Thursday, June 28, 2012 | By: Drotuno

Fate Interrupted Chapter 6

~oOo~

Chapter 6

BPOV

My phone bleeped from my pocket, and I scowled at the message from Alice.

A: Twenty-two minutes. And you'll live. I promise.

I tsked, rolling my eyes at her, and shoved my phone back into my pocket. I went back to helping Esme re-pot a few flowers. It was just the two of us in the back yard for the moment, though Edward wasn't far and Carlisle was inside the house. Everyone else had gone to meet the Denali clan and go for a hunt.

"Isabella, what's wrong with you?" Esme laughed, nudging my shoulder with her own. "If looks could kill, my poor daisies would be withered."

"Nothing," I scoffed, shaking my head and forcing my attention on the task at hand.

I had no luck whatsoever with gardening, but Esme insisted it was a calming activity, which it was, but only because her presence made it that way. If it were all on me, the poor garden would look like the Apocalypse had hit. When she first started to teach me, I was heavy handed and had no patience for it, but I'd been an angry newborn at the time. Now it was our time to chat, though I wasn't feeling very talkative at the moment.

"Liar," she chuckled, shaking her head.

"Alice says they're on their way," I said softly, not elaborating on my mood, but as usual, it came spilling out to her in a hiss. "Did we have to call them? I mean, really? It's just that... Okay, calling them was fine, but did they have to come here?"

"They merely want to show their support for Carlisle, dear," she soothed, gracefully pulling one plant from its pot and slipping it into a bigger, prettier planter.

I wanted to call bullshit when I heard it, because I knew them, but I didn't. "No, Carmen and Eleazar are coming to show their support. The rest are just...curious, and you know it."

"Maybe," she said, cracking the fuck up.

She knew how I felt about the three Denali sisters. Well, more specifically...one Denali sister. Tanya. I'd been introduced to them not long after my change. We'd stayed in Alaska for a few months in order to get not only my finances squared away but to give me a chance to relax after Charlie's death. They'd all been very welcoming until they'd heard why I'd been changed. Or really...the who behind the reason for my change: Edward. Then they went from welcoming to regaling me with endless stories because they'd met him decades back – and they'd all wanted him.

Tanya, Kate, and Irina were considered the original succubi. They were stunning, possessing powers that drew in men. If they wanted someone, they got them. Emmett called it their "voodoo mojo." Now, they shared the same diet as we did, but back when they'd first been changed, they would lure human men into their beds, give them the highest of sexual pleasure, only to finally drain them. The diet had changed, but their love of men had not. And I wasn't so sure they cared whether the men were human or not.

They also couldn't be any different from each other. Kate was my favorite of the three. She had long blonde hair, a carefree attitude, and a sweet smile. We both shared a love of books. Irina was a bit more playful and mischievous, with a touch of a mean streak in her. And then there was Tanya, who wore her beauty and her power like a warm, winter coat. It was practically an aura around her. Her walk, her gestures, her speech, even a toss of her strawberry blonde hair – it all dripped with endless carnal and sensual knowledge.

When the three women had found out about Alice's vision concerning Edward being my mate, they'd scoffed, not believing he'd ever come back. But that didn't mean that they didn't tell me all about him – from their point of view.

Every last one of them had tried to bed him, but he'd politely declined them – a thought that still made me smile. Kate had called him "deliciously handsome," telling me that his quiet, cool nature was sexy. Irina had called him "a tall drink of water," with hair that begged to be pulled. Tanya, however, said that he was "hung like a horse" and had the potential to be "an amazing lover." How she knew the former, I'd never know, because I was petrified to ask. In all honestly, the three woman had scared me back then.

"Why is Aro taking so damn long?" I asked, squishing the flower I was supposed to be re-potting down into its new home. "It's utterly ridiculous in this day and age for it to take this long to travel. He's probably got more money that God Himself, yet Alice hasn't seen them leave Italy. He could just...I don't know...charter a fucking plane," I ranted, instantly regretting my language. "Sorry..."

"Sweetheart, you're tearing up my marigolds," she chuckled, gently taking the pot from me and pushing it away. She turned me to face her, whispering, "No one is taking him from you, Bella. Not Aro and certainly not those hussies from Alaska." She kissed my cheek when I smirked at her. "He's your mate, and he loves you. You watch how that works if those three get a wild idea in their head because he not only will hear it, he'll hate it. He despised it back then, and he'll be no different now." She paused just long enough for me to nod. "As far as Aro is concerned, well...no one threatens my family. If he can't accept us, then we'll fight. We've done nothing wrong, according to their rules. And they can't separate mates. It's a concrete law."

I could see that she was nervous, but she was determined that the right would win out in this situation. I wanted to believe her, and there was a part of me that did. I was just angry enough to know that if push came to shove, I'd kill anyone that touched my family. And I'd completely snap if they tried to touch a hair on Edward's head. But Carlisle wanted us calm, cool, and collected. He wanted to approach the Volturi with facts and reason and a polite decline to their invitation of joining them. He wanted to prove that we were better than they were.

"Do you think that's what Felix meant? When he told me that they'd be bringing their wives, do you think he meant for me to do something about it?" I asked her, but it was my favorite smooth, velvet voice that answered me.

"That's exactly what he meant," Edward said, setting two bags of potting soil down on the table that Esme had sent him to the shed for. "In his mind, he saw it coming down to a fight. He sees the wives as...um, leverage, so to speak."

