Monday, April 16, 2012 | By: Drotuno

Fate Interrupted - Chapter 2

Chapter 2

EPOV

I gazed out the window as the city slowly merged into something more suburban, finally giving way into rural and forested. The rain had stopped, leaving the morning looking clean, fresh, but still cloudy. It would be good hunting weather – a thought that caused me to grimace. I hadn't hunted animals in over sixty years. I hoped I could do it again. I had to – for her.

I looked over at Bella as she shifted gears and changed lanes. My mate. It was something I could barely grasp, considering all that had happened in the last twenty-four hours. I'd found my reason for existence, my freedom from Italy, and had been welcomed back into my sire's – my father's – arms. Not one of those things had seemed remotely possible before I'd left Volterra.

We'd been quiet since Carlisle left her apartment, even more so since she'd suggested that we drive out of the city. Bella's thoughts were shielded, and despite the fact that I wanted to hear what she was thinking, it didn't really bother me all that much. The mental silence was a relief after almost a hundred years of white noise chaos in my head, but the pull to her, the electricity that generated between us had not abated. In fact, it had only increased, tripling into something I wasn't sure I truly understood, which only reminded me of the first thoughts Carlisle had given me as a warning.

As I'd dressed in her room, I'd listened to him greet Bella with so much love and compassion...and quiet hope – the hope that centered around seeing me, completing his family, and at his youngest "child" for finally finding her happiness. When I'd emerged from Bella's room, my worries, my fears of seeing nothing but disappointment on his features were immediately assuaged. He'd only shown what he'd always shown – the pure, unadulterated, unconditional love.

But along with that love had come a warning. I stared out the window as I remembered my reunion with Carlisle.

~o~

Edward, it's good to see you, and there is nothing that you have done or will do in the future that I can't accept or forgive. However, if you hurt Isabella... He shook his head minutely, but his eyes were hard, his mind showing me that to hurt Bella would be unforgivable in his eyes. He loved her like his own daughter...like he still loved me. She's your mate, son. I can see how you love her already. You can't leave her; I won't allow it. It would kill you both. You've already bonded with her... His eyes fell briefly to the mark on my bare shoulder – Bella's mark.

"I know." I stated firmly, giving Bella a glance. She was so fucking beautiful, she was mine, and the pull to go to her again was strong, almost overwhelming. "I won't. I can't, Carlisle. I just don't know how to fix it."

Being in his presence again was so fucking comforting, so damned easy, because he'd never judged me on anything, but I silently begged him to help me. I felt like the seventeen-year-old boy I once was, the one that had leaned on the man in front of me for everything from learning to hunt, to acclimating myself to being around humans, to focusing on how to touch a piano again without destroying it. My eighty years were stripped from me, my immortality was insignificant, because I was simply a young man in love with his girl, and he just wanted to know how he could keep her, looking to the only person that could help.

"I can leave you two..." Bella offered softly, but I couldn't stand the thought of her all the way across the room, much less actually leaving the apartment.

"No, Bells, stay," Carlisle told her at the same time I begged, "Please?"

We're being rude, Edward, Carlisle thought with a touch of amusement to his inner voice and a twinkle in his eye. It's so easy to slip back into communicating with you this way.

As Bella curled up gracefully like a cat in her chair, my father said, "Son, why don't you tell me what happened, and then we'll see if all hope is lost, okay?"

~o~

I snapped back to the present when the car slowed down, Bella pulling it over to the side of the road. She had amazing taste in cars, I mentally noted as the Audi came to a complete stop. Her shield was lifted and her mind wide open. She was worried for me, concerned about whether or not I was truly ready to change my diet.

"I have to," I murmured, gazing around at the trees surrounding us, finally meeting her amber gaze. "It's the right thing. It's what I should've been doing all along, despite who I was...working for. Carlisle did it when he was with the Volturi. I should have done the same thing."

My list of regrets was endless, detailed, and disturbing. Carlisle had never once asked for an apology, and somehow, I knew he'd never bring it up again. Bella, however, was a completely different road I'd have to travel. Her mind was calm and easy, asking me for nothing other than my presence, but I wanted – no, I needed – to prove myself worthy of her. She loved being a Cullen, loved living amongst humans, and she wanted me to share in that. I had no choice. If I loved her, if we were bound to one another, then I had to face the tough parts – learning to hunt animals again, meeting a now much larger family, and facing the one person that I'd probably hurt the most by my leaving. Esme.

