Evening's Light

19. Attack

We made our way west swiftly along the lower range of the Alps, following along the passes and over the mountain-tunneled roads until we reached the mountains that lined the outskirts of Verona, Italy. It was here we would stop one last time to go over our plans—now that the wolves were with us.

Heading into Volterra, Adriana and Edward would be our lookouts, letting us know what and how many were ahead. Eleazar was going to keep his senses open to any new vampire gifts in Aro's hands, informing immediately anything he picked up on. I, of course, would shield us, while Zafrina blinded them with visions, leaving everyone else free to attack—based on Carlisle's signal if Aro should threaten, and Edward's if he heard.

By his most recent act, Carlisle and Edward were fairly certain Aro was done playing his pretend, peace games. And according to what Edward had seen in Aro's mind during our last meeting in Forks, I was the one thing left on it now.

Threats would be everywhere tonight, allowing only one group the fortunate fate: to contain enough survivors to be able to walk away from the madness.

We planned on being that group.

And when the Volturi were finished, along with their guard, we would search the castle for Alice, Charlie and Ahren.

It all seemed easy enough, but something in my gut left me feeling uneasy. Something by the name of Aro. Which ate at me all the way down to my bones. I tried not to focus on how things could go wrong, so horribly wrong and unexpected, at any point.

I took myself away from the group for a moment and headed out to the mountain's high edge, just beyond the trees. The beautiful, twinkling city lights of Verona held me memorized from this distance, being far enough up and away to witness its entire existence within my sights.

Finding an open place to sit, I pulled my knees up in front of me and wrapped my arms around them. It had been a while since I'd looked down on life moving about in such a busy way. The scattered houses all lit up in varied patterns by yellow-tinted windows, cars pacing, zooming and turning along highways and roads. Red, blinking lights bounced in swirls off the water of the winding river that ran through the heart of the city as businesses still operated this evening and large boats moved up and down along it. An airplane caught my attention when it took off like a thundering bird, soaring quickly in a straight path towards the white-outlined clouds.

It was all so breathtaking.

Edward sat down quietly beside me, mimicking my sitting position. He, too, gazed out onto the city, neither one of us making eye contact or speaking just yet. Verona's beauty had called, and we surrendered to it in silence.

"What are you thinking?" he asked after a while, still staring out at the lights before us.

I sighed lightly.

Right now, I was just a normal girl. A girl who was too busy being caught up in the setting laid out in glorious detail before her. My mind drifted out of reality, and I answered him as if I was speaking through a dream.

"Verona...home of Romeo and Juliet."

I didn't see him smile, but knew he did. "Mmm…" Edward replied, then bobbed his head. "Young love."

Yes.

Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would be this close to the foundation of one of my most-loved movies. I felt like I was literally part of its history as I sat here and replayed some of my favorite scenes in my head. The first time the two lovers saw each other and knew they had to be together, their declarations to each other on Juliet's balcony, their first kiss, and how happy they were when secretly married.

But as soon as I played those out with a smile, my expression turned somber as other scenes entered in. The constant fighting between mortal enemies, the quarreling in the streets, the yelling, the threats, death, bloodshed, heartbreak…and more death, then my own sadness when they both lost each other.

"What is it?" Edward asked, concerned by my current expression and what made my mood change so suddenly.

I stared out some more, sober now, as I quoted Shakespeare's opening prologue as my answer to him. "Two households, both alike in dignity, in fair Verona, where we lay our scene, from ancient grudge break new mutiny, Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean…" I paused then, holding my hands in front of me, staring at their palms, torn between wanting and not wanting them to be unclean in exchange for Aro's life and my fathers.

In Volterra, we would meet tonight, both sides with a purpose, both desiring and holding something against the other, and willing to fight for it. But at what cost? Will it be to dirty hands, lost loves or lost lives? Would we get Charlie, Alice and Ahren back with no life spent, or was it inevitable?

That was up to Aro.

"From forth the fatal loins of these two foes, A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life..." Edward finished the reciting as he softly spoke into the night's air.

"Exactly," I muttered. "Grudges, battles, foes, lovers and death." I eventually turned to meet his puzzled gaze. "Will our lives end up being forfeit for peace tonight, Edward, or love? Or…Aro's greed?"

