Saturday, April 21, 2012 | By: Drotuno

Fate Interrupted Chapter 3

Chapter 3
EPOV

Sitting down in Carlisle's study, I glanced around, a small chuckle escaping me. Despite the extreme differences in time, it was much the same as it had been when I'd first lived with him. There were modern additions, of course – a computer, phone, iPod – but his desk, his bookshelves, and a fair amount of his books were all very familiar. Even the smell was the same.

I felt my hand being picked up, and I glanced over to see Esme smiling at me.

I've tried to change his taste in this office, but he just won't have it.

I laughed softly, looking up at Carlisle when he took a seat behind his desk.

"If she's complaining about this room again, I don't want to know," he teased, giving her a wink. "We all have things we can't let go, sweetheart. This room is mine."

Esme scoffed at him, rolling her eyes, but it was all done in pure affection. My head turned when feminine squeals echoed from the hallway, but it was Bella's thoughts I could hear the clearest. Apparently, Alice and Rose wanted "the scoop," but Bella found humor in the fact that there was no such thing as privacy in a house full of vampires that could essentially hear heartbeats from a mile away just as easily as a whispered conversation from the third floor. But it was now even worse, because there was a mind reader in the house.

Laughing, I cringed when she completely caught me, telling me she wasn't the only one that would be given the third degree. With a slight touch of disappointment, I sighed when all thoughts upstairs vanished out of my head.

"Poor Bella," Esme chuckled, shaking her head. "She's my happy little medium between the two girls. They drive her crazy – Alice with her hyperactivity, and Rose with her cynicism. And I won't even get into what the boys have put her through for the last decade."

Grinning, I faced her and Carlisle again, because it was all happy, fun, familial memories going through their minds. I focused on Esme, much like I'd done downstairs. I'd thought I'd missed her before I saw her, but it was nothing compared to the comfort she'd given me the minute she embraced me. Her thoughts had been centered on how much she'd missed me, but the first thing she'd silently asked me was whether or not I was happy to be back and if I thought Isabella was as beautiful as she did, to which I'd answered both questions with an honest, "Absolutely." But just like Carlisle, she'd followed it up with a warning that I wouldn't be leaving the family again. I'd vowed that I wouldn't.

"Why Bella?" I suddenly asked her, and then gazed up at Carlisle. "Why her? I mean, I understand about Alice's predictions – Bella explained it to me – but she was...human."

Carlisle smiled, his thoughts a blur on just how to answer that question, but he spoke aloud, most likely as a courtesy to Esme. "My theory on Bella started when she first moved to Washington. We'd already been there a few months, the...kids were in school," he chuckled, shaking his head. "Has Bella explained that to you?"

"Yes. Something about being able to stay in one place for longer periods of time. It wasn't anything you and I hadn't discussed in the beginning. We all look young, so I can see how the facade would help. I'm surprised it works, though. Don't the humans recoil?" I asked.

"Some do, but most want to believe what we tell them. Well, everyone but Bella. She had no fear, no normal sense of self-preservation," he laughed. "And Alice was no help. They became fast friends, despite their differences. I allowed the friendship because it made huge improvements on Alice's demeanor and the family loved her instantly, but the first time Bella visited the house, Alice had a vision of you.

"It wasn't until Bella started developing another friendship that I started to become concerned. Her father's best friend was the chief of the Quileutes," he stated, his gaze locking with mine.

"Forks...La Push," I breathed, now understanding why he'd become concerned. I'd been with Carlisle at that time, leaving not long after that. In fact, I'd been with him when we'd created the treaty with the wolves that was now in the forefront of my father's mind. I'd not connected Bella with Forks because it had been so long since I'd been in the Pacific Northwest, but I knew Carlisle liked the area; the weather was perfect for us to navigate in the daytime.

"That same chief has a son, Jacob Black – Ephraim Black's grandson. The boy developed a pretty heavy attachment to Bella, so in order to impress her, he broke the treaty unknowingly, told her all about the legends. All of them," Carlisle continued. "Bella's not stupid, nor is she unobservant, so it was only a matter of days before she finally put two and two together. It took forever to calm Alice down, because she saw us leaving, and Alice wasn't quite ready to let go of Bella. But Alice has a tendency to use her visions for her own benefit." He chuckled, shaking his head. "So when she decided to tell Bella the truth, she saw that it was okay, that Bella accepted it, accepted us. I allowed it. I probably shouldn't have, but the day that Bella came over to talk to Alice was the first time Bella saw this picture."

Carlisle pointed to the shelf just above his head. Sitting in a old silver frame was a picture of me well after my change. I was wearing a solemn expression, but my eyes were clearly amber, despite the sepia tone to the photo. The clothes I was in represented the time – probably the mid- to late twenties.

"The very second Bella laid eyes on you, Alice froze in a vision. You were home again. Bella? She was immortal. She was your mate. Alice was certain of it," Carlisle stated softly, his eyes warm at the memory. "I refused to give hope to that plan. Period. But things have a way of working out, I suppose. The more Bella learned about you – because she became an insatiable sponge for knowledge – the more Alice's visions stayed clear. If I made a decision to leave, not only did Bella disappear, but so did you." Carlisle sat forward, his elbows resting on the desk in front of him, his head in his hands. "And then the worst happened... Bella was involved in an accident. I had no choice but to change her. The mere thought of losing her sent Alice into a frenzy that no one could calm, which in turn caused Jasper to panic. Emmett was fine with the idea; he loves her like his little sister. Rose took some convincing, but not much. She hated that Bella was losing her choices, but even she had become fond of the girl."

