I paced anxiously in the doorway of Marek and Adriana's cabin, waiting for Edward, Emmett and Rosalie to return with Jasper—still stunned by the news that the werewolves I just met, had taken on the Volturi a month ago, and that Aro now held one of them captive.
And hopefully alive.
But it was the fury that filled up inside me, of Aro holding Alice and Charlie as well, that caused me to walk out and punch down the closest, largest tree I came upon; allowing me a small amount of comfort when it fell over with a huge force, cracking and thundering itself against the ground.
I was going for another when I heard footsteps behind me.
"Bella." Esme ran up, putting her hands on my shoulders, gently turning me back towards the cabin. "We know where they are now, dear." She rubbed her hand from the top of my head down the back of my hair. "We will go and rescue them soon enough. No need to knock down the forest, alright?" She smiled kindly.
"But we don't know that's where they are for sure, Esme," I replied with some skepticism as I placed our recently known fact out to her. "We only know that's where Ahren was captured."
"My, dear," she stopped and turned to look at me. "Ahren's scent was at Charlie's, at the fabric shop, and out at the reservation. I think it's fair to say that Aro definitely had his hands in this. Can you think of another that would make this kind of attempt at us?" Her face was serious.
I hung my head in thought then pursed my lips together as I looked back at her angrily. "No. I can't think of anyone else that would dare to do this." To be so vile, and so despicable.
I wanted to take down another tree, a bigger one.
Esme wrapped her arms tightly around me, holding my own arms by my sides as she guided me back towards the cabin door.
I suddenly noticed a shadow moving to my left. "Wait, Esme." We paused together, looking off into the distance, watching as the one shadow became four, heading our way.
Jasper was in the middle, each arm held tightly by Emmett and Edward, and Rosalie following close behind, making certain he couldn't turn and run…or get far. Jasper wasn't trying too hard to fight them off, because I knew he could very easily if he wanted to.
"Bella," Esme glared at me. "Stay!" She held a finger near my nose, barking her order with an intense warning in her tone.
"I will," I conceded, receiving her message loud and clear. Seeing that Edward was coming back—that all four of them were coming back—calmed me some. I wasn't going anywhere or demolishing anything else until told.
Esme ran up and hugged Jasper, then put her hands on his face and scolded him, "Don't you ever do that again!"
Jasper hung his head, nodding in agreement and an apology. His face was torn between fire and pain. He was ready to have Alice back in his arms. And if he offered me, right this second, I would probably go with him.
"Now come back inside." She put an arm around his shoulders, heading for the cabin once again. Carlisle was standing in the doorway with an arm extended to Jasper and Esme to bring them in.
"Emmett, Rosalie, Edward," Carlisle called. "Thank you." He nodded.
"Of course, Carlisle," Edward replied. Emmett did a stiff "you got it sir" military solute, while Rosalie simply smiled beautifully as the moonlight bounced off her glorious features.
Edward walked over to where I stood still, glancing quickly at the fallen tree before hugging me softly. "Are you alright?"
"I'm better now that you're back." I squeezed him tight, trying to push Volterra far from my mind and what we could be going up against. In this moment, I only wanted to focus on Edward's touch and the feel of my arms wrapped around him.
He leaned back after a second, looking down at my face, then at the fallen tree that had a fist size dent in the front of it.
"Did you do that?"
"Yes," I confessed. "It was Aro's face at the time." I bit my teeth together angrily. "Esme ran out after and saved the rest of the forest, though, just before you arrived."
He laughed slightly through his nose at my serious comment, both of us still too bothered to find too much humor in anything. Then he put his arm around me and walked us back into the cabin.
Jasper sat angrily at the table, staring out the tops of his eyes at the door. After Rosalie and Emmett followed us in, I closed the thick piece of wood till it clicked and stood in front, crossing my arms over my chest…daring him to try. I was still stronger. He'd have to get passed me first. If he left again…I'd follow by his side—which wasn't the smart thing to do.
Jasper was glowering at me, or, what I thought was me. After watching him for a few moments, it was apparent my presence didn't even register to him. He was glaring right through me, his mind on other things, other…places.
I, too, was still furious after finding out about Volterra, but not as furious as I thought I should be. I think it was because there was an ever so slight relief in me that I now knew where Charlie more-than-likely was, that he wasn't killed by a wild animal.
That he—I swallowed thickly—still had breath in his lungs.
My muscles tensed when I thought about how Aro surely now knew my father was well informed and quite up to speed about vampires, then quickly prayed that not only was Charlie still breathing, but that he was still human as well.
