Monday, April 14, 2014 | By: Drotuno

Masen Manor Chapter 12 & Pics

Chapter 12
December 2001
“I want to tell you now…before I lose my courage.” Bella’s voice – always a whisper – sounded stronger than normal.
Not for the first time did I wish I could read her mind, but her face was a rock. Her little chin jutted out in defiance, though her dark eyes were wide with fear as her fingers traced the scar across her beautiful skin. I wanted to know anything she’d tell me, but I worried as to what this would do to her. Carlisle had said that when Bella finally pushed past the wall she’d built around her, she’d shatter, and as much as that prospect frightened me, I knew I’d do anything she asked of me, even if it meant I had to help her rip this emotional wound open. If it allowed her to heal, then I couldn’t argue.
I stood up from in front of her, unable to stop myself from leaning in and kissing her temple. “You have my undivided attention, my love. The floor is yours,” I told her.

Bella turned, tucking her feet beneath her legs and leaning a shoulder against the back of my sofa. I mirrored her position, knowing this may be the hardest thing I’d ever hear, but as I looked at the girl in front of me, I realized I’d walk through fire for her.
Her focus was on her charm bracelet when she started to speak, and even though she used her usual almost-whisper, I could hear everything – her voice, her heart pounding, her fidgeting, her heavy breathing. It was all I could do not to wrap her up and tell her she didn’t have to do this.
“M-My dad…he was a judge,” she started, glancing up at me. “But before that, he was a lawyer. He’d told me once that he’d almost become a cop, but the idea had scared Grandma Swan too badly, so he went to law school instead.” She smiled a little at that, leaning her head against the sofa. “He was my best friend. We did everything together.” She gazed back down to her bracelet. “It was Grandma Swan who taught me piano, and that made him happy because he said he didn’t have a musical note in his body.”
Smiling, I could imagine that Charlie Swan had been a damn good guy, and I’d have been willing to bet he’d worshiped the ground Bella walked on. And I couldn’t blame him one bit, simply because I did, too. I silently vowed to him wherever he was that I’d keep her safe as long as we lived – however we chose to live.
“He taught me everything else, though,” she said, looking to me. “Fishing, reading, cooking…guns.”
The last one hung in the air for a moment, and I waited for her to continue, not realizing that my breathing had stopped.
“He…He had these plans, these rules in place for emergencies, you know? There were procedures to follow for almost everything – if I got lost somewhere, if Mom’s car broke down, if my friends wanted to do something and it wasn’t safe, and if someone broke in.” Tears filled her eyes, but she ignored them. “He’d tell Mom and me that nothing could happen to his girls. Nothing. That even if he wasn’t with us, we had to stay safe.”
Oh, yes, I liked Charlie Swan. A lot.
“I messed up,” she barely said aloud, but tears ran unchecked down her beautiful face. “I messed up that night, Edward. I should’ve done things differently, but I didn’t. I should’ve…”
Her breathing became ragged and harsh, and I gave in, pulling her to me and setting her sideways across my lap.
“Take a minute, Bella,” I whispered in her ear. “We can stop…”
“No,” she argued, shaking her head. “Please, just…I need to do this…”
“Okay,” I soothed her, cupping her face and wiping her tears away, “but I need you to breathe, love. I’ve got you, no matter what.”
She nodded fervently, trying her damnedest to take a few deep breaths.
“Would it be easier to start at the beginning?” I asked her.
“Maybe,” she said, trailing off a little. “Something must’ve happened a few months before…that night,” she murmured, looking over at me. “My dad was…more…”
“Vigilant?” I offered, trying anything just to help her through this.
“Yeah,” she sighed, nodding a little. “He just seemed so angry. Not at me. Never. But with work and even my mom, he seemed so short-tempered.”
My brow wrinkled at that, wondering what the hell had Charlie found out that sent him into a panic, almost over the edge. I knew that he’d changed everything into Bella’s name, though I wasn’t sure she knew that until later.
“He kept reminding me of where his gun was, which was in the library in his desk drawer, and what all the codes were to the alarm. He told me not to walk to school, that he’d take me and pick me up…or that Chelsea would do it, but I wasn’t to walk.” She turned to look into the fire, seeming to lose herself for a moment.
