Monday, October 8, 2012 | By: Jenny

Haunted Angel Chapter 8

Chapter 8
BELLA
Alice and I both suddenly stepped forward in a protective stance over the shivering and once again growling person on the floor. The second Esme had spoken, he'd covered himself up again and started to snarl, which caused everyone in the room to surge forward.
"Stop!" we both cried out.
I turned to Brandon. "Let me out…let my shield go!"
He did as I asked, and I slammed it down between us and everyone else. There were too many powers down in that small room. With Catherine's ability to draw people in, Edward's mind reading, Jasper's empathy, and many more, it seemed to make the walls feel like they were closing in on us. I couldn't even begin to imagine what the scared man at my feet was feeling or thinking about it all. He'd been found out and was now trapped like a wild animal in the one place he felt safe.
"Can't you see? You're scaring him!" I sobbed, simply because the fear that Jasper had emitted was so very strong.
Everyone relaxed, letting out a deep breath once I cut them off. The only sound in the room for several seconds was the warning growl from behind me. It was heartbreaking and desperate as the man tried to curl in on himself even more.
"Bella," Edward stated slowly, his eyes flickering between me and the man on the floor. "Sweetheart…he's scared of you, too. You have to come away from him. He's not…stable."
"He's starving," Brandon stated, his eyes not leaving the floor. "That's why."
"Bella, Alice," Carlisle said stepping as close to me and Alice as my shield would allow. "You need to step this way."
"He needs help, Carlisle," Alice argued. "He'll snap soon. I've seen it. He just wants to be left alone."
"He needs us," I added, glancing between Carlisle and my husband, the latter of which looked like he was debating on snatching me up or joining me.
"Okay," Carlisle soothed with a slight nod of his head. "We'll do all that we can for him, but I need you two to come this way."
"Damn," Demitri sighed, stepping forward. "He's weak."
"That's why he's freaking out," Emmett noted softly, but his face was sad as he gazed down on him. My biggest brother's head shot up, and he glanced around the room. "I don't get it. How come we didn't smell him? See him?"
"My guess is he's somewhat like Bella here," Demitri answered, gesturing to me as he knelt down as close as my shield would allow him. "Maybe a little different."
"Some sort of cloak...or...or chameleon?" Carlisle asked him. "Like Mark's masking ability? But couldn't he control it?"
"Probably not," Edward sighed, his eyes sad as he took in the immortal at my feet. "If he's that hungry, then he may have no control over it."
"Or maybe he never had control," Jasper added, frowning at the man whose growls had now turned into a soft, keening whimper.
"God, how long has he been here?" Rose asked, shaking her head.
"Who knows, but he's here," Carlisle stated gently, locking eyes with me and then Alice. "Girls, I know you want to protect him. Bella, I know your shield is drawn to him, but I need to see him. Please." When neither of us moved, he sighed. "Please, girls. I need to have Edward hear when I speak with him. I promise you both on my life that we won't hurt him." He placed a hand over his heart, and his eyes were warm, full of calm concern.
"There's too many of us down here," Alice argued. "That's part of the problem."
"Okay," Demitri said with a nod, turning to the room. "Then, let's do this. Emmett, stay on the steps into the library. Jasper, stay at the basement door. Brandon, just keep up what you're doing, but the rest of you go upstairs, please. Or at least step outside the room."
Everyone did as he asked, a few grumbling in the process. They didn't like leaving us unprotected, but I knew deep down that it wasn't needed.
Edward stepped forward, scowling that he couldn't come closer, his fist pushing at my shield, which caused his muscles to flex in his forearm. "My sweet girl, I know what your shield is telling you. I haven't forgotten that, but if we're to help him, we need to get in there," he told me, and his voice was soft, soothing, but it was his eyes that radiated pure honesty. "Bella, I promise...no one will hurt him."
I glanced to Alice, and she nodded reluctantly when our eyes met. "They won't hurt him...but he won't like it."
"Can you see him now?" I asked.
She nodded, letting out a deep breath of relief. "With you and Brandon, yeah."
"Damn, that's some powerful shit," Demitri muttered, pulling his long hair away from his face. "No scent, no sight, no thoughts, no...nothing. No wonder you guys were confused."
Carlisle nodded, but he waited patiently for me and Alice to make our decision. Carefully, I lowered my shield, but I couldn't move away. I simply gazed down at the wrecked vampire at my feet, who was trying his damnedest to melt into the brick wall behind him. A feeling of false calm filled the room, and not only did everyone around me relax, the immortal on the floor did, too. He still stayed tightly wrapped around himself, but the keening, the scooting back...it all stopped. I glanced up at Jasper, who looked like he was using everything he had to send out something other than fear.
Kisses met the side of my head, and I leaned into Edward, allowing him to pull me back a few steps. We were quiet as Carlisle knelt beside the man on the floor.
"We're not here to hurt you," he said, using the calmest, softest tone he could muster. "My name's Carlisle Cullen. I just want to help you."
