Friday, July 13, 2012 | By: Drotuno

Fate Interrupted Chapter 7

~oOo~

Chapter 7

BPOV

For the first time ever, I wasn't terrified of my own power. Concerned? Yes, always. But scared? No. How Edward knew exactly what to say and do, I had no idea. But whatever it was totally worked. I knew how to use my shield, but I just couldn't always control it. It would frustrate me to no end, but that only increased my inability to manipulate it because my emotions played a huge factor.

As Edward and I made our way back home, my mind tried to focus on the calm, the good, because there was no telling what Alice had seen. Instead of narrowing in on thoughts of Aro and wars and whatever could happen to Carlisle or my family, I relived the last few minutes with Edward.

He'd been absolutely beautiful standing in the dying light of the day, completely naked in front of me. Just...perfect in every way – his soul laid bare, his muscles twitching, trying to hold back, and his now amber eyes swirling to a deep, wanting black. There was something so soothing about the feel of skin on skin, where nothing came between us except the air around us, and even that was filled with the scent of the two of us combined – floral and clean and perfect. As I lost myself to the memory of his cock twitching against my stomach as Edward held me, the sound of a shattering tree snapped me back to the here and now. I stopped running to see what had happened.

"Shit," Edward hissed, fighting a smile as he glared down at a small sapling that lay destroyed on the forest floor. When he finally met my gaze, he chuckled. "You're killing me, love."

My hand flew to my mouth because I wasn't sure whether to laugh or be embarrassed. "Sorry," I said softly, barely keeping the giggle out of it. "I was trying to stay calm..."

"That keeps you calm?" He laughed, shaking his head. "Thinking of..." His hand gestured between the two of us, but he didn't finish his statement, which only caused the laugh I'd been holding back to escape.

"It's not so much the act as the feelings around it that keeps me calm, Edward. I'm sorry." I grinned at his unabashed smirk but offered, "I can shield it if it bothers you."

"No!" he gushed, suddenly closing the distance between us so that he was standing right in front of me. "No, leave your mind open to me. Always, if you wish. I'm just not used to seeing myself in someone's mind that way."

I smiled, cupping his face. "How do others see you?"

"You don't want to know," he muttered wryly, rolling his eyes and taking my hand while guiding us toward home at a human pace.

Giggling, I squeezed his hand. "Try me."

He groaned, glancing down at me. "Why can't I tell you no?" he asked, grinning when I laughed again. "Fine, beautiful... They are usually these fantastical scenarios that would never happen. They'll attach me to some sort of...movie plot or book they've read. Human women are colorful and detailed in their daydreams. Men, not so much."

"And how do you think I see you?"

Edward's face changed from amused to almost reverent as he gazed down at me. "There are no words, Bella. You see me so clearly, yet so differently than I see myself. Words like comfort and home and love always seem to swirl around in your mind when you imagine just my face. You see me as the other half of you. 'Everything' is another word that you think often."

I stopped him just before we stepped into the backyard, kissing his cheek. "Yup, that sounds about right." I pulled back just a bit, gazing up into disbelieving eyes. "Don't stand there and tell me you don't feel it, too, baby."

"Yeah, but you're..."

"Just as flawed as you are. Hush." I kissed his lips this time to shut him up. "You're extremely handsome, Edward, but your heart and mind are beautiful, too."

"Looks are our weapon in this life, Bella," he scoffed.

I laughed. "You forget I've seen those one or two pictures of you as a human that Carlisle saved for you. Yup, cute then, too. Say thank you, and shut up."

He grinned, and it was stunning, almost blinding in its pure boyish joy. "Thank you, sweetheart," he sang sarcastically.

"You're welcome," I chuckled, tugging him through the last line of trees and into the yard.

What I was grateful for was that small distracting moment. It helped settle the last of my nerves and prepare me for the sight on the back deck. The whole family looked...stressed the hell out. Alice was practically rocking back and forth in a chair off to the side, but everyone else kept casting worried glances her way. Her eyes were closed, her mouth set in a tight line.

Carlisle met us at the steps, speaking quickly and softly. "Alice won't tell us what she's seen, only that she wanted you two here. I think she wants you to see what she sees," he told Edward.

Edward nodded, releasing my hand, and then took a chair next to Alice. "Alice, let me see," he murmured to her.

Her eyes didn't open, but her rocking ceased.

I had a feeling that all their playing around with thoughts and visions and decisions were about to be put to the utmost use. Edward's head tilted just a bit, a small yet evil smile quirked up the corners of his mouth, and his brow wrinkled as he saw whatever it was that Alice was showing him.

"Again," he muttered. After a moment, he asked, "And what about this?"

It was the strangest conversation I'd ever seen, but I could tell that they were working every angle they possibly could before telling the rest of us because they didn't want any doubts as to what could happen. Even though full of people, the entire deck was quiet. We were all giving Alice and Edward the space they needed.