I nodded, trying to wrap my head around that, but said nothing. I'd never been in a real fight before. Wrestling matches with my brothers, yes...a true battle, definitely not.

Turning back to the table, I reached for one of the bags that he'd brought. "Alice said they're almost here," I mumbled, "so I guess we'd better finish this..."

"I'll finish here, Bella. Go get cleaned up," Esme said, shooing both of us away from her table. "Go!" she laughed. "And don't touch anything but the kitchen sink! Both of you."

"God, you're so bossy!" I teased her with a laugh, absolutely loving the sound of Edward's amused chuckle at us. "Heaven forbid a speck of dirt sully your house," I growled, dodging a clump of potting soil aimed at my head.

"Mmhm, go!" she ordered, smirking and pointing toward the house.

Edward followed me quietly into the house, leaning next to me as I washed my hands. Once his were clean, he picked me up and set me on the kitchen counter, stepping between my legs.

Cupping my face, he whispered, "What are you thinking? You've been closed to me all day."

I groaned, hiding my face in my favorite spot – the crook of his neck and shoulder. My body shook with his light chuckle, but he held me close, dropping sweet, soft kisses to my cheek.

"You really don't want to know," I mumbled against his skin, closing my eyes as the scent of him invaded my nose. It was soothing down to my very bones. "It's dumb."

"It is impossible for any thought of yours to be...dumb, Bella," he snickered. "Try me."

Keeping my face hidden, I opened my mind, letting him hear my thoughts during my chat with Esme, including my memories of the Denali sisters.

He groaned, taking a deep breath and letting it out. "Beautiful, you have nothing to worry about with them."

"I know, I know," I muttered, gripping the back of his shirt in tight fistfuls. "I told you it was dumb."

"Want to know how Tanya knows...that about me?" he asked, his voice sounding amused yet a touch embarrassed.

Gasping, I pulled back, gaping up at him. "Are you fucking kidding me?"

"Wait, wait," he laughed. "Love, it's not what you think. You're right on one thing... They were relentless..."

"Tanya saw you?" I interrupted in almost a squeak.

"She tried to barge in on my shower once, thought it would work out in her favor," he explained quickly, looking even more embarrassed. "I heard her coming. Anything she saw was quickly covered up by a towel. What she saw and what she bragged to her sisters about seeing are two very different things, Bella. I promise you. Tanya does not like to...fail."

I humphed, rolling my eyes.

"Isabella," he growled sexily, pressing his forehead to mine. "I know what they are. Nothing about the...desires or feelings they instill in men is real. And they most certainly do not hold anything resembling a caring emotion for their prey."

I snorted at the word "prey."

"That's what men are to them, sweetheart," he continued. "It's a contest, an ante between them to see if they can reel in the object of their...obsession...not affection." He kissed my lips softly. "Kate, Irina, and Tanya consider themselves the original succubi, but they most certainly aren't the only ones out there. They only win if the man has no mind of his own." He huffed a laugh, giving me a slightly crooked smile. "It also helps that I can hear their bullshit before they actually try anything. They never could hide their thoughts from me. In fact, it might've been a good thing that my own talent back then was new. I hadn't learned to filter thoughts, so everything was right there."

His grin was smug and too adorable as he tapped his temple, and it allowed me to relax just a little, but the approaching guests didn't make me feel any less intimidated. It was a rare feeling for me because not much bothered me about my immortality, but the Denali sisters were like the popular human girls in high school that made everyone else feel small, awkward, and ugly.

The growl that suddenly escaped Edward as he heard my mind was deep, angry, and rumbled through his chest. "You aren't any of those things, Bella. You're the complete opposite of them, actually. Again, it's their power..." He paused, his eyes still dark and angry as he studied my face. "When you saw them last, was your shield under control?"

I scoffed, rolling my eyes. "Hardly."

He smirked, kissing my lips softly. "Use it," he ordered gently, cupping my face. "This time, use it. See what difference it makes when they can't use their talent against you."

My eyebrows shot up. "Okay," I said softly. "So...wait... It works on both men and women?" I asked, and he nodded. "They pull the men to them but make the women feel inept so it clears their way?"

"Exactly."

"What about you?" I asked, running my fingers through his hair.

He grinned, shaking his head. "Nothing could tear me away from you, love. If it didn't work before I knew you, do you really think it'll work now that I have you?" he asked, and I shook my head no. "Good, because the things they offered were not things I wanted."

Tilting my chin up, he kissed me slow and deep, leaving me breathless, despite the fact that I didn't actually need the air.

Trailing light, sweet kisses to my ear, his voice was smooth, sexy. "If I remember correctly, the things they showed me are things I've already done...with you. They are things I only want...with you. And I want them again...and again...and again."

He dropped long, open mouth kisses with each "and again" he murmured sexily against my skin, which was driving me crazy but made me laugh at the same time. Smiling against my throat, he finally pulled back.

"Use your shield, and know that I belong to you. It's as simple as that," he stated firmly but ever so softly against my lips.

"I love you," I giggled, shaking my head at how he'd completely changed my mood.

Another smug-ass grin graced his beautiful face at that thought, and he kissed me roughly. "I love you too, beautiful. And it's my job to take care of you. You've certainly taken amazing care of me since I've been here. Now... Brace yourself, because they're here."

Without giving me a chance to grumble about it, he scooped me up onto his back and walked us out to the yard.