"He's wondering where the girls went, but he's afraid to look because he knows they're close," Edward murmured softly. "He's not... He won't think about anything else, Carlisle. He's afraid of them."
"The girls?" he verified, and Edward nodded.
"He keeps thinking the words 'monsters' and 'evil,'" Edward added. "Carlisle, he's way too thirsty to talk to. He's not making any sense because he can't focus on a single thing – which would explain the few things I've heard."
"Why wouldn't he just...hunt? Because that's more than just...thirst," Brandon pointed out.
Edward's statement about the things he'd heard since we'd been in the house made me stop to think. Everything now made complete sense. His thirst would explain why he was unable to control his power. Our presence would've scared him because we were strong, and he was extremely weak.
Somewhere upstairs, my phone started ringing, a police siren filling the air. It stopped, only to start over again.
"Baby, that's Charlie," Edward said softly, "and you'd better get it because look... It's hurting his ears."
The siren wailed again, but the reaction from the vampire on the floor was tragic. He shivered, whimpering, and wrapped his arms around his own head.
Reluctantly, I left the basement, flying upstairs to our room. The siren started again, and I knew Charlie never blew up my phone like that, so this had to be important.
"Hey, Dad," I answered.
"Bells, it's not Charlie," a girl's voice said quickly.
"Anna? What's wrong? Where's my dad?"
"He's fine. I'm sorry that I was stalk-dialing you, but I thought that you guys would want to hear this from me. I just got off the phone with Tim Dixon," she stated breathlessly. "I think...maybe... Well, I think you guys have a vampire in there, but...wouldn't you sense him?"
"It is. And it's kind of a long story why we didn't know...we just found him?" I said, but it came out like a question because I wasn't sure how else to put it. "What did Tim say?"
"Okay, well, I know Charlie told you I was going to lie about updating his cold case information, so when I called, that's exactly what I did," she started, talking almost as quickly as one of us. "Anyway, at first, he didn't want to talk about any of it, but I got him to slowly tell me what happened the night that his wife disappeared...and about the last night he and his daughter stayed in that house." She paused to catch her breath but then went on without waiting for any reaction from me. "His story about the night Lisa disappeared came out like he was reading the police report; he gave no details, and it was like he had no emotion about it. But when I said that someone had bought the house and was moving in, he flipped out. Hard. He said no one should live there. They wouldn't survive it."
"What happened?"
"He said that he tried to stay in that house for as long as he could – you know, in case Lisa showed back up – but that strange shit started to happen. Doors would open on their own, things would go missing, and his little girl would wake up in the middle of the night screaming. He said eventually, he just moved her into his room. He told me that at first, he thought it was the ghost of his wife, and he said he could almost live with that...until the last night."
Anna paused again, practically panting, and it was almost funny, but I had a feeling what she was about to say would be shocking.
"He struggled to tell me about that last night. He swore I'd think he was crazy; I had to tell him that I'd seen some pretty weird shit in my life, so not to worry."
I smiled, shaking my head. "Go on."
"He said that the last night he was there, he woke up to someone...or something looming over his daughter. He said it was white like a ghost, but solid like something real. Tim said it was whimpering like it was in pain and froze when it realized that Tim was watching it." She paused for a moment. "Bella, it spoke to him."
"He...he spoke to him. It's a man," I corrected softly, my heart going out to all parties in this situation. "What did he say?"
"He said, 'I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. Please...run. I can't stop myself much longer. You aren't safe. She's not safe.'"
The words seemed to hang in the air for a moment, and I looked up to see Rose standing in the doorway. Her face was a mixture of emotions – disgust, worry, curiosity.
"That would mean..." Rose started, shaking her head. "That would mean that the guy downstairs almost drained them."
I nodded and frowned, going back to the phone. "Anna, did Tim say anything else?"
"Nothing other than he was pretty sure he knew where his wife had gone. He left that next morning and didn't take anything more than a small packed bag. He didn't care what happened to the house," Anna replied. "Bells, do you still want that interview?"
"Yeah, send it," I sighed, thinking it was better to have it, just in case. "Thank you, Anna. Seriously."
"No problem. And Charlie said he'd call you in a few days," she told me.
We ended the phone call, and I tossed my phone onto my still-disheveled bed. Turning to Rose, I let out a groan.
"Carlisle said he wants us all in the living room. He wants a family meeting," she said.
We walked silently down the stairs to the living room, where everyone was waiting. I could see by their faces that they'd heard every word of my conversation, but it was the strong, open arms that I fell into. Edward shifted me until I was sideways on his lap.
"Did you just leave him down there?" I asked.
"It's what he wanted, love," Edward stated soothingly, tucking my hair behind my ear. "We don't think he's going anywhere."
I could see by the look on his face that there was more to that statement than Edward was saying out loud. Whether he was keeping it from just me or from everyone, I wasn't sure, but I knew he had some sort of theory.