"But it was me, Edward," Esme interjected, wincing an apologetic face to Carlisle for interrupting. "I couldn't let her go at this point. Bella had stolen our hearts...almost from day one," she explained, and Carlisle nodded in agreement, only to continue.

"My decision to change her came wrapped up in two very large leaps of faith. I had to believe that Bella would be okay with my choice and that Alice's vision of your coming home would stay true. The hope of your eventual return was better than the devastating thought of never seeing you again," he finally finished, his mind filled with the needless guilt that he might be selfish for wanting it, but he reasoned that I was his "firstborn."

"She suffered," I whispered, frowning at him.

"She suffered no more than you did. She was lonely...and a newborn, not to mention damned powerful. It took a few years for her to learn to control her shield," Carlisle stated. "She was angry, but only because she was losing patience, son. She went through the same things we've all been through. I truly believe Bella was fated for this life, because she learned to control her thirst faster than any newborn I've ever seen."

"How did you get past the treaty? You changed her in Forks?" I asked, my brow furrowing.

Carlisle smiled, nodding. "I simply explained that they broke the treaty first, despite the fact that Jacob Black didn't really believe the legends he was spilling to Bella. We considered the matter...even."

Nodding in acceptance of that, I sighed, "She said she stopped asking about the visions of me. Why?"

"No idea. She would never say, and she was extremely careful around Alice about it," Carlisle replied, shrugging a shoulder.

I nodded again. "I'm sorry I distracted you. What did you want to see me about?"

"It's quite all right," Esme chuckled. "I imagine there are lots of questions you have for us."

"And you for me, I'm sure," I said with a smirk.

Carlisle laughed, but his thoughts turned to my diet. "I think it would be beneficial for you if you and Bella stayed here for awhile. Just to keep your thirst in check. There will be a point of...withdrawal, Edward. You'll need to feed a little more often than you're probably used to. I'd like the family here to help you, though Bella and Alice will be your best resources. Alice will see them coming, and Bella can shield you from acting...rashly."

"Okay," I conceded, "but I'm not sure how Bella will feel..."

"I'll talk to her," Esme offered, patting my hand and standing up. She brushed my hair from my forehead and dropped a kiss to it. "Bella likes her independence, but she's never denied this family anything we've asked of her. For you, she'll do it."

We were both quiet as she left us, shutting the door behind her softly. I turned my attention back to Carlisle. His thoughts were happy that Esme would now have all of her children under one roof. Obviously, it was something for which she'd been yearning. With a deep sigh, he opened a drawer of his desk and set an accordion folder down in front of me.

"I took the liberty of taking care of your finances and identity, son. I hope you don't mind," he stated, his brow furrowing. "Apparently, when you were living in London, you rented an apartment, assigning me as your next of kin. When you didn't return, they sent me your things."

I nodded and sighed, pulling the folder to me. "I was caught by the Volturi in London. They took me straight to Italy."

"I wish you'd have sent word to me," he groaned, shaking his head. "I could've stopped it all then, vouched for you. Aro has owed me for a century."

I chuckled humorlessly, shrugging a shoulder. "I was ashamed, Carlisle," I argued softly, giving the contents of the folder my attention instead of meeting his gaze, because there really was more to it. "I was wrong. I became judge, jury, and executioner. Perhaps I felt I needed the punishment. And it only perpetuated when I found myself unable to stop. The power to deal death is...heady. I don't want to play God anymore," I vowed to him in a whisper, meeting his gaze.

He nodded, his mind filled with sadness but understanding. "I had some identifications made for you. And all your belongings from your parents are in there," he said, pointing to the file. "I didn't want you to lose anything, Edward. Not to mention, you're fairly wealthy now. Eighty years of compounded interest helped."

I barked a laugh. "I'll try not to go on a spending spree. Living as a nomad...money isn't all that important."

"I imagine it isn't," he chuckled. "I can't see you spending it all...ever. Though, don't tell Alice your aversion to shopping. It'll break her heart."

My eyebrows raised at the mental picture he was showing me. I could see that the little thing took her shopping extremely seriously.

"Duly noted," I chuckled.

She's a retail force all her own, he thought to me with a laugh. "You should hear her story, son. In fact, I'm pretty sure it would help you if you heard everyone's stories – especially Jasper's. He's overcome a great many things."

Listening to his mind, I could see that he wanted me to share, as well. "You think they don't trust me," I concluded.

"I know they trust me, and they're willing to give you a chance for Bella, but I'm not sure what they've been told about your situation," he countered. "Alice doesn't always give details, and Bella is extremely private..."

"And you haven't told them," I surmised with a nod as he shook his head no.

Carlisle sighed, his eyes warm with understanding. "It's your story to tell. There's not one of us that wouldn't have done the same thing, son. You had no choice. And I know Aro...he would have manipulated you for all eternity in order to keep you. Your ability, coupled with what he thought was the theft of you from me just made him all the more possessive. If you kept producing favorable results for him, he wouldn't have wanted to let you go. He may still want you...not to mention Bella. I'm well aware that he envies my family, Edward."

