Tuesday, March 20, 2001 | By: Drotuno

An Angel's Promise Chapter 27

"Let's get you up high, Bella," Edward urged as the whole open area of the park exploded into chaos.
It was a struggle to keep my shield over everyone, because if they stepped too far, they were on their own.
We came to the base of a large tree, with long, thick expanding branches. He gripped my waist and spun me to face him. "You watch out for Lance. Watch that power of his, and keep the family shielded if you can. I'm going after Sinclair," he stated with a deadly look on his face.
"You...you be careful. Do you hear me, Edward?" I growled, grabbing his face.
"I will, baby. I have you to protect me." His grin was confident and sweet, and I fell in love with him all over again. "No one has my back like you do. Now...go!" He kissed me rough and hard.
With that said, he lifted me into the tree, and I scurried to the top most branch, so that I could overlook the field. I'd scouted this spot earlier, because I needed to see the fighting from an overview. It was easier for me to keep an eye on my family, friends, and the wolves this way.
From my perch in the tree, I could see everything. I could see Sinclair and Lance move back to the southeast corner of the field. I could see the wolves tear into clusters of newborns that under normal circumstances would have run. I could see Alice and Rose fight together, working as a team right behind Carlisle and Marcus. I could also see that due to so many vampires, the repellent that we naturally gave off was keeping the north end of Central Park clear of humans.
Carina and Demitri separated, because their fighting styles were different. He would give chase to an enemy, when she was graceful and patient, waiting for them to come to her.
We were completely outnumbered, but the presence of the wolves gave us the advantage, because they were so big, so strong, working together in flawless synchronicity.
Peyton and Brody made a fantastic team, because they were quick and still held onto some of their newborn strength. However, they were considered traitors and were targeted more than others. With a little push from my shield, I gave them a bit more breathing room.
But it was my boys that I focused on; my brothers, my husband that tore off together through the field, their goal standing off to the side. Before they could even approach Sinclair, who looked pompous and proud over the mess he'd created, ten newborns oozed out of the darkness and blocked their path.
"Shit," I breathed, but my focus was drawn to the space just below my tree.
A yelp howled through the night, and I turned to see Seth with a newborn wrapped around him, squeezing him.
"Seth, turn!" I yelled, and he did, flipping onto his side.
I grabbed the newborn with my shield, pulling him apart swiftly. He sounded like ripping metal or colliding stones when he shattered. Seth stood, shook all over, and looked up to me. He snorted, lowering his head in thanks, before taking off again.
I checked on Jasper, Emmett, and Edward, and I could see that they were holding their own. Lance was not near them, and at a quick glance, I couldn't find him. I snorted to myself as I could see all three of my boys with smug smiles on their faces as they fought more than one enemy at a time.
Edward was fast, spinning and diving out of the way, before he'd counter whatever they were thinking and take them down with a dark look on his face. Jasper was controlled, slowing his opponent down before snapping them apart. And Emmett… He was taunting them, laughing at them until they got pissed and launched themselves straight into his strong, awaiting arms. With his newborn strength having never faded, really just enhanced, he ended them with ease and a boyish grin on his face.
I was so concerned with watching them, that I didn't notice when I was no longer alone in my tree. The branch shifted under me, but by the time that I turned to look behind me, I was being tackled to the ground by a young boy.
We both grunted as we hit the thin layer of snow. The ground was hard, cold, and unforgiving. We slid a few yards, coming to rest just mere feet from where Jake's heavy paws landed hard on the ground as he tackled someone.
Once I had my bearings, I looked up into the angry face above me. I pushed him off of me, using my shield, and hopped to my feet. He recovered just as quickly, diving for me, but my shield stopped him, caught him, and snapped him into three large pieces.
"Bells," I heard Alice behind me.
I spun around to see her and Rose surrounded, and they were closing in on them.
"Now," I growled, pulling apart the circle of newborns and diving for the closest one in order to allow my sisters an escape.
Rose caught the person next to her, and we both ended our enemy with cut off screams. We turned to see Alice being ganged up on.
"Sinclair must be gunning for her," I growled to Rose, who nodded in agreement.
We both launched ourselves at the two newborns behind her, leaving her with two of her own to contend with, but as we snapped our own enemies apart, we realized we were being closed in on. I shielded the three of us quickly, just to give us a damn break.
"Shit," Rose growled, shaking her head as at least six of them pushed against my shield.
I looked around, seeing Sam dive from the cover of the trees and dropping the torso of one of them he must have chased into the brush with a brief snap of his jaws. He stood up tall, stepping closer to us, his eyes locked behind me. I spun to see Seth and Jake stride up as well.
"Nice," Alice smiled, nodding slowly.
"Jake, together. All at once, okay?" I asked, smiling when his whole body wagged with his tail and his tongue lolled out the side of his mouth. "Dork," I snorted, shaking my head. "On three...one, two...three!"
It was the most horrid sound I'd ever heard. The sound of six vampires coming to a complete and swift end at the same time was just awful, especially when you added in the grinding of large, sharp canine teeth.
I stood up straight, looking across the field for Edward. I could still see him fighting next to Jasper and Emmett, all three down to one opponent each. I took a deep breath, before letting it out.
