Sunday, December 16, 2012 | By: Jenny

Haunted Angel Chapter 27

Chapter 27
EDWARD
"Edward...we need you home. Now!"
"Alice? What's wrong?" I asked, my still heart sinking at the myriad of possibilities.
"I've seen... I can't say. I need you to see it," Alice urged.
I locked gazes with Bella, who looked worried, but the whole group of them was quiet with concern.
"Where are you?" I asked Alice.
"In the woods outside, but I can't stay out here. I can't tell you out loud yet. Understand? I need you to see what I see," she explained, though it was terribly cryptic.
I pinched the bridge of my nose. "Is the family safe, Alice?"
"Yes."
"Do you need us all?" Demitri offered.
"Tell him thank you, but no. It's not that kind of problem. Besides, they're needed in Italy," Alice said, and I rolled my eyes to Demitri, who heard her loud and clear. "I just need you and Bella home. Please, Edward."
"Alice, you're scaring me," Bella said softly, but my sister heard her just fine.
"I know, and I'm sorry, but I don't want to tell the family yet. If I'm heard...too many possibilities, too many decisions..." she rambled sadly.
I nodded and stood up, taking Bella's hand. "Okay, Alice. We'll leave Washington today."
"You can't fly," Alice stated firmly. "You won't get out in time. Flight times versus Maine snow... You'll get here quicker if you take the motorcycle. I know you were debating on buying it anyway."
Bella snorted, looking up at me as Demitri grinned behind her. He slapped my shoulder, muttering, "Keep it."
I could only shrug at Bella's taunting of me in her mind. I had considered buying the bike, simply because we did love to ride, and Demitri had done a damn fine job picking that one out.
Letting out a deep breath, I said, "We'll check out now, Alice. Are you sure the family's safe? Promise me."
"I swear to you, big brother," she vowed. "Everyone is fine, but something...someone is coming. I need you to see it. I want to know if you see what I see..."
"Okay, okay..." I groaned, shaking my head. "Stop with the cryptic stuff. You're only making it worse. I'll let you know when we're on the road home."
"I'll know. Just...hurry, Edward," she stated, and then the line went dead.
"What was that?" Bella huffed, her brow furrowed as they all stared at me. "Someone's coming, but the family is safe? I don't get it."
"Me, either." I sighed, pocketing my phone but meeting her gaze. "We should go," I whispered, suddenly nervous for what was to come.
I trusted Alice explicitly, but she'd sounded upset, despite her assurances that the family was safe. If she'd said that she needed me, then she'd meant it. She was strong enough to handle things on her own for the most part, but what she was seeing was unnerving her. And I didn't like it. At all.
"The bike is back at Rock Creek Park," Bella pointed out.
"I'll get it for you," Demitri offered. "Hail a cab, and I'll bring the bike to the hotel by the time you've packed up and checked out."
"Thanks," I said, holding out my hand, but he gave me a one-armed hug.
"No, thank you, Edward," Marcus said, standing up from his seat on the steps of the memorial. "Consider the bike a gift. You and Bella have been most helpful."
"It's not like you wouldn't or haven't done it for us, Marcus," Bella said with a soft, sweet laugh. Leaning in, she kissed his cheek. "But we need to see you more often, and not for just emergencies," she scolded him, raising one sexy eyebrow.
He laughed, tapped her chin with his finger. "Too true, amore. And Volterra will always welcome you, as well, Isabella."
She kissed his cheek one more time and snorted when Demitri pouted.
"Where the hell is mine?" he asked, grinning at me like a fool. He was more like Emmett every day.
Carina laughed and rolled her eyes, as did Bella.
"Bye, Demitri," my girl sang, giving him the kiss he wanted, but he hugged her tightly.
Cupping her face, he said, "Take care, and give all the girls my love. We'll see you soon."
Carina and Catherine took Bella into a hug. They made promises to to visit soon, both Italy and Colorado. There were handshakes and hugs all around before we made our way to the street. Brandon hailed us a cab, but Marcus's hand landed on my shoulder before I got in beside Bella.
"That lost immortal you have back home..." he started, but his brow furrowed. "Archie...he's extremely loyal to you. You and Bella, specifically. I know Carlisle worries about the...size of your family now. He'd never sever ties with any of you, and I'd never ask it of him, but Archie will make eleven in your coven. You'll have a hard time hiding what you are. My advice with him is to be careful. Teach him well. There may come a time when you can't stay all in one place."
I frowned but nodded, giving Bella's sad face a glance.
"Look at me...both of you." Marcus commanded. "I'm not my brothers. Aro would've found the numbers in your family intimidating. I don't. I know where Carlisle's heart lay. He's the epitome of good intentions and compassion. All I'm saying is to be careful."
"The school ruse may not work much longer," Demitri added. "I think that's what he's trying to tell you."
"College, maybe," Brandon added, shrugging a shoulder.
Nodding, I said, "I know you're right, Marcus. And I honestly don't know what Carlisle wants to do. It's even harder to make a decision when Alice can't always see Archie's future. We have no idea if he even wants to stay with us."
"Oh, he'll stay with you." Demitri chuckled. "He's one of you now. You can't tell me any different."
