Saturday, September 22, 2012 | By: Jenny

Haunted Angel Chapter 4

Chapter 4
"Love, what exactly were you looking for?" I asked, tossing another pile of shredded cardboard boxes into the rolling garbage can.
I scowled at just how much damage I'd caused, shaking my head a little. Nothing major had been destroyed – no guitars, no drums, not even the piano...though I had suspicions that Bella had shielded them. A few of Carlisle's books would have to be rebound – a fact that brought my guilt boiling to the surface. I shouldn't have lost control, but I had, and now I'd have to face the consequences.
My sweet girl turned around on the ladder she was standing atop of, flipping through a burgundy leather-bound book, only to place it back on the shelf behind her. She was adorable with still-damp hair from our recent bath in our new bathroom; it was all wound up into a loose knot on the top of her head. She was wearing long, baby blue plaid pajama bottoms, one of my blue T-shirts, and no socks, leaving her with bare feet. She looked and smelled so sweet that I could barely keep myself from scooping her up again. Once again, she'd been the rock while I'd fallen apart, and she'd allowed me to bury it all inside her. And instead of worrying or fretting, she'd just taken it, never batting an eye.
"The thing is this," she said, not looking my way as she grabbed the next book. "Mrs. Delap said that all these books came with the house, right?" she verified, and I nodded when she gave me a quick glance. "Well, I was thinking that maybe...just maybe, some of them were personal items from previous owners."
"You mean like journals or something?" I verified, returning to my work of picking the ripped and busted boxes.
Bella beamed at me. "Exactly!" She turned back to her work, saying, "And there's more than this, apparently. Rose said there are boxes in the garage."
"Yeah, eventually, we'll have to figure out what to do with them all because we've got our own books to store in here," I muttered, frowning at the old medical reference book that was slightly ripped. "Carlise's gonna kill me."
"No, he won't," Bella said with a giggle. "And if he tries, I'll shield you."
That made me grin. "Thanks, baby."
Just when I couldn't love her more, something came along to prove me wrong. She was the absolute best thing that had ever happened to me. Hands down. She knew I wasn't perfect – and had no problem telling me so – but she also backed me one hundred percent, no matter what.
"Mmhmm," she hummed distractedly.
I glanced out the window over the backyard. The sun was trying to emerge through the thick trees and even thicker clouds. Our siblings were due back soon, I was pretty sure. I needed to apologize to Emmett; it wasn't his fault that I was feeling strangely unbalanced with all the things that had been running through my head as of late – both my own thoughts and foreign. I also knew we all had quite a bit of work ahead of us. We needed to at least take a look at the basement to note what needed to be done, and we still had the garage to attend to. Aside from a few rooms left for the future occupants to paint, the house was now at least acceptable – something that caused a feeling of pride to swell within me. Esme would add her own touches and most likely change a few things, but the rest of our family only had rooms to paint and boxes of personal items to unpack.
Family. I snorted a soft laugh and shook my head at the thought. A little over ten years ago, I never would have thought I'd be mated to the most beautiful girl, much less have three more members in my family. But time had a tendency to change things quickly, especially in this life. It seemed like just yesterday that it was only Carlisle and me. I was sure we'd never even dreamed what our family would turn into – and we would've never expected someone like Kevin.
"What's got you so amused over there?" Bella asked with a laugh and a wrinkle to her brow.
"Kevin," I answered, my chuckle coming out harder.
"Ah, are you ready for him, Heavy E?" she teased, shooting a wink my way as she stepped down off the ladder.
I snorted, rolling my eyes at Kevin's nickname for me. "No, not even a little bit."
Bella's giggle was almost musical, but she nodded, putting her hands on her hips as she surveyed the room. "It'll take some getting used to, I'm sure." Her brilliant mind calculated the books on the floor versus the space left on a few empty bookcases at the same time she mused about what having two fairly new immortals would mean to the rest of us.
"They'll fit, sweet girl," I told her, rolling the now overflowing garbage can out into the living room to take out later. "You get on that ladder. I'll hand them to you. Okay?"
"Sure," she chirped, scurrying to the top.
"And Adrian's not that new, Bella," I said, touching on her thoughts as I gathered a large stack of Carlisle's books. "He'll be two years into this life, and Marcus says he doing very well with our diet. Kevin is now a full year. His newborn strength has almost leveled out, and he chose this life – the same as you, love – so he's just as adjusted. I can't see them being all that hard to maintain."
"I know," she said, smirking a little as she hoisted books onto the shelf. "I have a feeling that with Kevin, it'll be more about fitting public. And I'm not really sure I mean his immortality," she stated, raising an eyebrow at me.
I laughed, kissing her fingers quickly before she took the next stack of books from me. "You may have a point. Kevin truly is...exuberant."
"Exuberant," she repeated wearing a grin. "Yeah... Yeah, that works."
I continued to hand her books until the shelves were full and there were only a few remaining on the floor. She picked those up and stacked them neatly on the table at the end of the sofa.
"Everyone should be back from hunting soon, don't you think?" she asked, but I'd frozen where I was standing.
