*by Stephenie Meyer*


If I'd ever feared death before in the presence, it was nothing compared to now.
He streaked through the dark, thick underbrush of the forest like a bullet, like a ghost. There was no sound, no evidence that his feet touched the earth. His breathing never changed, never indicated and effort. But the trees flew by at deadly speeds, always missing by inches.
I was too terrified to close my eyes, though the cool forest air whipped against my face and burned them. I felt as if I were stupidly sticking my head out the window of an airplane in flight. And, for the first time in my life, I felt the dizzy faintness of motion sickness.
Then it was over. We'd hiked for hours this morning to reach Edward's meadow, and now in a matter of minutes, we were back to the truck.
"Exhilarating, isn't it?" His voice was high, excited.
He stood motionless, waiting for me to climb down. I tried, but my muscles wouldn't respond. My arms and legs stayed locked around him while my head spun uncomfortably.
"Bella?" he asked, anxious now.
"I think I need to lie now," I gasped.
"Oh, sorry." He waited for me, but I still couldn't move.
"I think I need help," I admitted.
He laughed quietly, and gently unloosened my strangle-hold on his neck. There was no resisting the iron strength of his hands. Then he puled me around to face him, cradling me in his arms like a small child. He held me for a moment, then carefully placed me on the springy ferns.
"How do you feel?" he asked.
I couldn't be sure how I felt when my head was spinning so crazily. "Dizzy, I think."
"Put your head between your knees."
I tried that, and it helped a little. I breathed in and out slowly, keeping my head very still. I felt him sitting beside me. The moments passed, and eventually I found that I could raise my head. There was a hollow ringing sound in my ears.
"I guess that wasn't the best idea," he mused.
I tried to be positive, but my voice was weak. "No, it was very interesting."
"Hah! You're as white as a ghost - no, you're as white as me!"
"I think I should have closed my eyes."
"Remember that next time."
"Next time!" I groaned.
He laughed, his mood still radiant.
"Show-off," I muttered.
"Open your eyes, Bella," he said quietly.
And he was right there, his face so close to mine. His beauty stunned my mind - it was too much, an excess I couldn't grow accustomed to.
"I was thinking, while I was running..." He paused.
"About not hitting the trees, I hope."
"Silly Bella," he chuckled. "Running is second nature to me, it's not something I have to think about."
"Show-off," I muttered again.
He smiled.
"No," he continued, "I was thinking there was something I wanted to try." And he took my face in his hands again.
I couldn't breathe.
He hesitated - not in the normal way, the human way.
Not the way a man might hesitate beefore he kissed a woman, to gauge her reaction, to see how he would be recieved. Perhaps he would hesitate to prolong the moment, that ideal moment of anticipation, sometimes better than the kiss itself.
Edward hesitated to test himself, to see if it was safe, to make sure he was still in control of his need.
And then his cold, marble lips pressed softly against mine.
What neither of us was prepared for was my response.
Blood boiled under my skin, burned in my lips. My breath came in a wild gasp. My fingers knotted in his hair, clutching him to me. My lips parted as I breathed in his heady scent.
Immediately I felt him turn to unresponsive stone beneath my lips. His hands gently, but with irresistable force, pushed my face back. I opened my eyes and saw his guarded expression.
"Oops," I breathed.
"That's an understatement."
His eyes were wild, his jaw clenched in acute restraint, yet he didn't lapse from his perfect articulation. He held my face just inches from his. He dazzled my eyes.
"Should I...?" I tried to disengage myself, to give him some room.
His hands refused to let me move so much as an inch.
"No, it's tolerable. Wait for a moment, please." His voice was polite, controlled.
I kept my eyes on his, watched as the excitement in them faded and gentled.
Then he smiled a surprisingly implish grin.
"There," he said, obviously pleased with himself.
"Tolerable?" I asked.
He laughed aloud. "I'm stronger than I thought. It's nice to know."
"I wish I could say the same. I'm sorry."
"You are only human, after all."
"Thanks so much," I said, my voice acerbic.
He was on his feet in one of his lithe, almost invisibly quick movements. He held out his hand to me, an unexpected gesture. I was so used to our standard of careful non-contact. I took his icy hand, needing the support more than I thought. My balance had not yet returned.
"Are you still faint from the run? Or was it my kissing expertise?" How lighthearted, how human he seemed as he laughed now, hie seraphic face untroubled. He wsa a different Edward than the one I had known. And I felt all the more besotted by him. It would cause me physical pain to be separated from him now.
"I can't be sure, I'm still woozy," I managed to respond. "I think it's some of both, though."
"Maybe you should let me drive."
"Are you insane?" I protested.
"I can drive better than you on your best day," he teased. "You have much slower reflexes."
"I'm sure that's true, but I don't think my nerves, or my truck, could take it."
"Some trust, please, Bella."
My hand was in my pocket, curled tightly around the key. I pursed my lips, deliberated, then shook my head with a tight grin.
"Nope. Not a chance."
He raised his eyebrows in disbelief.
I started to step around him, heading for the driver's side. He might have let me pass if I hadn't wobbled slightly. Then again, he might not have. His arm created an inescapable snare around my waist.
"Bella, I've already expended a great deal of personal effort at this point to keep you alive. I'm not about to let you behind the wheel of a vehicle when you can't even walk straight. Besides, friends don't let friends drive drunk." he wuoted with a chuckle. I could smell the unbearably sweet fragrance coming off his chest.
"Drunk?" I objected.
"You're intoxicated by my very presence." He was grinning that playful smirk again.
"I can't argue with that," I sighed. There was no way around it; I couldn't resist him in anything. I held the key high and dropped it, watching his hands flash like lightning to catch it soundlessly. "Take it easy - my truck is a senior citizen."
"Very sensible," he approved.
"And are you not affected at all?" I asked, irked. "By my presence?"
Again his mobile features transformed, his expression became soft, warm. He didn't answer at first; he simply bent his face to mine, and brushed his lips slowly along my jaw, from my ear to my chin, back and forth. I trembled.
"Regardless," he finally murmured, "I have better reflexes."