Bella’s puzzled curiosity morphed to wide-eyed shock. She gulped and grabbed the hem of her sweater, worrying the edge.
“How do you … what makes you … why …?” Her shoulders slumped and she hung her head in defeat. “How do you know? I won’t hurt you,” she whispered. “Please don’t be afraid of me.”
She peeked up at McCoy through those long lashes and the wretched look on her face nearly broke his heart.
“I was just trying to help. You were going to die out there—I could hear your heartbeat slowing down, and the wolves … I didn’t know where to take you, but I’d seen this hunting cabin before and—” She took a deep breath and the floodgates opened. “I couldn’t take you back to the Cullens’. It’s too far, and you would have frozen. I didn’t want to see … I had to get away from that stupid jerk Edward, and when Alice said they were all going back-to-school shopping—again—well, something just—”
In a blur of motion, she was up and pacing across the small room, her hands flashing back and forth. “Well, not all of them—just Edward and Alice, as usual. Carlisle was at the hospital, Rose and Emmett were with Esme at that house in town they’re remodeling, and I don’t know where Jasper was, but he said he wasn’t ever going back to high school again. I said I wasn’t either, because I’ve already been twice, and then Edward got all huffy and said he’d decided we were going and that was that. My intelligent reply was ‘oh, yeah?’” She groaned and rolled her eyes in disgust. “Brilliant, I know. After they left, I smashed his stupid, shiny piano and threw that ugly engagement ring right in the middle of it. That bullshit wedding ring is somewhere in the Denali National Forest.”
She jerked to a stop in front of the door and spun around, fists propped on her hips, and her hair swirling around her shoulders. “I probably should have kept them and melted them down.”
The fire in her eyes died and the look of rebellion slid from her face when she saw the slack-jawed incomprehension on Leonard’s.
“I’m sorry. I swear I won’t hurt you.” Once again, her shoulders drooped, and she dejectedly trudged back to her chair and dropped onto it. “Oh, crap! You know I’m a vampire. What are we going to do?” There was a pleading note to her voice, and she hid her face in her hands. “Humans aren’t supposed to know the secret. Now, I have to—”
“Kill me or turn me?” McCoy asked in the gentlest voice he could muster.
Who were all those people she just mentioned? He didn’t know who she’d been venting her spleen about, but he could tell when someone had reached the end of their rope. Some of those people—or vampires—were obviously causing her distress. Had she been held against her will? He didn’t know. What he did know was he felt compelled to help her.
She was staring at him and her mouth was hanging open. She snapped it shut. “How … how do you know that? If you know about vampires, how are you still human and alive?”
“Bella, I … first—” He dragged his hand down his face. His throat was so dry. He grabbed the enameled mug from the night table and drained it. The melted snow was a little on the warm side, but it was delicious.
Since she was a vampire, he knew she hadn’t really taken a sip of her own cup of water. She’d done that for his benefit. To show him it wasn’t poisoned?
Would she let him have more?
“Where are we? I mean, what planet is this?”
There it was. He knew that look. When her wide golden eyes narrowed with suspicion, he knew she thought he was insane. She would know there would be no way he could hurt her.
“This is the Earth, Leonard,” she said cautiously. “We’re in the Yukon Territory of Canada, north of the United States. On Earth.” She dipped her head slightly and peered more intently at him. “Are you feeling all right? Were you beaten up and left in the woods? I didn’t notice any injuries. Maybe you should eat something.”
“I feel pretty good, actually.” He patted his thighs and blew out a breath. “No, I wasn’t beaten. What’s the date?”
Her eyebrows drew together in concern. “Are you sure you weren’t smacked in the head? It’s the sixth of October, twenty-ten.” She cocked her head to the side. “It also happens to be National Mad Hatter Day. In the United States, it is. It’s one of Emmett’s fav—” she cut herself off. “Why? What date do you think it is?”
Strangely, shocked as he was, he believed her. “No, I wasn’t hit on the head.”
It was two thousand and ten on his home planet. If he remembered correctly, Canada was a large, mostly unpopulated country at the time. Man hadn’t even set foot on Mars yet.
It would be fifty-three years before the first extraterrestrial ship landed on Earth. Of course, it had to be those cussed Vulcans. He’d most likely live long enough to greet the green-blooded, bull-headed, snooping aliens.
He shook his head in consternation. It would be one hundred and fifty-one years before Starfleet came into existence.
A mere two hundred and seventeen years before his birth.
He wouldn’t make it to that birthday celebration.
Kirk and Spock would never find him. He’d never get back to the Enterprise.
How would he survive? It wasn’t like he could walk into a hospital and start doctoring people. And the archaic way they used to cut into and invade the human body made him shudder.
The only person he knew wasn’t even a human, and she happened to be one of the deadliest creatures on the planet.
Truly, he wasn’t concerned about that. Bella might have been a predator, but she hadn’t hurt him yet, and she was also the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen.
Sighing in resignation, he scrubbed at his face and leaned back against the rough-hewn wall. “Well, Bella, I have something to tell you that you’re going to find pretty hard to believe.”
Edited: 09/26/2015, 03/28/2016