"I do. Just wait," he whispered, kissing my cheek softly.
Carlisle was pacing in front of the fireplace, his face intense as his fingers gently rubbed his chin. We were quiet for a moment, but Demitri sat forward, his elbows on his knees.
"Carlisle, we can remove him," he stated, wincing at Alice's and my immediate protestations.
"You can't!" Alice cried. "He won't survive it!"
"He's not a bug to exterminate. He was here first," I growled, and Edward's arms tightened around me.
"I wasn't going to exterminate him, little one," Demitri replied, wearing a slightly crooked smile. "I was simply going to try to take him somewhere to help him."
Before I could answer, Edward spoke up. "I don't think you'll get him out of the house without a struggle, Demitri. After Bella's conversation with Anna, I have a feeling he hasn't left this house for a long time."
Again, I heard something in his tone that he wasn't elaborating on. When I locked gazes with him, he simply shook his head one time, telling me now wasn't the time. He glanced past me to Carlisle, who was leaning on the back of a chair.
"From what I can tell," Carlisle started with a deep sigh, "there's nothing physically wrong with him. There's no open wounds, no injuries of any sort. He's simply..."
"Starved," Jasper stated, rubbing his throat. "I can feel it more than anything. More than the fear."
"Right," Carlisle agreed with a nod. "If we take what we know about this house and those videos, I think we have a problem." He grimaced a little, his gaze flickering to Edward for a moment, but he continued. "He's extremely powerful – talent-wise, anyway – and his incredible thirst is causing his inability to control it. Bella, you should understand that."
I nodded, relaxing a little against Edward as he turned my wedding ring around and around.
"At the mention of hunting, he cringes in fear. And I think we saw how he hunts: out that back cellar door," Carlisle said, sighing frustratedly.
"Oh, damn," Emmett murmured, shaking his head. "But he didn't...catch anything. And he didn't give chase to that lynx, he simply let it go. So he's not...leaving the house?"
Edward shook his head no. "He wants to feed. I hear it in his mind. In fact, that's all he can focus on, really, except his fear of...well, women." I felt his shrug behind me. "I don't know why, but he's terrified of them. Even if they're trying to help," he said with a small smile when I turned to look at him.
"I've never seen fear override an immortal's basic instinct for the need to feed. Never." Carlisle's words sat there for a moment because he was right. At some point, instinct usually took over.
Edward huffed a humorless laugh. "Yes, you have. You."
The room came to a standstill for a moment as we glanced between the two men who knew each other better than any of us.
"I didn't want to be this," Carlisle said, a growl lacing his words.
"Neither does he," Edward argued back. "I hear it every time he thinks the word 'monster.' He knows exactly what he is, and he doesn't want it. He fights it at every turn. It's why he's starving." Edward breathed heavily out of his nose. "You did the very same thing, Carlisle. You waited, tried everything to avoid killing."
"What if...I mean... We could feed him," Adrian said softly, shrugging a shoulder when we turned our attention to him. "Anything, at this point, has to be better than what he's had. And maybe it'll help with communication."
"But what diet?" Jasper snorted, shaking his head.
"Doesn't matter, does it?" Demitri asked, shrugging a shoulder.
"Well, we aren't gonna bring a homeless guy up in here and throw him into the basement like Daniel to the lions' den," Rose snarked, rolling her eyes.
Demitri grinned, throwing a pillow at her. "I know that!"
Carlisle cracked a smile, but he said, "I can get some donated blood from the closest clinic. We could start him off with that and then move on from there. He's obviously not particular about his diet, as we saw from the video. I believe he would have taken the lynx if he'd have been able."
There were nods of agreement around the room, but something he'd said stayed with me.
"The raccoon!" I gasped. "All those bones in the garage! That was him."
"Yes," Edward said softly, still playing with my fingers. "He's been taking what he could get, it would seem."
"Which means...Lisa Dixon, too," Alice stated, her nose wrinkling.
"Yeah, but if that's the case, then..." Emmett started but was cut off suddenly by Esme.
"Who is he?" she asked sharply. "That's what I want to know."
Edward shifted uncomfortably a little underneath me, but he said nothing. I turned to look at him and quickly understood that was what he'd been so quiet about. He had an idea about who this vampire in our cellar was. His warm honey eyes begged me silently to not say anything, and trusting him wholeheartedly, I let it go.
"I'm not sure," Carlisle sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. "We tried multiple times to get him to even think about himself, but he wouldn't."
Edward Cullen, I thought to him, and he flinched a little. You'll spill soon, right?
He snickered softly, kissing my fingers. "Yes," he breathed against my skin. "Promise." To the rest of the room, he said, "I agree with Carlisle. I'd like to get something in him. I may have more luck with his thoughts. He doesn't trust us...because we're just like him, so anything we do will be misconstrued as a threat."
Carlisle called the meeting to an end, stating that he'd head out to the closest clinic to pick up the blood. The rest of the family milled around us, but I didn't move from Edward's lap.