“My mom went out that night,” she said in the softest whisper yet, still lost in the fire. “Dad and I watched a movie in the living room before he went upstairs.” She looked at me pained, a sob erupting. “I didn’t set the alarm, Edward. My mom…she forgot the codes all the time, and if she came in late, it woke the whole house. I thought I was doing everyone a favor!”
“Shh,” I breathed against her temple. “It’s okay, love.”
“But…but…” She gripped my shirt, her face completely terrified. “It let them in!”
I thought she’d panic again when her voice raised, but it seemed to open some sort of floodgate. She started rambling. All I could do was hold her close, her body shaking like it would fall into a million pieces.
“I was…I was asleep, and I heard the glass break downstairs, but I thought I was dreaming,” she burst out. “I…I…sat up, listening. I thought it was my imagination! I swear, I didn’t know! And then I heard the sixth step…it creaks every time you step on it…and I froze. I waited. At first, I thought it was my mom, but she’d usually peek in on me. When the steps went by my door, I didn’t move. It wasn’t until I heard my dad cry out and a heavy thud that I ran from my room to my parents’ room.”
Bella’s hands balled up into fists in her lap, her breathing was ragged and shallow, and when she closed her eyes, more tears than I could possibly capture fell down her cheeks.
“I saw them…two of them,” she breathed, swallowing thickly. “They were fighting with my dad.”
Reaching over, I rubbed one of her fists gently until it unlocked from itself. She threaded her fingers with mine in probably the most tenacious grip she could manage.
“They were in black, with ski masks on…like some sort of cliché TV show,” she said, and a slight maniacal laugh escaped her, but she reined it in. “My dad saw me, told me to run, scream, to get out of there, but I wasn’t fast enough. I should’ve hit the alarm, I should’ve run downstairs for the gun…but I didn’t. All I could do was scream for him. And before I could move, one of the guys grabbed me at the same time…the same time…they cut his throat.” Her head spun to face me. “They laughed at me…when they did it,” she whispered, clawing at her scar. “I could hear the knife, but they laughed, saying, ‘so much for screaming.’”
A deep, low, feral growl erupted from me, but thankfully, Bella didn’t hear it. My determination to find these men tripled. They would pay for what they’d done. I didn’t care what revenge needed to be played on Charlie Swan; there was no need to take it out on a thirteen-year-old girl. None. And I would find them, and they would pay in the same way that Charlie and Bella had paid. Even more so, simply because Charlie and Bella had done no wrong. I’d tried to find something amiss, but Charlie Swan came up completely clean of wrongdoing. These men had lived free for far too long, and their days were numbered.
“When they left us…” She swallowed nervously, squeezing my hand with more strength than I’d expected. “I…I…I tried to crawl to my dad. I couldn’t make any noise, but I heard them downstairs, breaking stuff…stealing, I think. They were still laughing.
“But my dad, he was so still. I didn’t understand. If I was moving, then why not him?” she asked rhetorically. “I tried to get to the phone, but I don’t…I don’t think I did. Everything kinda went dark…” Her voice trailed off softly.
Tucking her hair behind her ear so that I could see her face, I waited patiently. Her heartbeat was still fluttering too fast for my liking, but she seemed to be under control.
“I…I woke up in the hospital, trying to scream, but it was too late by then.” She grimaced, looking down. “I, um…tried to pull my stitches out, so they restrained me, drugged me…at least until I healed.” She gestured to her scar, then covered it with her hand.
Shaking my head, I gently tugged her hand away. Leaning in, I kissed that twisted, raised line across her throat with a reverence. I didn’t give a damn what it looked like, I didn’t care about anything other than that scar represented the fact that she was here, now, with me. Whether she believed it or not – and I vowed to make her see it – she was the strongest creature I’d ever met.
“Don’t,” she begged, turning her head away from me. “It’s ugly.”
“It’s beautiful,” I countered, meeting her disbelieving gaze. “You’re here because of it.”
