New Moon (Twilight #2)(4) by Stephenie Meyer

Jasper slammed into Edward, and the sound was like the crash of boulders in a rock slide.

There was another noise, a grisly snarling that seemed to be coming from deep in Jasper's chest. Jasper

tried to shove past Edward, snapping his teeth just inches from Edward's face.

Emmett grabbed Jasper from behind in the next second, locking him into his massive steel grip, but Jasper struggled on, his wild, empty eyes focused only on me.

Beyond the shock, there was also pain. I'd tumbled down to the floor by the piano, with my arms thrown out instinctively to catch my fall, into the jagged shards of glass. Only now did I feel the searing, stinging pain that ran from my wrist to the crease inside my elbow.

Dazed and disoriented, I looked up from the bright red blood pulsing out of my arm - into the fevered eyes of the six suddenly ravenous vampires.

Chapter 2 STITCHES

CARLISLE WAS NOT THE ONLY ONE WHO STAYED calm. Centuries of experience in the emergency room were evident in his quiet, authoritative voice.

"Emmett, Rose, get Jasper outside."

Unsmiling for once, Emmett nodded. "Come on, Jasper."

Jasper struggled against Emmett's unbreakable grasp, twisting around, reaching toward his brother with his bared teeth, his eyes still past reason.

Edward's face was whiter than bone as he wheeled to crouch over me, taking a clearly defensive position. A low warning growl slid from between his clenched teeth. I could tell that he wasn't breathing.

Rosalie, her divine face strangely smug, stepped in front of Jasper - keeping a careful distance from his teeth - and helped Emmett wrestle him through the glass door that Esme held open, one hand pressed over her mouth and nose.

Esme's heart-shaped face was ashamed. "I'm so sorry, Bella," she cried as she followed the others into the yard.

"Let me by, Edward," Carlisle murmured.

A second passed, and then Edward nodded slowly and relaxed his stance.

Carlisle knelt beside me, leaning close to examine my arm. I could feel the shock frozen on my face, and I tried to compose it.

"Here, Carlisle," Alice said, handing him a towel.

He shook his head. "Too much glass in the wound." He reached over and ripped a long, thin scrap from the bottom of the white tablecloth. He twisted it around my arm above the elbow to form a tourniquet. The smell of the blood was making me dizzy. My ears rang.

"Bella," Carlisle said softly. "Do you want me to drive you to the hospital, or would you like me to take care of it here?"

"Here, please," I whispered. If he took me to the hospital, there would be no way to keep this from Charlie.

"I'll get your bag," Alice said.

"Let's take her to the kitchen table," Carlisle said to Edward.

Edward lifted me effortlessly, while Carlisle kept the pressure steady on my arm.

"How are you doing, Bella?" Carlisle asked.

"I'm fine." My voice was reasonably steady, which pleased me.

Edward's face was like stone.

Alice was there. Carlisle's black bag was already on the table, a small but brilliant desk light plugged into the wall. Edward sat me gently into a chair, and Carlisle pulled up another. He went to work at once.

Edward stood over me, still protective, still not breathing.

"Just go, Edward," I sighed.

"I can handle it," he insisted. But his jaw was rigid; his eyes burned with the intensity of the thirst he fought, so much worse for him than it was for the others.

"You don't need to be a hero," I said. "Carlisle can fix me up without your help. Get some fresh air."

I winced as Carlisle did something to my arm that stung.

"I'll stay," he said.

"Why are you so masochistic?" I mumbled.

Carlisle decided to intercede. "Edward, you may as well go find Jasper before he gets too far. I'm sure he's upset with himself, and I doubt he'll listen to anyone but you right now."

"Yes," I eagerly agreed. "Go find Jasper."

"You might as well do something useful," Alice added.

Edward's eyes narrowed as we ganged up on him, but, finally, he nodded once and sprinted smoothly through the kitchen's back door. I was sure he hadn't taken a breath since I'd sliced my finger.

A numb, dead feeling was spreading through my arm.

Though it erased the sting, it reminded me of the gash, and I watched Carlisle's face carefully to distract me from what his hands were doing. His hair gleamed gold in the bright light as he bent over my arm. I could feel the faint stirrings of unease in the pit of my stomach, but I was determined not to let my usual squeamishness get the best of me. There was no pain now, just a gentle tugging sensation that I tried to ignore. No reason to get sick like a baby.

If she hadn't been in my line of sight, I wouldn't have noticed Alice give up and steal out of the room. With a tiny, apologetic smile on her lips, she disappeared through the kitchen doorway.

"Well, that's everyone," I sighed. "I can clear a room, at least."

"It's not your fault," Carlisle comforted me with a chuckle. "It could happen to anyone."

"Could" I repeated. "But it usually just happens to me."

He laughed again.

His relaxed calm was only more amazing set in direct contrast with everyone else's reaction. I couldn't find any trace of anxiety in his face. He worked with quick, sure movements. The only sound besides our quiet breathing was the soft plink, plink as the tiny fragments of glass dropped one by one to the table.

"How can you do this?" I demanded. "Even Alice and Esme..." I trailed off, shaking my head in wonder. Though the rest of them had given up the traditional diet of vampires just as absolutely as Carlisle had, he was the only one who could bear the smell of my blood without suffering from the intense temptation. Clearly, this was much more difficult than he made it seem.

"Years and years of practice," he told me. "I barely notice the scent anymore."

"Do you think it would be harder if you took a vacation from the hospital for a long time. And weren't around any blood?"