Hunting... nothing... more than I thought. Must go!
I tried like hell to see more, but the blackness, the emptiness that accompanied this mind was just as strong as it had been the first time. However, the fear behind it had only increased.
Gentle hands cupped my face, but instead of speaking, Bella used her mind. You're hearing it. Right now.
When I nodded, she frowned a little, turning a little to the room. "Hello?" she called out, thinking that at this point, it was worth a shot. "Anyone here?" she asked, slowly starting to walk around the room.
No, no, no! Too close, too much... No one here...
The mind was practically screaming in anger and terror, still blotchy, still like static, which made it absolutely impossible for me to narrow down where it was coming from.
I reached for Bella, pulling her back to my chest. "Stop, baby," I barely made a sound whispering into her ear. "For some reason, you're making it worse."
She nodded fervently but turned to look at the library's doorway because our siblings were back. It was wild-eyed Jasper that entered the room first. Terror was rolling off him in waves, but it was merely what he'd felt, not his own.
"What the fuck?" he growled low, glancing between me and Bella. "That was worse than last time."
"Bella tried communicating," I stated, shrugging a shoulder. "I heard it twice, though."
Alice burst into the room, past a rigid Emmett and Rose, who were merely waiting for what would happen next. "I saw you decide to talk," she gushed, pointing to Bella. "You...You disappeared for a second. Both of you. It was know when the wolves would decide to come. Just...gone. Poof! Blackness."
My eyebrows rose high because that was more than Alice had seen before. It seemed that not only the fear was stronger, but whatever I was hearing was finally reaching the rest of my family. And if Alice was starting to get glimpses – even blank disappearances – then I needed to really reevaluate what this...this thing might be.
Yo, Edward, Emmett thought to me, leaving the room silent. Man, I don't know what this shit is, but if I have to tear down walls, we'll find out. Okay?
I nodded once, smirking a little. He felt badly that he'd upset me earlier, but not until this moment had he truly considered how concerned I'd been. I waved off his silent apology because my frame of mind had been out of my control. Looking to Alice, I made the decision to scour the house and the grounds for proof.
"Nope. Nothing," she sighed, her worried eyes meeting mine. "Don't bother. However, Carlisle's decided to buy a car instead of renting one, which means they've landed, so they'll be here soon."
"You know what?" Emmett suddenly spoke aloud. When we turned to him, his face was solemn, almost fierce. "Let's get the fuck outta this house. We'll all work outside. What do you say?"
"Umm, yeah," Bella agreed instantly, grabbing my hand. "Most definitely. We'll give the house a rest."
"God, what is that smell?" Bella growled, her nose wrinkling.
"Something died back in there somewhere," Emmett groaned, grimacing a little. "That's a new development since I opened these doors yesterday."
The whole lot of us groaned along with him. As if our senses weren't sharp enough as it was, adding in something so potent as a possible dead rat buried beneath a mountain of boxes and junk just made it all the worse because we had to smell it the entire time we were emptying it all out. But the unanimous mindset was that out here was ever so much better than inside the house, considering they were all more than a little concerned about what was happening in there.
"Okay, so what's the plan?" Rose asked, waving a hand in front of her face.
"Books go to Bella for sorting," Jasper stated, jerking a thumb over his shoulder. "Clothes and shit like that can be tossed. And it looks like there's some old farm equipment back there. We can scrap it or sell it...whatever you want."
We all nodded in agreement. Eying the rather large garage, I could see years of just junk. I'd be willing to bet that each time someone bought the house, they stored whatever the previous owner had left behind in here. Eventually, it had just stacked up to the ceiling.
"This is like an archeological dig," Bella muttered, narrowing her eyes at it all. "Look... Decades are clearly represented in layers by what type of boxes are used."
I grinned because she was right. Out front and on top were the most recent – grocery boxes and Walmart bags were plainly marked. But as I looked closer toward the back, I could see Pepsi and Coke logos from the seventies, Moon Pie boxes from the sixties, and something that looked like a local market farther back – and those were made of wood. I shook my head because I couldn't imagine in what condition some of this stuff was.
We worked quickly. Six very strong, very fast hands made the work go easier. Right out front of the three raised garage doors was a staging of different items. All the boxes containing books and papers of any sort went on the far end, clothes and old molded bedding went in the middle, and the rest – tools, old appliances, and even childrens' toys – were piled up on the end. Some things had been in there so long, they were hardly recognizable due to decomposition, mold, and mildew. Our goal was to empty the damn thing first and then dispose of whatever had died in the back.
"Raccoon," Emmett finally called from the very back of the building once there was enough stuff out of the way.
Bella's head snapped up, her brow wrinkling as she clearly remembered seeing one the night before. In her mind, I saw a waddling raccoon wander around the backyard from the window of the library. She started to ask how something of that size got back there, but decided against it.
"There could be a hole in the wall somewhere, Bella," I answered her anyway. "He could've squeezed in but then couldn't figure out how to squeeze back out."
