Tuesday, March 20, 2001 | By: Drotuno

An Angel's Promise Chapter 22

CHAPTER 22
BELLA
"Edward, I need to know what you want to pack," I called, rumbling down the stairs.
We were about to get ready to go hunting, but I wanted our things to be ready, since we would be leaving from the family home.
"Not much. Just one bag," he said softly, looking up from the piano. "If we need anything, we'll get it there, okay?"
"Sure." I nodded, turning to leave the room.
"Wait, sweetheart," he blurted out, waving me over. "Come here, please."
"What's wrong?" I asked, tilting my head and standing between his legs. I reached up, trying to rub the worry from his brow.
His gentle hands slid up and down the outside of my thighs. I was only wearing his Forks High gym t-shirt, which came down to the middle of my thighs. I kept it for three reasons – one, it had Cullen on the back; two, it was a reminder of home and our beginning; and three, Edward loved me in it.
"I just was thinking..." He winced, looking up at me. "I was remembering how upset you were during my fight with Felix."
"Oh, baby...no," I started, shaking my head profusely. "Please don't...you just went too far, and I was hurt..."
"Shh, love," he whispered, pulling me closer. "I just wanted you to know...if it happens again, if you feel the pain, just don't panic, sweet girl. Promise me – just promise me that one thing. I'll do whatever it takes to get back to you, but I can't see that again, okay?"
"Why...why are you saying this?" I frowned, cupping his suddenly tortured face.
It was a minute before he answered, but his dark, amber eyes never left mine. "You're so strong, so smart, but I am your weakness...as you are mine. I just don't want you to panic if we get separated, and lose focus on your surroundings, Bella. You have to...I can't have..."
"Okay," I sighed, finally getting what he was trying to say. I placed my hands on either side of his face, rubbing his cheek bones with my thumbs. "I promise, Edward. As Emmett would say, 'kick ass first, worry later.'"
He smiled slightly, but nodded. "Exactly," he sighed, still too serious for my liking. "The world could fill itself with a newborn army, and I would let it go just to be able to get back to you. Understand?"
I nodded, the smile slipping from my face. To hell with everything else. We came first.
"I love you – to the point of madness, Bella," he growled, pressing his forehead to my stomach. "I can't stand the thought of seeing you in that much pain again. It would wreck me."
I ran my fingers through his hair, trying to soothe him, trying to ease his tension. "Hey," I finally spoke, smiling when he rested his chin on my belly in order to look up at me. "It's different this time. We'll be together when we're out on these patrols. I'm sort of looking forward to that part. Plus, I feel more confident in my shield now than I did then."
He nodded, his chin making my stomach flinch. He smiled when I squirmed. "Ticklish, baby?" he teased, pulling me to his lap, only to torture me with his tickling fingers.
"Edward, stop!" I begged, squealing and wriggling on his lap. I sagged in his arms, breathless, when he finally took pity on me.
"Okay." He pouted dramatically, and I rolled my eyes. "We should hunt."
"Yeah," I sighed, standing up from his lap and walking towards the door. "And when we get back," I smirked, turning to look at him, "I think you should know...I added to the playlist."
He launched himself from the piano bench with a sexy growl. "We can always hunt later."
"No," I laughed, running away from him up the stairs. "Hunt first...me later," I promised, grinning.
"Hmm," he mused, leaning in the bedroom door. "Deal. Let's go!"
~oOoOo~
"I want to hunt again…once we're in New York," Edward muttered as we walked back to the car from the forest preserve.
We had over-fed, but we'd both felt it was necessary. I had taken down a buck and a doe, but it seemed Edward had gorged himself with three deer. And he was still fairly quiet.
"Central Park Zoo?" I teased, looking up at him, and he finally laughed, after being so serious at the house.
The first time he'd taken me to New York, he'd left to go hunting. The thought had boggled my mind. I couldn't imagine anywhere in the city that he would have been able to hunt. When I'd asked him where, he'd told me Central Park Zoo. For a split second, I'd believed him. In reality, he had left the city in the dead of night, running to upstate New York, where there was an abundance of wildlife.
"We could, baby," he chuckled, wrapping an arm around my shoulder. "Do you think they'd miss a few tigers?"
"Hmm, my guess is yes," I feigned sincerity. "Seriously, where? Canada?"
"Yeah. We're strong, and we probably don't need it, but I was thinking carnivores would help…give us an advantage." The practical side of Edward was something I was used to, but this went beyond that.
"Will we have time?" I asked, leaning against the car. "I mean, we've got to pick up Kevin and get him to his father's home. And I assumed from there, we would meet Jake at that warehouse…"
"We'll make time." He nodded, leaning in to kiss my forehead.
Edward's lighter, tickling mood hadn't lasted long once we left the house. I could tell his mind was running every scenario, every possibility of this trip we were about to take. And for some reason, he was worried – about me, about getting separated, about being strong enough. My Mr. Confident from a few days ago was now the reverse. I just didn't know why.
We were due at the family home tomorrow morning. We were meeting the newborns Agosto had been working with, going over small details, and finalizing our trip. Edward and Jasper also had to convince Marcus that the plan involving a few members of the pack would actually work.