"So, what's the plan?" Emmett clapped his hands together, ready to go.
"Just a moment, Emmett." Carlisle raised a hand to him to relax then looked over to the ancient vampires. "We'll need more help, Marek, than just Peter and Charlotte and my family going in," he informed as he peered around the room, taking each of us in, then locked eyes back with Marek.
"Of course, Carlisle, whatever we can do, too."
"Well, if you and Adrianna help, that still leaves us with only eleven against their thirty, at the least..." He eyed Marek with a deeper meaning.
I knew where Carlisle was going with this.
"Minus the eight they took out last month, Carlisle, don't forget," Marek recounted.
"True, but I could easily guess Aro has had the salvageable ones put back together, if not all of them. It would be wise to count those eight back in, just to be safe."
"What about the werewolves? We can go back in a month and have five more added to our numbers?" Marek suggested. Since the Volturi now knew about them, there was no secret to keep and stay hidden there.
A month! Charlie, Alice and Ahren staying with the Volturi for another month? No, no way.
"I'm afraid we don't have a month, Marek," Carlisle's voice was pointed. "We need to get our family," he paused, "and we need to get them now."
Thank you, Carlisle.
"Who else do you have in mind to help us?" Marek wondered as he looked a little uneasy in his expression, knowing this would more-than-likely involve more vampires. Lots of vampires.
"We have friends," Carlisle proceeded.
Yes, we had friends. Friends who disliked the Volturi just as much as we did…if not more.
"I'm afraid Ian and his pack will need to stay out of this, Marek, if they're to protect their secrecy from the human world. We don't know what we could run into along the way," Carlisle noted, "so it's best to keep werewolves a terrifying legend. Not a reality. And since we blend in well among humans if needed, I promise we will do our best to recover Ahren and bring him home without anyone else with a pulse knowing." He put a hand on Marek's shoulder, waiting for an understanding.
"You have a valid point, Carlisle. We will need to talk to Ian in the morning, and see how he feels. I don't want to do anything that could harm his family. But, you might have a bigger fight on your hands trying to keep them away."
"I'm sure you're right," Carlisle sighed. "We'll talk to Ian in the morning, but we need to contact help in the meantime. We'll have our friends meet us outside Vienna, at the base of the Alps. That way, if Ian decides to keep his secrecy, he can, and we'll not say a word."
"Those are fair words, Carlisle, thank you." Marek patted him lightly on the shoulder. "Please make your calls, then we'll hunt and gather with Ian tomorrow."
"Carlisle," Edward called, seeming concerned, yet trying to very well to hide it.
"What is it, Edward?"
"You know Aro will be seeing all of this." He eyed him.
That was true. My guess—no, my absolute knowledge—was that Aro has had his hand in Alice's from the moment she arrived. He would see everything as we planned it. Even if we made any changes now, or along the way, it would still be seen. My only hope was that she was having a hard time seeing around the Ahren and Charlie…provided they were all together. But something in me doubted that. For Aro also knew, from reading Edwards thoughts back home, Alice couldn't see the future with wolves and humans too close. No, Aro wouldn't let that major bit of information slip by. He would be ready. And Alice would surely be alone…
"Yes, Edward, I do." He nodded with some discomfort then put his hand on his shoulder. "But Aro knew we would come regardless, once he took our family. And that Bella would come for sure…" he trailed off, looking at me. "Our arrival would not be met with any amount of surprise no matter what we did to hide it."
Edward's face turned to fury after Carlisle mentioned my name. And why did Carlisle look at me like that and say what he said? Alice and Charlie were my family. Of course I would come. All of us would.
Edward's breathing was mixed with low growls and bitterness as he paced back and forth again, looking like he was trying to figure something out.
"Carlisle," I turned to him. "Why did you say that like that, 'that Bella would come for sure'?"
"You and Alice are what Aro wants most, Bella," he reminded me. "While Alice has already been taken at the risk of a werewolf, it pains me to think Aro will try to take you too, at the risk of your father."
"No!" Edward shouted, stopping his pacing, glaring at Carlisle. "She can't go with us!" Then he glowered at me. "She won't go with us!"
"What?" I shouted back, furious at his attempt to tell me what I could and couldn't do. "The hell I can't!"
"I can't risk losing you, Bella," He clinched his teeth then stroked at the side of my hair, attempting to be soothing. "We'll get Charlie, Alice and Ahren and come back. But I would never forgive myself if Aro did anything that could take you away from me that I could have prevented." His voice was dark and torn, as if he'd already pictured Aro taking off with me.