Emmett rushed out of the garage with the damn thing and toted it far into the woods. His mind noted that the animal had seen better days – it was withered and broken, most likely attacked by rats when it actually died, because the fur and hide were a little wrecked.
When he came back, he said with a grimace, "Well, Mr. Raccoon wasn't the only thing to get trapped in here. Look." He pointed toward the farthest back corner.
Clearly, there had to have been a small crack in the corner of the building somewhere, because there was a small pile of animal bones in the corner next to the end of what looked to be a long, dilapidated workbench – something Rose was already planning to remove and rebuild. Kneeling down next to the pile, I ran a thumb over the canine of a small, white skull.
"Cats, rats, squirrels, chipmunks..." I mused, frowning at the pile. I'd taken enough physiology and biology classes to know an animal by its remains. "There's even a small dog back here," I noted, though the bones looked to be quite old. "They all would've sought shelter but couldn't get out."
"I found the hole!" Alice called from outside. She was at the back of the building, but at the opposite corner.
"That's what she said," Emmett said with a waggle of his eyebrows and his trademark grin, causing all of us to crack up.
"I heard that!" Alice growled, but I could hear her amusement plain as day. "Can we just get this done?" she sighed exasperatedly once she was back inside with the rest of us.
Bella's giggle was adorable coming from the stack of boxes she was about to start sorting. She shot our brother a quick glance, smiling and shaking her head. Kneeling down next to the most recent of the stored items, she cracked open a box. It was childrens' books, and from what I could see, there were a lot of them.
Moving down next to her, I peered inside.
"We shouldn't throw these away," she murmured, rummaging through the box. She noted all the titles and authors she recognized from when she was a child – Dr. Seuss, Beverly Cleary, even the brothers Grimm. But the thought that was swirling in her mind came bubbling up to the surface. "These must've belonged to Caroline Dixon. Her father didn't take anything with them..." She glanced down at the pile at the other end of the garage, gazing at pretty recent toys and then the next pile, which clearly were clothes for a little girl. "Not a thing, it seems."
Something about the last owners of this house bothered Bella. I wasn't sure if it was the disappearance of Lisa Dixon or the absolute defeat of her husband Tim, but she didn't like one bit of it. Considering that Tim and Caroline had lasted a year in this house after Lisa went missing was interesting to her, especially since our research told us that no one lasted that long. But Bella was convinced that something finally made Tim and Caroline haul ass out of this house without so much as a glance back.
Running a hand flat over her head, I brushed her hair off her shoulder, giving her neck a gentle squeeze. "If you want, love, we can get in touch with Bob at the library...see if he'll take them. At least someone could use them."
"We should do that with most of these," she stated softly, nodding at me.
"Okay," I agreed, "then I'll call him later. Would that make you feel better?" I smiled when she nodded. "Good. Just make a pile, baby. We'll get them there. Do you want help?"
"No," she sighed, gazing the pile in front of her, "I've got this. Maybe if we hurry, we can get done before Carlisle and everyone gets here."
Everyone had paused to listen to her; they could hear the emotion in her voice, although Jasper felt her melancholy the most concerning little Caroline Dixon.
Is she okay, Ed? His thoughts were concerned, but understanding, because this whole move had been strange.
I nodded once to him, dropping a kiss to the top of her head before standing up. Since our return from the library, we hadn't really had the chance to go over everything with our siblings. I'd been hoping to wait for Carlisle, but I could see that this was something they all needed to know. As we began to toss things into the dumpster, I started to explain all about Varner, the Dixons, and everyone else that had lived here in between.
"Has anyone seen my new drill?" Emmett called out from the front door.
"You left it in the kitchen with the rest of the tools," Rose answered, tugging at the workbench along the wall. It gave a rotten squelch before finally wrenching free.
"Not there!"
I tossed what seemed like the millionth box into the dumpster, glancing between them. The garage was almost finished. The piles were sorted, the boxes we were donating were in Emmett's truck, and the floor of the building had been swept clean.
"Did you leave it in Bella and Edward's room?" Jasper grunted, heaving a giant pile of old clothes on top of the box I'd just thrown away.
Emmett darted back inside but reappeared just as quickly as he'd vanished. "No!"
How the hell did beings with perfect memories lose shit? I wondered, grabbing the last stack of boxes and throwing them away.
"Maybe it's with my damn iPod," I muttered, merely being sarcastic to no one in particular, but when I looked around, everyone was staring at me. "What? Have you lost stuff before? No. Why? Because we don't forget where we put things. I know that drill was in the kitchen. I know my iPod was on the mantle in the living room. Unless they eloped together, both things have now suddenly up and disappeared."
Edward smirked, brushing off his hands after throwing away an ancient tricycle. He cupped my face, saying, "We'll get you a new one, Bella, if we don't find it. At least all the music isn't gone. It's all saved on your laptop."
I smiled up at him, thinking, And at least it's not the bedroom one, right?
Edward's grin was crooked and sexy. "At least. Hmm, perhaps I added to it..."
Giggling, I shook my head. "Tease," I huffed, glancing up at a disgruntled Emmett, who was carrying his old drill. "He didn't find it."