"It's not easy," Bella sighed, her finger tracing the edge of the car's center console. "Going back, I mean." Her nose wrinkling adorably, and I could fight the pull to touch her no longer, so I picked up her hand, linking our fingers together. "I hated that I slipped, but I hated even more just how much I'd liked it."

I nodded, swallowing nervously. "I want to do this. I've done it before, Bella. I can do it again."

She smiled, nodded, and slipped her hand from mine in order to exit the car. I joined her, taking a deep breath. Closing my eyes, I let my instincts take over, my senses sharpening to everything that was around me. There wasn't a human around for many miles, but I could hear heartbeats close by – the rapid flutter of a fox off to the left just under a fir, the heavy thumps of a few deer about five miles straight ahead, and the rustle of feathers as an owl settled on a branch after his long night. Underneath all of that was the sound of beetles rumbling through the grasses, the hum of the electric lines above our heads, and Bella's slow, calm breathing.
"I'm going to help you, okay?" she asked softly, taking my hand.

"How?" I asked, gazing down at her.

She giggled. "Carlisle says you're fast. Very fast. I can't chase you down if you catch a human scent, Edward, but I can shield a large area, okay?"

Chuckling, I nodded. "I can't sense humans..."

"No... Well, this is the Appalachian Mountains. There are people scattered out here. I tried to bring you to the remotest area," she explained, tugging me toward the edge of the woods, "but just in case, I'll stop you if I have to."

Grinning, I wanted to tease her, tell her I wasn't a newborn, but she was only being cautious. Our nature tends to put us in a frenzy when we're hunting – animal or human – so anything was possible.

"Thank you," I whispered, kissing her forehead.

"Hey, I know hikers taste better than deer, so..." She giggled, biting her bottom lip. "Unfortunately, there aren't any mountain lions out here..."

I barked a laugh. "That used to be my favorite."

"I know, Esme told me," she chuckled. "They're my favorite, too, but I haven't had any since we left the Pacific Northwest. Out here, though, there are bears. We can totally rub it in Emmett's face, so let's go."

Like a shot, she was off, but I could also sense when her shield settled over the forest. It wasn't a small area, either. It seemed to move with her in a large circumference like a dome, cutting off half the sounds and smells. But somehow, that relaxed me, because I could trust that she was here to help. She wouldn't let me fail. I'd been alone for so long that it took a second for that to sink in. Instead of the expected feelings of annoyance or frustration, all I found was comfort.

Maybe it was my new freedom, maybe it was the major changes I'd just gone through, or maybe it was simply because I wanted it, but the three deer and one bear that I took down didn't taste as disgusting as I'd remembered. They were nowhere as sweet as a human's blood, the deer much more bland and muddy, but the bear was damned close. And if the bear was close, then I knew my old favorite of lions would still satisfy me like they once had. As I dropped the bear's body to the forest floor, I stood up straight with a smile on my face. I could do this again.

I found Bella in a clearing, perched on a large rock, her knees drawn up to her chin with her arms wrapped around them. Her mind flickered flashes of several memories – past, present, human. It was like she was searching for a specific one or coming to some sort of conclusion, because it was like rifling through a filing cabinet. The faces of the immortals from the club took precedence at the forefront of her mind, as well as Carlisle and Esme.

A soft breeze blew her dark hair back from her face, her scent swirling around me, calling me. She was orange blossoms, freesia, and now she carried my scent on her, which caused a rumbling growl to erupt from my chest.

Her sweet giggle and wry expression cast over her shoulder made me unable to not go to her.

"Yeah, you smell like me, too," she chuckled, gazing down at me warmly with now lighter, honey-colored eyes when I knelt in front of her. "And bear...and deer... How'd it go?"

I shrugged a shoulder, gathering her in my arms so that I could lean back against the rock with her on my lap. "It was a means to an end, Bella. Turning a page, if you will." Cupping her face and caressing her cheeks with my thumbs, I asked, "You hunted?"

"Yeah, two deer," she answered softly. "I left the other bear. When I got to her, I realized she was off limits. Carlisle's rules haven't changed."

Through her mind, I could see that the female bear was pregnant, and I smiled at not the one extra, but two extra heartbeats that she'd heard.

"Twins." I nodded and chuckled, but it trailed off, because I felt the need to clarify things with her. "I had my own rules for hunting," I told her, tapping my temple. "Never innocents. Only criminals. I kept the list of sexual predators on me. I'd hunt them, watch them, take them. Aro hated it, but I refused to hunt any other way.
Human monsters only. I never joined them at the castle. They're more the monsters than they're willing to admit, nor are they as civilized as they like to portray themselves. Tourists, families, people drawn in by our beauty. I'd leave the castle at feeding time, though I didn't stay there very often anyway. I was..."