I had complete faith in my family. My tough werewolves would never let me down, but my lion…my lion that had fought for me before, killed to protect me, and had the strength of twenty men was worried. And I didn't like it.
We drove home with only the sound of the tires against the wet pavement.
As we pulled into the drive, I finally couldn't take it anymore. "What aren't you telling me?" I asked, stopping him before he could get out.
His eyes closed, and he took a deep breath before looking over at me. "The same things as always, my Bella. I can't lose you. We have to be careful. Please."
"There's more to it than that," I countered. "Though, I understand that worry, Edward."
He huffed a humorless laugh, and I knew that sound. He made it when he knew he wasn't fooling me, when his carefully structured façade was not working. I could read him better than he could read himself most of the time.
"Marcus' words keep…echoing in my mind…about our connection." He started speaking quickly, like he wanted the words out of him as fast as possible. "He said that Phineas had a theory that it acts as a defense mechanism…if we're separated for too long with bad intentions, then it kicks in." He seethed next to me for a moment, only looking at the steering wheel. His head snapped around to face me. "I don't know what talents these newborns will have – if any. I don't know who's making them, but our connection…it's not to be mentioned, thought of, or…or…"
"Oh," I sighed, frowning at what had been bothering him for the last few hours. "We can be used against each other…"
He nodded slowly, his eyes closing again. His long eyelashes rested darkly against his light skin. My sweet, dark angel would always think of everything. And it was ingrained in him to think mostly of the bad things, the terrible things – the worst case scenario.
"Let's go inside," I whispered, caressing his jaw line with the back of my fingers.
He nodded silently and got out of the car. I opened my own door and was out before he had a chance to get to me.
We walked into the house together, and he started for the stairs. "No." I shook my head, tugging him by the hand. "Music room, please," I stated, pointing to our favorite room in our little house.
"But your playlist…" He smirked, but it still wasn't reaching his eyes.
"You beat any playlist, Edward. Play for me," I said softly, smiling as I pushed and shoved him to the piano.
~oOoOo~
EDWARD
"What am I playing, Bella?" My voice sounded impatient, curt. I sighed, looking up at her. "I'm so sorry," I mumbled, shaking my head. "I didn't…"
"Hush," she chided softly, hopping up onto the top of the piano and lying on her stomach with her chin resting in her hands. "My lullaby."
I lifted the cover of the keys and looked up at her. "Will you ever grow tired of it?" I wondered aloud, but she snickered softly.
"Has Esme ever grown tired of her song?"
"Touché, love." I snorted, getting lost in her fathomless coffee colored eyes for a moment.
My fingers found their way without my looking. I couldn't look at Bella, either, because I knew what she was doing. She was trying to soothe me, trying to make things better, but the more I looked at her, the more I feared…everything.
I closed my eyes and didn't open them when she spoke softly.
"Tell me what you saw in your mind when you wrote this," she whispered, her face right in front of mine. I could smell her, taste her breath on my tongue.
"A sleeping girl." I smiled, opening my eyes to see her warm expression. "Her dark hair spread out on a pillow, her long eyelashes resting against her cheeks, and her face flush with sweet sleep as she said my name."
She grinned, shaking her head. "Ah, the terrible things you did just to see into my mind," she teased, winking at me.
That earned her a kiss. I leaned forward, not missing a note. I chuckled against her lips, nodding without shame. "Anything to know what that steel trap of a mind had running through it…"
"It was better that you actually had to ask questions, Edward," she smirked, reaching up with one hand to trace my bottom lip with her thumb. I pressed my lips to it instinctively. "You've cheated when it came to getting to know people. It was a lesson in patience. What else do you see?"
"The meadow." I smiled sadly. We both missed that place, but our own home had become our refuge from family, friends, and the rest of the world.
"Esme," I continued, "because she heard this first."
"Oh, right," she laughed softly. "She was our first support…"
"She was." I nodded, swallowing back the emotions of that day – the day I sat down to the piano for the first time in a very long time. Esme had been filled with pride and hope and love. Alice had sat next to me, helping me with harmony and melody. "She and Alice wanted me happy…"
"And are you?"
"Disgustingly so." I grinned, getting the giggle that I wanted to hear.
"What else, sweetheart?" she asked, but she was pushing for an answer she already knew.
"My fragile Bella," I frowned, stopping the song and looking up at her.
"I'm not that anymore," she stated, tracing her finger over my eyebrow. She brushed my hair from my forehead, pulling herself forward to place a kiss there.
"I know that," I growled low. "I can't help but worry."
"You torture yourself, Edward. If I weren't here, if this was before you met me… What would you be feeling with this upcoming fight?"
"Um…" I frowned, taken aback a little at the question. "Determination, focus, pride…confidence. And maybe a touch of testosterone."
She laughed beautifully, nodding in agreement. "Okay. So, my manly-man, take all of that and add in my help and faith, huh?" Her giggle was sweet and completely my undoing. I chuckled, but she continued. "My whole instinctual makeup revolves around protecting what is mine, Edward. My shield will help you, and your mind reading will help me. We will protect each other when we are together. If we aren't…then whatever member of our family that is with us will fight in our place."
