Wednesday, September 26, 2012 | By: Jenny

Haunted Angel Chapter 5

Chapter 5
BELLA
After flipping through the pages of William Varner's God-awful notebook one more time, I sighed at the fact that there were no more entries. "He just...tied his son to a tree? Like a mongrel dog?" I asked, completely unable to fight my growl. I looked to Edward, who was studying Alice, the latter of whom had been completely silent throughout the entire journal reading. "Guys?"
The room, which had been a beehive of activity to coordinate the search for this secret workshop of Varner's, came to a halt.
"I...I can't see anything," Alice whispered, dragging her worried gaze from Edward, to Jasper, and finally to Carlisle. "Nothing. No outcome of this search, no future, not a single thing."
"What do you see?" Carlisle asked calmly.
"It changes because we haven't made a decision as to how we're approaching this search," Edward answered for her. "It's utterly everywhere at the moment."

Carlisle nodded, rubbing his chin as he gazed around the room. "Edward, go with Bella, Esme, and Emmett and take a walk around the grounds and house outside. Jasper, you and Alice are with me downstairs. Rose, you take Adrian and Kevin upstairs," he delegated, only to look back between Edward and Alice.
Edward nodded once. "That helped. She still sees us disappearing, but at least we reappear right here in a few hours. We don't find anything, but..." Edward's beautiful face scrunched up in confusion as he tilted his head at Alice. "But it looks like a few of us are more than a little shaken?" He finished it like a question, simply because Alice's visions were always so subjective. "We're all back here, though," he finished, grimacing probably at how vague that sounded.
"Well, that's something, at least," Carlisle sighed, placing a gentle hand on Alice's shoulder. He then turned to the newest members of our family. "You're looking for differences in the floors, walls, closets, maybe even the cellar and garage. It's a density change in your hearing," Carlisle explained to Adrian and Kevin, who were listening raptly. "It would've been overlooked, especially in a house like this. Stone tends to muffle sounds, and the place is drafty, so we wouldn't have given small changes much attention."
Edward stood, offering me his hand like the gentleman he was. I took it and followed Emmett and Esme out through the front door. Not letting go of my hand, he turned to face the other two. "Take the left. We'll take the right. We'll meet you at the outside cellar doors," he told them.
"What are we looking for?" Emmett asked.
"There are thirty-seven windows in the house. Look for extras. There also could be tunnels running under this place, so spread out a little. There's no well here...at least, not one that has an opening at the ground level, but it could be something like that. If he truly was hiding alcohol, his son, even his work, then there's no telling how he set this place up, and he obviously didn't want anyone to know about it, so he didn't included it in the original plans," Edward surmised.
"Be careful," Esme warned, most likely out of motherly habit. She grinned when both boys scoffed.
"Shut it, you two. Just say 'yes, ma'am,'" I told them with a laugh.
"Yes, ma'am," they chanted like chastised children.
She shot me a wink and tugged Emmett away to the left. Edward chuckled softly at the whole exchange but led me out and away from the house, basically working our way around the edge of the yard.
"So much for boring, old immortality," I sighed teasingly, squirming away when Edward tickled my side.
"Trust me, sweet girl, life was boring until you came along," he whispered in my ear after pulling me back to his side.
"I don't know..." I said in a sing-song way that made Edward snicker. "This really cute vampire I know warned me against endless, dark nights, no more sunny days, and bloodlust that never went away. Somehow, I haven't seen a bit of this. I want a refund."
He grinned sweetly and sexily, especially when the whole family laughed, and then kissed my temple roughly. "Love you," he murmured simply against my hair.
"Love you, too, Edward."
We walked at a human pace throughout the yard, and Edward was quiet, though I was pretty sure that he was listening to everything going on not only around us, but with every member of the family. I counted windows along the side, the front, and the top floors, not seeing anything different than what was on the inside. It helped that Esme's curtains now hung in every window.
"What do you think happened to William and Archie?" I asked softly, unable to keep my thoughts to myself.
"We may never know," he said sadly with a shrug of a shoulder. "Though it wouldn't surprise me if they hadn't destroyed each other in their grief. At least, that's what it sounded like."
"And the evil in the woods?"
Edward shook his head, running a hand through his hair. "Speech patterns back then... It could mean anything, from a bear, to a squatter in the woods. Or..." His nose wrinkled a little when he glanced down at me.
"Or Archie had truly lost it."
"Yeah, it is a possibility. His refusal to leave the house may have meant that he'd become agoraphobic," he guessed.
"The fear of going outside..." I mused softly, frowning at the mere idea. But there was something else niggling at the back of my mind that said speech patterns had nothing to do with what Archie was claiming. I just couldn't quite put my finger on it.
"Edward! Bells!"
Edward and I stopped in the side yard, just outside the garage, when Emmett called our names. We ran to the back of the house to see him and Esme standing by the cellar doors, but they weren't looking at the doors themselves. It was the ground around the entrance that had their attention.
"Have you seen this? Really looked at it?" Emmett asked Edward.
The ground around the cellar entry was worn away. Unlike the rest of the grass around the house, this was rubbed down to the dirt, but only about five feet out from the door. There were gouges in that same dirt, too, like something was recently dragged – and it looked suspiciously like raccoon claw marks.
"There's this, too," Esme added, taking a finger and just barely touching the padlock on the doors.
The bracket that the lock was in swiveled like it had been stripped out of the wood. And it seemed like it had been that way for a very long time. The wood was aged, the paint peeling, and the lock and its bracket were both rusty and weather-worn.
Edward knelt down to truly study the lock, but he turned to look at Emmett. "Is it just me, or does this look—"
"Ripped open?" Emmett finished for him, nodding with Edward. "Yeah, dude. Totally."