"A nomad," she whispered, tracing my face with her fingers as I nodded slowly. "Yes, we've run into a few since I've been with the family. Three in particular gave us trouble. One tried to... Well, he wanted me. His mate...or at least that's what she called herself...wasn't happy that she was cast aside for someone new."

A snarl ripped through me unexpectedly, my instinct to protect what was mine kicking into overdrive, despite the fact that it was in the past.

"They are...no more," Bella stated with finality, her eyes dark. "Alice saw what he planned, Jasper used their emotions against them, I trapped them, and Emmett, Carlisle, and Rose destroyed them. It was over within a day."

"Good," I rasped, rubbing the outside of her thighs over her jean-clad legs. "My...former lifestyle doesn't bother you?"

Bella snorted, shaking her head. "No, Edward. We are what we are. It's hard to fight that sometimes. Hell, you probably saved more lives than you took," she stated firmly, her voice almost nonchalant.

The urge to touch her, pull her closer, claim her again was roaring through me like a tidal wave at her simple acceptance of me. "Is it supposed to feel this way?" I asked her almost in a whisper, because I didn't know.
I'd never paid much attention to mated couples in Italy, and I'd tried my damnedest to stay out of Carlisle's and Esme's minds when she first joined us. "I feel...off if I'm not touching you."

She nodded. "Yes, the first several years, especially. And if you're Rose and Emmett, then always," she laughed. "I'm probably an expert on an outsider's view of mated vampire couples."

I wrinkled my nose at just how bitter that last statement came out. "Was it difficult? To be around them, I mean."

Bella cast a glance at the rock behind me, letting out a long, deep breath. "I was... It was... Yes and no," she finally settled on as her answer with a shrug of one shoulder. "My first years as a newborn were rough, because I found out why I was changed. Not only to save me, but for you – which I was okay with, but then when you didn't show and didn't show, I was angry. I felt like this extra person in the family. A fifth wheel. I'd lost my human family, because we'd had to fake my death after the van collided into me. To my parents, I'd died during my transport to the hospital; my femoral artery had been severed. My mother is still around, living with my stepfather, Phil, in St. Louis. My dad..."

I pulled Bella closer to me, hugging her tightly, because a tremor wracked her frame. She didn't need to tell me about her father. I could see it all in her mind. Her father had blamed himself for her death because he was in charge of her well being at the time, and apparently his guilt coupled with his poor health had caused too much stress on his heart.

"Oh," I murmured, kissing her lips softly as I brushed her hair from her face.

"Carlisle tried his best, but there was no bringing him back. I was a newborn at the time, hiding out at the family home, so I didn't know until it was all over. After that, we left Forks," she sighed, tilting her beautiful head at me. "For a few years, my anger was...a hair trigger away. Jasper told me that it was all a part of being a newborn, but I think he was just trying to make me feel better, especially after the hiker incident.

"Don't get me wrong, Edward," she gushed, cupping my face. "I love them all. Immensely. I have brothers and sisters that I never thought I'd have, and Esme is the mother that my own never was. I don't know what I'd have done without her. And her love for you..." Bella shook her head slowly but never finished that sentence.
"Carlisle, though...he's..."

"Amazing," I added for her, and she nodded. "Yeah, I know. Never ending patience."

"Exactly," she snorted, rolling her eyes. "It was frustrating."

I grinned and nodded. "Just when you'd want a damn good fight..."

"He wouldn't give in," she finished with a laugh. "Drove me crazy. If I wanted a fight, I had to pick it with Emmett. He never lost his newborn strength, you see, so he was perfect."

Chuckling, I shook my head at the memory in her mind. This Emmett was a big bastard, but she'd apparently held her own...or he loved her enough not to break her. After just observing her for the past week, never mind my last twenty-four hours with her, I'd be willing to bet it was the latter. Bella was damned easy to love.

"I want to know everything about you," I whispered, nipping her lips with my own, only to pull back to lock gazes with her. "Everything."

"Me, too," she replied softly, smiling sweetly. "We've got this whole...never gonna die thing in our favor, Edward. I think we've got time," she teased, biting her bottom lip.

"Somehow, I'm okay with that," I chuckled, but my laughter trailed off. "This feels so...backwards. In my time, we wouldn't have jumped into things, but..."

