Chapter Nine: Home

“How many are there?” Alice asked me, looking around the forest with wide eyes. Her thoughts were frustrated and confused. She was unsure of why she couldn’t see anything. We could smell the musky, woodsy, animal scent that permeated the air, but we still couldn’t see the creatures. It was unnerving.

I listened intently and shook my head. “I’ve never heard anything like it. They have a hive mind... I can’t quite tell how many there are,” I admitted, feeling just as strange as Alice with this shortcoming. “I want to say three, but there could be four.”

Bella tightened her grip on my arm, her fear a palpable thing. I put my hand on hers and squeezed. “Edward, you have to tell me what is going on. Why are we being surrounded?”

I looked down at her and saw the worry on her face. I put an arm around her shoulders and drew her into me. “Most likely this will be a warning to get off their land,” I said. “We don’t exactly get along with the Quileutes.”

Bella’s eyes widened. “The Native American tribe in the area? What do they have to do with us?”

I hesitated, unsure of whether or not I should tell her with the wolves about. I ended up not having a choice in the matter when four gigantic wolves sprang into the thicket. I held up my hands. “Wait, stop!” I cried out, stepping in front of Bella so I could protect her. She, of course, was having none of it. She peeked around my shoulder, curious about what was going on.

The wolves paced around us in a circle, snarling and howling at us. Their thoughts were angry, furious that we would be on their side of the line. The big black one, who I assumed was the leader, didn’t take his eyes off of me. I watched as he stopped in his tracks and his body began to shake, shuddering as though he were about to rip apart. Within seconds he had transformed back into his human form and he stood before us, naked and unashamed.

“You are on our land, Cullens,” Sam said angrily, his brow knitted as he frowned at us. “You know that the treaty forbids this.”

“There has been an emergency, we were just passing through on our way home,” I said calmly, trying to keep Bella behind me and hidden but failing miserably.

I knew the instant that Sam recognized her, because his thoughts were filled with shock and horror. His gaze shot to mine. “Bella Swan? You changed Chief Swan’s daughter?! Are you insane?!”

Alice shot forward, shielding Bella and I. “It was an accident,” she said calmly. “We never meant to break the treaty.”

“Yet you flaunt your betrayal in our face,” Sam said, gesturing to Bella.

“What are they talking about?” Bella asked me, putting a hand on my shoulder to get my attention.

“I’ll tell you when we get to the house,” I whispered back at her. “Now keep quiet, you don’t want to make the situation worse.” Bella quieted down, but she squeezed my shoulder with all of her strength, causing me to wince. I was definitely going to hear about this when... if... we got away.

“Not only did you break the treaty, you killed the only child of the police chief in the city where your family lives. How can you tell us to overlook this breach of trust?” Sam demanded, stepping toward Alice and glaring at her with a desire to tear her to pieces.

“He didn’t kill me,” Bella said, angrily stomping around me and facing Sam on her own. I tried to hold her back but it was no use. “I may not understand what’s going on, but I do know that I’m not dead.”

“You are a soulless, bloodsucking leech,” Sam said in disgust, practically spitting on her. “You kill innocent humans to stay alive.”

“We only kill animals, and unless you are a vegetarian who never eats meat, you do too,” Bella pointed out, “While I may not be human, I’m not dead either. How can you talk about things you obviously don’t understand? It’s clear that you have a bias against us, but have the Cullen's ever hurt you or anyone close to you? No. They don’t hunt humans.”

“If that is true, why are you here right now?” Sam pointed out. By this point I was ready to step in and rip the wolves to pieces, but Bella was stronger than I gave her credit for. She didn’t even know what was going on and yet she argued in behalf of me and my family. If I hadn’t already loved her, I would have fallen for her in that moment.