"If she didn't go?" he asked Alice, who's eyes finally opened.

"She has to," she answered, shrugging a shoulder. "It has to be you, her, and Carlisle. I don't see any other way. But if you go, then that reduces his numbers by four. They're underestimating us."

"I see that," Edward sighed wearily, finally gazing around to the rest of us, only to land on Carlisle. "Aro still thinks Bella resides in the city. Alice can't really see his decisions because they haven't met, but she can see Felix. Aro has decided to send the trackers, Demetri and James, with Felix and two others after Bella. They're determined to have her as a weapon."

Carlisle let out a heavy breath, his hand landing firmly on my shoulder. "No."

"Exactly," Edward agreed, his harsh gaze softening just a little as it met mine. "They've already called Felix, and he's decided to stay in hiding, though they don't know he won't show up. However, there's no other way around it. We have to find them first, and it has to be the three of us. No matter what decision we made, it turns out...poorly. The rest of the family must stay here." Looking around at the rest of the group, he continued. "Bella, Carlisle, and I have to head into the city tonight."

"Poorly...how?" I asked, my voice barely above a whisper.

Edward glared at the ground, shoving his hands into the front pockets of his jeans and shaking his head slowly. "Demetri can find me. That's a fact. He knows me, knows my mind. I have no choice but to go. Otherwise, I'll lead them straight here, and we aren't prepared. Sending Jasper and Emmett leaves the house vulnerable, but not taking you results in... Well..." He ran nervous hand through his hair, but it was Alice that blurted out the answer.

"Edward disappears. Permanently," she stated, her voice filled with emotion.

"Then I'm going," I said firmly, shrugging a shoulder. "You need my shield. It's the only way, isn't it?" I waited just long enough for Edward and Alice to both give small, nervous nods. "And why Carlisle?"

"His presence changes the outcome for some reason. He's a legend in Volterra, so it's quite possible that he'll knock the two trackers off their game just a little," Edward answered.

I gazed up at Carlisle. "I can't lose him," I whispered.

He smiled sadly, leaning in to kiss my forehead. "Me, either," he murmured against my skin. He pulled back, looking over to Edward and Alice. "The removal of the trackers is beneficial?"

"Yes," they both replied.

"If somehow, we escape from Aro's meeting, then he will send them after us to finish us – even if we separate. It's why Felix isn't coming. He won't do it, won't go along with it. He respects us too much," Alice explained.

Carlisle let out another heavy sigh but finally nodded once. "Okay," he said, squeezing my shoulder. "You and Edward get ready. Meet me downstairs in ten minutes. We'll make our way into the city tonight." He rubbed his chin in thought, finally locking gazes with Edward. "Perhaps you should warn your friend Felix, son. Let him know what Alice has seen."

"I will," Edward vowed, pulling out his phone, but his head suddenly whipped around to look at glazed-eyed Alice.

When she came up out of whatever vision she was having, she muttered, "We didn't try that..."

"It works, though," he mused softly, clawing nervously at his hair as he shot Jasper a wary glance.

Alice walked up to Carlisle. "I'm going, too."

"Dammit," Jasper growled, and suddenly, the back deck was filled with frustration, worry, fear. "Alice..."

"I have to go." Her voice clearly left no room for argument. "And you have to stay here. It's the only way, Jasper."

I'd seen this type of disagreement between them before – silent and filling the environment around them with everything they were feeling all at one time: anger, worry, confidence, and an intimate feeling of love and adoration. They didn't really fight like Emmett and Rose, which was really loud and colorful, because it usually was over before it began, but I could see – and feel – that it was taking everything Jasper had not to lose control.

Finally, he glared heatedly at Edward. "You make sure she comes back to me. You know these men, know what they're capable of."

"On my life," Edward vowed solemnly, his brow furrowed and his jaw flexing as he gritted his teeth. "Not one of them will be out of contact," he stated, tapping his temple. "But adding Alice to this makes it quicker, cleaner. She sees us all back just after sunrise."

Jasper's nostrils flared, his fists balled up tightly, and he nodded to Edward. "Fine." He spun to his mate, saying, "Alice, let's get you ready."

~oOo~

Do you think we'd be better off without the Volturi? I asked Edward silently as we stood watch over my old apartment building. In fact, we were standing in the same spot I'd found him almost four months prior – the rooftop of the building across the alleyway.

Edward's nose wrinkled adorably as he mulled over my question, but he slowly started shaking his head. "No. I've seen what ungoverned immortals can do, not to mention the few of them that think we're the top of the food chain. Those are the ones that need ruling over. They want to out us, take over the world, use our strength and power to assume control over humans, treat them as cattle."

I grimaced, having never thought of that aspect of things.

