Wednesday, December 19, 2012 | By: Jenny

Haunted Angel Chapter 28

Chapter 28
I grinned over at Archie, whose eyes were transfixed on the rather overwhelming sight spread out in front of him. I understood that feeling. Having grown up as a human in Chicago, the most I'd known were very large lakes. I'd pretty much felt the same way the first time Carlisle had taken me to see the ocean – very small and completely insignificant.
"It's kind of ominous, right?" I asked with a chuckle, my eyes automatically seeking out Bella as she made her way down to the shoreline.
"Yeah, a little," he barely spoke aloud, but his mind was reeling. "Where's she going?"
Chuckling, I said, "She's used to this. She's from the Pacific Northwest, remember? This isn't much different – cold water, harsh waves, rocky beaches. I'm sure she's just...taking it in."
The place I'd chosen on the Maine coastline had the best of both worlds. I wanted Archie to get a good view from the cliff on which we were standing, but I also wanted him to be able to touch, feel, possibly walk in the water, so there was a beach within walking distance. In fact, that was where Bella was right then – walking across sharp rocks to reach the packed sand.
I was hoping the beautiful scenery around us would soften the blow of the conversation we were about to have, because despite the fact that he was getting better and better around humans, he wasn't as comfortable with them as the rest of us.
It had been three days since Bella and I had returned from D.C. Alice's vision hadn't changed. If anything, it had gotten stronger. We knew more now.
Caroline Dixon had made her decision to come to Caribou. She was flying into Columbus, Ohio, and planned to take her aunt's car – something that still couldn't be stopped. Every time we even considered possibly doing something to stop her – anonymous tip, somehow stopping the flight, even calling her father – all Alice saw was an argument between Tim and Caroline and then...blackness. Apparently, Caroline Dixon had the average teenager's temper, so if she was to be stopped in her plans, she would fly off the handle with her father, which resulted in a car accident.
Carlisle's biggest hope was that she arrived safely to us, where we would do our best to keep her secure. Unfortunately, he had to play the concerned father and would be calling Tim Dixon upon Caroline's arrival. We'd had no choice but to plan it that way, working closely with Alice's visions. Because no matter what, we had to maintain the pretenses. The strangest thing was that it didn't change the outcome. At all. Caroline was still in Archie's future, still became immortal, and no matter how we messed around with decisions, nothing altered it. And Alice couldn't see why. She was driving herself – and me – crazy with trying to force her sight. We simply were trying to buy some time, but it wasn't happening.
As I stepped closer to the edge of the cliff, I knew Carlisle was telling Adrian, Kevin, Emmett, and Rose about why Bella and I had rushed home now that we had Archie out of the house. We trusted each of them to follow Alice's instructions, which were sure to come when she told them about Archie's fate.
Grimacing, I sighed. It was a double-edged sword. An innocent human girl would lose her future, but Archie would gain his mate. I wasn't sure what to think of that because as I watched my sweet girl brush a windblown curl from her face, I knew just what perfection that pure, unadulterated happiness would bring to Archie's life. To think differently would make me a hypocrite. I'd loved my sweet, human Bella, but the security, the comfort, and the knowledge that I would never lose the immortal other half of my soul was something that I depended on, cherished.
Edward Cullen, you're stalling, she thought to me with a mental giggle from down below us.
Smirking at her, I turned around to face Archie. He was inhaling the sea air deeply, with a small smile on his face and his eyes closed.
"You want to get closer?" I asked him, thinking if I needed help, Bella would be close by. "We can, you know."
Archie nodded vehemently, and we made our way down the slope of the cliff to the rocky shore at a human pace, despite the fact that we were pretty much alone. Following the same path that Bella had taken, we stepped lightly over the rocks and onto the sand.
You're nervous, aren't you, handsome? Her gentle question was thought without even looking my way from down the beach. But when she did glance up, I nodded once, shoving my hands into the front pockets of my jeans. Just...ease him into it, sweetheart.
I knew she was right, but every vision that Alice had seen rested upon this conversation I was trying to find the courage to start with Archie. There was to be no mention of Caroline being his mate. Over and over, no matter how many different ways I decided to approach it, Alice saw him panic. Knowing his mind the way I did, I knew why. Archie was from a time where relationships took time, effort...courting. He was from the same demure, shy, innocent era that I was. He was terrified of women – something that still lingered from his run-in with Victoria. He may have grown attached to Bella, Esme, and my sisters, but that didn't mean he was ready for dating. He saw them as family...not prospects.