My nose wrinkled as I sighed deeply. I knew that this vampire needed our help and that he was not a threat to us – my shield was proof of that. However, there was something in the back of my mind that told me there was more to him than met the eye, that we already had the answer. And then it hit me: the entire history behind this damn house, every broken message that Edward heard, and the palpable fear that clearly filled this whole place... This vampire had been inside this house for almost a hundred years.
"Yes," Edward hissed in my ear. "But who?"
I gasped, spinning to look at him. He wore a proud expression that I'd come to the same conclusion he had. That same expression told me that we were being listened to by everyone and asked me to still keep it quiet.
A hundred years, Edward! my mind practically screamed at him. They've never left. And if that's the case, then maybe you were right...agoraphobia?
~oOo~
EDWARD
I smirked at my beautiful yet extremely clever girl. It hit her quickly, but I wasn't sure I wanted the entire house to know exactly what we'd come up with. If it was, in fact, a hundred-year-old vampire, then it was the most powerful one we'd ever seen, not just for his talent but because he had to have the most bloodlust control I'd ever heard of in my long years.
On top of that, I wasn't exactly sure who he was, only that the history of missing humans told us that he'd been in this house a very, very long time. His current health told me that he'd also refused to eat, refused to actually exit out the door to feed himself. But more than all of that... His mind was shattered. He was petrified of the girls. Every last one of them. His thoughts were broken, choppy, even with Brandon's removal of his cloak, and he was unstable. The latter part could be his lack of nourishment, but if it wasn't, then this vampire was now a threat to himself and others.
"Wait!" Jasper called just before Carlisle exited the house, turning toward me and Bella. "What? What is it?"
Bella and I locked gazes, but she whispered, "It's only a theory. It wouldn't hurt to tell them."
Sighing, I nodded, setting her on her feet. I stood up, running a hand through my hair. "I can't be sure...but if we put the history behind this house together, and the way that this vampire thinks – the words he uses – we may have an even bigger problem, Carlisle."
"You think you know who he is?" my father asked, stepping closer. When I didn't say anything for a moment, his mind swirled around the facts, and he came to it all on his own. I saw Bella's notes, old journals, and finally, he remembered my discussion with Bella over agoraphobia. "Damn...Archie Varner?"
I winced when the whole house gasped. "I think so, but I can't be sure until he's fed. His thoughts are too...erratic. It would make sense. I mean, William Varner said that his son wouldn't leave the house, and some...human characteristics carry over into this life through the change. You know that. But in all reality, he could be...anyone."
Thoughts around me were a little scattered, but I focused on Carlisle's more than anyone's. He locked gazes with me and nodded. He seemed to think that I was pretty damn close.
With a twirl of his keys around his finger, he opened the door. "Okay. I'll be back," Carlisle stated with a single nod, and he left the house with Esme.
The house was silent for a minute, but Demitri sighed loudly. "When he gets back is when the fun will begin."
Small fingers linked with mine, and I glanced down at Bella. I could see that it was taking everything in her not to rush into the basement. Her shield tugged a little at her, a need to just...help. But instead, she pulled me a little behind her.
"Come with me," she said, guiding me into the library. Instead of opening the bookcase door, she nudged me toward the piano. "Play."
I smiled at her, my brow wrinkling at the command; not that I wouldn't do anything she asked of me, but it seemed a strange request at the moment.
"Not for me," she said with a silly giggle and an eye roll. "To calm him. You said music helped, so let's try it. Maybe he'll be a little calmer by the time Carlisle gets back."
Nodding, I took a seat on the bench and looked up when everyone joined us.
Yo, Ed, Brandon thought to me. You want to be able to hear him? He jerked his chin toward the bookcase door, and I nodded.
"Yeah, take away his power," I told him softly. "Jasper, brace yourself, and Bella, hold that shield, okay?"
Jasper and Bella nodded as the latter sat next to me on the bench. My brother picked up an acoustic guitar, fiddling with the strings. Brandon fell into the sofa by the cellar entry, and I felt our guest's mind immediately. Flinching at the constant chanting of, "Must leave, must leave. Too much, too much," I took a deep breath and let it out.
"Um, not yet. Let's see what happens with just the piano," I told Jasper when he raised an eyebrow and looked at the guitar in his hands, and he nodded.
The most calming, most soothing thing I could think to play was Bella's lullaby, so I started it softly. My family was amused at my choice, but my Bella... She felt honored. I leaned into the kiss to my cheek, dropping one to the top of her head when she nestled in beside me. The biggest change was indeed in the immortal just on the other side of the bookcase doorway.
Mentally, it was like he sighed a deep breath of relief. He clung to the notes, and without his power, I could see through his eyes. The basement was dark, dank, but it was comfortable for him, though he hadn't moved from what I now assumed was a bed of some sort. He was overcome with thirst, but he fought it. The problem was he was way too far gone to give it much effort. My theory on his instability wavered because he flickered through each face he'd seen down in his room. The most notable was Carlisle, for actually speaking to him. I saw my own fierce face, but it was the face of the woman beside me that fell to the forefront of his mind.