There was a part of me that hurt for Archie when it came down to it. I wasn't sure if I wanted to subject him to living with all of us over several years. I already saw myself in him when it came to living in a house full of mated couples. He already struggled with feeling like an intruder. But then, I also couldn't see him on his own, either.
"Just...have Carlisle contact me," Marcus finished, squeezing my shoulder. "Maybe we can come up with something together. Besides, I'd like to make sure that you're okay with this Alice situation."
"Yes, sir," I finally agreed, shaking his hand and getting in the taxi beside Bella.
Once the driver had pulled away from the curb, Bella's gentle mind caressed my own.
Archie isn't you, my handsome, sweet man. I see that face of yours. You're worried that he'll stay with us but grow bitter alone. You can't know that his fate will be the same as yours, she thought to me, curling into my side.
Dropping a heavy kiss to the top of her head, I sighed. "I know."
But you're worried about him being on his own, too?
"Yes," I whispered into her hair.
She nodded, sighing deeply, and linked our fingers together. "Yeah, me, too."
We were quiet the rest of the drive to the hotel, up the elevator, and into our room. We showered quickly and packed up our things into the duffel bag. Bella's mind was worried about whatever Alice was panicking over, but she said nothing, simply because she knew it wouldn't do any good to fret until we were face to face with the issue.
My mind was flipping back and forth over Alice's possible visions and Marcus's warning concerning my family. I knew he was right. I knew that we'd grown to be a large group, but I hated the thought of change coming. A glance at my Bella reminded me that some changes, while enormous and scary, could be wonderful. But some changes could do more harm than good. My final thought as I walked to the front desk to check out was that we truly needed to sit down as a family and discuss it.
With my stress level already high, I wanted to growl at the girl behind the counter. Her thoughts were lewd, though her face maintained a haughty, blank expression. Her side glance to Bella made me almost feral, but I knew my mood was in relation to my worry, not the jealousy rolling off the hotel's employee. I shifted the duffel bag up on my shoulder just to keep myself from glaring at the girl for thinking about me in obscene scenarios and for taking her dear, sweet time to keep me there.
Bella snickered softly before touching my upper arm. "Baby? Why don't you go out front and see if Demitri's made it back with the bike? I'll finish up here. Hmm?" she hummed, smirking up at me as she switched to thoughts. I don't know what she's thinking, but you look like you're about to punch her.
I fought my smile, kissed her forehead, and shot her a wink. "You're the best, my Bella."
Turning around, I made my way across the lobby to the front doors, but I had to smile at my girl. She had no shame.
"Well," she sang to the girl behind the counter, "now that he's gone, maybe you can concentrate. I understand that my husband can be a little distracting."
The chilly air that hit me once I was outside calmed my nerves a little. Scanning the area, I saw the black bike parked close to the valet stand and smiled. Demitri had made it back in time, and he'd left two helmets on the seats.
"Mr. Cullen?" a young man called as he stepped up beside me. His thoughts were calm and kind. Demitri had tipped him well to keep watch over the bike, so he was determined to do a good job.
"Yes."
He smiled kindly, handing me an envelope. "The gentleman that dropped off the motorcycle wanted me to make sure you got this, as well."
"Thank you," I said with a single nod, tipping the boy again.
"No...thank you, sir," he replied with a chuckle.
Inside the envelope was all the documentation on the bike, making it legally Bella's and mine, along with a note in Demitri's flowing script.
My dearest friends,
Make sure you use the helmets in case you run into sunny patches on the way back home. Be careful, and keep us posted. We hope everything goes well. Enjoy the ride, and thank you again for all your help.
Give everyone our love. We'll see you soon.
Much love and respect,
D
P.S. Don't stress yourself over Marcus's warning. He's merely concerned for you. I'm sure you and Carlisle will figure out a way. You always do.
Straddling the bike, I glanced up when Bella walked out of the hotel. Her smile was sweet, but her mind was teasing and sexy as she eyed me on the bike and because she knew that the girl inside was watching us. I shook my head slowly, pursing my lips, but welcomed her kiss like it was the air I breathed.
"You, my handsome thing, drove her nuts," she stated, pressing her forehead to mine as she licked her lips.
"Yeah, well...she wasn't exactly easy on the mind, either, my sweet girl," I grumped, sweeping my lips over hers one more time. "You ready?"
Bella giggled and stepped back, reaching for the duffel bag that was strapped across my chest. "Yes, but give me this. I can't hold you with this between us."
I frowned, but she was right. Shirking out of it, I helped her tighten it and then handed her the helmet before settling her behind me. Once her thighs were lined up on either side of mine and her strong arms were wrapped around my waist, I tugged my own helmet on and started the bike with a low, deep rumble of its engine.
"Hey, we have radios!" Bella gushed.
Laughing, I shook my head at just how much the simple things made me love her. "Good. I would've missed your voice." Before I pulled out onto the street, I turned to look back at her, flipping up the visor of my helmet. "Hold on, baby. This will be a long ride," I told her, because mapped out, it was a a little over thirteen hours from D.C. to Caribou. I was hoping to break ten.
~oOo~
BELLA
"Have a nice day," the older gentleman behind the counter said once I'd paid for the gas Edward was pumping.
