Tuesday, March 20, 2001 | By: Drotuno

An Angel's Promise Chapter 39

CHAPTER 39
BELLA
We could hear the voices as soon as the doors to the elevator opened on the penthouse floor. We looked at each other, as I said, "Damn."
Edward snorted, but his face was serious. I couldn't imagine what the minds were thinking in there, or how loud it must have been in his head.
"It's just a cluster-fu..." he started, answering my internal musings, but he grinned, catching himself.
"Uh huh," I chuckled. "Watch that, Mr. Cullen, or we'll out ourselves."
Edward didn't curse in front of his family. I was sure at one point it was a sign of respect; now, it was just an inside joke. I didn't even want to know what the bet consisted of concerning the existence of Dirty Edward.
"Yes, ma'am," he laughed, motioning for me to step out the elevator in front of him.
The same people we'd left in the apartment the night before were all still there. Our family, including Demitri, Marcus, and Carina, were gathered in the living room. The Denali family – Kate, Garrett, Irina, Ghianna, Carmen, and Eleazar – were all sitting around the dining room table.
The most noticeable was a very worried Adrian and Kevin, who were leaning against the window, looking out over Central Park. Kevin had Adrian's hand in his and seemed to be soothing him.
The whole house came to a standstill as soon as we opened the door. I couldn't decide who to focus on first, but in all honesty, Alice was my priority. When I found her, she was sitting on Edward's piano bench, her knees up, and she was practically rocking back and forth. Jasper was behind her, but stood up, his face filled with relief when his eyes landed on us.
"Love, will you shield everyone but Alice, Jasper, and Carlisle for me?" Edward whispered in my ear, placing a soft kiss there.
"Yeah," I sighed, doing exactly that as I rushed to my sister, my best friend. "Ali?"
Her face was tortured, but she gasped when she caught sight of Edward and me. Her arms shot out, pulling us close with a firm grip on our hands. "I'm sorry. So very sorry... I know...and you needed time...but I saw..."
"Slow down, pixie," Edward whispered, ignoring everyone else as he knelt beside her. "You're going too fast."
I took a seat behind her, holding her close. She leaned into me, but her eyes were on her brother as she held his hand.
"What did you see, Alice?" Edward asked, his eyes narrowing in concentration.
I watched his face as he listened – or saw, really – what she had to show him. The changes in his expression, though slight to someone who might not have known him, were a huge warning to me. He went from impassive to angry to shocked, his gaze flickering to mine for just the briefest of moments. His eyes grew dark, his mouth in a tight line, but he nodded, taking a deep breath.
"Is that it? Is there no other decision?" he asked her softly, but the whole room seemed to be holding its breath for those two to finish, including me.
"I can't see one. No one has made a decision that changes that outcome, Edward," she sobbed, leaning into me, and I hugged her tighter.
My husband didn't move from in front of Alice, but turned his head as Carlisle walked closer. Edward seemed to be having a silent conversation with him.
I looked up at Jasper, because only he would understand how helpless it was to watch the silent exchanges. "Tell me," I breathed, not really sure I wanted to know.
"Mark let her see again," Jasper started, kneeling next to Edward to look at us on an eye level. "She sees Tanya going after...Kevin, but..." he held his hand up when a few growls snarled lowly through the room. "...but in that process, you and Esme fall out of her sight, like she can't even see you. Completely gone."
My head snapped up to Edward first, who was eerily silent, but was watching me closely. I then turned to Esme, who looked worriedly right back at me.
Alice shuddered in my arms, and I turned her to me. "Hey, maybe that's just Mark's talent, hmm?" I asked her, trying to calm her nerves. "Maybe Esme and I get close to him, and he just stops your sight. You know, like my shield, Ali..."
"I know," she sighed, nodding slowly. "I've thought of that. I just can't think...I can't allow it..." she growled, her tiny fists clenching in her lap. "I can't allow the domino effect that it would cause," she sobbed. "I'd lose you all. Carlisle won't stay with us if something happens to Esme. And Edward—" Her voice shattered, because we all knew what would happen if mine and Edward's connection was severed – he would die.
I looked up to Edward, who looked at our sister with a loving but worried expression. Venom stung my eyes with dry tears of a black ache at the thought of my beautiful husband no longer existing. Carlisle's face was filled with a sadness, a worry for Alice – for the whole damn situation, I was sure.
Jasper reached up and touched her face with the backs of his fingers, and I felt a huge surge of calm and love and understanding flow around us, all because I was touching her, too.
"There's more, Bells," Jasper said softly, once he got Alice a little calmer. "Mark is ready to try and see you."
"No," Carlisle and Edward said at the same time.
"You have to," Alice hiccuped, looking at both of them. "You have to let her talk to him. It may change everything!"
Edward growled low, a hand running through his hair in frustration, and he turned away from her. Carlisle sighed deeply, shaking his head slowly.
"Where? When?" I asked, looking only at my sister.