Jasper, who had been pretty quiet, suddenly asked, "Is anyone else missing anything?" When Rose and Alice shook their heads, he said, "Well, start paying attention. I'm curious as to if anything else just vanishes into thin air."
"That's it!" Alice snapped in a growl, throwing the box in her hand so hard that it dented the side of the dumpster. "Why can't I see shit anymore? I can't see this voice, our things, or any of it!"
Jasper was immediately at her side. "Easy, darlin'. No one expects you to see it all."
"I have a theory on that, Alice," Edward said softly, using the tone he normally used to soothe me. When she locked gazes with him, he sighed, grimacing a bit. "You can't see things you don't know or haven't the wolves. Maybe... Maybe this is something unique."
Alice's brow wrinkled, but she looked up at Jasper and then to Edward. "But you don't think it's a ghost."
"No, I don't," Edward stated almost gruffly. "I honestly don't. I've never heard one before, so why would I start now?"
My eyebrows shot up, but I had to agree with his point on that one. Besides, if hearing every thought of mortals and immortals weren't enough, I couldn't imagine throwing in the possibility of all those that have passed on.
Edward spun to face me. "No kidding," he said with a harsh laugh.
Rose scowled at the garage and between all of us. "That's it. I'm done," she growled, throwing the remains of the workbench away.
Edward chuckled, tilting his head a bit. "Good. Just in time, then."
Just as he said that, a black Mercedes SUV pulled into the driveway. The car had barely come to a complete stop before a person I hadn't seen in months stepped out from the back seat.
"Who the hell did you guys buy this shit from? Frankenstein?" Kevin asked, placing a hand on his hip.
"Kevin!" Rose, Alice, and I all squealed, rushing to him.
He caught us all in a giant hug, practically lifting us up. "God, I missed my girls!"
Kevin looked exactly the same, of course, but his eyes were happy, content, even confident. He'd been worried when we left him in Italy that he'd never get to the point of being able to join the family. His short, light brown hair had a touch of gold to it, matching his eyes, his boyish face was as beautiful as an angel's, wearing the happiest of smiles as he hugged each one of us, and his mouth was still as unfiltered as ever.
"Goddess, what is that smell?" he asked, holding me at arm's length as his nose wrinkled.
I laughed, smacking at him. "The same smell you're gonna be rolling in now that you're here to get to work, Kev."
"Fan-fucking-tastic," he drawled, rolling his eyes.
"Kevin, language!" Esme growled, and she sounded like she'd said that a million times just in the last few days.
He grinned and shrugged. "I don't know why she tries. Even Dr. Feelgood told her to give it up. I'm unchanging, Mom," he told her with his sweet grin. He rubbed his hands together. "Now...where's Heavy E and the boys?"
Edward's amused chuckle was deep and soft, but he stepped forward. "Welcome home, Kev. It's about time."
As lots of fist bumps and hugs were exchanged, I caught sight of the quietest member of our family. He was silently studying his surroundings from the other side of the car. His nervous habit that matched Edward's made me smile as his hand shot to his hair to pull it out of his face.
"Hey, Adrian," I said, smiling when he hugged me. "It's good to have you back."
His sweet, shy smile curled up on his face as his eyes immediately went to his feet. "I missed you guys. Not that Marcus wasn't... I mean, we learned a lot. But still..."
God, he was adorable – dark brown hair falling to his forehead, honey-colored eyes that still held the sadness of his difficult beginnings, and a soft, kind smile.
I giggled softly. "I get it. No need to explain."
He nodded but looked past me as a hand fell on my shoulder. I turned to see Carlisle looking happy yet concerned. I hugged him. Hard. He was a sight for sore eyes, even though I'd seen him just before we left New York.
"How are things, sweetheart?" he asked softly in my ear, but it was the unspoken question that I truly heard. He was asking how Edward was doing.
"Just...strange," I stated, giving the house a scathing glance before looking back to calm and comforting. "I'm glad you're finally here."
"Well, I, for one, want to hear all about it," Esme said, folding her arms across her chest and giving Edward a loving yet pleading gaze. "Don't leave out a thing."
Carlisle let out a long exhale. "Son, why don't you show us what you've done and start at the beginning."
Edward nodded and led us into the house. Esme praised our work while Carlisle listened intently to everything Edward told him – and probably some things he wasn't telling him – starting from the smell that we'd encountered from the very beginning, to the mind he'd heard, to what Jasper had felt, and even what Alice didn't see. The rest of us interjected when needed, but otherwise, Edward took the lead on this one.
"And you said the smell was the strongest in the basement?" Carlisle asked as we finally came back down from showing them the upper bedrooms.
"Yes!" all of us answered him, and we were all wearing grimaces.
"Oh, damn," Kevin exclaimed with a snort. "Well, this I have to see." He walked quickly to the cellar door and cracked it open. "Is this why you guys haven't come down here?" he asked, but his eyebrows shot up high as he faced us. "Well, hellfire, no wonder..."
Adrian poked his head just inside the doorway, inhaling deeply. His brow furrowed, but he said nothing. Edward, however, picked up on his thoughts immediately.
