Chapter 13: The Demon
Bella's heart slammed against her ribcage. It was the only thing slashing through my awareness, her frantic heartbeat. It pinpointed me to the backdoor, and gaining it, I wrenched it from its hinges.
There bestride Bella's fallen form crouched the tracker. "Oh no, Bella, no!"
A snarl exploded from my throat as I cannoned into James. We twisted into the air like wild projectiles. His fingers scratched at my collar, but my hands were already ringed around his neck. Crashing into the opening of the adjoining room the force of my rage surged through my hands. In a fugue, I cracked the column of vertebrae and smashed the back of his skull through the floor.
A block of light glutted the front entrance as Emmett and Jasper stampeded toward us landing blows on the tracker. James should have been dead. Yet, he dug in with demonic resistance. Despite his fatal injuries, he thrashed spastically, offensively, until the line of his vision found Bella, a viper still seeking out his prey.
Pulling myself away from the dog pile, Jasper pinned him down. But before Emmett severed his head from his torso, James' eyes leeched black with unquenched thirst hooked into mine to deliver his last dying checkmate. Down low… you're too slow…
Carnage compressed the air. In the foreground was Bella's serrated breathing. In the next nanosecond, I skidded to her side. The floor was slick with blood beneath my knees. There was her blood, so much of it, and her thickening scent and her brutalized body.
Afraid to touch her, Bella laid unconscious within an area sown with slivered mirrors. "Bella, please! Bella, listen to me, please, please. Bella, please!" I groveled as if she could simply decide to open her eyes.
"Carlisle!" I begged for my father to do something just as he and Alice appeared. He knelt down near Bella. His fingers felt around her head. Blood gouted in rivulets from a wound that began an inch above her hairline and slit back towards her crown. Alice paced away from the trauma watching anxiously.
"Bella, Bella, no, oh please, no, no!" I wept, doubling over. This was my doing, and the devastation that I didn't stop it and was helpless to fix it was bottomless.
My brothers hearing my despair were about to charge forward but stopped themselves. From the opening, they goggled at the visual and olfactory assault of Bella's spilt blood, which now began to humidify the room.
Knowing that they could offer no aid, they retreated from the spectacle with the tracker's headless corpse between them. They would perform what they could do and that was to dispose of James.
Carlisle continued assessing the damage to Bella's head. When he touched the gash, she shrieked in pain.
"Bella!" I placed my gloved hand to her forehead tacky with the coagulating syrup.
"She's lost some blood, but the head wound isn't deep," Carlisle reassured maintaining professional control. "Watch out for her leg, it's broken."
A pent-up roar ejected from every corridor within my chest. I wanted James' head rammed back into place only for me to decapitate him.
Carlisle's fingers pressed down along Bella's flank. Her shirt was blotched and stippled in shades of red violence. "Some ribs, too, I think." She's beaten up quite badly, but it's not fatal. He consoled inwardly.
"Edward." When Bella spoke my heart leapt.
I hovered over her face. "Bella, you're going to be fine. Can you hear me, Bella? I love you."
"Edward," she said my name once more. It was the most wonderful beautiful sound. Although uncertain it was okay, Alice tiptoed beside me.
"Yes, I'm here."
Bella let out a staggered moan, "It hurts."
"I know, Bella, I know." I looked to Carlisle. "Can't you do anything?"
His hand reached up to my sister. "My bag, please… Hold your breath, Alice, it will help."
"Alice?" Bella mumbled.
"She's here, she knew where to find you."
Alice came around to kneel beside Carlisle as he extracted vials of morphine and a syringe from his bag.
"My hand hurts," Bella sobbed.
"I know, Bella. Carlisle will give you something, it will stop."
Just when we believed the emergency stabilized, Bella's voice tore out in terror, in agony. "My hand is burning!" Her eyes flickered open then stretched wide in pain. One hand grasped the other.
My hands took hold of hers. "Bella?"