I turned in one spot, gazing out over the back yard, but with a slight step to my left, I could see the driveway. If the whole town thought this house was haunted, I'd have been willing to bet that the high school kids in town had been up here more than one time.
Edward stood up next to me, listening to my thoughts. "Pranks?"
"Sure, why not? This place is perfect for that," I huffed humorlessly. "Dares to break in, touch the front door, take something from inside...there are endless ideas. But this would've been the easiest access."
My husband nodded but turned to yank open the slanted doors, dropping them on either side of the entryway. Steps descended down into the dark cellar, thankful that we had zero trouble seeing everything, and that same wet, thick odor rose up to practically slap us in the face.
Carlisle appeared at the bottom of the steps, waving Edward down. I took another count of windows – only this time, they didn't add up.
"Hey, umm, guys?" I called, pointing to a small window by the corner of the house. It was low to the ground, almost hidden by the small hedges that grew up near the wall. "This window isn't in that basement," I stated, looking up at Carlisle and Edward when they came back up outside. "In fact, I don't remember seeing a window down there at all."
"That's because there's not one," Emmett muttered, glancing between the newly-discovered and very dark window and the cellar door. "To the right, just inside," he said softly.
All of us went down the steps and proceeded to examine the wall on the right. It was damp and made of brick, pretty much like the rest of the basement. Edward's long fingers flattened over the surface of the stones, skimming slowly up to the top where the wall met the ceiling. He glided to the left and then to the right, pausing to trace a single finger down to the floor.
"Here," he said softly. "It seems this isn't a crack in the mortar."
"Damn, that's some hidden shit right there," Emmett agreed, but he was a couple of feet down from his brother, following what looked to be a continuation of that same crack. He spun to gape at Carlisle. "It's a door."
Edward and Emmett both stood, pressing their hands flat against the wall.
"Ready?" Edward asked.
When Emmett nodded, they both pushed. With a thick, gritty thunk, the wall sank back a foot.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" we heard Jasper from upstairs. "What the hell did you guys just do?"
"Why?" Carlisle answered, rushing to the bottom of the stairs that led to the kitchen.
"Because one whole bookcase in the library just...shook," Kevin called back.
"It seems we've discovered a vacuum," Carlisle mused, studying the new niche in the cellar wall. "Boys, it looks like it'll spin...inward. This side," he told them, and all three pushed again.
The scent that escaped out of what was a very dark space was ten times what the cellar smelled like. It was stronger, heavier, and made Esme and me take a step back. I couldn't help but growl, my instincts kicking into overdrive in a brief moment of self-preservation. It didn't smell like anything I'd ever encountered before. If I had to give it a name, I'd have said it smelled like the pure, undiluted sense of...fear, but then again, it also smelled like raging hate. However, there was nothing to it at the same time. No scent of humans, blood, or sweat. It wasn't immortal, with venom and the sweet essence we gave off. And it felt and smelled incredibly old.
"Easy, sweetheart," Esme soothed, wrapping an arm around my shoulders, which caused Edward to abandon his curiosity and spin toward me.
"Bella?" he asked, cupping either side of my face and forcing my gaze away from the opening in the wall to his stunning yet concerned face.
"I'm okay," I murmured, nodding a little. "That smell...it just... Well, I wasn't prepared for it."
"No shit..." Emmett huffed a laugh, but he stuck his head inside the darkness.
Edward studied my face with a sweet wrinkle to his brow, but mostly, he listened to my mind. When he found whatever he was looking for, he kissed my forehead. He linked our fingers together, pulling me gently with him. We were just about to step through the opening, when light flickered from inside at the same time Jasper and Kevin called from upstairs.
"Holy hell, this is some shit straight outta Scooby Doo!" Kevin yelled with a laugh. "I think we found a door!"
"So did we!" all of us yelled back.
"One of the bookcases in the library is on some sort of hinge," Edward stated softly to Carlisle, his head tilting, but he jerked his chin toward the ceiling. "It shifted when we opened this."
"Okay, then," Rose called downstairs to us with a soft chuckle. "Guess we'll meet in the middle?"
"I suppose we'll see," Carlisle answered, and then moved so he was the first through the opening.
I'd read more books than I cared to admit, and that was when I was human. As an immortal, books could be read in one sitting, usually through the long nights or sunny days. One of my favorites was The Count of Monte Cristo. I could imagine the horrendous twenty years that Edmund Dantes had spent on that island prison, locked away for a crime he didn't commit. It was the description of that imprisonment that the space reminded me of – a cell. It was closed off, except for the light that leaked through from somewhere up ahead. The window that I'd seen outside was covered in what looked like a century of grime and filth. The walls seemed to bleed with mold and lichen and water.
The small hallway we were in opened up to what looked like a small storage room. At one point, I could see that it probably housed a few supplies at some point and, most likely, William Varner's illegal booze. The ground was covered in broken glass, smashed wood that looked like they'd been shelves or maybe a workbench at some point, and just debris that was so old, it was unrecognizable. The garbage was strewn everywhere, making it impossible to track any footprints. Some of it did, indeed, look like old radio parts. In one corner, there was a rocking chair, and old blankets lay heaped in a pile in another – the latter of which reminded me of a dog's bed. At the far end of the room was a door, and that opened to let in the rest of my family.
Off to the left was another hallway, but this one jutted out only to turn a sharp corner so that the end wasn't visible. I was pretty sure we'd be navigating that damn thing, too.
"Damn," Adrian sighed, gazing around with wide eyes. "This Varner guy had real issues."
He rarely spoke, but when he did, it usually was quite poignant. Kevin rolled his eyes but snorted softly as he placed a hand on his mate's shoulder. But it was Esme that gave voice to the first thing that popped into my mind.
"Who could lock their child down here?" she asked, an expression of pure disgust written all over her beautiful face. "That's just..." She stopped because she probably couldn't find a word wretched enough to describe how awful that was.