"Yes, it's close, but not quite the same as the underground of Italy. I noticed that, too, but there's no scent of immortals," he answered. "I think it's the damp brick that you're associating with it."
"Perhaps," Carlisle mused. "It is similar..."
He wandered down the stairs, and we followed silently behind him. I hadn't been down here very often. Edward, my siblings, and I kept pushing it to the back burner when it came to working down here. It wasn't the tight space, or the cool, wet air, or even the crypt-like feel of it... Okay, so it was a little bit of all of those things, but something about that part of the house seemed to feel concentrated, thick. Like the center of all the questions lay within that dank cellar. And maybe there was a part of us that wasn't quite ready to find it.
Carlisle turned to face us all, his face serious yet still calm. "I haven't spoken to you since you started researching. Come...tell me what you found out."
We gathered around the living room where Edward and I explained the house's history. All of it. From Varners on down to the Dixons, we told of every owner, every missing person, and even the things we'd found stored out in the garage. Edward repeated the things he'd heard, and Jasper tried to explain how much fear was there, but in order for them to really grasp it, he sent that frightening feeling out into the living room. There was a collective gasp as a result.
"Dammit, cut that shit out!" Emmett growled, his large frame shuddering as he tried to shake the fear. "It was bad enough the first few times."
Edward sighed, and I linked our fingers together, but his eyes were locked onto Carlisle as he sat forward, resting his elbows on his knees.
"I've known people that swear they've seen loved ones after death, but I've personally never witnessed it, and I've seen a lot of death in my life," he started, glancing up when Edward's growl rumbled softly. "Easy, son. I don't think what you're hearing is...made up. If that were the case, then Jasper wouldn't feel it, and I'm not really sure Bella's voice would've made the difference it did. But the fact that Alice can't see anything concerns me." He sighed, giving the whole family a long, slow gaze. "It seems to me that the more you did in here, the more you've heard this mind, wouldn't you agree?"
"Yes, sir," Edward answered softly. His thumb rubbing circles over my knuckles betrayed his calm, outward demeanor.
"I posed this question to Marcus before we left Italy, and he said that even though he had never witnessed ghosts, spirits – even angels, as some have claimed – he couldn't rule it out. He'd heard plenty of accounts of strange things in his long years. He's not willing to write it off simply because he hasn't seen something with his own eyes. By all accounts, we shouldn't exist, so why can't there be ghosts?" he asked.
I giggled, giving Edward a "that's what I said" glare. He merely rolled his eyes, but he smiled softly when he pressed his lips to the back of my hand.
"However," Carlisle continued, holding up a hand when Edward started to argue, "knowing you the way that I do, Edward, I can't fathom that your talent would've changed after a hundred and fifteen years. I just don't see that happening. What I'd like us to do is to continue what you've started here – finish the work, continue researching, and see if these incidents continue now that there are four more of us in the house." He turned to me, letting out a long exhale. "Bella, did you find anything in all these books?"
"I did," I said with a nod. "I brought a box in that has a few interesting hand-written notes in them. I didn't really get a chance to really look through them, but I set them aside. I was going to go through them soon."
"Good girl," he praised, turning to Jasper. "And just when do you expect the blueprints to get here?"
"Any day now, actually. I paid extra for a rush job," he stated.
"Excellent," Carlisle said, nodding slowly. "One more thing... Someone get with Jenks. Let's see if we can't locate this Tim and Caroline Dixon. We'll use the reason that we found some of their things left in the house. Okay? But I'd like to ask them about their experience here. They're the only witnesses left."
"I'll do it," Alice volunteered. "We need to get Adrian and Kevin some identification, as well."
We'd all gone with our real names this time around, except for Emmett and Edward. They were the adopted sons of Carlisle and Esme, using the name Cullen. We had the appropriate driver's licenses with Swan, Brandon, and Hale. It was time that Adrian and Kevin chose. But I could almost sense what Kevin was about to say.
"Cullen," he stated, his chin jutting out defiantly. "That's the only name I see fit using. Not the one that was attached to my father."
At the mention of Mr. Stark, I, along with every other woman in the room and Adrian, let out a soft growl. Kevin's dad had died not long before Kevin's change, and he hadn't been a kind man. He'd never accepted his son's homosexuality, his choice in schools, or even his personality. Kevin had more than once told us that we were his real family, even when he was human and had no idea what we truly were. I could well imagine that taking the name Cullen was extremely important to him.
Esme smiled, reaching across Carlisle to squeeze his hand. "And we'd be glad to have you use it, sweetie."
Emmett gave him a fist bump. "Oh, hell yes!" he praised. "I got a new baby bro!"
Kevin grinned. "Shut up, Mountain of Sexy!"
Edward chuckled at them, but it stopped quickly as he focused on Adrian, who had been silent as a church mouse. "I'm sure that's no problem, Adrian," he told him.
"Yes! That's perfect!" Alice suddenly squealed, clapping and turning my way. "And with the hair color..."