“I overheard them, you know,” she whispered, looking down at our linked fingers. “I faked being asleep, but the doctors and my mom talked in my hospital room. It didn’t matter what I did… No one would’ve heard me. Our neighbors weren’t home, so no screaming would’ve worked, and Chelsea was away, visiting her son. It would’ve been useless. They said they didn’t understand why I didn’t do something… Even my mom accused—”
“Oh, love…they weren’t there, they didn’t experience what you did. Everyone has some sort of solution when they’re outside the scenario,” I soothed her, but it didn’t work, though that most likely explained her fear of talking. Maybe it wasn’t even a fear, but rather, Bella just didn’t see the point of saying anything; it hadn’t helped her that night, so why should it help her after?
More tears came and then a sob.
“Shh, Bella,” I sighed against her temple.
“They all but said it…” she barely breathed aloud, but her gaze snapped up from her lap, her eyes eerily glazed and far away. “It’s my fault he died! It should’ve been me… Why him and not me?! I’m the one that messed up!” Her free hand poked at her chest, but she completely unraveled in my lap.
I didn’t have an answer for her, but she didn’t seem to require one. All that came from her now were hot, salty tears and heavy sobs. I pulled her completely to me, hoping like hell my cool skin didn’t bother her, but her face burrowed into my neck as she seemed to release everything poisonous inside of her. She clung to me furiously, and I could feel her tears soaking my shirt, feel the panic, the fear, the sadness simply welling up and out of her.
I started talking, even if she couldn’t hear me through her pain. She needed to know it wasn’t her fault.
“Bella, you did nothing wrong,” I whispered, kissing the top of her head. “Not a thing. You reacted how anyone would’ve reacted. Sweetheart, I bet if you really thought about it, you probably thought it was your mom coming home.” I kissed her head again. “Nothing about that night was your fault. You did the best you could, and I’m sure your dad would be proud of you, no matter what.”
“You don’t know that!” she mumbled against my neck.
Smiling a little, I ran my hand through her hair, glad she was arguing with me instead of curling in on herself. “If he was as adamant with your safety as you tell me, then I know he’d be proud that you came through, Bella. That’s just a fact.”
“I miss him so much,” she cried.
“I know, love, and I’m so very sorry,” I whispered, squeezing my eyes closed against the sting of tears I couldn’t shed. My heart was broken for her. “But I never, ever want you to think it should’ve been you that night, Bella, because if that were the case, then I would’ve never had the most amazing opportunity to meet you, and that…hurts.”
Her head popped up from my shoulder, and despite puffy, red-rimmed eyes and tear-stained cheeks, she was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.
Reaching up, I wiped away tears, smoothed back her hair, and cupped her face. “I mean it. I don’t know why anything happened to either of us, Bella. How we’ve managed to get here, I’ll never understand or know who to thank, but…somehow, we did.”
“I love you, Edward,” she said, just slightly louder than a whisper, but not quite her normal tone.
That was the best thing I’d heard in my entire lifetime. “I love you, too, Bella.”
She leaned in, but I guided her head down, kissing her forehead. I knew what she wanted, but it wasn’t the right time. I wanted it, too, more than anything, but we had to talk before that happened, and again, it wasn’t the right time. I didn’t want our first kiss to be right after such an emotional upheaval, where she would forever remember it being tied to telling me the story of her father’s murder.
I saw her disappointment, but I wasn’t to be swayed at the moment. “You okay?”
She nodded, laying her head back on my shoulder. “Yeah, I just feel…empty.”
“Understandable, love,” I said, wrapping my arms around her, but her heartbeat slowed down, her breathing evened out, and her hands started to twitch against my neck. Grinning at the fact that she felt that comfortable around me to fall asleep, I slipped farther down into the cushion.
She fell into a deep, dead-weight sleep. I knew that I couldn’t possibly be comfortable for her. My skin was too hard, too cool, so when she shivered once, I carefully maneuvered her to the sofa, covered her with a blanket, and stoked the fire.
I didn’t want to leave her, but I needed to see Carlisle, and I knew she’d need something to drink when she awoke.
“Edward…” she murmured in her sleep, and I couldn’t help but kneel down next to her, which made her fingers grip my shirt in a fierce little fist.
Prying her fingers off with a brief smile at how strong she was, I whispered, “Shh. You’re safe now, love. Sleep in peace.”