All of us – every last one of us – nodded silently in agreement, wearing looks of sadness because it might have been the biggest question asked. And one we'd never, ever get the answer to.
"So let's get this straight," Jasper drawled, gazing around. "Varner builds this shit, doesn't tell anyone about it, and then once his wife passes, he locks his son down here?" he asked, spinning to Adrian. "Issues isn't the word, bro."
"It still doesn't explain—" Kevin struggled for the right words, gesturing to Edward "—what Heavy E here is experiencing. I mean, there's nothing and no one down here. And from the looks of it, no one has been down here in ages."
Edward smirked but didn't say anything. He also hadn't let go of my hand, for which I was extremely grateful – a thought that earned me a squeeze.
He glanced down the hallway that we'd yet to point out and then nodded to Jasper's silent question. Aloud, he said, "Yes, let's check it out now. We'll see where it leads, but I have a feeling I know already."
Turning to me, he raised an eyebrow, asking me silently if I wanted to go with them. When I nodded, he smiled and gave my hand another soft, reassuring squeeze.
We took the passageway slowly, but there was nothing noteworthy about it because it looked like every other part of the cellar – dank and disgusting. When we came to the bend, Edward shot a look back toward everyone behind us but then led us on. The very second we were out of their sight, several things happened all at once.
The first – and scariest – was that Edward and Jasper suddenly sank to their knees. Fear. Pure terror hit me so hard that I let go of Edward's hand and slammed into the wall of the passageway. I watched helplessly as my brother and my husband both clutched at their heads.
The second thing – and something I wasn't expecting – was that my shield shifted. Hard. It swirled out of my control, searching, seeking for someone or something. It didn't feel like a bad thing... It almost felt like a protective gesture – something I'd experienced before. For the life of me, I couldn't figure out what could possibly be pulling at me. I didn't allow it much thought. With as much effort as I could muster, I slammed my shield around the two men, falling to my knees between them.
"Carlisle!" I called over my shoulder at the same time I cupped Edward's and Jasper's faces. They both blinked unseeingly up at me for a moment, but sighed in relief. "What the hell was that?"
"Fear," was all Jasper would say, but he looked to Edward. "What about you?"
Edward's nostrils flared. I knew this shit was really starting to piss him off, but his jaw flexed before he answered. "It was like...someone was down here. All I heard was 'no, no, no...not here. Not down here.'"
When he looked up, his eyes locked onto Carlisle, who had joined us along with Emmett. And my big, usually teddy bear of a brother looked like he was ready to fight demons. I quickly explained what happened, including the shift in my shield, which brought them all up short.
"Hold on, sweetheart," Carlisle said softly, placing his hands on my shoulders and bending down a little to look me in the eyes. "Your shield shifted? Like someone was here?" When I nodded, his expression darkened. "Can you do me one favor, Bella?"
"Yeah, sure."
"Shield us all until we reach the end of this tunnel...and until we get back up top," he commanded.
Adjusting my shield, I carefully manipulated it around every member of my family, including the ones back in Varner's workshop. I extended it as far as it could go the other way, which turned out to be a small staircase at the end of the passageway. Emmett took the lead this time, giving a quick glance over his shoulder before pushing on the ceiling.
"Garage?" Edward asked wearily, finally standing up.
"Yup, sure as shit," Emmett confirmed. "Opens up in that corner where I found good ol' Mr. Raccoon."
"What the hell?!" Alice growled from the workshop end of the tunnel. "Now I can see everything."
"Bella's shield," Edward sighed in answer, but his head spun to Jasper. "You need to hunt."
"I just hunted," he growled back, but his eyes were black as pitch. So were Edward's. In fact, my own throat burned with thirst. But it didn't feel like my own; it felt like Jasper's need was pushing out around us all.
Carlisle gave a slow glance around at all of us. "Seal this up. Every door, every entryway. I want everyone to hunt. Now. We'll meet back here in the morning. Kevin, Adrian, you'll come with me and Esme." Very rarely did Carlisle exact his leadership to that heavy of a commanding tone, but at the moment, he was no-nonsense, angry, and just plain old worried. "Now!" he snapped again, spinning on his heel and heading out of the tunnel.
~oOo~
I pulled myself up onto a flat rock, wrapping my arms around my knees and resting my chin on top, and gazed out at the beautiful scene in front of me. A small pond rippled in the moonlight, the tall waterfall splashing in the most soothing of ways over from the corner. The rocks were blackish-green with time, moisture, and the surrounding vegetation, the water dark and cool, misting up around me. Behind me was a field of bluish-purple flowers and tall shady trees that I couldn't wait to see in the daytime. I grimaced because, despite the clean Maine air, I still smelled the stench of that underground room. I felt like it was in my hair, sealed in my clothes, and stuck to my skin.
I'd fed well, almost overly so, because the moment we'd stepped out of the house and dashed into the woods, my thirst had dialed down a little. Edward, however, had truly needed to hunt. His collapse had shaken both him and Jasper to their core. And to be perfectly honest, it had scared the living shit out of me because they were two of the strongest men I knew. So to see them fall to their knees... Well, it had wrecked me.
"Shh," Edward crooned, sitting down behind me and wrapping his arms all the way around me. "I'm okay, love. I promise you, my sweet, beautiful girl."
I nodded silently, turning a little on the rock so that Edward could cradle me. Tucking my forehead up underneath his chin, I nuzzled into my favorite and most comforting spot in the entire world.
Edward's deep, sweet chuckle shook us. "The entire world, Bella?" he teased, running a flat, gentle hand over my head and down my back over and over.
"Yup!" I said with a grin, despite what I was feeling, and hugged him closer, tighter. "I like this place."