I smiled back at him, but it was strained. My throat burned, and I swallowed thickly before stepping back outside.
Edward's eyes were sharp on mine as he watched my approach. "We'll stop, love. You need to hunt. There's an area not far from here that will do. Okay?"
Nodding, I straddled the bike as he hung up the nozzle. We were in Pennsylvania and were making good time. I felt bad that we'd have to make a detour.
Gentle fingers lifted my chin, and Edward kissed my lips softly. "Never, ever feel bad for taking care of yourself. I should stop, too, my sweet girl. We won't lose much time."
Edward was right, of course – he usually was. He'd found a small area to hunt in not far from the gas station and the main highway. The deer were plentiful, and I hunted quickly, taking down a doe and a buck to sate my thirst. By the time I walked back to where we'd left the bike, my head was much clearer and my throat wasn't on fire any longer.
Edward was pacing on his phone when I stepped through the trees. His hand clawed at his hair as he explained to Carlisle where we were and just how long he expected before we arrived back home. He made no mention whatsoever of Alice's frantic call, nor why we were driving instead of flying. The latter was easier to understand if you truly knew Edward. It wasn't uncommon for him to buy a new toy and take a road trip, especially before I came along.
That thought made him grin and glance up at me, but his conversation with Carlisle continued. "No, we're fine. We just stopped to hunt. We'll be there soon."
"You two be careful," Carlisle commanded. "Oh, Jasper told me to tell you he found the family you were looking for. He's taking care of everything. And he said it was best if you didn't ask questions."
Edward and I had matching raised eyebrows at that statement, but we simply muttered, "Okay."
Carlisle chuckled over the line. "He and Jenks can truly get up to some...not-so-legal things. Let's just put it that way. I'm only guessing, but I assume there are some records being manipulated in this case. Apparently, your soldier was a divorced father, so Jasper is taking care of the child's future."
Edward grimaced a little, straddling the bike. "Understood. We'll call again as we get closer. I hope to have us at least in Maine by tomorrow."
I shook my head as he ended the call and pocketed his phone. I wasn't so sure anything looked as good as Edward with that powerful machine between his legs.
He chuckled darkly, gazing up at me with a deadly glare through his long eyelashes as he dragged his tongue along his bottom lip. "Want to know what looks good between your legs, beautiful?"
"You do," I answered with a grin. "And don't start, Edward Anthony. We don't have the time, and you've been teasing since the damn park in D.C."
His laugh was evil yet sweet at the same time. "I'll make it up to you. I promise." He scooted back on the bike, patting the seat in front of him. "Come, love. You can take the next leg."
Grinning like I'd won the lottery, I said, "All is forgiven."
He rolled his eyes and huffed a quick laugh. "I figured." He took our bag, tugged it on over his shoulder, and waited for me to join him.
Instead of mounting the bike the right way, I straddled Edward face to face. His smile was wicked, but he kissed me just like my mind was begging him to do. Strong arms wrapped all the way around me as he gazed at me through warm, light honey eyes.
"What was that for?"
"I needed it," I told him, running my fingers through his poor hair. Between his own hands and the helmet, it was a mess. "Did Carlisle say anything about Alice?"
"Not a word," he sighed, shaking his head. "Though, I think she's keeping it from everyone. Jasper may know, but he wasn't home. I've tried texting her, but she won't say much."
Nodding in acceptance, I made to turn around. "This must be some vision," I murmured, climbing onto the bike the right way.
The feel of Edward surrounded me. I'd forgotten just how much I loved riding with him. One arm secured itself around my waist, while the other was offering me a helmet. Before I pulled it on, his lips were at my ear.
"I have to trust Alice. If she's not wanting interference with several different minds making random decisions, then there's a good reason for it. I know her. I know how her gift works. She just wouldn't keep something from the family if it posed a danger. She either doesn't trust what she's seeing, or she's hoping that whatever it is comes true. If it's the second thing, then she'll do everything within her power to allow things to progress the way they should." He spoke quickly and firmly, but I could hear a touch of anxiety laced within his tone.
"And if she isn't trusting what she's seeing?" I asked, looking over my shoulder at him.
"I don't know," he answered honestly with a shrug of one shoulder. "If that's the case, then hopefully, it'll make sense to me."
I sighed, kissing him awkwardly over my shoulder before I tugged on my helmet. "Fair enough," I said, starting the bike up and pulling out onto the road.
~oOo~
I held onto Edward as we turned onto our driveway. Eleven hours and twenty seven minutes. Several stops for gas. Three switches of who was driving. Two calls home. One extremely hot, completely sexy quickie on a side dirt road. And one almost fight in Boston.
I rolled my eyes at that last thought. The truck driver had been way too vocal and had stared way too much for Edward's liking. Though, I'm sure the jerk's thoughts were what caused Edward to almost lose his cool. But when I'd literally laughed out loud at the guy's proposition, my Edward had grinned in spite of his temper.
