A Love Worth Defending

A Prayer of Hope

Most people saw Emmett as a cross between a clown and a hound. Yes, he liked a practical joke more than the average immortal. And he found pleasure in other people’s embarrassment and foolishness, had no problem causing either of his own.

And sure, he enjoyed the delights of the flesh. How could he not, being married to the most alluring creature on earth? A woman who fascinated, aroused, and loved him?

He could hardly wait to get her home and out of that robe.

But beneath it all, perhaps because of it all, Emmett needed more than laughs and sex to make his world complete.

He needed his family, intact and in sync.

Though that damnable black bear stole him from his human home, God’s grace placed him in the arms of an angel who mounted up on pretty wings and flew him into the heart of her clan.

It was rocky at first—Rosie’s resentment of Carlisle did not evaporate with his agreement to change Emmett—but love relaxed his bride, the family expanded to include Alice and Jasper, and everything seemed right.

Almost everything.

Because Edward, beauty and brains aside, was still a colossal pain in the pecker. And though Emmett teased him about it at every conceivable opportunity, he sympathized with his plight.

Immortal and immutable without a woman to love? Surrounded by three horny couples who chose to live as a family? That was Emmett’s hell, and he admired Edward for not throwing himself on a raging pyre after one decade as a clan.

But Edward was too sensitive to put Esme through a second, permanent absence. So he suffered in deafening silence, keeping to himself and rebuffing any woman who looked his way with a romantic eye.

Until a brown-haired human stumbled into his life.

Though he promised to remain on his best behavior today, Emmett couldn’t help but laugh whenever he thought about that. Of all the females on earth, Edward fell in love with his singer who was immune to his telepathy.

Emmett guffawed and pounded his chest as if stifling a cough. He knew Rosalie had her eyebrow raised in his direction and didn’t want to see her get angry.

He was hoping she’d save that for tonight.

Shaking off the thought, he focused on the sound of Angela Weber pulling out of the parking lot to remind him of how serious today was.

As if he could forget.

Though the past few months had been anything but easy, Emmett didn’t need his siblings’ gifts to know their family would fall apart if Bella and Edward did. Not only because Edward wouldn’t survive the deprivation but because the rest of them would also suffer.

Himself included.

Emmett hid these thoughts from Edward, not wanting to add to the chorus of condemnation he received over his decision to leave Bella. But Emmett couldn’t deny that Bella gave him something he sorely needed, something no one else could.

The chance to be big brother again.

Alice let him swing her through the trees on occasion and asked for a piggyback ride now and then, but Emmett missed that look of adoration he’d get from the younger sister he left behind. He missed knowing he could defend her if necessary, that his size and temperament made him ideal for the job.

And while Edward seldom left Bella alone long enough to need protection, Emmett took comfort in Bella’s sweet looks and smiles when he entered a room. Even if she only said “Hey,” Emmett understood everything that went without saying and loved every bit of it. He hoped and prayed with all his might he wouldn’t lose it.

And though Edward pretended otherwise, Emmett knew he did too.

Edward growled, and Emmett tried to corral his runaway thoughts. “Sorry, Bro,” he thought as the rear courtroom doors opened. “But you know I’m right.”

Bella returned to her desk, apologizing for taking so long, but Rosalie waved her off. “But if you’re ready, please call your next witness.”

“I call Alice Brandon to the stand.”

“Yay!” Alice jumped up and flew into her seat, sending Edward’s papers flying.

“Really, Alice?” He bent to pick them up. “You couldn’t walk like a normal person?”

“Is he allowed to talk to me like that?” Alice asked Rosalie.

“Is she allowed to speak before being sworn in?” he countered.

Rosalie raised the gavel high above the block but tapped it twice with care. “Ms. Brandon, you are not allowed to speak before being sworn in. Mr. Masen, you are not allowed to address the witness until your cross-examination. And neither of you are allowed to aggravate me! Is that clear?”

“Yes, Your Honor.” Alice crossed her heart with two fingers. “I’ll be good.”

Edward rolled his eyes and muttered his assent.