"Mmm, me, too," he agreed softly, pressing his lips to my forehead. "Should we keep it?"
I smiled, pulling back to look up at him. His eyes were light gold, showing that he was well-fed, and filled with love and contentment at holding me. Nodding, I said, "Yeah," with a bite to my bottom lip.
"And so it is," he said with a wink and a grand gesture with his hand, causing me to giggle.
"Umm, The Waterfall?" I suggested as a name for it, gazing around and shrugging a shoulder.
"That works for me." Edward nodded, brushing a sweet, light kiss to the tip of my nose.
Sighing a little in relief of just being in his arms, I glanced slowly around. Yeah, it would do. When I first met Edward, our first "date" was a trip to a place he'd once found while hunting. Our meadow was perfect in every way – hidden, quiet, beautiful. It was a place of honesty, love, and confessions. After Edward returned to me, it became a place of healing, physical explorations, and silent apologies. By the time we needed to leave Forks, we'd grown so attached to that special place, we'd vowed that no matter where we moved, we'd find a place just like it. A place just for us so we could continue that honesty between us and have an escape from the family.
So with honesty in mind, I shifted again on Edward's lap so I was straddling his thighs. Grasping either side of his face, I whispered, "You scared me."
"I know, baby. I'm so, so sorry," he whispered back. Tucking my hair behind my ear, he sighed. "Thank you, though, for shielding us."
I nodded, looking down between us. I'd just noticed that we were both playing with each other's wedding rings, spinning them slowly in order to gain comfort. Smiling a little, I met his gaze. He brought my ring to his lips and dropped a heavy yet reverent kiss to it, only to tug at me until my forehead was pressed to his own.
"Tell me about your shield in that tunnel, Bella," he suddenly said, changing gears on me.
My brow furrowed. "Um, it happened about the same time you and Jasper...collapsed. It shifted, pulled at me," I attempted to explain.
"Let me see, sweet girl."
It was a request he'd asked before of me. He wanted my memory, my replay of it all. Because he'd been distracted, he hadn't seen what was in my mind at the time, so I showed him. He flinched at his own fall, but he studied my face as he saw my shield through my mind.
"Not bad? But not good, either?" he asked.
"It was strange. At first, it felt like a pull to someone good, but then not so much. It felt more like defense once you two fell. Or maybe that last part was just...me." I wrinkled my nose at the thought, but it was quite possible.
Edward nodded in acceptance more than agreement. I could see by the furrow of his brow that he was concerned. Honestly, I was, too, because if my shield was now reacting to something in that house, then we were almost back to square one with theories. Like Edward, I was pretty damn sure that my talent only worked with the physical...not the spiritual.
"Maybe," he mused softly. "You know, I haven't asked...but do you believe in ghosts?"
I huffed a short laugh but shrugged. "My mother did. But she believed in a lot of things that others deemed fantasy. Given enough time, she'd have figured out what you were...and probably reveled in the whole myth versus reality thing."
Edward grinned and nodded for me to go on.
"My honest answer is that I'm smart enough to say...I don't know. I didn't always latch on to whatever Renee was into at the time, but it did give me an open mind."
"You do have that, love," he snorted, rolling his eyes. "When I first met you, I wasn't sure if that was a curse or a blessing."
"Blessing, Mr. Cullen," I told him haughtily.
"Indeed, Mrs. Cullen." His smile was sweet, sexy, and probably a little smug, but he wore it well. His warm, honey eyes swept over our surroundings like an eagle's, finally locking with mine. "Swim with me," he requested, fingering the edge of my shirt.
"Okay," I agreed, because at least we could get the stench of that tunnel off our skin and hair, even though it would linger in our clothes.
I stood up on the rock, gripping the bottom of my shirt and stripping it off over my head. I kicked out of my sneakers and jeans, and Edward watched it all with dark, lust-filled eyes.
"Mmm," he said with a slow shake of his head and a lick to his lips. "That's new." He gestured to my underwear set.
A giggle escaped me because my Edward had a lingerie fetish. He loved to look, feel, rip... My very full dresser and extremely high Victoria's Secret credit card bill only proved it. I was wearing a navy blue with pale pink lace trim bra and thong. With an evil grin, Edward twirled a finger in a command for me to spin around in front of him. It only made me laugh harder.
"You are shameless, Edward," I told him, shaking my head when I finally met his gaze again, which had turned black and wanton.
"And you...are beautiful, Bella," he sighed, his brow furrowing like he just couldn't understand it all.
He reached back, grasped the back of his shirt, and tugged it off. When he stood before me, my eyes raked over every inch of him. His slightly dirty jeans sat dangerously low on his hips, his pecs twitched under my gaze, and his hands fisted at his sides. He stood as still as a statue as I stepped forward, unable to keep my hands to myself. I had to touch.
My thumbs found that perfect V on his stomach and skimmed softly over the skin. His abs flexed a little, but otherwise, he let me do what I wanted. When I placed a long, slow, open-mouthed kiss to the place where his heart lay quiet, gentle fingers finally toyed with the straps of my bra. He moved them aside, dropping his own soft kisses to my shoulder.
His talented fingers unhooked my bra, and it fell to the top of the rock with the rest of my clothes. Kneeling in front of me, those same fingers lightly grasped the front of my panties and slipped them down over my legs to my feet so that I could step out of them. I knew for a fact that once Edward's jeans met the rest of our clothes, it was all over, because we just couldn't hold back sometimes. And tonight seemed to feel like that – a crackling inferno that smoldered underneath all the worry and the research and the theories.
"And the smell," Edward added to my thoughts with a soft laugh, shaking his head before his forehead landed on my stomach. "Water, baby. Come on."