I dropped a kiss to her head, but wrote a quick note to her that I’d be right back, just in case she woke up while I was gone. I took the hidden passageway at a run. I wasn’t sure what Carlisle and Esme had planned for the day, or even if they were home, but I practically fell into their living room.
“Son?” Esme said, looking up from a stack of papers spread out in front of her on the dining room table.
“Bella knows,” I muttered, heading straight for her kitchen.
“Everything?” Carlisle asked, coming in from their bedroom.
“Yes,” I answered, pulling out whatever I could find, until I felt Esme’s hand on mine. “What? I’m sorry I’m raiding…”
She chuckled lightly. “Stop. Let me help you.”
Smirking when she pushed and shoved at me to get out of the way, I leaned against the kitchen counter, clawing at my hair. I turned to Carlisle, whose thoughts were a mix of pride and curiosity.
“Did she…”
“She figured out everything,” I said, telling him quickly how it had happened, what had been discussed, and Bella’s reaction. I even told them that she’d spoken to me the entire time, that she’d fallen apart in my arms, and all that she’d explained concerning the night her father died. I finally ended with the fact that she’d cried herself to sleep and was currently on my sofa.
“Oh, damn.” Esme sighed, bracing her hands on either side of a sandwich she was putting together for my girl. “No wonder she doesn’t speak… Poor thing was traumatized.”
“Yeah.” I frowned, looking down at my hands, but then back to Carlisle. “I will find them, the men that did this. I’m not kidding, and I don’t give a damn how long it takes.”
His answering smile was slightly evil, one I hadn’t seen him wear in decades, and that had been in response to a kid that had picked on Jacob when he was young. He’d picked and picked at Jake about his gypsy heritage until he’d snapped, finally punching the boy in the face. The little bully’s mother had called, but Carlisle had seen to it all, basically telling the woman that her son needed to be locked in a cage, as he behaved like an animal.
Only this time, his smile was worse, deeper, darker…just more. Carlisle wasn’t a vengeful man. He didn’t use his strength or immortality for anything other than to help people in need. It was why he’d become a doctor. But Carlisle hated the evil that humans could throw at each other and usually would play peacemaker. Not this time. His mind centered on who and what Bella was – to me, specifically. He didn’t know how she and I would work everything out, and he didn’t care – it was our business – but he’d already fallen in love with her. He considered her family, even though she didn’t know it. He’d kill for her just as much as he would the rest of us, and with what had happened to her, he wanted something done.
“What’s your plan, son?” he asked aloud, even though he knew I’d been following his line of thinking.
Shaking my head, I sighed, “I don’t know.” I locked gazes with him. “But I want to read the minds of her mother and stepfather. I want in her house…”
“Here,” Esme said softly, handing me a wrapped plate and a bag of different cold drinks.
“Thanks,” I whispered, kissing her cheek.
“Mmhm,” she hummed. “Now…are you still planning on following Bella to Boston over the break?”
“I’d considered it, but I don’t know how she’ll respond,” I replied, shrugging a shoulder.
“Just be honest, son,” Carlisle said, placing a hand on my shoulder. “She knows what you are now. Just explain how you can’t be too far away for too long.”
I grimaced a little. “I’m not sure the mating thing won’t be the last straw.”
Esme giggled like a girl. “She’ll be fine. She’ll feel it, too, sweetheart. Trust me.”
“’Kay,” I murmured, holding up the food. “I need…”
“Go,” she encouraged, turning me around and pushing me back toward the passageway door. “And tell her that she’s welcome to come to us any time if she needs anything.”
I reached for the doorknob, but stopped, turning to face them. “She…she said she loved me.”
Carlisle grinned, but Esme caught my trepidation, walking to me.
She cupped my face. “You’ll figure it out. It wasn’t so long ago that she’d have been the right age to court. You know this. Society has changed, and that’s okay. Ask her, son. She’s a bright girl – obviously, since she loves you.”
Snorting at her giving nature, I shook my head. “Okay…”
She smacked at my arm, saying, “Stop it. I mean it. Just talk to her. Let her know what your worries are… She won’t always be seventeen.”