And I hadn't just laughed; I'd been in hysterics, doubled over on the bike with my hands on my face because I'd just been thoroughly ravished by Edward, so I couldn't help it. Apparently, I'd still been sex-drunk. The truck driver had looked like he could've been a member of ZZ Top, with a long-as-hell beard and a beer gut. He'd reeked of sweat and greasy fast food and cigarette smoke. It was like he hadn't showered in weeks – not days...weeks. He'd blushed profusely when I'd laughingly declined his vile offer of a "real ride," calling him Rip Van Winkle.
Of course, Edward being...well, Edward, he couldn't just let it go. He'd had to mark his territory like the male vampire that he was, practically kissing me to orgasm right there in a truck stop parking lot.
"You liked it," he countered over the radio in our helmets as he pulled to a stop in our front yard.
I would've preferred the orgasm. I laughed when he almost cracked his helmet while trying to take it off too quickly.
"You got two of those, baby, if I'm remembering correctly," he said with a sexy crooked grin.
"I did. And I'm happy incredibly about that," I countered in a sing-song voice as he helped me off the bike and took the duffel bag from me. "I always am."
He chuckled, kissing me roughly with a growl. "Good to know." He opened his mouth to say something else but shut it just as quickly because the entire family was pouring out of the house.
The first to reach us was Esme. She hugged us both, giving us the once-over to make sure we were in one piece.
"I missed you both so much," she gushed, cupping Edward's face before kissing his cheek. "I threatened Marcus if he didn't take care of my babies," she added with a fierce growl, kissing my cheek like she had Edward's.
I giggled. "Yes, he was completely terrified of you. Not the newborns we were chasing, but you."
"As he should be," Carlisle said, and while trying to be subtle, he was eying us the same as his wife.
Our siblings, on the other hand, were a cacophony of questions as we walked inside the house.
"Did you guys kick ass, baby girl?" Emmett asked me, scooping me up into a giant hug.
"Yeah, tell us, 'cause Alice wouldn't spill on much," Kevin begged, giving Edward a pat on the shoulder.
"Well, not about the last chase, anyway," Archie added softly, but I smiled at the sight of him. "She told us everything else."
Alice giggled, but I could already see her and Edward in some sort of silent battle. Her eyes flickered to him. She shook her head one time, and then turned to me.
"I didn't want to ruin your story telling, Bella," she told me with a smile that didn't quite reach her eyes.
"Okay," I sighed with a smirk, focusing back on Archie. "I see you survived, buddy."
"He did just fine, Bells," Jasper said, walking up to me and draping a heavy arm around my shoulders as Archie smiled shyly. "We totally drove him crazy, kept him busy, and I believe he's got a crush on some Kardashian sister. But I can't tell which one..."
"I do not!" Archie growled, shaking his head profusely and wearing an expression of absolute disgust on his sweet face. "They're...what did you call them, Rose?" he asked, glancing over at her.
"Porcupines." Rose answered evenly but with a giant grin.
That was her subtle way of calling them loose women, saying that if they had as many dicks sticking out of them as they'd had stuck in them, they'd essentially look like a porcupine. The whole room dissolved into hysterics. Damn, it was good to be home.
"Ah, yeah...they kinda are porcupines," Emmett sighed forlornly. "High end, pro-athlete porcupines, but porcupines nonetheless."
"Ah, I've missed the Mensa meeting level of intelligent conversations of this family," Edward sighed dramatically, placing a hand over his heart.
Grinning as he received boos and laughs, I pushed him down onto the piano bench and sat between his legs.
Everyone took seats around us, and Edward and I told them about our last chase with Brett. They were shocked to hear that it had been Ghianna and Irina that had changed him, but we explained that it had been with good intentions. Though, I think the term "porcupine" came up one more time. And Edward was solemn when he went into detail of exactly what he'd seen in Brett's mind, that there had been no connection to reality or where he was or even what he was doing, which made me turn to my brother.
"How did you do that all those years, Jazz? It was hard enough...but to feel it?" I asked him incredulously.
"It wasn't easy," he said softly, shaking his head. "But the way that you describe him, it sounds like you were doing him a favor. Imagine being trapped inside your scared mind for eternity."
That brought the room to a quiet standstill.
"Why didn't you do that to me?" Archie asked suddenly, gazing around the room at all of us.
"No, you weren't alike," Edward said firmly, seemingly answering an unasked question instead of the verbal one. "You were completely different, Archie. Trust me. You were out of it with thirst, yes. But Brett...he was disconnected from his own personality. He hardly knew who he was. And he definitely didn't know what he was. He was surviving on instinct, not to mention assuming he was at war. You could be reasoned with once you were fed. He could not. To him, everyone was the enemy."
"What about Miss Electric Company?" Kevin asked, grinning when I growled low.
"Foul little thing," I muttered with a sneer.
Edward chuckled, hugging me tightly, and kissed my cheek. "Let's just say... I'm surprised Bella let her live long enough to answer questions."
"Oh, hell... What did she do to piss you off?" Rose asked with a laugh.
"She—" I started to rant, but Edward's hand covered my mouth, most likely because my language would've not been so clean.
"She used her gift, and it unfortunately caught me in the arm," Edward explained diplomatically.
The groan throughout the room was in sympathy and understanding, which made me chuckle and pull Edward's hand away.