He was so cute as his nose wrinkled a little. I could see by his expression that he hated like anything to break up the feelings around us, but he was only being honest. We really did smell. With a giggle, I pushed away from him and dove in. Another splash rocked the water around me, and soon, Edward's naked form tackled me, dragging me even farther under the water. It was a good thing we didn't need to breathe, nor did we feel just how cold the water was, because we wrestled and played like we were the only people on Earth. We were the immortal Adam and Eve in our own self-created Eden, naked and free from everything.
There were absolutely no worries, no stresses when we were together like this.
I popped up under the heavy spray of the waterfall, letting it cascade over my head. Edward appeared in front of me, caging me in his strong arms as he braced his hands on either side of me against the rocks. Water rivulets ran down his face like tears, like a heavy rain as he leaned in to kiss me. Wrapping our arms all the way around each other, no words were spoken. Years of touching, of making love – even when I was human – gave us a blind instinct on what we were doing. And we gave in completely.
"I need..." Edward murmured against my lips, "inside, baby."
I nodded, bracing my hands on his shoulders as he lifted me up against him, not allowing a single centimeter of space between us – even the water was not welcome. My legs secured themselves around his waist, Edward's hands guided himself to my entrance, and our lips never separated as we became one.
~oOo~
EDWARD
As the sun rose to a sunny day, I watched the rainbows that cast off my wife's skin as she lay beneath me. We were surrounded by flowers that in just a few weeks would probably be gone until spring. We'd yet to redress, and I knew we were due back at home soon, but for the life of me, I couldn't separate from her just yet.
Fingers were threaded in my hair and digging into my lower back to keep me close, deep, legs were tangled with my own, and soft sighs against my cheek only encouraged me to keep kissing, keep tasting, and keep up the murmurs of her beauty, my love, and how time was moving too quickly.
I tried to remember a time without Bella, despite the fact that it wasn't so long ago. I tried to recall that feeling of being the fifth wheel – or the seventh as the case was – and I just couldn't pull up the feelings of loneliness and emptiness that I knew I'd felt. It was as if she'd wiped all that away. I struggled to pull up the memory of wanting so badly to know the feelings that my family had as mated couples, but what I had with Bella was more, better...ten-fold what they possessed. Maybe I was biased, like Bella accused me of being so often, or maybe I was just extremely grateful. Either way, as we shared slow, lazy, deep kisses in the rising sunlight, I just really couldn't worry about where we needed to be.
"Edward..."
"Hmm?" I hummed against her throat, dragging my lips down to my permanent mark just above her breast and hearing in her mind that we needed to get going. Knowing I was playing with fire, I locked gazes with warm brown as my tongue traced the edges of her immortal scar. Her body arched, and air hissed through her teeth because that skin was extra sensitive. "What was that, love?" I asked in a falsely-serious tone, only to do it again.
Her hips rolled, taking me in deeper as her breathing paused, my name again sounding like music to my ears.
"Edward..." This time, it came out a little breathy, a lot forceful, and almost pleading. "Fuck," she panted, her head falling back to the soft grasses beneath us and her eyes rolling to the back of her head as my teeth met the tight peaks of her nipples.
Legs wrapped higher around my waist as I started to move again inside of her. I'd kept her like this for the last few hours – in the water, on the flat rock I'd originally found her on after I'd hunted, and right here in the middle of a field of purple flowers that were clinging to life as the seasons quickly shifted.
Her legs stiffened around me when her orgasm drew closer. I could read her body better than I could read her mind. I'd been doing it way before her change, so every twitch, every gasp, and every flutter of her insides called to me, told me exactly what she was feeling and just how close she was.
"No, sweet girl," I told her, reaching down to hook her leg into the crook of my elbow. "Open up for me, Isabella."
She cried out a nonsensical word, meeting my rhythm flawlessly, finally grounding out, "Yes, there!"
"Here?" I asked, hitting the same spot again and again, moaning shamelessly when her other heel dug into my ass forcefully. She was so, so close, but she was holding back, trying to extend our time together. Nipping at the skin just below her ear, I whispered, "You're so beautiful, Bella, and you feel so fucking good. Come now, baby...for me?"
Just being inside of her had been torture, so I was fighting my climax until she came. And she was stunning when she finally succumbed to it – body shuddering underneath mine, purr rumbling around me, teeth nipping at skin. As soon as her spasms clenched around me, I was done. We came quieter than I was expecting, with open mouths and lips barely touching.
Nuzzling her nose with my own, up one side and down the other, I said, "I know... We have to go." It came out sounding much more pouty than I'd intended, which caused my girl to smile sweetly up at me. "It's world ending..."
"Right," she said with an adorable giggle, brushing my hair from my forehead and kissing my chin.
She rolled us, bracing her hands on my shoulders, her hair falling around my face like a curtain. She smelled like flowers, the water we'd been swimming in, and me. Unfortunately, we'd have to don the clothes that reeked of that cellar in order to go home.
"Mrs. Cullen," I warned her with a raised eyebrow and a growl to my voice as I fisted the sides of her hair.
"Mr. Cullen," she teased back, kissing me quickly and sitting up.
Sunlight glimmered off her immortal skin, and I couldn't help but sit up beneath her and drop a kiss to her shoulder.
"Come on, Edward," she sighed, meeting my gaze with her own happy, light brown eyes.
We got up and redressed, wearing scowls of disgust at the scent on our clothes. Racing back, we discovered that we weren't the only ones running behind, so we rushed upstairs, showered quickly, and changed into something else before settling into the living room. We were waiting for Em and Rose, though I could hear them upstairs.
Someone had started a fire in the fireplace, and the warmth felt good as we waited for Carlisle to speak. His thoughts swirled around myself, Bella, and Jasper. He was feeling out of his element with this house, debating whether or not to just move on. It could be done, but then again, he also felt like that was giving up. He was worried about us, concerned that this may be testing our abilities to their limits. And he didn't like it. By the time that everyone was seated around him, he'd started blocking his thoughts from me.