EPOV

I had not seen the Denali clan since at least two years prior to leaving Carlisle. Our memories never fade as immortals, so the sight of four beautiful women – all with varying shades of blonde aside from Carmen, who was raven black – was not a shock. What was a shock was the immense sense of jealousy that Jasper was suddenly trying his damnedest to change. It was jealousy at my Bella.

Keeping her close after she slid down to the grass, I gave Jasper a inquisitive glance.

He mere shrugged, thinking, It wasn't there on the way here, man. I don't know why it would change now.

As Carlisle joined us, there were hugs and greetings, but I stayed back, keeping Bella at my side. I just wanted long enough to see what exactly was the problem. Smiling when it finally hit me, I relaxed. They were jealous of Bella's faith. They'd never believed that Alice's vision would come true, so to see that it had, to see Bella completely and obviously happy and mated was amazing to them. They also could see that they had no power over her anymore.

"You remember Edward, don't you?" Carlisle verified.

"Yes, of course," Carmen said with a smile. "It's good to see you again, Edward."

"I'm glad to see you back where you belong." Eleazar beamed as he shook my hand.

"Thank you. It's good to see you both," I said, giving a nod to the three ladies. "Kate, Irina...Tanya."

"Edward," they all chimed together, which caused every woman in my family to internally scoff – especially Rose, who had no patience for the "cows" in front of her.

Women were just as territorial as men. It was a fact – a fact that made me chuckle and squeeze Bella's hand.

Eleazar turned his attention to Bella, his thoughts assessing her talent, something that was his talent. He could see in humans what capabilities they would have as vampires. As vampires, he could see everything they could do, everything that their talent consisted of, even if the subject didn't know it themselves. He was a legend in Volterra. Aro still wished that Eleazar worked for him.

"There she is," Eleazar said in as booming a voice as I'd ever heard him, smiling widely. "Haven't you learned a thing or two?" He chuckled at her grin.

"I suppose, Eleazar," she laughed, hugging him and then Carmen.

"Hmm," he mused, giving her a dramatic glare. "Though...there's still more to you..."

"Really?" Carlisle asked, completely intrigued, as was I.

Eleazar's thoughts were strange, because he felt more than saw how talents worked. His eyes flickered to me because he knew that I could read minds. He'd known it the first second we'd been introduced almost a hundred years ago.

She could level them, Edward. And she's barely aware of her power. His thoughts came as more of a warning but with the utmost respect. It's why Aro wants her so badly. She would be the ultimate in defense.

"Tapping into it would hurt her," I stated, shaking my head. "It's...emotional for her."

Bella squeezed my hand because she knew I hated anything that upset her, but we'd finally sat down with Carlisle and Jasper just about a week prior. I needed to know just exactly what they knew about her talent. According to them, Bella had been unable to control her shield when she was angry or upset. It had taken a year for her newborn mania to wear off and another year of the family continuously working with her to calm her shield down into something she could handle. What she did now was impressive. What she might possibly be able to do with it could be deadly.

And then there was Bella. She actually feared her talent. She was afraid of being unable to control it, so she had learned to pull it all in. The little things like allowing me into her thoughts, the blocking of someone's touch, and the ability to push someone away – those were easy for her. They came as naturally to her as breathing. It was no different than Alice's visions, Jasper's emotional control, and my mind reading. But her defense mechanism was still untapped because Bella wouldn't allow it, really. She'd shattered furniture and windows, leveled trees in the woods, and destroyed her car, and it had scared her.

"I must apologize," he said with a sad smile, turning to Carlisle. "I don't mean any disrespect. However, you have our support. I'm afraid it was from me that Aro gained his knowledge of your family." He paused at the shocked sounds that came from my family, but he went on. "Carmen and I visited Spain a few months ago. We wanted to see the old country. Out of respect for the brothers, we stopped in Italy for a visit. I had not realized just how power-hungry Aro had become. He gave me no choice but to allow him to touch me. He saw everything, of course."

"You went for me," Carlisle surmised, grimacing a bit when Eleazar and Carmen both nodded.

I saw it all. Carlisle had spoken to Eleazar about his upcoming trip to Spain. Eleazar and Carmen had actually offered to look for me. Carlisle, despite all the years of separation, just wanted to know if I was alive, but he would never think of asking that of anyone. In Eleazar's attempt to help an old friend, he'd showed Aro just what powers now resided with Carlisle. Aro wanted them all, but he wanted Bella the most because through Eleazar's thoughts, he knew just what she was capable of.

"You weren't there, of course," Carmen stated, glancing up at me. "And Aro wouldn't say anything about you."

"Oh, damn," I sighed, shaking my head. "That's how he knew of Bella, of Alice...even Jasper. And because you were looking for me, he specifically gave me the job of bringing Bella back."

"Damn, Aro's a cruel bastard," Kate suddenly spoke up, her face scrunched up in disgust as her sisters nodded in agreement.

"So it's true," Emmett gasped. "He really would've used Bella against Carlisle. And he would've done it knowing Alice saw that Bella was your mate."

"And then he would've destroyed her," Alice added sadly. "In every way, he would've wrecked her. He would've had no choice but to kill her."

Bella let out a heavy breath but merely shook her head. She didn't know what to make of any of it. She felt that she was never anything special as a human, so this was too much to even conceive. All she knew was that she wanted to be left alone, to live her life with her family...and now with me. My Bella didn't like the attention.

"Enough," I stated, gazing down at Bella.

"I'm okay," she lied, smiling when she knew that I saw it.

"Well, maybe I'm not," I huffed dramatically just to see her golden eyes twinkle.