"What would you have me do, Edward, hide in the mountains like a coward? Run for the rest of my life? As soon as you decide what to do with me, Aro will see it, you know that. It's safer to have me there." I eyed him fiercely. "You know you need me there."
Edward stared at me for a long moment then closed his eyes and took in the truth in my statement. With a loud exhale, he flared his nostrils, tightened his lips and shook his head slowly before opening his eyes again. Which was his way of saying I was right, and he was unhappy, very unhappy.
I would rather die than be taken into the hands of a scoundrel like Aro and be forced to join his guard, but I wouldn't run from him either. No, it was by my family's side…only.
"You're right…" Edward tried to say calmly while barely looking at me. And as soon as his words were spoken and reality sunk in, he made a mad dash out of the cabin, furious.
I turned to follow after him, but Emmett caught me by my arm. "Let me go, Bella," he said, warning me with an expression to stay back.
After a moment, I nodded, approving of his request to follow Edward in my place. "Alright."
I would probably do more harm than Emmett. And I supposed it was the better choice between the two of us if…we had to make one. Edward needed some man to man right now.
"I'll be back," he told everyone. "Just give me and Edward a minute." And before he could make it out the door, I heard a tree slam to the ground in fury.
I wondered if that was my face or Aro's Edward saw when he did that.
"Tanya?" Carlisle's first phone call to the Denali Clan in Alaska caught my attention. "Yes," he replied to her question, "we believe we know where she is." And by his silence, I knew she was asking where. "Volterra," he answered then held the phone out a bit from his ear. "Wait. Calm down, Tanya, calm down," he pleaded as her voice echoed out of the phone.
I knew she would be angry. After Caius killed her sister, I also knew she wouldn't be too hard to sway to come help us.
"Yes, I'll wait," Carlisle said as he put his hands over the speaker. "She's going to inform the others in her family and give us a count of who will be coming."
We waited anxiously.
"All of you?" Carlisle sounded pleased. "Thank you, Tanya, thank you. Can you meet us in Vienna?"
"Great. Call when you arrive and we'll give you our location in the Alps."
He paused while she spoke again.
"Yes, we look forward to your help, as well."
He paused again.
"Alright, we'll see you tomorrow. Goodbye, Tanya." He smiled happily as he shut his cell phone. "That's five more."
The Denali's were our closest friends, so it didn't surprise me all of them would want to come. So with our eleven, plus their five, we now had sixteen vampires. With just one phone call, we were half way to their numbers, which helped me breathe just a little bit easier.
Next on his call list, were the Irish coven, Siobhan, Liam and Maggie. They were in as well. From there he was going to contact the Amazons, the Egyptians, the European Nomads and even the Romanians.
I decided to make a call back home to check on Renesmee, considering it was around noon there, hoping Jacob would be home. I made sure Rosalie knew where I was going when I showed her my cell phone and pointed outside. She gave me a nod and I stepped out into the forest.
I dialed Jacob's number and waited through two rings before someone picked up.
"Hello!" Sue's voice desperately answered.
"Hi Sue," I said warmly.
"Bella! Oh, Bella, it's so good to hear your voice. What do you know?" She got right to the point.
"Well," I huffed anxiously, "we believe the Volturi have Alice and Charlie. We're going to put a plan together, call in some friends for back up and then go rescue them," I spoke as confidently as I could. "We hope to be home in two to three days."
"The Volturi?" her voice panicked in confusion.
Just then I heard the phone being wrestled out of her hands.
"What did you just say, Bells!" Jacob hollered furiously.
"Hi Jake," I sighed, knowing it would be him. "Well, after talking with the Peter, Charlotte and the Slovakians, it's safe to say we believe the Volturi have Alice and Charlie. We know Aro has always wanted Alice, but we fear Aro is using Charlie to gain me as well." I cringed when I said that. I felt like I was boasting, but it was anything but.
"Those dirty, rotten scums!" he shouted and I had to hold the phone away. "Don't they know who they're messing with?" he asked arrogantly.
"Yes, Jacob, they know exactly who they're messing with. And I wouldn't put it past Aro to have a back up for anything. You know how he is." I paused to wait out Jake's growl. "He wouldn't do any of this without a plan in tact first. We'll just have to hope we can outsmart him, put the numbers up against his again, causing him to stop…and then take them out. Take them all out!" My voice subconsciously hissed in anger.