Edward's face was somber too as he thought for a moment about my question, as to which way I thought we would die this evening. Then he tightened his lips, upset I assumed, by my negative assumptions.

"Aro does not offer peace and mean it, Bella, when something stands in the way of what he wants. He did not mean it last time in Volterra, and he did not mean it back home. We knew what he wanted, and we knew he would return—but not in the way he chose." He paused and faced me with a tense, but serious expression. "So, if I had to guess at peace or love? I would say neither. Because I believe Aro's life will be the one forfeited by his own greed tonight."

Edward's confidence relaxed me as he scooted over and put his arm around my waist, allowing me to rest my head on his shoulder. It would be us or them tonight. Aro's arrogance and sneakiness would never see it any other way. And I hoped Edward was right as we sat in silence, staring upon the city.

I was worried about Jacob and his pack when we wandered back to the group. They were strong and had fought against Victoria's army, so they were familiar with vampire fighting, but would it be enough against Aro's guard. A group so much more advanced and disciplined than the newborns they fought over a year ago. I wasn't sure.

Then a thought came over me.

"Carlisle," I asked, attempting to hide my anxiety from my never ending flow of emotions and thoughts. "What happens if Aro has our family out with him tonight, to use against us?"

I noticed no one else seemed surprised by my question, especially Carlisle, which made be believe they had all been thinking this already. My fear kicked in, knowing that if everyone else had thought it, and I had thought it, what were my chances Aro was thinking it, as well? How easily it could ruin everything we'd planned.

Carlisle moved in closer to meet my eyes and lay a hand on my shoulder. "When we get closer to Volterra, Bella, we'll have Adriana get a count for us, then Edward will look for Aro's mind and monitor his plans. And if we must, we'll adjust ours according," he responded with a confident smile.

I glanced at Edward who also gave me a nod of assurance. These two were the most experienced with Aro, I trusted them completely.

Unfortunately, my anxieties didn't go away as I tortured myself with visions of things Aro would do. Nightmare scenes, running through my head from old horror movies I'd pulled up from my human past. Even the zombie movie that Jessica and I went and saw…the eating and tearing of flesh...and the blood that spilled everywhere.

I grabbed swiftly at my aching throat and swallowed hard, realizing I had just tortured myself more than necessary. My feelings towards that part of the movie had obviously changed. Blood was something I now desired and burned for as I grew thirsty at my own memories.

I took a deep breath, one that allowed my eyes to relax and close, as calmness washed over me. It was the first time since our 'experiment' back home that I had felt this way, and I welcomed it. My hand fell from my throat.

Jasper's touch fell gently on my arm as I inhaled a few more breaths, taking advantage of the mood that engulfed me. I imagined my constant swing of emotions lately were partially at fault for bringing on his gift.

"Thank you," I whispered, turning around to meeting his eyes.

"It's the least I can do." He slightly grinned. "You've been all over the place emotionally, and I'm sorry I was too preoccupied before tonight to help, Bella."

My face fell at his apology. "It's okay. I didn't expect you to be any other way, Jasper. You had every right to be preoccupied."

"How are you?" I asked him, considering his mood seemed to have lightened since the last few days, which was odd, because mine had only intensified. It was if we'd switched places.

"I'm doing better now that we're getting closer." He breathed in a deep as he gazed in the direction of Volterra, then let it out slowly.

I hadn't seen it that way, but it made sense. Jasper was glad to be getting closer to Alice, regardless of what he had to go through to get to her, while I stood around and panicked. When I thought about his words more, I realized I was somewhat happy to think I was getting closer to Charlie and Alice, too.

I hugged Jasper tightly around his waist in common understanding, glad to have that little spark of his spirit back. He wrapped his arms around my neck in return and leaned his cheek against the top of my head, sharing a moment of brother and sisterly love.

Light footsteps approached behind Japer and a gentle shaking moved us in our embrace. Esme was rubbing her hand up and down his back, smiling. She was happy to see him doing a little better. Jasper and I removed our arms from each other as Esme came around to hug him.