"Perhaps we should get inside. Alice will keep us alerted to Aro's decisions," Carlisle sighed, looking weary.

Esme and Carlisle led Carmen and Eleazar into the house. Alice's mind was warning me that Tanya was contemplating saying something to me, but it was Jasper and Emmett that I was concentrating on, because they were a little angry at Eleazar for revealing things to Aro. They wanted to protect the family, especially Bella, but they felt a touch betrayed by someone that they felt was family.

I turned to them, keeping Bella's hand in mine. "It doesn't work that way," I told them both, which caused everyone in the yard to stop. "Aro gives you the impression that it's your choice to let him read your mind, but there really isn't a choice at all. He considers it rude if you decline him, like you're hiding something from the Volturi. He throws his power in your face, showing you that with a single word, he could have you ripped apart. Eleazar would've had no alternative but to allow Aro to touch him."

"That's inside the castle," Emmett pointed out. "What happens in our own...back yard?" he asked, gesturing around him.

I shook my head. "I'm not sure. If what Felix said was true, then we'll have to hope that it's Marcus that sees reason. Only he would be able to convince his brother that Bella is my mate."

Jasper and Emmett nodded, but Alice's mental laughter caused me to give her a quick glance. She was standing next to Bella, who was looking nervous but calm as she stared at the Denali sisters.

"So it's true... You are mated, Edward," Tanya purred, her mind deciding to push her power my way.

"Don't even try it, Tanya," I said rather harshly, frowning at her. "It won't work, because it's absolutely true. Save it for your humans."

Irina chuckled, and Kate rolled her eyes at her, but Tanya smiled smugly, shrugging her shoulder.

"Can't blame a girl for trying. Just making sure that Isabella isn't being deceived," Tanya replied coyly.

I wanted to growl at the accusation, but Bella laughed softly, saying, "I told you, Tanya... Never bet against Alice."

We started toward the house, but Alice froze, her eyes glazing over. I spun to look at her at the same time that Jasper pulled her close.

"What is it, darlin'?" he asked, his eyes never leaving her face, and I noticed for the first time that he never sent her any emotion when she was seeing a vision. He simply allowed her to feel whatever it was the visions gave her.

I swallowed nervously, seeing exactly what Alice was seeing.

We both spoke at the same time. "They're leaving Italy today."

~oooOOOooo~

You really aren't the one that should be working with her, Edward, Jasper thought to me, wincing when I shot an angry glare his way. It should be Emmett. He can piss her off quicker than any of us.

I knew he was right, but that didn't mean I needed to hear it in my damn head every few minutes. I catered to Bella, took it easy on her, which in turn meant that she was too relaxed to push her shield to its maximum potential. She was amazing and could block every single one of us from Jasper's power, Emmett's strength, even one on one attacks from Kate's strange talent, which was some sort of shocking touch.

We were all working, planning, practicing together in a field not far from the Cullen home, the Denali clan included. From what Alice and I could piece together from her vision, the Volturi would arrive by the end of the week. No decisions that we made affected the outcome. They were coming. We tried deciding everything – leaving, hiding, running, even scattering ourselves throughout the city – but nothing changed her vision of seeing the Volturi approaching the Cullen home. From what we could see, they would be coming through the forests from the south, so we at least had the advantage of knowing the where. And we were going to exploit that. We were going to meet them before they could reach anywhere near humans.

Eleazar and Carlisle insisted that we train, that we try to push Bella, because Alice's vision also started to narrow in on a victory – one where the Volturi walked away from us. It seemed to focus on my Bella, but that's what scared the shit out of me. One second, we were all lined up against Aro, and the next second, Bella completely disappeared. And then...we fought. It was flashes, incomplete sequences. It was driving Alice and me insane.

"Fine," I snapped, raising a hand at him before he could say anything else, and then I turned to Bella with a defeated sigh. "Sweetheart, maybe you should—"

"Work with Emmett?" she surmised, giving both Jasper and me a deadly raised eyebrow. "Um...no. You lived with these assholes. You know how they think. I want to work with you. Stop babying me, Edward."

Carlisle's amused thoughts flickered through my mind but went away just as quickly as they came, as did everyone else's around us. I fought my smile and shook my head slowly as I ran a hand through my hair.

"Go on, Spitfire. Kick his ass!" Emmett cheered, grinning like a loon when I snorted into a short, soft laugh.

I gazed over at her and then rubbed my face in frustration. I really needed to let go of the thought that "babying" her, as she put it, was protecting her. It actually wasn't helping anything.

"Okay," I finally conceded with a nod, walking to her, but I wanted everyone to hear what I had to say. They were going to need to understand these things. "Aro's bringing everyone. He's going to act like he's civil, like he's royalty, and give Carlisle a chance to answer for the crimes for which he's been accused. What he really wants is to touch him, read his mind. He's going to want to read mine. The fact that Eleazar is here will anger him, because he'll know at that moment that his secret is out, that we know what he's been planning against the family the whole time.

"He's accusing us of attracting too much attention. He's assuming that Carlisle lied to him, that we aren't mated, so he'll want to reinstate my...contract with him..."

"Well, we all know what you get when you assume," Emmett muttered, rolling his eyes.

I half-smiled at that, but he was kind of right. "The real crime that we're facing is a fact. We are unlike others out there. Immortals don't live like this, in this large of a group. At least the ones on regular diets of human blood. Our numbers will make him nervous, paranoid, and very angry. And Caius will agree with him."

"So why is Marcus the key?" Bella asked.