And then there was how he viewed himself. His foul beginnings, his past indiscretions, and his beliefs made Archie still see himself as unworthy of...well, not much of anything.
My hand shot to my hair, and I took a seat on the closest boulder as Archie meandered around the beach. He didn't go far, but I wanted him to enjoy himself. And yeah, Bella was right – I was totally stalling.
"What's she doing?" Archie asked with a grin, but his brows furrowed.
I laughed. "Looks like she's terrifying crabs, but it's just a guess. Oh, and probably collecting shells. Esme wanted them."
Bella laughed, shooting a me a wink, but shrugged, walking our way. "I can't help it. They look so mean, but then...they scamper away."
Shaking my head, I sighed and gazed up at her, fighting my smile. "Scamper?"
"That's the only way to describe it. It's not like they run, Edward! It's all sideways and stuff." She grinned at me and shrugged again, looking absolutely beautiful with the sea air blowing her hair away from her face. "Here, hold these."
I took the plastic freezer bag she was handing me that was half full of shells of every shape, size, and color. "Yes, ma'am."
In her mind, she promised to stay close by, but she was urging me to talk since Archie was sitting next to me. Looking over at him, I took a deep breath and just...started.
"Archie, I need you talk to you about something," I said, meeting his gaze when he wrenched it away from the crashing waves. "Alice has seen something heading our way. Well, someone, actually. And I need you to be prepared."
His face scrunched in confusion. "Okay." He said nothing more, trusting that I'd explain why this warranted my nervous expression. When I didn't say anything and my focus was more on the bag of shells in my hand, he finally blurted out, "Who, Edward?"
Meeting his gaze, I went on. "A girl. A human girl. Alice says she'll be here by the beginning of March."
"That's okay. I'm getting better. Jasper says so," he countered with a nod. "I'm sure it'll be better than when those kids from town came over."
"I'm sure. And yes, you're doing amazing at dealing with your control. We're all...astounded at how far you've come," I praised him with the utter truth.
He frowned, studying my expression. "Why do I think that's not all you have to tell me?"
"Because it isn't." I sighed, shaking my head. There was no other way to tell him but to just...say it. "It's someone you know."
"I don't know anyone," he said with a chuckle. "No one human, anyway. Edward...just tell me!"
"It's Caroline Dixon," I stated, my eyes not leaving his.
Every emotion he was going through was written plainly on his face – shock, fear, guilt, confusion. And then...anger.
"Why?!" he growled, his hands starting to shake and his breathing picking up. "Why would she come back to that house?! Why are you bringing her?"
"No, no, no," Bella crooned, suddenly in front of us, but she took Archie's face in her gentle hands. "We aren't bringing her, sweetie. Edward will tell you, but you've got to calm down and listen to him. We're not alone," she whispered, her eyes flickering up the beach to see a couple walking their dog.
Archie nodded fervently, his eyes flickering between Bella and me. But his voice was barely a whisper and filled with pain. "I almost killed her, Edward. She was only seven!"
"I know," I said, using the calmest voice I could muster with him. "I have faith that you'll hold strong, Archie. I have no doubt, and Alice has seen it. Okay?" When he nodded, I went on. "We aren't bringing her here. I promise you that. This is all her doing. However, it is a bit our fault that she's decided to visit her childhood home."
"What do you mean?" he asked, his eyes flickering to Bella as she sat between my legs, but she didn't let go of his hand.
"Remember when we told you that we researched the house – your house?" I asked him, playing with Bella's hair in order to steady my own nerves.
"Okay, well, we uncovered the history about the Dixons. And with Bella's father being a police officer, we called Tim Dixon. We told you that part," I explained, making sure he was still listening. "Somehow, Caroline heard that message and has decided to come investigate her old house on her own. Her reasons why aren't completely clear."
He started shaking his head. "I shouldn't be there. I should stay away. I can't see that girl. I killed her mother..." The last sentence came out as a growl and through gritted teeth.
"Then perhaps it's time to face her," I suggested, knowing I was merely adding to his guilt, but there was no other option.
He looked at me doubtfully, like I'd lost my sanity completely. Even though his mind was flashing through that very hard time ten years ago, he stayed quiet, waiting for me to say something.
What I was about to tell him next was something even Bella hadn't heard.
"When I was...hunting criminals," I sighed, feeling Bella stiffen a little and turn to gaze up at me, "I didn't normally hunt women. They weren't as plentiful as evil men. That's not to say there weren't any female deviants. There were. Just...not a lot." I clawed at my hair with one hand and gripped Bella's with the other. "Maybe that was biased, but it's the truth. Maybe I saw what I wanted to see. When what I'm about to tell you happened, I was pretty long gone. I was merely hunting for sport. Any reason to give me the chance to feed. I rationalized every foul thought, even if they didn't go through with it."