"In my time, it's a normal occurrence," she countered, wearing a silly grin. "We aren't human anymore. We are essentially selfish creatures, so acting on impulse – or in this case, instinct – isn't wrong. I can't feel badly about wanting to keep you. Not when I finally got you."

"Then why are you holding back?" I asked her. "I've seen it, felt it...ever since Carlisle left."

She laughed, her eyes darkening into naughty, sexy black as she felt me harden beneath her. "Because you have a family to meet and only one change of clothes."

Grinning, I nodded and sighed. "True, but still..."

Slipping my hands into her hair, I pulled her face to mine. I wanted to consume her, lose myself in her, but she was right. We'd promised Carlisle we'd come to his home after our hunt, but that didn't mean I couldn't satisfy my craving for a small taste of her.

I knew it was playing with fire, because we didn't have time. We couldn't give in to any of it, but the need to kiss her was killing me. Grabbing a fistful of her hair, I pulled her mouth to mine. The need to continuously claim her worried me, but it didn't seem to bother Bella. She leaned into me, turning her head to deepen the kiss as her fingers threaded into my hair. Tongues danced, hands gripped, and hips rolled heavily and lazily against each other.

Giving her hair a sharp tug, I pulled her head to the side, leaving long, slow, open mouth kisses down her neck. I smiled when she released a low, feline sounding purr, only to change to a growl when I nipped at her skin. I couldn't wait to find all the places that caused her make those sounds, because I was quite sure I hadn't found them all yet. Though, I'd tried my damnedest at her apartment.

"Edward, we need to go," she said breathily against my jaw.

"I've met Alice," I whispered just before suckling her earlobe. I cupped her ass, grinding her slowly over my erection. "I was there when Rosalie was changed," I told her softly, dragging my lips across her throat, only to start all over on the other side of her neck. "Fuck... You taste so good...right here," I mused aloud, swirling my tongue along the soft spot right behind her ear.

"We promised Carlisle," she begged softly, her fists gripping the shoulders of my shirt.

I stopped, let out a heavy breath, and pulled back to look at her, my head falling back to the rock behind me.
"What do they know about me?"

"With Alice? Probably everything. Including this stalling tactic you're using," she chuckled, kissing my lips.
"She sees it all, whether she wants to or not. She tries to give us our privacy, but she can't always help it."
"I know the feeling," I chuckled, tapping my temple. "I've seen and heard it all."

Bella's nose wrinkled adorably. "That must suck."

"Not with you," I countered honestly. "It must be your shield. You soften the level of it. I feel almost normal. I think that's how you caught me on the rooftop."

Bella grinned wickedly and beautifully. "I caught you because I'd shielded the entire block so you couldn't hear behind you."

Laughing, I pulled her close, wrapping my arms around her. "Well, thanks for not dropping me in the barbecue pit, love."

"No problem," she chirped, grinning as she stood up from my lap. "Come on. I promise... No barbecue pits, and no one hates you...not even Rose. They've kinda been looking forward to this."

"For you...or for me?" I asked, standing up in front of her and brushing off my jeans.

"Both," she said, but it was the sweet, warm smile that just did me in. I'd walk into hell just to see it.

Shoving my hands into my front pockets to keep from grabbing her again, I shook my head. "That doesn't make me any less nervous. Esme was really hurt when I left."

"She loves you."

"It's been over sixty years, Bella," I argued, gazing out over the woods around us.

"And we don't change. She still loves you. She's missed you."

"I've missed her, too," I whispered, frowning at just how true that statement was.

Bella reached out, tugging on my shirt. "Then let's fix that."

Swallowing nervously, I nodded, letting her lead us back to the car.

~oOo~

BPOV

Carlisle had explained to me once how the Volturi operated, the things they governed, the role they played in the immortal world. He'd told me they made sure that the one fast rule was never broken – that we stay a secret from the humans. He'd spent many years with them, so he knew more than just their laws; he knew the three brothers. Caius, cold and calculating. Marcus, seemingly emotionless, with the ability to see the bonds between relationships. And Aro, probably the most frightening of all, because despite his outer demeanor of civility and good manners, he was ruthless, listening to every thought in your mind if he got the chance to touch you. If he wanted something, he had no shame in taking it. And Aro always wanted talents. Carlisle protected me, Alice, and Jasper for that very reason, especially when Alice saw a pending war on the family.

The stories had scared the shit out of me when I was human, giving me nightmares for weeks, because I was pretty sure Alice knew that Edward had been with the Volturi at that point.

"Really?" Edward gasped, his head spinning away from the passenger side window as we made our way to the family home. "She knew?"