"It's helping," Jasper sighed, speaking so softly.
"He's confused," I added just as quietly with a nod, switching to another soft song, Claire de Lune. "He wants to truly mistrust the girls – all of us, really – but he doesn't understand why Bella and Alice stood up for him."
"His thirst is overwhelming," Jasper stated, but there wasn't much we could do about it at the moment.
"That would explain his sensitivity to sound and why he can't control his talent," Demitri piped up.
"Maybe," was all I said, focusing more on the keys than anything else, though I had to fight my smile.
He could hear us and was listening intently, but he didn't want to acknowledge that we were talking about him, which made me wonder just what else he'd heard in the house.
He stayed perfectly still the entire time I played. Eventually, Jasper and Kevin joined in on guitars, and we fiddled around with a few songs. We kind of skipped around through decades, Emmett eventually adding a soft beat to whatever we were playing. The Mamas and the Papas, Joan Baez, and Lady Antebellum were just a few that we touched on – all calm, all soft. Voices were mixed in, but not loudly. Mainly, we just sang to ourselves. Bella sang with Jasper on one and with me on another; even Carina treated us to an Italian love song. And despite the cringing fear when he would first hear a woman's voice, our guest downstairs remained mellow.
Once Carlisle and Esme returned, carrying a rather large cooler, we stopped playing. After a quick glance around the room, Carlisle ordered Kevin and Adrian out of the house, due to the blood that he was about to give to the vampire downstairs. He didn't want them tempted, nor uncomfortable.
"Perhaps we should lessen how many of us are inside the house for this," Catherine suggested. "Carlisle, who do you need? The rest of us will leave for a bit."
Rubbing his chin, I could already see who he needed, but he nodded in thanks to her. "I'll need Edward, Jasper, and Brandon, for sure. Bella and Alice, I might need you, but you have to let me work with him."
Alice nodded silently, but her mind was a cacophony of visions. She met my gaze briefly and shrugged. She couldn't narrow anything down because everything rested on the shoulders of someone she didn't know, someone who wasn't able to make a straight decision at the moment.
"Don't talk to me; talk to my shield," Bella huffed, folding her arms across her chest in an adorable pout. "It seems to have a mind of its own these days."
"Try, sweetheart," Carlisle said with a chuckle, but he understood her frustration.
"I'd like to stay," Demitri requested. "If that's okay with you. I won't go down there; I'll just listen at the door."
Carlisle nodded in agreement, kissed Esme, and opened the cooler. He grabbed two bags of O-negative and a plastic cup, waiting until everyone had left before opening the bookcase door.
Upon Carlisle's return and the lack of music, the immortal's stress level started to climb again. He heard what we were planning, though he didn't have quite the realistic picture in his mind. He assumed we were coming in violently.
"Careful, he knows we're coming," I murmured to Carlisle.
My father nodded, gesturing for everyone to get into position. Brandon plopped himself down on the steps, and Bella joined him. Jasper ran around to the basement entry, planting himself there, just in case. I took sentry at the opening into the tunnel that led to the garage. Alice stayed upstairs on the library sofa, her mind searching, constantly making decisions, and reading out the outcomes. Demitri simply paced.
The very second the immortal's eyes caught sight of us, the growling began, which could've been interpreted as a warning, though I could see it was simply fear. He really didn't trust us, and that could be just as dangerous as aggression. Bella's mind had associated him with sounding like a trapped animal, and I honestly had to agree. No matter who this person was, he'd lost all sense of humanity. There was nothing left of him, and that made me wince a little, especially when he shivered at Carlisle's close proximity, even more when Carlisle started to speak. The vampire curled in on himself like a turtle in a shell, hiding his face as my father slowly knelt next to him.
"I promise, son, you don't have to be afraid. No one here is going to hurt you. That fear, that sharp pain that comes with noise...that's hunger. You're thirsty. I'd like to help you with that," he said soothingly, though he'd made no move to touch him.
I nodded that he was listening when Carlisle shot me a quick glance when the growls and the shivering hadn't stopped. However, Alice's vision hit me quickly, loudly.
"He doesn't trust you, but he'll drink the blood. Alice says you have to do it quickly. He won't be able to control himself once he tastes it," I stated, which interestingly enough caught the vampire's attention more than I thought it would.
Evil, he thought. He sees my mind. Knows too much...
"Yes, I can hear your thoughts," I told him softly, ignoring when everyone's eyes landed on me, except the curled-up figure in the corner, who remained buried in on himself. "It's a gift... Well, most of the time." I huffed a laugh and shot my smiling girl a wink. "It's a gift much like your ability to hide," I told him. "Some of us wake up in this life with...extra senses."
Don't know... I need... Blood...
"He's ready, Carlisle," I sighed, gesturing to the bag in his hand. "He may understand more once he has that in him. His head will clear."
