Monday, May 26, 2014 | By: Drotuno

Masen Manor Chapter 21 & Pics

Chapter 21
March 2002
Rain pelted my clothes, the raindrops feeling like dull needles against my skin as I ran, but I pushed forward. Voices of anger and panic boomed in my head, calling out silent instructions, warnings, and advice. Being the fastest, I had the advantage, but I was beginning to think Carlisle was correct in his theory that Victoria had some sort of talent. She could evade like nothing I’d ever seen before.
A blue-gray streak of lightning lit the sky and with it, the flaming red hair of the woman I was chasing. Her thoughts were simple, easy. She thought only about the next step and the next, but she made decisions so quickly, I’d lose a step or two to keep up with her. Her laugh was crazed and evil. I could just barely catch the scent of Alice on her, but it was wearing thin, especially with the rain washing it away.
I’m on your left…your left! Jasper thought to me. Carlisle’s circling around in front. But Edward, we gotta catch her soon. Jake needs a break…food. Soon, he won’t be any good to us.
I growled my answer. I knew he was right. Where Jasper, Carlisle, and I would never tire, Jacob was a different story. He could go longer than humans without food or sleep, but not days. And we were pushing almost thirty-six hours of continuous hunting, which included finding, fighting, and killing James.

Thursday, May 22, 2014 | By: Drotuno

Masen Manor Chapter 20 & Pics

Chapter 20
March 2002
The scent of rain weighed heavily in the air. The storm that was approaching would be harsh and long-lasting. The wind wasn’t too bad, but it stirred up scents from all around us.
Jasper and I skirted along the edge of the woods, keeping our senses completely open. He was a ball of nervous energy, and his thoughts were no better. If anyone understood, it was me. I’d felt the same way when Bella had gone home for Christmas break. I hadn’t been sure what she’d walk into concerning her parents, so I’d been a wreck trying to keep her safe, to keep my eyes on her almost the whole time.
All of this was new to Jasper, though. Now that he’d allowed himself to get close to Alice, there was no going back, and her humanity, while he cherished it, was a nightmare to him. Anything could happen – accidents, car wreck, meteor shower. I glanced over at him over the last one, but hell, the girls could trip and fall down the many staircases at Masen, and there wouldn’t be much we could do about it unless we were glued to their sides at all times.
Thunder rolled overhead, and I stopped us just outside of Hunter’s Lake. I could smell the lake water off to our right, the new spring leaves in the trees, and the foul scent of humans. It met my nose all at once. I grimaced at the smell of grease from the diner, gasoline from the station on the corner, and the sweet aroma of blood in the air. My throat burned, but it wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle. I’d been ignoring it for decades. From Jasper’s thoughts, the blood was barely a blip on the radar; he really just wanted to find the first trace of Alice.
The main strip of town was our goal. The students from school kept the small businesses in the black. Hunter’s Lake was rare with its lack of chain restaurants, bookstores, and clothes shops. Everything was privately owned and operated.
“Where would she go?” Jasper asked aloud, his eyes sharp on every face he could see.
I shook my head. “Bella says the bookstore is their favorite place, but Alice also likes the tea shop on the end.”
“We can’t get there,” he grumbled, eying the sunlight that seemed to sporadically shine across the street.
“No, we can wait.” I gazed around us, trying to find a better location. “There. C’mon.”
We moved cautiously but quickly, trying to stay silent. There was a group of kids making their way up the sidewalk toward the diner. Their thoughts were erratic, not one of them focused on Alice, but they were worried about the coming rain and staying dry.
Leaning back against the closest tree, I let my ability to read minds stretch out as far as it could. I flinched at the noise, the chaos that hit me, from the inane to the littlest detail. It was everything from school-boy crushes to orders being filled at the diner. Shaking my head, I gripped my hair. All I wanted was to find Alice, if only for Jasper’s peace of mind.
I glared at the sky, begging for the clouds to finally cover the sun completely; I wanted us to be able to move through the town freely, but it was going to take a few more minutes, despite the fat drops that were starting to fall in the distance.
Finally…I can teach that psycho bitch a lesson…
My head whipped around, my growl breaking the silence around us. Jasper straightened up, completely alert.
I shook my head, stealthily working my way through the trees. “I saw Alice through Jessica Stanley’s mind,” I whispered in reply. “We’re on the wrong side of town. Move!” I ordered, running as quickly as I could to get to the opposite side of Main Street. However, we had to stay to the trees, and it was the longer way.
The wind kicked up as the rain started to come down. It would be safe for us to step out into public, but just as I rounded the U-shaped bend of town, a scent caught my nose.
“Aw, hell no!” Jasper growled, glaring up at me.
I asked the question he wasn’t able. “Follow that immortal scent? Or stick with Alice?”
He shook his head, his breathing heavy, but he finally came to some sort of decision, because he took off on the trail of the vampire we’d been tracking since Jacob had caught his scent just outside my property’s gate. I could understand his reasoning. To chase the vampire who had been hunting upstate New York would keep the bastard away from town…and more importantly, away from Alice.
Following Jasper’s lead, I pulled out my phone, dialing Carlisle.
“Oh, we have a problem, Carlisle,” I muttered low. “We caught that scent again in the woods outside Hunter’s Lake. But I need your help.”