"The underground of Grand Central Station," Alice and Edward said at the same time, though my husband's voice was gruff and angry sounding. "Tomorrow night."
Those last two words hung in the thick tension filled air of the quiet room.
I took a deep breath, looking up to Edward. You'd say no? I thought to him.
"I...I don't know," he growled, shaking his head. "It's too much...speculation, Bella."
The pure pain that crossed his face at the mere thought of Alice's prediction coming true was almost unbearable to see.
We won't do anything if you don't want me to, Edward, I thought to him. But don't you think we should try? At least talk to Mark? Don't you want this shit over and done with?
All Edward did was shake his head. It wasn't a no, but it wasn't an agreement, either.
I nodded, looking to Carlisle. "What do you think?"
"We have time to discuss it," he said, his eyes almost dark as he looked around the room.
Marcus finally stood up, taking a deep breath and walking to Carlisle. "This is...a family matter for you, old friend," he sighed, looking to me and Alice, and back to Carlisle. "Demitri and I will show them where to hunt, but we'll be back tomorrow." He gestured towards the Denalis and Adrian, not giving any of them a choice. He took a deep breath, and suddenly, his face was filled with an ancient sadness. "No one faults you, if you decide to step away from it all, Carlisle. No one."
~oOoOo~
"Here, Kev," I said, handing him a hot cup of cocoa and sitting across from him at the little table. He'd been on the roof for some time now, and I needed a break from all the debating inside, so I'd decided to keep him company.
My opinion was to at least meet Mark first, but Alice couldn't see the result of that. I was willing to take someone with me, like Emmett or Edward for protection, but that scared everyone even more.
I had faith in my shield. I had faith in Megan to not set us up, because my shield pulled her in almost instantly. I also remembered meeting Mark, and he was pulled in, too. I couldn't imagine that had changed.
The problem was Tanya. She posed as an unpredictable factor in this whole thing. What if she found out Mark's plan? What if one of her newborns witnessed something? And what if Mark's masking talent covered up some tiny item of information that could get someone killed?
It was the vision of Kevin that had set Alice off. She didn't want anything to happen to him. We already considered him family. What had made it worse was Esme and myself disappearing into nothingness. That last part, that last piece of the vision, was causing the biggest problem, because our two most calm, most logical thinking planners were now unable to think without allowing their hearts to guide them. Carlisle and Edward were at odds with themselves and the rest of us, because they couldn't even think of losing their mates.
Alice explained the vision in detail to me. Tanya had Kevin, but as we all closed in on her, she panicked, killing him. At that point, things became fuzzy. A fight breaks out, and Esme and I give chase to Tanya, but disappear into some warehouse. She sees nothing else. The domino effect that she mentioned was even sadder. The loss of Esme causes Carlisle to retreat into himself, leaving the family altogether. The loss of me...well, Edward wouldn't survive it; he would die, whether by his own doing or our severed connection would kill him. Emmett, Rose, Alice, and Jasper would all scatter, heartbroken and missing us. The family would be destroyed, which was what Tanya wanted.
Jasper, though trying his best to accommodate all the emotions running through the room, was now trying to get Carlisle and Edward to think clearly, without panic. He was a military strategist by nature, so he thought that sending me into the tunnels of Grand Central with back up was best. He just wanted to hear Mark out. He also wanted to give Alice's idea a shot, because she thought seeing Mark, just to talk, would change the outcome of the vision that was causing so much trouble.
Jasper and I were in agreement, but I was tired of debating it. Edward was almost foul about not allowing anything to happen. I understood his side, too, but I couldn't stand to see him lose his temper anymore.
I sighed, glancing over at Kevin, who looked nervous as he wrapped his hands around the warm mug. "You okay?" I asked.
He nodded, finally meeting my gaze. "Do you ever think your life is out of your hands? Like someone else is guiding it? Making all the decisions for you?"
I laughed, shaking my head. "Oh yeah," I sighed, still snickering. "Especially when I was human."
I studied his face, and I saw so much familiarity there that it was scary.
"I feel no matter what steps we take, we're still going to...I'm still..." He sat back in his chair with an exasperated sigh. "I don't know."
"I'd ask you if you hated us for this, but I think I know the answer," I told him, leaning on the table. "You don't, because you love us. That doesn't always happen. We usually repel humans. Well, when my shield doesn't pull them in."
Kevin smiled, but just waited for me to continue.
"I'm a huge believer in fate," I said, smiling softly. "I didn't always think that, but now, I do. I believe I was supposed to leave my mom and move in with my dad. I believe that I was destined to meet Edward, that we were meant for each other, because he waited a century for me. I believe that everything I went through while he was gone – every tear cried, every heartbreaking, lonely moment, every bruise I received – was for a reason. I was supposed to be...better, a stronger person, a stronger woman for Edward when he came back. I was shattered, broken, but by the time I saw Edward again after two years, I wasn't a lovesick teen – I was just...his. We loved each other more, if that's even possible."
