through me. I could feel her warm breath. I broke into a run and her pulse picked up, her heart beating out large palpitations.

It only took a matter of minutes before we arrived just outside the clearing where my family was already preparing to play ball. Bella did not move as I stood there waiting for her to let go. I was terrified that she had opened her eyes and fallen sick like before. I reached behind me and ran my fingers through her silky hair gently.

"It's over, Bella," I said softly.

She sighed in relief and she was suddenly no longer wrapped around me. I heard a pulpous noise that was followed by, "Oh!"

I turned around swiftly worried she had hurt herself. I did the smallest of double takes before I saw her expression and the tension finally broke between us. Her face was screwed up in embarrassment. I was trying my hardest to hold in laughter but I was unable to. I barked out a laugh. Her expression had twisted into indignation and chagrin. She pushed herself off the ground while brushing dirt and bracken off of her backside. She turned, muttering silently, and marched off in the wrong direction.

A smile was still on my face as I wrapped my arm around her waist. "Where are you going, Bella?"

"To watch a baseball game. You don't seem to be interested in playing anymore, but I'm sure the others will have fun without you," she said bitterly.

"You're going the wrong way," I said coolly.

She turned on her heal with a firm and purposeful tread in the opposite direction. I shook my head back and forth at her and grabbed her around the waist a second time.

"Don't be mad, I couldn't help myself. You should have seen your face," I tried to explain but a chuckle broke through my composure.

She looked at me haughtily. "Oh, you're the only one who's allowed to get mad?" she asked while raising her eyebrows.

I paused for a moment and studied her face. "I wasn't mad at you."

"'Bella, you'll be the death of me'?" she quoted crisply.

"That was simply a statement of fact," I said while still trying to hold in my amusement.

She gave me a look of pure abhorrence and turned to stride away again. In a quick motion I pulled her to my chest. I couldn't take it if she left me now.

"You were mad," she persisted, her face stricken.

"Yes."

"But you just said �C" she began.

"That I wasn't mad at you. Can't you see that, Bella?" I asked patiently. "Don't you understand?"

I felt completely exasperated. She was so sweet, loving…fragile; there was nothing she could do to make me upset at her.

She pursed her lips. "See what?" she insisted with a confused expression.

"I'm never angry with you �C how could I be? Brave, trusting…warm as you are," I explained.

"Then why?" she asked softly.

I analyzed her face, trying to read her mind once again. I reached the barrier I always did while trying to probe her mind, the silence persisted. She looked just as confused as ever. I sighed and pulled her delicate face in my cold palms. Her cheeks instantly warmed my whole body. I looked her straight in the eyes. "I infuriate myself," I said quietly. "The way I can't seem to keep from putting you in danger. My very existence puts you at risk. Sometimes I truly hate myself. I should be stronger; I should be able to �C"

She placed her warm palm over my mouth touching my lips softly. "Don't."

She stared into my eyes, the depth of her eyes were communicating with mine. I put my hand over hers and moved it to my cheek. The warmth radiated off of her skin and deep into my body. I felt the sudden urge to bring our lips together and tell her how much I loved her. The words were exiting my mouth before I made the decision to do so. "I love you," I stated. "It's a poor excuse for what I'm doing, but it's still true."

Her face softened at my words. "Now, please try to behave yourself," I pleaded as I slowly bent down and brushed my lips lightly across hers.

She didn't move but her heart raced and she parted her lips with a sigh. I inhaled copious amounts of her breath into my lungs letting it send flames down my throat.

"You promised Chief Swan that you would have me home early, remember," she whispered against my lips. "We'd better get going."

My insides were twisting in pleasure at our touch but I finally got my act together.

"Yes ma'am," I replied while continuing to smile.

I released all of her but her hand. I showed her the way through the forest. It was only a few feet until we reached the clearing. I was feeling radiant with glee. Esme, Rosalie and Emmett were sitting on a large rock. When they caught sight of us they all three rose. Alice and Jasper were in the distance throwing the ball back and forth and Carlisle was marking bases.

Right on time! Alice thought.

I'll just hold my breath if she gets too close, Jasper contemplated.

I thought I heard them, Esme thought while walking in our direction.

Rosalie strode off in the other direction without a single glance behind her. Oh great…the human's here, Rosalie sneered, alight with malice.

