My jaw dropped. There was certainly a resemblance between Adelaide, Tara and the man at the counter, but he looked so normal, so docile. It was hard to believe that he was capable of the things she’d told us about.
I didn’t think I could ever look at my father the way she was now glaring at hers. But then again, my father wasn’t a manipulating, murdering lunatic. Dad replied to my thought with a half-smile.
Rob hissed quietly.
The man glanced at us as he walked away from the desk, his black eyes scanning over us until they stopped on Adelaide, and then Tara. He froze in mid-step. The woman that followed nearly walked into him. “What is it?” she asked.
He continued to stare wordlessly.
“Father?” she prompted.
He was tall, with long dark waves exactly the same colour as Adelaide’s, which he kept tied back loosely. He was extremely handsome, almost as handsome as Jacob. He didn’t look like he could be much older than twenty-five. I looked at Adelaide again; she looked to be around twenty-two. Tara looked to be in her late teens, seventeen perhaps. Then I looked back at the handsome vampire. The oddity of the fact that he was actually their father struck me.
"Is it truly you?” he asked in a pleasant British accent.
Adelaide continued to stare — well, glare — wordlessly. She looked torn between killing him and bursting into tears.
“Do you want to speak to this man?” Rob asked, blocking William as he moved to face Adelaide. “You don’t have to speak to him if you don’t want to,” he said gently.
She lifted her chin slightly. “I do. I want to speak to him.” She took a deep breath and then let it out slowly.
“I don’t think this would be the best place,” Grandpa Carlisle said as he joined us. He turned to William. “You wished to see to me?”
I blinked. He was here to see Grandpa Carlisle?
“Yes,” William said, looking him. He extended a hand to Grandpa Carlisle, who shook it. “I’m William Taylor. But I’d like to speak with my daughters first, if you don’t mind.”
Grandpa Carlisle hesitated for a moment, glancing at Adelaide and Tara and then back at William. He smiled thinly. “Of course.” He motioned for us to leave them. “Nessie, you’re free to see Jacob now, if you’d like,” he told me.
I nodded gratefully, hazarding a quick glance at William. He was staring at me now with an expression of great interest. I resisted the urge to shiver and left the waiting room eagerly. The tension in the air was thick enough to cut with a knife. Or a chainsaw.
I made my way down the hall and opened the door to his room slightly. He lay on a cot, his eyes closed.
“It’s okay, Ness,” I heard him say as I began to close the door again.
I bit my lip. “Sorry to wake you.”
He opened his eyes. “I wasn’t really sleeping.”
I entered the room and closed the door behind me. I sighed and went to stand beside him. His right arm was splinted, but aside from that, he appeared to be healed. “Why’d you do that, Jacob?”
He sat up with a sigh. “Well, I hadn’t meant to fall completely. Alice said I was looking to pro,” he shot me a dazzling smile. “So I tried to mess up a bit, look more human, but I slipped. I figured it’d look a bit too weird if I grabbed the wall in mid-fall…” he trailed off as he took in the expression on my face.
“You did that on purpose?”
He nodded slowly, gauging my reaction. “Yeah…”
“Do you have any idea how worried I was? You could’ve–”
“Hey,” he said, placing two fingers firmly over my mouth. “When I said ‘forever’, I meant ‘forever’. Stop freaking out. I knew what I was doing.”
I glared at him, but felt my annoyance slipping. I was helpless to resist as he pulled me down next to him.
“I don’t just make promises like that lightly. Forever means forever. I’m sorry that I scared you, but I thought you knew. You’re stuck with me for eternity, kid.”
I threaded my fingers through his. “Just don’t do that again, ‘kay?”
He chuckled. “You don’t have to ask me twice. This afternoon hasn’t really been a highlight. Speaking of which, what’s going on out there? I heard someone hissing.”
“That was Rob.”
He snorted. “Figures. So what was he snarling about this time?”
“Adelaide and Tara’s dad showed up.”
He raised his eyebrows. “The creeper? The murdering creeper?”
He whistled. “That’s got to suck.”
“So Rob took his usual approach?”
I laughed. “That’s one way of putting it.”
Jake yawned and stretched his legs. “Where’s Carlisle, anyway?”
“In his office. Adelaide and Tara’s dad came here to talk to him.”
“Creeper came to talk to Carlisle?”