Kevin smiled, but his eyes welled up. His love for me and Edward was unwavering.
"I used to tease them all about babysitting me, because I was always in trouble, always threatened by some outside force...James, Victoria, Jacob, Felix, and now Tanya...but all that did was make me love them more. I learned about them, learned to be one of them, even before I was changed. I learned what each one meant to me as a member of the family.
"Emmett is the big brother I always wanted," I chuckled, shaking my head. "If there was a catalog to pick out what I wanted, he'd be the most expensive, because he's just exactly what I need when I want to laugh and be silly, and he's so very protective. Rose and I didn't get along at first, but now, she's my sarcastic partner, my calm block between me and Alice's excitable nature. And I can't tell you how much I adore Alice, because there aren't words. She's been in my corner since the day I met Edward."
"Jasper?" Kevin chuckled.
"Oh, Jasper," I sighed, giggling a little. "He's my best friend. He understands what it's like to be the new member of the family, knows how it is to be married to someone that can see everything. We help each other cope with bloodlust and school and two all-knowing spouses."
"What about Carlisle?"
"I love my real dad, and I love that he knows the truth about me, but Carlisle..." I paused, trying to say this the right way. "Carlisle healed me in ways I can't explain. And he did it all just by being there, just by talking it out. He'll probably always watch over me, and I'll most likely be going to him to rant over one thing or another a hundred years from now."
Kevin laughed, shaking his head. "Esme?"
"I was so nervous meeting her for the first time," I chuckled softly. "She means so much to Edward, and I just knew she wouldn't like me. He was her 'first born,' but he was also her baby boy in all respects, so I assumed I was wrong for him and that she would end up agreeing with me. I was human, and they weren't. I was convinced that she would just write me off, but no..." I paused, shaking my head a little. "She was so very welcoming. She was the first to hug me," I whispered, swallowing thickly, because Esme meant so very much to me. "I can't see my mother, so Esme's it. She's my mom now, and I need her in ways I can't explain...and..." I stopped, not able to say much more, waving it off, but Kevin understood, because he reached across the table to take my hand.
"What are they going to do?" he asked softly, his eyes filled with worry.
"I don't know. I'm willing to try." I paused, patting his hand lightly. "I talked to my dad the other day, and he told me sometimes we have to do what's right in the grand scheme of things, because it's what we're suppose to do, even though it may be hard. He reminded me that the missing persons and the deaths were in the hundreds before we showed up here. That even though I wanted to go back to London and forget about it all, I was doing the right thing by helping."
"He sounds smart," Kevin chuckled.
"You should meet him." I laughed, wondering how Charlie would take to my flamboyant friend.
"Definitely." He smiled, squeezing my hand and taking a sip from his cup. "But you'll go along with whatever they decide?"
"Yes." I nodded, wrinkling my nose. "I hate Tanya. I've hated her since I met her, just like she hated me. At first it was jealousy, because she wanted Edward. Badly."
"Bitch," Kevin growled, rolling his eyes.
"Yeah, I called her that," I laughed. "But see...back then, she just aimed it all towards me. Edward loves me, and he wasn't going anywhere, but I could handle her. Then it was aimed towards him, and that I couldn't have. Now...it's aimed at my whole fucking family, Kev. You, included! Innocent people are dying and being changed against their will, and it's so wrong. She's escalated from bitch to monster. She should be stopped."
"I'm scared, Bells," he whispered. "Not for me, but for Adrian. He's so fucking worried. He's thinking the worst...you know? And I love him too much, I think, because all I can think of is what would happen to him if something were to happen to me."
"I know," I sighed, patting his hand again.
There wasn't much I could say to him. That was the first lesson I learned about being mated. My thoughts were consumed with Edward's safety, happiness, and well being. I remembered feeling so helpless as a human, because if there was a threat, there wasn't a thing I could've done to protect him. I had to completely rely on my family. It made me feel like the lesser partner in our relationship.
"You were never lesser, Bella," Edward said softly from the doorway. "You held everything in your hands, love."
Kevin and I smiled at each other and turned towards him.
Edward knelt before me, tucking my hair behind my ear. His brow wrinkled, and he looked like he was struggling with what he had to say. He swallowed thickly, before uttering, "We're going to meet Mark." He sighed, shaking his head.
I cupped his face. "Okay," I said, dragging the word out, because I wasn't sure what the plan was.
"You won't be alone," he huffed, turning my wedding ring. "You'll be with me. We're hoping that...talking to him changes...everything else," he said through gritted teeth. His eyes looked up from our hands and were so filled with worry that I couldn't help but brush his hair from his forehead, placing a kiss there. "Your shield will be around us the entire time, baby. No questions...no ifs, ands, or buts. Yes?"
"Yes."
He nodded, kissing my ring, his eyes never leaving mine. "Good," he sighed. "We need to hunt, then."