I shook my head. "You'll have to ask her. I told you she saw you whenever your name was mentioned, but I stopped asking after a few years. I made her promise that she would let me know when you decided to come home, but anything other than that, I didn't want to know."

"I think Carlisle knew," he stated softly, his eyes and fingers focused on a nonexistent piece of lint on his jeans. "When I was telling him what happened, he didn't seem all that surprised." He sighed, shaking his head. "My talent saved my life, but it also kept me prisoner."

"What did you do for him?"

"Hunted talents," he murmured, looking away from me and back out the window. "You were to be my last."

"I was your last," I chuckled, which caused a beautifully crooked smile to creep up on his angelic face. "How did he know about me?"

"Scouts," he replied, looking over at me. "He reads every mind that comes through his chamber. If someone you knew visited Italy, it's quite possible that he saw you. My place was not to ask the how...I merely was told where and to bring them back."

"Did you ever try to run?"

Edward huffed a humorless laugh. "No. I couldn't run. The first decade, I was watched like a hawk. Aro told me that if I ran, he'd track me, and he could. He's got trackers that can hunt anyone down. I should know...I gave him one of them. So even if I had gotten free, I couldn't have just come home. I would have led them straight to Carlisle."

"So why agree to come get me?" I asked, slightly hurt that he would risk leading them to Carlisle again and that I was just the next talent on Aro's list.

Edward's deep red eyes softened at my line of thinking, and he picked up my hand and kissed my palm, sending sparks of electricity throughout my entire being. "I didn't know you, Bella. But I saw it as an opportunity to cut a deal with him, to end my time with them. He wanted you above all others, so I used that against him to come here. It all changed when I saw you. I'd never been so conflicted."

"And the rule about mates?" I asked as I finally turned down Carlisle's long, winding driveway.

"It's steadfast, and I can't believe I didn't remember it," Edward chuckled, looking up when the house loomed large, white, and grand in front of us. "They know I'm here," he muttered, his brow furrowing.

I don't have to read minds to know what they're all thinking, I thought to him, grinning when he spun his gaze my way. Alice is just happy to have another "mind freak" in the family. Her words, not mine. Rose is Rose. Nothing has changed when it comes to her, so her thoughts will be centered on how this affects her. Jasper will be curious, but protective. He's an empath, so he'll read everything you're giving off, but he's sweet and kind, too – which means that he'll calm you if he thinks you need it. Emmett will be guarded...for about five seconds. Believe me, he's happy another man is joining the family. He's tired of being outnumbered.

Edward's head tilted just slightly as he chuckled a bit. "There are no relationships like this in Italy."

"There are no relationships like this in humanity," I countered with a laugh. "Come on. They'll love you because I do."

It really was that simple, though I knew he was still nervous. Hell, if the roles had been reversed, I'd have been terrified. I also knew he had to resolve his leaving with Esme.

The smile that graced his beautiful face was shy, sweet, and every bit the seventeen-year-old he'd been frozen as, giving away everything he was feeling at the moment as he gazed at me through his long, dark eyelashes. Even though his eyes were red, they still held warmth, love, and worry.

Leaning across the console of my car, he whispered, "Love you, too," against my lips.

Somehow, that simple sentence – or maybe it was the kiss – gave him enough courage to open the car door and step out onto the driveway. I couldn't help but giggle, because I could hear Alice's bouncing happiness as we stepped up onto the front steps.

I gave his hand a squeeze. You'll be just fine. I promise. Ready? I thought to him.

He nodded, his brow furrowing just a bit before I opened the door. I wanted to roll my eyes at the welcoming committee that was in front of me. The entire family was in the living room. Thank God, though, Carlisle stepped forward.

"Son," he greeted, wearing a giant happy smile and shaking Edward's hand. "How'd it go?"

"Fine. Good, actually," he answered, running a hand through his hair.

"Excellent!" Carlisle praised, turning to face the room. "Edward, our family has grown a bit. Let me introduce you to those that you don't know." He gestured to Emmett. "This is Emmett. He joined us not long after you left. He's Rosalie's mate."

The two boys nodded once at each other, and Emmett was trying to keep a fierce gaze on his face with his huge arms crossed over his chest, but he failed miserably, breaking out into his usual carefree, dimply grin. "'Sup?" he asked with a wave. "Maybe now Bells won't be so cranky..."

I growled deeply, stepping forward. "I can show you cranky, Em."

"Bring it, baby sis," he chuckled, waving me forward.