"I called Marcus again," he stated, taking me by surprise. "I explained to him everything we've seen, felt, heard...experienced." He took a deep breath and let it out. "I didn't ask him for help, just guidance, but he offered up both willingly." Carlisle's eyes landed on me. "Edward, his experience with Aro's talent was limited, due to the need to touch, so he wasn't quite sure what to make of what you're hearing. He's only ever known one empath," he continued, giving Jasper a nod of his head, "so he was a little lost there, as well." A shift of frustration worked its way around the room, but he held his hand up. "However," he sighed, his eyes landing on my Bella, "he does have experience with shields. Not many as powerful as you, Bella, but at least that's something. He's convinced shields only work...physically."
"I knew it," Bella grumbled, frowning a little. But it was her silent pride that I'd been right that made me smile and kiss the side of her head.
"Again," Carlisle stated a little forcefully, "he's still not sure what that means. It may not mean anything." He locked eyes with me, silently begging me to hold my tongue with what he was about to discuss. "We've seen humans recount their experiences with the supernatural. There have been numerous studies, television shows, movies, books, even photographic and video evidence of people that have given to prove their experience. There are physical manifestations of these cases – rattling windows and doors, the feel of someone being touched – and in some cases, children have been yanked from their beds. Bleeding walls, moving and disappearing objects, howling voices...threatening voices," he urged the last one with a raised eyebrow my way. "Some claim that these are lost souls, others claim that they are demons from hell, but in all reality...we don't know. And that bothers me a little."
He stood up and started to pace, his mind trying to decide whether to pose a question to the family as a whole or not.
"Ask," I stated, and he spun to look at me. "My vote is no, but I'm not the only one here."
I knew him well enough to know that he took his leadership of the family extremely seriously, but he also had no problem putting something to a vote. He was surprised by my choice.
"Ask them, or I will," I urged him with a smirk.
He huffed a laugh and nodded. He inhaled slowly and then let it out. Facing the room, he said, "I think if any of you are...uncomfortable here, then we should decide on whether or not to leave. Do any of you want to move on?"
I flinched a little at having nine minds explode into thought, but Bella's small hand in mine soothed me. Despite the rapid thought processes, no one said anything for a moment; they merely looked to their mate, because in all reality, our mates came first.
I looked to Bella, locking with worried brown. Her nose wrinkled a little, but she shrugged, allowing me to see her mind. I don't know, Edward. I worry what this place doing to you. And yet...you'd stay?
"Yes, I'd stay, and I'll tell you why, love," I said to her, but everyone paused their own discussions to listen to me. "This...this voice I'm hearing – whether physical or spiritual – knows what we are." My voice had an urging tone to it that I hadn't meant to use, so I softened it a little. "They've called us monsters, mentioned blood. It's choppy in my head, but I get the impression we're not the first vampires they've ever seen. I'm sure Jasper can attest to this, but I don't feel...threatened. Does that make sense?" I asked, and when my girl nodded, I went on. "I only feel fear...terror, actually."
Jasper nodded, sighing deeply. "And you know what else I've noticed?" he asked, and my eyebrows shot up at his theory. He grinned a little. "Think about it, Edward... Every time you heard them or we felt them... The presence of a woman bothers this...this...whatever the hell it is."
I tilted my head and thought back to each and every time I'd heard it, and he was right. Bella or the girls had been in the room. And the most explosive experience down in the tunnel...they'd all been there.
"Is this some morbid curiosity?" Rose asked, looking at Emmett, who had already decided he'd stay, and I knew my sister well enough to know that she'd go along with the majority on this one. She didn't scare easily, and she was just tenacious enough to want to figure it all out, though she'd say none of that aloud.
"Probably on some level, my Diva." Kevin chuckled, shrugging a shoulder and linking his fingers with Adrian's. "We're in. I mean...we'll go along with whatever, but our vote is to stay," he clarified.
"Yeah, we're in," Adrian reiterated with a nod, though what he didn't say aloud was that he hated to watch his new family worry, and he didn't like what he'd witnessed down in Varner's workshop.
"I did not do all this painting and cleaning for nothing," Alice huffed, causing a few chuckles around the room as she folded her arms across her chest. But her smile fell quickly. "But I hate that I can't see whatever this is. I was blind down in that tunnel until Bella's shield came up around me. Which makes me think this is something I don't know. Sorry, Edward, but I think this is a ghost. I can't see things I've never experienced."
I nodded, understanding where her theory was coming from. It was an idea that she'd been poking around since the beginning, but it had solidified when she saw the tunnel.
All eyes fell on Esme because she sat forward. She looked to Carlisle. They'd already talked about this, so she knew where he stood. He wanted to stay because he was overly curious, but he'd never make a single one of us suffer. Our mother's thoughts swirled around her children and worry and comfort, but she finally looked around the room.
"I'll stay, but only if everyone else is in agreement," she stated. "This house has a past to it that is sad and scary. If I'd have known half of it, I wouldn't have closed on it." Her voice was firm. "I don't know if I believe in ghosts, but I do believe that some places keep the energy that lived within it. You feel it. You feel it cemeteries, hospitals, and houses that have seen scary things. Some call it an aura..." She shrugged a shoulder. "I don't know if that's what it is. I only know what I've felt in these places, and this place is the same. It has a story to tell."
Bella's head shot up from where she'd been spinning my wedding ring. Her thoughts completely vanished from my mind, and my brow wrinkled as she narrowed her eyes at our mother.
"Bella?" I asked softly, and when she looked up at me, her eyes were dark. "You're the last vote, love."