She slid closer, pressing her forehead to mine. "I need you to be calm. I need your quiet strength for this, Edward. I can't focus on the task at hand and your anxiety. We will take care of each other…we always do."
I took a deep breath and nodded. "You're right," I sighed, reaching up to tuck her hair behind her ear. "You're right, baby," I repeated. "I'm sorry. I lose my mind when it comes to you. You're not my fragile little human anymore."
"Definitely not," she said haughtily against my lips. "Kiss me, Edward. Kiss me and forget about the things that could happen."
My mouth covered hers barely before she finished that sentence. I needed to lose myself in her, prove to myself that she wasn't human, that she was just as strong as me – if not stronger.
I threaded my fingers into her hair, wrenching it away from her face and turning her head so that I could ravish her. My tongue filled her, tasted her. My teeth scraped slightly against that beautiful bottom lip of hers, causing a sweet gasp to rush from her. I moaned, low and deep when her tongue met mine, twirling with it.
We broke apart, but I could barely refrain from kissing any part of her I could. I reached up, grasping the tiny hand that was cupping my jaw, and pulled it to my lips. I suckled at her fingers, sliding my tongue between each one while my eyes were locked to hers. They were darkening like a night sky.
"I need you," I breathed, nipping at the inside of her wrist with my teeth.
"Tell me," she purred, practically writhing on the top of the piano.
"I need something to lick and suck, my Bella. What do you suggest?"
The sound that escaped her was unlike anything I'd ever heard from her. It almost sounded like a trapped animal. I smiled wickedly, twirling my tongue over the inside of her elbow.
"I'll just keep searching until I find the right spot, baby," I warned, smiling again when she made the amazing sound again. This time, her whole body jerked, but I held her arm still. "It could take hours for me to find it." I chuckled to myself when her arm was suddenly snatched from my grasp.
She tugged at my shirt, pulling me to my feet. She sat up, swinging her body around so that her legs were on either side of me. "Then find it," she challenged with a wicked smile.
"Hmm," I mused, tapping my chin as she frantically tried to unbutton my shirt, finally giving up and ripping it open. I slipped my hands up the sides of her thighs to her ass, tugging her to the very edge of the piano. "I think I need to see all of you in order to make sure it's the correct spot, don't you?" I asked with false sincerity, slipping my hands slowly underneath her shirt and bunching up just over her bra.
I leaned down, nipping and sucking at her now bare stomach, loving the way it contracted under my mouth. My girl was trying her damnedest to wriggle out of the shirt, but I held firm. Her arousal hit the air like the sweetest of essences, wafting around me like a slow moving fog coming in off of the ocean. She smelled warm, sweet, and floral.
With one last swirl of my tongue in her bellybutton, I stood up straight, tugging her shirt over her head and dropping it to the floor. I reached to rip the beautiful lime green bra from her body, but she grasped my wrist, looking at me with a warning and a raised eyebrow.
"Don't you dare," she growled with a light giggle, unhooking it from the front and tossing it on top of her t-shirt.
I chuckled, loving her more and more. "Next time, Bella. It'll be in shreds," I smirked, dragging my tongue along my bottom lip.
"Next time, it won't be new," she conceded with a growl and a huffing laugh. "Find that spot yet, baby?" she asked, tilting her head at me.
"Let a man work," I chided, rolling my eyes. "Every part of you is delicious; every spot is a good spot," I purred, leaning in to her bare shoulder for an open mouth kiss and tilting her back with my hand holding her.
I groaned at the way her breasts arched up to me, perfect and round, her nipples already calling me, begging me to taste them. Her heavy breaths just made them all the more tantalizing.
Using only the tip of my tongue, I circled each nipple around and around, but never quite making it to the puckered peak that we both wanted me to. Instead, I watched as her dark locks fanned out over the piano, her eyes squeezed closed, and her mind frantically trying not beg me to hurry, because she couldn't decide if what I was doing to her was heaven or hell.
I smiled, finally taking one of the peaks into my mouth, scraping my teeth over it before completely suckling on it.
"Oh, shit," she gasped, her thighs snapping against mine as her hips rose up from the edge of the piano. "Is that the spot?" she asked, her voice breaking on the last word.
"Uh uh," I said, blowing my breath across her nipples just to see them rise up even tighter than before. "Although, they are…mmm, really fucking tasty," I rumbled against her sternum, trailing my lips up to her immortal scar over her heart and placing a reverent kiss to it.
A breathy half-moan, half-laugh rushed from her as her hands gripped my biceps. She fought me for a moment when I pushed her to lay back.
"Edward," she begged, her whole body rolling in a wave of want and need. I heard her skin squeak softly against the wood of the piano.
"I think I've almost found it, love." I parted her legs and stepped closer, gliding my hands slowly up the inside of her denim clad thighs. I brushed my thumb over the seam of her jeans, almost coming at the sound that escaped her as she practically jackknifed off the piano.