I chuckled. “Yeah, that’s what she said.”
Esme smiled. “See?”
Nodding, I kissed her cheek again. “Yes, ma’am.”
I ran back to the east wing, stepping quietly into the room just in case she was still sleeping, which she was. I set the sandwich and drinks down, kneeling next to her. Her eyes were still a little puffy and her eyelashes were still wet, which made me think she’d cried in her sleep. At that thought, I lightly brushed a stray lock of hair from her face, tracing a finger down her cheek. My eyes landed on the scar across her neck.
Deep brown eyes fluttered open, and I smiled, though it felt forced, simply because of everything that had been let out into the room. Raw, ugly honesty had erupted out of us both, and now that she’d calmed down, I wondered where we stood. I braced myself for anything.
She reached up, trailing a finger underneath my eye. “You have the longest eyelashes. They’re so pretty; I’m jealous.”
Grinning, I took her hand, kissing her palm. “Thank you.” When she sat up a little, I said, “I brought you something to eat, sweetheart. I figured the dining hall was out.”
She grimaced, nodding a little and taking the plate I handed her. “You made this?”
“Esme did. She booted me out of her kitchen,” I told her, grinning when she giggled softly.
“You left?”
“Not for long, I promise. I just…I knew you’d be thirsty.”
“Thanks,” she sighed, opening a bottle of water. She downed about half of it before setting it down. “I dreamed…and you were in it. You spoke to me. Have you done that before?”
“Yes,” I whispered honestly. “When I dropped the journal off in your room, you were dreaming. It was so…”
She winced, waving me on.
“I spoke to you, hoping it helped.”
Her nod was slight. “My dreams are…memories,” she started softly, looking up from her sandwich. “That night…the night you brought the journal…the whole dream changed. You…saved me.”
My eyebrows shot up, but she nodded.
“Yeah, instead of it ending with the men laughing, you…you did something to them,” she finished. “It was the best dream yet. I knew it was you. You,” she said, pointing my way. “Not MG.”
Frowning, I said, “Believe me, Bella…if I knew who they were, I would do something about it.”
“I wish,” she sighed, shaking her head.
I didn’t answer that, though I filed it away for later. To know that she was that frightened of those men made my decision to find them that much stronger.
She ate her sandwich in silence as I sat on the floor beside her, and she finished off the last of her water, opening the soda. The latter made me feel better, because I knew she needed the sugar after the panic she’d been in. She set the empty paper plate down on the coffee table, smiling my way.
“Thank Mrs. C for me, please,” she said.
“I will, but she passed along a message that you’re welcome to come to them if you need,” I told her, turning a little her way and setting my elbow on the cushion of the sofa.
“You told them?”
“I did.” I nodded, curious as to what was going through her mind.
“Um…do you have…” Her cheeks reddened a little, and I snickered.
“Over there, love.” I said, pointing to the bathroom at the other end of the room.
I stayed where I was, leaning back against the couch and gazing into the fire, but she got up quickly. I tuned out what she was doing in there, losing myself in all that had transpired in that room. My thoughts turned to the fact that in less than thirty-six hours, she’d be on a train back to Boston.
When Bella returned, she didn’t sit down again, but instead, picked up the purple journal, flipping through the pages silently. She’d washed her face, pulled her hair up into a long, sweet ponytail, and looked a little better than she had earlier.
Without saying a word, she walked to the fireplace and tossed it on top of the flames.
“Bella, you’re sure?” I asked, gazing up at her from the floor and opening my arms for her.
“I’m sure about you,” she stated firmly, kneeling between my legs and hugging me. “You sounded so scared for me to know the truth.”
“I was,” I sighed into her hair. “I was sure you’d run from me.”
She giggled softly, sitting back on her heels between my legs. “Yeah, ’cause you’re just this hideous monster, Edward.”
Grinning, I shook my head. “That’s not what I meant, sweetheart.”
“I know,” she replied, reaching up to push my hair off my forehead. I relished the touch as she seemed to be hunting for the words to say, finally whispering, “I can’t explain it, but you make me feel…safe, comfortable. Alice says I only talk to people I trust, and I guess that’s true. But you…you’re different. I feel again with you.”