"Marcus sees the bonds between relationships. He sees the connections, so he'll be able to let Aro know that we are mated," I explained, gesturing between us. "The problem with Marcus, though, is that he's also going to see just how loyal we all are to Carlisle."

"True," Eleazar muttered. "Carlisle will be accused of building an army."

"Dammit," Carlisle sighed, but his mind was filled with worry and love for his family, even the extended members. Son, you think he'll use that against us. Against me? His thoughts were nervous as I nodded to him once but answered for everyone.

"Yes, he'll use that against you. He'll call for your destruction, or...he'll call for an exchange," I stated angrily. "Our lives in exchange for yours. He'll want Bella, myself, Alice, Jasper...any talent he can get his hands on, especially if he gets the opportunity to read my mind."

"So..." Bella growled, dragging the word out. "So we don't let him touch you."

"Bella, it's not that simple," Carlisle sighed. "In Aro's eyes, if Edward refuses, then he's hiding something."

"We're all hiding something," Rose said, shrugging a shoulder. "Let him try to read our minds; Bella will shield us."

Bella's nose wrinkled at that, but she looked up to me. "I can shield myself that way but not others. He can touch me without reading my mind, but when I shield others, he won't be able to get near them. I can't do it any other way."

"I know," I told her with a nod. "Which is why you need to understand just who and what is coming with him."

"Tell me," she whispered, readying herself as I circled around her.

"Jane. Aro's favorite weapon," I started, jerking a chin to Jasper. "Her power is strong, deadly. She works like you and Jasper...remotely. She doesn't have to touch someone like Kate does to bring them to their knees with pain so strong that it feels worse than the three day burn of the change. You need to be able to shield us from her...and still be able to fight."

Alice giggled lightly when Jasper decided to help out by sending wave after wave of different emotions – fear, anger, confusion, sorrow. Bella felt it all, swirling her shield up around us and crouching into a fighting stance.

"Good girl," I praised her just softly enough that she could hear me before taking a defensive stance across from her. Everything that Jasper was emitting cut off abruptly. "Next...Alec. He'll work like Jane, only not as painful. His power is easy to spot. It'll look like the heat shimmering in the distance on a hot road but rolling in slowly, only he can affect much more than one person. You'll think you're not so much powerless when it reaches you but senseless...numb. It'll take away your sense of sight, sound, smell and pain. Don't let it."

Bella nodded that she heard me, but her thoughts of attacking me gave her away.

Catching her in mid-jump and putting her back flat on the ground while I loomed over her, I growled, "Close your mind to me! Give them...nothing. Don't think, just use instinct. You aren't human, so don't think like one. Give into what you truly are, if only for this." I flicked the tip of her nose, just so she knew it was still us, still playful, but I needed her to pay attention, focus.

A wicked smile briefly curled up on her lips before she was back on her feet again, all thoughts disappearing instantly from my mind. All her shields stayed in place – the one around the two of us, protecting us from Jasper, and the one around her mind, keeping her thoughts from me. She crouched again; this time, her eyes had darkened to a pitch black. When she attacked, it was fierce, fast, and deadly. I just barely ducked in time, spinning to counter her hits, kicks, and grasping fingers. She backed away proudly, and I couldn't help but shoot a wink her way.

"Now... Dimitri and James. Trackers," I continued, circling her again. "Dimitri has been doing this for a very long time. If you run, he will find you. He doesn't use scent; he uses your mind," I told her, tapping my temple as I faced her again. "Which means, love, that you really have to keep that beautiful head shielded."

"Okay," she said softly, nervously, with a nod.

"James, however, uses all of his senses, including one specifically built to track. It's almost like Alice, where he can predict your next step...and the next and the next. Understand?" I asked, and she nodded. "He's dangerous not because he can find you but for what he does once he gets his hands on you. He's cruel, evil, and a sadist. He's a rabid dog they keep leashed until they need him. He's completely unstable."

"Who else?" Esme asked from the side.

"Renata, a shield meant for Aro alone but significantly less powerful than Bella," I replied, giving everyone a quick glance. "And Heidi and Chelsea. They work similarly – though, when I left, Chelsea was not quite ready to take anywhere. She was the most recently changed, so she's still a volatile newborn. They draw people in, pull them in like pied pipers." I spun to Kate, Tanya, and Irina. "You three could counter that without even blinking. You may even work really well against James, because he's just... Well, you three..."

The Denali women chuckled, but Bella's giggle made me smile.

"So what you're saying, Edward, is that he's a horndog and the sisters here fit the bill?" Bella asked, her giggle lacing through her words like a tinkling bell.

"Well, right," I sighed, rolling my eyes at everyone's laughter.

"We so got this," Emmett murmured just loudly enough that everyone stopped laughing and nodded in agreement. "I mean," he sputtered, gesturing to Carlisle, "we'll stay still and quiet, but if something happens, then we're on it."

We started to relax, but Bella merely said, "Again."

When I spun my head her way, her thoughts opened briefly. No one hurts my family. No one hurts you. Again. More.

"Okay," I stated firmly with a nod. "The royal guard is strength and speed. No more, no less. That's a straight up brawl if we get that far."

Before I could blink, Bella vaulted across the few feet between us, landing firmly on my chest. "Show me," she growled, ignoring the cheers from her brothers and the catcalls from Rose and Alice.

Grinning, I dragged my tongue along my bottom lip, shaking my head. But looking her straight in the eyes, I said only one word. "Run."