I gazed down the beach. The couple with the dog was staying away, most likely on human instinct, but I was grateful they weren't close by. However, their thoughts were calm, happy, simple.
I sighed deeply. "I was in a not-so-nice area when I heard her. I was in New York when I came across thoughts so vile that I had to stop in the middle of the sidewalk. I'm not such a prude as to assume that prostitution is all that heinous of a crime. A woman's body is hers to do with as she pleases. Knowing the Denali sisters will drive that point home."
Bella giggled, burying it into my leg. I smiled down at her, running my hand over her hair. That perfect, sweet sound settled around me, calming me for the rest of the story.
"But desperate times and all... This woman was a predator. I could tell that she usually just robbed her...clients, but this time, that wasn't going to be the case." I wrinkled my nose and shook my head a little. "This was one of those times when I had it all wrong, but I only saw the moment, the thoughts from right then.
"I was going to take them both, actually," I went on. "He was cheating on his wife, she was planning to kill him for everything he had on him, and they were both just a waste of human flesh with only one shared redeeming quality."
"Blood." Bella said the word softly, but I nodded.
"Yes." I swallowed thickly at the memory but sighed deeply. "Blood was the only thing that made them useful. My mistake was in my choice. I couldn't take them both without causing a scene, so I weighed the sins, opting to take the would-be murderer instead of the adulterer. I let him go – or rather, I scared him off."
I sneered at the memory because the woman had taken one look at me and practically assaulted me based on my looks alone.
"In her mind, I could see that she worked the same corner, the same street every night. She took and took and took, and it wasn't like she was having to pay off some sort of..."
"Pimp?" Bella offered, though the word alone made her want to laugh.
"For lack of a better word, yes." I smirked at her but locked gazes with Archie. "I took her. And it was one of the worst things I ever did, because the very second her heart stopped in that dark alley, a baby's cry rang out from the abandoned apartment window beside us."
"Oh, hell..." Bella breathed, shaking her head. "Edward, you didn't know. Didn't she even think about her child?"
"No. Not one time."
"Then it wasn't your fault." Archie's words were soft, but he meant them.
"Definitely not," Bella agreed.
I nodded that I'd heard them both. "I took the child to the closest hospital and turned her in."
"Her?" Bella asked, her brow furrowing a little.
"Mmhm," I hummed with a smile. "Iris Franks, though she was eventually adopted under the last name Adams."
Bella gasped a little. "You took care of her."
"Her whole life," I stated with a single nod. "Carlisle helped me once I came back home. We made sure she had everything she needed – good parents, the right schools, scholarships, even jobs."
Archie sighed, looking to me. "Did it ease the guilt?"
"No." I smiled sadly. "But then...she had a better life than what her birth mother could've ever given her, so did I do the right thing? I don't know."
"Is she still alive?" Bella asked.
"No, sweet girl," I sighed deeply, tucking her hair behind her ear. "She passed away in 1998. She was seventy-six, a mother of three, a grandmother of seven, and had a long career as the owner of a small restaurant in Brooklyn."
"Did you ever talk to her?" Archie asked.
"I did. Much, much later. She was already a grandmother," I said with a grin. "She was...amazing. So very kind and sweet. I think she wanted to adopt me."
They both laughed.
"She knew about her birth mother. And she was okay with what had happened. More than okay, actually. She loved her adopted parents, loved her life," I told him. "Listen, Archie, I'm not telling you this to make you think all will be perfect with Caroline, but looking Iris in the eyes helped me. It made me come to terms with what I was back then versus who I was when I finally stood face to face with her."
Archie studied my face for a moment, only to turn his gaze out over the water. His thoughts were a little jumbled and a lot nervous, but he wasn't adamantly thinking of hiding.
"She'd hate me if she knew," he said softly.
"Maybe," I told him, shrugging a shoulder. I didn't want to flat-out lie to him, because Alice saw Caroline as one of us, so she had to have found out about her mother. "Carlisle told me once that it's the harder roads that make us the better person."
"Carlisle's very smart," Bella huffed, looking to Archie. "However, Edward's not too shabby..." She shot me a wink when I snorted, but she gave her attention to Archie completely. "We'll be there with you, you know," she told him softly.
He nodded, swallowing nervously, and let out a deep breath. "I know."
"You can do this," she added.