My goal in all of this: was to make sure no Volturi got out alive. And I knew I wasn't the only one. Aro would never stop scheming and coming for us if we took Alice and just went home. And, who would he involve the next time in the kidnappings? Renesmee…Sue…Jacob? I didn't want to feel vulnerable every second of every day, just waiting for something to happen. It wasn't fair to my family and it wasn't fair to my friends. All bets for peace were off as far as I was concerned anymore.
"So, what's the plan?" he asked.
"Carlisle is on the phone right now, calling everyone he can to see who can make it. So far we have the Denali's and the Irish coven to stand with us."
"And then what?" he asked.
"Well, once we know who's coming, we're going to meet in the Alps, just outside Vienna, probably tomorrow afternoon, put our plan into place, then…head to Volterra."
"Vienna?" he sounded confused. "Why Vienna? Aren't you in Slovakia?"
Yeah, why Vienna I thought idiotically? Oops. I couldn't tell Jacob about the werewolves, and that we couldn't meet here because of it. I had to come up with something. "Uh, because it's more centrally located for everyone," I lied a bit, even though it was as a good reason the more I thought about it.
"I guess that makes sense," he bought my answer. "So, what was the animal theory then? Did nothing turn up? I mean, if the Volturi have them…" he stopped for a second. "I don't get it, Bella?"
"Don't worry, Jake, I'll tell you as much as I can when we get home, okay? I told Sue we hoped it would be in two or three days." I paused for his reply then pulled up in my mind my other reason for calling.
"Alright, Bells, you can tell me later," he said uneasily. He hated being on the outside of things, whether it was necessary or not. "Hurry home, okay? We actually miss you guys." He snorted at his own honest sarcasm.
I let out a chuckle. "We miss you guys too, Jake."
And before I could ask for my daughter, Jacob beat me to it. "Hold on, Bella, let me get Nessie for you." Good ole Jacob. "See ya soon!" I knew he'd smiled into the phone, confident in what he'd just said.
"Yeah…see ya soon," I barely muttered, wishing I had his confidence.
"Mommy!" Renesmee shouted into the phone as soon as held the receiver.
"Hello, darling." I wanted to cry when I heard her sweet voice. "How are you?"
"I'm good, mommy. I miss you and daddy and everyone. Are you coming home soon?"
"That's the plan, sweetheart," I said honestly. That was the plan. Now we just needed to see how it worked out. "I wanted to check on you one more time, honey, before we headed out for Alice and grandpa tomorrow."
"You found them?" My stomach sank. Yeah, we'd found them alright. "I'm so excited. And I'm doing fine, don't worry." she sounded happy as I decided to focus on her voice instead of my own torment. "Sue takes me down to the beach to play in the waves, and eat, and talk. Mostly about you guys. It makes us miss you all so much, but I'm strong," she said, putting on a brave front.
"You are strong," I smiled as I repeated her words proudly.
"We stick together all the time, too," she continued. "Jacob and Sam have their packs with us everywhere we go. No one's going to hurt us, okay?" she explained as warmth washed over me, giving me comfort and peace of mind.
"That's very good." I grinned, picturing a group of boys and Leah following her everywhere she went. Like her own personal group of furry bodyguards. Yes, I was feeling better.
"Be careful, mommy." Her voice turned to concern.
"Always." I smiled into the phone.
"I love you," she said softly into the speaker, and I hugged at the phone, pretending she was here with me.
But before I replied back to her, gentle arms circled around my waist, sending chills along my skin where the fingers ran and a kiss was placed to the back of my head then to the side of my neck.
"I love you too, honey," I replied as tingles continued to shoot from my head down to the tips of my toes from his soft kisses.
Edward lifted his head then stuck his hand out towards the phone when he heard who I was talking to.
"Renesmee..?" I wanted to make sure she was still there.
"Yes?" she answered.
"Hold on, honey, daddy's here and wants to talk to you."
"Okay!" she perked up.
"Goodbye, darling…" I tried not to cry.
My face twisted in sadness, suddenly afraid those might be the last two words I would ever hear from her as I handed the phone to Edward.
"Hi, Nessie!" he said jubilantly into the phone as he turned and walked a little bit away to have his own conversation with her.
I leaned back against the tree in front of me and closed my eyes to compose myself before I would head back in to see who all Carlisle had gotten in touch with. According to Adriana and their run before…we needed a good twenty-eight to thirty of us. But with some of our gifts, even a few under would still add up to a fair fight in my opinion.
