Charlie and I found a large, stone bench, just out front, to sit on while we waited for Edward to come back.
I sat down quickly, too quickly for a human's pace, and remained very still. My father eyed me as he took an apprehensive seat at the opposite end, at least three feet away from me.
I glanced over at him, noticing his distance, and being bothered by it. "Dad, you don't have to sit so far away. It's okay. I'm alright."
"I—I know, Bells," he replied, unable to convince me. "I just want to make it easier for you. So, I'll...uh...sit down here if that's okay?"
I huffed loudly. "Dad, I can smell you from twenty feet away. Trust me, three feet between us isn't going to change anything."
"Well, maybe it'll make me feel better then," he scoffed. Edward wasn't here to come between us if needed. And I think that made my father feel a little uneasy. His heart pumped louder and he was acting as if his own personal bodyguard had left him alone with some crazed, moody murderer.
"Fine, suit yourself," I said offensively as I crossed my arms and threw them down hard against my stomach like a stubborn, irritated child.
Charlie made a face at me. I had obviously acted like the daughter he'd known all too well, when she was four.
The last thing I wanted was for my father to feel like he needed to avoid me, and, I had been the same way with Edward at first. Keeping my distance, but not quite afraid. Whatever I could do to help Charlie out, I would. I needed to be more understanding.
He stared off into the distance after a moment of silence between us. This was our usual conversation routine. A lot of dead space followed with small bits of chit chat. But things were different now. We had entered a whole new genre of things to talk about, none of it being small anymore.
I was curious about what he was thinking, curious about his last three days here, and curious about how he was really doing.
"How are you, dad?" I asked casually, yet concerned, trying not to appear too eager to know everything, but wanting to know something at least.
"Oh, I'm alright," he replied as he glanced down at his bandaged hand, looking like he was thinking back over things. My father was tough, no doubt about that, but this, all of this, had to be hard for even the toughest cop to handle.
"I'm sorry Felix hurt you." I scootched a few inches closer.
He didn't answer. Instead, he stared out into the night's shadows in front of him. Then out of the blue, his eyes shot up to the sky above us, towards the stars, moving themselves around. He appeared to be looking for something.
My gaze followed his when he found what he'd been looking for. The moon.
"Did you know werewolves exist, Bella? Real werewolves? Not like Jacob either." He brought his eyes down to meet my semi-wide ones, going off on a new subject.
"Uh…werewolves?" I swallowed nervously. "Well, um, yes…I…I did know that," was the best stuttered response I could reply with after being caught off guard. I felt guilty then; guilty that I had already known so much more than he did. Like I was cheating at a game of mythical creatures vs. human knowledge, and was being busted a little at a time. I waited warily for the outcome of his anger.
"I was locked up next to one." He glared back down at his wounded hand, sounding somewhat distant to the conversation and not angry in the least.
"Dad," I moved closer, looking at his face, studying it better, "are you, okay?" I was worried how all of this would affect him. He had to have been scared. And he'd had a lot to take in in the last few days. The fact that vampires, shape-shifters and werewolves existed, was never a light load for anyone.
"The young man changed right in front of us." He continued to stare, replaying the memory in his head. "Not the way Jacob does…" he paused. "His was different, very different. And he was more man and wolf than just wolf…" he trailed off then shuddered. I could only imagine what he'd seen.
I was almost sitting next to Charlie now, but he hadn't noticed. He was too busy scrambling through his thoughts. Casually, I put my arm around him and let him talk. He shivered at my cold touch, but didn't move away, lightly tracing the blood stains that were showing up on the outside of his bandage with his thumb.
I turned my face up to watch his, away from the slightly red, tinted covering. Not daring myself that kind of self-torture with Edward not here.
"They chained him up like a dog, fed him raw meat on a plate, and made him drink out of a bowl. It was all so…weird. Then, when he turned into a man the next morning, they took him away. I never got to talk to him. Felix punched him over and over. And when he tried to resist leaving the cell he was locked in, Santiago jumped on him and his head slammed against the ground…" Charlie drifted for a moment, obviously bothered by their brutality. The bullies' behavior had gone against everything my father stood for, for protecting people. "He bled a lot these last couple days...more than me, and, I can only imagine what they did to him after they took him away."