He smiled at her, staying quiet for a moment, and then finally said, "Okay."
"Okay," I repeated with a nod of acceptance, gazing out over the water, but looked down at Bella when her fingers turned my ring.
When her gaze met mine, she asked, "Why do you think you chose wrong? You said you made the wrong choice. To me, it sounds like you did the right thing...if Iris is any proof. Did the cheater do something?"
I smiled, shaking my head. "Yeah, but he received his punishment without my involvement. He was caught a few days later with another prostitute. He was arrested, but upon his release, his wife divorced him, taking him for just about every penny he had. It turned out that he was some banking investor or something. She survived the Great Depression with their four children. He did not. The day the stock market crashed, he died at his own hands."
"Oh." Bella and Archie both gasped.
Bella huffed, rolling her eyes, and stood up in front of me. "No, Edward. Your choice was fine. Things seemed to work out for the best in each scenario."
"Yes, Carlisle said the same thing," I replied softly, kissing her fingers. "He said my penitence was over. At the time, I disagreed. I'd taken more than my fair share of life, but he helped me see that forgiveness was something I had to give myself. Especially if I'd changed for the better."
Bella smirked, knowing that I probably hadn't forgiven myself for decades, which was the truth. I hadn't thought myself worthy of it. However, the very second the girl in front of me offered her heart up on a silver platter, even after I'd left her, only then did I see myself as something more than a monster.
She said nothing, though, as she picked up the bag of seashells for Esme. Turning them over in her hands, she smiled. "She needs more, I think," my girl stated, shaking the bag. "Come, boys. Help me find a handful more."
Archie and I chuckled, standing up. I glanced up the beach to see that the couple and their dog had left us, so I kicked out of my sneakers and socks, rolling up my jeans. If my girl wanted shells, then I'd get her shells.
Thunder rolled long and loud across the gray sky, and Alice and I grinned at each other as we sat at the base of a tree. It had been a long time since we'd been able to play baseball, and this was the best way to keep everyone's mind off the fact that March had landed upon us quicker than we'd expected. The beauty of it all was that, due to where the house was located in relation to the town, we could do it in our own backyard.
"Oh, yeah," Jasper said with a grin, rubbing his hands together. "Place your bets, place your bets."
Edward laughed, shaking his head as he twirled the baseball bat around his hand. It was impressive, actually, like a soldier with a rifle going through drills. And the fact that my thoughts were shielded allowed me to think all the naughty things I wanted – without fear of being caught. My eyes raked up his strong legs and gravity-defying ass covered in dark blue denim, his flexing arm muscles – both biceps and forearms – and the fierce yet happy expression on his face, causing his jaw to look that much sharper.
"Boys against girls," Emmett shouted, throwing the baseball across the field to Rose.
"Dammit, Emmett, you can't say that anymore," I sighed, rolling my eyes at the laughter that erupted from Kevin and Adrian.
"He's special," Kevin stated in a dramatic whisper. "We'll let it slide. I'll take the girls' team."
"See, babe? I'm special," Emmett said with a big smile to Rose, who snorted into a huge laugh.
"He meant...special." Alice laughed, tapping the middle of her forehead.
Edward watched his brother with an adorable look of amusement on his face, snickering a little. "Wow," he said, chuckling a little harder, but turned to Jasper. "So...bets on the table?"
"We're even teams with Carlisle at work, so no one gets a handicap... Well, aside from Emmett," Jasper joked, and Alice and I had to cover our mouths to muffle our laughter.
"What the hell? Is this pick on Emmett day?" my biggest brother growled, but I could tell not a bit of it was insulting him. He simply didn't care. It was all in fun to him.
"Could we make that a family holiday?" Kevin asked. "'Cause that would be awesome!"
Emmett took off after Kevin in a blur, the chase winding all through the front yard and backyard and launching up into the trees of the surrounding woods.
"Goddess!" Kevin cried in a fit of laughter, flying by me just enough so that my shield came down with a thump.
"Shit, fuck, dammit!" Emmett growled, tumbling backwards in a somersault, only to right himself quickly. "Not fair!"
Esme didn't even reprimand him for his language, due to the fact she was laughing too hard.
"So fair," I countered calmly, paying the non-existent lint on my jeans more attention than my ginormous brother. "The game hasn't started. Calm your special self down. I'm not using my talent for the game. I'm not even playing outfield."
Edward chuckled, spinning the bat again. ", sweet girl?"
Getting up from beside Alice, I walked to him, taking the bat out of his hands. "What do you want, big guy?" I asked, grinning when not only did my husband's face go completely blank with whatever he was thinking, but Jasper's laughter rang out loudly.