The whole room readied when Carlisle picked up the bag of blood. Jasper shifted uneasily but didn't leave his post. Brandon and Bella froze in place where they were. The strong scent of human blood wafted around the closed space as Carlisle poured the first bag into the cup. My own throat burned a little at the smell of it, but it was easy to ignore, considering I'd smelled the sweetest of blood in my human Bella. No blood before or after that had ever come close. Nothing was as sweet as when I'd first laid eyes on her, and nothing ever drew me in like the smell of freesias and strawberries. This... This was nothing.
I took a step forward when the immortal shifted, his head lifting slowly to finally take in the room. He noted me and Jasper, but it was the man with the gift in front of him he could only focus on. Black, thirst-sunken eyes glazed over, his chest rose and fell as his breathing picked up, and his hands balled up into fists.
Instead of handing it to him, Carlisle merely set the cup down onto the floor at the vampire's feet and slowly scooted back.
"It's all yours. You truly need it, son. And I have more," he said, scooting back another few inches.
More?
"Plenty," I urged him. "Take it. You'll understand a lot more of what's going on once you've fed."
I shook my head because as starved as he was, he should've been out of control, but he wasn't. He was calculating, wary, and slow. Despite his weakened state, he should've flown into full-blown bloodlust when the scent of blood hit the damp air of the workshop, but he waited.
Shouldn't eat...didn't hunt. Not allowed.
I inhaled sharply because that thought confirmed who I thought he might be. Archie Varner had carried into his immortal life his father's last order, the last command that William had threatened him with. I could even recall the words in his own handwriting in the journal that Bella had found.
Carlisle shot me a quick glance, but I shook my head, jerking my chin toward who I now believed was Archie. A shaky white hand slowly opened and reached out. It wrapped around the cup, almost squeezing it too hard, but he righted his grip. I had to smile because as soon as he brought the thick liquid to his mouth, that's when the bloodlust hit him. He drank and drank, his black eyes rolling back into his head and drips spilling down his chin. Panting when it was empty, he looked to Carlisle.
Jasper silently noted his control, and I turned to give him a quick nod. When he asked me through his mind if I could hear him better, I gave another nod.
"More?" my father asked, smiling a little at him as he picked up the next bag.
The cup was thrust forward, his wariness of everyone around him gone for the moment in his thirsty haze.
"That's a yes," Bella murmured with a touch of humor to her voice, but she winced when Archie's gaze shot her way, a growl escaping him.
He scooted back farther but met the unforgiving brick wall.
She held up her hand in a surrendering gesture, her sweet heart breaking at his condition. "I won't hurt you, I swear. I'm not... Drink. It's yours," she told him softly, pointing to the cup he was now holding possessively.
The only thing keeping his fear in check was his memory of her standing between him and several other "monsters." His thoughts flickered between instinctively rushing at her to defend what was his or drinking.
"Drink," I chose for him, my voice rougher than I'd intended. "I'd rather you didn't find out what happens if you touch her. She's not here to hurt you. She's fought for you since we found you."
"Edward," Bella chided softly. "It's okay. He's scared. I get it."
I pursed my lips, shaking my head, but Archie watched us nervously, and he noted my name, which caused me to spin to look at him.
Without taking his eyes from me, he lifted the second cup of blood to his lips. Again, he lost his focus once the nectar hit his lips. Setting the cup down, he closed his eyes briefly, and it was amazing to watch the blood do its job. Meshing with the venom in his system, his skin slowly changed from almost translucent to just really pale. His sunken-in eyes and cheeks filled in a little, and his breathing was easier. He was still starved, his eyes still black, but his gaunt features weren't so exaggerated. It was easier, knowing what to look for, to see that he was a young man, not much older than twenty, and his thoughts were much more focused. He was no longer skeletal, but merely way too thin.
"Now, maybe this will be a little better," Carlisle said with a touch of humor to his voice. "My name's Carlisle Cullen...and I was changed in 1692."
I smiled when that got the vampire's attention, but he still didn't speak as he wrapped his arms around his drawn up knees. He wasn't hiding his face, which seemed to be an improvement.
"This is some of my family and friends," Carlisle stated softly, gesturing behind him toward us. "Some of them have gifts like yours, like my son, Edward, explained to you. He can read your thoughts, and if you don't trust us to speak aloud, he will speak for you." He pointed to Jasper in the back of the room, saying, "My other son, Jasper. He can feel what you're feeling and can calm you if needed."
Archie's eyes looked to Jasper, his eyes questioning, but I said the words for him.
"He'd like you to prove it," I said with a small smile to my brother.
Jasper smirked a little but didn't move from his leaning stance against the wall. "You're nervous, scared, and still hungry, but completely in control of your thirst, which makes me think you're older than we realize. Mistrust is the main emotion. Although, curiosity is slowly making its way in. That's a nice change from the fear we've been feeling since we arrived."