“God, love, that’s all I want. You know that, right? For you to simply be…you.”
Nodding, she toyed with the stubborn curl at my forehead. “And I meant what I wrote to you… I’ve seen monsters, Edward. You’re not one.”
“I am, Bella, just not with you,” I argued, grimacing a little. “I’m not… There are so many things about me that will cause you pain, trouble, sacrifice. I never want you to regret anything. C’mere,” I told her, spinning her around so that her back was to my chest and she was sitting between my legs. Wrapping my arms around her, I set my chin on her shoulder. “There are no sunny days…in public. I can’t give you children, sweetheart. And if you decide to be with me…always…there are a few years of suffering thirst and anger, never mind how painful the change is. It’s three days of just…burning.” I kissed her shoulder over the top of her sweater, frowning when her heartbeat picked up. “But, Bella, you must understand, I’ll do whatever it is you tell me to, because…I belong to you. I can’t change that.”
Her smile was kind of silly, and her eyes glanced out of the corner at me. “Really? I get to keep you?”
“Yes.” I laughed, releasing her when she turned to the side, but my laugh died when I tilted her gaze to mine. “I mean it, but all the rest is true. It’s not an easy life.”
“Will you tell me about it?” she asked so softly, playing with my fingers.
“Anything,” I whispered.
She smiled, and it was secretive and utterly adorable. “So…mind reading… Is that all of you?”
“Nope, just me. Though, Jasper can feel and manipulate emotions. It’s really a rather powerful talent. Some of us come through the change with extra senses or gifts. Carlisle isn’t sure that it’s something from our human lives or if it comes from the maker. For example, if Alice were to be changed, she might very well be an even stronger psychic.”
Her nose wrinkled at that, but she nodded. “And you can’t hear me?”
“No…no matter how badly I wish I could.”
“Huh. Wonder why?” she mused, almost to herself.
I chuckled. “Well, if you figure it out, my love, then let me in on it.”
She grinned. “Will do.”
She asked at least fifty questions about me, all about my life – both human and immortal – but she froze for a moment, her cheeks tingeing pink.
“What?” I asked, tilting my head.
“It’s just…you’ve lived so long. You said you waited for me, but was there…someone…”
I kissed her cheek, whispering, “No. Never. I waited for you, Bella. And it wasn’t even out of duty; I just never felt…connected to anyone enough to even try.”
“So…no one?”
“No, ma’am.” I shook my head. “There are others that share our diet, another family, of sorts. Carlisle refers to them as cousins. They live in Alaska. One – Tanya – tried, but I didn’t even give it a thought. She’s a good friend, but no… Plus, her thoughts! Ugh!”
She laughed, her head falling back, and I pressed a chuckling kiss to her throat.
“I could ask the same of you, love,” I whispered.
She rolled her eyes my way. “I’m a freak, remember? No one bothered with me. Once, a boy asked me to a school dance, but…” She snorted humorlessly, shaking her head. “I couldn’t even answer him.”
“I hate that you think of yourself that way,” I muttered, frowning at her. “You’re not a freak, Bella.”
“I am to people who don’t try to understand,” she stated wisely. “And that’s okay, because I’ve found that here…” She pointed to the floor. “I’ve been accepted here far better than where I came from.”
“Good. I’m glad,” I stated honestly.
We were quiet for a moment, but it was comfortable and easy. The only sound in the room was the crackle of the fire. Bella played endlessly with my fingers, leaning her shoulder against my chest.
“Can I ask you something?” she whispered, looking up at me. At my nod, she said, “You don’t want Leah to give me a reading…”
I grimaced, shaking my head, but before I could answer, she elaborated.
“It’s just… I noticed your reaction to her offer. It had nothing to do with how far she is, did it?”
I sighed, linking our fingers together. “I do and I don’t, Bella. She’s damn accurate, trust me. Don’t let her age fool you. She’s sharp as a tack and just as sharp-tongued. She’s been that way since she was a child.”
Bella grinned, a slight giggle escaping her, but she waited for my answer.