My stomach sank when I thought of Charlie and Ahren being locked up like the criminals my father sought after, swallowing hard then against the blood reference he'd followed it up with. For a brief second, I believe he'd actually forgotten who he was talking to. And then I felt responsible, beyond responsible, because they'd been on the wrong side of those bars...they were innocent.
"None of this seems real, Bella." He looked up at me, his eyes confused and tired.
I wanted to tell him just how real everything was though. I wanted to tell him about James, Laurent and Victoria. I wanted to tell him about my first trip to Volterra, about the newborns and about our first stand-off with the Volturi. And I wanted to tell him the name of the werewolf he'd come here with; but I knew it would be too much right now or, possibly ever. I'd have to save those stories for a later time, when he was ready to hear more…if he wanted to? That Ahren was one more secret he'd have to keep safe…forever. At this moment, though, he was just too exhausted and needed comfort.
"I know what you mean, dad." I slightly smile. "It's so different from what we've always known as normal, isn't it?"
He sighed and nodded.
"But it's okay to know 'different'. I mean, it doesn't change your life. It's just a new acceptance of what's around you. That things outside the normal exist. It just so happens your daughter, son-in-law, granddaughter and family friend, happen to be some of those things. I'm still me though. We're still us. Just, with a different diet, and super strength, and quickness…yada, yada." I chuckled, moving my hands around, trying to pull him from his memories with a little bit of humor.
He didn't laugh.
I sat silent with him.
"No," he said after a moment, staring back down at his hand, "no, you're right, Bells."
We'd all been in his shoes at some point or another in our lives—trying to grasp a new reality, each with our own individual reactions.
"You are different, but, yes, you're still you. And you have a wonderful husband, who I'm growing rather fond of. And I have an amazing granddaughter." He beamed then paused. "And Jacob, well, he's still good ole' Jacob. And no, I guess it doesn't change me. I just hadn't seen it that way. I guess it's something I will get—" Charlie abruptly stopped talking and panic flooded his expression. His face turned as pale as mine when all the blood drained from it, and his breaths became short and ragged. Not to mention his heart began hammering away like a jackhammer on full blast.
I stared at him puzzled, and alarmed. What just happened that I'd missed? I replayed his words in my head. There was nothing chilling enough in them to match with his expression.
"Change me..." Charlie barely managed to whispered, looking as if he'd just remembered something horrifying.
"What?" I replied, still confused. "Change you?" My eyes widened then. Was he saying what I thought he was saying? Was he asking me to change him?
I pulled my eyebrows down and shook my head 'no'.
He was quiet for a moment, then turned and asked in a nervous tone, "Bella...what happens now?"
"What do you mean?" I asked, still curious as to what he was saying.
"It's die or be changed, isn't it?" he choked out roughly. "According to the law?"
I stared at him for a second, forgetting that important tidbit; then hung my head. "Oh…that..."
"Yeah…that…" he retorted. His words had triggered the memory of our law, and the 'changing' of those who 'knew'.
"How…how did you know about that?" I stuttered, realizing I had never made any mention of any of it, just that it wasn't safe for him to know.
"Aro," he grumbled.
I knew he'd met the head vampire, like he'd said, but… "You talked to Aro?" I shouldn't have been surprised. And how many times had my father's hand been in the pasty pale one's?
"He told me about your law, and that I only had two options. One I would have to live with, or one I would have to die with," his voice shook as he looked at me, his worried eyes questioning.
I wasn't sure what to say, I didn't know the answer now. Did that rule still apply now that Aro was gone? Was my father's fate still destined for one or the other? Was his remaining human out of the question? And who would decide?
"I, I don't know, dad." I shook my head. "But I can't imagine Carlisle would allow either of those things to happen to you. Or Edward…or any of us…" I trailed off.
Charlie let out a heavy breath. Not quite in relief.
I bit my lower lip, already cursing myself for what I was getting ready to ask, hoping it was a very stupid question, but one I had to know.
"You don't want to be changed, do you?" I cringed at the words and the thought of what he might actually say.
"Heavens no, Bella!" He glared at me.
I sighed thankfully in response. "Okay, good." I had asked a stupid question.
"I was just wondering…you know…" He frowned.
"Well, stop wondering," I tried to comfort him. "I don't think it's anything we need to worry about. As long as you never tell anyone…"
"And end up in the nut house?" he snapped. "No, this is something I would never tell anyone, trust me."
"We do trust you, dad."