Carlisle and Marcus were being pushed back towards us with the three boys they were fighting—and not for the first time, did I think that Sinclair had given specific instructions on exactly who to aim for—but before I could react and help them, Agosto and Stephano dove for two of the newborns, leaving Marcus to destroy the last one.
"Marcus, come," Stephano urged. "To the trees. You and Carlisle need to get off of this field."
Marcus nodded, taking a deep breath and surveying the area around us. We were in the northeast corner of the park, and again, my eyes drifted to the southwest end in search of Edward. I smirked as his long form landed with grace, the head of his opponent in his hands, which he dropped unceremoniously to the ground, before looking around for his next target.
With a deep sigh of relief, I took another look around. Demitri was giving chase to two young girls, and I lost sight of him when they dove passed a large rock. Peyton and Brody were battling together with amazing teamwork, hardly having to communicate. They were several yards away, when another newborn joined in against them.
I looked for Edward again, and my still heart constricted. Ten more newborns appeared out of nowhere. My husband and my brothers were surrounded. Again. But they accepted it with chuckles and fist bumps, getting ready to fight until the end.
Before I could make a move, Peyton's growl tore through the night. I snapped my attention to her, just as she ducked her attacker, and my mouth fell open when I realized who it was.
"Brody, no!" she growled, but she never stood a chance. He dove for her midsection at the same time another newborn cleanly snapped her head from her body.
"Son of a bitch!" Rose growled. "Where's that Lance guy?"
"I don't know," I said, shielding Brody long enough for him to come to back to his own mind.
With a shake of his head, his mouth fell open as he saw what he'd done. "Lance, you bastard!" he yelled, turning around in a circle with pure hatred all over his face. He fell to his knees, his head in his hands, and my heart broke for him.
"Shit," I growled, shaking my head, because for the first time since I'd been fighting alongside my family all these years, we'd lost one of our own. She may not have been a Cullen, but Peyton had carried a strong heart and a brave outlook. Lance had ended that in less than thirty seconds, and at the hands of someone Peyton had considered a friend. It was a damn shame. All of it.
I spun in one spot, looking for Lance. I couldn't see him anywhere. I could see Demitri start towards my brothers and Edward, but he got sidetracked again by a large, red headed boy. I could see Carina stand up and brush herself off after ending her enemy. I watched as Agosto walked to Brody, placing a comforting hand on his shoulder. But no Lance. My eyes finally landed on Carlisle and Marcus, who were watching the other end of the field with rapt attention.
The next few moments happened so quickly that it was impossible to tell exactly in what order they occurred.
I saw Carlisle's eyes widen as he took a step forward, only to be caught by Stephano. "Emmett, no!" he yelled.
Marcus turned to me, his breath catching. "Bells...your connection...it's red!"
I snapped around to face the other end of the field, and what I saw made my whole world come to a complete and utter halt. Emmett's eyes were blank, unfocused, as he walked up behind a grappling Edward just as he finished off an enemy. Edward didn't even react; he stepped forward to continue the fight, as if he couldn't hear his brother's thoughts. Just as my smiling husband turned around to face him, Emmett's large fist collided, connected, and punched deep into my husband's chest. I could hear the snap of immortal flesh and bone from where I was rooted to the ground.
"No!" I growled. My breath caught and my shield left my control in an instant, as I watched my life, my entire existence, fall limply to the ground, my brother looming over him, his fist still clenched and covered in venom.
My shield flew out from me like a tidal wave of pure, raw force, and anything and everything that was within ten feet of me went with it. Any newborns that tried to approach me as I tore across the field were obliterated instantly. I didn't even have to think about it. They never even got near me. I shoved family and wolves aside in a wide berth as I ran as fast as I could towards the other end of the field.
As I drew closer to Edward's body, I wrapped my shield around Emmett, tossing him back behind me, but it was the blond stepping from the shadows that I slammed into a tree, holding him there. I had no idea where Sinclair had slithered off to, but Lance was already dead. He just didn't know it yet.
"Edward," I cried, sliding in the snow and coming to rest at his side on my knees. "Baby, look at me..."
He growled, low and long, writhing on the ground with his eyes squeezed shut. "Bella...Em..."
"I know, love. I got him." I soothed him, brushing his hair from his forehead. "He's okay. He didn't mean it."
Edward nodded, his eyes finally looking up at me. They were black and weary as they took me in. One of his hands gripped my forearm in a vice-like hold, while the other reached for my face. "Where's Lance?"
"It's under control, baby," I promised, looking up to make sure Lance was still pinned to the closest tree, and he was. "Edward, tell me what you need. I don't know what to do," I cried, checking his wound. There was a gaping, leaking hole through his shirt almost ten inches in diameter, but luckily, the fabric fell so that I couldn't see anything. I think I would have shattered right there if I were actually able to see inside of my husband.
"Behind you, Bella," he growled, wincing when he tried to move.
"They can't get near us," I huffed, my voice shaking with stress, worry, and pure fear. "I kinda lost control, and I haven't really gotten it back yet."
He rolled his eyes up to mine, trying to smile, but it only came across as a grimace. "Kill them all, baby?" he asked, grunting when he huffed a laugh.