“Leah sees things that can be scary…and sometimes, misinterpreted,” I explained, tilting my head at her. “She can see or has predicted death, but she can’t tell if it’s death like…well, me…or if it’s the end of someone’s life. She wants to give you a reading, simply because you’ve been this…legend we weren’t sure was coming true. You don’t have to see her if you don’t want, Bella.”
Bella groaned, shaking her head. “Legend,” she scoffed. “So Jacob Black is her son.”
“Yes,” I hedged, not knowing if I should reveal what he was or not.
“She seems too old…”
“He’s older than he looks,” I stated, staring into the fire for a second, but looking back at her. “He’s not one of us, but he’s proven to be what we think is immortal. He seemed to have stopped aging at about twenty-five.” When her eyebrows shot up, I caved. Jacob would just have to forgive me, though knowing him, he wouldn’t care. “The Blacks are cursed from a long, long time ago. Before me. Giselle’s family history is strange. The women carry a gene that causes the men in their bloodline to shapeshift. For generations, if a boy was born, they were destroyed. When Leah had Jacob, it was late in her life, but she couldn’t bear to harm him, so Carlisle and I vowed to protect him.”
“That’s awful,” Bella breathed, frowning up at me. “About the killing…why?”
“Jacob transforms into a wolf – a damned big one, at that. He’s been able to since he turned thirteen. Carlisle thinks it kicks in at puberty. But a long time ago, they were scared, so they killed the boys before they could turn. The girls don’t change. That was why Giselle had a daughter, and her daughter had Leah, but Leah couldn’t kill Jacob; she wanted him.”
“So how old is Jacob?”
“Fifty-two,” I said with a grin.
“Wow…you’d never know.”
Chuckling, I said, “Good genes, I suppose, but really, the whole bloodline live to be very old, even the women. Leah’s ninety-two. Giselle and Sue lived to be almost a hundred.”
“What about the fathers?” she asked.
“It doesn’t seem to matter,” I told her, shrugging a shoulder. “None of the fathers were in the picture; they didn’t stay around.”
“Oh,” she sighed, frowning at that, but then smiled up at me. “It was nice of you and Carlisle to ‘stay around,’ then.”
Smiling, I kissed her temple for her sweet nature.
Bella’s phone vibrated, and she pulled it out of her pocket. “Alice. She’s just checking on me.”
I nodded and smiled as she answered her friend back quickly. She set the phone down on my table, staring at for a second.
“I’ll have to pack tonight,” she sighed, her brow furrowing, but her frown made me worried.
“Aren’t you happy to be going home? It’s Christmas.”
“Yes and no,” she murmured, her eyes on our hands. “I’m very comfortable here… I’ll miss talking to you.”
“That doesn’t have to stop, love,” I told her, tilting her head up. “You can always call me or text me.” I reached over, picked up her phone, and programmed my number in. “There,” I said, handing it back to her with a smile.
“Thanks,” she said softly, glancing up at me. “It’s not the same, though. I’ll miss you.
Chuckling, I hugged her to me. “I’ll miss you, too, sweetheart. If it makes you feel any better, I was considering following you. It’s…in my nature. I can’t be far from you for very long.”
“Really?!” she gasped, turning to face me completely. “You’re serious?”
Grinning and thinking Esme was right, I nodded. “You’d be okay with that?”
“Yes!” she squeaked, only to frown. “But it’s Christmas. Shouldn’t you be with your family?”
“Believe me, they get it, especially Carlisle and Esme,” I told her. “I’ve spent more than my share of holidays with them, and I’d probably drive them crazy anyway.”
“When will I see you? And what do we tell my parents?” she asked.
Cupping her face, I said, “I’ll never be far from you, love. All you have to do is call or text, and I’ll be there. And as far as your parents go, don’t they know about your piano tutor?”
Bella snorted, rolling her eyes. “No. They barely know what the name of this school is.”
I frowned at that. “They don’t ask?”
“Hmm,” I hummed, thinking of my next step. “Okay, well…we’ll figure it out. If you aren’t comfortable lying…”
“I don’t talk, Edward,” she countered. “I haven’t said a word to either of them in months. I trust you. It’s you we have to keep secret…so whatever you want to do…”
Smiling, I dropped my forehead to hers, though her statement seemed to have more meaning. If she trusted me – especially enough to talk aloud – then did she not trust her own parents? I wasn’t going to ask her that just yet, but it made my desire to hear their minds all the stronger.