"Did you really just ask him that?" Jasper scoffed, rolling his eyes. "Do you even know what he's pushing out right now? There's curiosity, lust, mischief, and something altogether...dirty. I need a shower, Ed! Cut it out!" Jasper shoved Edward just a little.
Laughing, I met my husband's gaze. He wasn't even ashamed of whatever he was thinking. His smile was crooked and sexy and slightly childlike.
"Well, this ought to be good. Please share with the rest of the class, Heavy E," Kevin taunted, coming to stand next to me and folding his arms across his chest.
Edward's dark eyes locked with mine. "You know...the Volvo's awfully dirty..."
"Dear Lord," Esme sighed, shaking her head and rolling her eyes up to the sky. "Where did I go wrong?"
Rose, Kevin, and I collapsed into hysterics, practically holding one another up.
"Oh, no..." I huffed, still chuckling, but I shook my head adamantly. "See... I know how that plays out, Edward. It goes from simply washing cars to suddenly, we're doing it in bikinis. It turns into something just this shy of a cheap porn movie."
Edward feigned innocence, but his brothers were cracking up.
"Fine, baby sis," Jasper said with a laugh. "What do you want?"
"I want..." I dragged out, spinning to look at Alice, who was already jumping up and down with excitement. Grinning, I asked her, "Really?"
"Hell, yes!" she squealed.
"What?!" all the boys yelled.
"I want – or we, really – a calendar of our very own," I stated, but then gestured to Archie, who was staring at me with wide, scared eyes. "'re playing in Carlisle's place. If you lose, he takes the pics. I know you wouldn't want to subject yourself to such...debauchery."
Edward laughed, turning to Archie. "She's being kind, Archie. Be grateful."
"Um, thank you?" Archie stammered, grinning when we all laughed.
"And if we win?" Emmett asked, stepping closer and tossing the ball up in the air.
"We'll pose for the calendar," Rose offered, folding her arms across her chest. "The winner picks the loser's poses and clothes," she added.
Edward grinned, shaking his head. "Do you still have that Halloween costume?" he teased, shooting a wink my way.
"Which one?" I snorted, rolling my eyes at him and pressing two fingers to his lips before he could answer. "Don't even, Cullen. Let's just play."
He laughed, turning away from me and heading over to where we'd designated home base to be. Alice was pitching, I was catching, and the rest were in the outfield. So when I walked up beside him, I handed him the bat.
"Come on, Alice..." I called, backing up a bit. "I've got a firefighter uniform that's just collecting dust in my closet."
"Aw, damn," Edward groaned, shaking his head and preparing to bat.
"Oh, honey," Kevin sang Adrian's way, wiggling his fingers at him. "Do you know where I could find some football pads? Just the pads?" he asked, and Adrian's face blanched.
Thunder rolled heavily again, and Alice spun around to face me. "It's time," she said with a grin.
With the first pitch, the trash talk never stopped. Poor Archie looked lost at the insults that we launched at one another, but he managed his batting and out-fielding very well. We played by traditional rules – four balls, three strikes, three outs, nine innings, and the runner must be tagged by the ball for an out.
Edward and Emmett played right and left field while Jasper pitched. It was the top of the sixth inning when I decided to mess with my Edward just a little. Alice giggled behind me but stayed quiet as I took my spot at home plate. I couldn't imagine what silly-ass song she was singing in her mind to keep Edward out. The score was tied thirty-three to thirty-three. Honestly, I didn't care who won. It was a harmless bet, and it wasn't like I hadn't posed for one before. But with that thought, I truly thought it was Edward's turn. And I ran the gamut of possible outfits in my mind, aiming them his way, along with why and what I'd do to him once I put him in those costumes.
"Bella!" Edward whined, shaking his head to clear it and gripping his hair. "Seriously!"
I grinned, bringing the bat up to my shoulder, thinking, Mmm, baby... Construction worker – nothing but jeans and a toolbelt...the jeans are optional. I dragged my tongue across my bottom lip as I let Jasper's pitch go by straight into Adrian's hands. Ooh! What about... a superhero, Edward? All that spandex, and nothing left to the imagination. And my imagination is...good!
"Which one?" he finally asked with laugh, looking like he was defeated already.
I'll have to think about it. Maybe Batman? Oh, but you're so fast... Superman? I offered with a giggle. Don'tcha wish you had X-ray vision?
"God, no!" he cried out, looking pained. "Hearing minds is bad enough."