I grinned at his nickname for William Taylor. “Yes. He brought one of his kids with him, too.”
The door opened presently. Dad stood in the doorway, his brow furrowed. “We’re going now. Jacob, Carlisle says you’re free to go.”
“Sweet,” he said, rising. “It’ll be healed by tomorrow, anyways.”
“How’re Adelaide and Tara?” I asked, biting my lip.
“Tara ran off before he could say anything,” Dad said with a heavy sigh. “Rosalie went to find her. Ian went with the rest of them. Adelaide’s still talking to him, and Rob’s still glued to her side.”
I frowned. Aunt Rose had never taken an interest in any of the Winters, especially not Tara. Tara and Ian weren’t nearly as reclusive as they had been at first, but they were quiet by nature.
“Are we going now?” Jacob asked as he swung his legs off of the bed.
“Yes,” Dad confirmed. “Emmett’s leaving his Lamborghini here for Rob and Adelaide when they finish speaking to her father.”
I gasped in horror as the gravity of what that meant sunk in. “But…but that means he’s coming with us!”
“Great,” Jacob muttered. “And my arm’s not even healed yet.”
“There will be no fighting in my car,” Dad said quickly. “Any fighting that you and Emmett may choose to partake in will happen at home.”
“Oh, Jacob won’t be partaking in any fighting,” I said firmly. The last thing he needed was another brawl with Uncle Emmett after falling off of a rock climbing wall.
Jacob cringed. “Of course not.”
Dad dazzled our way past the nurses at the front desk that had started to insist that we wait for Jacob to be released.
As we passed the waiting room, I glanced at Adelaide, Rob and her father. Rob was standing in front of her, his body still half-shielding hers. William’s voice was firm, his eyes fixed on his daughter’s. She met his gaze defiantly. As he spoke, Adelaide seemed to grow more sad and disgusted while Rob became angrier.
“You have a duty to us,” William was saying. “Whatever your scruples, you had no right to turn your back on us.”
“What’re they talking about?” I asked Dad hopefully. I knew he didn’t usually share information like that, but I was burning with curiosity.
“He’s trying to persuade Adelaide to return to her family.”
I felt my jaw pop open. After all he’d done, he could still reasonably expect her to go back?
“He doesn’t see it that way,” Dad informed me. “He knows that his opinion is not a popular one, but he doesn’t see anything wrong with it. Human life means almost nothing to him.”
I shuddered as I studied the tall vampire. How could he not see that what he was trying to do was barbaric?
“Joham taught him well,” Dad said grimly.
“What’s going on?!” Jacob whined. “You know I hate it when you do that, Edward.”
Dad half-smiled. “Sorry, Jacob.”
When we reached the parking lot, Uncle Emmett was leaning against Dad’s Volvo (which suddenly looked very small and breakable) with his arms crossed. “Took you long enough!”
Dad took a deep breath and unlocked the doors.
I took a seat in the back next to Jacob. This was going to be uncomfortable.
Uncle Emmett smiled maliciously as he slid into the backseat, sandwiching me between my werewolf and my obnoxious vampire uncle.
“Not a chance,” Dad said shortly. “Passenger side. Or you’re walking home.”
“Aw, but I don’t want to sit with you, Ed!”
“Then I hope you’re wearing good shoes.”
He laughed. “I’d get home before you would.”
“Oh really?” Dad challenged. “You’re going to run right through the city of Vancouver at rush hour?”
Jacob and I gave him matching smirks as Uncle Emmett climbed resignedly into the passenger seat ahead of us. Jacob wrapped his good arm around me. I was grateful for the warmth. The frosty winter air had a particularly nasty bite to it.
“Want me to keep an eye on ‘em for you, Ed?” asked Uncle Emmett. “I mean, you know teens these days, with their crazy hormones and what not.”
I heard Jacob take a deep breath and count to ten before exhaling.
“Knock yourself out,” Dad said disinterestedly. “Literally.”
Uncle Emmett laughed. “Good one.”
“I wasn’t kidding.”
“Don’t be such a killjoy, Eddie! You have to loosen up a little.”
Dad sped the entire way home, running more than the occasional yellow and even several reds, but I refrained from commenting. I was just as eager to get home as he was.
To my amazement, there was a peaceful lull for several moments when Uncle Emmett had nothing to say. I bit my lip, hoping desperately that it would survive for the remaining ten minutes of the drive. But I was not so fortunate.