The immortal took that well, his mind filling with questions, but he turned his attention back to Carlisle, who he was trying to figure out.
"My friend Brandon over there," Carlisle continued with introductions. "He can take away someone's talent. It's how we found you. You gave us quite the scare for a little bit."
The vampire growled a little at Brandon, but the young man simply waved and smiled, saying, "Sorry, man. Can't help it. We all kinda work together sometimes, okay?"
His brow wrinkled at that statement coming from Brandon. He didn't understand. In fact, he was completely confused as to why there were so many of us, how we got along so well, and how calm we all were. He also started noticing small things – the gold of our eyes, not red, our happy smiles, and the clothes we wore.
Before Carlisle introduced Bella, I interrupted. "Do you know what year it is?" I asked him, waiting until he could figure it out.
Several images flickered through his mind. They were so fast that I couldn't pin any of them down, but it seemed he was counting the years the only way he knew how. When he came up with the correct year, I nodded and decided to try something.
Carefully walking across the room, I placed my hand on Bella's shoulder. "This is my wife, Bella." I knelt down so that I was eye-level with the two of them, and my girl stayed still and quiet. "I know you're...uncomfortable with women, but I promise you...there's not one in this house that means you any harm. Especially this one."
Not women...women monsters... he corrected, his black eyes flickering between me and Bella. They don't care...they hate...they hurt... Something else jumped to the front of his mind, but he pushed it back, not wanting to think about it. It happened so quickly that I was unable to catch it.
"She won't," I vowed, raising an eyebrow at him. "And we think that her talent works similarly to yours. She can help you learn to control it."
That seemed to really intrigue him, and he lifted his head from his knees. The thoughts that assaulted me were heartbreaking...and troublesome, if I were to be honest. He wouldn't think of his maker – though, by now, I assumed it was a woman – but he'd had no training, no teaching, no instructions to this life whatsoever. He had no idea what he was capable of. He assumed vampires were all evil, all monsters, but was now completely confused because we were being kind to him. Extremely fuzzy human memories wafted around me, and I nodded and sighed, turning to Bella.
"We were right," I told her softly, grimacing at what this meant and turning back to Carlisle. "Meet Archie Varner."
"No way!" I heard behind me in a gasp from Jasper as I stood up.
At the sound of his human name, Archie literally – as the girls would've put it – flipped the hell out. His hands shot to his ears, he pressed himself as far as he could into the wall, and he growled low and hard. Shaking his head back and forth, he negated anything Carlisle was now trying to tell him – that we wouldn't hurt him, that we were trying to help him, and that he was safe.
Jesus, son, are you sure? Carlisle thought to me, giving me a panicked glance.
I nodded sadly, my eyes on Archie as he wailed. Again, he sounded like a trapped animal, and now I heard it for what it truly was: crying. His mind was a cacophony of terror, anger, and confusion. But it was the chanting denial that caught my attention.
Not Archie...not anymore. Something wrong, something evil. Can't die.
I looked to Jasper, to please calm him, and he nodded once before sending something calm into the small space of the cellar. The overwhelming sadness and anger melted away enough that Archie settled down a little.
"I used to think so, too, Archie," I told him gently, using his name on purpose. "We're not. I'm still Edward Anthony Masen Jr. from Chicago. I was changed in 1918 by Carlisle," I said, placing a hand on the concerned man next to me. "Who we are, everything we knew from before...that never changes. We only change physically. Whoever changed you needed to have told you that."
I want to die. Why can't I die?
"He wants to die," I murmured to Carlisle, who understood his pain.
"We've all been there," Carlisle sighed, waiting until black, scared eyes met his. Pointing to Brandon and Bella on the steps, he said, "Except for those two. They love this life, live every day to its fullest. And it can be...amazing, Archie."
Archie vehemently shook his head, and he growled low, only this time, it truly was a warning. He needed to be alone, was screaming for it in his head, so I stood up, tugging Carlisle with me when Alice's visions from upstairs told me we were pushing Archie too hard. If we didn't pull back now, he'd lash out.
"It's too much to process, Carlisle," I told him softly. "He's...uneducated in this life. He needs time."
"Okay, okay," Carlisle conceded with a nod and a deep, sad sigh. "Archie? When you're ready for more blood, just think about it, and Edward will let me know."
I wasn't sure that had gotten through to him because the keening sounds started all over again. Too pale arms wrapped around his head, and he buried his face in his knees. He was turning in on himself once more. His thoughts were muddled and scared but weren't coherent.
Carlisle turned to the rest of us. "Upstairs. Let's leave him be," he stated, wearing an almost-defeated expression on his face. "Brandon, can you keep him under your control?" he asked, gesturing for all of us to head up to the library. "Just for a little bit. I think he'll want to feed again soon, so Edward will need to hear him."
Brandon nodded. "Yeah, sure. No problem. I'll have to stay no farther than the library."