Oh, yeah. Okay...Batman. Definitely. I let one more pitch go by, readying myself for the next and sending Edward one more thought. You know what would be hot, baby? You just barely covered with every lingerie set you've ever ripped off of me. I mean, I know we don't have them, but the idea...
"Christ," he hissed, squeezing his eyes closed, but the crack of the bat made them open right back up.
The ball shot off my bat at lightning speed, a crack echoing through the forest. Edward and Emmett took off, almost disappearing into the woods as I rounded first base, aiming for second. As I slid into the make-shift base we were using, two hands with the ball landed heavily on my thigh.
"Safe!" I growled, looking up at a smug Edward.
"Out, love. Sorry."
"Oh, I don't think so!" I chuckled, getting up and dusting myself off.
"She's safe, Ed," Jasper sighed, smirking at us. "It's only second base. Just don't let her score!"
"Yeah, Ed," I taunted, shoving my laughing husband a little as he threw the ball back to Jasper. "Heaven forbid I...score." He opened his mouth to counter that, and I growled, "Watch it."
Gripping my chin, he purred softly, "I can't wait for you to see what I've picked out... I may have to take the pictures myself. I can't let just anyone see you, see what's mine."
His lips brushed across mine just enough to drive me crazy, but he stepped back into his position, shooting a cocky wink my way as my mouth hung open. He knew what his voice and his lips could do to me, but to add in his claim of possession was a low blow.
Narrowing my eyes, I pointed a finger at him. "You're going down, Cullen!"
"That's what she said!" Emmett bellowed.
Rose stepped up to bat, glaring down Jasper as he got ready to pitch. As soon as the ball made contact with the bat, I knew I'd score. When I stepped across home plate, I grinned Edward's way. I could tell he wasn't quite sure whether to be proud or disappointed. It was an adorable expression that covered his face.
By the time the ninth inning rolled around, Carlisle was home, watching us from the tree that Alice and I had been sitting under. Once he found out the bet, his loyalties to his family as a whole flew out the window, and he was totally pulling for the boys. And he wasn't quite sure he liked the idea that Archie was playing in his place. He'd more than once complained that it was unfair that he could lose whether he was home or not.
"Sucks to be you, Dad. Deal with it," Emmett said with a grin, getting into position in the outfield.
Esme got ready to bat, with Rose on first and me on third. The boys were ahead by two runs, and if Esme knocked this one just right, we'd take the lead. Taking a few steps off the base, I got ready to run.
"I see a rainbow of colors coming my way, sweet, beautiful girl," Edward teased with a salacious grin, dragging his tongue along his bottom lip. "I'll make sure the credit card is all paid up."
Laughing, I shook my head, understanding where Edward's mind had gone. Lingerie. Lots of it. And he was going to pick the sets this time instead of letting me surprise him. Somehow, that seemed worth losing, but I still wanted to see Edward in so many things – leather pants, a bubble bath, a toga.
"Toga?!" Edward snorted. "Baby, we need to talk..."
Giggling, I watched as Jasper threw his pitch to Esme. The crack was loud, reverberating across the field, but the ball popped high into the air. What happened next was a shock, but I couldn't fault the boys for plays well made. Archie caught the pop-fly, tossed it to Edward to tag out Rose, and Edward threw it fast and hard to Adrian, who caught me in the hip with a tag.
Damn, the boys had won.
I groaned, my head falling back to the ground as Emmett, Jasper, and Carlisle all cheered.
"Sorry, Bells," Adrian said with a chuckle and a pat to my arm. "Damn good try."
Groaning again, I lay there until Edward loomed over me.
"Come on, my little Derek Jeter," he teased, grinning as he scooped me up and tossed me over his shoulder. "We've got shopping to do... I'll even let you pick one or two."
My laugh was loud as I popped his butt. "Damn, there goes my construction worker idea..."
The house had a feeling of anxiousness and unease running through it. I shifted closer to Edward, and he obliged by hugging me tighter. There was a movie playing on his phone as it was propped up on the table by the chair in our room. I wasn't sure what it was, but it kept the silence at bay.
The baseball game had been fun, the trash talk never-ending, even after it was all over, but the moment we'd stepped inside the house, Alice had frozen in a vision.
Caroline Dixon had changed her mind. She was still flying into to Ohio, but she'd no longer be taking a relative's car. She'd bought a bus ticket straight into Caribou. Alice's vision had been three days ago. Caroline had landed in Columbus two days ago. And her bus trip was approximately eighteen hours long – give or take – which meant that she'd be arriving anytime now.