When I felt better, I opened my eyes to see Edward standing in the moonlight, leaning casually up against a tree, still talking on the phone. He looked so magnificent, even when angry with me.
He flipped the cell phone shut and I watched him walk back.
"Are you better?" I smiled with hope.
"As better as I'm going to be." He sighed then hugged me tightly, still obviously hesitant on the idea of me going. My wish was that Emmett had talked some sense into Edward, reminding him he wouldn't win this fight of me staying back if he were planning to keep on trying.
"It's going to be okay, Edward." I gazed into his somber eyes, longing to comfort them. I ran my hand tenderly along his tense forehead, down his cheek and caressed along the bottom of his jaw, stopping when I reached his chin. I stood up on my toes and stared at his lips, hoping to encourage them to meet up with mine.
And they did.
He pulled back after one short kiss, though, looking down on me with an aggravated, yet worried expression. "I'll believe it when we're on the plane heading home."
His mood was understandable. None of us trusted Aro.
"Let's go inside." I laced the fingers of my hand with his. "I'm anxious to hear who else Carlisle has spoken with." I pulled at him
"Wait." He pulled me back, leaving less than an inch of space between us.
"What?" I asked a bit breathless.
"I apologize for my behavior inside, Bella." He lowered his eyes from me for a second. "I let my thoughts—and others—get the best of me. I should have reacted better. We do need you with us, and I promise to protect you with my own life, to make sure no one else has you for eternity…but me." His eyes stared into mine.
My lips curled up at the edges and I swooned at his words before he began kissing me in an 'I-know-I-made-you-mad-and-I'm-hoping-you'll-forgive-me' kind of intensity.
I kissed him back with the same amount of force, so he'd know he was forgiven, throwing my arms around his neck to keep myself from falling backwards as my body went limp. I was thankful I didn't need to breathe, because his declaration and his kiss, had used up every bit of breath I'd held in my lungs.
"You're forgiven," I barely spoke after a minute, his love mixing in perfect harmony with mine.
Edward held me up by my waist, my stomach heaving heavily against his as I struggled to put my natural back-to-breathing rhythm in place.
"Thank you." He smiled. "Are you ready to go back in?"
He was kidding, right? "Just a minute." I held my hand against the nearest tree, bracing myself, making sure my legs were in good working condition before I tried walking on them. After shaking them about for a bit, looking rather silly, I grabbed Edward's hand. "I think they're good enough now to me inside…to sit down." I chuckled.
He laughed at my leg charade, then squeezed my hand tightly as we headed back to the cabin.
"Thank you, Benjamin." Was the last thing I heard Carlisle say before he flipped his phone closed. "Well, that's everyone." He smiled, satisfied.
I had missed his latest calls to see who would be coming to fight against the Volturi, besides the Denali's and the Irish coven. "Who all is coming, Carlisle?" I asked.
"Zafrina will meet us tomorrow, along with Benjamin and Tia. Charles and Makenna are going to contact the Romanians on their way, knowing they'll come to stand against Aro once again."
"Charles and Makenna?" I was surprised. "Didn't they stand with Aro last time, against us?"
"They did," Carlisle said. "But they also saw how we were wronged and want to make things right by joining in to save Alice, and Charlie."
I nodded in understanding as I did a quick vampire count in my head. There were sixteen when I left, and after Carlisle's calls, and if the Romanians showed…that gave us twenty-three strong. Within another matter of minutes, we'd just doubled our numbers again, and I was elated.
"What about Senna and Kachiri?" I asked Carlisle about the two Amazon vampires he didn't mention.
"Senna said to let her know if we needed more, and her and Kachiri would be there. She knows its Zafrina's illusions we need more than anything."
"Oh," I replied. Well, at least she was willing to show up if we should need them.
"And Amun and Kebi?" They were part of the Egyptian coven that Benjamin and Tia were coming from.
"The Volturi makes Kebi extremely nervous," Carlisle explained, and I wanted to shout out a surly 'well, duh'. "Amun fears they might be more of a hindrance than help because of it, but we can call on them, too, if needed."
Marek caught my attention then when he asked if we were interested in hunting tonight, before our journey tomorrow.
"Yes!" Emmett licked his lips and rubbed his tummy. "I wanna find me one of those bears."
Rosalie and I rolled our eyes at him after agreeing that hunting would probably be a great idea for getting our strength built.
"Remember to stay within a mile of Adriana," Marek directed, then looked guardedly at us, "and watch the trees."