“Talk to me, Edward. I’m already heading into town. One of the kids slipped and fell. Jacob called me, and I’ve got a sprained wrist to attend to.”
“Have you seen Alice?” I asked him.
“No, but Jacob drove the van back with most of the students. I’m with Brady. Jake told me to wait for the few who didn’t show up on time to go back to school.”
“Don’t tell me…”
“Yes, Alice was one of them. I thought she was staying inside the castle with Bella.”
“She was!” Jasper snarled, but it wasn’t out of anger. It was nothing but nerves.
“Okay, when I’m done here, I’ll take a look around town,” he vowed.
“Look for Stanley and Newton. I think they were planning something, and they probably took advantage of Jacob’s distraction with Brady. I only caught a brief glimpse of it before we crossed this scent,” I told him. When he said he would, I ended the call.
Jasper took lead, even though I was faster than he was. It was easier to plan and plot if he were making the calls silently to me. It helped that Jasper had a military mind – meticulous and deadly.
The scent grew stronger the farther north we went, but it wound around, zig-zagging all over the place. It was the same problem we’d had when trying to track it before. We’d learned of the missing man in Woodland, and the same scent saturated the last place he’d been seen. When we’d tried to track it, it went everywhere, and we’d finally given up when we ended up almost in Canada.
Leaving Jasper on the ground, I took to the trees, trying to get a bird’s-eye view of the forest around us. We’d been on the hunt now for a little over an hour. We were completely soaked with the rain that was coming down heavily.
Jasper scaled the tree next to mine, and we took a moment to assess where we were.
When my phone rang in my pocket, I answered it. “Carlisle...”
“Where are you?” he asked.
“About forty miles north of the school, but it feels like we’re winding back toward you. Why?”
“We have a…situation, son,” he hedged, and I knew him well enough to know to wait, rather than press him immediately for answers. “I found the trail you followed. The problem is, there’s two of them, Edward. Two separate scents. And the second one…crossed paths with Alice.”
I closed my eyes at the sound of misery that erupted out of Jasper. He lost complete control over his emotions. I felt it all – worry, anger, love, and fear. The latter was the most difficult to handle coming from him, because he was one of the calmest, most level-headed men I knew.
Jumping across to his tree, I caught him before he could take off. “Stop!” I growled, leveling him with a glare. “Stop, brother. We have to reassess.”
His face was tortured, but he nodded, keeping watch around us as I turned back to my conversation with Carlisle.
“We need…Jacob. We need you. Talk to me…”
“From what we could figure out, Newton and Stanley followed Alice. They were planning to do something to her. It was supposed to be a prank, but it ended up going badly. They cornered her on the high embankment of the lake. Somehow, she slipped down…”
Somehow,” I growled low, my lip curling in hatred. “Those two…I swear to God, Carlisle…”
“Believe me, I know. Esme’s already called not only their parents, but the police.” His voice stalled out for a moment. “Edward…I went down the embankment. I looked for her. I couldn’t smell her, but I thought maybe…she’d gotten hurt, crawled somewhere…” He sighed deeply. “That’s when I caught the scent. It’s another immortal, son. There are two, and it seems they’re working together. I’m trying to track the second one.”
“Where’s Bella?” I asked, unable to stop myself. She was Alice’s best friend, and I knew my girl was probably losing her mind.
“She’s with Esme. She’s perfectly safe.”
I sighed in relief and, shaking my head at him, gripped Jasper again before he could bolt from my sight. “Okay, I need Jacob. I need his help. Please! These two must be stopped, dammit.”
“He should be on his way to you. The second vampire is leading me west. I’ll keep you posted,” he stated and then hung up.
I stared at my phone, seeing I’d missed a call from Bella. I was just about to put it back into my pocket when it rang again. Smacking Jasper, I jumped to the forest floor at the same time I answered the call.
“I know, love.” I frowned at the small whimper that escaped her through the phone. “Just stay with Esme, and we’ll keep you posted.” I hung up the phone quickly, afraid that if I stayed on the phone with her longer, I’d either miss a scent or thought...or turn around and run back to the school and to Bella.
I turned around to see Jasper trying like hell to catch the scent again, but the rain wasn’t helping. Pushing my wet hair back, I listened intently, smiling when I caught thoughts in the distance. They were familiar, yet…not.
“James,” I growled, shaking my head, and I took off in the direction from which the mind came.
Jasper let me lead, though he noted mentally that we were heading back toward Hunter’s Lake. I smiled at the brief glimpse we both caught up ahead. It blurred through the shrubbery, taking to the trees. I followed up into the treetops, but Jasper stayed on the ground below.
The closer we got, the more I could see James’s plan. Carlisle was right; there was someone working with him. I saw a woman with flaming red hair, but I also caught the game he was playing. He was leading us on a wild goose chase…on purpose.
I used my speed to catch up to him, countering his thoughts, which gave me advantages for which he wasn’t prepared. He countered to my right, but I saw his plan, finally able to reach out and tackle him to the rain-soaked ground below. We fell heavily to the forest floor, shaking the trees around us. It would’ve sounded like thunder to human ears.
“James, stop!” I snarled, pinning him to the ground.
His laughter was slightly evil and maniacal. “Oh ho! Eddie-boy! I was wondering how long it would take, my old friend,” he said with a laugh.