"See?" I simply asked, shrugging a shoulder, but in my mind, I was still grumbling about how she'd dared hurt him. No one hurt him. Ever.
Edward laughed softly, his lips right at my ear. "Enough, my fierce girl."
"That's my Goddess!" Kevin praised, nodding one time. "So what's the deal with the fuck-hot bike out there, Heavy E?"
"Kevin," Esme sighed, narrowing her eyes at him when all he did was laugh.
Edward chuckled a little. "It was a gift from Marcus and Demitri for helping. It's how we got around D.C. When it came time to leave, they said it was ours to keep." His eyes betrayed him, drifting to our smallest sister, who was ignoring his pointed glare. "Alice, please quit singing that God-awful song in your head. At least switch to something else."
She grinned at him. "Better?"
"Not much, no."
I stared between the two of them, about to lose my mind in curiosity. We'd just driven eleven hours to get here – per Alice's request – and we still didn't know why. And she didn't seem to be in any hurry to tell us now that we were home.
Edward's fingers linked with mine and squeezed gently. It was his way of telling me to have patience, to calm down. But he must've seen what was coming next because Emmett piped up, taking Rose's hand.
"We were just about to go for a hunt. Did you guys need to go?" he asked, gazing around the room.
"No, we're okay. We hunted on the way," Edward answered smoothly, and I suddenly understood that some of them were about to leave us.
Adrian and Kevin stood, as did Archie. Those three, along with Rose and Emmett, made their way toward the doorway, but Archie gave Edward a quick side glance.
"I haven't forgotten," Edward answered with a smile. "I'd planned on it, in fact. As soon as we're settled back in, we'll plan it. Promise."
Archie smiled, nodding, and left the room.
The ocean? I asked him, and my sweet husband smiled softly.
"Yes, I was going to take us in a day or two," he responded, but it came out like a question.
"Cool. Let me know." I smiled, kissing his lips one time.
"Mary Alice," Jasper started in a wry tone, gazing over at his mate with love and patience and a crooked smile. "You're good. But you're not perfect at hiding things from me. So you want to tell me why you brought Ed and Bells home with a fire under their—" he looked at Esme and winked "—behinds?"
Carlisle and Esme gazed over at her in surprise, but Carlisle turned to Edward first. "Son?"
"Don't look to me. She said to hurry home. We did," he remarked, but his eyes weren't leaving Alice.
My sister looked busted. Completely. But she whispered, "I'm sorry to have scared you."
"Alice, sweetheart, why don't you just tell us? Hmm?" Esme prodded gently.
"I need..." She sighed, looking to Edward. "I needed Edward to see first. I didn't want to make the same mistake with Archie as I did with you, big brother."
Edward frowned, but the furrow between his brow increased as she showed him something. "Alice, we didn't know that's who she was then. I told you that. How could we have known?"
Jasper and I sighed, looking between them like we were watching a tennis match. But really, it was best to just let them sort this out together. That way, everyone could catch up eventually.
"But I should've watched more closely!" she argued back, almost yelling, but she calmed when Jasper picked up her hand. "If I'd known that the baby I was seeing was Bella...if I'd have seen that everything revolving around that little girl meant that she ended up your mate, then we never would've left her! You wouldn't have suffered so much, Edward."
"Oh," Jasper and I murmured together, because Alice had seen me coming; she just hadn't known what to make of it when she'd had the vision of a tiny brown-haired, brown-eyed little girl. At the time, now well over twenty-seven years ago, they'd written it off as some random vision, which happened all the time.
Edward sighed deeply, pressing his lips to my shoulder, but his love for Alice was clearly written all over his face. "You can't change the past, Alice. You know that. And I can't find a thing about my life now to complain about. So tell me what this has to do with Archie."
Alice looked pained, but...hopeful? She stood up and started to pace.
"Alice," Carlisle said calmly. "Is everything all right? Is Archie in some sort of danger?"
"No, no!" she replied instantly. "I just... This vision I had could so easily change. It's so very fragile. When I first saw it, I decided to tell everyone, but then, it went haywire...and so very sad." Her sweet honey eyes met Carlisle's. "When I decided not to tell, it went right back. If we make a decision to stop it, then there's misery in his future. He goes off alone, and he doesn't come back." She frowned down at her hands, swallowing thickly. "When I made the decision to let Edward see, then some minor things adjusted, but the outcome was the same."
Edward sighed frustratedly but extricated himself from behind me after dropping a heavy kiss to my temple. He walked to Alice, gently grasping her shoulders. "Show me, Ali," he commanded softly.
She glared up at him, but there was fear there, too. "I have to work backwards. You need to see the end...before you see the beginning. Okay?"
"Okay," he agreed but froze when she must have opened her mind. A small smile curled my husband's lips, and he shook his head. "Archie finds a mate. Who is she?"
"Really?" Jasper and I asked, still glancing between them.
"Yeah, she's...maybe around nineteen or twenty," Edward explained, shrugging a shoulder. "She's blonde, pretty, with a small frame, and it seems she's taken to our diet. He's happy. I can't tell where we are... Is that Isle Esme?"
"Yes." Alice barely breathed, grimacing a little. "And she's eighteen...just turned eighteen."