Edward grabbed my hand and kissed me on the top of my head, then gave Jasper a couple silently-worded pats on his shoulder.

I threw my arms around my husband's neck and stood up on my tiptoes to kiss him, pressing myself helplessly against his body, taking in everything sturdy about him.

"Ready to keep moving?" he asked almost impatiently, yet revealing with his eyes, his desire to stay locked together longer.

"Yes," I replied as steadily as possible. I knew I'd need to keep moving if I was going to keep my mind from thoughts of despair and worry. Because the more time I had to stand around and think, the more I would.

Eagerness filled up in me and I realized Jasper had removed the calmness from this moment to get us ready emotionally now for the next part of our journey.

Jacob was getting ready to walk past me when I stuck my arm out in front of his large wolf form, wanting to heed one last warning. "Remember what I told you," my voice was parental as I remembered the odds of battling Aro verses Victoria.

He rolled his large eyes then nodded his head and huffed. I gave one last meaningful stare at the pack, not smiling. I still wanted them to know I disapproved of them being here, but dipped my head once to show we were in this together. They took knowledge of my expression and followed up after Jake.

"Let's head out," Carlisle spoke from behind me.

We broke into a sprint once more, running around the outskirts of Verona towards the south, keeping a steady pace while crossing the Tuscan countryside. Once we hit the city of Modena and ran around it, we would then make our way up into the Apennine Mountains.

The land moved under our feet swiftly as I took in the beauty of the nearly darkened landscape. I could see it all so clearly. The mountains we were approaching were lined at the base with varied heights of rolling hills, covered in green and yellow grass—and farther up the mountain, leaves on most of the foliage had begun turning a reddish-brown color to show autumn's season had arrived. Taller spiked-trees danced between them, keeping in character with their deep shades of green.

After about thirty miles up, over and across the mountains, Adriana paused just inside a small, opened clearing.

"Wait!" she yelled, holding both her arms out for us to stop.

Marek rushed to her side. "What is it?" He looked around cautiously as if he recognized the expression on her face.

We all gathered around her, watching as her eyes pace franticly at the ground, as if she was concentrating very hard.

"There's something here, in the mountains with us," her voice trembled when she looked at Marek then Carlisle.

We froze in stillness at her words.

"I just picked up on them," she spoke again, this time with horror in her expression. "Twenty-seven…"

Twenty-seven?

That was one short from Adriana's last count of a group of that size.

Carlisle glanced at Edward. "Be ready. I have a feeling what we were heading for, is coming to meet us."

"Aro," Edward scowled, looking south. "Who else travels in that many numbers?"

"I agree." Carlisle nodded. "That means they're only a mile out. We'll stay here, and see if they continue to come to us. Stick to the plan everyone." He glanced around. "It shouldn't be any different than if we were to arrive there."

But it was his next words that sent me into a full blown panic. "They should be here in just a few minutes if they're running."

My breath was coming in short gasps. If this was the Volturi, they had no intentions of waiting for us at Volterra. They were going to head us off here, up in the mountains.

I wasn't ready.

I walked over to the side of the clearing and leaned my arm out against the nearest tree, bracing myself and gathering my thoughts for what was coming. Edward remained by Carlisle talking, while I tried to remember how to breathe. I just needed a minute. I had to be ready.

"Everyone stay close together," Carlisle ordered as he went to stand in front, in the middle, beginning the formation of our front line. Emmett, Benjamin, Zafrina, Kate, Jasper and Eleazar stood with him, seeing they were our most formidable weapons to get past tonight.

Peter, Maggie, Siobhan, Charles and Garrett made up the next line, a couple yards back, with Jacob and Embry flanking their outside positions.

Our back line, that formed a half circle, contained Liam, Marek, Adriana, Makenna, Tia, Charlotte, Carmen and Tanya, with Quil and Leah flanking their outsides, as well.

Seth roamed in the back, pacing, on guard, ready to give warning if anything should come around behind us.

I would stand with Edward between the second and third lines, with Esme and Rosalie on our sides, to keep myself and everyone shielded from Jane and Alec, while Edward kept his focus on Aro.