"Not envy," I countered with a shake of my head. "He's threatened by you. He doesn't understand it, and therefore, he wants to destroy it. Marcus doesn't care, and he most likely saw that I was never truly loyal to them. Caius...he just loves a conflict."

"Which is another reason you should explain yourself to the family," he told me. "I fear that we haven't heard the last of the Volturi."

I leaned forward, my hands gripping my hair. "I'm not a spy. I did what I had to do in order to survive, Carlisle. But I don't want to bring anything down on this family. I won't."

Carlisle chuckled, which caused me to snap my gaze back to his. "Oh, son... One thing that Aro is right about... My family is very, very powerful – my youngest being his biggest problem. I'd be willing to bet that Bella has barely shown you what she's capable of. I'm sure that's why he sent you for her." He grinned, shaking his head slowly. "I know you're not a spy. I trust Alice explicitly. She would've seen any ill will by now. But I also know you. You're my son, and I've always been able to tell when you're lying. You may don the mask for the Volturi, but not for me."

Grinning, I nodded, thankful that despite the many decades, he could still see right through me. "What do we do?" I asked, giving the door a longing look. I suddenly needed to see Bella, so badly that my skin actually felt like it was on fire, which caused my knee to start bouncing.

"We wait," he said simply, shrugging a shoulder. "Alice is always watching any decisions that come from Italy. In the meantime, we'll get you settled back in, back on the right diet, and back to Bella," he snickered, eying my fidgeting with an overabundance of amusement.

She's perfect for you, he thought to me. I always thought she would be, but I truly see it now.

"I fear I need her too much," I whispered, frowning down at my hands.

"Impossible," he stated, but switched to his thoughts. Newly-mated couples require much more...time, touch, attention. I assure you, you aren't alone in this. Bella is feeling the same way.

"It makes me feel...unstable," I admitted.

You and Bella are independent and head-strong. I promise you, she's feeling exactly the same way. Ask her. He smiled kindly, his mind showing me memories of the beginning he and Esme had shared. Every thought, decision, and action will now revolve around your mate, Edward. You are no longer alone.

"Go to her," he finally chuckled aloud, because my fidgeting only increased. "We'll have plenty of time to catch up. In fact, I wouldn't mind hunting with you."

"Okay," I said, smiling at his laugh and standing up.

Before I reached the door, he said, "And it's good to have you home, son."

Locking gazes with him, I nodded. "It's good to be back."

The house was empty and silent as I walked upstairs, except for the sounds coming from the third floor. I couldn't hear their thoughts, but I could definitely hear the laughter coming from Bella and Esme. The door was open to a rather large room that was currently disheveled. It seemed the room was being made over.

A pile of purple bed linens lay discarded on the floor by the door, along with matching curtains. The bed was now covered in reds and golds, and I chuckled at the girls as they hung red curtains from the floor to ceiling windows. Both were on stools as the sun glimmered off their skin, casting rainbows around the room.

What I used to think was the skin of a killer suddenly looked beautiful against dark brown hair, but Bella seemed to be changing a lot of the things I believed.

"You know, if you didn't have this door locked down tighter than Fort Knox, I'd help you," I chuckled, poking a finger at the invisible barrier that blocked the door.

Both women jumped, bursting into laughter, and the shield lifted. I walked in, dropping my folder from Carlisle onto the bed.

"Sorry, Edward," Bella chuckled, moving the stool over to hang the next section of curtain. "I was trying to spare you the ghastly girl talk. You wouldn't believe what Esme talks about."

"I'm sure I should thank you, but you wouldn't believe what Esme thinks about," I teased, ducking the pop to my head from Esme.

"Hush," she scolded. "Just for that, you can hang this last one."

Laughing, I took the rod from her and secured it into the bracket.

"Show off," they both muttered.

I tsked dramatically, shrugging my shoulders. "If you two weren't built so low to the ground..."

Pillows from either side of the room flew at my head, and I ducked them both.

"Hey!"

Esme chuckled, giving me a wink as she gathered up the great big pile of purple. "Bella, did you want to... I mean, did you want me to save this?" she asked her, and it seemed to be a serious question that weighed heavily between them.

Bella was quiet, and I saw blurry flashes of that same comforter in what seemed to be a human memory, but she simply shook her head no. "No, Esme. It's time."

"Okay, sweetheart," she said with a nod, turning to me. "Edward, Alice has gone to get you some clothes. We'll get you settled in, okay?"

"Yes, ma'am," I answered her, my brow wrinkling as she left us alone, her last thoughts reminding me that she still had my piano.

"Don't sweat it," Bella chuckled, her thoughts now gone. "Alice buys everyone's clothes. Even Carlisle's. The poor man hasn't seen the inside of a department store in forty years. He'd be lost in a Macy's, for sure."

From two floors down, Carlisle's laugh echoed up to us, along with, "You don't hear me complaining, though, do you?"

I chuckled at Bella's silly grin but turned my attention to the room. One long wall was nothing but shelves filled with books upon books, not to mention mementos and framed pictures. The opposite wall was all windows facing the woods, a window seat running the length of it, and from the third floor, it gave an amazing view of a lake not far away. The art on the wall was minimal, mostly classic nondescript oils. The furniture was older, a little more worn than what I was used to from Esme, but I had a feeling there was more to it.

"I don't use this room much," Bella said softly from her window seat.