I eyed the man that had been my closest friend as a human. We’d grown up together, attended the same church, the same parties...the same grammar school, even. He’d been handsome then, with blond hair and an easy smile, a bad boy that drove the girls crazy. His change into immortality made all of that into something deviant and nasty. He was a killer. He relished being a killer. He loved what he’d become.
Something else came through his change. Jealousy. He hadn’t been able to go to school with me. He’d never attended college. Instead, he’d wined and womanized almost the entire town and some surrounding ones. He’d wasted his life on drink and girls. He’d hated me once we grew up, and I never knew it.
“We’re not friends anymore, James,” I sighed, keeping him pinned to the ground. “Are we?”
“God, Ed…you’re such a pussy,” he snapped, rolling his red eyes and shoving me off him. We were on our feet in an instant, and I could hear Jasper circling us, keeping watch. “You were always so damn soft! No wonder your dad couldn’t stand the sight of you! He’d hate what you’ve done to his house!”
Grinning, I laughed. “I hope so.”
“All those humans… You could be feeding like kings, and you...what? Feed on animals?!” he scoffed, rolling his eyes again, his mind trying to wrap around the absurdity of it.
We circled one another, and I knew he was biding his time. Red hair flashed across his thoughts, along with the hope that she’d gotten away. Try as I might, I couldn’t see the wheres or hows of it all, so I focused back on James. I also couldn’t allow him to know my talent, but I could lead him with questions in order to get him to trip up.
“The immortal with you…you must leave this area, James. You can’t hunt here.”
“I wanted to see you, Eddie,” he chortled, shaking his head. “You can’t blame me for that.”
“Then why not just come to me? Why all these games? I can’t allow you near my home, James. It’ll never happen,” I warned him.
That seemed to anger him even more, and his thoughts filled with memories. I kept my face blank of expression as I saw how he’d woken up from his change alone, scared, and ignorant of what he’d become. He’d been confused and angry, even more than me. The enhancement of our senses had been enough to drive him insane. He didn’t understand any of it, and Maria had left him someplace dark, someplace unknown to him. I saw a cabin surrounded by trees and rocks.
Once he’d awakened, he’d taken off into the night, running as far and as fast as his new immortal legs could carry him. Through his mind, I watched things that made me sick, things that made me ashamed to know him. I saw uncontrollable thirst, deviant behavior, and finally, the face of another vampire, one with dark skin and long dreadlocks. The surge of knowledge, the power, the strength – it was all combined to give James an ego even larger than he’d had when he was human. Once he’d been able to think clearly, he’d come to look for me, but it had been a few years later and Masen Manor was empty.
“How’d you… Who changed you?” he asked, sneering at me as he tried to fight his memories in his mind.
“That bitch!” he snarled, but grinned at the same time.
“Yes, well… She was a busy woman,” I muttered wryly.
“Did you hit that? ’Cause she was…”
“No. She attacked me that same night, James. She bit me, but was destroyed before she could kill me.”
“Good. Devil woman,” he murmured, but he locked his scarlet eyes on me, a smirk gracing his lips. “So, the good doctor, huh?” he asked, but I didn’t answer him. He snorted, nodding a little. “Yeah, I figured that out quickly. While you were able to keep everything,” he said, waving a hand around him with a foul smile, “I lost it all. Ain’t that sweet? You got to keep it all. Hell, you barely lost anything, but I was hiding in the shadows like a rat, scavenging to keep from losing my mind…”
“We looked for you,” I told him, frowning at the jealousy that Jasper was feeling. It was twisted and thick, practically another limb. And from his mind, he’d fed it, nurtured it, turning what used to be a decent friendship into pure, vile hatred…of me.
It was then I saw it – his plan. He’d been close by, and he wanted to see Hunter’s Lake. However, he’d caught the scent of immortals in his old home town. He’d caught the flavor of Bella and Alice. He’d wanted them. He’d seen them as prey…and revenge. Two pretty human girls, both covered in an immortal scent – he’d been unable to resist. It had angered the woman with him, but she’d done as he’d commanded. Bella had never appeared back in town unprotected. Alice, however, had shown up today.
“You have to leave this area, James,” I warned him again, “and take your friend with you.”
“What’s the matter? Afraid for your little human snack?”
I sighed, shaking my head. “She’s not… James, she’s my mate. I can’t allow you anywhere near her.” I shrugged a shoulder. “If I have to kill you right here, then so be it, but you’ll never see her.”
“Mate!” James cackled, his head falling back. “Oh boy, Eddie the romantic… You always were scared of fucking. You wanted a wife, when you could’ve had all the pussy you could handle. You always turned them down, Ed, but me…I took care of that shit. Let me guess... You’re actually letting her stay human?!” When I didn’t answer him, he snorted in derision. He grinned again, leaning back against a tree trunk. “Ah, but that other one…her blood is sweet,” he sang, shaking his head back and forth. “Hard to resist such a call…like a siren.”
It was all Jasper could do to stay in the trees. He wanted to rip James to shreds in order to find Alice. My brow furrowed at what James was saying. Alice’s blood had called to him, sang for him. It made him mad with thirst, no matter how much he’d fed prior to seeing her.
“I couldn’t go anywhere near her, but I had to have her. The scent of her alone was enough to make me wanna drain the whole fucking town,” he said with laughter. “I’ll have her, though…anytime now…”
Shaking my head, I stepped closer. “I can’t let you do this, James. Your…partner, they’re being tracked as we speak. They’ll be stopped just the same as you are.”