With a flattened palm, I skimmed down between her breasts, gripping the front of her waistband. I flicked open the button and tugged the offending piece of clothing off of her. I was met with the matching underwear for her bra. A deadly small pair of lime green boy shorts was the only thing left on my wife.
Using just the knuckle of my index finger, I slipped inside her underwear. She was so warm, soaking wet, and twitched hard against my finger, her hips rising up again.
"Oh, baby, you're so wet for me," I purred, gripping the top of her panties and pulling them swiftly off of her.
Her blackened eyes were locked on my mouth when I brought my finger to my tongue. "Oh, fuck," I sighed, looking up at her as her own tongue flickered out to lick her lips. "That, baby…that's the spot."
I widened her legs a bit more, lifting her left one up. It bent at the knee, and I kept my hand there to hold it, spreading her sweet sex open for me. She undulated under my hands, but her mind didn't want to fight me. She just wanted me to hurry.
"Time, sweet, sweet girl," I said, finally swiping my tongue from one end of her to the other. "I want to taste this sweet pussy, my love. But…hmm…" I paused to suckle her wet, warm entrance, taking a moment to swirl my tongue around her clit. "Is that how you want to come?"
"No." She shook her head vigorously. "I want you inside me…when I come…Edward, damn it…Please!"
My angel's patience was wearing thin, so with one more long, sweet lick, one more nipping bite to the inside of her thigh, I pulled her off of the piano. I set her on the floor, and her hands immediately shot out to my pants. She tugged them open, and I stepped out of them, practically having to catch her as she launched into my arms, locking her legs around my waist.
"Fuck, Edward…please…please," she begged, wrapping her arms around my neck and smothering my lips. "If you ever fucking loved me, just end this torture. I can't take it."
"Yes, love," I promised, gripping her at the waist and shifting her until I was just inside her entrance. With an impatient roll of her hips, we melted together. I pressed her back into the side of the piano, and she leaned back, rolling her hips again. "I do love you…you are the sweetest plaything." I smiled against her arching breasts.
Her hands slapped down onto the piano lid as I pulled out and slowly pushed back into her.
"Hard, baby. Fast. I need to feel you," she gasped, her eyes looking up at mine. "Fuck me, Edward," she finally growled.
~oOoOo~
BELLA
My eyes rolled back in ecstasy as he finally slammed into me with force. His strength, his size, his rumbling growl fulfilled every aching need he'd built within me with his ridiculous search for "the perfect spot."
"Yes," I hissed, using my grip on the piano lid as leverage to meet him thrust for thrust. Deeply, roughly, he took me against the side of the piano, until I heard the smallest, the merest hint of a crack, and my head shot up. "Move, baby. Anywhere else, just not here."
I was not going to harm that piano.
He gathered me into his arms and walked us to the kitchen, where he set me on the table. We were still connected, still breathing heavy, and still holding onto each other like someone would tear us away.
My head fell with a thump to his chest, and I looked down between us. I could see Edward's chest rise and fall with every breath he took, his abs tense with the restraint he was using not to just pound into me, my thighs wrapped around his hips as my own restraint made them flex, and finally, the slight dusting of hair that traveled down to where our flesh was flush.
"Oh, damn," I sighed, squeezing my eyes closed. "I just…fuck, Edward…I love you so much…"
It was all I could say, all my brain could muster up at the sight. In fact, I whimpered when he shifted, pulling out slightly, so that I could see us connected so intimately that I just about cried. The venom stung my eyes, and I buried my face in his neck, biting back a sob.
The breaking away from the piano had taken us from frenzy to sensual, and Edward began to move slower, swiveling his hips with a purpose and hitting me in the spot that caused the air to catch in my throat.
"Oh, Bella, sweetheart, my love for you knows no bounds," he breathed, pulling my face from his neck so that he could kiss me so deeply that the taste of him was all I could focus on. One of his hands stayed fisted in my hair, while the other one gripped my hip. He pressed his forehead to mine, our eyes locking, as he whispered, "Come for me, my beautiful girl. Let it go. I feel you fighting it."
"Not enough," I breathed, looking into his warm eyes, hoping to God that he knew what I meant.
"I'm not even close to being finished with you," he growled, that sexy ass smirk lifting up one side of his mouth. "Come, Bella. I'm not letting you go until we have to leave this house."
I lay back onto my elbows, and Edward purred as he slipped deeper inside of me. My whole body arched as my orgasm hit me with the force of a hurricane wind. Edward didn't slow down, just lifted my leg, looming over me. With a last swivel of his hips, he fell apart above me.
My arms fell with a thud to the top of the table, and Edward's head fell to my chest. Our breathing was in sync, rocking us both.
"Come on, baby," he crooned, lifting his head. He slowly eased out of me, both of us hissing at the loss of contact, and picked me up bridal style. As he walked slowly up the stairs, he said, "Eighteen more hours, my love. I don't want to be away from your touch. What about you?"
I shook my head no, allowing him to take us to our room.
~oOoOo~
A: OMG! If you two don't get here soon, I'm gonna snap!