He grinned slightly and we sat there quietly, sharing another moment of awkward silence.
"You've been here before," he told me, not asking, continuing to catch me off guard.
My muscles tensed. "What?"
"You've been here, to Volterra." He looked at me coldly, his eyes piercing mine.
Dammit, Aro! My teeth grit together. The vampire was gone, and yet he still found a way to make my life miserable.
I closed my eyes and took a calm, shallow breath. "Yes," I exhaled, unable to look at him.
"Were you ever going to tell me?" his tone carried a current of harshness in it.
I waited a few seconds, contemplating my answer. Then whispered an honest, "No."
"Mmm," he noised with a hint of anger, not looking at me either, but at the stone wall in the distance.
"Well, not unless it came up," I defended. "Which, I thought it never would. But…well, here it is, huh?" I sighed looking at my hands. "I suppose you…know everything?" I questioned how much I would have to talk about.
"I know most of it," he replied tightly, sending a cold shiver down my spine. How much was most?
"I'm sorry…" I whispered again, waiting for Charlie to tell me he wanted to ground me for life once again, and thinking how long that could end up being.
"You're sorry you got caught, Bella? Or you're sorry you lied to me?" He gritted his teeth.
I looked into Charlie's eyes. "I'm sorry I couldn't tell you. I don't like keeping things from you, dad. But how was I supposed to tell you something like that?"
Charlie focused on my sincerity. "Right," his voice appeared calmer. "How could you tell me?" We both knew Aro would have done his option-damage if my father knew then what he knew now.
We sat in another moment of silence.
"What was Edward doing here?" Charlie continued to test my nerves. "That made you travel half way around the world to rescue him?"
My stomach sank. Rescuing him from death…
"Do you really want to know?" I asked, knowing he did, and that I'd have to tell him what Aro obviously hadn't.
"Yes," he was quick to answer.
"Well," I gathered myself with a deep breath, resisting the smell of Charlie's leaking blood that unexpectedly pulled at me, even though it was bandaged. "Edward did think I was trying to hurt myself by jumping off the cliff," I told him as I swallowed away the lump and swell of venom that gathered itself in my throat. "And word got back to him, accidentally, that I…didn't survive, and…well, he came here to ask the Volturi to take him out of his misery. Even though we were apart at the time, he didn't want to live in a world where I didn't exist…" I paused my edited story, not wanting to give my father too much to take in, but just enough so he might understand.
Charlie absorbed my explanation.
"He asked them to kill him?"
"Yes." I immediately felt nauseous at the memory. "But they wouldn't concede. Aro was more interested in keeping Edward here, as part of his guard. When he refused their offer, Edward thought he would try to provoke them into taking him out."
"Oh?" Charlie's eyes widened. "He wanted Edward in his guard?" Then his brows furrowed. "But Aro took Alice and wanted only you?"
He's a mind-reader, dad. One Aro wanted on his side, to read his enemies and criminals' thoughts. And Alice, she sees the future…while I can shield an entire group from harm. See why he'd want us?
No. So not going there.
Aro probably didn't want Edward reading his mind and all the evil, messed up plans he had…along with all the wicked things he'd done. And would still do…
"I'm not exactly sure what changed, or why he only wanted Alice and me." Which was true—and something I could only guess at.
I also didn't know how much I should give away tonight, or ever, but knowing Charlie, sudden questions would come up somehow, someway later. The cop in him would always wonder about stories left unfinished.
"Do you want to know the rest of what happened that day? With Edward?" I asked, hoping he'd say no.
"Do I?" He returned my curiosity with a gaze.
"Might as well." I shrugged with a sigh. "Edward was going to step into the sunlight, knowing they'd take him down before he had the chance to reveal what he was."
Charlie looked at me.
"Sparkle," I reminded, and he nodded. "Alice knew the only way Edward would know I was alright, was if he saw me…personally. So we came here, to Volterra, hoping to catch him in time."
"So, Alice was here too?" His lips tightened.
Aro didn't rat her out? Of all the… "For her brother, dad, yes. She would never have allowed me to leave Forks if she could have done something herself."
"Jacob said you went away with her…to California," he murmured, reminding me of the lie to where I said we'd gone.
"I had to," my voice sorrowed.
"Hmm," he noised again, and I could hear his teeth grinding together.