We all locked onto her, but it was Carlisle that spoke first. "You know who she is, Alice?"
"Yes," she said again, this time, much more fearful.
Studying her face, I sighed and shook my head. "She doesn't start out immortal. She's human," I guessed, and everyone glanced to me. "Oh, Alice...who is she?"
Alice turned to Edward, grabbing the front of his shirt. "You can't make a single decision. You could mess this up so badly. You can only watch. Understand?"
Edward's face was solemn as he nodded to her, but his mouth fell open. "Oh, hell," he groaned, his hand immediately clawing at his hair. "But wait... Alice, how does she get here?" His eyes widened. "Oh."
None of us spoke. Carlisle sat forward, resting his elbows on his knees as he watched his most talented children battle it out mentally. Jasper and I looked to each other and grimaced because there was a sinking feeling to the room, but there was also a strange energy of hope. All of it was coming from Edward and Alice. We waited patiently.
When Alice finished showing him everything, she let go of his shirt and stepped back, looking rather vulnerable. She clasped her hands together in front of her, gazing up at Edward, who seemed to be processing what he'd seen. His sharp eyes shot to me and then finally to Carlisle.
"Oh, damn," my husband sighed, his face in shock. "This... This is seriously going to be a problem."
"No, no, no!" Alice cried out but was in Jasper's arms before she could take a step forward.
"Alice," Edward said sharply, making me jump. "I'm making no decisions. I'm simply stating a fact. This will, indeed, be a problem. There's more at stake here than Archie."
"Watch yourself, brother," Jasper warned, but I could see he was trying to maintain the whole room.
Carlisle stood, placing himself between the brothers. "Edward. Tell me."
Edward looked pained, shaking his head. "It would seem that Archie found his mate."
"Found? As in past tense?" I asked, because I knew my Edward well enough to know that he wasn't misspeaking. He was saying it that way on purpose.
"Yes. Ten years ago." Edward's statement hung there for a moment.
"Caroline Dixon?" Esme gasped, her hand flying to her mouth.
"Yes," Alice and Edward spoke together, both in a whisper, as if the truth would cause everything to evaporate.
"She's somehow made the decision to come here," Edward continued, pointing toward the floor. "Alice sees her arriving in the spring."
"Oh, boy," I sighed. "That's... How?"
Edward took a deep breath, giving Alice a quick glance. "It seems she finds out about her father's conversation with Anna. She's made the decision to come here to see the people that are living in this house. The house she used to live in."
Carlisle paused but nodded. "It would make sense why Archie didn't kill her so many years ago. There was a connection there, even though she was just a child at the time. This will affect more than just Archie, you're right."
"Right, because she shows up human, but you see her as immortal," I pointed out, locking gazes with Edward. "How exactly does that happen?"
"That part is...unclear," Edward and Alice spoke at the same time.
"And Archie?" Esme asked the question that was on the tip of my tongue, because I was really curious how he was going to react to all of this.
"No!" Alice growled at me.
Edward's face turned dark, Jasper flinched at the swift changes that were swirling around the room, and Carlisle looked to me like I'd done something wrong.
"Alice, that wasn't a decision. It was curiosity." I sighed, frowning at her. "I can't be the only one thinking it." I gestured to Esme. "But you two have got to cut the rest of us some slack. We can't see what you're seeing. Would one of you – and I don't care which one of you – please explain?"
Carlisle's face smoothed into something calm and relaxed as he nodded. "She does have a point. Alice, is there a way to tell us what you see? We can't help you, we can't help Archie, if we don't know everything."
Alice looked distraught, but she glanced to Edward and frowned.
"You can't know that for sure," he said, answering some unasked question.
Esme stood up, walked to Alice, and cupped her face, despite Jasper's protective presence. "Sweetheart, we've always trusted you and your visions. It's time to trust us. If you tell us not to do anything, we won't. But we need to know." She looked to Edward. "I need to know if my family stays safe, son. One of you needs to start talking."
Both Alice and Edward looked thoroughly chastised, but Alice gazed up at her brother with a pleading face, looking like a lost little girl. If the situation wasn't so damned serious, I would've chuckled as I watched him melt under her sweet power over him.
Edward sat down hard on the sofa's edge, his elbows on his knees. With one last glance at our sister, he sighed deeply. "Caroline Dixon has made the decision to come here. That was Alice's original vision. She's already bought plane tickets for Ohio to spend her spring break with her extended family. From there, she somehow makes it here. That part is a little unclear, as well. I see her 'borrowing' a car, but I see her change her flight plan, too. She hasn't figured it out, I don't think."
My husband's sad eyes met mine. "This is where it gets...complicated. Alice is right. One wrong decision, one mistake, and things go...badly." He swallowed thickly, wrinkling his nose. "Alice obviously wants Archie happy, so in order to continue on this path, we have to allow Caroline to come here. However," he hissed, holding up a hand when Alice started to interrupt, "telling Archie turns out poorly. Keeping it from him isn't much better."
"We all want Archie happy," Esme stated in argument, and the rest of us nodded in agreement.
"Telling him what?" Carlisle asked. "Specifics? Or simply that someone's coming? Or is it who is coming that's the problem?"