Edward chuckled softly once, glancing over at me. "Of course you hadn't. The mere idea is ridiculous. Even when my diet was different, I never even considered it. The repercussions would be...astounding. First, the humans would fight back – a war to end all wars. And sadly, they wouldn't win. Not to mention the weaponry that's at their fingertips would make for...itchy trigger fingers. The whole planet would be destroyed. Humans, when panicked, can act way too rashly. It would ruin everything." He paused for a moment, tucking a stray lock of hair behind my ear. "Secondly, who would rule? We would fight amongst ourselves in order to be...for a lack of better term...king. The idea, while intriguing for only a moment, would lead to devastating consequences." He sighed, shaking his head. "Bella, we are the top of the food chain, but in order to remain so, we have to stay the world's dirty secret."

I nodded, gazing out over the tops of the buildings surrounding us. It was quiet, close to two o'clock in the morning. I liked my little neighborhood, and I missed it. It was a few quiet streets in the West Village, not far from SoHo. I missed buying my morning paper from George at the stand on the corner. I missed my little landlady, Miss Esther. And damn if I didn't miss the New York Public Library, which was only a short train ride away to Midtown. I'd come to love the city. Despite my physical differences, they just didn't matter here. No one cared. Everyone was so busy and already filled with self-preservation that they didn't give me a second glance. I loved that; it was almost normal.

Edward chuckled again, kissing my head. "Soon, love. We'll get you back here."

"That's probably not true," I sighed, smiling sadly up at him. "I have a feeling we'll move after this is all over...if we all survive it."

His nostrils flared, his eyes darkened, and I could see that the mere idea of failing was not something he was willing to even entertain. "We'll survive it, Bella. We have to." His voice had lowered to almost a growl, but he locked his gaze out over the city. "You asked if we would be better off without the Volturi, and no, we wouldn't be, but at the same time, the brothers have ruled a very, very long time. They've become...spoiled, complacent, arrogant, and narrow-minded. They have no patience for anyone that may think differently than they do."

"I thought they respected Carlisle," I gasped.

"They do," he said with a nod, "but that was a long time ago. They really fear him. He represents a way of thinking that they can't conceive, nor are willing to try, but they also see the results he achieves with his lifestyle – living almost comfortably with humans, interacting with them, and actually developing relationships with them. The Volturi rule with violence and threats. They know that Carlisle could do it by simply earning respect. There are still some in the castle that remember liking him very much. Not that he'd want to rule, mind you." Edward snickered softly, shrugging a shoulder. "But he could."

"He'd hate it," I scoffed, rolling my eyes at the thought. Carlisle was a simple man in certain respects. He loved his family, his wife, he loved practicing medicine, and he loved all that he could get out of this life. "Just...hate it," I reiterated.

"Yes, he would..." he agreed, his head tilting just a little as his sentence cut off. "Demetri found me," he whispered, turning to me. "You ready?"

I nodded, worrying my bottom lip between my teeth. "You won't leave my sight?" I asked, because Alice's vision of Edward disappearing worried me to no end.

"No." His voice was firm yet comforting in its soft, sexy growl. "Not if I can help it. But if we do get separated...you open this mind to me. I need to hear you," he ordered, gently tapping my temple as I agreed.

"But what about Demetri?" I asked, because Edward had told me to guard my mind around him.

"It won't matter after tonight...if we're lucky. Besides, no matter what, I'll be wherever you are anyway," he explained, his temper barely under control.

"And Alice and Carlisle are ready?"

"Yes. They're where they need to be." Edward cupped my face. "You can do this."

I nodded fervently. "I have to."

Edward kissed me but pulled away just as quickly as he'd started. "Let's go."

The plan was to keep the two trackers and the other two immortals with them on the constant move until we had them where we wanted them – surrounded. We were evenly matched in numbers, but Edward told us that we had the advantage in experience and talent. He knew Demetri and James, so he could almost plan according to what he knew they'd do, but with my shield, Edward's mind reading, and Alice's visions, we were way ahead of them. Edward knew that Demetri would find him, knew that James would split off and that they'd worry when they couldn't get ahold of Felix – whom we'd already warned.

Jumping from rooftop to rooftop, we made our way farther south into SoHo. We needed privacy, somewhere that wouldn't harm humans if things got ugly. The only place I could think of was a closed up building several blocks from my apartment. It once housed a few businesses – a small jewelry shop on the first floor, a law office on the next three floors, and finally, an internet business. All of them had unfortunately had to relocate due to the stumble the economy was taking. The owner of the building was losing everything. The building was in foreclosure, which made it perfect.

Using the shadows to our advantage, we hid on a rooftop across from the building we were leading everyone to, our fingers linked. Edward gazed over the side of the building we were on to the sidewalk below. An evil smile crept up his face, and he leaned to my ear.