I wanted to laugh because they all considered her to be the baby, despite the arrival of Kevin and Adrian. I was pretty sure it was because she was a girl – something that she'd roll her eyes at if she knew. But that baby status was causing a stir in everyone's minds. They'd do what she wanted. Every man in the house wanted to spoil her, give her what she wanted. All the women wanted to protect her. I held back my amusement at the change in things. She had no idea the power she held.
She looked to Esme, and her face was sad, her thoughts still blocked to me. "I didn't believe that until just now," she said softly, "but you're right. The house in Forks radiated life and goodness and hope."
My heart squeezed in my chest. "Bella, no..."
"It's true," she stated, her voice calm, soft, her smile sad but sweet. "When you guys left, I needed to see it, and it worked. It calmed me...just knowing it was there, that it was real. And yeah, it has tons of stories inside. But this house..." she urged, pointing a finger toward the floor. "This house needs someone to listen." Carlisle started to speak, but she held up her hand. "Wait. I'm not finished."
"Go on, sweetheart," Esme told her.
"For a spit second, I felt something good in that tunnel. Something that needed me. I know that doesn't make sense," she said, shaking her head a little. "It pulled so hard on my shield that I could barely get my control back long enough to help Edward and Jasper."
Carlisle knelt in front of her, but he looked to me in question. I nodded that she had, indeed, struggled to gain control in that passageway.
"What do you want to do, Bella?" he asked her softly.
"I hate what it's doing to Edward and Jasper. Hate it," she growled, her small hands balling up into fists.
"Love, I'm okay," I told her, tilting her chin up so that she could see the truth behind my words.
"Baby girl, we've been through worse," Jasper drawled, a chuckle lacing through his statement.
"Could you counter it?" she asked him.
He mused over the question, but nodded. "You mean, send out something right back? Instead of the fear?"
"Yeah."
"I could try. That's some strong fear I'm picking up," he told her honestly.
I looked to Carlisle. "She's right. Even music settled it down. If Jasper could counter the fear with say...a calm or even pleasant emotion, then maybe things could mellow out."
Our father nodded; his theory had been pretty similar to hers. "Okay, we'll stay, but if at any time, one of you becomes uncomfortable, we're putting to another vote." He sighed and stood up. "The last thing I wanted to go over with you is that Marcus offered to send someone."
"Please say Demitri, please say Demitri," Kevin chanted dramatically with his hands pressed together in prayer. Every girl in the house cracked the hell up. "What? He's sweet eye candy!" he beamed, and even Adrian nodded in agreement.
"It is, in fact, Demitri," Carlisle said with a laugh.
"Awesome!" Emmett cheered. "It's been ages since D's been to visit!"
"Well, it just so happens that Demitri and Carina are stateside, so they could most likely be here in a few days," Carlisle finished with a smile because the whole room's attitude had changed at the announcement.
"Cool, Carina, too," Bella said with a beaming smile.
"So...Dr. Frank-N-Furter," Kevin snorted. "We're staying in Rocky Horror's Picture Show?"
I laughed at Carlisle's eye roll, but he nodded and said, "Yes, for now."
The meeting was definitely over when Emmett and Kevin broke out into song.
"I'm just a sweet transvestite...from Transsexual, Transylvania..."
"Oh, Lord," Bella sighed, shaking her head. "If we last until Halloween, what do you think the odds are that we just found our theme?" she muttered wryly up to me, which caused my laughter all over again.
"Ooh! Perfect!" Alice gasped, her visions absolutely assaulting her.
It was time to depart when Emmett boomed, "Hells, yes! I'm gonna rock those gold shorts as the monster!"
I stood up, holding my hand out for Bella, because Alice was already picturing us as Brad and Janet. "And on that note...we're out of here."
Alice's laughter followed us all the way upstairs, but I slammed the door to shut her up.
~oOo~
The next few days were uneventful as far as the house was concerned. The voice, the fear...it stayed quiet. Rose and Emmett worked on the garage, rebuilding the workbench and stabilizing the brick walls, which included sealing up the hole where small animals couldn't get in. Jasper and I worked on setting up the library with some sort of way to store our instruments. There was a spare wall opposite the windows, so we hung most of the guitars on the wall like we had at Bella's and my house in London.
The cellar was left alone per Carlisle's instructions. He wanted it sealed up until he got ahold of Demitri, which he did two days after our family meeting. Our good friend didn't even ask for details, but said he and his mate Carina were in Colorado, and that they'd be to us as soon as they could. They'd been visiting with another couple of good friends of the family – Catherine and Brandon. Apparently, Brandon had been attending the University of Colorado, and he'd had trouble with someone that suspected his true nature. Somehow, it had ended up on a human's personal blog, and Demitri was there to "take care of it." That last statement made Carlisle flinch during their conversation, but unfortunately, the rules of the Volturi hadn't changed much, even under Marcus's more laid-back command. Our existence had to remain a secret at all costs.
Carlisle, being...well, Carlisle, extended an invitation to Catherine and Brandon, as well, to come for a visit. Demitri had said that he'd pass the offer along and would get back to us when they were on their way.
Once the house was pretty much finished as far as renovations were concerned, we settled into some sort of routine. Jasper would post our "homework" on the home-school website just maintain appearances, Alice had started to consider a trip into New Brunswick to shop, and Kevin and Adrian were fitting in like they'd always been in the family. Adrian liked the quiet that Bella brought to a room, so he tended to cling to her a little. Together, they still pored over everything they could about this house and the town. Kevin was trying to learn the guitar, so occasionally, he'd hang out with Jasper and me in the library.
"This perfect memory thing is the shit!" Kevin said with a laugh as he plucked out the same thing that Jasper had just showed him.
Chuckling, I shook my head and focused back onto the piano. The house was quiet, most everyone doing their own thing. Emmett, Jasper, Kevin, and I were playing for the fun of it.
Adrian glanced up from his spot on the couch, saying, "It helps that you know music, Kev."