James panicked for a moment. He wondered how many there were of us. He wanted to know how we could’ve tracked him and…Victoria at the same time. Finally catching her name in his thoughts was interesting. They weren’t mated, though he let her think they were. It was why he’d changed her. She’d been enamored with him, and he’d been lonely, so he’d done it out of curiosity and cruelty. Together, they’d destroyed the immortal with the dreadlocks simply for fun.
He made me sick. All the times I’d laughed at his ways when we were human suddenly weren’t all that funny. Where I’d thought him brazen and worldly, he really was a monster.
I inhaled deeply, smirking at the scent that put James on alert. He stiffened at the potency of Jacob’s smell. It was worse in the rain. It was heavy, thick, and downright frightening if you weren’t used to it. A fleeting thought through James’s mind told me that the scent of Jake had unnerved him the first time he’d caught it. That was why he’d stayed away, stayed just out of reach this whole time.
Jasper, however, could take no more.
“Where is she?!” he snarled, tackling James and taking down several trees at the same time.
“Long gone,” he grunted back as they wrestled to the ground.
Edward, where you want me? Jacob asked silently.
I shook my head, holding up a finger as I circled the two now wrestling on the forest floor. They were similar in some ways – both tall, both blond, and both very tenacious. The difference came when Jasper’s talent made its appearance. He countered James’s hatred with fear. He turned determination into self-doubt. He was also skilled in fighting our kind, deadly and precise. However...
“Jasper, he won’t tell you,” I finally admitted. “He’ll die before he does.”
That made James fret for a moment, wondering how I knew that. It gave Jasper the advantage, and the sound of a metallic-like ripping echoed through the woods. Jasper stood up, holding James’s arm in his hands. He panted, shaking from head to toe. He needed Alice back. The thought of her with a vampire was about to push him over the edge of his sanity. He radiated guilt and worry.
Jacob stepped heavily into the small clearing the others had just created with their fight. Paws thumped to the ground, squishing through the mud and dead leaves. James’s eyes widened as he held the place where his arm had once been.
“Keep that thing away from me!” he yelled, pushing himself back with his legs.
“Tell me where Victoria took Alice,” I ordered, coming to stand next to Jacob. “Maybe we’ll let you live,” I lied smoothly.
“I don’t know!” he screamed, wincing when Jacob pounced and landed on his legs. I heard one snap under the pressure.
“He’s lying!” Jasper snarled.
“I know,” I murmured, tilting my head at James. “Where’s that cabin you keep thinking of?”
I didn’t have a choice but to reveal my talent. I needed answers, and soon. His reaction was unexpected, but he launched himself at me, and even without one appendage, he pushed me hard. A large pine creaked as he pressed me into it.
“Tell me where she is!” I growled, using every bit of strength I had to push at James as his teeth snapped near my throat.
“No!” he hissed back, his grimace turning into a wicked grin as he shoved off of me and took a step or two back. “She’s mine. Though, I doubt Victoria will be able to resist her much longer.”
There was a rush of voices in my mind as James continued to grin my way. Jasper and Jake were begging silently for instructions and information, but James was calm. He was never going to tell me where Victoria would’ve taken Alice, though he didn’t completely trust the redhead in his thoughts.
It was that thought that made me sag in defeat. It didn’t matter that James was the key to finding Alice; he would never tell us. I pushed away from the now-splintered pine, shaking my head at Jasper. I heard James shift a little in place, heard his plan to attack.
However, Jacob moved in an instant. He was a flash of red fur, white teeth, and a shaking head. His large mouth caught James at just the perfect point: his head. The sound of immortal bone and flesh crushing in his bite was unnerving.
Jacob’s snarl was menacing as he shook his head back and forth.
“Jake, no!” I cried out, hoping to stop him before he ended things, but I flinched when the sound of James’s cry was suddenly cut off.
I locked gazes with Jasper for a moment, but then looked to Jacob, who sat down on his haunches and glared at the remains of the immortal on the forest floor.
He looked disgusted, but his thoughts were apologetic. Sorry, Edward, but he was aiming for your head.
Gripping my hair, I nodded wearily. “I know. Thank you.” I looked down at James, memories of our friendship now tainted and twisted.
“I could’ve gotten the information out of him!” Jasper snarled, shoving at Jacob.
Without removing my eyes from James, I said, “He wasn’t going to tell us.” I sighed. “I’m not really sure he trusts the woman with him.”
With a frustrated and heartbreaking roar, Jasper kicked James’s torso sending it a few feet away.
“I’m glad you’re on our side, Jake,” I murmured, smirking when he snorted, shook himself all over, and held a giant paw out to me. I knocked it away with a grin, but it faded quickly as I looked over to Jasper. “We need to burn what remains,” I stated sadly, but left him to do it. I pulled out my phone, hoping the rain hadn’t ruined it.
“Edward,” Carlisle answered immediately.
“It was James,” I stated with a weary sigh. “He is…no more.”
“That’s most unfortunate,” he countered, and I could hear him running. “I’ve tracked this scent all over the west. It’s a woman.”
“Her name’s Victoria. She was traveling with James. Carlisle, Alice was James’s singer,” I told him. “They planned this; they’d been waiting for the right time.”
“I’d say you’re right. I’ve lost Alice’s scent. This vampire is fast – talented, I think. She evades like nothing I’ve ever seen. And at one point, I lost her. I think she hid the girl somewhere.”