Vladimir and Stefan made their way through the lines to stand behind Carlisle on each side. Since they were the most anxious for the Volturi to show, they wanted to be up front, but made sure not to interfere with Carlisle's respective position at the lead.

We were thirty-one strong, against their twenty-seven, and I breathed a little better, hoping this would be easier than I thought.

As I was getting ready to move away from the tree, I noticed Edward's face turn blank, then to confusion.

"What do you hear?" Rosalie asked him.

"I'm not sure." He shook his head, puzzled, looking around. "It's like a heavy buzzing sound," he whispered back to her, moving his hand in circles around his ear.

Rosalie, too, looked around.

I tuned my ears, seeing if I could hear it as well, but I couldn't.

"Carlisle!" Edward shouted to get his attention. "I'm getting a loud buzzing or humming sou—" He stopped, then glared fiercely into the mass of trees to his right, roaming his narrowed eyes back and forth, still listening.

I leaned my back to the tree and froze.

Everyone followed Edward's gaze, peering into the group of trees. He had either heard or seen something out there.

Edward suddenly turned sharply in my direction and looked up past me. His eyes widened.

"Bella, run!" he yelled, spinning to head my way.

But Before I was able to take one step, or Edward could reach me, I was grabbed fiercely by my arm and yanked up into the trees.

My last glimpse of Edward was him diving my way and missing before he cursed and hollered back to the group, pointing, "They're in the trees!"

The creatures were so silent; none of us had heard them. The light breeze in the clearing had carried our scents out in front of us, hiding theirs in their favor, making it easy to find us…to find me.

A vampire, not much bigger than me, was holding my arm tightly just above the elbow, pulling me with him, jumping branch to branch at an extreme pace. I tried to use my free arm and hand to grab onto anything to slow us down, or make us stop, but I wasn't having any luck. By the way he was holding me and jerking me around between leaps, I was only able to grab at small braches that broke off immediately in my grip.

The force he used to travel and leap gave him tremendous speed, allowing a greater distance to be covered in less time that it would take to run.

"Put me down!" I screamed, but he made no acknowledgement of my words, which made me angry.

I wasn't sure if they were with Aro, but it was in my best interest to assume so. I had to try and get out of this.

With my free arm, I reached up and grabbed onto his that held me tightly and pulled myself up, eyeing the muscle right below his elbow; planning to take a good sized bite out of it. Then I opened my mouth and sunk my teeth in. He shrieked and instinctually dropped me.

I landed firmly on the ground on my feet, about twenty feet down, before I heard him turn and come for me. He wasn't trying to be silent this time, because his furious growls gave his circling location away.

Before I began running back, and in between my vampire's heated growls, I paused for an eighth of a second to notice there was more running going on ahead of me, on the ground, in two opposite directions. I hoped one of them was Edward. The wind was no help scent-wise, as I debated running towards one. But I didn't want to take the chance picking the wrong one, so I headed straight back towards our group.

"Edward!" I shouted as I sprinted. But received no reply.

I hadn't paid attention how far this vampire had gone with me, but I knew it was worth the chance to try and reach Edward mentally. I removed my shield.

Edward, if you can hear me, I'm on the ground. I bit the vampire and he dropped me. I hear more noises in the forest and I don't know what else is out here…if you're out here. He's coming back for me. I'm going to run back towards the group…find me.

I only got about three more steps before I was suddenly whisked up again from another direction.

Crap!

There was definitely more than one tree vampire out here, possibly three now. This one that grabbed me was a larger, holding me by my waist and heading back down the mountain again. He wasn't as fast as the other one, but he was still quicker than if I we were running along the ground.

I looked behind me and thought I had seen movement on the ground, but was being jostled so much that the sixty-foot foliage swerving back and forth in our zigzag path, made focusing difficult.

The trees this vampire was choosing to run through were thicker in size, giving me more of an opportunity to grab at larger branches.

I eyed a good one coming up, hoping he wouldn't turn in a different direction before I could attempt a grab at it. He stayed on course, and just as I was about to make a move for it, a smaller branch I didn't see coming, whacked me upside of my head, angering a growl in me because I'd completely missed the limb. These branches were going to be more of a hassle than they were worth.