Edward smiled, but it was not in humor. "Yes. All of that."
"But if we allow a human child to come here..." Esme started, gazing between her husband, Alice, and Edward. "If she comes human, she's not going to stay that way."
"No, she's not," Edward stated firmly, and the room went still for a moment. "If she comes here, she'll be his. Indefinitely."
"Damn," I sighed, looking down at my hands. Having been the human in this scenario before, my heart broke for Caroline and Archie. "And if she doesn't show up? I mean, can we stop her from coming for now?" I asked, thinking that if Caroline Dixon was Archie's mate, we could somehow set their meeting up differently.
Alice was shaking her head profusely. "He never meets her. If she doesn't come here, her future goes black. And Archie stays alone. Always."
I winced because that wasn't fair, either. And by her future going black, did that mean...
"Yes, baby," Edward said softly. "Caroline takes another route and doesn't live through it."
"So she dies either way?" Jasper piped up, looking between Alice and Edward. "It's immortal death or real death? There's no choice?"
"No," they answered him together.
"So back to my original question... Archie?" Esme urged, sitting next to Edward. "How does this affect him? Because if anyone deserves happiness, it's Archie."
Edward grimaced a little, his nose wrinkling as he met his mother's gaze. "Alice has seen every possibility. If he knows someone is coming, he's fine. He accepts it. If he's told everything – who she is, what she'll be to him, and what the outcome is – he leaves, completely disappears...literally. He doesn't handle it very well."
"Would you have?" I countered, and his warm gaze spun to meet mine. "Seriously, Edward. Would you have truly believed that the little infant Alice saw being born was your mate, was your future? Would you have just...accepted it? You'd been alone for decades, no woman was good enough for you, and you were just this shy of being a bitter old man. Would you have just said, 'Sweet! I'll wait'?"
Alice burst into a giggle, as did Esme, and Jasper and Carlisle grinned, but Edward laughed. Hard.
"No, sweet girl," he said, still chuckling. "Probably not. Although, I would've been curious."
"Curious, yes, but I know you," I countered seriously. "You would've seen a child – with a future – and truly thought yourself to be a monster for what might have been. Archie will react the exact same way. And we're forgetting...he's the reason she had to leave this house in the first place."
Edward nodded solemnly in agreement but said nothing.
"Oh, hell," Jasper groaned, shaking his head. "This is fucked up. Sorry, Mom."
She waved it away, looking to me. "So what are you saying?"
"I'm not..." I sighed frustratedly. "I'm not saying anything. But I'm kind of biased in this situation. She'll get here, mate with Archie, and nothing else will matter. Nothing. Her heart will belong to him. And it's way more complicated than that. She's got a father that's already lost his wife, Archie is extraordinarily fragile emotionally, and they have a history that none of us can fathom."
I turned to Alice, who was already smirking at me for what I was going to say. "No offense, but I'm glad you didn't figure out who that baby was, Ali. The way things happened, the way things turned out...they weren't perfect, but they were ours," I explained, gesturing to Edward, who looked like he was struggling not to rush to me. "Maybe Archie... Maybe they both need to find their own way."
Carlisle started to pace, rubbing his chin over and over. For a moment, I wondered if he could feel all eyes on him. He finally stopped in front of Alice.
"I'm going to ask you a question, but it's not a decision. It's simply a...scenario," he started, waiting until she nodded before continuing. "We've spent the last five months earning Archie's trust. If we keep this from him, that will shatter every bit of that. Am I correct?"
"Yes," Edward answered as Alice nodded.
"But if we tell him, he panics. Is that right?" he verified, now coming to a standstill so that he could look at both of them.
"Yes," Alice replied just above a whisper.
Jasper turned to his wife, cupping her face. "What if... Just hear me out, darlin'. What if we tell him who is coming, but nothing else. How does that turn out?"
Alice's eyes went blank for just a moment, but she started to nod slowly. "He... Archie stays, sees it through. He sees it as some way to apologize for Lisa Dixon. A penitence of sorts." Her eyes widened, and she locked eyes with Edward. "But he'll only take the news from you."
"Okay," he sighed in acquiescence with a nod. "I was going to take him to the coast. I could tell him then."
"And when you do, we'll tell the rest of the family," Esme added.
Alice paused, but then nodded. I could see that getting all of this out of her made her feel a little more at ease. I couldn't imagine having the weight of the future on my shoulders like she did. No thank you.
Edward smirked, shooting me a wink, but turned to Carlisle. "There's no other way," Edward stated sadly. "Caroline Dixon is coming here. What else can we do? If we stop her, she dies, condemning Archie to an eternity of loneliness. If we allow her to come, then she's forever connected to our world, no matter what. Whether she's changed or decides to stay human, or whatever...she'll be a part of him. And on top of that, Archie and Caroline have to face the past, which alone, without the mating situation, is tragic. There is no solution where everyone is happy. Nothing about this will be easy. But can you honestly deny him his mate?"
"No!" Esme and I cried out at the same time.
Edward finally got up from the sofa and knelt in front of me. "Easy, my sweet, beautiful girl. I was merely making a point. We all want Archie to be happy."
"Without Caroline, he won't find that happiness, will he?" Jasper asked no one in particular, but his wife was the one with the answer.