Come on! Jeez, not this again… Emmett stared at the back of Rosalie as she marched away from us. Whatever, I'm not missing this. Emmett followed behind Esme.

"Was that you we heard, Edward?" Esme asked as she approached us.

Yeah, that weird gurgling noise. "It sounded like a bear choking." Emmett chortled.

A small timid smile was on Bella's face. "That was him."

Oh, I see how it is, I thought internally. "Bella was being unintentionally funny," I explained with a wide grin.

Alice came running towards us. Five seconds, she thought as she stopped in front of us.

"It's time," she announced.

Lightning flashed through the dark cloudy sky while thunder rippled overhead shaking the ground around us. Bella's eyes grew wide in wonder.

Her face is hilarious, Emmett thought. "Eerie, isn't it?" he winked at Bella hoping for her to make another 'human' face.

"Let's go." Alice grabbed Emmett's hand and they speed swiftly away toward the field.

I'll take care of her. Go play now, Esme vested.

Excitement was flowing in my veins. It had been a long time since I had felt so light and buoyant. "Are you ready for some ball?" I asked eagerly.

Her face showed a mix of awe, bewilderment, and perplexity at the game. She seemed extremely intimidated. "Go team!" she said enthusiastically. A chuckle came through my lips as I fluffed her hair up in a frenzy and bounded after Alice and Emmett.

Another crash of lightning sent a rumble of thunder through the earth at our feet. All the amazing feelings shooting through my body were making me exceedingly intoxicated with bliss. In this moment I felt like I had everything I could ever want. I flew past Alice and Emmett.

Show off, Emmett thought.

I just chuckled at his expression as I turned to run backwards, stopping in the outfield next to Carlisle. I peered over Emmett's shoulder to see Esme and Bella walking toward the field.

"Same teams?" Carlisle asked.

Everyone nodded in agreement. My team members, Carlisle and Alice, left to go to their positions. Carlisle went to stand between first and second base while Alice went to the pitcher's mound. I darted toward the outfield.

Edward, you are such a gentleman, Esme commended.

I hadn't been paying attention to their conversation and listened to the end of it as they finally reached the outside of the playing field.

"You don't mind, then? That I'm…all wrong for him?" Bella asked Esme incredulously.

She's not all wrong for me, I'm all wrong for her. I amended internally.

"No." Esme began. I'd never want to take Bella away from Edward, I just couldn't imagine… "You're what he wants. It will work out, somehow." He needs to change her but I know if he never will, Esme was thinking wistfully.

The ground shook below us as thunder rumbled overhead.

Get ready, Edward! Emmett chortled internally. He was swinging the bat back and forth.

He'll miss the first one, Alice snickered.

"All right," Esme called out. "Batter up."

Emmett raised his bat, ready to strike. Alice continued to snicker internally as she pictured Emmett missing the first pitch. She brought the ball to her waist. In a swift stealthy move she brought the ball into flight. It flew past Emmett at amazing speeds as Jasper caught it.

He's going to hit the next one, Edward. Be prepared, though, there is a ninety-seven percent chance you'll catch it. Alice mused in her mind.

Jasper threw the ball back at Alice and she showed her gleaming teeth at him.

Damn she is so attractive when she pitches, Jasper thought.

I began ignoring Jasper's thoughts quickly after that. I didn't need to be distracted from the game. Alice brought the ball back to her waist. She threw it with great force again and I was prepared. Emmett hit the ball with such strength that the aluminum smashed into the ball making a sound so fierce that it reverberated off the trees. It sounded just like the thunder. I caught a glimpse of Bella before I took off running. Her face looked stunned.

The ball suddenly flew toward me at a ferocious velocity. It went whizzing by me at lethal speeds and I was afraid I wouldn't be able to catch it. Bella had distracted me with yet another one of her expressions. I hurtled through the woods, jumping over downed trees, hopping over rocks until I caught up with the ball. I put all my strength into my leap as I jumped and caught the ball while grabbing onto a branch and swinging down to the ground.

With immense speed I ran back to the clearing, ball raised high and a smile prominent on my face.

"Out!" Esme yelled to Emmett's disappointment.

Don't worry, I'll get you back… he threatened.