"I tried," I snickered roughly, picking up his hand and kissing wedding band. "I'm not quite sure what I did...exactly," I said, frowning down at my hands as they turned his ring.
I could see Edward try to move, but the upper part of his body wasn't cooperating, and he'd hiss in pain every time he tried. It was like Emmett's fist had gone straight through to his spine, breaking a connection of some sort. I imagine if he were human, he'd be paralyzed.
I winced in pain and in sympathy when Edward's hand clenched down on mine. I was losing it as I watched my dark, beautiful angel writhe in pain.
"Bells," Jasper called behind me. "Let us in, little one. We can help."
"Come on, Bells," Demitri said, his voice trying to be soothing, but I could hear his stress. "It's all clear. It's all over."
"I can't," I sobbed, finally succumbing to the fear I'd been fighting since seeing Edward fall. My eyes burned like fire with dry tears I couldn't shed. I folded my whole body over and pressed my forehead to his, squeezing his hand. "I'm sorry...I'm so, so sorry," I chanted over and over.
"Hey, baby," he breathed, meeting my gaze. "You have to get control, sweet girl. Let them in. You'll need their help, my love. Stay strong...just a little longer, okay?" His voice was soft, soothing, but becoming weaker with the loss of his venom.
"Bella, you can't do that alone, sweetie," Carlisle urged somewhere behind me. "It's too large of a wound, little one."
"I'll be okay, my love. Please don't panic," he whispered, linking our fingers together. The last word he said came out broken when a jolt of pain wracked his frame.
"'Kay," I sighed, closing my eyes and sitting up straight. I took a long deep breath, letting it out shakily. I turned to my anxious family.
"Come on, Bells," Jasper encouraged, pacing back and forth as his eyes darted from me, back to Edward. "Relax, and we'll get him fixed up, baby girl. I promise."
I slowly lifted my shield from around Edward and me, but left it wrapped tightly around Lance. My anger reemerged anew as I stared at him. Without warning, I slowly started to pull him apart. His screams echoed over the field as his limbs hit the ground one by one. When all that was left of him were his torso and head, I felt a hand on my shoulder.
"Before you finish that, Amore," Marcus smirked, "can you hold him until I can ask him a question or two?"
"Hurry," I growled, my lip curling in hatred as he and Demitri trotted over to the tree.
I was pretty damn sure that Marcus was going to ask about Sinclair, but I just couldn't find it in me to care. I looked back down at Edward, wincing when his jaw flexed and his fists clenched.
Jasper and Carlisle joined us on the ground, Carlisle's eyes taking in his son's condition. "Hey, son. How are you feeling?"
"Pretty useless, Carlisle," Edward huffed with a tired, raspy voice. "Just remind me not to piss Em off, 'kay?"
Carlisle chuckled softly, nodding once. "Are you ready for this?" he asked, reaching into his pocket to pull out a glass vile of clear liquid.
"Oh, God," Jasper winced, shaking his head. "That's gonna hurt like a son of a bitch."
"Not helping," I growled, elbowing him in the ribs, but turning back to Edward. "You look at me. Don't think about it, baby, okay?" I reached up and brushed his hair from his forehead. I leaned down and placed a kiss to the wrinkle between his brow as he nodded slowly. "Good. Take my hand."
Edward's body arched in agony as soon as the first drop of venom from the vile hit his wound. His fingers were stiff, in a claw-like position. His neck strained as he growled low, his eyes squeezing shut. His lip was pulled back in a loud, deep snarl as he writhed beside me.
I tried to soothe him, but I was a mess myself, until Jasper helped us both. He enveloped us in an almost numbing calm as he rubbed my back.
Due to the size of the wound, it took longer, ached longer than I could possibly bear to watch, but I did, and I told Edward I loved him throughout the entire process. When he fell back into the snow, panting hard and weak from the loss of venom, I kissed every inch of his face, until he finally chuckled softly.
"I'm fine, love," he sighed, cupping my face gently.
"You need to hunt, son, and soon," Carlisle stated, checking Edward's wound – or lack thereof – one more time. All that was left was a long-sleeved t-shirt with a huge tear in the middle.
"We need to clean this field," Jasper pointed out, turning around to look at the mess around us.
The SUV's keys appeared in front of me, and I looked up at Alice. "He needs to go," she said, frowning down at her brother. "Now. I parked it on the street just on the other side of that path."
I nodded, giving Edward one more kiss, before helping him sit up. "Don't move," I ordered, and he smirked up at me, but nodded silently in acquiescence.
I stood up, taking in the scene of the entire field. Destruction was everywhere, but there was a clear cut path from one end, leading all the way to my feet. Every newborn was destroyed and laid in the wake of my trail. The wolves, along with my family and friends were slowly carrying body parts away. For a split second, I didn't want to know where they were burning them, because I needed to take care of Edward, but I couldn't do it alone.
"Where's Emmett?" I asked, snapping my head to the right when my biggest brother looked up at me, his eyes filled with needless guilt.
He was sitting on a rock, his head in his hands when I made my way to him. He flinched, like I was going to hit him.
"I'm so fucking sorry, Bells," he whispered, looking up at me. "I didn't...I never..."