~oOoOo~
EDWARD
"But there's no guarantee!" I snarled, tired of debating this. "Alice, you can't see how this meeting will go!"
I couldn't risk losing my Bella or my mother, but I was so very ready to be done with Tanya and Mark and New York that I could barely see straight. It didn't help that I probably needed to hunt soon.
"No," Jasper countered, "but it's not like we're just throwing Bells out there, Edward. She won't be alone; she'll be with...someone. We'll cover all the tunnels. There are enough of us to make sure that Mark wasn't seen or followed."
I knew he was struggling to stay calm, to keep the rest of us calm, but I wasn't sure it was working on me at this point. Every time I glanced Bella's way, all I could see was the blackness, the blankness just swallowing her and my mother in my sister's vision. And then I watched what that would do to my family. I saw my own death, I saw Carlisle just walk away from the family he cared so much for, and I saw my siblings, Alice especially, fall apart at the seams with the absence of myself, Carlisle, Esme...and God, my Bella.
No, I couldn't allow it.
"I can't," I sighed, turning to my wife, pleading with her silently to understand.
"My visions have never been a guarantee, Edward," Alice said softly from the piano bench.
"I. Don't. Care!" I growled, turning from them all.
"Edward," my Bella groaned from the window.
I spun back to see her shake her head, take a deep breath, and walk into the kitchen.
"Bella, I..."
"No, you don't need to explain," she sighed, holding up a hand as she pulled a mug down from the cabinet. "I get it. I really do." She pulled out the milk and powdered chocolate and began making a drink for Kevin.
"Yo, Ed?" Emmett piped up from the sofa. "Man, I get it, too. I think maybe we're relying on the pixie's vision too much on this one. I'm with Jasper on this, dude. You and Dad need to think, not feel this situation out."
Carlisle grimaced from the open large floor to ceiling window, but his mind was filled with worry as the afternoon breeze fluttered the curtains around him. Neither of us could think clearly. We both knew that we were emotional over this, not logical, which was causing the whole debate to begin with.
The microwave beeped, and Bella pulled out a steaming mug of hot chocolate, setting it on the counter. She took a deep breath, locking gazes with me. "I'm done arguing. I think we should try. I think we could prepare and be smart about it, but I'll go along with whatever you choose, Edward. I just don't want to fight over it anymore. I'm over this shit with Tanya, and I want to go home, so if that's now or later...fine. I'll be on the roof with Kevin when you guys decide, but I've cast my vote."
Her voice held no anger, and neither did her mind, but she said nothing more as she walked out the door. I groaned as I heard her mind the whole way up the stairs, practically following her step for step as I walked back into the living room to stand next to Carlisle at the window.
"She's mad," Carlisle guessed.
"No," I sighed, shaking my head. "She's said her piece." I chuckled, looking over at him. "She's leaving it up to us."
He smiled, nodding once, but turned to look at the room. "I'm afraid that I can't make a clear decision on this."
Jasper opened his mouth to speak, but the wind and our sharp hearing brought my Bella's voice into the room, and I couldn't help but listen to her mind as she chatted with Kevin.
"You okay?" she asked him, setting her arms on the table.
"Do you ever think your life is out of your hands? Like someone else is guiding it? Making all the decisions for you?" he asked, his own mind feeling helpless with the situation, but he respected her opinion so much.
"Oh yeah," she giggled softly. "Especially when I was human." Her laughter made the whole room smile.
I wasn't sure why we were all listening, except that we couldn't come to a definite decision. I looked out over Central Park, and I could just barely pick up my girl's scent wafting down from the roof. My whole family was listening to her, but they were also considering their own vote now that she'd cast hers. Or maybe we were just tired of arguing about it.
"I feel no matter what steps we take, we're still going to...I'm still..." Kevin sighed, leaning back in his chair and looking forlorn. "I don't know."
"I'd ask you if you hated us for this, but I think I know the answer," she said, sounding like she knew exactly how he was feeling. "You don't, because you love us. That doesn't always happen. We usually repel humans. Well, when my shield doesn't pull them in."
Kevin smiled, but stayed silent.
I chuckled at his indulgent attitude with her, which caused Carlisle to lean next to me with his own soft grin.
"I'm a huge believe in fate," she told him.
As I listened to her talking to Kevin, my breath caught at her admission, my forehead thumping against the glass door. I closed my eyes, because I'd never heard her explain it like that. And I wasn't the only one that was caught off guard with that emotional statement, because Carlisle gave my shoulder a squeeze, Kevin's eyes filled with tears, and Esme's breath caught behind me.
Oh, Edward, she thought. She's so right...
I nodded against the glass, acknowledging her statement, but I said nothing. I needed her to continue, because she started talking about our family, about how she came to know how each one of them would protect her with their life when she was human.
She told him that she couldn't have picked a better big brother than Emmett, even if there was a catalog to do so, which caused him to laugh softly. She said that she and Rose hadn't always gotten along, but that she was her sarcastic partner and the go-between for Alice. And her love for Alice was almost a sickness, because it was my tiniest sister that had cheered our relationship on from the get go.