Bella hesitated, looking over her shoulder at me. I could tell that Sam’s pointed question had rattled her and I was about to suggest that we all leave, but Bella surprised me yet again. She turned back to Sam, her fists clenched at her waist. “Haven’t you ever made a mistake in the heat of the moment?” she asked. By the look on Sam’s face, I knew she had struck a chord. His thoughts became an avalanche of pained memories, mostly focused around a pretty Makah girl named Emily. Well, well, well... apparently I wasn’t the only one making mistakes.

Sam stepped back and decided to change his tactic. He went for questioning instead of accusing. “These blood suckers took you from your family, they took away the life you had. You aren’t angry with them?”

Bella shook her head. “That is none of your business, you don’t even know me or the life that I had before. How can you think to compare two lives that you know nothing about?”

Sam backed away even further, his thoughts a jumble of confusion. He looked at Bella, obviously unsure of what was going on. Finally he snapped a sharp command at the other wolves, bursting into his wolf form himself, and the four of them took off into the woods, heading back toward La Push.

Bella turned on me then, her eyes blazing with fury. “What was all that talk of a treaty? Why did they care that I’m one of you?”

Alice put a gentle hand on Bella’s arm and turned her so that they could look into each other's eyes. “Let’s talk about this back at the house. I’m not sure I trust the wolves not to try and follow us.”

Bella nodded, but shot a glare at me. “I expect the truth,” she told me.

“I’ll tell you everything,” I promised. What more could I do?

When we reached the house I could practically feel the heat and anger rolling off of Bella. I hated that it was directed at me, but there was nothing I could do to change that. All I wanted to do was protect her and it had backfired horribly. There was no way I could have known, no way Alice could have known that not telling her about the treaty would have resulted in this. I just hoped this could be worked out between us. I couldn’t bear to lose her so soon after finding her.

Almost the instant we were inside the entryway of the house, Bella turned on me, a fierce determination in her eyes. “So, this treaty. Want to tell me about it?” she asked shortly.

“You don’t even want to meet the rest of my family first?” I asked, hoping that with a little time she might calm down a bit.

As if I had summoned them, Carlisle and Esme appeared in the entryway, both of them looking anxious. Esme rushed up to me and pulled me into a tight hug. “I’ve been so worried about you,” she whispered in my ear. “Have things been difficult with Bella?”

I shook my head and pressed a kiss to her cheek. “Not to worry, Esme,” I told her, “things have been and will be fine.”

She pulled away from me then, satisfied that I was telling her the truth. She moved to Alice and Jasper then, hugging them tightly as though they had been separated for years instead of just a few months. She fussed over them for a few moments, asking questions about our friends in Alaska, and then she turned to Bella. “Hello, dear. My, you are quite a beauty, aren’t you?” she asked, a smiling blooming on her pretty face.

Bella looked as though she wasn’t sure how to react. She touched her hair nervously as she looked at Esme. “Do I know you?” she asked her, racking her memories to find the missing one.

Esme smiled gently, putting a hand on her shoulder in a motherly gesture. “I sat with you before the others took you to Alaska.”

“You sang to me,” Bella said, the memory suddenly resurfacing. She looked at Esme as though she were the most wonderful woman in the world.

Esme laughed. “I don’t sing as well as Edward, but I enjoy it from time to time. I thought you could use some comfort.”

Bella’s face softened even more. “Thank you for that. It reminds me of something my own mother would have done.”

Esme beamed at that and turned to Carlisle, reaching a hand out to him. Carlisle walked over, a soft smile on his face as he looked at his wife. It always thrilled me to see them together. They had such a wonderful romance and it was something I had always wanted to have. I looked at Bella who was smiling at my parents with such tenderness that it was obvious she already adored them even though she barely knew them. My hope for the two of us, for our happiness together, was rekindled.

“It’s wonderful to finally meet you, Bella,” Carlisle said with the same soft smile he had given Esme. “It looks like you are settling in all right.”

“It all feels right,” she admitted to him as she had to me many times before. “It feels like I was meant to be in this world all along.”