"I know," I chuckled, ruffling his curls on the top of his head. "I need your help, big brother."
"I swear I would never hurt Eddie!" he pleaded with me, taking my hands and shaking his head. "One minute, I was going to help him, and then the next, I was hitting him. And I couldn't fucking stop!"
"It wasn't your fault, Em," I soothed, squeezing his hands. "I didn't get here quick enough to shield you guys from Lance."
"Where's that stupid motherfucker?"
"Well...part of him is over there," I chuckled, pointing to the left of the tree, "and part of him is over there." I pointed to the right. "The rest of him is talking to Demitri and Marcus."
Even Emmett had to laugh. "Got a little pissed, baby girl?" he asked, raising an eyebrow at me.
"A bit..."
I grinned at his laugh, but he sobered quickly when his eyes landed on his brother. "God, Bells...I'm really sorry," he sighed, looking back at me.
I tugged on his hand. "I really need your help, Em. Please. Edward's really weak."
"Well, let's remedy that," he said softly, his eyes still filled with guilt.
We walked back to Edward, who was now leaning heavily on Jasper and Carlisle, his arms around both of their shoulders. He looked wrecked, his hair in disarray from my hands running through it to calm him, his t-shirt destroyed and torn, his black jeans covered in venom and soaking wet from snow, and his pallor so very pale. The sight of him so drained, so weak, and so black-eyed with thirst caused a dry, aching sob to escape me. My Edward was proud, strong – my Guardian Vampire. He shouldn't have to lean on anyone.
I should've been there.
"No, baby," he whispered, shaking his head at my thoughts. "Please don't."
"He'll be fine, little one," Carlisle soothed, a calm smile playing on his face that looked like it stemmed more from relief that Edward was okay, and not just my emotional outburst. "He just needs to hunt. And we need to clean this up before dawn."
"Come on, Ed," Emmett said with a subdued voice, taking the arm that was wrapped around Carlisle and practically picking Edward up off of his feet. "Sorry, bro."
Edward smiled softly, weakly, but it was genuine smile. "Not your fault, Em. Hell, I couldn't even hear your mind. It was blank."
"Not my own thoughts, that's why," Emmett explained. "Where to, Bells?"
I took a deep breath and pulled out the SUV keys that Alice had handed me earlier. "I don't know," I sighed, turning my back on the both of them. "Ali just handed me the keys and told me to take him."
A light, huffing laugh from Edward made me turn around. "That's because that joke about the zoo has now come to fruition, love," he groaned, but still gave me a wink.
"Sweet," Emmett snorted, rolling his eyes. "A buffet."
"Oh, Jesus," I breathed, rolling my eyes at the both of them, turning around to continue out of the park, and muttered, "I can just see the headlines tomorrow: Bengal tiger disappears from Central Park Zoo: zookeepers baffled."
I ignored their laugh. I still wasn't okay; I remained completely shaken in all aspects of the evening. However, Emmett's lightheartedness was helping.
"Ooh! They have polar bears at that zoo!" He grinned, hoisting Edward higher when I turned to look at him.
"Em, please focus," I sighed, having to force myself not to launch into my husband's arms. Knowing that he couldn't catch me, just about made my mind snap.
As we walked away from the field, I heard Demitri tell me to let Lance go. Without looking, I yanked my shield, not even flinching when Lance's screams were cut off abruptly. I tried not to smile at Demitri's dark chuckle, but it was impossible.
I stood up from my kill, looking between the two large, orange and black striped tigers. I winced at their loss, but their power, their warm, sweet blood was already coursing through me at top speed, giving me back my strength.
The zoo may have been an inside joke between Bella and me, but I'd rather not touch caged animals. They were rescues or there for research or study. Having them confined into a small area took away the thrill of the hunt, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
"Eddie," Emmett sighed, hopping over the stone wall. "We've got to make this look like a break in, or an escape or something."
"Let a monkey out," I laughed, shaking my head. "Maybe they'll think he let them escape."
"Naw, man," my brother chuckled. "Monkeys scare me, dude. Their faces...too human. It's creepy." He shivered dramatically, his nose wrinkling in distaste.
I grinned, looking over at the far side of the exhibit. There was one tiger left, white and black and perfect, but I refused to touch her. She was in her den for the night, nursing a litter of five fat, mewling cubs. Carlisle's first lesson was to never take a mother from her children, leaving them orphaned.
I wouldn't have touched her anyway. Despite her fear of me, she looked at me with ice blue eyes that said she would fight to the death for those cubs. And I completely respected her for that.
"Are you good now?" Emmett asked, tossing one of my kills over his shoulder.
"Yeah, I'm fine. Thanks, Em."
"Then get to Bells. She's still...upset," he sighed, heaving the dead tiger over the wall. He came back for the other one. "She tried to help you hunt, but had to leave. Go. I'll stage this. I'll find you guys in a few. Carlisle wants us back at that field as soon as you're able."
I knew he still felt guilty, but he shouldn't. I knew he hadn't hit me on purpose, no more than Jasper had when Lance turned him against my Bella.
My Bella.
My head snapped around to Emmett. "Where is she?"
"Just out through there. She's watching some otters play," he said with a small smile, pointing out through the exhibit exit.