"That's because I knew," Alice giggled haughtily.
"Jasper?" Kevin chuckled.
"Oh, Jasper," she said sighing, her mind filled with a respect that matched my brother's.
We listened as Bella explained her relationship with my brother.
"Hell, yeah, that shit ain't easy," Jasper laughed, shaking his head, but he wanted to hug her for her loving words.
Alice and I chuckled, my sister shoving him a little.
"What about Carlisle?"
I grinned, turning my head to watch my father, because suddenly he was nervous as to how she perceived him.
"I love my real dad, and I love that he knows the truth about me, but Carlisle..." she stopped for a moment, her thoughts trying to narrow it down to just a few words, but she felt it impossible.
Bella's words on Carlisle touched all of us, and echoed very well what everyone in the room thought of him, including coming to him for advice a hundred years from now.
"God, I hope so," he chuckled. "Kiddo keeps me on my toes." His love, his pride in her, was almost overwhelming; even Jasper could feel it radiating from him.
I laughed softly, shaking my head. My family had no idea just how much she loved them. It was like they were getting a chance to read her mind like I could.
When Kevin asked about Esme, my still heart could have burst from my chest at her thoughts, her love for our mother. Emotions caused her sweet, soft voice to shake when she answered.
"I was so nervous meeting her for the first time," she chuckled lightly, and I smiled with the memory.
Esme's breath hitched as she tried to fight her dry sobs, because how Bella had described her feelings on mine and Esme's relationship was exactly how my mother viewed me.
As she continued speaking of Esme, emotion just about to break her, and suddenly, I wanted to hold her, tell her that they all loved her the same.
The living room was quiet, but they all watched Esme's lip tremble.
When Kevin asked if we'd made a decision, we all looked up at each other, waiting for her answer—even Carlisle, who was now kneeling in front of his wife and kissing her hand.
"I don't know. I'm willing to try," she said, holding Kevin's hand.
We were surprised as we listened to the not-so-surprising sage advice Charlie had given Bella.
"God, she's so right," Carlisle groaned, shaking his head, but his mind was so very afraid of losing the woman in front of him. He looked up at me. "Maybe we should try."
Jasper's head snapped up, a smile playing on his lips when he said, "Look, the baby girl trusts her shield, and whoever would stand with her when you meet Mark."
"Me," I sighed, groaning in defeat and fear. "I won't do this...I can't think of her doing this without me. If something happens, then I need to be by her...I can't do it any other way."
"We can do that, bro," Emmett said with a nod. "Shorty says it's in the cross section, so we'll cover your back from every direction...and then some, dude."
We all shut up again when Kevin called Tanya a rude name, and my sisters giggled with my wife. But it was her answer that caused me to make my final decision and leave the room to join her.
The reminder of how far Tanya had fallen was the final straw, and Bella's thoughts that she should be stopped were echoed silently throughout the room.
"Damn straight, Bells," Rose cheered under her breath from next to Emmett.
I pushed away from the glass, making my way to the front door, when Carlisle's mind hit me.
You tell her we'll do it, but I want everyone to hunt. No exceptions. I want us as sharp and as focused as we can get.
I locked eyes with him, my hand on the door knob. I nodded sharply and left to go get her.
~oOoOo~
The whole family went hunting. We drove out to Jasper's cabins in the northern part of the state, making plans to meet back at the fire pit when we were finished.
I ran for miles to try and stop my frustration, my nerves, because, to be completely honest, this whole thing was scaring the shit out of me. I couldn't even wait for Bella. Just looking at her made my chest ache.
By the time I'd taken down two deer and a bear, my mind had cleared just enough to realize that I needed to get back. The cabin grew closer as I ran back, and my family's voices could be heard echoing through the surrounding woods, but it was the striking beauty I came across that caused my feet to stumble.
She was leaning against a tree, away from the family and out of their sight. Her hands were in her back pockets as she stared at the water of the small creek. Her mind was closed, but I knew she could smell me, sense my presence.
I walked up behind her, slipping my hands between her own and her sweet bottom inside those denim pockets, nuzzling her neck, before my forehead hit her shoulder.
"Hey, baby," she giggled, leaning into me. "Better?"
"Mmhm," I hummed in her ear. "I'm sorry I was an ass earlier."
"No, you weren't," she sighed. "You were just worried."
"I still am."
She pulled my hands from her pockets and turned in front of me, tugging me to her as she leaned against the tree. She reached up and brush my hair from my forehead as my hands went right back to her jeans.
"I am, too, you know," she said, tracing my face with the lightest touch of her fingers.
I nodded, feeling like more of an ass, because I didn't think of what this was doing to her. Not only was the vision disturbing, but the threat to our connection was her biggest fear.
"I love you," I sighed, shaking my head when she started to say it back. "Tomorrow...your safety comes first."
"We're just talking to Mark..."