Archie had accepted her coming up until that moment. Her impending visit that was now upon us had sent him into a panic. But I had to give him credit where it was due. He didn't run. He didn't hide. He merely...freaked the hell out. And at the moment, he was talking quietly with Carlisle and Esme in his room.
As much as everyone wanted to be here to support Archie, Carlisle suggested that we empty the house a little. Eleven immortals were a lot to take in for a human. We weren't sure how she'd react. So Kevin, Adrian, Rose, and Emmett were all in Portland for at least the next twenty-four to forty-eight hours, depending on how things went. Alice insisted that she and Jasper were needed. Edward was definitely needed, and Archie begged that I stay just in case having a human in the house was too much for him. However, the most important people were Carlisle and Esme. They were assuming their roles as the parents in this situation, not only for us, but Esme said that Caroline would need a mother figure.
My curiosity of Caroline was about to drive me crazy. The fact that she was coming here on her own either made her extremely brave or incredibly defiant. I wasn't sure which. I wondered what she looked like, even though Alice and Edward had described her over and over – blonde-haired, blue-eyed, petite. That wasn't enough for me. It didn't tell me enough. But what made me the most curious were the whys. Why was Caroline so determined to come here? Why go to all the trouble? Why run away from her father and family? And why couldn't we give her just a little more time?
Edward pressed kisses to my forehead, inhaling deeply as his fingers trailed up and down my arm. "You didn't want time, love," he reminded me gently, keeping his voice only for me.
"But I knew what I was getting into," I countered in a whisper, and Edward shifted us so that we were lying on our sides face to face. "And this is so different. I had almost a year with you before my change, and whether it was an emergency or not, I knew it was something that would and should happen eventually. It seems that Caroline won't get that."
"Going by Alice's visions alone, it does seem that way," Edward agreed, running his fingers through my hair. "You also know that her visions are subjective." He brushed a kiss across my forehead. "Caroline may get here, and everything may change. We don't know for sure."
I nodded, knowing he was right, but I guess I was just feeling for the girl. I knew what it was like to look into the eyes of a stranger and suddenly feel everything shift – my heart, my soul, my future. And if Alice's vision was correct, then Caroline's whole being was about to change.
Edward smiled softly at those thoughts, bringing his forehead to mine in order to nuzzle my nose with his own. "Sweet girl," he barely breathed before pressing his lips to mine.
A part of me wanted to warn her, prepare her. I wanted her to know just how beautiful and perfect and scary the feeling was. My human memories were blurry, but everything to do with meeting my sweet Edward was crystal clear. It was an amazing and intense feeling. I wanted her to know that there was nothing in the entire world like knowing – deep down in her soul – that it was a love that would never end. It was something she could lean on, find comfort in. Archie would forever fall at her feet. He would never hurt her, cheat on her, ignore her. It was impossible for mated couples to cause harm to the other. She would do anything for him.
"Hey, shh," Edward crooned, pulling back just a little to cup my face and look into my eyes.
I'm nervous for them, I thought to him.
"I am, too," he whispered, brushing kiss after kiss across my lips. "But your mind, Bella... You're killing me. To know you see it that way..." His head shook a little before he kissed me senseless.
I was lost to him. He was impossible to ignore anyway, but when his tongue slipped along mine, when his hands gripped my hip to pull me closer, and when that low, masculine moan hit my ears, I was completely gone. My own hands sought skin, slipping up the front of his black sweater and white T-shirt, my thumb brushing across abs, his navel, and finally, that little trail of hair just above the waistband of his black jeans.
Edward hitched my leg up higher over his hip as the movie we'd had on continued to play on in the background. If I wasn't paying attention before, it wasn't happening now. We lost ourselves completely for a moment, and I was pretty sure it was to distract ourselves for what was to come. I moaned low when I found myself underneath him, his hips settling between the cradle of my thighs.
With fingers digging into his back under his shirt, I pulled him closer. "Mmm," I hummed when his mouth opened to the side of my neck.
Bracing his hands on either side of my head, he gazed down at me like I was the best thing since sliced bread. He grinned at my thoughts. "Definitely better than bread." He sobered a little, lowering himself to his elbow so that he could trace my face with his fingertips. "I love you, my beautiful girl."
"Love you, too, baby," I sighed in contentment, running my fingers through his hair.
Edward became very still, his head turning just slightly away from me and toward the door. "She's here." He'd said it loud enough so that everyone remaining in the house heard him.
He stood up, helping me to my feet. We straightened our clothes and ran fingers through our hair. When he offered me his hand, I took it, linking our fingers together and leading me downstairs.