The first vampire caught up and was jumping alongside of us at even speed. I knew it was him because I saw the crescent bite I'd left on his forearm. Where was that third vampire? I looked around in the trees and on the ground behind me, still hoping the other one out here was Edward.

Edward, I'm back in the trees. There are two of them, possibly three. Hurry if you can, I'm still going to do everything possible to slow them down.

Thankful I was still strong, I decided I would do what I could to force my way out of this with pure muscle.

I twisted a bit, reached my arms up and grabbed this vampire's neck, then swung my legs around in front in an attempt to trip him down out of the trees. When he found himself suddenly tangled up in my legs, I pulled his head down, causing him to lose focus of his direction.

He slipped and we bounced off several branches, breaking and cracking them upon impact as we continued to tumble down awkwardly from the tree. Landing on our sides, still holding each other, we fell upon a bed of leaves then began to roll swiftly down a hill.

When we came to a stop on flat earth, I could hear running in the distance. Both of us jumped up and faced each other, snarling. The vampire lunged, but I faked left and began running back up the hill. I'd lost track of the first vampire running alongside us.

This second vampire was close on my trail as I listened for the other first one above. But they traveled so quietly I knew it would be hard. And where was that third one at!

"Edward!" I shouted again, trees blurring past me, and still received no response. What else was out here if he wasn't? Could it be a third tree vampire? Aro was completely relentless if so.

As I continued running back towards my family, in the distance, a shape swiftly ran past me in the opposite direction. I picked up on the scent right away, thanks to the wind, and smiled.

He had come, and was closing in.

I continued running full speed. Edward would catch up.

As I looked ahead, a shadowed figure came into view. This had to be my first vampire.

I veered quickly to the right, keeping my hearing open to the one that veered with me up in the trees now, my second vampire.

He gave one good push off a branch and landed steadily on the ground in front of me, crouching, blocking my path with a sneer.

The first one circled behind, and I was caught between them, forcing me to stop where I was, looking for an escape.

Where was Edward? I needed help. As soon as one of these fiends would dropped me, the other one would pick me up. It would be a never ending game as long as I was alone against them.

Without turning around, staring number two down, I heard the first one closing in behind me. I decided against trying to run, knowing either idiot would eventually make a move if I kept still…which was just what I wanted.

Nearly approaching the back of my heels, I turned instantly, grabbed vamp one's right arm and threw him straight ahead, just missing the other one with his body. He was stopped with a crashing thud by a large tree about twenty yards away, knocking it over, before falling to the ground himself.

The second one came at me, growling and hissing. I crouched, growling back and barring my teeth, anxious to bite him, too. But more importantly, I had to get him out of the way so I could continue my run.

As soon as he lunged at me, and just before I could move out of the way, he was taken down in mid-flight from the side with a huge blow. Leaves and dirt filled the air around them when they landed and I caught the scent I'd been waiting for.

I focused back on the first vampire who was menacingly heading my way again. He stopped a few yards in front of me, staring me down, fire burning in his eyes. He was beyond furious. Pity for him, because I was just as furious.

I crouched again as a low growl crept into my lungs and I barred my teeth. He barred his back.

Edward wasn't far away. I could see his shadow in the near distance, wrestling with the other vampire, while keeping my eye on the one in front of me.

As soon as Edward was able to get a good grip on the vampire's feet, he picked him off the ground and swung him forcefully into the closest tree, shattering his head off his body, knocking the beastly foliage to the ground in loud, thunderous cracks.

I grinned in smugness as the vampire in front of me spun, taking notice that Edward had destroyed his partner.

It was now two to one.

Take that, you monster.

Once I saw Edward running my way I made a quick movement, drawing the vampire's attention back to me, knowing he'd be taken down as soon as I did.

His eyes caught mine, and in a matter of seconds, he, too, was plowed brutally from the side, heading in the other direction, kicking up more leaves and dirt.

I ran to where they landed, watching Edward wrestling with snarls and growls.

"Hold him down," I hollered. I had an idea.

Edward was able to get on top of him and pin him face down on the ground. I only had a few seconds before the vampire would be able to get out of his hold.