I couldn’t stop myself, I stepped up beside her and wrapped my arm around her shoulder, drawing her into me. She snuggled into me, even though I knew she was still upset, and she wrapped her arm around my waist. Carlisle raised an eyebrow in surprise and shot a look at me. “This is a nice surprise,” he thought. I just nodded and pressed a kiss to the top of her head. Bella sighed and leaned a head on my shoulder.

Esme was absolutely glowing with happiness as she looked at us. “Edward! You’ve found a mate!” she practically crowed at me, pleasure evident in her smile and her eyes. I nodded again, not wanting to let Bella know she was being discussed in our private way.

“It is good to have a full family,” Carlisle said aloud, still smiling at Bella. “The situation left a little to be lacking, but it seems to have worked out in your favor.”

Bella looked up at me, her anger seeming to drain away as we looked into each other's eyes. “I’ve never been happier,” she said honestly. I was so touched that I leaned down and pressed my lips to hers. I wasn’t really surprised when she kissed me back, a soft affection causing her fingertips to brush my face.

The thoughts of my parents intruded on the moment, though they didn’t mean to. They were both just so happy that they couldn’t stop themselves from letting those thoughts race around their minds. I think they were almost as happy as I was myself.

“So, how long are you all staying?” Carlisle asked me, “I wasn’t sure what exactly was going on, it all happened so quickly.”

Alice stepped forward. After all, this was her forte and she knew what was going on better than anyone else, except, myself. “As you know, about 21 hours ago I had a vision that Bella’s father, Chief Swan, was going to be attacked by some new vampires in the area. At the time, we were barely going to be able to make it back,” she said, pausing as confusion over the new state of things settled around her.

“What changed?” Carlisle asked.

Alice shrugged, her hands clenched with frustration. “That’s the thing, I have no idea! The vision just suddenly disappeared. It’s as though the other coven turned tail and left. Charlie is completely safe now.”

Bella let out a sigh of relief, her body sagging against mine. “So, Charlie isn’t going to be attacked?” she asked, needing the confirmation from Alice.

“I’m not sure where the new coven was, or where they went, but they are not going to cross paths with Charlie. Of that I am absolutely certain,” she said with a nod, though she still looked confused as to how she could have been so wrong.

“The new coven was causing problems,” Carlisle admitted, “Forks was being used as a hunting ground. So many deaths in such a small town could cause a lot of problems for us. I’m not sure why they decided to leave, but I’m glad they did. We might have had to go to the Volturi otherwise.”

“How many deaths were there?” Bella asked, concern for the people in Forks written all over her face.

“Twelve in the past two months,” Carlisle said sadly. I knew how painful that must have been for him: he hated the loss of human life more than anyone I had ever known (vampire or otherwise).

“Was there a panic?” I asked, wondering if it was this sudden rash of deaths in the addition to the disappearance of his daughter that had sent Charlie into the woods in Alice’s vision yesterday.

Carlisle nodded. “People weren’t sure if it was an animal or a serial killer,” he explained, “but since most of the bodies weren’t found, they assumed the worst. We can’t stay here much longer, it is getting too dangerous.”

“Will you all go back to Alaska with us?” Bella asked, as though Alaska was now her permanent home and she couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.

“For a little while, maybe,” Carlisle said thoughtfully, “the problem is that if there are too many of us, we tend to attract attention a lot faster. Our next possibility is New Hampshire. We already have a house there, and Esme misses the museums and culture of the east coast.”

Esme laughed lightly, “Things just have an old world feel up there.”

We chatted a bit more about the possibilities of moving again and where we would go, but all I could think about was that wherever I went, I wanted Bella with me. I still owned my biological parents’ home in Chicago, but I wasn’t really keen on living somewhere so sunny. I wondered if Bella would like to design a home of our own, just for the two of us. We could live in Alaska if that was what she wanted. I just wanted to give her a home she would love. I was still daydreaming when Bella elbowed me in the stomach.

“Yes?” I asked her, giving her a brilliant smile. I couldn’t help it, my mind was full of thoughts of our future together.

“Can we go somewhere private to talk? You promised you would tell me everything I wanted to know,” she reminded me pointedly.