Once in the living room, I could see a taxi out front. A young girl was tugging a backpack strap over her shoulder as she handed the driver a few bills. She faced the house, and I smiled. She was a very pretty girl, with straight blonde hair and long dark eyelashes. She looked to be about my height, maybe closer to Alice's. And she looked nervous as hell. In fact, I could hear her heartbeat from where I was standing.
Carlisle and Esme walked in from the library as the doorbell echoed through the house. It was time to act like the kids we were supposed to be. Edward fell down onto the sofa, pulling me with him, and turned on the TV. Alice and Jasper joined us quickly, taking the loveseat. The only one that wasn't present was Archie, but no one was pushing him to do anything.
Esme opened the door, smiling down at the girl. "Yes? Can I help you?" she asked.
Caroline took in our mother with wide eyes, and I could only imagine what was going through her mind, but the smirk on Edward's lips meant it had to be amusing.
"Umm, you don't know me," she stammered, fidgeting with the strap of her backpack, "but my name's Caroline Dixon, and I used to live here."
"Hello, Caroline. I'm Esme Cullen." Esme placed a hand over her heart.
"Oh, damn, she's adorable," Alice said under her breath with a chuckle.
I smiled but shifted so that I could see her better. She looked like a little doll. Wide, bright blue eyes gazed at Esme, a small smile playing on her pink lips, showing a just-barely-there dimple on her right cheek. There were very pale freckles across her nose, and her eyelashes were long and much darker than her hair. But she was desperately nervous, because her fingers never stopped working that strap on her bag, nor did her teeth stop chewing on the inside of her cheek.
"It doesn't look at all like I remembered," Caroline said, shaking her head as she gazed around.
Esme smiled warmly. "Well, goodness, that must've been a while back. The realtor told us the house hadn't been lived in for quite some time."
"Ten years," Caroline supplied with a nod. "I was seven," she whispered, giving the front porch a longing look. She seemed to find some courage somewhere because she locked gazes with Esme before saying, "I'm planning on going to college in Portland, and I couldn't resist seeing the place. I hardly remember it."
"Uh-oh. Little liar, liar, pants on fire," Jasper sang, causing Edward to chuckle and nod.
"Give her a break," Alice chided, elbowing him.
"Won't you come in?" Esme offered, stepping back so that the girl could step over the threshold. "My husband and some of my kids are home, but you can feel free to see the place." She led her closer to the living room area, saying, "Kids, turn that thing down. We have company."
Edward shut the TV off, and we all looked up to see the girl standing next to our mother.
"Caroline Dixon, these are the youngest of my children. Over there is Edward and Bella, and this is Alice and Jasper," she introduced. "The rest of them are in Portland overnight to see a concert or something. And Archie's around here somewhere."
"Hey," she said shyly, and we waved back.
"And this is my husband, Carlisle," Esme said as Carlisle got up from his chair.
"Nice to meet you, Caroline," he said, shaking her hand. "Dixon...Dixon... That sounds familiar."
"It should. She used to live here. She was the last resident of this house," Esme explained, like he hadn't heard everything at the door.
"Oh! Is that right?" Carlisle smiled, his eyebrows raising up high.
Funny thing about Carlisle. That smile, that sweet, calm expression on his face, had a tendency to relax the most nervous of humans. This time was no different. Caroline's own smile spread across her face, and she let out a slow breath.
"Yeah," she sighed, glancing around, only to look over at those of us on the couches. "Look, I didn't mean to bother you. It was just... I needed..."
"It's understandable, Caroline, really," Esme soothed. "You can stay as long as you like. I was just about to make some coffee. Would you like some?"
"Well, my taxi is still outside..." she hedged.
"Don't be silly," Esme chided gently. "We can always call you another one. That way we can give you enough time to see the house. You've barely seen it." She glanced up at us, saying, "Edward, sweetie, would you please go pay the cab driver? Let him know we'll call him back."
"Yes, ma'am," Edward responded, immediately starting to get up, despite Caroline's protests about paying.
But I gripped his hand before he had stood up because my shield suddenly gave hard desperate pull, almost sending me to the floor on my butt.
"Bella?" Edward whispered, but my eyes shot to the doorway of the library.
"Oh, boy..." I breathed as took in the one expression I knew like the back of my hand.
Archie stood there, black-eyed and breathing heavily. His fists were balled up at his sides, and his face looked absolutely menacing, but I knew it for what it truly was. Archie had just caught sight of his mate.


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