"Carlisle wants us to stay here. Is that okay?" I asked, glancing over her book titles and noticing that some looked more loved than others, especially the classics.

"If it's what he wants...what you need, then yeah."

Unable to stay away from her any longer, I walked over, silently asking her to let me sit behind her. She leaned back against my chest, my legs on either side of hers. My anxiousness dissipated once my arms wrapped around her and my nose buried in her hair. A million and one questions for her flew through my mind, but only one popped out unexpectedly.

"So what was with all the purple?"

Bella chuckled, but it faded into a deep sigh, and something about that sounded sad to me. She glanced over the room, tracing her fingers up my arms to link them with mine.

"I moved in with my dad when I was seventeen...human seventeen," she clarified. "I had never lived with him on a permanent basis, so he was nervous. He decided to decorate my room for me. Purple. I didn't care, really, but it meant a lot to me that he went to so much trouble, especially since he wasn't the hugging, 'I love you' type of dad. When I got hit by the van, Carlisle had to change me, but as the family hid me at the Cullen home, my dad had a heart attack."

Bella fell quiet for a moment, and I couldn't help but press kisses to the back of her head and squeeze her closer. It just seemed that she needed it.

With a deep breath, she continued. "Carlisle and the boys had to race against the system when Charlie died. They wanted me to have everything that he would've left to me, but they didn't want it to seem suspicious when items in the house disappeared or when my father's home was sold...or even when his finances suddenly vanished off the grid.

"Somehow, they did it. They've tried to explain how it was done, but I didn't – and still don't – care. Esme wanted to bring me some sort of comfort, so she raided my old room, practically setting up a bedroom identical to my human one. Everything in here was from my dad's. The purple became some sort of security thing to me. Don't ask why. I don't know. But Esme got it. They've been trying to get me to throw it out for years, but I wouldn't."

"Why now?"

She giggled, turning to nuzzle my jaw. "Well, this is your room now, too. I guess it was time to finally change it."

"We don't sleep, Isabella," I teased in a whisper right against her ear, smiling when she giggled again, a sound that made the seventeen-year-old inside of me beam with pride.

"I'm sure we'll figure out what to do with it," she laughed, shaking her head and turning a bit in my lap.
"How'd it go with Carlisle?"

"Fine," I sighed, grimacing a bit. "He's worried that the Volturi may still want you...and me, for that matter."
She nodded like she'd assumed as much. "Alice will see them. And now that you're here, you'll hear them."
I nodded once, huffing a frustrated sigh. "He thinks the family doesn't trust me yet."

Bella laughed, shaking her head. "Yeah, well, they'll learn. It's not like you can hide much around here. Jasper can feel deception. Alice will see every decision. Do you still plan on giving me up to Aro?" Her voice was filled with amusement as she raised a sexy ass eyebrow up at me.

I growled, long and low. "Fuck, no," I grunted, shaking my head that I was using that language in front of her; long years being surrounded by various monstrous personalities had changed my speech. She didn't seem to mind, though. "That would be like cutting out my own heart. I might as well set myself on fire at that point," I murmured, frowning down at our linked fingers. They meshed so well, I could barely tell which were hers and which were mine.

Bella's free hand cupped my face, forcing my gaze to hers. "Then don't worry about it. You'll prove yourself, and we'll protect us if the time ever comes."

I couldn't keep my mouth from hers if I'd tried, but I still had a ton of questions that seemed to be bubbling to the surface. I wanted to know everything about her, because she'd had the advantage of learning about me from Carlisle, Rose, and Esme. I was still damned ignorant when it came to her, though she was doing her best to let me in both verbally and mentally.

I lost myself in it all for just a moment – warm, soft lips, sweet, swirling tongues, and quiet moans against skin. When I finally came back to myself, I pressed my forehead to her temple, breathing in unnecessary gulps of air.

"Can I ask another question?" I muttered against her cheek.

She smiled, pulling back, and nodded. "Sure."

"How often did Alice have visions of me?" I asked her, trying to lead up to the question I truly wanted to ask.

"All the time," Bella answered, shrugging a shoulder. "They started when I was human. You'll have to ask her the details on some of them. Or Carlisle."

"Why didn't you want to hear?" It was the question that bothered me the most, and I wasn't sure why. It was like she'd given up at some point, or she just didn't want to know. But even Carlisle wanted to know the answer, because I could hear his mind downstairs freezing in wait of her reply.

Bella groaned, shaking her head and looking out over the forest. "It was very surreal, Edward, falling for a guy in a picture. It was stranger still finding out from my best friend that the same guy was supposed to be my mate. The word mate doesn't make sense to a teenage human girl. It became...difficult to hear that you knew nothing about me, that we had to wait for you. I didn't want to know just how oblivious you were to the whole thing. I also didn't want to know if you were... I mean..."

"With someone else," I finished for her, my head falling back to the wall behind me.

"Yeah," she whispered with a slight nod of her head. "I just don't think I could've dealt with it. It was bad enough that the family was trying to get me to date, sending me to prom...all that stuff. And I never felt comfortable with any of it, because it felt wrong. It felt like cheating, which was strange. You, however, were free to make any choice you wanted. I couldn't bear to know what they were."

That made perfect sense, and it showed just how much she'd been through just...waiting.

"I tried once and failed," I whispered, gazing out over the woods as the sun settled slowly behind the trees. "It was a very long time ago."