"Alice says they've changed tactics," he said, his voice barely making a sound. "Carlisle is well hidden for the moment. She says James isn't far behind us, and Demetri is coming up the sidewalk. He's already locked onto me. The two unknowns will be aiming for you, but she can't see them making a decision yet. I want your shield up and strong, love. Hear me?"

I nodded, opening my mind to him. Maybe we should split but only inside the building. Let the two we don't know think they have me. Alice can help me, and Carlisle can help you with James and Demetri.

He paused tilting his head. I could see by the tension in his jaw that he hated the idea of throwing Alice and me to the wolves, so to speak, but I could tell that he was listening to Alice from wherever she was hiding. Once again, they were playing with decisions and outcomes.

He nodded once after a few seconds. "According to Alice, in order for that to work, I've got to go in from the street...you from the roof. She'll meet you there. She's texting Carlisle now."

"Okay," I said with a tentative nod. Leaning in, I kissed him softly. "Love you, Edward."

"As I love you. Always," he breathed back, his eyes darkening. "And no matter what they tell you, love, we've done nothing wrong. Don't let them manipulate you."

He waited until I nodded. Then he kissed me one more time and then jumped down to the alleyway below, landing with barely a sound. With one more glance around, I leaped from one roof to the next. The very second my feet touched down, I was tackled onto my back and pinned to the rooftop next to one of the air conditioners.

Looming over me was a sandy-haired immortal that looked like he'd been changed around the age of nineteen or twenty. His blood red eyes carried hatred, determination, and fear. The latter emotion made me curious and led me to believe that he was fairly new to his...job, for a lack of better words.

"Got you!" he growled in a laugh.

"You think so, do you?" I countered, wearing my own grin at the same time I brought my knee up to his balls.

A sickening crunch echoed out around us, joined by a sorrowful groan. Some reactions ingrained in me had nothing to do with my immortality or my shield. Some things were the result of many, many lessons from Charlie when I was human. The fact that he'd be proud of me made me smile softly to myself.

The boy rolled off of me, and I spun just in time to bring my shield up as another immortal – though this one looking much older – launched himself at me. He bounced back a few steps just as his friend got back up on his feet. A rumble shook the building, the sound of cracking wood and plaster followed by a low growl I couldn't mistake anywhere. Edward.

I gasped, keeping my shield in place. There was a part of me that wanted to forgo the fight with the two guys in front of me, my heart screaming at me to help my mate, but before I could make that decision, Alice landed lightly by my side.

"Now, now, boys," she sang sarcastically. "I think we should keep things fair, don't you?" she asked them, tilting her head just a little.

Somehow, I think their sense of fair was different than hers, but I said nothing. My ears strained to hear Edward again.

"He's fine. He's holding his own. Carlise's on his way." Alice's voice was calm, almost amused, but she glanced over at me.

At the mention of Carlisle's name, the two immortals shot nervous glances to one another. They shifted uneasily on their feet, but said nothing as they crouched low.

"Okay," I barely breathed, leaving her gaze and giving our opponents the once-over. I knew in order to end them, I'd need to lower my shield. I had to be able to touch them. "Ready?" I asked, my breathing increasing.

She laughed, a light, easy sound that contradicted the things happening around us. "To quote Emmett... We so got this," she chuckled, holding out her fist.

I couldn't help but grin; her mood, her laugh...it was infectious. Bumping her fist with my own, we then turned to the two guys. My shield came down with a slight push of air. The second it was removed, Alice dove for the older-looking man. The younger of the two was left for me. He wasn't expecting me to attack first, so when I wrapped him up to slam him to the ground, his growl rumbled between us. We landed poorly, though. The glass of a skylight shattered and gave way. We fell hard into the middle of what looked like it used to be an executive office of the top floor.

He shoved me off of him, looking pissed off. "So that's the way it is?" When I didn't answer him, he growled, "Fine, bitch. You're going down."

~oOo~

EPOV

As I landed on the sidewalk, my mind absorbed everything around me – the hum of the streetlight, Alice's and Bella's thoughts, and finally, the mind I'd been searching for...Demetri. He wasn't far. In fact, he was right up the street, so I made sure to leave my scent along the front steps of the building, around the side, and all over the basement doorway.

The lock gave way to my strength, and I stepped into the darkness of the building. Alice had already disengaged the alarm and turned off the power. We didn't need any more attention from the humans than we could possibly avoid. Besides, the poor guy that was losing this place was about to have his wish come true. Vandalism and most likely arson would be the reasons behind a rather large insurance pay-out. The thought made me smile.

I wound my way through the basement, heading toward the first floor. It was then that I finally heard movement below me, Demetri's mind filled with excitement that he'd found me. He was sure that Aro would reward him for a job well done. James's mind, however, was just now coming into range, which meant that soon I would be outnumbered.