"No, he won't." She gazed up at Jasper with pleading eyes, pushing a curl from his forehead. "He'll follow us at first. He'll move with us. In fact, he's already decided to go where we go, but eventually, he'll..."
Edward sighed, his elbows resting on my thighs as he rubbed his face. "He wasn't aware of himself or his surroundings before, but now... He'll grow to envy us. He'll become bitter and angry...and lonely. He'll hate himself...more than he does now. As much as he cares for us, we'll never be enough, and Archie will always, always be on the outside of things. Eventually, he'll want to escape it."
The heartbreak in my husband's voice was filled with so much experience and truth that I couldn't help but wrap my arms around his head and pull him to me.
I love you. It was a simple and easy thought as we buried our faces in each other's necks, but it was something I couldn't stop from chanting over and over as I ran my fingers through his hair. I love you so fucking much. You know that? There was never, ever anything wrong with you.
"I know," he sighed softly into my neck, inhaling my scent deeply and nodding. "I know."
Pulling back, I gripped his messy hair in order to tug his forehead to my lips. He chuckled a little, but we turned our attention to Carlisle.
"No, son... I can't honestly deny someone their soul mate," he said sadly, his eyes fixated on us, only to flicker to Alice and Jasper, and finally, to Esme, where his eyes warmed at the mere sight of her. "And as much as the thought of Archie finding his makes me happy, there are way too many things at stake here."
We all nodded that we'd heard him but waited patiently for him to go on.
"We have to consider that Caroline, while a legal adult at eighteen, still has a father that will worry once he figures out she's not where she's supposed to be. We have to concern ourselves with Archie's reaction. Not only will this test his control, but he'll be confused as to what he's feeling, and most likely, he'll be guilt-ridden over Caroline's mother. He and I have talked at length about that incident. There's also trusting this girl with what and who we are. We've done it before with you, Bella, and with Kevin, but until she gets here..." His voice trailed off, not finishing that thought.
He sighed, finally turning his complete attention to Alice. "While I know that your gift is powerful, Alice, I also know that you can't account for everything. It's the butterfly effect. There are ten of us that could so easily make an innocent decision that has nothing to do with this situation, yet it'll have huge repercussions. You of all people should know that," he told her, and she nodded. "In fact, I'm not sure how much we can control what is to come."
Esme walked closer to him, and he pulled her into his arms. "You're going to let nature take its course, aren't you? But what of the girl?"
Carlisle grimaced but swallowed nervously. "I can't knowingly set her on the course that kills her, so I don't want to stop her from coming. I trust Alice's gift enough to know that. But I also can't deny Archie a real, true chance at life...at living. He has suffered enough."
Edward's eyes narrowed, but he stood up in front of me and faced Carlisle. "What are we going to do?"
"Aside from letting you tell Archie that Caroline Dixon will be here by spring? Nothing," he stated firmly. "I'm going to try my best to make sure the girl stays safe while she's here."
"You can't fight her fate," Alice stated, her chin jutting out in defiance. "It's where we went wrong with Bella."
"Hey!" I snapped, frowning at her. "Nothing 'went wrong' with Bella," I snarked, leaning into my husband's chuckling kiss to my temple. "I know you think that leaving me behind, leaving me with Jake was your fault, because you didn't see it coming, but I was a big girl. It took me a long time to realize that even though Jake's abuse was all on him, I could have – at any point – walked away. That was my weakness, my mistake. Just because Edward's return gave me the strength to do it doesn't mean I wouldn't have eventually done it alone.
"I believe in fate just as much as you do, but I also think that each of us has the power to guide it, control it, to make our own destiny," I told her. "Alice, if you saw this Caroline get hit by a train, we don't have to lay her down on the tracks to wait for it." I turned to Edward, who was watching me with a unreadable expression. "Do we?"
He didn't answer me, but then again, he didn't really need to. He tucked my hair behind my ear, only to press his lips to my forehead.
"I'm with Bella on this," Jasper stated firmly with a nod. "There's not one of us that means to hurt Archie. We've taken care of him this far, so we can certainly make sure this is no different. But if we plan for the girl's arrival and be smart about it, I can't see why she wouldn't stay safe like Carlisle said. Besides, it's kind of our fault she's coming, because had we not meddled in Archie's past, then she wouldn't have gotten curious about this house."
"Oh, hell," I groaned, wincing at Carlisle. "He's kinda right."
Edward pulled back to look at Alice, but I noted that he was calm. "Nothing changed," he told her. "She's still coming, whether we tell Archie or not."
"I see that," she sighed in relief. "Thank you."
Carlisle nodded and let out a long, slow breath. "Do we have a time frame?"
"About a month," she replied.
"Okay," he stated in acceptance. "That gives us time to prepare Archie for another human visitor...and for perhaps a change in your visions. We'll tread carefully, Alice. All right?" he asked, and when she nodded, he turned to me and Edward. "I'm glad the two of you are home safe. We've all missed you. Let me know when you're going to talk to Archie. We'll tell the rest of the family once you're gone."
Edward nodded, frowning a little at Carlisle, but he simply said, "Yes, sir."

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