"How long?" she asked, looking so very hurt, though she needn't worry; the experience was less than awful.
It had been a failure before it even began.

"Nineteen fifty-four," I stated, shaking my head.

She snorted softly one time. "My mother wasn't even born yet."

I huffed a humorless laugh, shrugging a shoulder. "I regretted it instantly, but I wasn't sure at the time that it wasn't some sort of test for me. I've never felt this way about anyone. I was judged on it all the time, so I tried, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. It always seemed wrong and just...animalistic." But that brought a whole new set of questions to mind. "What about you?"

She grimaced, her nose wrinkling adorably. "I tried one time," she said with a nod. "Same with me...I think I was testing myself. One date – prom – one kiss...I hated it."

"Human?" I asked, trying not to chuckle at the embarrassed look on her face, but she was too adorable.

"Yeah," she groaned, rolling her eyes. She smiled, letting out a breath. "I guess last night was a first for both of us."

I cupped her face in my hands and kissed her lips softly. "For the record, nothing was as amazing as last night. Nothing ever came close to that. It was...everything. And this," I stated, tugging her collar to the side to reveal my mark on her. "This certainly never happened with anyone else. Okay?" I leaned in to press my lips to it. It was slightly cooler than the rest of her skin, a thought that made me smile against it, kiss it again, and finally suckle it just enough to make her groan.

I knew I had more questions, but suddenly, they just seemed so unimportant. Bella was too close, smelling mouthwatering, her fingers threading in my hair to keep me right where she wanted me at the same time she shifted on my lap again. This time, she straddled my thighs, her mind opening to me.

I want you, she thought, growling low when I cupped her ass and rolled her over my instant erection. I can't stop wanting you. Her brow furrowed as she panted for unnecessary breaths while her strong fingers gripped my shoulders, and I could see that Carlisle was right, that Bella and I were both lost to this feeling, this pull between us. I didn't have to ask her, because I could see it all in her mind.

"Yes," I hissed, nodding and pulling back to press my forehead to hers. For the first time ever, I felt like the exact age I was frozen as – all hormonal seventeen, with the most beautiful girl in his arms and the "parents" had left us alone upstairs. "But I want to take my time with you," I told her, nipping at her lips, "and I don't think that's going to happen right this second." I groaned, my forehead hitting her shoulder.

"Why?" she asked, nuzzling my jaw, but she froze. "Alice."

"She's close and extremely loud, mentally," I sighed, pulling back to smirk up at Bella, who groaned and chuckled at the same time. "Right now, no matter what decision I make, she's countering it with...um, interruptions. She also sees that you have questions for me, but I knew that already. I was just waiting for you to ask them."

I grimaced when my girl surrendered with a deep sigh and sat back just a little. "Living with you two will be interesting... Let's just put that out there right now," she muttered, frowning down at her hands, which were playing with the buttons of my shirt.

Laughing, I cupped her face, making her look at me. "I'm sure it will be," I chuckled, leaning in to kiss her neck. "I promise you we'll pick up where we left off, but with Alice's visions coming my way, maybe it's a good idea to...I don't know...get to know everyone?" I rambled, not really sure what I meant. "If you have questions for me, then everyone else will, too."

"I know," she conceded, reaching up to run her fingers through my hair. "Carlisle wants to sit down with all of us, doesn't he?"

Nodding, I said, "Yes. I have to answer to them, sweetheart. I have to answer to you. But we might as well do this with them all here. I need to answer for the things I've done, the life I've lived. I need to prove myself to you, to Carlisle, and to the rest of them. If I were in their place, I'd want to know about the person moving in. Does that make sense?"

"Yeah," she said, switching to her thoughts. I feel like I should protect you from this.

"Don't," I snickered, picking up her hand and kissing her palm. "Alice is assuring me that I'll live through it."

"How close are they?"

"They're turning in the driveway," I answered, but didn't bother to move us as the loud chaos started downstairs.

Alice and Rose came up the stairs with Jasper and Emmett in tow, every last one of them with their arms full.
"Really, Alice?" Bella asked, her mouth falling open.

"Don't judge me!" Alice countered. "You'll both need this stuff. There's hunting, school...not to mention how many articles of clothing you two will ruin all on your very own," she sang, wearing a hilarious smirk.
Bella and I stood up from the window seat, and she told the group, "Just drop it all on the bed. We'll deal with it later."

"School?" I murmured, wincing just a bit.

"Ah, don't sweat it, bro," Emmett chuckled after he'd set his armload down. "No one's rushing you...despite what Alice throws at you."

Of all the minds in the room – besides Bella's when it was open to me – Emmett's was as clear as a spring-fed river. His intentions, his feelings, and his opinions were right there on the surface from the minute Carlisle introduced us. He held absolutely no ill will toward me, and he was truly happy for Bella, because he thought the best part of his immortality was the mating, which caused me to hold back a chuckle. He was easy on the mind, but not stupid, because I could see he was testing me just a bit. He would protect his family, but he didn't think he really needed to.

"You're seventeen, Edward," Alice sighed, rolling her eyes up to me and shoving a pair of black Converse at me. "You have to dress the part, if only for Carlisle's and Esme's sakes."

"I'm over a hundred," I countered, just to hear her and Bella laugh.