"The fire! Someone stop the fire!" She screamed again arching her back.
I examined her hands and just above her right wrist, beads of blood formed a broken half moon at the edge of her hand.
"Carlisle! Her hand!"
At Bella's seizured screams, my father and sister had backed off from attending to her head wound.
"He bit her." Carlisle stared at her hand aghast. Open desolation seized me.
My eyes petitioned Carlisle for help, but this fell beyond his centuries of knowledge and experience. I could only see unformed ideas funnel in Carlisle's thoughts.
I sucked in my breath as my worst nightmare became a perverse reality.
Oh, Bella… Bella… Bella… Alice elegized silently.
Then she urged, "Edward, you have to do it." Running her hands over Bella's eyes, they became sleek with tears.
Edward! Alice shouted in her head. An image brighter than any desert sun seared through my vision. Towering with preternatural power, Bella's bloodstained eyes glowed vibrant as the skin of a ripe apple. She was frightening as she was stunning. But inside those eyes stretched a borderless sadness. I watched as her pale hands folded over a heart that no longer beat.
"No!" I snarled in anguish.
"Alice," Bella whimpered. Her lips went white.
My father then spoke. "There may be a chance."
"What?" I said pleadingly.
"See if you can suck the venom back out. The wound is fairly clean." Blood continued to cowl from Bella's scalp. With Alice's assistance, Carlisle resumed stitching up the cut.
"Will that work?" Alice questioned in a voice stricken with doubt.
"I don't know," Carlisle muttered. "But we have to hurry."
"Carlisle, I…" my breath came short as I realized my tongue, throat, and lungs were on fire. "I don't know if I can do that." Since the meadow, there was an explicitly drawn out line that I vowed never to cross.
"It's your decision, Edward, either way. I can't help you. I have to get this bleeding stopped here if you're going to be taking blood from her hand." Carlisle held me in his gaze. From his mind's eye, I could see conflicting impulses hammer on my face.
Bella's foot kicked out making her features twist in torment. Carlisle and Alice stopped their ministrations to see Bella's eyes roll into their sockets. It was eviscerating.
"Edward!" Bella squealed. Her eyes flared open holding on to me then her blood and sweat-sodden head lolled lifelessly to the side in Alice's hands.
Over his resumed suturing, Carlisle caught sight of Bella's bent leg. "Alice, get something to brace her leg!" he directed triaging her injuries. "Edward, you must do it now, or it will be too late."
The onset of shock had Bella convulsing. It took Alice two tries to secure her leg, but as Bella approached the throes of transformation, her frame would soon freeze as venom webbed out from the bite site.
Bands of pain radiated from her body pushing through and past me, past the walls of the dance studio, past the limits of this barren city. I swiftly removed my gloves covered in Bella's blood — dear God, her blood, that was my need and my nemesis, my all inhabiting obsession — the one thing I could not have. The one thing I lusted after most.
Still leashed to Bella's eyes, everything grated to a halt as trepidation incinerated into ash between us. I took her hand into my hands, clamping them into place. Then my lips closed over her swollen and ruptured skin.
Bella's body revolted against my domination. She screeched. Carlisle braced her head while Alice hummed soothingly, "It's okay, Bella. It's okay."
The first mouthfuls of venom was a shock of ice water. It was bitter and vile as it held the musk of the tracker.
Immediately after, white, blue, green, and red lights banged before my field of vision as the sweetest most divine elixir scalded down my throat. I never tasted, imagined, or dreamed anything like it. But unlike only breathing her blood, tasting it, drinking it, lighted a diverse more devastating conflagration inside me, for this time there was no pain. There was no pain to equalize my thirst. There was no pain to shelter my sanity.
In a fireball of jubilation, my monster demolished its cage.
"Edward," Bella whispered like an expiring flame, but every tangible and intangible thing save for her blood foamed into indistinction.