After hopping a few fences, I trotted up the sidewalk in search of my baby. I knew seeing me hurt had wrecked her, but I didn't know just how much until her thoughts, her memories of the evening, wafted around me. She was reliving it over and over, wishing she could've reached me quicker.
She was sitting on a bench, facing a glass enclosure. I smiled when she smiled. The round, slick otters were rough housing, pushing each other in the water, only to give chase up onto rocks, before tumbling together back into the water with a soft splash. I had to admit that they were entertaining.
She brought her knees to her chest, wrapping one arm around her legs, the other reaching up to tuck her hair behind her ear. "They remind me of Jasper and Emmett," she said softly, finally looking up as I approached her.
I chuckled, sitting next to her. "So they antagonize each other to the brink of insanity?"
"Pretty much," she snickered. She rested her cheek on her knees to look me over. "I was really scared for you," she stated in a whisper, her brow furrowing.
"I know. Come here," I sighed, pulling her into my lap so that she was straddling me. She loomed over me, her hands braced on my shoulders. "Hi," I whispered, rubbing her thighs.
"Hi," she whispered back, her brow furrowing. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine, sweet girl. Feel free to check," I chuckled, spreading my arms open.
She snorted, rolled her eyes, but only wriggled her little body closer, pressing her forehead to mine. "I'm sorry I wasn't there. Things...got my attention and..."
"Shh," I said, rubbing her back. "You were there for me. Emmett said you stopped Lance once you got to me, before he could do anything."
"I know, but it..." She took a deep breath, frowning in frustration as she fingered the tattered remains of my shirt. "And then I didn't know how to help you..."
"Baby, please," I begged, cupping her face. "It's not like there is a class on Vampire First Aid. Carlisle was right...you needed help. The wound was too big."
She frowned, taking another deep breath. "Did you hunt enough?"
"Yes, ma'am," I said, nodding.
Her nose wrinkled, but the sweetest of smiles graced her beautiful face. "My headline is right, isn't it? Because you reek of large cat..."
"Yep," I chuckled, but closed my eyes when she curled into me, burying her face in my neck. I couldn't help but kiss the top of her head and inhale her sweet fragrance. Again, her mind flew through the nights events, but one thing stopped me cold. "We lost Peyton?" I gasped, pulling her back to look at her.
She winced and nodded, looking down at her hands. "Yeah, Lance used Brody against her about two seconds before he used Emmett against you...I think that's what scared me most. And then I snapped."
"Damn," I sighed, shaking my head. I studied her face, but she really wasn't looking at me. I tilted her head up with the tips of my fingers under her chin. "No one blames you, sweet girl. Not for anything. Understand?" She nodded, but snuggled back in against me. "You told me that you weren't sure exactly what you did... What did you mean, baby?"
"I lost control of my shield," she mumbled against the skin of my neck. "Something...happened to me when I saw you fall, Edward. I can't explain it. It went completely haywire."
"Show me," I said, pulling her back to look in her eyes. Her mind opened to me, and I could see when Peyton was destroyed, Brody's dismay at what he'd done, and how Bella had frozen just for a moment as she couldn't believe that Emmett was attacking me. It was her reaction that made my breath catch.
Her shield, for a lack of a better word, exploded. It pushed everyone away from her with more power than I'd ever seen from my Bella. She shoved wolves and family safely away, but any remaining enemies were immediately disposed of, and not by her usual way of pulling them apart. They were just...no more, yet everywhere.
When she finally got to me, she smashed Lance into a tree, securing the two of us in a bubble of security so tight, God Himself wouldn't have been able to get through.
"Wow," I huffed, a smile playing on my lips.
"Don't," she growled, shaking her head. "I'd never be able to do that again, I'm sure. It was just...emotion." She paused for just a moment, her breathing heavy. And then words came tumbling out of her with hitching breaths. "It's not like I didn't watch for you. I did. I swear. Every time I'd check on you, you were fine. The one time..."
"Hey," I crooned, shaking my head. "Don't do that to yourself. Bella, look at me. I'm just fine, and you stopped Emmett before he could finish what he started. You were perfect, my love. Okay?"
"'Kay," she sighed, cupping my face.
With the sweetest of sighs, she fell into me, claiming my mouth in the fiercest of kisses. We both moaned when I secured her to me by wrapping an arm around her waist. My fingers sunk into her hair in order to turn her head. I opened my mouth to her, letting her claim me, explore me with her tongue. She suckled my bottom lip with a sexy, low purr, pulling back to look at me.
"Now do you believe I'm all right?" I smiled at her beautiful giggle.
"Yeah," she sighed, biting that bottom lip of hers.
"Good," I chuckled, kissing the tip of her nose and then her chin.
"Have you ever been hurt like that before?" she asked, tilting that gorgeous head of hers at me.
I reached up and tucked her hair behind her ears. "That totally qualifies as a story, baby," I teased, biting my bottom lip as she poked me in the stomach through the gigantic hole in my shirt.
"You act like I've stiffed a bill or something," she huffed, folding her arms across her chest. "I've paid you for every story. Now spill it, Cullen."
I laughed, loving her voice caressing my name and happy to see the guilt ebbing away from her dark eyes, only to be replaced by the feisty sparkle that I knew and loved.