Jasper left via the cellar, and Carlisle and Brandon ascended the steps into the library, but my sweet girl hadn't moved. She simply stared sadly at Archie's curled form. Her heart was breaking for him, and she allowed her shield to succumb to the pull. Through her mind, it gently wrapped around him like a hug. He felt nothing, but oddly enough, his sounds settled down.
"Sweetheart, come on," I urged her, taking her hand and pulling her to her feet. "He'll be okay. He's just..."
"Lost, Edward," she finished for me, and her voice broke a little on my name.
"I know, love," I sighed, kissing her temple.
Reluctantly, she pulled her shield back just as gently as she'd sent it out, and Archie was none the wiser. She turned and walked up the stairs, and I followed her, giving the immortal one last glance.
Once we stepped through the bookcase, Carlisle asked, "What did you see? How did you know?"
"I saw his father," I explained, shrugging a shoulder. "We saw pictures of him in the public library when we were researching this place. The way he counted years was remembering who had lived here. He would go through their things in order to catch the dates, and they were who he'd fed from when he couldn't help it." I clawed at my hair in frustration because this changed everything. "Carlisle...he's lived in this house for over a hundred years!" I hissed, shaking my head. "He's my age!" I said in order for him to understand just what this meant. "Whoever changed him, they left him, abandoned him to this place. He has no idea how to live. He knows what he is, what we are, but he has no understanding of what he's capable of. How he's lived this long knowing nothing is beyond me."
"Some of that would be instinct, but his fears overrode everything else, like his inability to leave," Carlisle answered calmly, placing a hand on my shoulder at the same time Bella linked her fingers with mine.
"Who could be so cruel?" Bella wondered aloud, her eyes locking with Alice's. "Sorry, Ali."
Alice grinned and shook her head. "We all have our beginnings. Not everyone was changed by their eternal loves or someone like Carlisle," she stated with a giggle, giving me a wink. "No worries."
Carlisle smirked at me over their exchange, thinking, We've got a tough road ahead of us with him. His personality will be set in stone. It'll be hard to change his way of thinking.
I nodded, burying my nose in Bella's hair and inhaling deeply. It grounded me, reminded me that change could happen. It just didn't always come at the right time.
"I wonder who changed him," Demitri muttered softly, gazing out the library window over the backyard. He turned to look my way. "Female, obviously."
"Yes, I think so, too," I concurred, shrugging a shoulder. "Though, he works very hard not to think of her." My brow furrowed as I heard Archie settle down in the basement. "He used his talent to hide from all the different people in the house, but he didn't run. He associates women with cruelty and abuse, so his maker wasn't...kind."
My head spun toward the bookcase when Archie caught fragments of our conversation. It sent him into a frenzy in the workshop. Already destroyed things shattered even more under his temper. His memories were dark, scary. I held up a finger when Carlisle started to ask something because it seemed Archie was reliving how he came to be.
William Varner truly had tied his son to a tree armed with a gun to hunt deer. He was to sit there until one wandered by. But it was the fear of the unknown "evil" that Archie ranted at his father over. William, however, simply walked away.
When night fell, Archie was practically frantic. His hands were bound together around a rifle, but his leg was chained to a tree, bolted down like shackles. When I saw what "evil" approached him, the growl I let loose caused everyone around me to jump.
"You've got to be kidding me," I growled low, shaking my head in denial because I recognized the immortal woman that was approaching him in the woods not far from this very house. "No," I breathed, glancing first to Carlisle and then finally, to Bella.
"Edward, you're scaring me," she said, cupping my face. "What do you see?"
"Well, that explains the cruelty," I groaned, my hand gripping my hair, and I spun when Alice caught my decision to say the name out loud.
"You've got to be fucking joking," she snarled, a sneer curling her lip.
"Guys!" Jasper and Bella bellowed at the same time. "Who?"
I looked to my sister, and we were both in shock because we didn't exactly know how old this vampire had been. Flashes of tell-tale hair color, a foul disposition, and harsh insults now hit me from Archie downstairs. He was remembering all of it, and we didn't meet what little he knew of vampires. We were in all essence the complete and total opposite of the only other vampire he'd been unfortunate enough to come across. And that couldn't get any more true.
"She'll have ruined him!" Alice hissed softly, but emotions took over when she glanced at Bella. "No wonder he's messed up."
"Alice," Carlisle chided gently, but turned to me. "Who was it, son?"
I took a deep breath and let it out, shaking my head a little. "He was changed by...Victoria."
At the sound of her name, poor Archie howled in anger and proceeded to continue to tear apart the only thing left standing in his room – the rocking chair. I watched through his eyes as it busted to pieces against the stone wall, and he crushed what remained in his bare hands.
"Brandon, give him back his power," I told him. "We'll leave him alone for now."
"Sure, man, no problem," Brandon replied with a sad grimace.
Jasper and I sagged in relief when Archie cloaked everything once more.
Carlisle's face was stern when he turned to me. "Call Emmett. I want everyone back here now. We need to talk."

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