The call came as he was finishing the final copy of Wil's song. He dismissed it at first, setting the sheets aside – two copies, one for himself and one that would go into a folder for her – and let the phone roll to voicemail. When it rang a second time, then a third, he finally answered, and the words Alice had spoken still rang in his mind.
"We're going to have company," she said. "Soon, but I can't pinpoint when. But there's a newborn, Edward, and I don't know why."
Without the last part, it would have been relatively innocuous. They were used to crossing paths with other vampires as they wandered the country, and it was usually a fairly easy thing to take care of: his family would meet with the newcomer, tell them that this was their territory, and the other would go on his way. A newborn complicated matters, made it difficult and dangerous – not for them, but for the humans until they could get the situation under control.
"I'll be over." He hung up then, and half an hour later, he was letting himself into his siblings' home. The four were already gathered in the living room, leaning forward in deep conversation that, to a human, would barely pass above a whisper and would be far too quick to understand.
"Finally," Jasper said, glancing up at Edward as his brother joined their circle. None of them sat; there was no need to, and they were all too tense to want to keep up the charade. Their fears echoed in their minds, bouncing off Edward all at once.
I don't want to leave, from Rosalie. We just settled all together, and it's nice to be States-side again.
God, this'll kill Rosie, Emmett echoed, his hand ghosting against the small of her back in reassurance. She leaned against him without thinking about it, trying to soak in his comfort.
Jasper's mind was already in full military mode, drawing on his training from so many years ago. Two of them, five of us – but we don't know where they are. We'll need to start scouting, especially at night. Solo, or two man teams? He glanced at Edward with the last, and he gave a slight shake of his head in response. They'd discuss it together.
So many will die… Alice was trying to keep him out of her mind, going over the last issue of Vogue magazine page by page, but snippets slipped through like grains of sand, images of death and blood, headlines of newspapers. If they didn't do something, this could turn into a disaster.
"Fill me in," Edward requested, glancing around the circle. Briefly, his throat constricted as he saw the obvious solace the couples were taking in their mates – Emmett and Rosalie in each other's arms, Jasper and Alice holding hands – but he pushed that aside. It would help no one, no matter how deeply he yearned to have his own mate by his side.
"It's hard without any concrete decisions," Alice admitted. "I see two vampires, an older male with black, crew cut hair – turned in his mid-twenties – and then a newborn, but the newborn changes constantly. Sometimes a man, sometimes a woman; sometimes there is one, sometimes two or three together."
"Best guess," Jasper offered, "is that he plans on changing someone, but hasn't decided who or when."
"So it could be a local, or he could bring the newborn with him?" Edward asked, and Alice nodded her agreement.
"So where is he?" Emmett gave Rosalie a soft squeeze. "Why not take this to him, stop him from doing it?"
Alice slipped her hand out of Jasper's and rubbed her temples. "I can't see that part," she complained, almost in a whine. "I never see him anywhere in town, so it could be just about anywhere. A road with no signs, weaving through the countryside, obviously toward Hanover, since I do see him on campus at one point."
All of them stiffened at the implications of that. If it got out of hand, and the Volturi decided to investigate… Well, they were technically on friendly terms with the Italians, but none of them really cared to come into their radar. Aro in particular was far too curious about Renesmee and the implications of a half-vampire; only from sheer numbers had they dissuaded the ancient vampire from attempting to steal her away to "better monitor her development."
No, it was much better if they never gave the Volturi a reason to think of the Cullen family.
"So we patrol for now." Jasper voiced his thoughts definitively, looking around at the family. "Wide circles, see if we can pick up anything before they get too close. We'll need to assume he already has the newborn with him."
They all nodded, and Rosalie added, "We should go in pairs then. Me and Em, Alice with Jasper. Edward…"
"I'll be fine," he jumped in, waving a hand in dismissal. "I'll be able to 'hear' them coming, and can break off if I'm out numbered."
Jasper nodded his approval. "Starting tonight then?"
"Yeah, the sooner we start looking, the sooner we find him," Emmett agreed. "I want first shift though – er, if that's OK with you, baby." Rosalie had frowned, and from her mind, Edward saw the plans she'd made for the evening. Rosalie glanced at Alice, who she was supposed to see a movie with, but before she could speak Edward cut her off.
"No, let me," he told them. "As you all tell me anyway, I have nothing better to do." He smirked, taking the edge off the comment before they could protest. "I could use a good run anyway, and he won't be bringing a newborn with him yet, so I will be able to intercept him on my own if I do find him. Alice?"