Edward laughed, turning to me. "Adrian thinks Swan would work...that due to your hair color, people will easier believe he's your brother."
Grinning, I said, "Excellent! Now I have a new baby bro!" I teased, laughing when poor Adrian looked like he'd be blushing if he were able.
I leaned into Edward's chuckling kiss to the side of my head. It felt amazing to finally have my entire family under one roof. It felt right and whole and somehow safer.
"For now," my husband, now a little more relaxed, murmured into my ear. "Just wait..." He raised a deadly sexy eyebrow up at me but was wearing a smirk as I laughed, because he was right. Privacy was now a priceless and rare commodity in the house.
Carlisle stood and looked around. "Okay, let's get the last of this place cleaned up," he said, rubbing his hands together, but he glanced up at Emmett when a large arm draped heavily around his shoulders.
"Absolutely," Emmett agreed haughtily with one nod. "It's time to see how long it takes to make Dad want to run screaming back to the hospital..."
We all laughed at Carlisle's smile and eye roll. "Too late, but it won't work, matter what you have up your sleeve."
Edward snorted into a laugh. "He's got plenty up his sleeve. He wants to win this bet."
Kevin, Esme, and I all pointed a finger at Emmett. "No cheating!"
"Snitch," Emmett growled at Edward, who was merely smiling smugly.
"I want to win, too," Edward stated with a laugh, leaping gracefully over the back of the sofa and dodging Emmett's swing.
"That's enough," Carlisle sighed, shaking his head a little. "Let's get to work."
"No, my Goddess, just...give me that," Kevin growled, but it sounded exasperated. "I'll look through this. You deal with your own pile."
"Fine, but don't miss anything," she ordered back to him, and I could see through his mind the commanding little finger pointed his way. "This is important."
"I have vampire ADHD, Bells. I'm not dumb!" he snarked back with a laugh. "I can't sit still for shit, but I'm working on it."
"And that makes you different from when you were" she countered with a giggle.
"Shut it and read, woman."
I chuckled and shook my head as I gazed back down at the piano, letting my fingers seek out whatever song came to my mind first. I'd forgotten the levity that Kevin brought with him. Between him and Emmett, the house felt lighter, easier – almost like it changed the actual air inside the house. Stretching my mind out, I could sense everyone in my family. Adrian was painting and decorating his and Kevin's room with Alice and Esme. Emmett, Rose, and Jasper were finishing up the repair on some of the foundation bricks in the cellar. Kevin and Bella were at the dining room table with papers and books strewn from one end of it to the other as they tried to find out more of the history on this house. And Carlisle was walking my way.
I'm worried about you, son, he thought to me, though his attention went to the bookshelves on the wall.
"Don't be. I'm okay," I stated blandly, continuing to play.
I could feel his eyes on me, see myself through his mind, but I didn't meet his gaze. His thoughts swirled around a conversation with Bella and Jasper, both of whom had gone to him with concerns. I sighed, the exhale coming out roughly through my nose. Still, I played on, though I stopped when he discovered one of his ripped books.
"I'm sorry about that. I'll have it repaired," I told him softly, my hands flat on my thighs.
Perhaps I need a new one, he suggested kindly, smirking when I finally gazed up at him. I believe Bella told you that it's okay that you're upset. She's right, you know. These are strange occurrences.
"I know," I murmured, shrugging my shoulder. "As much as I hate to think it, the more we find out about this house... Well, the more it seems someone died here." I grimaced at the thought. "But then...I honestly feel that it's a real mind I'm hearing."
Carlisle nodded in agreement, gazing slowly around the room. "Someone may have died here...maybe more than one someone."
His thoughts sorted through memories of my learning to handle my talent – the struggle, the frustration, the pain that so many "voices" brought to my head. He flashed forward a little to Bella's change and the moment that we realized that she was a shield.
My head snapped up from the piano to study him, my eyes narrowing. "Yeah, kind of like that." I barely said the words aloud. "Only...sketchier. Um...more distanced, but not far away." I groaned frustratedly, clawing at my hair. "I know it sounds crazy, Carlisle..."
"Look at me, Edward," he said softly, now close enough to place a hand on my shoulder. When I glanced up at him again, he said, "I really think this is just something we're missing. A scent we're not catching or a puzzle piece that won't fit. If you're hearing it, then it's not a phantom. I feel sure of that." He raised his eyebrows until I acknowledged what he'd said. "If it is a ghost of some sort, then maybe they're reaching out."
"I don't... I really don't think they know I can hear them," I told him with a shrug of my shoulder. "But then again...they did respond to Bella."
He nodded and went back to rearranging a few of his own personal books, and I went back to playing. I felt a shift in my mind that wasn't family, but heard no voices. It seemed to leave as quickly as it came, and this time, there wasn't as much fear. In fact, as I played, it shifted again, but still no real thoughts came through. I merely saw more blackness.
"Huh," I barely breathed, meeting Carlisle's eyes. "Music... They like it?" Even as I said it, I wasn't too sure.
Carlisle's mind was interesting because he couldn't decide whether or not what I was hearing was coming from inside the house or not. Personally, I was just as confused as he was. But I flinched as the fear returned when a shrill sound met the air. It was the sound of a police siren.