Emmett looked up at Rosalie with love in his eyes. “That’s my girl.”

The corners of her mouth lifted, and she cleared her throat. “Mr. McCarty, please, uh… please swear in the witness.”

“With pleasure.” He smirked at Edward’s annoyance and smiled at his sister. “Ms. Mary Alice Brandon Whitlock Cullen, left hand on the Bible, right hand in the air.” She complied, humming to herself. “Do you swear…”

“I do!”

“Objection,” Edward sighed from his seat. “Can she at least pretend not to know what’s coming?”

“I don’t need my visions to know what he was going to say, Edward. I watch Law & Order like every day.”

“Your honor?”

Rosalie folded her hands and knocked them against her forehead, a sure sign she was about to blow… and not the way Emmett enjoyed.

“Alice and Edward.” Her growl rattled the chandeliers, causing Bella to cast anxious looks at the ceiling. “One more outburst from either of you, and I throw you over my knee and beat you both into submission. Do I make myself clear?”

Emmett shivered at Rosalie’s words as his siblings agreed to behave. He glanced at the clock on the far wall, wondering how to earn a recess during which he could ravish his wife.

“Bailiff.” Rosalie’s no-nonsense tone brought him out of his fog. “The court considers Ms. Brandon sworn in and well-advised to answer a question only after it has been asked.” Emmett strolled back to his post, adjusting himself as he walked.

“Ms. Swan, begin at your own risk,” the judge said with a warm and warning look at her husband.

“Thank you, Your Honor.” She approached the bench with a side glance at Emmett, and he smiled sheepishly. “Ms. Brandon, how do you know me?”

Alice blinked. “What do you mean?”

“I mean, how do you and I know each other?”

“Well.” Alice counted off with her fingers. “We attend the same school, we’re friends, and you’re going to be my sister someday!”

“Objection!” Edward leapt to his feet. “She has been warned not to use her gift.”

“I’m not! I only meant because she and my brother are in love, it follows they’ll marry someday. And when they do, she’ll be my sister. I would say that if I were human.” She turned to Rosalie. “Am I not allowed to say anything about the future? Even my un-gifted opinion?”

“How are we supposed to know?” Edward headed to the judge’s bench. “There’s no way to distinguish what she thinks from what she sees. And she is forbidden to disclose what she sees.”

“But we know Alice has seen several possible futures.” Bella glanced at Edward who hadn’t realized he stopped beside her. “And as some people refuse to accept what’s coming, she can’t be sure of anything. None of us can.”

“Some of us can,” Edward said quickly. “And no matter what she says or sees, some things will never happen.”

“Enough!” Rosalie was on her feet, her golden eyes bearing down on the lot of them. And Emmett fought a twitch in his pants.

“Down, boy!” he groaned inwardly.

Edward glanced at him in disgust before returning his attention to the irate judge.

“Ms. Swan and Mr. Masen, as I have said before, do not address each other directly. You agreed to bring this case to me to decide, so let me do my damn job.”

“Yes, Your Honor,” they muttered in miserable unison.

“Now Mr. Masen.” Rosalie resumed her seat. “Your question is valid and needs answering before Ms. Swan continues. Ms. Brandon is barred from speaking about future events and using her abilities to influence her testimony.

“That said, she is a witness for the plaintiff and needs freedom to answer fully, something she cannot do amid frequent though potentially valid objections.”

Rosalie closed her eyes, mumbling to herself. Alice folded her arms, giving Edward the evil eye. Abruptly her expression relaxed, and she crossed her legs at the ankles.

“Ms. Swan, you may question Ms. Brandon only about events that have taken place. Is that understood?”

“Yes, Judge. Thank you.”

“Therefore, Mr. Masen, your objection is overruled.”

Edward bowed stiffly and returned to his seat, refusing eye contact with anyone.

“Ms. Swan,” Rosalie said, “Please restart your questioning of the witness again.”

“Yes, Your Honor. Ms. Brandon, when did you and I meet?”

“Officially?”

“Yes.”

“Friday, March 11, 2005 around 11:30 a.m.”