I snorted, looking at my phone as we pulled into the driveway of the Cullen home.
"Christ," Edward chuckled. "I can hear Alice's mind from here."
"Well, what is it? Because she should know we're here," I laughed, holding up my phone.
"Apparently, one of the newborns is proving himself to be…difficult," he smirked, looking over at me.
"Great," I sighed, rolling my eyes.
We didn't bother walking through the house, because we could hear the voices and rumbling crashes coming from the large back garden. We walked to the patio, joining Marcus and Demitri.
"Ah, there you two are!" Marcus beamed. "Good…very green," he laughed, shooting a wink my way.
Edward chuckled at my side, his fingers giving a light tug on my ponytail and settling on my bare neck.
I couldn't help but giggle at Marcus. He never acted like he was in charge of the entire immortal world. He just acted like…well, Marcus – kind, wise, with a dry sense of humor. He, like Esme and Carlisle, treated Edward and me like his own children. He adored Emmett's crazy, boisterous antics, and thought the world of Alice. He and Rose constantly debated American cars versus European. And on more than one occasion did I find him in deep conversation with Jasper concerning old war tactics – both human and immortal.
And then there was Demitri. I pointed to him with a growl. "You and I need to have a chat," I huffed, folding my arms across my chest.
He looked at Marcus out of the corner of his eye. "I told you she'd blame me," he mumbled, getting up from the table.
"She's not blaming you," Edward smirked, caressing the back of my neck with his thumb.
"No, I made the decision to let Tanya leave her post, Amore," Marcus said, his brow furrowing. "Demitri fought me."
"You…" I frowned, pointing at Demitri again. "You swear to me that if she steps one toe out of line…or off whatever itinerary you've got her on, that she's gone…finished."
"On my life, little one," he said, placing his hand over his heart and bowing low. "I might even let you help," he whispered with the sweetest, evilest smile I'd ever seen him wear.
"Ooh! Really?" I grinned, rubbing my hands together. It was a gesture I'd picked up from Jasper.
"Don't tempt her," Edward growled, pulling me back, but he was smiling when he shook Demitri's hand. "Just…keep us posted, okay?"
"Emmett wants me to insert some sort of GPS tracking device on her…" Demitri laughed, shaking his head.
"Mmhm," I muttered, rolling my eyes. "And I know just where you can put it…"
"Bella!" they all yelled, laughing at me.
"What?" I looked at all three of them, and their amusement couldn't be contained. "I'm just sayin'…"
"Yeah," Marcus chuckled. "Emmett said that, too."
"I'd swear they're distantly related," Edward mumbled, tickling my side.
"Let me guess," Emmett laughed, running up and tugging me from them. "My baby sis agreed with me…huh?" He set me on his shoulder, saying softly, "Come on, you guys have just got to meet the new crew…"
"Oh boy," I sighed, hopping down and looking up at Edward. His face was curious, but otherwise unreadable as he listened to our brother's thoughts. "Come on, big brother…lead the way."
Everyone else was congregated over in the far corner of the back garden several yards away from the house. As we ran up, I could see my family, plus Carina, Agosto, and three people I didn't know. There were two boys and a girl. "Boys" was the correct term, too. The two of them barely looked as old as Edward, barely looked out of their teens. The girl looked to be about my age at the time of my change – around twenty.
"Isabella," Agosto greeted with a wide smile, bowing low and kissing the top of my hand. "It's been too long."
"It has Agosto." I grinned, looking up at his ever present wry smile, like he knows some humorous fact he's not telling. "How are you?"
"Excellent as always. Edward," he said with a nod, shaking my husband's hand. "Always good to see you two."
Agosto was very loyal to Marcus. When we first arrived in Volterra, he'd been over the top happy that Marcus had survived, and begged for forgiveness for having followed Felix's orders.
"You, as well, Agosto," Edward replied, but there was a smile spreading over his features that he was trying to fight.
"I'm better when I'm not babysitting," Agosto snorted, rolling his eyes. "Come meet my new…responsibilities."
"Did you just call it babysitting?" one of the boys asked, a scowl scrunching up his face. "We're not babies."
"Yes, you are," Demitri growled as he and Marcus joined us. "And the sooner you realize it, the better we can train you. Otherwise, we can start a fire now, Brody. One less newborn brat for us to have to deal with would be just fine with me."
My eyebrows rose as I looked over at Brody, and then to the faces of my family. Alice's smug smile at Demitri's words must have been well deserved. Jasper and Emmett were side by side, looking as if it was taking all they had not to pound the kid. Esme and Carlisle looked like parents usually do at someone else's child that was misbehaving, like they were itching to pick him up by his ear.
"God bless, Brody," the girl growled with an eye roll. "Don't you ever shut up?" She ran to me and Edward. "Hey," she huffed. "You have to be Bella and Edward. Your family has been talking about you all morning. I'm Peyton." There was a sweet sarcasm and lightheartedness to her personality. She shook our hands with a beaming smile. "He's been worse than the roommate I had in college."
Edward and I chuckled, saying, "Nice to meet you."