I exchanged an anxious look with Rosalie this time. Then she balled up her fist and flexed her arm muscle to show strength against any tree vampire that might be lurking for a fight.
I couldn't help but giggle.
"Oh," Marek had one more thing to say. "Ian and his pack stick to the lower west side of the mountain, the smaller animals there make for more fun of a chase." He gestured his hand in their current direction. "So, I suggest you head up east…for the larger animals." He pointed opposite for us. "The wolves will howl three times if there's a warning to come back."
"And the bears?" Emmett anxiously asked.
"Stick to the highest parts, Emmett, and you should have no problem." Marek smiled confidently.
It was easy to tell Emmett wanted to fist-pump the air in excitement.
I looked at Jasper before I turned, ready to hunt. He still stared heavily at the door. He hadn't moved an inch.
"Carlisle?" I said, pointing at Jasper.
Carlisle spun in his seat to the focused vampire next to him. "Jasper," he called, but received no response.
"Jasper…" Carlisle called rougher.
Jasper turned his face to him, as if looking right through Carlisle, too.
"Come on, son." He placed a hand on his shoulder. "We'll be with you, but you should hunt tonight. We'll go to Volterra tomorrow. No more running off…alright?"
Jasper turned his face back to the door, staring it down, then nodded his head once. But I wasn't convinced, and neither was Esme.
"Edward?" She looked at him, then down at Jasper, then back at him. "Will he be okay?"
Edward ran through the thoughts in Jasper's head for a moment before replying, "He hears us and has no plans to run off. He's just extremely distraught, and would like very much for me to 'stay out of his head'." Edward half smiled.
"Fair enough." Esme kissed Jasper on the head. "Thank you, Edward." She nodded. "I guess we should go then."
We took off up into the mountain and to the east, while Marek and Adriana stayed behind with Peter and Charlotte who went only a few feet to the icebox. I envied them for a moment, till we were out of the cabin, running through the trees, opening up all my senses and taking in the fresh scents of the forest. The white moonlight from above made its way jaggedly through the tree tops, leaving a wild array of shadows all over the woodland floor as we ran.
After a few moments, Emmett caught his tasty scent first, causing us all to stop. "Ah…" he noised as he closed his eyes and inhaled deeply in the direction of his bear. "Come on, Rose." He grabbed her hand before running around a large bend in the mountain.
It didn't take long before I heard his bear growl fiercely in defense, then Emmett growl back. And within minutes, the fighting, wrestling, snarls and hisses trailed off to lower, draining gurgles.
I closed my eyes and listened carefully to what was around me after that. I wasn't super thirsty, so I didn't need anything large like a bear, but I could use something.
Carlisle and Esme had gone up a little farther, leaving me, Edward and Jasper alone when I felt the ground slightly begin to tremble against the bottoms of my feet. Reaching down I touched the earth and listened closer, sniffing. The rumble grew stronger, in uneven, thunderous patterns, and I realized… "Something's coming!" A whole lot of somethings.
Then the wind did us a favor and changed directions, blowing itself right at us. We each inhaled deeply, smiled, and found a tree to hide behind until they arrived.
As we waited—their large-bodied rumbles growing closer and louder—I couldn't help but wonder if Marek had had fun possibly chasing them up in our direction.
"Ready?" Edward gleamed when our meal was only feet away.
Jasper and I nodded, patiently waiting a few more seconds before we'd all chase after them.
As the massed-heard of varied-sized red deer thundered by us on all sides, Edward and Jasper lunged immediately after the two largest males, their chiefly defined antlers putting them nearly a foot over Edward in height. They were beautiful and much larger than the deer we had back home, but they were no match.
A perfect-sized one caught my attention then as my eyes narrowed in on it. I took a few large strides before pouncing and grabbing it by the neck, wrestling it to the ground, then sinking my teeth immediately into its jugular. The deer tried to get up once, but I held it down, before it was shortly drained.
I threw my palms swiftly to my ears, cringing suddenly at the flesh-ripping sounds and fierce, frustrated growls I heard coming from where Jasper had taken off. I dared to turn and see what was going on.
"Jasper, stop!" Edward yelled as he ran to him, trying next to grab at his wildly flying arms. But they were so busy grasping at any piece of the deer they could, launching pieces of it out into the forest in rage, that Edward couldn't get a clear hold. "Bella! Help me out here, love!" Edward called for me.