You can't hide from me, Edward, Demetri thought rather loudly to me. Aro's not happy with his favorite...boy.

He was baiting me. Grinning, I shook my head. My frozen age of seventeen had always been a bone of contention in the castle. I wasn't the only one stuck at that age, but I was the only one changed by Carlisle at that age. More than once had I defended my maker, most of the time resulting in rather violent fights.

"She will come with us, Edward," Demetri taunted, his voice low enough no human could have heard it, but I did. "You've been labeled a traitor, Masen. No one is buying this mating ruse Cullen's spewing. Aro still wants the girl and now...your head."

I darted into the closest office because his voice was just down the stairs.

"When Aro's through with her, after Cullen's whole coven is destroyed, he's handing her over to James," he chuckled.

My vision blurred with my anger and hatred. My death would shatter Bella – something Alice had already foreseen – but James would pick her apart piece by piece. If I'd have been thinking clearly, I would've realized that the family would never allow it, that we weren't alone, but the mere thought of James touching my mate caused all rational thought to escape me.

"No!" I snarled, erupting from the room in which I was hiding. I tackled Demetri into the office across the hall. "No one touches her," I growled as we collided with the wall behind him.

Plaster and wood frames gave way easily under our strength. We landed awkwardly, but I still maintained the advantage for just the moment. I'd taken him by surprise. Kicking me off of him, Demetri shot to his feet. Kicks, punches, and bites flew my way, but I deflected them all. Demetri might've been an amazing tracker, but his thoughts were still crystal clear. I saw every last plan of attack before he actually executed them. He grew frustrated, backing off a bit.

The sound of shattering glass several floors up caught my attention, making me seek out Bella's mind. She was holding her own, though from the look of things had fallen through a glass skylight. There was a part of me that needed to go to her, but two other minds were growing closer. I just wasn't sure which one would get to me first.

My attention snapped back to Demetri when he took advantage of my brief idiocy. Rushing at me, he slammed us into the window, glass shattering down to the sidewalk.

"Give up, Edward," Demetri grunted. "Even if you get away, Aro's coming for you. For that whole coven of yours."

I grinned evilly. "I hope so."

That answer rattled him a bit, which allowed me to kick him off of me. Bolting for the stairs once again, I made my way closer to Bella. I needed to make sure she was okay. Her mind was flickering in and out of mine, and that made me think she was struggling to maintain her shield. However, Alice's was perfect, telling me that they were both fine.

I made it to the third floor before he caught up to me, crashing in through the window from the outside. He'd climbed up the building. More walls and discarded furniture gave way under our struggles, Demetri landing on top of me. It was then that he froze, his eyes catching something just past my face.

"Shit," he hissed, glaring at my shoulder. My shirt had ripped, and Bella's mark was visible for all to see. "You are mated."

I didn't say anything as I shoved him off of me. He sat back hard on his ass, his mouth hanging open. I held no ill will toward Demetri. When I'd worked for Aro, we'd always gotten along. Now that Bella was his next target, I wasn't sure I could trust him. I eyed him warily as he sat in shock.

"Aro lied," he murmured, looking like a kid that just found out the tooth fairy was his mother. His thoughts were filled with his last conversation with Aro. He hadn't wanted to believe I was a traitor, but he'd listened to Aro. It was lie after lie, but Demetri's faith in his master was crumbling. If he lied about something so simple as this, then what else was Aro lying about?

"Yeah, he has a tendency to do that," I scoffed, rolling my eyes. "I'm not a traitor. He used me, Demetri...just like he's using you."

"But he can't touch you. If you're mated, then..."

"Exactly," I said, standing up onto my feet.

"My family has done nothing wrong," we heard from the doorway.

I'd heard Carlisle's mind approaching. He was willing to step in and help, but when he'd heard the turn of events, he'd decided to wait patiently. However, he stood in front of us, barely holding onto his temper, his mind reeling with several different paths of thinking. He was relieved that I was okay, he was worried about the girls – who were still battling their opponents – and he was livid at Aro for all the trouble and deception.

"Carlisle," Demetri breathed, his eyes widening at the sight of an immortal so much older than him. He knew of my father, having been a newborn just about the time that Carlisle had decided to leave Volterra. The legends, the stories, they were all new back then and permanently imbedded in his mind.

"You can't have them," Carlisle stated, his voice taking on a commanding tone that he rarely had to use.

"Aro's called for them...for you," Demetri countered, not knowing what steps to take next. "He says you're building an army...that Edward has turned against him."

I shook my head, taking a deep breath and letting it out, but my mind alerted. My skin prickled at the sound of James's mind. He was in the building next door, listening to us but watching Bella. He knew his target when he saw her.

"Fuck... Bella," I growled, pushing past Demetri.

For a split second, I thought to tell him to call James off, but I knew better. James was already convinced he was alone in this. He could hear our conversation with Demetri. In fact, he couldn't wait to take Bella and the news of Demetri's betrayal back to Aro. I could not let that happen.