Peyton's immortality made her very pretty, but it was her wide smile and open face that made her likable. She had long, light brown hair and just the splash of adorable freckles kissing her nose and cheeks. Her eyelashes were long and dark, framing the telltale sign of her diet. Her eyes were the deepest of crimson, with minute flecks of brown.
"Oh, and that's Adrian." She pointed over to the other boy, who had been ever so quiet during this whole exchange. The very handsome boy waved at both of us. "He's shy, but at least he's freakin' quiet," she growled, her eyes landing on Brody, who waved her off with a cluck of his tongue, rolling his eyes belligerently.
Demitri smacked the back of Brody's head. "Show these people some respect, or I'll teach it to you!" he snapped, his face going from beautiful to menacing in a nanosecond.
"Yeah, sure…I'm Brody…" He gave a halfhearted wave, which we didn't return.
Edward snickered silently, but his attention was on our brothers.
Emmett turned to Carlisle with a frown. "Talk or train?"
"Train," Carlisle stated, his face solemn as he looked over to Marcus. "I've had my questions answered. I'll sit down with my family later to…" But Edward's low growl caused him to stop short of finishing that sentence. "Edward, just wait, please? We'll all sit down, and I will explain everything I know."
"Yes, sir," my husband conceded, but his mouth was in a tight line as he listened to whatever Carlisle was mentally telling him. He glanced over to Alice, who locked eyes with him. She shook her head slightly as her little brow furrowed. "Damn," he sighed, shaking his head.
"Edward, Emmett, Jasper…please, step up," Demitri instructed with a wry smile. "We'll start with the boys."
Edward kissed my temple before walking forward and standing tall with his brothers. I went over to sit down on a blanket between Rose and Esme. Peyton and Carina joined us.
I could tell the exact moment when my shield pulled Peyton in. It was when her sarcasm was too fun to resist.
"God, I hope the big guy squashes Brody like a bug," she sighed, pulling her knees up to her chin and wrapping her arms around her legs.
Rose laughed, really laughed, her head falling back. "Oh, Emmett can hold his own. Why?"
"Because…he's just a freakin' jerk," she growled. "Ever since Agosto took us under his wing, he's been a pest."
"Actually, it won't be just Emmett…" Alice smirked knowingly, her eyebrows rising up and down.
"Any talents?" I asked Alice, looking past Rose.
"No, but they are all about a year old," she said, shrugging. "They're still strong, still easily angered."
"I'm right here," Peyton laughed, looking between us. "Just ask! But no…talents? You mean like you? Where you see the future? I don't think so."
"Yeah." We all nodded, including Esme and Carina.
"The guy that was there after our change could do things with his mind. Lance was able to lull you into some sort of trance – even after we were changed. You would lose track of where you went or even what you did. I hated it. I never had any memories. Just some flashes." Peyton frowned, shaking her head. "I was happy when Agosto found me. Anything but living on the streets. I was in college, for Christ's sake. At least Marcus has offered me a place to go if I want it."
"Volterra is beautiful," Esme mused. We all nodded, including Peyton. "And you can go back to school…eventually."
"I know," she sighed, nodding, but we all turned our attention to the boys.
They started with Brody, working him against Jasper, who was way too knowledgeable, way too smooth with his talent to be bested. He'd fought more newborns than he'd ever care to tell, so a cocky boy with a chip on his shoulder was nothing. He tried more than once to guide him instead of fight him, but Brody was all attitude, with no willingness to learn.
Next was Edward. Yeah, that took all of about thirty seconds. Edward read every thought, every plan, and countered them, eventually slamming him to the ground and holding him there.
"You're as easy to read as a comic book," Edward growled, his face impassive. He could care less about this boy. "Don't just guard your body…watch what you're thinking. It's written all over your face."
Alice and I snorted, shaking our heads as Edward helped Brody to his feet. The boy was pissed, but he looked at Emmett with a little smirk on his face.
"Go on, babes," Rose cheered with a giant grin on her face. "He's no bear…"
"I wish he was a bear…I fuckin' miss bears!" Emmett growled, eying the kid like he was his next meal.
The whole blanket of women laughed, falling over one another at Emmett's exaggerated prowl on the boy.
"Laugh it up, ladies," Brody muttered under his breath, just before Emmett dove for him.
He spun away just in time, but Emmett was quicker and lighter on his feet than he looked. At first glance, my biggest brother looked like a high school or college jock, but he was as swift and graceful as an elk if he needed to be. With one slight adjustment, Emmett caught Brody in the chest with one of his massive arms, causing the boy to grunt and stumble back.
It was a longer fight, simply because I was sure that Emmett was punishing the kid. Soon, Rose, Alice, and I were all on our feet, cheering him on. Advice and suggestions were spewing from us at rapid speed.
"Come on, Em," I urged, stepping closer. "Use the garden wall…"
"Not my wall!" Esme yelled, much to the amusement of the men, but it was too late.
The sound of cracking stone blocks rumbled around us, and Emmett stepped away from a dust covered Brody, who was livid. He shoved Emmett's hand away when he offered to help him. It wasn't that he needed it, but it was a sign that there should have been no hard feelings. Clearly, there were.