"Charlie," Carlisle and I said with a laugh at the same time.
"Hi, Dad!" Bella sang into her phone.
"Hey, sweetie," he replied, and I knew the man well enough to know when he was smiling into his words.
I tried not to eavesdrop on my girl and her father, but it was impossible not to revel in their relationship. He knew what we were, knew what we'd changed Bella into in order to save her life, but he didn't care. He was just happy that she'd lived. And it didn't matter to him what form of living it was. On more than one occasion, he'd told me that she was happier now that she'd ever been as a child, so whatever put a smile on her face, he was perfectly okay with. Every member of the family loved and admired him and the fact that Bella got to keep an extremely large part of her human life – something that the rest of us had been unable to do.
"Did you guys get moved?" he asked her.
"Oh, we're moved all right," she muttered wryly, and I grinned down at my hands, picking up the song where I'd left off.
"That bad? Is Esme torturing you with colors and fabrics?" he asked in a chuckle.
"I heard that!" Esme called from upstairs with a soft laugh.
"She heard you." Bella's laugh was sweet and happy. "Everybody say hi to Dad."
"Hi, Charlie!" the whole house boomed.
"Anyway, no, we're almost through renovating here..." Bella fell into a comfortable conversation with her father.
She told him about the move and Kevin and Adrian, and he caught her up on life back home. It seemed that Jake and the pack had slowed down into family life just fine. Jake's imprint and and wife Anna had been trying for another child, but no such luck yet. The thought of mine and Bella's godchildren – Izzy and Eddie – made me smile. They got bigger every time Jake emailed us new pictures. When Bella asked about Sue, Charlie told her that she was currently seeing a doctor in Forks for her blood pressure, but they seemed to have it under control, which only made Bella inquire about his own health.
"I'm perfectly fine, Isabella. Who's the parent?" he teased her.
"They say roles reverse with age, Charlie," she shot right back at him. "Well?"
"No, sweetheart. I'm great. Got a thumbs-up at my last checkup."
"Good." Bella sighed in relief but mentally noted it had been seven years since she'd left Forks the first time, and she wondered just how long she got to keep him. So it didn't surprise me when she asked him the next question. "Hey, do you believe in ghosts, Dad?"
"Umm, no?" he said, clearly taken aback. "Why?"
She explained the strange things in the house, but she was smart – extremely smart – in approaching it like it was an investigation with him because that's how Charlie analyzed things – like a cop. After hearing it all, he was quiet for a moment.
"Dixon, you say?" he asked.
"Yeah, why?"
"Well, since you think he came this way...I could check for you," he offered. "Maybe Anna would help. She's so good at this stuff. She's been filling in down at the station for me part-time, just answering the phones and filing."
Carlisle and I met gazes, both of us wearing surprised expressions. If anyone would have the best access, it would be a chief of police. And Charlie was well-versed in keeping secrets, so he'd be trustworthy to send digging into Tim Dixon's life.
Bella laughed softly. "Small town life getting boring for you?"
"Maybe," Charlie scoffed teasingly. "Just trying to help, Bells. That's all. You sound worried about this thing...and Edward. Tell me what you know. I'll see what I can find."
Good man, that Charlie, Carlisle thought to himself as Bella rattled off details of the Dixons. Bella truly learned her sense of fairness from him.
"Mmhm," I hummed in reply, unable to not smile at that because that was the truth. "And her calmness."
"True," Carlisle agreed with a laugh.
I went back to playing as the house went quiet again once Bella was off the phone. Alice silently noted that she didn't have to ask Jenks to find the Dixons, as she had yet to call him. She also saw a visit from Charlie in the future, which was interesting, but she didn't say anything aloud because it kept changing.
"Ooh, check this out," Bella suddenly said from the other room, though most of the household was listening. "Holy crap! I think I found something," she gushed, and through her mind, I could see an old book filled with scribbles and drawings of math and what looked like radio parts.
"William Varner's notebook," I said at the same time she did.
The doorbell rang, and Carlisle and I left the library. He answered the door to the UPS man as I went to look over Bella's head at what she'd found.
"Jasper, your blueprints arrived," our father stated, bringing them to the table.
"Here, there's plenty of room," Kevin said, quickly moving stuff out of the way so that Carlisle and Jasper could spread the plans out.
Pressing a kiss to the top of Bella's head, I braced my hands on her chair as she flipped through William's ideas and sketches. He'd truly been working on a radio, using the telegraph as his basis for theories. There weren't many personal notes in there until just after the date of Elaine Varner's death.
I fear I blame my son for the loss of her. I can't seem to shake that feeling of betrayal.
He went back to work on the radio without another personal note for a few months. His successes and failures were mapped out, and they started to include Archie, as well.
Archie refuses to leave the house. He blames himself as much as I do, I believe, though the boy hardly speaks. I've had to resort to making purchases myself in town... He no longer will hunt for our food.