"We made it, just in time," I informed him happily. "Then Aro wanted to see the three of us. When he understood what I was doing here, who I was, and how Edward felt, he allowed us to leave when it was dark…and we flew back home. The end," I super-edited that part of our visit by a lot.
"Alright, Bells," Charlie sighed. "I guess I can understand," his tone was semi-irked. I was pretty sure he knew I skipped a lot of information. But when I said the words, 'the end', I'd meant it.
I breathed in a silent breath of relief, then cringed mentally when he inhaled to speak again. More questions I knew.
"Did he hurt you?" He stared down at his wounded palm, rubbing lightly over it again.
"Who?" I wondered exactly.
"Aro, did he hurt you?" My father looked like he wanted to destroy again someone who'd already been taken care of.
"No," I answered truthfully. Jane was the only one who'd attempted any real pain on me, but I'd keep those things that needed to be secret, secret.
"Okay." He nodded, thankful.
We sat in silence again, continuing to wait for Edward.
Where was he?
"I'm glad that Felix one is gone," my father randomly spit out. "I really didn't care for him."
Ditto. "Me too," I replied, hating the memory of the big bully who rips my rings off, "me too…"
Just then I heard a car approach and stop in front of the castle's entrance, followed by the opening and shutting of a door.
"Bella," a voice called from beyond the walls. It was Edward. He was back, and with a car. Good thinking. I really didn't want to have to run back to Slovakia with Charlie, even though I could carry him the whole way myself.
"Come on, dad." I stood up, grabbing his arm. "Edward's here."
He looked towards the entrance. "I didn't hear anything," he was surprised that I would know that.
"Super hearing." I tapped my ear before gently pulling him up.
"Right." He rolled his eyes.
"Coming," I replied in a regular voice, knowing Edward would hear me.
I made sure I had our bloody shirts as Charlie and I walked down the stone pathway, around the corner, through the arched entrance and down the walkway in linked arms.
We paused in simultaneous shock when we saw Edward. He was leaning casually up against a shiny, sleek, black sports car, grinning.
"Ready?" he sounded rushed.
Charlie let go of me and walked towards the car. He ran his hand along the top, down the back, and across trunk as he made his way around in awe. "Where did you find a rental place that had one of these, and at this time of night?" he tried to speak in a coherent sentence, mesmerized by the lustrous vehicle.
Edward walked around to the passengers' side and opened the door for Charlie. "It's not a rental," he replied, and I tightened my eyes, waiting for the outburst.
"What?" Charlie hollered wide-eyed as he threw his hands on the car's roof, stopping himself from getting in. "Then where did you get this?"
There it was, the anticipated explosion.
Edward didn't say anything.
"Did you steal this?" My father barked in a disapproving tone and I opened one eye to watch the two of them.
"There are no places open at this time of night to 'rent' a car, Charlie," Edward defended himself. "This was our next best option." He patted the top of the vehicle.
"You want me…a police chief…to get into a stolen car?" Charlie barked again. "That's a little messed up, don't you think?" He glared at Edward.
"Hmm," Edward sounded. "I guess we could 'run' with you, back to the clearing?" he suggested in a disparaging tone, somewhat grinning.
Charlie thought about that for a moment, then gave in with a dirty look and defying moan. "No…that, won't be necessary," he snapped, then sighed. "I've had enough of vampires running around with me. I get a little sick when things fly by at a hundred miles an hour."
Great, I thought. Wait till he sees how Edward drives.
"Driving it is then," Edward stated as he pulled the passenger's seat forward and motioned for Charlie to hop in.
Charlie growled as he plopped himself down on the back seat, crossing his arms in defiance and acting like a little kid who was unhappy to be going somewhere. If my father was thirty some years younger, he'd probably break out into a full on fit back there.
I met up with Edward on the passenger side. "You knew you'd get a lot of flak for this, right?" I smirked, somewhat serious.
"Yes." He shrugged with some remorse. "But I knew it was better than the alternative." He smiled, pulling me towards him by the back of my neck and kissed my forehead.
"I suggest doing the speed limit," I eyed him, "until he's asleep at least," I advised strongly.
"I'll do the speed limit," he agreed with a hint of disappointment. "I'm sure my "son" ratings just dropped dramatically. No sense risking losing any more points tonight." He laughed once, slightly.
"Where did you find this?" It looked too ornamental to belong to someone who lived in town.