"Emmett, shut it!" Alice warned, rolling her eyes as she stepped forward. She didn't bother with a handshake, but hugged Edward, who was a little taken aback. "Finally, a civilized brother," she giggled, sticking her tongue out to a scoffing Emmett. "Nice to see you again, Edward. Glad you made the right decisions."

She must have shown him something, because he grinned, both of them shooting a glance my way.

"Me, too," he agreed with her, shaking his head.

"Yeah, I'll show you how it works sometime," Alice laughed, answering some unasked decision that Edward must've made.

"This is Jasper, her mate," Carlisle continued with an amused smile on his face. "You two have a lot in common. He and Alice joined us in the fifties."

Jasper stepped forward, but Edward's instincts kicked in due to how dangerous my brother looked. He was covered in scars, all received from his life prior to Alice.

Jasper sent him a calm, friendly feeling and held his hand out. "Nice to meet you."

"You, too." Edward visibly relaxed when he took Jasper's hand, until his head spun toward Rosalie, who was sitting next to Emmett on the loveseat. "Yes, I can, Rose," he said with almost a growl. "I see you haven't changed one bit. And no, I hadn't thought that far ahead."

"Just checking," she chuckled wryly, rolling her eyes. "Welcome back, then, Edward."

He huffed a noise, but his eyes landed on the far side of the room where Esme was standing. His fists clenched and unclenched over and over. We all shut up, because we knew just how much our mother had missed her "firstborn" son. She carried no anger at his leaving, just simply a mother's worry. She was the sole reason I'd kept my sanity all these years, because she had faith that Edward would come home.

He walked to her, saying, "I'm sorry, Mom."

It was three simple and quiet words, but their meaning was everything. Esme's smile could've lit up the New York skyline, but Edward's head hung in shame as he stood before her.

"My sweet boy," she whispered, cupping his face and standing up on her toes in order to kiss his cheek. "I'm so glad you're home. I've missed you. My family is whole again."

She had to have said something to him silently, because he suddenly chuckled. "Yes, ma'am. Absolutely. And no, I promise." Once again, he looked like a sweet teen boy.

"Did Bella take you hunting?" she asked him.

"Yes. It'll take getting used to again, but..." His voice trailed off, because there wasn't a person in the room that didn't understand, except maybe Rose. She'd never fallen off of our diet. Ever.

"I have faith in you, son," Carlisle stated firmly. "I'm sure it's not easy, and we're all here for you. But your mother and I would like to talk to you alone, if you don't mind."

"Yes, sir," Edward answered, giving me one last glance before following Carlisle and Esme up to Carlisle's study.

"He's nervous," Jasper muttered to me, wearing his slightly crooked smile. "But happy."

"Thanks, Jazz," I told him.

"And boy, oh boy..." He huffed a laugh, draping an arm around my shoulders. "Does he have it bad for you, darlin'. That's a lot of lust he's pushing. However, he's not the only one," he chuckled, raising an eyebrow at me.

I tried to give Jasper a stern look, but the laughter in the room was contagious. And I couldn't deny it, either, because after hunting with Edward, after he kissed me stupid as we sat against that rock, I still wanted him. Badly. He was so beautiful – more beautiful than any picture Carlisle had ever shown me – but it was more than that. It was his sweet acceptance of everything, the fact that he needed me, and just how comforted and loved I felt in his presence. And it had all happened the second we'd spoken to each other, the moment we'd touched. I'd never been so grateful for Alice's visions as I was in that moment.

"You, on the other hand... There's a calmness to you now that wasn't there before," Jasper whispered, his brow furrowing. "No more anger just under the surface."

I smiled and shook my head. "No, there's not."

"Girl talk!" Alice suddenly squealed, taking my hand and Rose's, practically dragging us up the stairs and into the room that Esme had designated as mine on the top floor.

It was an illusion, the idea of a separate "girl talk" conversation. We were in a house filled with ultra-sensitive hearing – and now a mind reader, which caused a soft, deep, sexy chuckle to echo up from Carlisle's study.

Laugh it up, Edward, I thought to him, grinning when he snorted again, trying his best to shut up. Just wait. You'll get cornered, too. Welcome to the world of siblings.

With that last thought, I dropped my shield down over the room. No need to embarrass him with mine or the girls' thoughts, because I was pretty sure I was about to take the brunt of it for both of us. Alice and Rose were ruthless when it came to girl talk, something that I was never comfortable with as a human and even less so as a vampire. My personal life was practically nil as a human, which only made my sisters that much more meddlesome, especially after I'd discovered Edward's picture and what the Cullen family truly was. They'd wanted me to find a human boy, someone I could date, but it had been impossible. I'd tried, but failed miserably – it was fumbling, awkward, and unappealing. Once I was changed, my personal life bottomed out to zero, nothing, nada. I was an angry newborn, waiting for the mate that I wasn't sure would ever show.