"Yeah, well... Me, too," Alice huffed. "When you decide to go to school with us, which you will – I've already seen it – that long ass leather coat can't go with you. It's staying at Bella's apartment. You'll look like the kid that sells weed behind the gym at the last school we went to."

"Aaron," Jasper chuckled, shaking his head. "That boy radiated deception."

If Emmett's mind was clear, then Jasper's was layered, detailed, and complex. I had been shocked at the sight of him, at the sight of so many scars on one single immortal. His thoughts were wary of me, but he hadn't made any judgment against me as of yet. Something in his past kept flashing to the forefront, only to get shoved back. However, he was feeding off of every emotion in the room – mine and Bella's lust that we hadn't quite tamped down, Emmett's amusement, Rose's curiosity, and Alice's excitement. He was pushing it all back out at us.

"That's subtle," I noted, shaking my head and locking eyes with him. "But...powerful."

"This is nothin'," he chuckled, shrugging a shoulder. "Spitfire over there was a hellacious newborn. Talk about mood swings."

He and I laughed when Bella flipped him off without even looking up from whatever it was that Alice and Rose were showing her across the room. From his thoughts, I could see his memory of teaching Bella to control not only her emotions, but her thirst, her strength, and finally, her shield later on down the line. He used his talent to keep her focused and calm, only to set her loose on Emmett just for laughs. But what I noticed most was that he was some sort of expert on newborns.

"She looked like it," I murmured, smirking over at him.

Jasper's eyes locked with mine. "You hear everything? Like Aro?"

"No. Just whatever is going through your mind at the moment," I told him, sighing wearily at the thought of Aro. "Aro needs to touch you. I don't. But he hears every thought you've ever had."

"You gonna tell us the whole story, Edward?" Rose piped up, raising an eyebrow at me.

"Rose!" Bella hissed, frowning up at her, which caused the whole room – thoughts and all – to come to a standstill.

"It's okay, love," I said to Bella, looking back to Rosalie. "Yes. I will."

Carlisle broke the tension, calling up from the living room. "Everyone downstairs, please."

Bags, boxes, clothes, and conversations were immediately dropped, and we all filed down to the living room to take various seats. Bella sat with me on the sofa next to Esme, Rose and Emmett resumed their earlier position on the loveseat, and Alice and Jasper curled up together on the chaise.

Our father took the chair, locking gazes with me, though he spoke aloud for everyone else's benefit. "Are you ready to do this now?"

"They should know," I answered him, spinning my gaze to Rose.

Rosalie Hale's thoughts had always been and always will be about Rosalie, though she was fiercely protective of the family and its secrets. She didn't like the unknown between us. She wanted to make sure I was truly back with the family, despite how much she trusted Carlisle.

"Well, you have the upper hand here, Edward," she huffed. "You know about us..."

"It doesn't work that way, and you know it," I growled, calming just a little when Bella's hand slipped into mine. Not even a whole day in the house, and Rose and I were already bickering; some things never changed.

A calm, mellow feeling enveloped the whole room, and my eyebrows shot up as I glanced over to Jasper. He smirked, shrugged, and thought to me, Ignore Rosalie. I do.

I nodded, sighed, and turned back to Carlisle. "What have you told them?"

But it was Bella that answered softly from my side. "Everything up until you left."

Sighing, I sat forward, filtering out everyone's minds but Carlisle's and Bella's. I realized they were the only two that had at least a minimal idea of what I'd been through, since I'd had no choice but to ask Carlisle for help back at Bella's apartment. But they didn't know everything.

I decided to just start, and that caused an encouraging smile to flicker over Alice's face.

"I was caught in London in the early thirties," I stated. "Aro said he noticed that the papers were reporting a vigilante roaming the streets, taking out the most wanted men in Europe, so he sent a small team to investigate. He wasn't stupid, because he'd noticed that the same thing had happened in the States but had stopped, so he assumed that the person doing it had moved on. And he was right; it was all me. I'd found serial killers, rapists, and abusers from just about every major city and removed them."

I grimaced at how cold that sounded, but it was the truth.

"It got easier and easier once I learned to follow that line of thinking. Someone always knew them, whether they turned them in or not. A neighbor suspected something was strange about the guy next door. A wife wouldn't admit aloud that her husband disappeared in the middle of the night. A coworker was uneasy around the guy that worked at the far back desk. A child was too scared to say that their teacher was mean. I just had to...listen." I ran a hand through my hair, shaking my head. "It became...addicting. I felt I was doing the world some sort of good. I felt like a god when I would wander big cities. I read the most wanted lists and started hunting.

"Just out of simple curiosity, I was following the old Jack the Ripper case in London. He was someone important...I'm damned sure of it. A politician, a member of Parliament, something. Otherwise, he would have been caught back in eighteen eighty-eight. He was sloppy."

My head shot up to Emmett. I had to smile at his thoughts, because he wanted to know if I'd ever missed out on some famous names.

"Yes," I told him. "Plenty. Aro wouldn't always let me go. I really wanted to find John Wayne Gacy and Ted Bundy, and I got to Jim Jones too late. However, the BTK killer would have posed a challenge. I saw he turned himself in decades later."

Emmett grinned and nodded. "Sorry, dude. Ignore me."