"Tourists aren't the only ones who like to travel in style." He smiled. "The owner lives only a few miles from here. I couldn't pass it up when I saw it." He raised excited eyebrows.
I shook my head and rolled my eyes. "No, of course you couldn't pass it up." We spoke soft enough and quick enough so Charlie wouldn't be able to make out or hear what we were saying.
I pushed the passenger seat back and lowered myself in.
After Edward closed my door, I put my seat belt on while he made his way around to the driver's side, admiring him as he slid in and fastened his own belt.
He reached under the steering column and started the car, then turned the headlights on.
Yep, definitely stolen…
The car purred to life like a blissful kitten, all the parts of the motor working together in complete rhythmic unison. Inside, the seats were soft, light brown leather, and all the dials, gauges and dash lights glowed a bright neon-green. This vehicle was fancy and looked very fast. The kind of automobile that was right up the Cullens' alley.
"What kind of car is this?" I asked, a little humiliated I didn't know much about vehicles.
"It's a Maserati Gran Turismo," Edward said smugly as he gripped his hands and fingers seductively around the steering wheel, anxious to drive.
"Oh," I replied. I didn't know what Maserati or Gran Turismo meant in the car world, but according to Edward's 'handle' on it, I figured it must be good. And for a second, I felt a little jealous of the car wrapped in his touch.
I heard Charlie slap his hands to his face behind us, causing me to turn around and face him. "Are you alright?" I asked a bit confused as to what made him do that.
His voice was muffled in his hands when he spoke. "He stole a one-hundred and fifteen thousand dollar car, Bella." My father shook his head in his hands. "We're definitely going to jail…"
"How much?" I asked Edward, shocked; my eyes trying to adjust to the amount.
He didn't answer. He only shrugged his shoulders and smiled crookedly at me.
It was hard to fathom a vehicle, which I happen to be sitting in, to actually cost twice as much as my father's house.
"There's water, bread and meat on the seat for you, Charlie," Edward turned to him, speaking politely.
"And I suppose you stole those, too?" he asked with a touch of rudeness in his tone.
"I thought you might be thirsty or hungry," Edward countered. "They're there if you are." He smiled, then turned back around.
Charlie was quiet for a couple seconds.
"Well, maybe a little," he said, changing his tone as he reached over and grabbed a water bottle. My father must have been thirsty, because he undid the plastic lid quickly and put it to his mouth.
I heard each swallow and the water change levels as he gulped it down to the very last drop, inhaling unevenly afterwards to catch his breath.
"Thank you," Charlie choked out, sounding a little less angry.
"You're welcome, Charlie," Edward said as he pushed his foot to the pedal and took off toward the road that would lead us back to Carlisle.
Charlie was fast asleep by the time we reached the E35 ramp, heading north to Florence. The clock on the dash showed 1:30 am.
He'd managed to scarf down half the loaf of bread and most of the meat. And once Charlie's stomach was full, I knew exhaustion would set in and he'd be out for a while.
That's when Edward pinned it.
I pulled my cell phone from my back pocket and scrolled through the numbers until I reached the one I needed.
"Calling, Carlisle?" Edward asked.
"Thank you." He reached out and grabbed my free hand, pulled to his lips and kissed it softly, sweetly, lovingly.
My stimulated nerves stood on end when he did that. And a part of me wanted to fold my phone back up and jump on him. But I'd hate to be the one responsible for causing a wreck in this car. So I breathed in a deep relaxing breath and hit 'send'.
"Bella!" A female answered joyfully after just one ring.
"Hi, Esme." It was so nice to hear her voice.
"Bella, how are you? Is everything alright?" She was then heightened with concern.
"Yes, Esme, we're fine, everything's alright," I calmed her worry. "Edward and I are in a car right now with Charlie. He's sleeping. We're headed for Florence."
I listened as she relayed what I said to Carlisle.
In the background I could hear the others. Vladimir and Stefan were talking in ecstatic voices as they were going over their plans of what they wanted to do, now that Aro was gone. One of the others in our group must have called them already.
"Bella, honey, we're still in the clearing. Carlisle wants to move closer to the road so you can meet us easier."
I looked over at Edward. He nodded his head in understanding, hearing what she had said.
"Alright, Esme, we'll be there as soon as we can."
"Okay, dear, be careful, and call when you reach Pistoia. We'll let you know where we are from there," she instructed.