I glanced up when Jasper exhaled frustratedly. His brow was furrowed as he studied the plans in front of him. Nothing was any different than what we knew. He'd thought for sure that perhaps something had changed throughout the course of the life of this house. But unfortunately, they weren't the original plans. Someone had filed these measurements in 1976.
"Oh, damn," Bella groaned, flipping through pages, only to come back to the same one. "I think William Varner may have gone crazy in the end."
"Why?" I asked, pulling up a chair and sitting next to her.
"Because he goes from the occasional rant about his 'useless son,' to full-blown rants on how to 'get Archie out of the house.'" Her eyes raked over the pages, but I knew my girl was lost to the book.
"What were you hoping to find in those, Save-a-Horse?" Kevin teased Jasper, nudging him with an elbow. "A super secret Bat Cave?"
"Kind of," Jasper murmured, almost to himself as he traced a finger along the outer edges of the house. "This Varner guy left D.C., bringing a few political agendas to this area, but he sounded just pompous enough to maybe be a little paranoid. He was working on a radio for the government. The U.S. didn't enter into World War I until 1917, and he was pushing to perfect his radio..."
"So...what? You think Varner brought his wife and kid out here to the middle of Bum-Fuck-Egypt to play early Twentieth Century's version of Ted Kaczynski?" Kevin asked, chuckling a little.
"Kevin!" Esme chided from somewhere in the house.
"My bad!" he called over his shoulder. "She's gonna kill me..."
"You'd think with Emmett, she'd be used to it," I whispered with a grin when my largest brother entered the room with a booming laugh. "Maybe she's trying to nip it in the bud before you sink to that level, hmm?"
Bella snorted, kicking my shoe. Really, Dirty Edward? Hello, kettle. You're just lucky you haven't been busted, sir.
Grinning, I kissed her cheek. "Yes, ma'am."
"To answer your question, Kev...yes," Jasper said with a smile. "At least, something like that. It was Carlisle's learn everything we could about this place."
"Listen to this," Bella said softly, but she commanded the attention of everyone in the room. "With threats being my only weapon, I finally got Archie to go hunting. He was, indeed, successful, but swore to me that someone was watching him, following him. I fear the boy has lost his reason. If he continues these ridiculous claims, I'm afraid I'll be forced to make a rash decision."
"Well, hell, William should've met my dad," Kevin muttered, rolling his eyes. "I bet he farts rainbows and sunshine, too."
Bella laughed once but barely looked up from the book. "It's kinda sad because I bet Archie blamed himself for his mother's death and was afraid to go back out into the woods. William had no compassion..." She sighed, her nostrils flaring. "He goes on to say that Archie wanted to ride into town to get help to find whatever was in the woods, but William wouldn't let him. He was embarrassed of his son. He didn't want the influential people of Caribou to know that it was possible his son went insane after the death of Elaine."
"So what did he do?" Emmett asked, suddenly leaning forward with his elbows on the table and sounding suspiciously like a child asking for a story.
Bella simply shook her head, turned a few pages in the book, only to find them empty. She flipped back to the last entry. "He told him if he didn't hunt, then he didn't eat. He took away his freedom..."
"How'd he do that? Lock him in his room?" I asked, leaning over her shoulder to read.
"At first, yes," she answered, pointing to the entry and looking at me with wide, shocked eyes. She read aloud as I silently read with her.
All hope is lost for my son. No amount of threats work. He won't hunt to help us survive the approaching winter, and he won't seek work in town. He claims there is evil in the woods, and he begs for me to seek help to clear it out. I've seen nothing but large cats – the lynx, I've been told.
I've been too kind on the boy. It's time to put my foot down. I'm tying him to a tree in the hopes that he'll finally snag a buck to keep us through the first of the winter months. If he fails...there's always my workshop. I can put him there should someone visit, and he won't be seen. With the changes in the government, it's quite convenient that I have a place that's hidden.
I froze for a moment. "Changes in the government...changes in the government..." I chanted to myself, my hand clawing at my hair as I tried to think of what that could've been. By this time, I'd hardly noticed that the entire family had gathered around the dining room table.
"What year was that?" Esme asked.
"Nineteen twenty," Bella answered.
I locked eyes with Carlisle and then Jasper. "Prohibition," we all said at the same time.
"Well, I'll be damned." Jasper snorted, shaking his head. "The bastard does have a room in this house somewhere."
"Oh, it's on!" Emmett boomed, standing up from the table.
Jasper stood up from the table with a nod. "Okay...everyone spread out."


Debbie Hannon said...

A secret room? Evil in the woods?

Wow! I am so addicted to this story, update soon

Rondell Garcia said...

Here is my guess... Vampire!.

Due to the missing 6 ppl, I would say he doesn't want to but occasianally feeds on humans.

I would say its confused as to what it actually is, due to the fact it see's itself and the cullens as the 'monster' that came after it. Which is why it is so fearful. I really don't think it understand what it has become. It is mentally stunted in growth.

Clearly it has an ability, a glamour effect to hide itself spiritually. A shield of some sort.

I am betting that this will all end up being a confused vamp.

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