I gazed around the bedroom I rarely used. It was classic, yet with a touch of modern here and there. I wasn't her frilly girl, so Esme kept the feminine things to a minimum. She always set it up exactly the same, using the things from my human room at my dad's, my things in perfect order, but after we'd "graduated" from the last school, I'd begged for a break. I'd wanted my own place, separate from the family, away from perfect couples. I didn't want school again – at least, not quite yet. So when we'd moved to New York, I'd found an apartment of my own.

"You'll have to stay here again," Alice said knowingly as she sat on my bed. "Edward will need to feed more and more as his cravings change. That's what Carlisle is discussing with him now."

I nodded, falling down onto my window seat. Bringing my knees up to my chin, I asked, "Will he struggle?"

"Yes, but not enough to falter," she replied, shrugging a shoulder. "He's made the decision, so his future looks pretty set, no matter which way I look at it."

Rose snickered as she slowly walked around my room, her eyes on my endless collection of books. She reached up and tugged one down. "May I?"

"Yeah, sure," I told her.

"Edward is pretty tenacious and a perfectionist...a deadly combination," she said, sitting next to Alice on the bed, my copy of the latest Anne Rice in her lap. "It's how he left in the first place. He was determined to prove his point to Carlisle. If he's set his mind, then he'll bust his ass to get it right, to control his thirst for human blood. He was damned good at it before he left."

"I thought you didn't like him," I scoffed, rolling my eyes.

I adored my sister, but Rose wasn't exactly a member of the Edward fan club, simply because he'd never really understood why Carlisle changed her. They'd told me he was vocal about it. Carlisle had merely been trying to give Edward company, hopefully a mate, and to save Rosalie, but it had backfired. They were just simply two very different personalities.

"I never said I didn't like him. I just always assumed he'd left because of me. I'd only been changed a year..." Her voice trailed off. "We argued constantly."

I frowned, having heard this before, only from Carlisle. I also didn't like hearing about this strong-minded Edward that was determined to leave.

Rose's eyes narrowed on me, and she stood up to join me on the window seat. She reached up to the collar of my shirt, jerking it gently to the side to reveal Edward's mark where my neck met my shoulder. She grinned, shaking her head.

"Nothing I say at this point will matter, will it?" she asked with a laugh. "You'd kick my ass for any wrong word against him. You mated."

I brushed her hand away with a nervous laugh, resting my cheek on the top of my knees. "Yes," I whispered, a sound that would have been silent to human ears.

I flinched at the squeals of excitement that erupted from my sisters, shaking my head and rolling my eyes, because I wasn't fucking stupid. I knew what was coming.

"Well?" the both practically yelled.

I laughed, waving them off, but it was useless; they'd never leave me be unless I gave them something. I looked to Rose. "It was like you said it was with Em...instant, electrical shock the first time we touched. We couldn't stop it if we tried."

"You can't stop it. It was meant to be. Just like I told you ages ago," Alice stated, wearing a silly as hell grin. "Now, aren't you glad I made you come to the club?"

"He changed his mind there, didn't he? At least, that's what he told me." I looked to her, but she was already nodding. "Thank you," I mouthed to her, because I had absolutely no doubt that her approaching him that night had changed everything.

She smiled, bouncing on my bed. "Spill, Bells. What's he like?"

My eyebrows shot up, and I laughed. "Not a chance, shorty. And it's not like you can't see it all..."

Alice had the audacity to try to play off a hurt expression, but Rose and I laughed at her. We knew damn well that she saw everything, no matter if she wanted to or not.

"Come on, Bells. Tell us... Has he got a big—" Rose started with a wicked look on her face, but she was interrupted before she could get another word out.

"Rosalie Hale Cullen, don't you dare finish that sentence. You're becoming more like Emmett every day," we heard from the doorway. Esme's amusement could barely be contained, but she was a mother to her very core, so she tried her best to keep us all in line. "Alice, I need you to—"

"Already done, Esme," Alice chirped. "I ordered online."

"Well, go get something for now, and take the boys with you," she told her, smiling evilly when Jasper and Emmett groaned like children from the living room. "Go! Scoot! Edward will need everything, so stock up well. And you might as well stock Bella up, too. Carlisle says they'll have to move back in."