“So Jacob,” Uncle Emmett said brightly. “Why’d the chicken cross the road?”
Jacob, Dad and I all groaned collectively.
* * *
As soon as we got home, Jacob and I bolted for the house. I felt badly for Dad as he waited for Uncle Emmett to get out so he could lock the doors.
“I’m hungry,” Jacob announced as he entered the kitchen. “Do –”
“Jacob!” Grandma Esme exclaimed, bursting into the room. She hugged him quickly. “Oh thank goodness you’re all right! Carlisle called and told me what happened. Are you in pain? Do you need anything? Let me get you something to eat. You must be starving.”
I smiled as my grandmother escorted him to a kitchen chair. I followed and took a seat beside him as Grandma Esme pulled our meal together in record time.
We ate in relative silence, not for a lack of things to discuss, but because Grandma Esme would barely let us get a word in edgewise.
After she’d finished interrogating Jacob about his condition, she disappeared to fuss over Tara, who apparently had been catatonic since she’d gotten back. Adelaide, Rob, Grandpa Carlisle and William were all still at the hospital.
“I wouldn’t want to be Ian right now,” Jacob muttered in between gargantuan mouthfuls.
“I wouldn’t want to be Tara,” I murmured. I couldn’t imagine knowing that my father had done such terrible things.
Jacob grinned at me suddenly.
“What?” I asked, frowning slightly.
“You’re dying to go see her, aren’t you.”
I bit my lip. “Maybe?”
He laughed. “I know you too well. Just go.”
“I was going to wait till you finished.”
“I’ll catch up with you in a bit.”
I couldn’t help but smile. “Okay.” I followed Ian, Tara, Aunt Rose and Grandma Esme’s scents up to the room that she and Ian shared. He was hovering in the doorway anxiously as Grandma Esme and Aunt Rose sat on either sides of her on the bed. Grandma Esme stroked her back as she and Aunt Rose tried to comfort her. I glanced at Ian. He didn’t even bother to hide his distress.
“How’s she doing?” I asked Ian quietly.
He didn’t bother to look at me as he replied. “She hasn’t spoken since she saw him.” His tone was bleak, his expression bleaker still, but in the depths of his onyx eyes, I could see pain and anger smouldering.
I felt badly for him. In the past few months, their family had had more than enough turmoil to last a century. I glanced back at Tara. She was staring at the opposite wall. Though her face was blank, her eyes changed emotions every few seconds. Poor Uncle Jasper, I thought. All this emotional change must be driving him crazy.
Her head snapped up suddenly, her eyes frantic. “Where’s Adelaide? I have to talk to Adelaide. Ian, what happened to Ade? Where did she go? I need to talk to her.”
I jumped slightly at the suddenness of her volley of questions.
Ian was with her before I’d even noticed him move. “She’s at the hospital, darling,” he said, kneeling in front of her and threading his fingers through hers. “She’s fine. She’s with Rob.”
“I need to talk to her,” Tara insisted. “I have to ask her.”
I stared at her in shock as she babbled on frenziedly. I doubted that I’d ever heard this much from Tara in the entire time I’d known. Ian seemed just as astonished as I felt.
“Ask her what, Tara?” Ian asked her.
“I have to ask her,” Tara repeated.
“I’m getting Uncle Jasper,” I said. If there was anyone that could calm her down, it was Uncle Jasper.
“Did someone call?” Uncle Jasper asked, appearing down the hall. His eyes were tight as he cringed away from Tara’s general direction. He walked towards the room slowly, wincing at random intervals, which I assumed were her mood changes.
Aunt Alice and Uncle Emmett appeared as well. “What’s going on?” asked Aunt Alice concernedly.
Uncle Jasper continued to flinch. “She’s changing emotions even faster than Nessie was.” I blushed instinctively. “It’s like…it’s like…”
“A mood ring on drugs?” asked Uncle Emmett brightly.
“Sure,” Uncle Jasper said in a strained tone.
“Just calm her down,” Ian nearly pleaded.
Uncle Jasper nodded and stared at Tara for a moment. The effect was instantaneous. Her posture became less rigid, and her eyes calmed considerably.
“Where did you say Adelaide was?” she asked Ian in a much more relaxed tone.
“She’s at the hospital. She’ll be fine.”