I didn't blame her for any of the night's events. We had all worked together to the very best of our abilities. Unfortunately, with the loss of one of our own came a sadness. Even though the girl wasn't family, she'd been a huge help with a fantastic outlook on this life. I felt bad she was gone, but Bella felt responsible, especially since it happened right before Emmett's attack on me.
"I will bill you, you know, Mrs. Cullen. Don't think I won't," I growled, raising an eyebrow at her. "I will collect your...balance due." I grinned up at her.
"I'm sure," she giggled, shaking her head. She grabbed my face. "Speak!"
"Yes, once," I answered, unable to deny her anything when she was so sweet, so giggly on my lap. "Rose did it."
"What? No!"
"She was hell as a newborn," I chuckled. "But nothing beat her reaction to Emmett's change. She wanted him, wanted to save him, but I practically had to sit on her every time he screamed. And Carlisle asked me to keep her outside the room, so I tried."
"God, she must've cussed you the hell out," my girl laughed, shaking her head.
"She did," I chuckled, "but she'd learned to clear her mind to me almost the minute she was changed, so she caught me off guard. Snapped my left leg right off at the knee."
"No way!"
"Yeah," I chuckled. "Hurt like hell when Carlisle put it back on."
"Rosie said she was sorry," Emmett laughed, hopping the tiger enclosure. "Baby girl, you okay now?"
She smiled, nodding slightly. "Yeah, Em. Are you done?"
"It's perfect, I tell you!" He beamed, puffing his chest out. "It looks like they've been stolen. It'll be an unsolved mystery for decades."
"I'm so proud," Bella deadpanned with a roll of her eyes.
"I guess we should get back," I sighed, standing up with my sweet girl still wrapped around me.
"We should. I'd like to check on Brody," Bella sighed, squirming down from my arms.
"Why? What happened to him?" Emmett asked, handing me the keys as we swiftly made our way out of the park.
"Lance used him to kill Peyton," I said, grimacing at his low growl.
"No fucking way!" he said, diving into the back seat.
"Yeah, it was awful," my Bella groaned, putting her head against the window. "He was mortified when he saw what he'd done."
"That Lance guy should've suffered," Emmett muttered, folding his arms across his chest as we made our way back to the other end of the park.
Bella snorted into a dark chuckle. "Believe me. He did."
As we got closer to where the field was, I could see how they were disposing of the carnage. They were setting fires in the sewers surrounding the park. The foul stench wouldn't be even a second thought, and due to the weather, the smoke looked no different than the steam that usually rose out of the manhole covers.
We walked through the brush, aiming for the voices of family and friends. Bella linked her fingers with mine once we got out of the car and kept them in a vice grip.
"Ed, you okay?" Demitri smirked, shaking his head. "You gave my little one quite the scare."
"I'm good. Thank you," I said, taking a seat next to Carlisle.
He smiled, slapped my shoulder, giving it a rough squeeze. "You did do that."
I pulled Bella into my lap, hugging her back to my chest.
"Guess you need a new shirt, huh?" Rose snorted, raising her eyebrow at me, but she smiled when Bella giggled. Emmett sat with her, much like Bella and I were.
"So, where's Sinclair?" I asked.
"Gone," Marcus sighed, looking up from his sympathetic gaze on Brody. The young man was wrapped around himself off to the side, gazing off into space. "He vanished as soon as Bella...well, as soon as... Amore, what the hell did you do?" he asked, but his laugh couldn't be contained.
The whole group chuckled, but it was Jasper that answered. "She was defending...everything." He shrugged with a smile, kicking at Bella's sneaker. "All I could feel was blinding panic, like her life depended on getting to Edward."
"It did," Bella and Carlisle muttered at the same time, which caused another round of laughter.
I smiled into Bella's hair, pressing my lips to the back of her head. "I love you," I chuckled in her ear. "Crazy talent and all."
She snorted, but looked up at me with a wry smile, so I kissed her nose, too.
"So what's the plan now, big D?" Emmett asked Demitri.
"I'm going to track him," he stated with a nod, and Carina nodded with him.
"I want to come with you," Brody growled, his head snapping around. "Teach me...everything you know..."
Brody's mind was filled with revenge, but also the thirst for knowledge. He respected Demitri, admired him really. He also knew that with Adrian's new found relationship with Kevin and the absence of Peyton, he was alone. And he didn't want to be.
"You got it," Demitri said solemnly, holding his hand out, and Brody shook it with a small smile. "We'll leave later this morning, okay?"
"'Kay," he sighed, nodding and looking up when a sound rustled from the trees.
"At least New York is safer," Jake sighed, coming from the tree as he and the rest of the pack tugged shirts on. "Do you think you guys can handle it from here on out?" He grinned widely, ducking when we all threw snow balls at him.
"Oh, well now you've done it," Jasper laughed, jumping up and hurling another snowball in Sam's direction.
The mother of all snowball fights broke out in the wee hours of the morning at the north end of Central Park. No one was safe, and there didn't seem to be any teams. But it was the perfect way to push the awful events of the evening away.