“We’ll come to you,” I stated, taking off into the woods, and Jasper and Jacob followed, leaving the purple smoke billowing behind us. “She can’t evade all of us.”
Esme’s office was chaos. There was no other way to describe it. There was arguing and yelling, police radios constantly squawking, and people in and out of the room. I sat off in the corner as angry, nervous, tense voices reached loud volumes.
Esme had kept me with her, though hardly anyone paid me much attention. My heart, my mind, they were both on Alice and Edward. While my Edward continuously reassured me that he was “human proof,” the thought of him hunting some angry vampire made me nervous. Immortal was a terrible description of what they were. They simply lived forever, never growing old, never getting sick, but they could, in fact, be killed.
My fingers sought out the crystal heart on my charm bracelet as I sent silent prayers to whoever would listen. I needed my own vampire back in one beautiful piece, but I also needed him to find my best friend. It was hard to reconcile in my head. I loved them both.
“I said sit down!” Esme stated forcefully from behind her large desk. Her golden glare darkened as she eyed Jessica and Mike. She turned to the man in uniform. “Sheriff Harland, they’re all yours,” she told him with barely contained disdain.
I gazed around the room, shaking my head. Mike’s mother had arrived, as had Jessica’s father. The latter came with his own team of people. However, they were all relegated to the waiting area. The sheriff had already started the search in Hunter’s Lake, along with a few of the town’s volunteers, men who knew the woods.
They’d found where Alice had fallen down the embankment of the lake. All that was left behind were the scrapes where she’d slipped down the muddy side and a receipt from the bookstore where Alice had ordered a book…on tarot cards and their meanings. I closed my eyes at that. She could’ve asked someone to do it for her. She could’ve said something, but instead, she left the castle after Jasper and I had begged her not to. I couldn’t decide if I was more hurt or angry at her, but I simply wanted the chance to yell at her.
“Tell me again, Miss Stanley… What happened in town?” Sheriff Harland asked. His voice, while calm, was filled with impatience.
“It was just a joke!” Jessica whined, rolling her eyes. “It’s not my fault that psycho lost her shit…”
I huffed, glaring at her.
“What? You got something to say, freak?” Jessica asked, smirking my way. “Oh, right…you can’t.”
The attention turned to me and made me shake with the intense stares.
“Isabella can’t speak,” Esme gently told the sheriff.
His eyes raked down to my scar, and his eyes softened a bit. He gave me a small, wavering smile and a single nod. “Can you write?”
I nodded, taking the paper that Esme was handing me. I quickly wrote all the threats, warnings, and mishaps that had occurred with Mike and Jessica and then handed it over.
When Esme read it, she told the officer that it was true, that she’d seen some of those things. The sheriff read the short paragraph, frowning down at Jessica and Mike. He handed the paper over to Jessica’s father. Once Jessica saw what I’d written, she exploded.
“You little fucking liar!” she snapped, starting to stand up, but the sheriff stepped in her way.
“It would be in your best interest to sit down,” he urged with menace in his voice. “Right now, you’re a suspect in a missing person case, not to mention you’re most likely looking at assault charges. I don’t think you want to add to that list. You are a legal adult, and I will treat you as such. Am I making myself perfectly clear, Miss Stanley?” When she nodded, he smiled. “Good. I’m going to ask you to stay around for a bit.”
“It won’t be inside my school,” Esme stated firmly, holding up her hand when voices rose again. “No, you’re done here. I want you out of this castle within the hour. I’ve made arrangements for all of you at the lodge in Hunter’s Lake. I’ve also taken the liberty to have the cleaning staff pack your things for you. They should be waiting by the front door.”
Sheriff Harland’s mouth twitched with a smile that he quickly hid away when he turned back to the two in question. “Good. That means I’ll know where to find you when I have more questions.”
Mrs. Newton and Mr. Stanley looked completely disgusted, defeated, and furious, and it seemed they didn’t know exactly which direction to aim all of that. They tried to plead their case to Esme, who wouldn’t have it. They started yelling at their children, who finally looked humbled. Mike and Jessica were speechless, with bowed heads, red faces, and lost expressions. For a split second, I saw remorse. Though I doubted it would last long. Talk of still getting them into Yale, despite the “wretched Cullen woman,” started as the two stood up from their chairs. Rose had been right; the two would go on with their lives, doing everything that was expected of them.
The radio crackled on the sheriff’s shoulder as Mike, Jessica, and their parents were led from the room, and he stepped out behind them to answer it. I heard the words “tire tracks” and “no witnesses.” The memory of my own past came back at me like a speeding train. My breathing picked up, something that Esme heard immediately.
“Bella, sweetheart…look at me,” she whispered once everyone was out of earshot, her cool hands cupping my face. She wasn’t Edward, but she was close enough. “You’re okay. Everyone’s doing their best. You’re safe.”
I shook my head. “But Alice…Jasper… Oh, God…Edward.
“Shh,” she soothed softly, kissing my fingers. “My boys…they’re strong and fast and smart. Even Jacob. They can handle themselves just fine. Don’t you worry about them. And I know Carlisle is doing his best to track Alice. Understand?”
Meeting her gaze, I nodded at her. “I’m scared.”