Instantly, the weight of her lifted off my chest, and she not only left the clearing and the family behind, but she vaulted up into the tree tops of the surrounding woods, using the branches like steps to take her higher and higher. Tracking her by scent was the only way to stay on her trail. I couldn't hear her mind, and she was silent as a soft breeze as she ran away from me. I barely heard the laughter of everyone fade away from the clearing as we tunneled deeper and deeper into the forest.

My speed was the only thing I could rely on at the moment in order to catch up to her. Her shield was blocking her mind from me, and her path was erratic, until she suddenly stopped, turning from defense to offense in the blink of an eye. Using her shield, she trapped me, dropping the two of us to the forest floor.

"What does James really do?" she asked, standing over me.

"He's a pig," I grunted, struggling uselessly against her power. Finally, I just collapsed back to the leafy ground in defeat.

"As in..." she prompted, raising a deadly eyebrow up at me.

"As in... He likes the game, the chase...the capture," I told her. "He toys with his prey. Aro feeds it well. Gives him status and power and leeway."

"Should I take him out first?"

I was shaking my head no before she even finished the question. "No. Jane. Jane first, Bella. You have no idea the pain... Then Alec, because he will cause confusion, and he can blind us all."

She nodded, turning away from me at the same time I felt her shield lift from me. "I'm scared, Edward."

"I know, love. I am, too." I stood up from the ground, dusting myself off. "I'm sorry my mistakes have brought us here."

She shook her head, waving that off. "No, don't," she said, leaning against a tree and locking gazes with me. "I'm scared for Carlisle. I'd rather us do anything than for something to happen to him. Does that make sense?"

I nodded. "I really don't want you in Italy, Bella. I'd do just about anything in order for that not to happen. I'd rather fight than to take you away from everything."

Her mind was now open to me, her fears swirling heavily in the forefront. She was scared to lose her family, for Carlisle to get in trouble for having too many immortals around him when all he wanted was to care them...for us – and her biggest fear was something happening to me. She could barely think the words death, separation, or loss. And on top of all of that, she was absolutely terrified she couldn't do what she needed to do to protect us, that her shield would fail her.

"Hey, hey," I said, closing the distance between us. Bracing my hands on the tree on either side of her head, I kissed her lips softly. "You won't fail, sweetheart. We'll be there right next to you. Even if you hold them off until we can come to some sort of agreement with Aro, then you'll have succeeded."

I studied her face, listened to her thoughts, all as she stood there silent, her eyes locked somewhere between my chest and my chin.

"What else worries you?" I asked her, tilting her gaze up with my fingers underneath her chin.

"My shield is..." She sighed, looking away from me toward the setting sun, her skin glimmering slightly under its rays. "Unstable," she finally finished with a heavy, nervous sigh.

"Hardly," I scoffed, gesturing to the tree we'd just fallen from. "But if you're talking about pushing yourself, then tell me about it. Why are you afraid?"

"When I let go...when I lose control of it...things happen," she whispered, her chin trembling. "When I was a newborn, I leveled two acres of trees in Washington the day that Charlie died. The one time I slipped in my diet, I shattered a small hunting cabin...and it was fifty feet away. The day that Tanya told me about seeing you...I know she lied," she huffed, rolling her eyes, "but I didn't know that then. I shredded a car from the inside out. A car, Edward! A two ton piece of machinery held together by fiberglass and metal! Carlisle had just given me the damn thing!"

I fought my smile, shaking my head. "You can learn to control that part, too, my sweet, beautiful girl."

She grimaced, her nose wrinkling adorably. "How?"

"Come here," I said, gently tugging her from the tree. I situated us in the center of a small clearing, bracing my hands on her shoulders. "When those things happened, love, what were you feeling?"

"Anger."

I nodded, because I'd suspected as much. "Okay, anything specific?"

"No... Well, with Charlie and the human I killed, I was angry with myself. With Tanya, I was just..." Her voice trailed off, but I nodded.

"Jealous?" I provided.

"Yeah, maybe," she sighed, her shoulders slumping just slightly under my touch. "I was extremely frustrated that I'd been changed, I couldn't control anything, and the fact that I was changed so that you'd show..."

"Oh," I snickered, kissing her lips when she frowned up at me. "You were pissed off at me!"

She smirked, trying to glare at me, but it turned into a giggle and a shrug. "I guess I'd hoped that once I'd been changed, you'd just...show up."

My eyebrows shot up, but I nodded and smiled. "Good. Remember that feeling?" I asked, and she said that she did. "Harness it. Relive it, right now. You were...what? Tired of waiting? Tired of feeling like you didn't fit in? You didn't understand why no man was good enough? Hmm? Did you think I was out...just fucking every mortal and immortal woman that I laid eyes on?"

I knew I was baiting her, but I could see that it was working. Her eyes blackened, her mouth tightened into a thin line, and her mind exploded with the memory of her pure, unadulterated fury.

"Did you think I knew all about you but opted to ignore it?" I asked, growling when her shield burst forth from her with a strength and power I wasn't prepared for, which caused me to stumble backwards several steps.

"Yes," she whispered, her hands balling up into tiny fists.

"You felt foolish for waiting?" I goaded her, using her biggest fear from back then.

"Yes!" she snarled, her growl lacing through her voice.

If I wasn't prepared for her anger at me, then I really wasn't ready for what her shield did. If it weren't for the push of wind that preceded it, I wouldn't have known to hit the deck. The sound of falling trees, crushing wood, and scared wildlife was a din of pure chaos. Limbs, leaves, and the unfortunate birds nest fell down on and around me.