“And unofficially?”

“I had my first visions of you in December 2004 when you first considered moving to Forks.”

“Visions of what?”

She glanced at Edward. “Of you and Mr. Masen together. In love. Forever.”

“Now when you say forever”—Bella put the word in air quotes—“What do you mean?”

“I saw you as an immortal and Edward’s eternal mate.”

“Do you still remember that vision, Ms. Brandon?”

“I do.” She leaned forward. “I think about it all the time. We were so happy, the eight of us. It was as if our family was complete.”

“Objection,” Edward sighed.

“Sustained.” Rosalie turned to Alice. “Please do not elaborate on your answers to ‘Yes or No’ questions, Ms. Brandon. Continue, Ms. Swan.”

“Could you describe Mr. Masen in that vision?” Bella turned her back to him. “His countenance and behavior?”

“Objection.” Edward tossed his pen on the desk. “Ms. Brandon’s visions about me are not hard evidence.”

“I’m going somewhere with this, Your Honor,” Bella said, “If counsel would give me the chance to get there.”

“Overruled,” Rosalie said. “But tread carefully, Ms. Swan.”

“Ms. Brandon, what do you remember?”

Alice leaned back in her chair, her eyes softening. “Edward was… breathtaking. He was smiling and laughing, his eyes alight with passion and excitement. He was a man aglow with the glory of love, alive for the first time in 100 years. It was the most beautiful sight I’d ever seen, second to my visions of my Jas, of course. There aren’t words in the world to describe him.”

She smiled at her husband, and he winked her way, causing her to shiver all over.

“Ms. Brandon?” Bella waved her hand to recover the witness’s attention. “The first time in 100 years?”

“Uh, yes, sorry.” Alice blinked back to life. “I had never seen Edward look that way before that vision. Didn’t know he could look that way, to be honest.”

“Oh?” Bella turned to the gallery. “And why not?”

“Because he was always morose and moody, utterly out of place though his position in our family was secure.” She sighed. “Even before my visions led me to the Cullens, the four of them revolved around Edward. He was Carlisle’s pride, Esme’s joy, Rosalie’s aggravation, and Emmett’s buddy. It was clear how much they loved and needed him, yet he was never happy. Not really.

“And how could he be? He was the lone bachelor, the only half who wasn’t whole. Always a groomsman, never the prize, and though he denied it aloud, that isolation and loneliness churned in his mind constantly, rendering him dejected and broken and unable to…”

Edward sprang to his feet, gripping the table in front of him. Bella advanced his way on instinct and stopped when Rosalie’s voice rang out. “Do you have something to say, Mr. Masen?”

“Objection.” His voice was ragged as his eyes strayed to Bella. “Please.”

Bella gasped, gripping the pen in her hand. “I can’t tell her what to say, Edward.”

“Ms. Swan, that will do.” Rosalie frowned though her voice was soft. “Mr. Masen, I don’t understand your objection. Therefore I must overrule it. Ms. Brandon, you may complete your answer.”

“I’m finished, Your Honor.” Alice watched as Edward took his seat, her eyes full of regret. “I’m sorry,” she mouthed.

Bella kept her eyes down and slowly turned away from the defendant’s table. “Ms. Brandon, did this vision, as you saw it, come true?”

“No, it did not.”

“But have you seen Edward look that way since having that vision?”

“Yes,” she brightened. “As a matter of fact, I have.”

“And when was that?”

“Every single time I’ve seen him with you, Ms. Swan. You are a vision, a very happy vision that literally came true.”

Bella blinked, forcing a smile. “Thank you, Ms. Brandon.” She left Alice and faced Edward. “Your witness, Counselor.”

He cleared his throat and nodded, his eyes darkening as Bella’s cheeks colored under his gaze. “Thank you, Ms. Swan.”

“You’re welcome, Mr. Masen.”

Their eyes remained locked for a half-second too long, and as Bella resumed her seat on the plaintiff’s side, Emmett began to believe his prayer of hope was already being answered.

Until Edward fixed his eyes on the witness, all traces of softness gone.

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