The sound of ripping immortal flesh met my ears as I flew up the stairs. I could hear Carlisle and Demetri behind me, but nothing could've slowed me down. Not even the sound of Alice's mind.

Edward, wait! It's a trap! He knew you were listening for his mind! Alice was frantically showing me James's decision, but just as I saw myself come out onto the rooftop in her vision, James had already landed next to Bella. The door ripped off its hinges as I launched out the door and straight at him. I barely registered the dismembered bodies of the immortals the girls had been fighting.

James tried to grab at Bella, but her shield was firmly in place, and my pride in her skyrocketed. I couldn't read her mind, but I did note the look of shock on her face as I landed so hard onto James that we slid into the outer wall of the roof, destroying it and sending bricks and rubble to the alleyway below.

"She's preeeetty, Eddie," James laughed, despite the fact that I was practically hanging him upside down over the street below.

The fall wouldn't kill him, but at his basic core, James was a coward. He'd run away if he thought he was losing a fight. And that I couldn't have. He'd heard way too much from Demetri, assumed he could earn more favors from Aro if he took back everything he'd heard.

"Oh, boy," he continued to chuckle, his mind filling with vile and disgusting thoughts about the things he'd do to Bella once Aro handed her over. "I bet that's some sweet shit right there...I can't wait!"

"I'll fucking kill you," I growled low.

James's legs kicked at me, sending me flying toward the edge of the building, but I caught myself, using my strength to catapult me back to the middle of the roof and landing in front of him.

"Bella, love?" I panted, not breaking my gaze away from James's bright red, angry eyes as we circled one another. However, his mind was frantic and scared.

"Yeah?"

"Shield the whole rooftop."

I could hear a small smile in her voice when she said, "Done, Edward."

"That's my girl," I said with a grin, tilting my head at James. "You know, James, I was willing to discuss this, but I see by your thoughts that you're not going to listen. Now...you can't leave."

Alice's mind was whirling through possibilities, but Bella's was still closed to me. James was searching every possible scenario in order to either escape or attack and was pacing like a trapped wild animal. He tested each side of the building, running into an invisible barrier each time. However, Carlisle and Demetri were in a deep discussion. I caught words like betrayal, family, and arrogance, but my main priority was getting more and more agitated.

"Edward will have to kill him to stop him. He's never been quite...stable," Demetri muttered. "I don't know why Aro uses him. He causes more messes than we clean up."

"Perhaps something went wrong with his change," Carlisle mused, which would be the stance he'd take on it. I almost rolled my eyes. "My son, though... He has the right to defend his mate."

"By all means," Demetri chuckled.

It was a fight-or-flight moment for James, but since he couldn't escape and his only ally just threw him to the enemy without a second thought, his only alternative was to fight, though he always fought dirty. He aimed for the girls first, but Alice was quicker, having seen it coming. She and Bella avoided his attack by dodging to the side in a blur of movement. Bella's shield around the edge of the building knocked him right back to me. Grabbing him roughly, my punches connected with his face, his stomach, and his throat, sending him reeling back but only to dive right back into the fight. Where Demetri's thoughts were clear, calculated, James's were not. He relied on instinct to fight. I didn't always know which way he was going to attack, but I could quickly adjust.

Focusing solely on his thoughts, I let my own instincts take over. The rooftop rumbled with each kick, punch, and body slam. I caught a flickering thought, countered it, but it was too late, James did the opposite of his mind allowed me to see. He landed heavily on my back, causing us to collapse to the rooftop, his arms firmly around my head. I could feel the grip of his arms tightening, getting ready to kill me.

Bella yelled, "No!" at the same time that Alice called for everyone to get down.

That familiar push of air preceded her shield. I flinched, knowing that she'd pulled everything she had from the roof to shoot out at James. Instantly, the pressure around my neck released, and the heavy sound of thumps reverberated through my body. She'd severed him in two.

I rolled onto my back, muttering, "I should have killed him back in the South. What the hell was I thinking?"

Demetri's chuckle met my ears, and a hand appeared in front of me to help me up. "Maybe you were thinking that he was just the next new toy for Aro." He tugged me to my feet with a grin as Carlisle took care of James, removing his head swiftly. "Or maybe you were trying to put me out of a job."

"May..." My words were cut off because suddenly, a brunette blur flew into my bare chest, my shirt long destroyed by the fight. Bella's arms and legs wrapped around me, her breathing heavy. "I'm okay, love," I whispered in her ear, walking away just a little with her clinging to me like a second skin.

"Promise?" she mumbled into my neck, and I couldn't help but smile. She pulled back, her fingers tracing over my face, my neck, and my chest. Sweet, worried, golden eyes met mine. "You're okay?"