Fast as lightening, I ran and kicked at the vampire's head, aiming it for the nearest tree. And just like the other one, his separated head exploded in all directions, shattering the tree in half on impact, causing the top portion to fall in a folding motion in our direction.

Edward immediately got off the body that lay there motionless as I stepped out of the timbering way, and came to me before taking a tree to his back.

"Where did you go after you passed us?" I questioned with a hint of attitude.

"It wasn't easy, Bella." His lips pursed themselves together. "One minute you were up in the trees and the next minute you were on the ground, heading in this direction, and then the other," he argued as he motioned his hands in all different ways. "They hum the whole time, blocking their minds. I couldn't get a reading on which course they were planning or heading in next. But I heard you, while trying to keep my eyes on where you said you were, following your scent up and down."

My face was apologetic. He was right. We were everywhere.

"Are you alright?" I asked as I rubbed my hand up and down his arm.

"Bella, please…" He made a face, sounding irritated that I asked, then raised an eyebrow and playfully grinned. "Let's head back, we're out of range, I can't hear anything." He grabbed my hand and I nodded as we took off on foot back to the clearing.

"Thank you for coming," I smiled.

"Did you think I wouldn't?" He stopped and turned to stare at me.

"No, I knew you would. I didn't know when, but I knew you would." I comforted his reaction with another gentle smile and a kiss. "I just wanted to say 'thank you' out loud."

"There isn't anything I wouldn't do for you, love. You know that." He put his hand under my jaw and stared into my eyes, then kissed me back.

"Me too." I beamed, thrilled to be standing here with him.

"Back to the group?" he recommended.

"Back to the group…" I repeated.

We have traveled a good three miles back up the mountain when Edward stopped short about a half-mile before the clearing. His face hardened and lots of cursing came in low whispers as he paced and listened in his mind. I looked in the directions of our group, unable to see anything with the mass of trees in the way.

"What do you hear?" I asked, knowing it was bad. I was nervous to hear his answer, but needed to. I had to know what was going on ahead of us. Was Aro there? Or something worse?

"There were two more in the trees. The ones I heard to the right first. They're holding Eleazar and Embry by the necks as hostages," he fumed behind clinched teeth. "The first two were sent ahead to grab you and take you back to Volterra. These two were sent to hold the rest of us at a standstill. A suicide distraction if it came to it…"

I froze. "Eleazar and Embry?"

Edward turned his head to gaze further down the mountain and spoke angrily, but softly, "Aro hasn't shown yet, but he's close…" Then more cursing continued to spill out of his mouth as he paced quietly in thought. "Damn him!" he shouted under his breath before he turned to me. "Bella, I need you to create a distraction to give me a chance to get around behind the two other ones."

"What! What should I do?" I panicked, unable to think of anything off-hand. My mind was still on the fact two more tree vampires held my friends hostage, and…Aro was coming.

"Go! Think of something," he said before he was gone in a flash, around the back of the clearing.

I started running, and within a minute I was almost to the clearing, still trying to think of something I could do or say to distract two vampires who were holding two of us by their necks.

I paused for a second, took a deep breath and ran out into the clearing, figuring I'd just have to wing it. Then all eyes were on me in surprise, including the two villains. I had to make noise, I had to talk, get others talking, and keep talking. I kept the vampires in my eyesight as I pretended to look around for something.

"Has…anyone seen, Edward?" I asked in a false alarm. "I thought I saw him in the woods, but he's gone. I can't find him!" I continued to pretend panic. Esme was probably going to kill me if this worked, if not all of my family.

"What?" Carlisle worried.

"Oh no…" Esme buried her face in her hands.

Oh yeah, dead meat. Way to wing it Bella…

I gazed at Eleazar and Embry, then out the tops of my eyes in fury at the two vampires who held them, curling my top lip up and growling, as if I just noticed what was going on.

They were holding the same kind of curved, metal device against my friend's necks that Caius used on Irina. A shiny, metal sheath with a torch on the end.

I took a step.

"Bella, wait!" Rosalie shouted, holding a hand out. "Don't move any closer!"

I froze and looked at her.

"They'll kill them out if we do." Her eyes were full of fear. "Please…stay where you are."

I put my foot back, nodded, and stood straight, following her instructions.