“I’ll think about it, Bella. I promise,” I vowed. “I’m afraid I can’t hide how I feel about you, so coming in as your tutor may be a bad idea.”
“Or you could, just not as a twenty-two-year-old.”
My eyebrows shot up, but she had a point. I could dress the part of an eighteen-year-old taking a year off before college. But I simply said, “We’ll see.” Frowning, I sighed deeply, shaking my head. “See, love…these are the things I was telling you. It’s not easy – lying, deceiving – and you’re still human, with parents to consider, a life to live…”
“I don’t care!” she countered forcefully, shaking her head. “Don’t all relationships come with sacrifice and compromise?”
A laugh barked out of me. “Yes, though usually it’s not so life or death, Bella. It’s where to go on dates, or who’s a dog person versus cat. Or the radio station you listen to in the car. Not whether to lie to your parents about the fact that your boyfriend is a hundred and twenty-two-year-old immortal whose diet mainly centers around deer and moose.”
Bella cracked up, and I had to admit as I chuckled with her that it was the sweetest sound.
“It’s just…not right, love,” I finished, still smiling as she giggled.
She shrugged a shoulder. “I only know how you make me feel, Edward. Everything else is…” She trailed off, but I understood what she was trying to say, though her eyebrow rose. “Boyfriend?”
It was my turn to shrug a shoulder. “It seems meager, that word, but…it’s as good as any, I suppose. You’re more than that, Bella.” She leaned in, but I stopped her, saying, “I can’t kiss you, love…”
“Can’t? Or won’t?” she asked, her cheeks blushing the sweetest pink.
“I can, and I want to. Badly.”
She stayed quiet, looking up at me with hurt in her eyes. “But…”
“But I’m not going to…yet.” She started to back away, but I held her close. “Bella, listen to me. We’ve discussed a lot of things in this room today. A lot of truths came out, but most importantly, you’ve come so far. I need you to take this Christmas break to think about everything.”
“And you think a kiss will change something?” she argued.
“I know it will,” I whispered, wanting it more than anything in my life. “Sweetheart, you must understand that…everything about us pulls you in – smell, voice, looks. The…The night I was changed, Maria was like a magnet…it was like I was put under a spell when she kissed me. She could’ve done anything to me at that point, and she did. I want you…truly, but I want you to think about what it means. Please. This…This is important to me.”
“Does my…blood bother you?”
“No, love. I just want you sure…about everything.”
She seemed to think for a moment, but nodded. “Okay,” she finally conceded, though she looked adorably disgruntled about it, so I opted to distract her.
“I have something for you,” I told her, smiling a little. “Your Christmas present.”
“I haven’t…”
“I don’t need a thing, just you, but I wanted you to have something,” I told her, getting up from the floor and walking to the desk. Reaching inside the middle drawer, I pulled out a small wrapped gift and walked back to her. I sat down on the sofa, patting the cushion beside me and handing it over. “I just…well, you’ll see.” I smiled when she carefully ripped the paper and cracked open the little velvet box. “I wanted to add to your bracelet.”
She gasped, pulling out the charm. It was a heart, sparkling in the firelight. I took it from her, attaching it next to the piano, only to kiss her wrist.
“It was my mother’s,” I told her in a whisper against her skin. “I wanted you to have it.”
I supposed it was symbolic at this point. She knew everything about me – what I was, what it would take to be with me – so I was giving her my heart for safekeeping, and she still looked up at me with loving, sweet tears in her eyes.
“No tears,” I begged. “Too many of those today, love.”
She nodded, swiping them away. “I love it. It’s beautiful. Thank you.”
Her phone vibrated across my table, and she smirked and sighed at the same time. “Alice, I’m sure. I promised we’d pack together and then eat dinner later.”
“Go, Bella,” I said, kissing the top of her head. “I’ll see you during your break…”
She smiled, finishing with me. “If not sooner.”


aelita48 said...

Bella and Edward admitted their feelings.
I like very much the discussion that they had.
Thank you.

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