Chuckling, I nodded and went on. "Apparently, Aro likes having criminals out there. It makes hiding his people's hunting habits easier, so I messed with that. I heard them coming, but it was too late. Demetri is a tracker, and once he's locked onto you, there's no escaping. My mind is quick, but his was quicker. They gave me a choice: die there in the streets of London, or see Aro for judgment. I chose the latter."

I gazed down at the floor. "I always thought that what we are was unnatural and that I would welcome death if it ever presented itself, but the need to survive is...instinctual. Self-preservation is something that kicks in, especially if you're kneeling on the stone floor in front of the Volturi with two immortals poised to rip you apart. What saved me was that I actually answered Aro's mental questions out loud. He stopped and walked to me, finally touching me. He saw everything," I said with a grimace, looking to Carlisle. "I'm sorry."
No need to apologize to me, son. I'm well aware of how his powers work, he thought to me, but to the room, he just waved the apology away, saying, "Go on, Edward. It's okay."

"I know, but I know he's been watching you ever since. I'm just...sorry," I sighed, running another hand through my hair before I continued. "At that point, Aro stated that I was too talented to be removed, so he offered me a position among his ranks." I huffed a humorless laugh and rubbed my face. "Let me clarify... For the immortals in the chamber around us, he offered me a position. For me alone, he mentally said that if I didn't stay, he'd kill me anyway and then he'd investigate what Carlisle was doing, because he hadn't asked for approval before enlarging the size of his coven...meaning turning me, Esme, and Rose...and Carlisle's diet was too strange not to go unchallenged."

"Edward," Esme gasped, her mouth hanging open just a bit.

"Damn, son..." Carlisle groaned, pinching the bridge of his nose, a gesture of stress and frustration that I hadn't seen from him since the year that Rose was changed.

Bella's hand slipped into mine, but she remained silent, though her thoughts were as clear as a glass of water. You stayed to protect him, she surmised, and I nodded.

"I stayed to stay alive. I had to wait, Bella. If I died, then Carlisle would have no warning. And I wasn't given much time to make a decision. I chose to stay," I told her, though I was well aware it was for everyone in the room. Turning back to the rest of them, I went on. "For the first few years, Aro used me like a remote control, touching me while he listened to everyone else in the room. I was his prized possession. I made life easier for him, but the things I saw..." My head fell to my hands, my fingers gripping my hair. "I absolutely refused to feed at the castle. He knew it, too, tempting me left and right, but I would refrain until I was given leave, because it was all so cruel, the way they treated the humans like cattle, toying with them, teasing them, torturing them. It was innocent women and children, honest working men, and they were usually brought in by the droves. They disguised it under tour groups, or during the Second World War, they would hijack trains bound for concentration camps. That was just..."

I stopped, shaking my head at just how brilliantly devious the three brothers could be. They would use the world's evil to their advantage.

"I was not allowed to leave the city alone for the first decade. When I hunted, I had a babysitter of sorts...big giant of a man – Felix. We actually became friends. He liked hunting the way I did it, but he couldn't do it without me, because his only talent was pure, boulder-crushing strength. I gained his trust, which eventually gained the trust of the three brothers, though Caius and I never really saw eye to eye. It took twenty years to get that far. He would insist that I was not to be trusted, but Aro wouldn't listen to him. And whatever Aro wanted, his brothers conceded.

"It wasn't until I stopped Aro from killing an immortal girl that he saw what I could really do for him. Heidi was talented, even though she didn't know it. She could draw people in, something that Marcus found intriguing. I could see her working it against the guards that were holding her. She'd done nothing wrong to warrant death; it was her sire's fault. He was teaching her to hunt wherever and whenever she felt like it. He was discarded immediately, but Aro had found a new pet that could draw in the humans, and I was then sent out to find more talents. It's what I did for them for sixty years."

I snorted, but looked over at Carlisle. "His guard is laced with talent. Talent that I brought him. Another tracker, James. He's a little rogue, but he's given anything he wants in order to keep him happy. Jane, who looks younger than Alice, but her power is intense. She's mean, which Aro adores, but she can inflict pain...you think you're burning from the inside out. Aro loved her so much that he sent me back to where I'd found her to take her twin brother, Alec, so he could turn him. His power is disarming; it's this slow moving mist or fog, causing his victims to become disoriented, blind, deaf. They only use him on special occasions. There's Renata, a shield, but nowhere near Bella," I said, turning to look at her. "She has to touch Aro in order to protect him."

"How did you get them to go with you?" Bella asked, but the real question was just under the surface. She wanted to know how I'd planned on taking her if I'd decided that my freedom was more important than she was.

"It was easier than you'd think. When you offer an immortal lots of power, the opportunity to feed whenever they want, and a chance to use their talent, they come willingly. For those that didn't, the brothers manipulated them into service...like me."

"Why didn't you run?" Esme's voice was soft as she posed the same question Bella had.

"There was no running. Aro's trackers would have found me. He would've given them strict instructions to destroy me," I explained. "With every talent I brought him, Aro would mentally show me where Carlisle was. He kept tabs on you through his many contacts. You may trust others, but when it comes to the Volturi, some people will cave under threats and manipulation. And even if they didn't willingly tell him, all Aro had to do was touch them."

"Which brings us to Bella," Jasper said softly.