She glanced at Aunt Alice. “Did you know he was coming?”
Aunt Alice shook her head remorsefully. “I had no idea, I’m sorry.”
“That’d be pretty sick,” Uncle Emmett said suddenly. Everyone looked at him. “A mood ring on drugs, I mean.”
I exchanged glances with Aunt Alice. “Does the term ‘on-topic’ mean nothing to you?” she asked him.
He laughed. “Of course not!”
We both sighed.
When Rob, Adelaide and Grandpa Carlisle finally returned, the sky was just beginning to darken. Tara had spent most of the lapsed hours babbling, which worried me profoundly. Clearly there was something very wrong when Tara Winter, of all people, could be caught babbling. Usually I was lucky if I could get a one-word answer out of her.
Worse still, when the others had returned, Adelaide said nothing at all, which was almost as disturbing as Tara’s babbling.
After dinner, we met in the family room. Adelaide and Tara were upstairs, with Aunt Rose and Grandma Esme hovering over them as they tried to comfort the sisters. They’d insisted that Rob and Ian wait downstairs. Neither had taken that order particularly well.
“How did things with William go?” Ian asked Rob.
Rob stared out the window. “He thinks he owns them.”
I frowned. How could he own them? They were his children, not his property!
“What?” Ian asked.
“He thinks that since he created them, he owns them and he has a right to make them do whatever he wants. He told Adelaide that it's not her place to have an opinion.”
My jaw dropped. After he had manipulated them for years, he could still logically think that they would want anything to do with him?
Ian snorted. “Has he met her?”
“He also asked about Nessie,” Rob said. “He probably thought she would make a nice addition to his collection.”
Absolute silence reigned for a moment. William Taylor thought that I would join him? How stupid was this guy? I shifted closer to Jacob instinctively, who wrapped his arm tighter around me.
“Would anyone mind at all if I ripped one of his limbs off?” Uncle Emmett asked, suddenly serious. “Well, I’ll try to keep it to one, anyway.”
“Be my guest,” Ian said darkly.
“Please do,” Rob added.
“Dibs on the head,” Jacob argued.
Panic shot through me. “No!” I said quickly. The last thing I wanted was to have Jacob facing off with a vampire who had centuries of experience in killing.
They all ignored me. “You can’t dibs the head,” Dad argued, his brow creasing.
I rolled my eyes. They could be as bad as Uncle Emmett.
Jacob twisted around to look at him. “Oh yeah? And why’s that, Edward?”
“I’m her father.”
“So what makes you so special? Doesn’t the uncle get any say anymore?” asked Uncle Emmett, crossing his bulky arms.
“No,” Dad and Jacob said simultaneously.
I sighed. “And what about me?”
Jacob looked at me with surprise. “You want to take William Taylor?” His expression changed to one of concern.
“Right on, Ness!” Uncle Emmett boomed before I could say anything. “That’s my girl.”
“Please, all of you stop!” I said,
allowing my exasperation to colour my tone. “No one is taking William Taylor.
Well, unless Ian and Rob want to, and even then, I would rather you didn’t,” I
told the two.
“Favouritism!” Uncle Emmett crowed.
“All right, all right,” said Grandpa Carlisle. “Enough. Emmett, do try to keep your hands to yourself.”
Uncle Emmett snorted. “I’m not making any promises.”
“I don’t want any of you going after William Taylor. It’s not because I don’t think that you could,” I said before Uncle Emmett could protest. “But because I don’t want any of you to get hurt. Besides, think of Adelaide and Tara.”
“I don’t think they’d mind too much,” Rob muttered.
Ian nodded in agreement, his golden eyes smouldering with unsuppressed hatred. “I know I wouldn’t.”
Grandpa Carlisle spoke next. “No, Nessie is right. I think they would mind a little more than you might think. While Adelaide plainly despises him, she still agreed to speak to him at the hospital. I doubt she would have given him that chance if she hated him as much as you suppose.”
“And what about Tara?” asked Ian.
“I believe Tara has too much compassion to truly wish death upon anyone. Can you imagine the position that you would put them in if any of you had his death on your hands?”
That certainly fit with what I knew of them. I looked at Rob and Ian, who were deep in thought. Rob spoke first. “You’re right, I suppose. They would forgive us for it, but I know that Ade would find some way to blame herself.”