Pushing my way out of the pile, I stood up, quickly surveying my surroundings. The woods looked like a giant blade had just shaved off every tree in a large three yard circle around us. It was fairly similar to what crop circles looked like.

Spinning back to Bella, I said, "Hold that! Keep that feeling, Bella. Can you feel it?"

She nodded, her eyes wide, but they were locked on the farthest row of trees that were bending under her shield's strength. They were practically snapping, but not quite. She was harnessing it, controlling it.

"Good girl," I breathed, because the sight was damned shocking. "If you remember that feeling, that initial burst, Bella, then you can draw on it later. Anytime, anyplace. Right?"

"Yeah," she whispered, nodding. "But I almost hurt you..."

"Nah," I chuckled, shaking my head and running my fingers through my hair to rid it of leaves and twigs. "I actually felt it coming. A rush of air..." I mused, gazing slowly around.

"Edward?"

"Hmm?" I hummed, locking gazes with her.

"Can I stop now?"

Grinning, I nodded. "Yes, baby."

Another rush of air breezed over my head, but it seemed she controlled it this time. I ducked a little but suddenly found her wrapped around me like a limpet.

"I didn't mean it," she whispered.

"Yes, you did," I chuckled, kissing the top of her head. "But it's okay that you were frustrated, sweetheart. I don't blame you. At all."

"I love you," she mumbled into my chest.

"And I you," I sighed, closing my eyes at the magnitude of love that this tiny, fierce, yet so very fragile creature caused me to feel. "And believe me, I didn't know about you, Bella. If I had, I would've at least come to verify this supposed mate."

Her giggle shook us both, but she held me closer.

"We should get back," I whispered, but my hands betrayed me, running through her hair, down her back, and across her bottom.

"I don't want to," she murmured, pulling back from my chest to look up at me. The honey in her eyes swirled away, darkening to a deep amber, and then faded to black.

"Okay," I surrendered instantly, because after a hundred years of restraint, control, and calculating decisions, I had been completely taken over by the girl in my arms. With her, my personality had been boiled down to the seventeen-year-old boy in which I was frozen. All other thoughts vanished, leaving only what she wanted, what she asked of me. In fact, there was a part of me deep down that hoped she'd beg to run away from this upcoming fight, to hide, but I knew that she wouldn't. We couldn't, because it wasn't fair to the family, especially Carlisle.

No words were spoken as the sun set slowly. Barely leaving any space between us, clothes were carefully removed, hands touched, and kisses were placed on lips, shoulders, necks. Our foreheads touched as we stood naked in the small clearing. The scent of freshly cut timber was almost overwhelming due to all the trees Bella had destroyed, but I could only feel her, see her, taste her in the air around us.

It was earthy and floral, filling my mind with the knowledge that I had made her that way, that it was me that she wanted. Pulling her closer, I trapped my arousal between us, but I needed to feel every inch of skin against mine. Tiny hands branded my flesh from my ass, up my back, finally gripping my shoulders.

I could hear every thought in her beautiful mind. Her love for me was breathtaking, but her need to touch, to memorize, to lose herself in us if only for a moment made my chest ache.

"We'll stay together, Bella," I vowed in a whisper against her lips in order to soothe her unspoken fears. "With the family, alone for safety, or even in Italy...but we will stay together. I swear it."

A little whimper escaped her as she pressed further into me, turning her head to kiss me. There was no preamble for this kiss; it was desperate, loving, and full of everything she was trying to give me. Skimming my hands down her back, I cupped her ass and scooped her up in order to wrap her around me. A low growl rumbled out of me when her sweet, wet sex slid erotically over my erection. Laying her down on our discarded clothes, the kiss never broke. Heavy exhales pushed out against cheeks, tongues entwined, and lips glided wetly against each other.

Inside, inside, inside, Bella mentally begged, not wanting anything to do with foreplay.

I could sense that she was ready, feel it coating my cock, but my hand ghosted down her side to slip between her folds as my other hand braced itself by her head. Sinking two fingers into her, I couldn't help the smug smile that crooked up the corner of my mouth as her whole being rolled in want and need. Her mouth fell open, her breath caught, and she couldn't decide whether to grip the grass around us or me...anywhere on me – biceps, shoulders, sides, ass. It really just didn't matter to her because she just wanted more, closer, deeper, harder, faster.

"I'll give you all those things, my sweet girl," I promised in a deep voice that I could barely recognize as my own. "Just come for me one time. One great big beautiful time, love. Please..."

Her juices coated my fingers, dripping down to the palm of my hand. Her breathing stopped completely as her head arched back. Circling my thumb around the little bundle of nerves that set her off every time, I had to bite my bottom lip at the sight underneath me in order to control my instinct to take, to bury myself deep inside of her, to claim my mate over and over. Muscles taut, eyes rolling back, chest heaving, and tiny fingers that finally decided my biceps were their favorite spot caused a purring growl to escape me as I watched my own fingers sink into her over and over.

"Oh, baby...let it go. All of it."

I'd lived a very long time, seen things in the world that were considered the utmost in beauty, and I'd seen climaxes in so many minds that I'd lost count, but nothing beat the actual feel of my mate succumbing to my touch, my voice. Locking eyes with pitch black, feeling her walls clench down on my fingers, and watching as she lost herself to her orgasm...nothing came close to just how stunning that was. Her stomach tightened, her hips rose up off the ground, and my name came spilling out of her in a breathless chanting prayer. Fucking flawless.