"Right," I sighed, nodding slowly. "The last time I was called to the main chamber, Aro offered me an out. He knew I stayed gone longer and longer just to be away from Italy, and I'd tried more than once to negotiate my leave. He told me of this talent that he wanted above all others," I said, looking over at Bella. "He said that if I brought him this talent, my contract would be terminated – the contract that was only between the two of us. When I asked for the details, he told me that Carlisle had powerful immortals with him now, that Isabella Swan was his newest acquisition, and he wanted her. He didn't even tell me what the talent was, but he just knew it was big. By this time, he'd learned to block me, so I had no idea what she was capable of. I agreed to come to the States, because I didn't know her and because I was desperate. I was supposed to offer her everything I'd offered all of them, but once I found the family, I hesitated. Despite my leaving, I held no ill will to Carlisle, but I desperately wanted out from under the Volturi. It wasn't until I actually caught a glimpse of Bella that my determination flew out the damn window."

Bella giggled, and Carlisle chuckled low, but Alice sat forward.

"That's why!" she gasped. "That's why we had to wait for you! It needed to be the right time. The safest time for you to get away!"

"I suppose," I sighed, shrugging a shoulder. "If your visions work the way I think they do, you would've never seen me make an actual decision, because I didn't have a set plan on how to approach any of it."

"You never made any decisions when it came to coming home," she countered, smiling proudly that she'd been correct the whole time.

"I tried not to think about home at all," I murmured, frowning down at my shoes. "I never meant for any of it to happen, but I did my damnedest to make sure nothing fell on Carlisle. It wasn't his fault."

"You could've called, written...anything," Rose countered, wondering if all hell would fall down upon the family now that I was back.

"No, he couldn't have," Jasper piped up softly, shaking his head, "because Aro would've seen it. The entire conversation would've been right there in Edward's head."

"Exactly," Carlisle sighed, sitting forward to rest his elbows on his knees. His mind was in awe that I'd been loyal to him the whole time, that I'd done things I normally wouldn't have done just to stay alive. "I'm proud of you, son. I'm sure when I say I know it wasn't easy will be an understatement, but..."

"I was a killer, Carlisle," I scoffed, rolling my eyes. "I played God, I decided someone's fate, and I threw away everything you ever tried to teach me."

"No, you didn't," he argued. "You protected the innocent when those around you didn't care, and you protected this family, even when you didn't know who the members were."

"We're all killers in this room," Jasper murmured in addition. "Except for Carlisle. We've all done things that will take lifetimes of penitent behavior to make up for them."

Of all the minds in the room, it wasn't Jasper's acceptance I was expecting to come unabated and with a calm demeanor, but it did. Bella accepted me, loved me...no matter what, I could practically feel it wrapping itself around me as she sat quietly, rubbing her thumb over my knuckles. Esme wouldn't have cared if I had blown up a school bus as long as I was home and was sorry about it. And Carlisle was currently wondering if there was indeed going to be a problem from Aro in the future.

But Jasper's mind opened up to me, silently telling me his story, because he didn't want to upset Alice or Esme with it. I saw a war...the Civil War...which caused my eyebrows to shoot up. I saw his change, his sire – a woman I recognized – and I saw his talent used against hundreds upon hundreds of newborns. He'd trained them for the Southern Wars, ending them when they were no longer useful. I also saw the most beautiful connection between two mates I'd ever seen as he showed me when he met Alice for the first time after his freedom from the South.

"That was you?" I asked, my brow furrowing. "You were in the Southern Wars?"

"Yeah," he sighed with a nod. "My talent was used to keep the newborns...submissive. I was Maria's right hand."

I nodded, thinking that explained all the scarring on his arms and neck. I could well imagine that he was covered in them. It also explained his feelings of respect and acceptance that I was getting from him, because he knew what it was like to be a pawn, to be used to do things that went against not only our human upbringing, but our beliefs, as well.

"You should know..." I started, locking eyes with him. "She's...no more. The Volturi ended her just over a decade ago. I was there." An enormous sense of relief and a touch of joy spread throughout the room, and I smiled at him, saying, "She tried to start rebuilding, but she was causing too much of a spectacle, so we had to destroy them all. I was sent to find any talents that may have cropped up. It's where I found James."

Jasper nodded once but said no more on the subject, opting to link his fingers with Alice's.

Grinning, I shook my head, waiting for Emmett to say what he was thinking.

"So not fair," he huffed like a pouting child, folding his enormous arms across his chest. "Volturi Guards...Southern Wars... All I did was get attacked by a damn bear. So boring."

The room broke into laughter, and despite how everyone thought that Emmett only had strength as a talent, I was beginning to think he had much more to him than that. It seemed he knew just the right time to break the tension in a room...or maybe that was something that just came naturally to him, something that had carried over from his human life. I wasn't sure.

Rose leaned over, whispering things in his ear that despite how softly she did it, I still heard in her mind. Gone was the angry blonde, and in her place was a mated woman that knew just how to get Emmett's attention. It was sexually explicit, almost vulgar, and everything I'd never wanted to know about the two of them.

"Ugh, stop!" I growled, holding my head in my hands, which only caused more laughter to explode into the room. I felt Bella's arm around me as she laughed, but I also felt a hand grip my shoulder.

I looked to see Carlisle standing there, wearing an overly amused expression.

"Like I said... Welcome home, son," he chuckled.

But it was Emmett that seemed to say what everyone else was thinking, "Yeah, he's gonna fit in just fine."

Bella sat forward, kissing my cheek, thinking only to me, Yeah...you'll be just fine.

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