"I know, but at this point, anything could go wrong, my sweet girl. And I can't have that. I can't let anything happen to you."
"I'm not scared of Tanya. I'm only scared of losing you," she stated forcefully.
I nodded again, pulling her hips closer to mine. I felt desperate to cling to this moment, because I didn't know what would happen in the next twenty four hours. With a few quick movements, I lifted her up and pressed her into the tree, my mouth attaching to hers frantically.
Her whole body relaxed under my touch, and she kissed me back just as deeply, turning her head to delve her tongue between my lips. Her arms and legs wrapped around me, her hips grinding against me, but it was her mind that helped me slow down.
It opened to me, and she showed me that she would let me have this moment of panic, but she absolutely refused to allow it to take over me. In her mind, we were unstoppable together. We could do anything, and we would walk away from it.
With one last suckle to her bottom lip, my teeth grazing against it, I pulled away to meet her gaze. It was filled with determination, love, and a touch of lust that she seemed to be fighting.
I smiled, taking a deep breath. "Thank you."
She smirked, kissing me chastely. "It's what I'm here for – to keep you in line, Mr. Cullen."
I chuckled and nodded, because it was the damn truth. "Yes, ma'am."
"Come on, they're waiting for us. We have to sort out the plan," she said, but hugged me closer instead of moving to get down from my arms.
"Did you hunt, baby?" I asked purely out of habit, because I could see her skin was glowing.
"I did." She smiled so very beautifully, and I couldn't help but kiss her nose, forehead, and lips.
"Well, let's get this done," I growled, tossing her over my shoulder.
She squealed and wriggled in my grip, but I wasn't letting her go. With a light smack to her bottom, I walked her back to the fire to prepare for our next step.
~oOoOo~
BELLA
The tunnels were smelly, dark, and dank as we all made our way silently through them. I knew where everyone was – or would be – once Edward and I stopped in the cross way of the old, deserted subway.
Carlisle and Esme were behind us. The Denalis and Marcus were heading towards us, and my siblings were coming in on the left and right. But all of them were allowing enough space for Mark to navigate around them.
"He's not here," I sighed, turning in one spot.
"We'll give him time," Edward answered, but I could tell he was listening to everyone around us. "If he's followed, then they'll be stopped. That will give him time to get back if he needs to."
I nodded, spinning when I heard Mark's voice.
"And that's totally appreciated," he sighed, stepping out of the tunnel on my right. "Bells, Edward..."
I studied his face, and he looked heartbroken, weary, and just...sad, so I couldn't help but rush to him. "God, Mark...are you okay?"
"No, frankly, I'm pissed and worn out," he snorted humorlessly, but hugged me fiercely. "But I need to apologize to you and your family," he said, looking between us, and I noticed that his eyes were crimson – he was feeding on humans. "I didn't know. I thought that what we had was real. I swear."
"We know," Edward told him, stepping up beside me. "What we don't know is how you expect us to help when we can't get to you."
"I know...that's why we're here," he sighed, shoving his hands into his pockets. "There's going to be a power outage soon," he said, a wry smile playing on his lips. "When that happens, you will be free to come in. Meg says that she showed you where..." He stopped, looking up at Edward.
"She did, but I can see even more through you," Edward stated, nodding slightly. "Are you masking now?"
"No." Mark shook his head. "I had a feeling that Bella wouldn't meet with me alone. So I thought I'd better come with...an open mind, so to speak."
Mark grinned for the first time, and I finally saw the young man I first met. He was handsome, with dark hair and strong features. Despite the fact that he hadn't really aged, his demeanor seemed older, tired.
Edward chuckled. "Thank you."
"No, thank you. We really need your help, Bells," he said, turning to me. "I have to get Megan away from her. Tanya threatens her every day. I've watched people die – at my own fucking hands!" He groaned, leaning against the wall, and my heart broke for him. "I never wanted to hunt like this. I was happy with the other way, but that first taste she made me take..."
"Believe me, I understand," Edward told him. "I need you to know that Tanya won't live through this. That the Volturi has called for her death. She's broken way too many laws of our kind. She's lucky she's made it this long."
"You're right, and I don't care," Mark huffed, folding his arms across his chest. "I knew it would come to this. I knew when she deviated from our trip home from Kate's wedding that she was up to something I knew nothing about." He pushed away from the wall and started pacing. "I told her that she was supposed to take us back to Russia, because we were given a gift, but she ignored me. She met with Sinclair in Canada, and it was all over. He figured out my gift really quickly, because Tanya told him I was supposed to have...something. So he watched and waited. It was confirmed when you guys didn't catch us at that funeral."
Edward and I nodded, but didn't say anything as he continued.
"She..." He stopped, spinning to face the tunnel behind us as a snarling growl echoed through, but was cut short abruptly.
Edward smiled, saying, "Demitri is having way too much fun. You were followed."
I laughed, but turned my attention back to Mark, who was nodding like he'd expected as much.