"Bella, which way did Edward go?" Emmett asked, looking concerned and angry, as if he feared the worst for his brother.

I had to keep playing along while Edward moved quickly through the forest behind them. "He passed me a ways back." I pointed down the mountain in the direction I had come. "There were two of them. One went after me, and the other one took off after Edward..." I trailed off, putting on my best fearful face.

The two evil vampires smiled, and fury burned in my eyes for real, as their grins to each other silently celebrated some kind of victory.

As soon as I could, I was going to have to let Esme know everything would be okay. Her sobs were tearing at me, but at least it was making some kind of noise.

I continued to watch the vampires, waiting for them to take their eyes off me for just one second so I could get a signal out to her, but she kept her face buried in her hands.

The vampires never gave me a chance. I was their next target and they focused on me, seeing that the other vampire thieves had failed to contain me.

Jasper was closest to Eleazar, while Garrett stood closest to Embry, both of them keeping their eyes on the hostages and the targets they wanted to shred. I thought about how I could keep these vampires in my sights while getting a signal out to those two that Edward was alright and coming.

Winging it again, I let out an unexpected growl and everyone glanced my way, most importantly, Jasper and Garrett. Even though I was glaring at the vampires, I handed out a swift wink, wishing they'd seen it.

Jasper, to my delight, gave a slight nod back, and I breathed a slight sigh of relief, he was with me now. He had to be.

Edward, Jasper knows you're out there, I took down my shield. If you take out Embry's vampire, he's close enough to take care of Eleazar's.

Everyone stood motionless, obeying the vampire's rule to not move. But I still had to keep talking and creating noise without irritating them.

I realized a few on our side had seen my wink and stared at me now with confused expressions. I ignored their glances, holding to my performance. Aro would be here any minute, we needed to hurry.

Maggie and Charles stared at me the longest. Maggie, because she knew I was lying, and Charles because he knew I wasn't telling the truth. It helped to know they were in on the charade to some extent.

"What happened to the vampire that grabbed you, Bella?" Emmett asked.

"I destroyed him," I answered angrily as I glared at the two vampires, sending out a warning that it was not in their best interest to try the same thing.

"Good job, sis," he replied as he laughed in the villains' direction, intimidating them with a victorious chuckle.

The two vampires glanced at each other, taking their eyes off of me. I made a motion with my eyes to Jasper at the forest behind him, giving him the clue that Edward was out there. He nodded further in understanding, and then turned to face the vampire holding Eleazar. He braced his foot to the ground, ready to leap.

The breeze was blowing at a steady speed from behind me giving Edward a chance to move in closer without being detected. Esme had stopped sobbing and was calming down, halting further noise. I would comfort her and apologize as soon as Edward made his appearance. I felt horrible I was putting her through this.

I cracked some sticks lying on the ground in front of me as I took a slight step, getting myself back in view of the hostile vampires. They looked at me, and just as I was getting ready to let out another growl for distraction, Edward leaped on Embry's vampire, snapping his neck instantly, and dropping him to the ground. The other vampire glanced at his fallen comrade, giving Jasper his opportunity to tackle him and free Eleazar in the process.

Edward grabbed the sheaths from the hands of both vampires while Jasper roared as he took the head off of the one he'd taken to the ground.

Eleazar ran to Carmen, hugging her, comforting her, while Jasper and Edward swiftly finished dismantling the two vampires and I ran to Esme.

"Esme, I'm so sorry," I whispered as I grabbed her hands. "Edward needed a distraction. I had to keep everyone talking as much as possible while he made his way around."

"And you couldn't think of anything else to come up with, Bella?" She scolded me, her eyes trying to recover from the pain.

"No," I admitted, hanging my head in remorse.

Then there was an awkward moment of silence while I waited for more reprimanding.

"Well, I'm more thankful the two of you are okay." She hugged me, surprising me. "But if that ever happens again, I expect you to come up with something better than a member of my family missing."

"I promise," I said as she held me tightly.

"Carlisle," Edward ran over to him. "Aro is coming," he informed as he stared into the group of trees before us. "He should be here any moment."

"Alright, everyone," Carlisle yelled back to the group. "This is it…"



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