I ran up and tackled Jasper to the ground, holding his arms behind his back, leaning over, pushing him more into the ground while Edward sat on his legs. He could not escape my clutches, even though he tried. It had only been a few days ago that I had been tackled in just the same way by Rosalie, Emmett and Edward, but this time I was doing the holding. I knew how he was feeling.
Jasper had been very quiet up until this moment, but this kill had loosened then unleashed the darkened rage that had been welling up inside him. "Let me finish what I started, Bella," he half-shrieked, half-snarled at me.
I contemplated the idea. No one had let me finish off Charlie's cruiser along the highway, but it sure would have been nice to. With that in mind, I turned to Edward and nodded my decision of 'yes' to let him go. He looked at me warily. "Let him finish," I said as I freed Jaspers arms and stood up off of him. Edward rolled his eyes and followed suit, standing close by.
"Thank you." Jasper eyed me in heavy breath with black fire and pain still burning in his expression.
"I'll hurt you if you try to run off," I warned him with a pointed finger in his face.
He nodded then headed back to his lifeless deer.
I had to turn and walked down the mountain a ways as Jasper set out to finish the job we'd interrupted him from. I couldn't bear to look, but Edward stood guard with his arms crossed and one knee bent out to the side, casually waiting.
I covered my ears as best I could from the horrible sounds I couldn't escape. Carlisle was going to freak when he saw what I had just allowed.
Thinking of Carlisle, my second father figure, made me think of Charlie, and the last few days. I was remembering the blood in his car and the fury I felt, just as if it was happening again. I imagined him being taken, maybe even dragged against his will, and how he must have felt. And then, to be held hostage at Volterra, in the hands of vicious vampires... scared, alone, waiting, hoping, wondering, worrying…or who knew what else?
I didn't, and it was killing me.
In a state of defense, my mind suddenly faded, drifting back in time, surrounded now by old memories, tons of them. Memories of my visits to Forks as a child, rides in Charlie's cruiser and playing with the radio, summer's growing up under rainy skies, playing in the woods behind his house, going to the beach…and my father's sympathetic laugh when I fell down a lot.
How were these memoirs from my childhood possible, and so clear in my mind as if they'd just happened yesterday? Wasn't I supposed to have lost these? Weren't they supposed to have evaporated like rain when the sun came out—disappearing to the old world from which they came? And then I wondered. Maybe, just maybe…it was because Charlie was still a part of my life, my new life. All the other Cullens had left their families behind when they entered this world. And those who had not left their families had lost them beforehand, having nothing to continue to hold on to. I came to the conclusion that, tucked away in the back of my mind, Charlie had kept my memories alive. They had been silent till now, but alive. And here they were, completely consuming me as if they were new all over again, and it overpowered me in more ways than I could handle.
I bent down and covered my head as best I could, wanting to escape the pain that was ripping through me, but it was useless. Thoughts of Charlie and Alice tore at me, inside and out. And this time, I thought…I was really going to lose it.
So I cried.
"What's going on?" I heard Esme shrieked when she and Carlisle returned with Emmett and Rosalie to see Jasper going wild at his deer.
"Just letting him get it out of his system," Edward explained between the sound of my own dry tears and heart-rending sniffles.
"Edward, how could you?" Esme replied, disturbed and with much disappointment.
"It wasn't me..." he defended himself, giving her a hint in his tone to the only other person who was around at the time besides him and Jasper.
They were quiet for a moment, leaving me to wallow in my own sobs while still doing my best to cover my ears from Jasper's continued tantrum, which thankfully was lessoning up. I figured there was nothing else for them say, they all knew I was the one who allowed Jasper to finish.
I hoped I would be able to hide away down here for a while, to allow myself to fall apart in of solace from wandering, watching eyes. But that didn't happen in my family.
"What's wrong with, Bella?" Esme said concerned. She'd obviously spotted me bent down, covering my head.
"Is she crying?" Rosalie asked curtly.
Part of me heard Edward sigh, or, I'm pretty sure it was Edward. I'd been a basket case of emotions these past few days, we all had, but I was the one who cried over everything lately it seemed. I didn't want to, but I just couldn't seem to help myself.
Light footsteps came down and stopped just behind me. Edward picked me up off the ground and held me tightly against his chest as I finished my wailing, trying to gather myself, and almost failing in the process.
"What can I do, Bella?" he asked once I'd finally quieted down, looking at me sturdily with his arms wrapped around my waist, holding me close.
"I don't know," I sniffled some more, looking around for a moment, trying to come up with some kind of a distraction, anything that would take me away from all this.