Bella had a bewildered expression. I heard Esme explaining what happened. "Emmett hits the hardest, but Edward runs the fastest."

Jasper was next to bat. He already knew that throwing one towards me would be a mistake and was going for a ground ball. He hit the ball and it bounced off the ground. Carlisle caught it and started running to beat Jasper to first base. They collided and sent another thunderous noise through the night's air.

Bella was sitting on the grass and jumped up with a look of concern on her face. I laughed harder than ever at her expression.

"Safe." Esme called out.

We continued to play until the other team had three outs. We switched positions and I was at Bella's side in a quick motion that she almost didn't see.

"What do you think?" I asked in excitement.

"One thing's for sure, I'll never be able to sit through dull old Major League Baseball again," she smiled widely.

"And it sounds like you did so much of that before," I laughed.

The thrill of the game and the desire I felt when I was around Bella had me feeling high.

"I am a little disappointed," she said teasingly.

"Why?" I asked, perplexed.

"Well," she grinned, "it would be nice if I could find just one thing you didn't do better than everyone else on the planet."

She thought I was better than everyone else on the planet. I was soaring. I didn't think anything could remove the smile that seemed to be permanently plastered on my face.

I'm going to have to have a talk with her about filling your head with non-sense, Emmett guffawed stupidly.

You're oozing love over here. You're up lover boy, Jasper joked.

"I'm up!" I told Bella while heading to the plate.

We continued to play for several innings when several things happened simultaneously. I had bent down to get into the catching position, Carlisle had walked up to bat and Alice gasped in horror while she shrieked in alarm in her mind. I brought my eyes to hers as I saw what she was seeing. Terror rose inside me as a large dead weight fell through my chest and into my stomach.

Three vampires were running in our direction, curious about playing ball. The next series of visions had me scrambling to Bella's side in terror.

Edward, no! Alice thought while her vision continued as one tall vampire caught Bella's scent on the wind and attacked. In her vision Bella didn't die because we prevented him from sucking her dry but she had been bitten. Only a part of a second had passed and I was at Bella's side.

Get her out of here now! Alice bellowed from her mind. My brain was in limbo because I saw the other outcomes too.

Everyone was saying Alice's name alarmingly in their heads but Esme was the first to break the silence. "Alice?" she asked, her voice strained.

"I didn't see �C I couldn't tell," she mouthed almost soundlessly.

I felt Bella tense up as everyone flew rapidly to her side in protection. Bella knew – she had to know. She was always so observant. Everyones thoughts were jumbled in confusion and alarm. Panic burst inside me like poisonous gas.

"What is it, Alice?" Carlisle asked in a business like tone.

It's too late, Edward. I'm sorry. "They were traveling much quicker than I thought. I can see I had the perspective wrong before," Alice's eyes were blank yet horror struck.

They'll have to go through me before they get to Alice, Jasper thought protectively. He moved closer to her. "What changed?"

She looked up at him in absolute horror. I could see how split second decisions were altering her visions. None of them looked promising. "They heard us playing, and it changed their path," she explained with pure agony in her voice.

It's my fault, she thought feebly.

We all looked at Bella and saw that her face was shocked. Her heart drummed madly as she comprehended our words. I saw through seven pairs of eyes Bella's expressions from every angle. Each of their thoughts were ricocheting in my head. Was this the punishment I would suffer for being selfish? Losing her? I cried internally. My heart was screaming in protest.

"How soon?" Carlisle asked me.

Alice was in a stunned stupor. I read through each line of her thoughts as they flitted across her mind. "Less than five minutes. They're running �C they want to play." I frowned at him.

Take Bella and run! "Can you make it?" Carlisle asked me nervously.

I brought her scent into my lungs. It was just another reminder of how weak and fragile she was.

"No, not carrying �C" I cut short. "Besides, the last thing we need is for them to catch the scent and start hunting."

It was one of the many visions that had gone through Alice's mind: Bella being hunted. Each decision we made turned the outcome into something different. Some were more devastating than others. As soon as I decided it I saw the reaction of the vampires. They would hunt �C we would lose. I couldn't run with her.

This isn't good, Carlisle thought.

All right, a fight! Emmett exclaimed in his head, completely unperturbed. I glowered at him. He shrugged, I'm sorry. I don't want them to hurt Bella any more than you do.