I could only nod as she wound her arms around my head, bringing my forehead to hers. Her worry was still radiating off of her, but I was lost to the scent of her, the darkening of her eyes. If she could've cried, she'd have been sobbing. And that I just couldn't have.

"Easy, sweet girl," I crooned, ignoring everyone else as they cleaned up the roof. Brushing her hair from her face, I couldn't resist teasing her. "I had him just where I wanted him, you know."

She opened her mouth to speak, her eyes blackening to pitch.

"I'm kidding, love," I chuckled, kissing her quickly before that deadly temper of hers turned on me. "Thank you," I whispered, my head falling to her shoulder as my arms squeezed her tighter.

Suddenly, I was grateful for Alice's visions. Extremely grateful.

You're welcome, Edward, Alice thought to me, but I'd barely heard her. Bella was my main priority at the moment because she was still a little shaken – though, no one but me could see it because she was keeping it all silent.

Dammit, Edward... If I freaked out over this, then how in the hell am I supposed to focus when Aro comes?

I pulled away from her neck after placing a long, slow, loving kiss to the skin. "I trust you completely, Bella. It's that simple. We all do."

She pursed her lips at me, rolling her eyes, but she didn't argue. My eyes stayed on hers, but we both heard Demetri and Carlisle.

"Definitely mated," Demetri sighed wearily, and through his thoughts, I could see how he saw Bella and me – completely wrapped up in each other.

Carlisle quickly explained everything. How I'd come here to do my job, how Alice had seen it all coming, and how everything had changed when I'd realized Bella was my mate. He even told him about the secret blackmail deal Aro had given me all those years ago. All of it pissed Demetri off to no end.

"Now what the hell am I supposed to do? I can't in good conscience separate them, but Aro has already passed judgment on you," he groaned.

"You'd be breaking one law in order to follow another, but the judgment is based on untruths," Carlisle pointed out. "Aro's still planning on a visit to me?"

My head shot up when Demetri gasped. "How did you know?"

I smiled at Alice's sweet laugh but turned to Bella. "Set your feet down, baby," I told her softly. When her toes touched back down to the rooftop, I kept her hand in mine, joining the conversation. "Alice is very talented," I told him.

A true seer? he asked silently, and I nodded. I could see by his mind that he was trying to look at the entire situation logically.

"As is this young immortal," Demetri said with a smile and a bow of his head to Bella. "I can see why Aro would want you, but you'd be useless to him unless you were there of your own accord. I can't imagine she'd do that against you."

"Bella, this is Demetri," I introduced them.

Bella didn't shake his hand, but she did nod his way.

"She wouldn't," Alice added. "Aro would've used the family as a threat."

Demetri let out another long sigh, shaking his head slowly. "Is this why Felix won't return my calls? Did he come see you?"

I kept my face impassive. "I can't answer for Felix."

"Stop protecting your old friend, Edward! I need to know that I'm not alone in knowing the truth," Demetri snapped, rolling his eyes. "Did he come to you or not?"He glared at me, switching to thoughts. I need to know, Masen. If Aro is breaking his own laws, then this could mean a complete breakdown in structure. Tell me!

My nostrils flared, and I gritted my teeth, but I knew he was right. "Yes. He's hiding from you."

Demetri snorted in to one rough laugh. "I can find him."

"And what will you do to him?" Bella growled. "He's done nothing wrong, either."

"Just talk to him," he explained calmly, though his mind registered Bella's beauty, her temper, and fierce loyalty, deciding that she was a perfect match for me. "I need to know what he knows, Bella. I can't have the men who keep the laws breaking them. If that's the case, then we'd have to call for a removal of Aro from his post, and that won't be easy. He's ruled us for centuries."

"No, it won't," Carlisle murmured, shaking his head. "In order to do that, you'd have to have Marcus's and Caius's backing on it. No one has ever called for a vote of 'no confidence' in Aro. Caius, yes. Aro, no."

"Exactly," Demetri confirmed. "I need proof...and really, more than just Felix."

"But if you don't have it, then Aro will execute you for treason for even suggesting it." I sighed, rubbing my face, only to claw at my hair in frustration. "All of us."

The rooftop was filled with several different trains of thought, but my eyes shot to Alice. She was testing what would happen if Demetri located Felix. She quickly switched to the meeting of Aro in our own backyard, and finally, added the knowledge that Aro had lost four men tonight. Five, if he counted Felix.

"Oh, boy," I groaned, watching it all unfold. "It won't matter if it was in defense, will it?"

"No, he'll consider tonight to be a 'spectacle,'" Alice replied, grimacing. "It seems he can twist anything around into rule breaking."

"He can," Demetri, Carlisle, and I all answered her.

Demetri shook his head and surveyed his surroundings. His thoughts were going so fast that I almost couldn't follow them. Finally, he looked back to Carlisle.