"How many are with you?" he asked.
"Enough," was all Edward said, and for a brief moment, I wondered if Edward didn't trust Mark, but I realized that if Mark didn't know, then he was safer that way.
"Anyway," Mark continued, "Sinclair wanted Alice, which pissed my ass off. And Tanya just wanted...revenge. It was never about me. It was never about mating. She can make me feel loved, but it's not real!"
I grimaced, thinking that was the cruelest part, his living a lie he'd come to think was real.
"The more I thought about Alice, the more I realized there was a way to get help. Megan was...unexpected. Sinclair changed her, and she survived the fight you guys had in Central Park, but the minute I saw her..." He snorted, shaking his head. "As soon as Tanya realized that, well, she just forced us to work for her. All of her newborns report to her. We're not allowed to go anywhere without her say, without a newborn going with us. The only way I got away today is...I...well..."
"You took care of your...bodyguard?" Edward asked, his voice almost sounding sarcastic.
"Exactly."
"Mark, when will the power go out?" I asked.
"Three days," he said, but held up his hands. "Wait...there's more. She knows there's a human with you. She knows he must mean something to the family if he's under your protection. You have to hide him. She's constantly watching him. I have to go with her, you see, so that you can't see her, smell her."
"But we can feel her," Edward countered. "Your mask doesn't stop Jasper's talent."
"Oh? Well, that's interesting to know," he snorted. "Look, that human is her top priority. She thinks she can use him against you."
"Kevin," I groaned, shaking my head, and Edward wrapped an arm around my shoulders.
"I can see he is important," Mark said with a grimace. "Just...keep him protected if you want to keep him alive, because she's going to act soon. But three days...I'll be pulling the power to the underground tunnels by Ground Zero. There's a shipment of materials that is supposed to be dropped off. The truck will have...an accident, knocking out the power grid. Got me?"
We both nodded, but Edward stopped him.
"Here," he said, handing Mark a small silver flip phone. "It's just in case. Keep it close to you, keep it silent, but if you really need us, then you use it. Every number you need is in there."
Mark stopped, but said nothing out loud. However, everything was written on his face as my husband heard his mind. Edward took a deep breath, but nodded in answer to something silent between them, an unreadable expression on his face.
"Thanks," he whispered, giving my hand a squeeze. He left through the side tunnel.
I looked up at Edward, who cupped my face so very softly. "He asked me to take care of Megan if something were to happen to him."
I nodded, pressing my face in his chest and wrapping my arms around his waist.
There was a rush of footsteps, and we both turned to see Alice running to us. "That changed everything!" she gushed, taking my hand. "He left his mask up long enough for me to see Tanya's decisions. Let's go!"
We decided on our way out of the tunnels that it was time for another sit down with the entire family. In order not to alarm Adrian and Kevin, we took our meeting back to Jasper's cabins, lighting a fire. It wasn't that we didn't want them to know, but that we wanted to have a clearer idea as to what we were all going to do.
"Alice," Carlisle said, gesturing to her to begin.
I settled between Edward's legs, sitting on the ground and propping my arms on his leg. I looked over at my sister as she explained what she'd seen.
"Tanya wants to use Kevin to draw us into a trap. She wants to take him, so that we'll follow without thinking, because she knows that's how we work. She thinks we'll lose our rational thinking if he's kidnapped. She also has every intention of removing Mark and Megan from this whole thing. She's going to kill them," Alice stated, pacing back and forth behind Jasper.
"What of the other vision, pixie?" Emmett asked. "Now that we've talked to Mark..."
"It's similar, but different," Edward and Alice said at the same time, my husband's fingers slowly, lightly playing with my hair.
"Bella and Esme still take after her, but it's a fight. I can see them, but it wavers on who comes out victorious. That's not set in stone," Alice huffed.
I smiled at her pouting face, but turned to Esme. "Ready, Mom?" I giggled.
"Indeed," she said with a wink.
Edward chuckled, bending to kiss my ear. "Don't encourage her, my beautiful girl," he whispered softly.
I could tell that his and Carlisle's moods were lighter now that we knew what we were facing. Now that we knew what Mark wanted from us. If Alice wasn't panicking, then they were fine.
"I can't help it if Esme and I kick ass," I huffed, rolling my eyes, but they all chuckled.
"Hells, yeah!" Emmett laughed. "That's what I'm talkin' about! So what? We wait?"
"Mark said three days," Edward stated. "So I think we better find out exactly when this truck is supposed to arrive at Ground Zero. Jasper?"
"Yeah, I'm on it," he said and nodded. "When we get back, I'll make a few calls, go online...see if I can't hack into the system."
We all knew the tunnels by heart now, so they all broke off into conversations and plans on exactly how we needed to set up. They figured out who needed to be with who, where we would start, and exactly what we needed to expect.