"How many?" Emmett asked Alice.

"Three," she clipped in a muffled wail.

"Three!" That will be too easy. "Let them come." Emmett scoffed and began flexing his muscles.

Everyone's thoughts were in such a frantic state of mind I couldn't listen anymore. They were coming at me from all angles. Bella's name was coming up in every single thought. I began dissolving in misery. It was entirely fault.

"Let's just continue the game," Carlisle finally decided. "Alice said they were simply curious."

This is ludicrous! I can't believe this crap…all for a human girl. Rosalie muttered reproachfully.

Now that the decision is made what is the outcome? Carlisle asked me.

I shrugged because there were too many situations where decisions have yet to be made. I knew my face was screwed up in concentration and I knew that worry lines were etched into every crease of my face. I could see myself perfectly in Carlisle's mind as he stared at me.

Everyone began walking out onto the field to continue the game. Their minds were somewhere else though.

Forest is clear here, Emmett thought.

I nodded in his direction. Esme grabbed my arms and pulled me just a few feet away from Bella. The short distance felt like miles. I was so horrified that I had brought her to danger. Anguish was ripping through my body. A knot formed in the pit of my stomach.

"Are they thirsty?" Esme whispered.

I shook my head.

That's good to hear. Esme was relieved.

I headed back to Bella quickly. "You catch, Esme. I'll call it now."

I stood in front of Bella protectively. I would die to save her if I had to. She didn't deserve any fate but life. My insides were plummeting sickeningly with each aching second before the crimson eyed creatures were to come into view.

I won't let anything happen to her, I swear. Alice tried to assure me.

She had refused to go back onto the field, staying at Bella's side in a protective stance. I knew that in this moment Alice showed her loyalty to me. The space between her and Jasper made him relatively nervous and he, too, was staying closer to Alice because of the situation. Emmett and Rosalie were staying in the infield. Chaos was filling everyone's minds around me.

The wind blew across Bella's neck sending her sultry scent down my lungs. "Take your hair down," I commanded.

Her face looked positively terrified as she obediently slid her rubber band out of her hair and shook it out. She could tell that eminent danger was around the corner. The smell assaulted my lungs again.

"The others are coming now," she stated.

I knew she could understand. Her knowing mind always amazed me. For a fleeting second I thought about what it would do to me if she were no longer around. Pain ripped through my chest leaving large angry scratches.

"Yes, stay very still, keep quiet, and don't move from my side, please," I pleaded.

The billowing wind blew her scent towards me again. Each time it was a reminder of how easily this could go wrong. The knot in my stomach tightened. I pulled her hair forward and tried to wrap it as closely to her neck as possible.

Edward…Edward. Edward! Alice was shouting my name from her head but I was too preoccupied to notice. "That won't help," she whispered, "I could smell her from across the field."

"I know," I said, frustrated.

Bella was like a gazelle in a sea of lions.

I didn't want to scare her but you wouldn't respond. Alice sighed in her thoughts.

The rest of my family began playing baseball again. This time they were lightly bunting the ball and barely running at top speeds. We weren't interested in the game anymore. The waves of terror continued emitting from everyone's mind. I felt Bella's heat against me. She had moved within inches of my body. "What did Esme ask you?" she whispered.

I wasn't going to tell her but I realized that I had too. I hesitated for only a second. "Whether they were thirsty," I was thoroughly discomposed.

This is the dumbest idea ever. I don't know what the hell Edward is thinking keeping her human. Grr. So frail and…mortal. Rosalie wailed in a real temper.

I ignored her because I was too busy looking for the minds of strangers in the forest.

I wonder how many there are. An unknown 'voice' flitted through my head.

My eyes snapped up to the edge of the tree line. I couldn't believe I had put Bella in this kind of danger. I was constantly putting her in harm's way. "I'm sorry Bella," I cried, "It was stupid, irresponsible, to expose you like this. I'm so sorry."

I couldn't expect forgiveness because I didn't deserve it.

This should be interesting. I heard an unfamiliar female's mind.

I heard them in the distance and so did the rest of my family. There was a quivering silence cutting through the air as my family peered out at the darkening forest in the direction of the coming doom. They were just lurking out of sight. I was convinced for a whole shining second that they had changed their minds until three dark figures emerged from the forest.

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