Pleasure split through my flesh like wings. And I lifted off as the liquid heat spread under my skin and entered my bones. My spheres of consciousness bowed down to a new delirium. I was a creature wholly possessed. I could not, would not stop. In a pair of heartbeats, I had mutated from protector to predator.
Drain her. My monster commanded.
My mouth obeyed eagerly. It was unmovable. The suction became deeper. Something medicinal intermingled with the sweet hot nectar. It didn't make it any less enthralling.
Blood drunk, yet my thirst demanded more, all of it. Finish her!
Alice bent forward to Bella's ear to what sounded like. "He's right here, Bella." But I wasn't here. I was freefalling in fragments out into space. There were only chards of me floating above and around Bella now.
My thirst was sucking me into an event horizon and beyond that, darkness. There was just one long pull of her blood from completely losing myself. I stared into the face of my monster set to submit — only to suddenly confront James' eyes that were burning black coals now transformed vermillion.
I was James. I was my monster. Then all became nothing before my eyes.
"Stay, Edward, stay with me…" It was spoken softly as a prayer.
Stay with me… It wasn't Bella that repeated her words in my head and in my heart but my own voice.
Stay with me… And I could feel the broken wreckage of myself ever slowly come together, synthesizing into a higher molecular reordering.
I didn't want it like this, not like this. Never like this.
Stay with me… That was it. What I desired most. Bella stay with me.
As strength flowed and gathered within me, I stiffened my spine. And with one tremendous force of will, my lips broke its seal over Bella's hand. Stunningly, instead of the desire to kill, another suite of instincts combated my thirst to protect Bella's life force.
Stay with me… "I will."
The room reappeared as I was pulled back into my skin with Carlisle and Alice and my Bella before me. I caught myself from collapsing.
In a soul defining moment, I had done it. I drank of her blood, and I chose the man I wanted to be.
Bella exhaled in exhaustion.
Carlisle was finishing bandaging her head and began wrapping Bella's torso. He glanced up. "Is it all out?"
"Her blood tastes clean," I confirmed, holding her hand. All traces of venom were siphoned from the wound. "I can taste the morphine."
My father nodded to me and smiled proudly. Tributes for me and Alice, Jasper, Emmett, and for Bella bannered through his mind.
"Bella?" He dropped his head to her.
"Is the fire gone?"
"Yes," she breathed. "Thank you, Edward."
My other hand stroked the face of my beloved spent with extreme fatigue. "I love you."
"I know," she said with a weak sigh. My lips melted into a smile. A depleted yet grateful laugh left them.
Carlisle wanted to further bind her leg, but he and Alice had expended the supply of dressing. I tugged Bella's t-shirt from my pocket and passed it to Alice.
"Bella?" Carlisle continued. She responded in a pout of concentration. "Where's your mother?"
"In Florida," she strained. "He tricked me, Edward. He watched our videos." Consciousness was losing its foothold.
"Alice." Bella's weighted eyelids struggled to rise against the effects of the morphine. "Alice, the video — he knew you, Alice, he knew where you came from."
Carlisle and I turned to my sister creating a triad of baffled expressions.
Bella, even more groggy, added, "I smell gasoline."
My brothers had dismembered the tracker and prepared his pyre. In order to eliminate all evidence, the dance studio would burn as well.
Carlisle mounted to his feet. "It's time to move her."
"No, I want to sleep," Bella slurred in protest.
"You can sleep, sweetheart, I'll carry you," And I lifted her up into my arms to form a cold cocoon.
Mindful of her leg that Alice had braced with torn out floor planks, it was mainly held together with strips of Bella's t-shirt tied in a neat row of bows. Alice fitted a baseball cap back on my head. She touched the bill of her own in commendation before holding open the mangled backdoor.
The blood smeared on Bella's face, painted on her arms and hands, and caked in her tangled locks began to dry.
"Sleep now Bella," I encouraged and pressed a kiss into her hair.