"Yo, Chocolate…" Brody sneered, waving me forward. "With all of that advice, it's now your turn. I have no problem kicking a girl's ass…as long as I can touch it first."
The roaring snarl that erupted from Edward should have given the kid some warning, some sense of self preservation, but it didn't. And my shield clearly didn't give either one of them a chance to say a single word.
Before I could stop Edward, my shield reacted, wrapping around Brody with lightning speed. I slammed him through two small trees face first, snapping them in half and bringing him within a foot of my face.
"You wouldn't last two seconds with me," I snarled, tightening my shield around him and pulling at his limbs. "You couldn't get near me, much less touch me. I could shatter you right now, without even lifting a finger. Are you listening to that advice?" I stretched him slightly with my shield, smiling at his grunt. "You will learn respect for these people…and fucking soon…"
"I got the lighter, Brody," Demitri chuckled, leaning an elbow on my shoulder.
"Bella." Alice smiled too sweetly up at Brody. "Believe it or not…he's going to be of some use, so unless Demitri makes some sort of…executive decision..." She giggled, looking over at him. Demitri snorted and shook his head no. "Then you might as well let him go."
"No," Edward growled, his face filled with rage as he came up between me and Alice. And I'm sure if I hadn't had my shield around Brody, Edward would have snatched him up like a rag doll. "Apologize to her," he ordered to Brody, pointing to me. "Now!"
"Agosto," Brody grunted, wincing when my shield tugged at his arms.
"I'm so not listening," Agosto chuckled, shaking his head. "I told you when we left Italy that you needed to respect this family, learn from them. If you can't, then we have no use for you."
"Brody," said a voice that we hadn't actually heard yet. We all turned to look at Adrian. "Just say you're sorry, man. Shit, can't you at least pretend to be decent?"
I took in Adrian, who up to this point had been completely silent and off to the side. He was handsome, tall, with a fair build to him. His hair was dark and straight, and hung to his eyes, which were the same crimson color as the other two immortals. He also had the same habit as Edward, I noticed, because he ran a nervous hand through his hair as he frowned at his friend.
"Sorry," Brody grunted, squeezing his eyes closed as I threw him back a few yards with my shield, where he stayed for a few minutes.
"I know he's an ass," Adrian scoffed, with an eye roll, "but I would actually like to learn something. Can I be next? I mean, if it's okay with Peyton..."
Peyton chuckled, waving him on.
Adrian looked determined, but like he struggled to be in the center of attention. The first one to react was Jasper.
"Well then, let's get to work, shall we?" he asked, patting the younger man on the back.
"Come on," Rose chuckled as we all watched the boys start to work with Adrian with completely different attitudes than they'd had with Brody. "Peyton, girl power is the best power...we'll work with you..."
Peyton was quick and smart, and her interest in learning made her easy to teach. She worked with Rose, learning how to use her newborn strength in her favor. When she worked with Alice, we told her to let go of her human instinct to plan each move, but to let her other senses surface in order to keep Alice's visions blurry.
When it was my turn, I didn't use my shield against her. Instead, I taught her how to use the environment around her to her advantage. Trees, rocks, and garden walls weren't going to help her when we were in the city, but we did the best with what we had around us.
"Hey, Bells!" Jasper called from across the yard after about an hour. "You girls come work with Adrian. We'll switch for awhile."
He turned to Brody, who had been observing the boys. "You watch these girls. They can kick your ass any day, but I'm telling you, dude...one wrong word to any one of them, and I'll snap you apart. I've destroyed newborns for lesser violations. Are we understood?"
"Oh, damn," Peyton snorted, looking at me. "Is he serious?"
"As a heart attack," I chuckled. "Jasper can feel emotions, so he must have been catching some...vibe from him."
"So, I'm working with them now?" Peyton asked, looking nervous as our three boys made it our way. "Emmett's big..."
"He'd never hurt you," Rose promised. "And he's an excellent teacher at hand to hand."
"He's actually a pretty big softy," I whispered, giving her a wink, and she giggled. "Listen to them. They've been around the block a time or two. With Edward, watch your thoughts. He can't help that he can read your mind, but in a fight, he will use it. Your brain is so much...more than you realize now. So think of it as a computer. While you've got the operating system that runs everything you need – your sight, smell, use of limbs – you can still watch a video and write an email at the same time. He works like Alice...keep other things in the forefront of your mind, let the planning go. Got me?" I raised an eyebrow at her, and she nodded, eying Edward as they neared us.
"With Jasper, just stay calm," Alice suggested. "Don't let anything rattle you. He uses that in a fight as well. In fact, the more frustrated his opponent gets, the further he enhances that with his talent. That's when they make their mistakes. They lose concentration."
"You guys ready to switch?" Emmett asked, his boyish grin spreading over his face.
"Yeah, sure," I sighed, looking over at a nervous Adrian. "What's he like?"
"Tentative, but smart," Edward stated, reaching up and tucking a stray hair behind my ear. My husband's eyes were warm, liquid honey as he gave me my favorite crooked smile. "Once he relaxes, he's really good."