“Me, too, Bella. You and Alice have become very important to me, so I’m scared, too,” she concurred. “But I trust my family, and it’s time you learned to do the same. I’m pretty sure you’re not going anywhere.” She smirked, winking my way, which made me smile a little. “I think Edward’s kind of attached to you, so you can have faith that nothing would keep him from coming back to you. Or doing his absolute best to find Alice…for you and his brother. Okay?”
“Okay,” I whispered.
“Okay,” she sighed in relief. “Now, I need to help with appearances, Bella. I have to go into town with the sheriff to help with the search. The real hunt is happening miles from here, but they can’t know that. Now, I need you to do something for me.”
“I know. Stay inside the castle. Edward already said—”
She chuckled, kissing my forehead. “Yes, there’s that. But I need you to let me know when Alice’s family gets here. Can you call me?”
“Yes,” I said with a nod.
“Good. You and Rosalie can handle this office while I’m out with the search party.” She glanced up to see Rose standing there, ashen-faced and nervous. “And if it gets to be too much, I want you to go to my living quarters and stay there. Promise me.”
“Promise,” I vowed to her.
“Mrs. C, the staff has packed up everything out of Mike’s and Jessica’s rooms. It’s all in the foyer,” Rose stated. Her shaking hands didn’t go unnoticed; neither did the looming, worried presence of Emmett behind her.
“Thank you, Rose,” she said, standing up from her desk chair. “Please stay here and keep a watch out for Alice’s family. They’re on a plane as we speak.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Rose whispered.
“I wanna help, Mrs. C,” Emmett volunteered. “I’m good in the woods. Been huntin’ a few times…”
“No, Emmett,” she said softly, giving Rose a glance. “I think you’d be most effective here. Plus, I need you to make sure everyone stays in their dorms, outside of you three, including the staff. They’ve been instructed to remain inside the castle. I’m trusting you with this, son.”
He nodded, stepping out of her way and smiling when she patted his large shoulder. Once she was gone, he sat down in her desk chair.
“Oh, damn, Bella… What the hell happened?” he asked, and Rose walked to me when tears welled up in my eyes.
I shook my head, sitting down on Esme’s sofa. “Mike and Jessica…played a prank on Alice. Now, no one can find her.”
It was all I could say and the easiest explanation I could give them without revealing the truth. I couldn’t tell them that the missing people on the news were victims of a vampire. I couldn’t tell them that we had just discovered he wasn’t working alone. And I damn sure couldn’t tell them that it was quite possible we’d never see Alice again. I’d seen the fear in Esme’s face. She may have had faith in “her boys,” but she was terrified of what could’ve happened to Alice. The possibilities were only so few – Alice could simply be lost in the woods, something had taken her, or…she was never coming back.
That last thought had me on my feet pacing. I walked restlessly around the room as Emmett offered Rose what comfort he could. My eyes scanned Esme’s bookshelf, not really seeing titles, but I drank in the few pictures she had framed – her and Carlisle, Carlisle and Edward, and Jasper, Jacob, and Edward. They were obviously placed on the shelves for appearances’ sake, and they seemed to be recent, but the smiles, the love, the playfulness shown in them were all genuine. Edward was beautiful as he laughed with his brothers. Arms were slung casually around broad shoulders as they leaned into one another, and I found myself smirking at them, wondering just what was so damn funny. I made a note to myself to ask Edward, and I hoped I got the chance.
My nerves skyrocketed at that, and I ran from Esme’s office, slamming open her apartment door, just barely making it to the bathroom. I lost everything I’d eaten, a harsh, angry sob escaping me. I just wanted it all to go away. I wanted them all back inside the castle. I wanted to punch Jessica and Mike repeatedly for starting it all. I wanted to throttle Alice for going into town without telling me.
Warm hands gathered my hair up, and Rose knelt beside me, offering me a warm, wet cloth. “Take it easy, Bella,” she soothed.
“They need to find her,” I barely said aloud.
“I know. They’re trying.”
She lifted my face, gently cleaning me, and I saw that her pretty blue eyes were red-rimmed. She, like me, knew the dark possibility of the situation. We’d been the only ones sickened by the missing people of upstate New York. Our classmates…not so much. It was barely a blip on their radar. Their innocence and blissful ignorance allowed them to turn a blind eye to the harsh realities around us. But Rose and I were different. We knew ugly.
Once I was cleaned up, she helped me stand on shaky legs. She sat me down on Esme’s sofa, getting a drink from the kitchen.
“I know this is…rough on you. Probably more than me. You wanna just chill in here for a bit? I can let you know when I hear something.” Her voice was rough, but sincere. “I’m sure Mrs. C won’t mind.”
“No, she won’t mind,” I mumbled, sitting back against the cushions.
“You could sleep if you want. I have a feeling this’ll go all night; it’s already getting dark,” she sighed deeply, walking to the door.
We locked eyes at that fact and nodded to each other. She closed the door behind her on her way out, and I pulled out my phone, dialing Edward. Tears started anew when it went straight to his voice mail.
I didn’t leave a message. I also didn’t let go of my phone.
My eyes snapped open at the sound of loud, angry voices just outside the door. A glance at the clock made me groan; it was almost one in the morning. Rubbing my face, I stood up, my legs not exactly steady, but not as shaky as before. I still had a grip on my phone, which had stayed completely silent.
I opened the door to see Esme face to face with a large, sweaty man. Standing with him was a rather mousy-looking woman, a dark-haired girl around thirteen, and an elderly lady in a wheelchair. One look at the latter, and I knew Alice’s family had arrived. Grandma Brandon looked just like her granddaughter. Bright blue-green eyes, short dark hair with gray mixed in, and I could imagine that, had she been standing, she wouldn’t have been much taller.