"True, but still..." Kevin grinned, playing rhythm guitar to Jasper's lead as we began "Promised Land" by Elvis.
It was a faster song, but easy, leaving room for errors, which Kevin didn't have many of. Jasper sang softly as Emmett sounded like a carbon copy of the King's original. The house felt lighter than had in days. The girls were upstairs with Esme in Alice and Jasper's room, discussing their impending trip to Canada and what they might need. I could hear my Bella folding clothes. It was when she toted the finished basket up the stairs to our room that her steps faltered.
I stopped playing, as did my brothers, because the growl that my girl let loose practically shook the foundations of the entire house. Her feet pounded rapidly down the stairs.
"Which one of you took it?" she snarled, barreling into the room.
Her thoughts toward Jasper and Emmett were almost violent, so I was up and off the piano bench to catch her up in my arms before she could reach them.
"Which one?!" she snapped, pointing over my shoulder at them, and I could barely figure out what was upsetting her.
"Bella, slow down, sweetheart. What's wrong? What happened?" I asked her, forcing her gaze to mine.
She didn't say anything, but her whole body trembled in my arms. Flashes of our room, her nightstand, and the box I'd given her to store my letters were at the forefront. The box was missing. She wasn't sure when the last time she'd seen them. She loved the box, so she'd left it on her nightstand. But we hadn't been up there all day.
"What do you mean, they're 'missing?'" I asked her.
Jasper, obviously picking up on her panic, asked, "What's missing?"
"My box of Edward's letters," she sneered. "Which one of you did it?"
I turned to watch my brothers, but they were all stunned at her accusations. Emmett had teased her more than one time about them, but in reality, he'd never bother them. Jasper respected her and her things, no matter what taunts he may have thrown her way. And Kevin and Adrian were just...confused.
I shook my head slowly, glancing back to Bella's ire-filled face. "Love, they didn't take them. I promise. In fact, none of them even really knew where they were."
"No, but wait," she pleaded, glancing between me and then her brothers. "If they... No, no, no... They can't have just disappeared. They just...can't!"
My heart broke at the sound of her. Her sweet face was wrecked, her eyes blinking rapidly, so I knew she was fighting the sting of tears she could no longer shed, and her fingers gripped my T-shirt with a tenacious hold.
"This is like my drill and her iPod," Emmett muttered, his face so very serious. "And this is getting personal." He turned to Jasper. "Maybe you're right about the girly thing..."
"Edward, no..." she whispered, shaking her head and looking down at her hands between us. Her mind was begging me to just...fix it.
With her still in my arms, I turned to leave the library, seeing that the rest of the family had come down to check on her. Carlisle was the most concerned, but I just shook my head and walked past them.
"Show me, sweet girl," I requested once we were in our room. "Where were they?"
"There," she said so softly, pointing to the empty space on her nightstand.
I sat down on the edge of the bed, keeping her on my lap. Cupping her face, I vowed, "We'll find them, baby. I'll tear the house apart if we have to. In fact, if you listen closely, I'm pretty sure everyone has already started."
She nodded, her gaze more on her own fingers played with the buttons of my outer shirt, but she stayed quiet.
"You know," I whispered, smiling a little when she met my gaze, "you didn't have to save them. Your memory could recall every word." I tapped her temple, but her brow furrowed.
"That's not the point."
"Oh, Bella, I love that you kept them, that you appreciated them that much," I groaned, wanting like anything to ease this in in some way. "I remember every word I've ever written you, except for the one letter when I was not quite...myself. If I have to, I'll rewrite them all."
"You would?"
I laughed at the sound of her surprise – like there wasn't anything I wouldn't do for her – and I kissed her lips roughly. "Every crossed T and dotted...lower case J," I pledged, placing a hand over my heart.
Her lips quirked at my attempt to be funny, but she nodded, burying her face into my neck. "I'm sorry I freaked out."
"I can't judge you on that one, love," I said with a snicker, kissing her fingers one by one.
I could hear Kevin approaching, his mind frantic with a way to just...help. He absolutely hated when his Goddess was upset about something. The love he had for her was immense, but he also understood that she was very protective of anything to do with me, with our relationship. And that, he really just...got. As boisterous as his personality could be, he truly was a kind-hearted soul.
He knocked on the door frame tentatively, and Bella and I both looked up at him.
"I'm sorry, Goddess," he said softly, his brow furrowing. "This isn't the first thing to go missing, right?" he asked.
She shook her head no and waited patiently for him to make his point.
"And things go missing when we aren't here or not looking?" he verified. When we nodded, he said,
"Well, I have an idea. Have you ever seen the TV show Ghost Hunters?"
"Yeah," we both said slowly, because Emmett occasionally liked to watch it.
"Holy shit!" Emmett boomed, rushing up the stairs. "You're brilliant!"
"What?!" Bella and I asked.
Emmett grinned, slapping a heavy hand to Kevin's shoulder. "We set up cameras...all over the house. We link them to a computer and record...overnight...while we aren't here."
My eyebrows shot up, but I looked to Bella, who shrugged as the most adorable confused expression took over her face.
"I'll try anything," she stated.
"Okay...what do we do?" I stood up, sliding Bella to the floor.
"Well, this ought to make Princess happy." Kevin stole a look down the stairs when Alice's chuckle met our ears. "We need to go shopping."
Carlisle stepped into the room, wearing a solemn expression. His curiosity was peaked again, but he didn't mention it. He simply studied Bella for a minute. "Bella, we'll still continue to look, okay? But I'd like for you guys to get out of this house for a bit."
"Thanks, Carlisle," she sighed, giving the empty spot on her nightstand a longing look.
"Okay," Kevin huffed, nodding once and rubbing his hands together. "Look out, Caribou...here we come!"

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