*by Stephenie Meyer*
TWILIGHT - chapter 13 - CONFESSIONS
"Please forgive me," he said formally. "I can control myself. You caught me off guard. but I'm on my best behavior now."
He waited, but I still couldn't speak.
"I'm not thirsty today, honestly." He winked.
At that I had to laugh, though the sound was shaky and breathless.
"Are you all right?" he asked tenderly, reaching out slowly, carefully, to place his marble hand back on mine.
I looked at his smooth, cold hand, and then at his eyes. They were soft, repentant. I looked back at his hand, and then deliberately returned to tracing the lines in his hand with my fingertip. I looked up and smiled timidly.
His answering smile was dazzling.
"So where were we, before I behaved so rudely?" he asked in a gentle cadences of an earlier century.
"I honestly can't remember."
He smiled, but his face was ashamed. "I think we were talking about why you were afraid, besides the obvious reason."
I looked down at his hand and doddled aimlessly across his smooth, iridescent palm. The seconds ticked by.
"How easily frustrated I am," he sighed. I locked into his eyes, abruptly grasping that this was every bit as new to him as it was to me. As many years of unfathomable experience as he had, this was hard for him, too. I took courage from that thought.
"I was afraid... because, for, well, obvious reasons, I can't stay with you. And I'm afraid that I'd like to stay with you, much more than I should." I looked down at his hands as I spoke. It was difficult for me to say this aloud.
"Yes," he agreed slowly. "That is something to be afraid of, indeed. Wanting to be with me. That's really not in your best interest."
"I should have left long ago," he sighed. "I should leave now. But I don't know if I can."
"I don't want you to leave," I mumbled pathetically, staring down again.
"Which is exactly why I should. But don't worry. I'm essentially a selfish creature. I crave your company too much to do what I should."
"Don't be!" He withdrew his hand, more gently this time; his voice was harsher than usual. Harsh for him, still more beautiful than any other human voice. It was hard to keep up - his sudden mood changes left me always a step behind, dazed.
"It's not only your company I crave! Never forget that. Never forget I am more dangerous to you than I am to anyone else." He stopped, and I looked to see him gazing unseeingly into the forest.
I thought for a moment.
"I don't think I understand exactly what you mean - by that last part anyway," I said.
He looked back at me and smiled, his mood shifting yet again.
"How do I explain?" he mused. "And without frightening you again... hmmmm." Without seeming to think about it, he placed his hand back in mine; I held it tightly in both of mine. He looked at our hands.
"That's amazingly pleasant, the warmth." He sighed.
A moment passed as he assembled his thoughts.
"You know how everyone enjoys different flavors?" he began. "Some people love chocolate ice cream, others perfer strawberry?"
"Sorry about the food analogy - I couldn't think of another way to explain."
I smiled. He smiled ruefully back.
"You see, every person smells different, has a different essence. If you locked an alcoholic in a room full of stale beer, he'd gladly drink it. But he could resist, if he wished to, if he were a recovering alcoholic. Now let's say you placed in that room a glass of hundred-year-old brandy, the rarest, finest cognac - and filled the room with its warm aroma - how do you think he would fare then?"
We sat silently, looking into each other's eyes - trying to read each other's thoughts.
He broke the silence first.
"Maybe that's not the right comparison. Maybe it would be too easy to turn down the brandy. Perhaps I should have made our alcoholic a heroin addict instead."
"So what you're saying is, I'm your brand of heroin?" I teased, trying to lighten the mood.
He smiled swiftly, seeming to appreciate my effort. "Yes, you're exactly my brand of heroin."
"Does that happon eften?" I asked.
He looked across the treetops, thinking through his response.
"I spoke to my brothers about it." He still stared into the distance. "To Jasper, every one of you is much the same. He's the most recent to join our family. It's a struggle for him to abstain at all. He hasn't had time to grow sensitive to the differences in smell, in flavor." He glanced swiftly at me, his expression apologetic.
"Sorry," he said.
"I don't mind. Please don't worry about offending me, or frightening me, or whichever. That's the way you think. I can understand, or I can try to at least. Jst explain however you can."
He took a deep breath and gazed at the sky again.
"So Jasper wasn't sure if he'd ever come across someone who was as" - he hesitated, looking for the right word - "appealing as you are to me. Which makes me think not. Emmett has been on the wagon longer, so to speak, and he understood what I meant. He says twice, for him, once stronger than the other."
"And for you?"
The word hung there for a moment in the warm breeze.
"What did Emmett do?" I asked to break the silence.
It was the wrong question to ask. His face grew dark, his hand clenched into a fist inside mine. He looked away. I waited, but he wasn't going to answer.
"I guess I know," I finally said.
He lifted his eyes; his expression was wistful, pleading.
"Even the strongest of us fall off the wagon, don't we?"
"What are you asking? My permission?" My voice was sharper than I'd intended. I tried to make my tone kinder - I could guess what his honestly must cost him. "I mean, is there no hope, then?" How calmly I could discuss my own death!
"No, no!" He was instantly contrite. "Of course there's hope! I mean, of course I won't..." He left the sentence hanging. His eyes burned into mine. "It's different for us. Emmett... these were strangers he happened across. It was a long time ago, and he wasn't as... practiced, as careful, as he is now."
He fell silent and watched me intently as I thought it through.
"So if we'd met... oh, in a dark alley or something..." I trailed off.
"It took everything I had not to jump up in the middle of that class full of children and - " He stopped abruptly, looking away. "When you walked past me, I could have ruined everything Carlisle has built for us, right then and there. If I hadn't been denying my thirst for the last, well, too many years, I wouldn't have been able to stop myself." He paused, scowling at the trees.
He glanced at me grimly, both of us remembering. "You must have thought I was possessed."
"I couldn't understand why. How you could hate me so quickly..."
"To me, it was like you were some kind of demon, summoned straight from my own personal hell to ruin me. The fragrance coming off your skin... I thought it would make me deranged that first day. In that one hour, I thought of a hundred different ways to lure you from the room with me, to get you alone. And I fought them each back, thinking of my family, what I could do to them. I had to run out, to get away before I could speak the words that would make you follow..."
He looked up then at my staggered expression as I tried to absorb his bitter memories. His golden eyes scorched from under his lashes, hypnotic and deadly.
"You would have come," he promised.
I tried to speak calmly. "Without a doubt."
He frowned down at my hands, releasing me from the forve of his stare. "And then, as I tried to rearrange my schedule in a pointless attempt to avoid you, you were there - in that close, warm little room, the scent was maddening. I so very nearly took you then. There was only one other frail human there - so easily dealt with."
I shivered in the warm sun, seeing my memories anew through his eyes, only now grasping the danger. Poor Ms. Cope; I shivered again at how close I'd come to being inadvertently responsible for her death.