I couldn't help but giggle at her. Her voice was just stating facts, but her face screamed happiness at the prospect of all her children back under one roof. She also wasn't fooling anyone. She wanted me alone.

"Fine, fine," Rose chuckled. "Time to talk to the baby," she teased, shoving me playfully before getting up to leave the room.

I lifted my shield, letting my sisters out and my mother in. We waited silently as we listened to the argument downstairs. The boys didn't want to go, but they wouldn't dare go against Esme's wishes. The only way to placate them was for Alice and Rose to promise they could get a new video game.

Esme sat across from me, reaching out to tuck my hair behind my ear. "I know you like your apartment—"

"But Edward needs to be close to the woods. I know," I answered her before she finished. "Miss Esther will be upset."

"You don't have to get rid of it, sweetheart," she chuckled. "God knows, you'll need an escape. You and Edward are more alike than you know."

Grinning, I looked out my window over the vast expanse of forest that surrounded the Cullen home. While I chose to push my control limits by living in the city with humans all around, Carlisle always picked a wooded area, so upstate New York worked better for him. It gave them the freedom to be normal.

Esme cupped my cheek, much like she had Edward's. "You look... You're glowing, Bella," she whispered, her eyes falling to the mark on my neck.

Smiling, I pulled my collar up a bit. "He's...beautiful," I whispered back, unable to articulate what I truly wanted to say. Finally, I just opted for, "He was worth the wait."

Esme tilted her head at me. "I'm glad. You both deserve happiness. And now you'll have it. Always." She sighed, curling her legs underneath her. "Edward was always a good boy. He helped when he could when Carlisle found me. He got lost in the world, probably saw things no one ever should have, but I'm glad that things happened this way. There's something to be said for uninhibited love."

I shook my head at her, giggling. "You read way too many romances."

"I know what I'm talking about, Isabella Marie." She tried to sound reprimanding, but really, she could only laugh with me. "Fine, so I love a good love story. Sue me."

We were quiet for a moment. I gazed back out the window as she picked up my hand. Esme was my security blanket, my safe haven from everyone else. We could practically talk about anything, and she always knew if she should just let me be quiet.

"You know what I think?" she asked, and I shook my head no, meeting her eyes. They were warm, sweet, and comforting. "I think that this was how it was supposed to happen. That Edward was supposed to meet a strong, immortal girl, not a human like Alice theorizes. How heartbreaking it would've been if you'd been human and he couldn't love you like he wanted, like you'd have wanted to love him? Mated to a human would be misery, because you already worry enough when your mate is unbreakable. Imagine all the things that could happen to a human.

"And Edward was...intense back then," she continued. "He was fiercely loyal, protective of the family, and had the ability to love with his whole being. He would've gone insane if his mate was a fragile human girl."

Her love for her "oldest" son had never wavered. Carlisle had told me that the minute Esme opened her immortal eyes, she assumed the role of Edward's mother, simply because he had been changed so young. He said Edward had needed it, protected it, and developed a bond with Esme instantly. But like all vampires, after a few years of never aging, always moving, and constant thirst, Edward starting questioning...well, everything. He questioned whether there was a God and if he had a soul. He wondered why we needed to restrain what we truly were, when he obviously had the capability to see into the minds of evil. And he wanted to stretch his wings and fly.

I'd asked all those same things. However, I never flew as far away as Edward had. Carlisle and Esme never blamed, nor thought less of any of us for any of it.

Esme was right on one point. Edward loved with his entire heart and soul, whether he believed he had them or not. I could see that from the second we met. His eyes, despite their harsh color, told it all – his instant acceptance of us, his remorse for all that he'd done, and his hope that Carlisle could fix his situation, because he couldn't turn me over to the Volturi for the freedom he'd waited so long to have.

I nodded that I'd heard her, but said nothing. I could barely wrap my head around the fact that Edward was home, that we were indeed mated, and that everything from that point on had to change, much less think about what it would've been like to meet him while I was still human.

"Come on," she said, patting my hand. "Let's get this room ready. I think it's time to get rid of the purple. I've got just the thing to change it. And I think Edward and Carlisle will be a minute."

With a laugh, I nodded and stood up, suddenly wishing Edward was in the room, but I think Esme understood that, so I followed her lead. It felt strange needing him like that after being independent for so damn long, even as a human. As Esme and I stripped the bed, I smiled, wondering just what other changes were in our future.

1 comments:

LoLo-50 said...

I just hope they get to keep that happy go lucky kind of life but you know Aro never likes to loose so I suspect some shit is going to come at them.

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