I looked up at Esme and Rosalie who stared back down at me. Maybe they could help? And then I thought a 'doubt not' to myself. Being around Esme would only encourage me to cry harder because she'd tell me to 'just let it all out', while Rosalie would wait impatiently for me to 'hurry up' and get it all out. There wasn't anything I knew any of my family could do.
I looked around more, and then stopped when I caught sight of the collar of Edward's shirt. The first two buttons were undone, leaving itself in an ideal v-pattern that guided my eyes to the hollow of his perfectly shaped neck. I stared for a while at its design before my eyes found their place back at the buttons on his shirt, traveling down them to his chest muscles that were moving in and out in absolute rhythm with each breath he took. My stomach tightened, and I gasp unexpectedly when I realized my distraction…was right in front of me.
"Bella?" I barely heard him speak over my current thoughts. He brought his hand up to run his fingers lightly through my hair then across my check, sending a further ignited spark right through me to the deeper pit of my stomach.
I leaned my face into his hand and closed my eyes, listening to my breathing become more labored in his touch. He was waiting for me to answer, but my unreliable lungs made it too difficult. I had hoped my reaction to him alone would have been a clue in itself, if that had not been my reaction every time he touched me.
I opened my eyes and watched with ragged breath as my hand ran lightly up and down the second and third buttons on his shirt, contemplating my idea. Would I be out of line to ask right now, right here?
But I needed so desperately to escape this world tonight, if just for tonight. To be led away from this misery, this torture, this pain…this suffering. I needed my husband.
I stared into his gorgeous, golden eyes as I took his hand and placed it gently over my would-be beating heart, allowing him to feel the breathing that was increasing like an intense fever within me. It didn't take him long to understand the look in my eyes, my expression, my gasps of air and the gesture of his placed hand.
Edward nodded to me without saying a word, holding me closer as he looked back at Carlisle with a meaningful glance.
I placed my head shyly on his chest, turning my face away from my family when I heard Carlisle say to the others, "Alright everyone, let's move on and give these two some time." I didn't want to make any eye contact with anyone, and thankfully he had understood Edward's look without having to say a word or give any kind of embarrassing explanation.
They moved on while Edward held me close in his arms, waiting, stroking his hand down the back of my head, comforting me in silence.
When everyone was far enough away, he held me back a little to let me know we were alone. Edward placed his hands gently on each side of my neck, not saying anything, and leaned comfortingly into my lips. He was gentle at first, like always, but his sweet breath and my need encouraged me to push back harder against his own lips, till my mouth opened itself instinctively to draw in more of him.
And like a light switch being turned off, my thoughts of Charlie and Alice faded, replaced with feelings of absolute desire.
Our tongues swirled in rhythm as I slowly undid all the buttons on his shirt, gliding my hands gently under its fabric and along Edward's bare chest. His intensity grew to match with mine when he removed his hands from my neck long enough for me to slip his shirt up and over his shoulders, then down his arms, finishing with the fabric drifting to the ground.
Edward emptied heavy, rough breaths into my mouth as I caressed my hands up his bare back to his shoulders, tracing down his arms till I reached his biceps, holding at them tightly.
My mind left itself completely as I moaned in response to the swirling effect he was having on me, encouraging him even more.
An intense yearning knot built up even deeper in the pit of my stomach and my abdomen tightened as he moved eagerly from my lips to the side of my neck. I was ready, beyond ready and hungry for more.
His left hand slid out to my shoulder, down my arm, and under my shirt to the small of my back. As he pulled me in closer, his hand ran up the back of my shirt, along my bare skin, stopping to rest between my shoulder blades, holding me up. We both knew I wasn't going to be able to stand much longer.
This wasn't going to be like the wild passionate nights we'd had before, no, this would be a whole other level of love. An emotional level of desire, want and need. One I wanted, and one he was more than willing to provide.
"Bella," he softly whispered in my ear, sending chills throughout my whole body as he breath grazed along my lobe.
"Yes," I barely breathed.
"Will you remove your shield, so I can keep an eye on you?"
I gazed up at him half-dazed and with a little curiosity at his request.
"Please?" he breathed heavily at me.
'Okay', I nodded as I removed it from my mind and his kisses returned to my neck with more intensity, then across my collar bone, causing our breaths to respond in ways that were beyond normal for us in that instant.
My shirt didn't stand a chance under his eager hands as the ripping of it echoed in my ears. I closed my eyes as they rolled back into my head, when he knew everything I wanted then at every precise moment…