Bella's little body trembled as she settled down from the aftershocks of her climax, but her hands pulled and tugged at me.

"Edward, please," she whispered, wrapping her arms around my neck when I fell to brace my elbows on either side of her head.

"I love you...so much. Tell me you know that," I whispered against her lips, her jaw, her neck.

"Yes," she said, her breathing hitching just a little on the simple word. Reaching between us, she lined me up at her entrance, locking gazes with me when I hissed at just how sensitive I was. "Show me," she stated, using the same words she'd used when we were training just mere minutes prior.

Gritting my teeth, I sank slowly inside of her, reaching down to hitch her leg up higher in order to go that much deeper. I paused, dropping my forehead to hers, squeezing my eyes closed as I panted heavily for needless air. She felt too good, too right, and it was all I could do not to come instantly.

"I don't think I'll ever get use to the feel of you," I confessed, shaking my head slightly and finally opening my eyes to meet hers. "So, so fucking good, Bella. Damn."

Her fingers trailed down my back to my ass, and she tilted her hips in order to pull me in even deeper.

"I know," she agreed, her head falling back as she shamelessly rolled her hips again. "Edward...baby, please..."

"Fuck," I hissed, pulling almost all the way out of her only to thrust right back in.

I took her deep and hard, slowing down just to watch her face for every bite of her bottom lip, every eye roll, but our hands were not still. Cupping, gripping, memorizing, we touched everywhere. I tried to commit to memory every way her nipples would peak, but it was different every single time. They'd harden under my hand, my palm, but they became like diamonds in my mouth.

Kisses were deep and desperate, but growls were a duet of both of our voices. Sitting back on my heels, I watched my cock slip in and out of her, shaking my head at the sight.

"That is so...perfect," I muttered, pulling her hips to me over and over. I couldn't help but grin when her mind exploded with lust and curiosity. "You wanna watch me fuck you, love?" I asked, grasping her legs and then spreading them wider and pinning them against her stomach.

Slowly, I sank into her again and again, licking my lips at the sight of the feral look that crossed her face as her eyes locked on where we were joined.

"Jesus, that's..."

"Yeah."

It was too much. All of it. Watching her watch us, the feel of just how tight she was this way, and the sight of her hand snaking down her stomach in order to touch herself was overload. I could feel the tips of her fingers brush against my cock every time I moved inside of her, and my begging began.

"Oh, baby...come for me again. With me. Together."

When her insides fluttered around me, I tried to ride out her spasms, but it was impossible. With a few more deep thrusts, I buried myself to the hilt, coming hard, expletives erupting from me against my will. Setting her legs down, I didn't bother to pull out of her. I wanted to stay forever buried in her, surrounded by her, but I knew it wouldn't last.

Bracing my elbows on either side of her head, I dropped kisses to every inch of her face, grinning when it stopped being sweet to her and started being silly, causing an adorable giggle to shake us both. I brushed her hair out of her face, finally placing just one more kiss to her smiling lips.

"It's a good thing we stayed out here. That was not something I need the house to hear," Bella chuckled.

I groaned, nodding in agreement. It was bad enough with just the family, but with the Denali clan hanging around for the last day or so, it had been impossible to be alone with her – too many listening super-hearing ears, too many curious minds, and too many frustrated conversations concerning the Volturi.

I gazed around us, smirking at her little show of temper and destruction. "You know, the humans could really use something like this in the construction industry. Do you think you could level an old building?"

"Shut up," she laughed, shaking her head. "Maybe if I was mad enough..."

I chuckled, kissed her once more, and then sighed in utter contentment, despite the looming visit from Aro. "You're going to do just fine, sweetheart. When push comes to shove, I have a feeling you'll know exactly how to handle yourself."

"We aren't doing anything wrong," she stated softly.

"No, sweet girl, we aren't," I agreed, "but Aro only sees what he wants to. We have to show him and those around him that we are following their rules, their guidelines."

"And if they still don't listen?" she asked, running her fingers slowly through my hair.

I grimaced, dropping my lips to her forehead and admitting for the first time how I really felt. "And if they don't listen... I'll kill them all for threatening you. Royalty or not, they don't deserve to breathe the same air as you, much less take you against your will. I won't have you go through what I did. I refuse."

"Edward..."

"I mean it," I stated, shrugging a shoulder and finally sitting up. I brought her with me, skimming my hands down her hair, over her shoulders, and cupping her face. "You don't need to see the things they do. They are the exact opposite of Carlisle...in every way imaginable. There's no compassion, no debates on God, and there's no sympathy for anyone. It's a cruel life. I will do everything I can to protect you...and the family."

"Together?" she verified, her brow wrinkling with worry.

"Yes, together. I won't lose you." I kissed her lips quickly but paused when I could hear Jasper's mind.

I hate to break you two up, but Alice has seen something. We need you back at the house. She needs you to see, Edward.

"What is it?" Bella asked.

"We have to get back. Alice had another vision," I told her, standing up and offering her a hand.

We dressed quickly, and Bella pulled her hair up into a ponytail. When she was ready, she offered her hand. "I hope it's something good, like Aro's ship caught on fire," she whispered sarcastically.

"Me, too," I chuckled, kissing the back her hand. "Though, somehow, I doubt it."

She laughed but shrugged one shoulder. "Okay, let's go see what she's got," she sighed, taking off in a run.

With my own sigh of regret, impatience, and...fear...I immediately followed after her.

~oOo~

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