"But damn, he's shy," Jasper chuckled. "Don't go easy on him, ladies. He has amazing potential."
"'Kay," we all sang, walking away from them and over to Adrian. "Hey, Adrian," we all said in unison, and somewhere behind us, I heard Demitri snort into a laugh.
Adrian looked like he would be blushing a bright garnet if he were still human. His lips fought an embarrassed smile, his eyes dropped to his shoes, and his hand shot to his hair. He even shifted on his feet like a young college aged boy. He was ridiculously and utterly adorable.
"Oh, no," Rose snickered. "We can't have that. Adrian, eye contact...look up."
His gaze met hers with determination, his chin jutting out slightly. "Okay," he sighed.
We worked with him individually the very same way we'd worked with Peyton. However, with us, it took him a few rough blows before he realized that just because we were girls, didn't mean we couldn't fight.
He had amazing speed, and with Alice, found that if he just simply reacted without thinking, he could catch her off guard. When it came to me, he flinched.
"I won't use my shield on you," I stated with a small smile. "That was..." I jerked a thumb to Brody. "That was a loss of temper."
"Yeah, that's what Jasper said," he mumbled softly, nodding slightly.
He was fast and cunning, when he didn't let his nerves and shyness take over. He defended himself with grace and a boxer's stance. Without my shield, he actually was a tough fight, but my experience was my advantage – not to mention my small stature. I could avoid his arms and spin quickly, landing on his back and taking the win.
"Really, really good, Adrian," I stated, jumping down from his back.
"Thanks," he said softly, and finally, the beginnings of a smile graced his handsome face.
"Ah," I chuckled. "I was wondering if you had one of those."
Again, his gaze went to his feet as he nodded, his smile growing wider.
We both turned as everyone was called over by Marcus. Brody frowned as he brushed past us.
I looked up at Adrian. "Doesn't he want to be here? Weren't you given a choice?"
"Don't mind him," Adrian said softly as we walked toward the patio. "He hated the way we were living when Agosto found us. Once Lance taught us how to hunt, he just disappeared." He shrugged one shoulder. "We were...taken from an alley one night leaving a club."
"Oh! So you knew him prior..."
"Yeah, he was my sister's boyfriend,"Adrian sighed, a deep sadness darkening his features. I just looked up at him to go on. "That night, we were all out in Times Square – my sister, Brody, and myself – when Lance came out of nowhere. He had someone with him, someone we never saw, but for some reason, they decided to change me and Brody." His eyes blackened with hatred when he said the next part. "They held onto her...Zoey. For three days as we burned, she watched us scream and beg for help, only for Lance to let a crazed, newborn Brody loose on his own girlfriend. He couldn't have stopped himself if he tried..." He took a deep breath, muttering, "I would've done it, too. I was just as blinded by thirst."
We both looked up as we realized that the entire group had heard his story. My heart was broken for them. Both of them. Even though Brody acted like a jerk, he was angry – and it was completely understandable.
"I'm sorry, Adrian," Carlisle said with an ancient sadness coating his voice. "I'm sorry that you boys went through that. I can't imagine what you were feeling."
"Peyton's was worse," Brody sighed, plopping down on one of the patio chairs as far away from everyone else as he could get.
Edward held his arms out for me from a chaise, and I sat down between his legs, resting my back to his chest. He wrapped his arms all the way around me, surrounding me, like he was sheltering me. We all gave our attention to Peyton when she spoke.
"Um, I was walking home to my dorm from a coffee shop in the Village one night. I'd been with a study group," she started, her voice sounding distant and sad. "We separated a few blocks away. The guy that took me knocked me out. It wasn't Lance. I remember that much, because it was Lance that was there when I...woke up. I was in some old building."
"Do you remember where?" Jasper asked, probably unable to help himself.
"No, sorry," she sighed, shaking her head. "There were four of us in like this basement. Me and another girl were in one cage, and two guys in another. They watched us for two days. Lance gave us food and water, but I could see cameras everywhere, so I assumed the other guy was watching us. Lance would ask us questions or provoke us, but it never made any sense to me. Because on the third night, while we were sleeping, they came in and switched us all around. They took the girl away and switched her with one of the guys."
Peyton was quiet for so long that Esme got up and sat next to her, putting a comforting arm around her and whispering that everything would be okay.
"I sat down on the floor against the bars of the cage, and the next thing I know, my arm is on fire..." She trailed off, holding up her wrist to show the bite mark. "Same thing happened to the guy they put in the cage with me. After our change, we woke up to the cage doors open. I felt crazed, my throat burned, and all I could think about was ripping open the other cage door. And I did. I didn't even know her name..."
The story was over. We all knew it. Her first meal was a scared girl that, just days before, was probably taken the same night Peyton was. They had probably even tried to comfort each other in such terrible circumstances.
"What was the other guy's name?" Alice asked, her voice merely a whisper, and I felt Edward tense behind me. Her eyes were blank, and she didn't even look at Peyton when she asked the question.
"Lance called him...Sinclair."


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