“How can you lose a kid?!” the large man snapped, rolling his eyes. “My kid, especially!”
“Mr. Brandon, I can assure you, we’re doing everything we can to find her. The sheriff seems to think she got lost in the woods trying to find a way up from the lake. The location where she fell is very slippery and very high. However, the woods around it are dense, dark. It’s easy to get turned around,” Esme explained as calmly as she could. “They’ve brought in a helicopter, and some men have gone in on horseback. We all want to find Alice.”
“I want those two idiots punished,” he sneered, pointing behind him.
“That would be up to the sheriff, sir, but I completely agree with you,” Esme replied.
“You’d think she’d have seen it coming,” the younger girl muttered, flinching when her parents rounded on her. “What? They know!”
My eyebrows flew up at Alice’s sister, Cynthia, who looked a lot like Alice, only with darker eyes. Mr. and Mrs. Brandon looked mortified at that declaration, but Alice’s grandmother seemed proud, and I wondered just how much she knew.
Esme caught sight of me and smiled. “Ah, Bella…come. Meet Alice’s family.”
They all glared my way as I walked closer. Alice’s dad made me uneasy as he loomed tall in the hallway. Esme placed a soothing hand on my shoulder as the whole family examined me from head to toe, and as always, they found my scar across my neck.
“This is Bella Swan, Alice’s roommate and good friend,” she introduced me. “Bella, this is Mr. and Mrs. Brandon, their daughter, Cynthia, and Alice’s grandmother.”
“You can call me Grandma Mary,” the elderly woman said sweetly, moving her wheelchair closer. She held out her hand to me, and I shook it. “I’ve heard all about you, honey. You’re a good friend to my Mary Alice.”
I smiled, liking the old woman instantly.
“It’s nice to meet you, Bella,” Mrs. Brandon said, but worry was etched all over her face when she turned to Esme. “Please, Mrs. Cullen, can we get an update from the sheriff?”
“Yes, of course,” Esme agreed with a nod. “Would you all like to come?”
“No, no,” Grandma Mary hummed, shaking her head. “I’ll stay here. You can let me know what you find out. An old woman in a wheelchair will just slow everyone down.” Her voice wavered on that statement, but Esme smiled a little.
“Well, then… Bella, why don’t you take her to my living quarters. Perhaps you can get Mrs. Brandon something to drink. It’s late, so she can take my guest room.”
I nodded and smiled, gesturing to the hallway.
Before I closed the door, Esme stopped me, whispering, “I heard from Carlisle, sweetheart. He and the boys have…taken care of one threat. They’re tracking the other now. Edward’s phone…it didn’t make it – something about mud and water and a tree. He’s pretty upset that he can’t call you, but he passed on a message through Carlisle.”
My eyes widened, waving her on, which made her grin.
“He said to tell you he loves you, he’s doing his best, and that he won’t be back until he’s caught the other one…or found Alice, but that he will come back to you as soon as he can.” She tilted my head up with her fingers underneath my chin. “He wanted me to make sure I told you those things, but he’s fine, Bella.”
“Thank you,” I mouthed to her, and she smiled, tapping my chin and nodding.
“Show her to my spare room, okay? She’s welcome to rest all she needs,” she instructed just loud enough that Grandma Mary heard her. When I nodded, she gave my shoulder a squeeze. “And I would like you to get more rest. Rose told me what happened earlier. You can take my bedroom if you’d like.”
“No, I’d…” I started nervously, toying with my bracelet, specifically the heart. I didn’t want to offend her, but I wasn’t sure how much sleep I’d get, and I didn’t think I could bear to step into my dorm room, knowing Alice was out there in the rainstorm, possibly hurt or worse. “I want… I’d rather…”
Esme lowered to look me in the eye. “So…the east wing, then?” she asked, smirking when I nodded fervently. “Sounds like the safest place for you, but make sure you eat, and I’ll come find you when I hear something.”
She turned around, guiding the rest of Alice’s family away, and I stepped inside her apartment. Grandma Mary was waiting patiently for me, her eyes watery and her emotions now showing.
“Now, I know you don’t talk…at least to people you don’t know. Alice explained that much to me,” she started, smiling when I shook my head.
She rolled closer to me, taking my hand. Her fingers were crooked, misshapen from what looked to be arthritis, but they trailed gently along the charms on my bracelet. Her eyes closed as she made another pass over each charm, her brow furrowing once or twice. And I suddenly realized that Alice wasn’t the only one in the Brandon family who had an extra sense.
“That’s right. She got her gift of sight from me, though our gifts are not similar. They differ slightly. My Alice can’t see the past, but I can,” Grandma Mary murmured, her eyes opening to meet mine. She glanced down at my bracelet. “You’ve seen…too much, my young friend. Darkness and death and blood at such a young age. You couldn’t have been more than Cindy’s age…”
Frowning, I shook my head. “Thirteen,” I whispered in shock.
“Hmm, I see that.” She fondled the heart, her eyes closing. “But you’ve found…salvation, I see. Hope, too.” Her eyes opened, tears welling up in eyes that had probably seen so much in her long life. “And love. Endless love, I see.”
“What else do you see?” I asked softly, my heart aching to see Edward.
Grandma Mary’s eyes closed again, the tears slipping down her wrinkled cheeks. When they opened again, she sighed wearily and smiled sadly. “I see…what look to be angels,” she said, looking toward the window. “They have our Alice now.”
With that said, my world swirled into blackness, colors blending with the stars behind my eyes, and I knew no more.