"Will do," I replied, happy we would be seeing them shortly. "Wait!" I yelled into the phone, hoping I didn't hurt her ears. There was no reason for me to holler, except out of reflex.
"What is it, dear?"
"How's…Embry?" I asked slowly, partially scared of what she would say, hoping for good news.
"He's still unconscious," she informed me. "But he's breathing more on his own. Carlisle says his heart sounds better, only a few flutters here and there, and his blood scent is getting stronger, so we know his body is making more as fast as it can."
I closed my eyes, feeling a slight sense of relief. He was better, but not completely out of danger. I wouldn't feel fully at ease until he was awake.
Edward squeezed my hand in reassurance.
"Carlisle thinks he's going to be okay, Bella," Esme said comfortingly. I couldn't see her, but I knew she was smiling on the other end.
"And Jacob?" I asked.
"He's been a nervous wreck," she sighed. "But he started coming around when Carlisle told Leah she didn't have to breathe for Embry anymore."
I took a sympathetic breath. "Thank you, Esme."
Edward looked over at me, catching my attention. I raised my eyebrows at him, wondering what was on his mind as I still held the phone up to my ear.
"Has she heard from anyone else?" I didn't have to repeat what he asked or who he meant, Esme had heard.
"Yes," she replied happily. "Marek and Adriana are going to meet us in Venice," she paused, then whispered, "we'll explain that one later. And Emmett called to let us know he's running back with Rosalie and the rest. Jasper and Alice stopped to hunt, but are behind them."
A ton of relief overwhelmed me. Everyone was safe and on their way back.
"That's wonderful news." I smiled into the phone then squeezed Edward's hand.
"Yes, sweetheart, it is…" she agreed.
"Alright. Bye, Esme. We'll call soon."
"Until then, Bella…" she said before she closed her phone.
I flipped mine shut as well and placed it back in my pocket.
Edward and I sat still and quiet as we drove, watching the countryside fly by us. The last time I had taken this road was in a Porsche with Alice, and wasn't able to see anything at this speed.
I lowered my window a little bit. Charlie's breath and blood scent was filling the car, causing a slight ache in my throat. I needed the fresh air to help keep my thoughts clear of thirst.
The smell of fresh poppies flowed in through the window, swirling around the inside of the car. Their scent was light, but inviting.
I rested my head back on the seat and closed my eyes to relax. I wasn't exhausted, but I felt like I should be after the few days we'd just had. I wanted to block some of the memories out, so I thought about Renesmee and how she was doing. I would call her in a few minutes though. Something important just entered my mind and I needed to talk with Edward.
I opened my eyes and caught him staring at me, still holding my hand.
"What?" I asked.
"Nothing." He smirked, then turned back to face the road.
"Mmm," I noised.
We were silent for a few more minutes.
I wasn't sure how to ask him what I was getting ready to ask, or if I should. I didn't want to bring something up that might change an outcome, but knew I had to if it would help prepare us for later.
"Yes," he replied as he tilted his head towards me, keeping his eyes on the road.
"I don't know if I should ask this…but, Charlie was wondering about something Aro said to him."
Edwards face dropped.
"What?" he said coldly. I knew his reaction wasn't directed towards me, but against the mention of Aro's name.
"Well, Charlie was wondering about his 'options'," I paused, "and if he still only had 'two' left; with the law and all?"
Edward's expression was hard when he answered. "Aro's law…"
"So we don't need to worry?"
"We'll check with Carlisle, but no, love, I don't think we need to worry about what happens to Charlie," his voice comforting.
"Okay," I sighed, frustrated, my relief vanishing. It was still going to have to be discussed.
Then anger and panic filled me as I imagined a different outcome; a bad one. How many vampires would I have to fend off my father and defend against, if they should come for him?
I decided to distract myself with that phone call home.
After I checked in with Renesmee, who was doing fine and happy to hear our voices; I turned on the radio. I was hoping to find something soft and relaxing. I stopped searching the channels when I found a beautiful Italian love song playing, even though I didn't know the words. I closed my eyes again and propped my head back on the headrest, breathing in slow and deep.
Edward caught my attention when he flipped his phone open and called Carlisle miles later. We had just passed through the city of Pistoia and needed further instructions to where they had moved.
"Alright, Carlisle, thank you," Edward said before they hung up.
"We're going to meet them along Via del Traforo," he relayed our next stop to me. "They left a scent trail from the road for us to follow."