I turned to Carlisle and Esme, smiling graciously at them. “We have plenty of time to catch up later. For now, Bella and I have some things to discuss.”

Esme smiled at us, but it didn’t reach her eyes. “Is everything okay between you?” she asked me hesitantly. I could tell she didn’t want to pry, but she so desperately wanted me to be happy that she couldn’t stop herself from acting as my mother.

I nodded and her shoulders relaxed a bit. “Come on, Bella, I’ll show you my room,” I said lightly, and Bella and I headed up the stairs.

“So, this is your room?”

I brought Bella inside and closed the door, giving us a chance to have a few minutes alone. It wasn’t for the reason I wanted, but it was necessary, so I wasn’t too upset. It had also been nearly half a year since I’d been in my room, but I remembered where everything was. While Bella was taking in the room and what it said about my personality, I crossed to the CD player and put on my favorite classical CD. The music began soft and slow as I crossed the room back to her side.

She had sat on my sofa and was passing her hand across the soft black leather. “Is your room in Alaska like this one too?” she asked, looking up at me with quizzical eyes.

I shook my head as I took a seat beside her. “I don’t spend much time in the room Carmen has given me there. I prefer to spend it in the library or the music room...” I paused and took her hand in mine, brushing her palm with my lips, “Or with you, of course.”

She shivered and leaned into me. “Edward,” she breathed.

“Bella,” I whispered back, moving my head up to kiss her. The moment our lips met it was like fireworks went off inside of me. I couldn’t help but pull her into my arms, feeling her body pressed against mine. All I wanted was her, did she know that?

She pulled away, but there was a smile on her lips. “Are you trying to distract me from the real reason we came up here?” she asked.

I sighed and settled against the back of the sofa, releasing my hold on her. “I wasn’t distracting you intentionally, but I see your point. You have questions that deserve answers. Anywhere in particular that you want me to start?”

Bella leaned into me, softening her teasing. “What is the deal between you and the wolves? Why do they care that you changed me, and what is the treaty they kept talking about?”

“Well, you certainly don’t hold back when you are curious about something, do you?” I teased her back, “But I suppose I understand where the curiosity is coming from. I’ll try to start at the beginning, so try to keep up.”

“Oh, I’ll see what I can do,” Bella said dryly.

I grinned down at her and kissed her forehead, letting her know that I was just teasing. “Did you know that this isn’t the first time we have lived in the area?” I asked, and she shook her head. “Back in the 1930’s we lived just north of here. One day we came across the wolves while we were hunting. They saw our eyes and they believed us when we said that we didn’t hunt humans. We devised a treaty with them right then and there. They would let us leave safely if we stayed off their land and promised never to bite another human.”

“Bite being the keyword,” Bella said with a glint of understanding in her eyes. “So that was why they said you were flaunting a betrayal in front of them.”

I nodded. “We promised, and we never actually intended to break the promise. The thing is... I don’t think, even if I had been able to keep my self control around you at first, that I would have left you unchanged for long.”

“What are you saying?” Bella asked me, confusion in her eyes.

It had come time to say the words I had tried so many times to say. “Bella, I love you. I have for months now.”

Her eyes were wide with surprise and she brought a hand to her lips. “You love me?”

I pressed on, needing to say what was in my head and in my heart. “I don’t ever want anyone else, ever. I think I would have fallen in love with you even if you’d been a human.”

She looked as though she wanted to cry but the tears just wouldn’t come. “Edward... I don’t know what to say.”

It wasn’t what I had wanted to hear, but I understood that I had surprised her. “I’m sorry if I’ve upset you, but I can’t just keep this in anymore. I love you and I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”

She ducked her head and leaned against my chest, her arms wrapping around my waist. “I... I would like that,” she admitted, “because I think I love you too.”

I closed my eyes and brought her close. I may have screwed up a lot of things, but I was blessed in this. It was the best moment of my very long life. Nothing could possibly have been better.

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