I laughed hysterically when Seth threw a large snowball mine and Bella's way, and it ricocheted off of her shield and back to him, exploding in a shower of ice.
"Come, sweet girl," I chuckled, pulling her with me.
We ran down the field and around a large stone. As soon as Seth bolted around the corner, we pelted him with three snowballs from each of us.
"Okay, damn," he chuckled, shaking his wet hair, his smile contagious. "Hey, Bells...come home for Christmas, will ya?" he asked, walking to us. "Charlie and Mom miss you guys somethin' awful."
Bella turned to look at me, her face hopeful, but her mind was prepared for a no.
"We'll see what Carlisle wants to do about the Sinclair thing, and we'll let you know, okay?" I asked, hoping that would appease her, especially since I abhorred telling her no to anything.
"Cool." He grinned, grunting when he was hit from out of nowhere from the other side of the rock. "Damn it!" he growled, bolting out of there and leaving us alone.
Suddenly, I found myself flat on my back in the snow. "Make me another snow angel," Bella giggled, standing over me with her hands on her hips.
"If I'm remembering correctly, beautiful, I'm way too overdressed for the snow angels you prefer," I teased, reaching up and pulling her down with me. She writhed under my tickling fingers, giggling like she could barely catch a breath she didn't need. It was my favorite sound of hers. "Perhaps you should make one," I growled playfully, pinning her arms above her head and dragging them through the snow down to her sides. "Finish it, baby," I whispered, placing a long slow kiss to her neck.
Her legs opened to finish the bottom of the angel, but I couldn't resist her. Ever. I lowered myself down onto her, and she welcomed me with a stunning smile and open arms.
"Hmm," she mused against my lips. "You're right. Naked snow angels are better."
I chuckled, pulling back to look at her. "My naughty little human just about shocked me to death that day... Who knew Truth or Dare brought out my bad girl?"
"You bring out the bad girl, Edward," she purred, taking my bottom lip and sucking it softly, her darkening eyes never leaving mine. "You know I made Alice take a picture of those nineteen snow angels on her phone, don't you?" She grinned up at me innocently.
"Really? And how come that picture isn't on our wall at home?" I chuckled, sitting up and pulling her up with me.
"Because it makes a fabulous wallpaper during the holidays on my laptop," she sighed dramatically, her eyes gleaming with mischief.
"Silly girl," I chuckled, standing up with her. "Let' s go back to the hotel, baby."
"Right, right...I have a bill to pay," she teased, kissing my cheek. "Carry me to the car, Edward."
She hopped up on my back, and I carried her just like I used to, her arms and legs wrapping around me like a limpet. We passed by everyone on our way back to the SUV, waving our goodbyes. The wolves said they were going to try and catch a flight out in the next day or so, because they needed to get back to their families and lives.
No one tried to stop us. Not that I expected them to… I could see Marcus' mind; he thought we should reconnect. They'd all seen Bella's reaction tonight when I got hurt, but they were also registering her beaming, happy face at the moment. There wasn't one of them that was going to mess with that. I could barely fight my smile after those thoughts when I got to the car. It was me that made her that damn happy.
"What's that smile for?" my sweet girl asked, brushing my hair from my head.
"You, love. Always you."
"There you are!" Esme breathed, rushing into our arms. "Carlisle called. He said you were hurt. Are you all right now?" she asked, grabbing Edward's amused face as she gave him the once over.
"I'm fine, Mom," he laughed, hugging her and shaking his head.
"I heard we lost Peyton?" she said, but it came out in the form of a question.
"I...I'm going to shower," I muttered, not able to listen about loss of a young girl that I had really grown to like; not to mention she had died by the same means that almost killed Edward. And I still didn't know how I felt about that. Just as I got into the bedroom, I stopped. "Where's Kevin?"
"Asleep in Adrian's room," Esme replied, smirking when I turned to face her. "They've been talking. Adrian got upset when he heard about Peyton, so Kevin has been keeping him company."
"Mmhm, I bet," I snorted, and continued into the bathroom.
I turned on the water as hot as I could, peeling off my stiff, disgusting clothes and clearing my mind to the point of blankness as I stepped under the hard spray. I wanted to boil the day off of my skin and hair.
I scrubbed with a exorbitant amount of shampoo and body wash to the point that, had I been human, my skin would have been red and raw. I stepped out, dried off, and donned underwear and one of Edward's button down shirts that he'd worn a few days ago. It was covered in his sweet scent, and I needed to be surrounded by that calming essence.
I could hear Esme still talking to Edward in our room, so I pulled on a robe as well. I opened the door to see Edward leaning against the dresser.
"Mom wants to see you," he said softly, walking to me. "I'll be right out, love. I need to..." He snorted, tugging that godawful, destroyed shirt off over his head.
"Just...put it with my stuff. That shit's going in the garbage," I mumbled, leaning into his snickering kiss to my forehead.
Esme said nothing as I padded into the sitting area of the room. She just opened her arms, and I fell into them with a stifled sob and a breath of relief. She dragged me to the sofa, cradling me in her arms and running her fingers through my wet hair. She whispered that Edward was fine, that the worst of it was over, and that I'd done amazingly.
"I thought I'd lost him," I breathed ever so softly into her hair.