"Maybe." He shrugged his shoulders, but his hands remained steady. "I've never felt the need for an extended holiday." He flashed a brilliant smile in my direction. "I enjoy my work too much."

Plink, plink, plink. I was surprised at how much glass there seemed to be in my arm. I was tempted to glance at the growing pile, just to check the size, but I knew that idea would not be helpful to my no-vomiting strategy.

"What is it that you enjoy?" I wondered. It didn't make sense to me - the years of struggle and self-denial he must have spent to get to the point where he could endure this so easily. Besides, I wanted to keep him talking; the conversation kept my mind off the queasy feeling in my stomach.

His dark eyes were calm and thoughtful as he answered. "Hmm. What I enjoy the very most is when my... enhanced abilities let me save someone who would otherwise have been lost. It's pleasant knowing that, thanks to what I can do, some people's lives are better because I exist. Even the sense of smell is a useful diagnostic tool at times." One side of his mouth pulled up in half a smile.

I mulled that over while he poked around, making sure all the glass splinters were gone. Then he rummaged in his bag for new tools, and I tried not to picture a needle and thread.

"You try very hard to make up for something that was never your fault," I suggested while a new kind of tugging started at the edges of my skin. "What I mean is, it's not like you asked for this. You didn't choose this kind of life, and yet you have to work so hard to be good."

"I don't know that I'm making up for anything," he disagreed lightly. "Like everything in life, I just had to decide what to do with what I was given."

"That makes it sound too easy."

He examined my arm again. "There," he said, snipping a thread. "All done." He wiped an oversized Q-tip, dripping with some syrup-colored liquid, thoroughly across the operation site. The smell was strange; it made my head spin. The syrup stained my skin.

"In the beginning, though," I pressed while he taped another long piece of gauze securely in place, sealing it to my skin. "Why did you even think to try a different way than the obvious one?"

His lips turned up in a private smile. "Hasn't Edward told you this story?"

"Yes. But I'm trying to understand what you were thinking..."

His face was suddenly serious again, and I wondered if his thoughts had gone to the same place that mine had. Wondering what I would be thinking when - I refused to think if - it was me.

"You know my father was a clergyman," he mused as he cleaned the table carefully, rubbing everything down with wet gauze, and then doing it again. The smell of alcohol burned in my nose. "He had a rather harsh view of the world, which I was already beginning to question before the time that I changed." Carlisle put all the dirty gauze and the glass slivers into an empty crystal bowl. I didn't understand what he was doing, even when he lit the match. Then he threw it onto the alcohol-soaked fibers, and the sudden blaze made me jump.

"Sorry," he apologized. "That ought to do it... So I didn't agree with my father's particular brand of faith. But never, in the nearly four hundred years now since I was born, have I ever seen anything to make me doubt whether God exists in some form or the other. Not even the reflection in the mirror."

I pretended to examine the dressing on my arm to hide my surprise at the direction our conversation had taken. Religion was the last thing I expected, all things considered. My own life was fairly devoid of belief. Charlie considered himself a Lutheran, because that's what his parents had been, but Sundays he worshipped by the river with a fishing pole in his hand. Renee tried out a church now and then, but, much like her brief affairs with tennis, pottery, yoga, and French classes, she moved on by the time I was aware of her newest fad.

"I'm sure all this sounds a little bizarre, coming from a vampire." He grinned, knowing how their casual use of that word never failed to shock me. "But I'm hoping that there is still a point to this life, even for us. It's a long shot, I'll admit," he continued in an offhand voice. "By all accounts, we're damned regardless. But I hope, maybe foolishly, that we'll get some measure of credit for trying."

"I don't think that's foolish," I mumbled. I couldn't imagine anyone, deity included, who wouldn't be impressed by Carlisle. Besides, the only kind of heaven I could appreciate would have to include Edward. "And I don't think anyone else would, either."

"Actually, you're the very first one to agree with me."

"The rest of them don't feel the same?" I asked, surprised, thinking of only one person in particular.

Carlisle guessed the direction of my thoughts again. "Edward's with me up to a point. God and heaven exist... and so does hell. But he doesn't believe there is an afterlife for our kind." Carlisle's voice was very soft; he stared out the big window over the sink, into the darkness. "You see, he thinks we've lost our souls."

I immediately thought of Edward's words this afternoon: unless you want to die - or whatever it is that we do. The lightbulb flicked on over my head.

"That's the real problem, isn't it?" I guessed. "That's why he's being so difficult about me."

Carlisle spoke slowly. "I look at my... son. His strength, his goodness, the brightness that shines out of him - and it only fuels that hope, that faith, more than ever. How could there not be more for one such as Edward?"

I nodded in fervent agreement.

"But if I believed as he does..." He looked down at me with unfathomable eyes. "If you believed as he did. Could you take away his soul?"

The way he phrased the question thwarted my answer.

If he'd asked me whether I would risk my soul for Edward, the reply would be obvious. But would I risk Edward's soul? I pursed my lips unhappily. That wasn't a fair exchange.

"You see the problem."

I shook my head, aware of the stubborn set of my chin.

Carlisle sighed.

"It's my choice," I insisted.

"It's his, too." He held up his hand when he could see that I was about to argue. "Whether he is responsible for doing that to you."

"He's not the only one able to do it." I eyed Carlisle speculatively.

He laughed, abruptly lightening the mood. "Oh, no! You're going to have to work this out with him."But then he sighed. "That's the one part I can never be sure of. I think, in most other ways, that I've done the best I could with what I had to work with. But was it right to doom the others to this life? I can't decide."

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