"You have four days," he told him. "Aro will come for you. He knows where you are. That should give me just enough time to find Felix...maybe others. I have to avoid Aro's touch until then, but I'll claim that I'm looking for Felix, fearing something happened to him since he didn't show tonight. I'll track him down. That should give us enough time to come back to you."

"What if you don't make it?" Bella asked, and I couldn't help but wrap my arms around her from behind, pressing kisses to her head.

"You'll have to answer for the charges against you, but I swear I'll do everything in my power to be there to give witness," Demetri vowed. His thoughts were solemn, filling with names of vampires he thought he could trust. He turned to me and then Carlisle. "You aren't the only one Aro's pulled this with. The first time, I was willing to overlook it. This time...I can't."

"You're putting yourself in serious danger," Carlisle told him with a slow shake of his head. "Is there anyone besides Felix that you can trust?"

"Yes," Demetri said with a nod. "There's an Irish coven...and quite possibly the coven in Africa."

"The Russians?" I suggested.

"No, they're no help," Demetri laughed. "They'd love to see the Volturi completely destroyed. I don't want them ruined, but I think it's time for a change. And Vladimir and Stefan are...sleeping."

Bella's eyebrows shot up, as did Alice's.

I grinned, bending to Bella's ear. "The Russians are so old, been around so long that they can go years without feeding. It puts them in a sleep-like trance so that they can skip...generations of time."

Carlisle smirked at Bella's and Alice's shocked faces but then scanned the rooftop. "We need to clean this up. Burn the bodies." He turned to Demetri. "Go, we've got this. I want to make sure the fire doesn't spread to other buildings. We'll watch until it's under control."

Demetri's mind swirled around all that he'd heard about Carlisle, and he realized that it was all true. He was a calm, kind, level-headed immortal. He could see how he looked at me, Bella, and Alice, like we were actually his children. We weren't a coven; we were, indeed, a family. It practically radiated off of us.

No wonder you defended him all these years, Demetri thought to me. I can see now why. He's not afraid to stand up for what's right. Not even the Volturi brothers will do that.

I nodded once that I'd heard him.

"Four days," he reminded me, shaking my hand and then Carlisle's and Alice's. "Until then, lay low." When he shook Bella's hand, he wore a small smile as he told her it was nice to meet her before switching to his thoughts again. Edward, she's truly a beauty. You've mated for life, so try not to drive her insane. Is she worth fighting for? Worth changing everything for?

I huffed a small laugh. "Yes. Everything...and then some."

"Good," he said with a smirk. "Four days." With that last reminder, he left us, jumping over the side of the building, his talent already homing in on Felix.

Gathering up all the destroyed vampires, we scattered them throughout the building before lighting them on fire. Carlisle insisted on making it look like arson so that suspicions would be kept to a minimum. We kept watch over the fire from a rooftop a few blocks down for a few minutes before I called 9-1-1, but Carlisle called home, relaying everything quickly and quietly.

When he ended the call, I leaned against the wall next to him, both of us watching the girls relive their fights with animated gestures, pride-filled smiles, and learned lessons for the next fight. It was the first time I'd seen them truly interact like that – talking over one another, giggling, just...being girls. Both women had their mind on the future problems with the Volturi, but for one moment, they wanted to ignore it.

Now you see why I changed Bella? Carlisle thought to me with a soft chuckle, but he also showed me a glimpse of Alice prior to my girl stumbling into their lives. It was the same Alice, but muted, dull, and definitely not as bright and happy as the short thing I was currently witnessing. However, he showed me a human Bella, too, trudging around school, not fitting in, avoiding human boys like they were the plague. Bella accepted Alice at face value, and Alice loved her for it. It didn't matter than one was so different than the other. It hardly mattered that I was the basis for all of it. They were, to their very souls, the best of friends. True sisters.

I grinned, shaking my head. "Yeah, I get it. But there's more to it, and you know it, Carlisle."

"Maybe," he allowed with a smirk. Yes, I wanted my son back, but I also wanted my family...whole.

I smiled over at him, nodding once that I'd heard him. Carlisle was convinced that together – all of us – were stronger, better, and much more capable than the Volturi. We just needed to show them. Demetri's call for a vote of "no confidence" made him nervous, but he was sure it was the right thing to do. Aro had betrayed too many of us for his liking.

When the sound of sirens finally met our ears, he said, "Come, let's get back home. I think we need to sit down and talk. All of us."

"Come on, my little warriors... Let's go," I chuckled, shaking my head at their laughter.

My smile fell away quickly as I gathered Bella to my side. I suddenly realized we only had four days to get ready. If Demetri didn't show, if the Volturi didn't believe us or didn't give as a chance to explain, then we were in for a much bigger, much nastier fight. And fight we would, because not even Carlisle was backing down this time.

~oOo~

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