"You didn't," she soothed. "He's just fine. You made it in time."
I nodded against her shoulder, finally pulling myself together. While Edward showered, she told me how her day went with Kevin and Adrian.
Apparently, there were services for his father the next day, and Kevin would need us for support. She said she sat the two of them down for a talk. She explained that Adrian, while being supportive throughout the day, had been quiet and brusque with Kevin. She said she'd finally had enough, so she sat them down to tell them exactly what to expect with the whole mating thing. She even told them a story—a story about what happens when one mate leaves another and the aching pain that's involved—and that as a mother, it was heartbreaking to sit back and watch.
She flat out told them that she didn't care if one was human or male or female or what...that love was love, and sometimes you have to follow your heart. Period. She told Adrian that if he was going to assign himself as Kevin's protector, then he needed to come to terms with the whole situation. That it wasn't responsibility or guilt he was feeling; that the natural pull was what was keeping him at Kevin's side was just...more.
She told Kevin that he needed to respect what Adrian was, respect his strength and vulnerable newborn state, that he needed to give Adrian time to adjust to a new diet and understand that he could very well hurt him. They had to find some middle ground, get to know each other, and set whatever limits they were comfortable with.
In other words, Mom gave them the talking to of the decade, using her experience and insight to try and help them as best she could. She said she just couldn't stand by and watch Kevin flinch at Adrian's abrupt behavior; that Adrian reminded her of Edward too much. She never wanted anyone to suffer with guilt and denial like her oldest son had, not when love was at the tips of his fingers.
By the time Edward emerged from the bedroom in nothing but a pair of dark gray lounge pants, rubbing a towel over his wet head, I was feeling a touch better. I let my eyes drink in his beauty, his wet hair in total disarray, and the small droplets of water that clung to his chest.
He was ridiculously adorable and sexy.
Esme snorted softly, looking from him to me. "Does he know what he does to you?"
"No," I laughed. "Clueless, I tell you."
Our peal of laughter got his attention, and he looked up with that perfect crooked grin on his face, draping the towel around his neck. "What?" he asked, looking between us with a perfectly innocent look gracing his features.
"Nothing," we both snorted, shaking our heads.
Esme stood up and said, "I'd better go check and see if your father's back. Love you both."
"Love you, too," we sighed as Edward took her place on the sofa next to me, and she left quietly out the door.
Edward leaned his head back on the couch, his eyes warm, sweet, and a beautiful light amber from his kills earlier. "I have something for you." His voice was quiet and calm, and so perfectly soothing.
I smirked, shaking my head. "What, baby?"
He stood up and walked into the bedroom. When he came back, he had disposed of the towel from around his neck and our bedroom iPod was in his hand.
I laughed, looking up at him.
"Have you added to it?" His grin was too cute for words, and he looked quite proud of himself.
"I did. Just before we left actually." I snickered, raising an eyebrow at him. "Though I didn't know it was making the trip with us."
"Damn, she beat me," he muttered with a laugh, placing it on the dock. I chuckled again as he turned and gave me a sexy wink.
He stood up straight, holding his hand out for me. He tugged me to him by the belt of my robe. "What's under here?"
I let the robe fall as Can't Take My Eyes Off of You by Lady Antebellum wafted softly through the room, my eyes never leaving his.
"My clothes beat lingerie any day," he purred, pulling me into his arms as the song's words said so much from me to him.
I know that the bridges that I've burned
Along the way
Have left me with these walls and these scars
That won't go away
And opening up has always been the hardest thing
Until you came
"Hold me," I begged, wrapping my arms around his neck.
"Dance with me," he countered, pressing his forehead to mine and placing his hands on my hips.
So lay here beside me just hold me and don't let go
This feelin' I'm feelin' is somethin' I've never known
And I just can't take my eyes off you
And I just can't take my eyes off you
We said nothing as he guided my body in a gentle sway. The lights in the room were off, the stunning view of an early morning over New York our backdrop.
I love when you tell me that I'm pretty
When I just woke up
And I love how you tease me when I'm moody
But it's always enough
I'm falling fast and the truth is I'm not scared at all
You broke my walls
Edward smiled at the last verse, knowing I meant it from when I was human, but he pulled me closer, so that my toes stepped up on the tops of his feet.
"Leading," he muttered in my ear with a soft, sexy chuckle.
I giggled, saying nothing, but loving that some things from our past never faded away, that they returned at the best of moments.
So lay here beside me just hold me and don't let go
This feelin' I'm feelin' is somethin' I've never known
And I just can't take my eyes off you
And I just can't take my eyes off you
As the day dawned to a dreary, snowy, cold morning, Edward and I said no words, only let our connection and our hearts heal themselves from the rough events earlier. He held me through two more songs, before I finally found my voice.
"I guess I owe you a payment, huh?"
"Not yet," he sighed, scooping me up. "Today will be...strange. I want to hold you a little longer."
With that said, he lay me down on the bed, crawling up by my side. "I love you," he whispered, his brow furrowing. "Thank you for keeping an eye on me last night."
I smiled, shaking my head, unable to say what I was feeling, because I wasn't truly sure myself. He was safe and in my arms. I couldn't ask for more.
"I love you, too, Edward."


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