Ian nodded his agreement, his gaze still distant. “She has an annoying habit of doing that.”
“So what’re we going to do now?” Dad asked. “We can’t stay here.”
“Absolutely not,” Rob agreed. “It’s far too dangerous.”
I had known that we would probably have to leave. I sighed quietly. I’d come to like Vancouver. I liked my school, minus Melina and Jeff.
“And your English teacher,” Dad put in.
Aunt Alice shuddered at the mention of the unfashionable Mr. Wickham.
Rob and Ian glanced at Dad with questioning eyes, but with no expectation of having their question answered.
“I agree with Rob,” Uncle Jasper said after a moment.
Rob nodded to Uncle Jasper. His expression was not warm, but nor was it as hateful as it usually was. It even had a hint of gratitude.
I tried to keep my shock to a minimum at Rob’s lack of a reaction. On the rare occasions that Uncle Jasper spoke to him, Rob would refuse to meet his eyes and try to add to the already-substantial distance between them, but not this time. What is going on with the world today? I wondered.
“There’s a fairly simple way to eliminate that threat,” Ian reminded us. I was surprised by his suddenly-violent attitude. It seemed so uncharacteristic.
I couldn’t blame him for feeling that way, of course. I was sure that if anyone had put Jacob in the position that Adelaide and Tara currently found themselves in, I wouldn’t have had nearly as much restraint as Ian had shown.
“If there is a way to resolve this in a non-violent fashion, I would like to do it,” Grandpa Carlisle said. “Misguided though he may be, he hasn’t threatened us directly, and he has a family depending on him.”
“I appreciate your spirit of peacefulness, Carlisle,” Ian said, his tone unusually cold. “But I’m not only talking solely about the threat that he presents to us. As long as he’s alive, more women will die, not to mention those that will die to feed his growing family.”
“So what would you suggest?” asked Grandpa Carlisle softly.
Ian’s eyes took on a frigid, almost demonic look. “Wipe them all out.”
I shuddered involuntarily. I had never heard Ian use a tone like that, and I had never expected to.
“Wipe out the entire family?” Grandpa Carlisle asked in the same soft tone, only with a hint of pain. “Your wife's sisters and brothers?”
“There must be another way,” Uncle Jasper said. “I think we ought to leave the law enforcing in the hands of law enforcement and simply vacate the area.”
“Then I want to take him myself,” Ian insisted. “I won’t wait for him to follow us.”
“Ian,” said Rob, authority ringing in his voice. “You will not go after William.”
“The Volturi, Rob?” Ian challenged. “Do we really want them here?”
My blood ran cold at the mention of the word. I’d almost managed to forget about them in the whirlwind of events that had swept through our lives over the past few weeks.
“What’s to stop them from coming here as soon as they’ve finished with Taylor?”
“Has there been any change?” Rob asked Aunt Alice.
She shook her head. “I haven’t been able to see anything,” she said in a mildly pouty tone. “If they’ve decided anything, they’re hiding it somehow.”
“Then why fear what may not happen?” Grandpa Carlisle asked. “I think we ought to leave, but not permanently.”
I blinked. How would that work?
“What do you mean?” Rob asked, mirroring my thoughts. “Where would we go? And before we decide that, I think we ought to decide whether or not we will stay with you.”
“Nonsense,” said Aunt Alice quickly. “You’re family. Of course you’ll stay with us.”
Rob smiled at her, but was clearly waiting for Grandpa Carlisle.
“Of course,” my grandfather replied with a warm smile. “If you wish to stay with us, I hope you know that you are more than welcome. As Alice said, you are our family.”
Rob glanced at Ian, who was staring out the window, radiating animosity. “We will stay as long as we are not endangering your family.”
“Then we should already be gone,” Ian muttered.
Rob sighed, but didn’t look at him again.
I was amazed by the transformation. Rob was taking this much more calmly than I’d imagined was possible for him. I couldn’t help but wonder what had caused the change.
“Good,” said Grandpa Carlisle, smiling.
“Now you were saying about not leaving permanently?”
Grandpa Carlisle explained his idea to us for the following half hour. Jacob leaned forward, drinking in every word eagerly, and nodding in agreement.
“Will the pack agree to such an initiative?” asked Grandpa Carlisle of Jacob.
Jacob smiled wryly. “Who could say no to me?”