They were all waiting in the huge white living room; when I walked through the door, they greeted me with a loud chorus of "Happy birthday, Bella!" while I blushed and looked down. Alice, I assumed, had covered every flat surface with pink candles and dozens of crystal bowls filled with hundreds of roses. There was a table with a white cloth draped over it next to Edward's grand piano, holding a pink birthday cake, more roses, a stack of glass plates, and a small pile of silver-wrapped presents.
It was a hundred times worse than I'd imagined.
Edward, sensing my distress, wrapped an encouraging arm around my waist and kissed the top of my head.
Edward's parents, Carlisle and Esme--impossibly youthful and lovely as ever--were the closest to the door. Esme hugged me carefully, her soft, caramel-colored hair brushing against my cheek as she kissed my forehead, and then Carlisle put his arm around my shoulders.
"Sorry about this, Bella," he stage-whispered. "We couldn't rein Alice in."
Rosalie and Emmett stood behind them. Rosalie didn't smile, but at least she didn't glare. Emmett's face was stretched into a huge grin. It had been months since I'd seen them; I'd forgotten how gloriously beautiful Rosalie was--it almost hurt to look at her. And had Emmett always been so . . . big?
"You haven't changed at all," Emmett said with mock disappointment. "I expected a perceptible difference, but here you are, red-faced just like always."
"Thanks a lot, Emmett," I said, blushing deeper.
He laughed, "I have to step out for a second"--he paused to wink conspicuously at Alice--"Don't do anything funny while I'm gone."
Alice let go of Jasper's hand and skipped forward, all her teeth sparkling in the bright light. Jasper smiled, too, but kept his distance. He leaned, long and blond, against the post at the foot of the stairs. During the days we'd had to spend cooped up together in Phoenix, I'd thought he'd gotten over his aversion to me. But he'd gone back to exactly how he'd acted before--avoiding me as much as possible--the moment he was free from that temporary obligation to protect me. I knew it wasn't personal, just a precaution, and I tried not to be overly sensitive about it. Jasper had more trouble sticking to the Cullens' diet than the rest of them; the scent of human blood was much harder for him to resist than the others--he hadn't been trying as long.
"Time to open presents," Alice declared. She put her cool hand under my elbow and towed me to the table with the cake and the shiny packages.
I put on my best martyr face. "Alice, I know I told you I didn't want anything--"
"But I didn't listen," she interrupted, smug. "Open it." She took the camera from my hands and replaced it with a big, square silver box.
The box was so light that it felt empty. The tag on top said that it was from Emmett, Rosalie, and Jasper. Self-consciously, I tore the paper off and then stared at the box it concealed.
It was something electrical, with lots of numbers in the name. I opened the box, hoping for further illumination. But the box was empty.
"Um . . . thanks."
Rosalie actually cracked a smile. Jasper laughed. "It's a stereo for your truck," he explained. "Emmett's installing it right now so that you can't return it."
Alice was always one step ahead of me.
"Thanks, Jasper, Rosalie," I told them, grinning as I remembered Edward's complaints about my radio this afternoon--all a setup, apparently. "Thanks, Emmett!" I called more loudly.
I heard his booming laugh from my truck, and I couldn't help laughing, too.
"Open mine and Edward's next," Alice said, so excited her voice was a high-pitched trill. She held a small, flat square in her hand.
I turned to give Edward a basilisk glare. "You promised."
Before he could answer, Emmett bounded through the door. "Just in time!" he crowed. He pushed in behind Jasper, who had also drifted closer than usual to get a good look.
"I didn't spend a dime," Edward assured me. He brushed a strand of hair from my face, leaving my skin tingling from his touch.
I inhaled deeply and turned to Alice. "Give it to me," I sighed.
Emmett chuckled with delight.
I took the little package, rolling my eyes at Edward while I stuck my finger under the edge of the paper and jerked it under the tape.
"Shoot," I muttered when the paper sliced my finger; I pulled it out to examine the damage. A single drop of blood oozed from the tiny cut.
It all happened very quickly then.
"No!" Edward roared.
He threw himself at me, flinging me back across the table. It fell, as I did, scattering the cake and the presents, the flowers and the plates. I landed in the mess of shattered crystal.
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.
Excerpted from NEW MOON © Copyright 2011 by Stephenie Meyer. Reprinted with permission by Megan Tingley/Little Brown for Young Readers, an imprint of Hachette Book Group USA. All rights reserved.