Monday, May 19, 2014 | By: Drotuno

Masen Manor Chapter 19 & Pics

Chapter 19
January 2002
The sight of Leah standing in her doorway was unnerving.
“Get inside, my loves. We need to talk.” She opened the door wider for us, and her dark eyes locked with mine, though her thoughts were focused on the tea she had brewing on the stove.
“Leah,” I greeted her, kissing her cheek. “You remember Bella.”
Her face warmed incredibly at the mention of my girl. “I’m old, Edward, not senile,” she huffed, rolling her eyes and shooing me aside. “Though, if you keep taking this long to come and see me, I might just start forgetting you on purpose.”
Laughing, I moved out of the way to let her greet Bella, who was quite amused at our interaction. It showed in her sweet, dark eyes as she glanced between us, but Leah walked to her, cupping her face.
“My gracious,” the old woman murmured in awe. “You are not what I was expecting. You’re much more beautiful than I imagined. My grandmother would be proud at just how close she predicted you.”

Sunday, May 11, 2014 | By: Drotuno

Masen Manor Chapter 18 & Pics

Chapter 18
January 2002
Ignoring the sounds and smells of every student and staff member on the other side of the hidden passage walls, I made my way toward the auditorium as quickly as possible. I’d been back in Hunter’s Lake since really early this morning, but I’d had to avoid seeing my Bella. I knew the second I set eyes on her, I wouldn’t be able to control myself. I needed to touch her, kiss her, drown in the essence of her, but I couldn’t. I knew she had classes and tests.
I’d hunted instead of stalking the halls, taking down a few lynx and a couple of deer. I’d need to sate my thirst, if only to calm my temper concerning Demetri Brown. I needed to get control of myself before I saw Bella, or my instinct to claim her would overtake me. I’d been able to feel it building inside of me the whole drive back to Masen Manor from Boston.
Carlisle had joined me in the Adirondack Mountains for a few hours for the hunt. I’d given him the knife Tanya had absconded from Brown. We’d discussed all I’d discovered, and he’d told me that there had been no sign of James – or any other immortal – around the castle grounds while I was away.

Thursday, May 8, 2014 | By: Drotuno

Masen Manor Chapter 17 & Pics

Chapter 17
January 2002
“You gonna eat that?” Emmett asked, pointing to my dinner roll.
I popped the back of his hand with my fork, which made Rose laugh and shove him.
“Christ, Emmett, you act like you’re never gonna eat again!” she exclaimed, shaking her head. “Go get one from the line and leave people’s trays alone.”
The big guy merely grinned, unfolded his large form from the table, and walked away to the serving line. We all laughed when he returned with not just one extra roll, but a half dozen.
“Heart attack waiting to happen,” Rose muttered, rolling her eyes, but her endearing smile his way only made him grin bigger…and shove an entire roll in his mouth.

Monday, May 5, 2014 | By: Drotuno

Masen Manor Chapter 16 & Pics

Chapter 16
January 2002
As Bella played, I paced the stage, smirking at just how far she’d come in her piece. When she’d first arrived, it had felt about halfway finished, but now, it was almost complete. In fact, with a little bit more work, it would be done.
I leaned against the piano, watching my girl own that instrument. My eyes raked over the beautiful face of concentration, only to fall to the sheet music in front of me. It was good. Really good. When she stopped, I glanced up, shifting aside so she could change notes on the pages, but not enough that I couldn’t inhale the pure scent of her hair, her skin, or feel the warmth of her.
We’d been back at school for a couple of weeks. Her workload had picked right back up the very second classes had started back. It had taken us a little while to find some sort of routine, not only to be able to accommodate her studies, but to find time for us, as well. To those around us, I was still her piano tutor. In the east wing, we were just us – laughing, talking, kissing. It worked, but never seemed enough, though I blamed my instinctual makeup for always wanting more. The only regret that Bella seemed to have was the inability to tell Alice, though the tiny seer seemed content that Bella was happy.