She met his gaze, and the image of the nomad came to her mind for him. He was probably an inch or two shorter than Edward with a wirey build. His change had refined his body, but he held himself like a soldier, something his short hair would lend itself to; his facial features were sharp, and his red eyes calculating.
"Thanks," he murmured, and she gave him a small grin. "I will call if I pick up on anything."
"Keep your phone on," Alice told him. "If I get anything more, I'll let you know."
Edward nodded and let himself back out. Settling into his car, he turned it on and tapped an address into the nav, then let himself begin his planning. He'd go west, he decided at random, simply because it felt right. Go out a few hundred miles and start to circle back around, weaving a little to try to pick up any stray scents or anything that might indicate a vampire had come through recently. He expected to find very little this early, with as little as Alice was seeing, but Emmett was right: the sooner they dealt with the visitor, the less they had to worry about.
It had been a long time since he had fought; there had never been any reason. Nomads came and went peacefully, usually, and their lives hadn't been so interrupted since... Well, since his beloved danger magnet had been with them. James and Victoria had created more of an uproar in their existence than they'd had for decades before.
The mere thought of the pair still enraged him to this day. Though he knew they were both ash, his fingers twitched around the steering wheel, wishing he could somehow visit more vengeance upon them. So much of his time with Bella had been wasted because of those two.
The car came to a stop, idling in front of the Ledyard Apartments. Edward frowned up at it, his mood still black, and he snatched up the folder that held Wil's copy of the music as promised. Tapping a button, he turned the car off and slipped out. Another couple were just letting themselves in, and he entered quietly behind them.
James. Victoria. This new threat. Any time he seemed to be getting things in order, either he destroyed it, or someone showed up to destroy it for him. He growled softly as he climbed the stairs and made his way to Willa's apartment. Would there never be any rest for him? Of course not, came the answer immediately. He was a vampire, cursed to walk the Earth endlessly, never resting. If only the movies had gotten one thing right, and during the day he could close his eyes and sleep, or cease to exist, for as long as the sun was in the sky... It might offer some relief.
He stopped briefly in front of Willa's apartment, setting the folder on the floor a little ways back from the entrance. Softly, he tapped on the door, and he was slightly surprised when he heard no movement from within. There was almost always someone in her shared apartment. Briefly, before he could even realize it, a brief fear flashed through him along with the image of the vampire Alice had seen.
No, it was too early for that. Alice would have seen him if he were on campus. She was probably just out on a date; that was what normal human students did in the evening rather than running around the state looking for imminent threats.
He pointedly ignored his response to the idea of Willa being out on a date. He was just jealous of the situation.
Spinning around faster than he ought to, he strode toward the stairs. Two scents floated up to him, and he heard the echo of a man's deeply troubled thoughts. He paused, leaning against the wall.
"Willa, there you are," he said softly as she made it to the top of the stairs. He meant to smile, but when she met his eyes, he said a reflection in them that matched the man's thoughts. Something was wrong; what was it? He tried to pick the information from her mind on instinct, and of course was met with nothing but the flavor of fear and concern. What had happened? He wanted to look at the man behind her but found himself captivated by the fresh grief in her eyes.
"Listen," she started, her voice biting, "if you're upset I haven't sent you the recording yet, I've been busy, all right? It's not a good night." She dug her keys from her purse and brushed past him; he automatically stepped aside, letting her pass with the illusion of pushing him out of the way. Now, he did glance at the man, hoping for some insight, but his thoughts were a whirl.
Can't believe it... Where is she... Stupid, worthless campus cops... She wouldn't leave her purse... God, I can't believe it...
Willa gasped, and Edward whipped back to see her falling. Automatically, he stepped forward, wrapping an arm around her waist and pulling her toward him. He righted her on her feet, and her words repeated back to him in his mind, disturbing him.
"Please don't think I'm upset with you," he told her as she leaned her body back against his. There was obviously something wrong – someone missing – and though he didn't know who, he didn't want to add to her distress with such a needless concern. Briefly, he considered staying and offering his assistance, but he sternly reminded himself he was trying to stay away from her...not ingrain himself in her life further.
Willa looked back at him, then down at his arm around her waist. Oh. Oh! He stepped back as though he had been burned. Looking for a distraction, both for himself and for her, he bent down and retrieved the folder he had left on the floor. He offered it to her, and she took it with a quiet, "Thanks."
"See you Friday," he muttered, turning and jogging down the stairs at a human pace. He needed to get moving, park the car on the edge of town and run a patrol. There were much more important things at hand than some human woman and her childish college concerns.
He told himself that, but in the back of his mind, he was dwelling on the fact that holding her in his arms – however briefly – had felt far better than it should have.