I nodded, even though I didn't know where that was exactly, and went back to relaxing to the music. I felt the car turn and swerve as we made our way up and through the mountains. Edward had to go a little slower on some of the turns, making it feel like we were crawling in some spots.
My eyes opened when the car suddenly came to an almost complete stop and Edward turned off onto a side road. I glanced at the street name. It wasn't the one we were looking for.
He drove down the gravel road about a mile in until it ended, cut off by large trees, tall grass and sporadic flowers.
"Why are you stopping here?"
He didn't answer as he put the car in park and turned the headlights off, leaving the car and radio running.
Edward glanced at me, grinned, looked me over and undid his seatbelt, then put his hand on the door handle. "I'm freeing myself from my punishment," he said mercifully as he opened his door to get out.
Punishment? I questioned as he shut his door and made his way over to mine, opening it.
"You need to change your shirt, remember?" He raised an eyebrow at me.
I looked down to see half my chest staring back up at me. Oh, right! His 'punishment' over this audacious top. I had forgotten.
He reached down and grabbed my new shirt, then held his hand out for me. I was a little suspicious at his gesture to exit the vehicle, I could have easily changed right here in the car.
I grabbed his hand anyways, stepped out and went to take the shirt from him, but he pulled it away and hid it behind his back before I could reach it.
I glowered at him.
He grinned, laughed through his nose then handed me my shirt. What was up with him?
Edward started walking towards the trees, pulling me along behind him.
"Where are you going?"
"I'm going to help you…" he replied so sure of himself, not turning around and walking faster.
"Help me?" I said curiously.
Edward stopped pulling at me once we traveled a good distance into the forest and turned to face me. His eyes were wild as he looked down at me again. "Yes," he insisted with hungry breath as he placed his hands at my sides. "There's quite a bit of open fabric here…and, well, I'd hate for you to get tangled up in it."
I'd caught on. "Oh. You're going to 'help me' huh? That's, very considerate of you," I played along.
"Actually, it's more of a selfish act on my part," he teased as he pulled me in close. "You've been torturing me since you came out of the bathroom, and I'm unable to take it anymore."
"Hmm. Lesson learned then?" I pretended to scold him, considering this top was his fault after all.
"Lesson learned…" He leaned in to kiss me.
His sweet breath moved with mine and I was instantly in the moment. I heard him drop my new shirt to the ground before reaching for the bottom of the one I was wearing.
My skin tingled under his touch.
And then a thought entered my head. A thought that turned my stomach queasy when I realized I shouldn't be having it. A thought that no one would want on their mind during this.
I grabbed Edward's hands to stop him, noticing how far he'd gotten already.
He leaned back from our kiss, lowered his eyebrows and questioned my actions. "No?" he sounded surprised and a tad disappointed.
I had to let him know quickly that it had nothing to do with him. The last thing my body ever wanted to do was reject Edward. In fact, most of the time it was all I could do to keep its cravings for him at a sensible level.
"Charlie," I whispered as I looked back in the direction we had come, then back at Edward. He was sitting in a car all alone and that made me a nervous. I don't usually notice too much during moments like these, but, what if he woke up and came looking for us. That would be awful.
"What about him?" Edward said curtly as he let go of me and crossed his arms in front of his chest. I was pretty confident I had just ruined his mood, too.
"What if he wakes up?" I gave him an apologetic yet worried look.
Edward laughed quietly. "Bella, he's out solid. We could be here all night for as long as he's going to sleep."
"All night?" I asked, a little troubled. Was he planning on…? I mean, Carlisle and everyone were waiting for us. Showing up in the morning would be frowned on, let alone trying to find a logical excuse. Plus, Emmett would be more than happy to throw us under the bus if given the chance.
Edward stepped in close to me again and placed his hands on each side of my jaw. "As tempting as that sounds, love," he eyed me up and down again, already back in the mood, "not all night. Just long enough to make us 'late'." He winked, then waited for my response.
I thought for a moment.
Well, as long as Charlie wasn't going to be out looking for us, and we had 'some' time, and Edward didn't want me to get all tangled up. I supposed there was no sense in us leaving, just yet.
"Alright." I grinned as I threw my arms around him. "I guess I'd better change then…"
Edward smiled as he leaned in to kiss me again, his hands moving to finish where he'd left off.