I barely listened as Marcus explained to everyone that, under no uncertain terms, Tanya was finished. She'd signed her own death warrant as soon as she missed her flight back to Russia, when he'd specifically told her that he had no tolerance for disobedience. He also explained that he was not holding Mark responsible for anything, because Sinclair and Tanya most likely used him. He was a young vampire, but they weren't. They should have known better.
"I don't think Mark is responsible, either," Kate stated, leaning into Garrett. "He needed her to guide him through this life, and she didn't. I feel awful for him."
"Is this human worth it?" Eleazar asked. "I've met him, and he's a fine boy, but I just wonder if he can truly be used against you. I know he's with that Adrian..."
"No one touches Kevin!" Alice, Rose and I growled, all three of us starting to stand up.
Edward's arms locked around me, and my sisters were restrained as well by my brothers.
"Easy, sweet girl. He meant no harm," he whispered in my ear.
"I think you have the answer," Carlisle chuckled. "Kevin has become...important."
"Obviously," Eleazar chuckled. "My apologies, ladies. I was just curious."
I huffed, allowing Edward to pull me into his lap. He whispered calming, sweet things into my ear, and they worked instantly, because I melted into his embrace.
"It's okay, my protective girl. He just wanted to know if we were protecting Kevin for another reason, other than how much you care for him," he whispered softly.
I nodded, turning to face him.
"You're so beautiful when you're angry," he chuckled, shaking his head. "But please calm down, my love."
I grinned, shaking my head, but took a deep breath and nodded. "'Kay."
"Speaking of Kev," Emmett sighed, standing up. "Maybe we should get back to the city. This shit's making me nervous. I'd hate to have to smack a bitch around because my Rosie's heartbroken."
I giggled when Edward said, "No kidding," standing up with me in his arms. "Let's get back."
"Son, we're going to stay out here a little longer," Carlisle told him. "But we'll see you tomorrow."
"Okay," we all told him.
"Love you," Esme called out to all of her kids.
"Love you, too, Mom!" we laughed back, getting into two cars.
The boys raced back to the city, parking in the garage. As we made our way through the lobby, we ran into Adrian. He was coming back in the doors.
"Where's Kevin?" Alice gasped, looking around.
"Upstairs. I just walked his sister down and put her into a cab. Why?" he asked, looking at us like we were crazy.
"Aw, hell," Emmett groaned as we skipped the elevator and flew up the stairs.
"Fuck!" Adrian growled when we reached the penthouse level and our apartment door was standing wide open. "Kev?" he called out, but I couldn't hear him, couldn't smell him there. "No, no, no!" he groaned, sinking into a chair at the table.
Stools were turned over and a drink was spilled. Kevin had tried fighting, and I hoped to God she hadn't hurt him.
Rose immediately sat next to Adrian, rubbing his back. "That bitch is gonna die!" she snarled, looking up at Jasper as he picked up a note.
"She tells us exactly where she is," he said, holding up the paper, but I didn't want to see it.
"I'm going to fucking kill her!" I snarled, picking up the closest thing to me, which just happened to be a vase, and threw it across the room. It shattered into oblivion against the wall.
I spun to leave, but found myself caught in Edward's strong arms. "No, baby," he said, picking me up when I fought him. "No, sweetheart. This is what she wants. We have to wait."
"Edward, put me..."
"No," he said, shaking his head. "I'm not putting you down. You'll get yourself killed, love. I won't do it. We have to wait the three days."
"How do you... Everything has changed, Edward," I growled, still fighting him. "She has him, baby!" I begged him with my face, my thoughts to understand, to let me go, but he held firm.
"Because Mark just sent a text, Bells," Jasper said at our side, holding up Edward's phone that he must have dropped when he caught me.
M: I'm sorry. I had no choice. She made her decision as soon as I returned. I will guard him with my life, but DO NOT COME NOW! Three days.
A sob left me without warning, and Edward hugged me close. I could well imagine what Kevin was thinking—like we'd left him, like he needed to do something to help. I knew he would be scared for himself, as well as Adrian, who was just about inconsolable at the table.
Before, three days sounded like just enough time to get ready, to get prepared, but now, three days sounded too long. Three days of worry and grief and hatred. Three days where anything could happen to our friend.
"Shh, sweet girl," Edward soothed, walking me to the living room. "We'll get him back, my love. I promise we'll do everything..."
I nodded, but said nothing, because I could hear Adrian's heart shatter in the next room. He was blaming himself, when it wasn't his fault. Not at all. I was so very scared for my friend, and fucking furious at Tanya, but Edward held me tight until my shaking subsided.
It wasn't long before Carlisle and Esme showed, with the rest of them in tow, the house filling with too many people. I growled low, huffing a deep sigh into Edward's neck.
Without saying a word, Edward stood up from the sofa and walked me into our room.
"That was probably rude, Edward," I sighed, pulling back to look at him as he sat down in our chair.
"Maybe," he said, a slight smile curling the corners of his mouth, "but you come first. Always."
"Thank you."
"Thank me when it's over."


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