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.”

Bella smiled, her blush tinting her cheeks, but she didn’t say anything. I knew it was a habit when it came to people she didn’t know. There were trust issues there, but I was pretty sure my girl was simply shy in certain situations. I had no problem with it either way.
“Bella-love, the truth, the past…it’s okay to be free inside this house. Even the truth about us, all right?” I told her, kissing the side of her head.
Bella looked to me and nodded, a small smile playing on her lips.
Leah smiled sweetly, nodding in agreement. “Come in, come in,” she chanted, gesturing to her table. “Bella, would you like some tea?”
“Please,” she whispered as I held a chair out for her, but Leah didn’t hear her.
“Yes, Leah,” I said, just a touch louder, taking a seat next to Bella. “Thank you.”
Leah glanced over her shoulder, wondering if Bella had spoken at all or if she merely hadn’t heard her, but when Bella thanked her when a steamy cup was set down, it was loud enough for Leah to hear it, which made her smile.
My eyes raked over the items on the table. It seemed Leah was searching the future. The crystal ball took prominence amongst the tarot cards and an empty tea cup. The old woman was really determined to see something.
“Leah,” I called, pointing to the table when she finally sat down with us. “What did you see?”
“Plenty, but I’ll get to that,” she sighed, smiling at us. “Just let me look at you two.”
I chuckled, glancing over at Bella. To see it in Leah’s mind was really amazing. She saw how we looked to one another, how we moved almost in-sync – things I’d never even noticed. She glanced down at her crystal ball, smiling. I stayed quiet, letting her take the lead.
“You remind me of Carlisle and Esme,” she noted, looking up. “Two souls intertwined, connected as they should be. No more secrets, no more hiding. That makes me happy, Edward.”
Grinning, I picked up Bella’s hand and kissed it. “Me, as well.”
“I see that,” she said, tapping a finger on the glass ball in front of her, giving Bella a wink. “You have a long road to travel, though.” She gathered her cards, shuffling them in her usual, specific way. She looked to Bella. “May I, sweet one?”
My girl smiled and nodded with wide eyes and a bite to her bottom lip. She was nervous, but I could see her relaxing a little more around the old gypsy woman.
Leah gestured to her tea. “Drink, drink… I’m gonna read those, too.”
“Something she can’t do with me, love…or Carlisle, for that matter,” I said with a light laugh.
“I’m sure. Special diet and all,” Bella teased me, sipping the warm, fragrant tea and making Leah giggle like a young girl.
Leah laid out the cards, humming to herself over how they fell. She glanced over to the crystal ball, her brow furrowing. In her mind, I saw it all, making me squeeze Bella’s hand and place the back of it against my lips. Yet, I waited, hoping Leah would explain what exactly all of it meant.
I leaned forward, eying the cards. The top card was Strength, which wasn’t surprising where Bella was concerned. The card next to it was Justice, and it made me nervous, but the last two fell just like mine had, only backwards. Love, then Death.
“Leah…” I whimpered a little.
“Would you just wait, oh impatient one?” Leah practically growled at me. “I’m not done yet. And you’re jumping to conclusions again, my sweet boy. Please settle down.” She rolled her eyes to Bella. “He’s always in such a hurry. This stuff takes time.”
Bella giggled at her, looking to me, only to lean in and kiss my cheek. That act alone calmed me to my very bones, and I let out a deep sigh.
She’s so good for him, Leah thought to herself. No one could calm him like that before, not even Esme.
Smirking, I ignored it. Leah had never been a huge fan of my mind-reading capability. I tried to respect that as much as I could. She’d known about it since she was really young, could take advantage of it when necessary, but had felt invaded as she’d gotten older. It really was invasive, but I couldn’t help it.
Leah studied her crystal ball. Again, red immortal eyes flickered in her mind, as did the large white wings. My mouth fell open at the stunning picture in Leah’s thoughts, and I made a note to draw it. Bella’s face now appeared in the vision, where before, there had been no identity. She was wrapped around me from the side, with large wings enveloping me in such a loving embrace that it was almost erotic, especially considering there wasn’t a stitch of clothes on either of us. But the most notable thing was that Bella’s eyes weren’t the warm, sweet chocolate. They were golden and immortal and piercing. They were stunning.
“Oh,” I gasped, my eyebrows launching up high on my forehead, which made Leah snort at me in amusement.
“Not bad, right?” she asked, still laughing at me.
“No, that’s… God, that’s just…” My words failed me, and I could only shake my head and claw at my hair at just how badly I wanted that. I would never rush it, but to see it just about made me growl out loud.
Well, that explains her Death card, sweetie, Leah thought to me, her eyes twinkling with mirth. It’s most likely the explanation for one of yours. Is it okay to discuss this with her?
“Of course,” I said with a nod.
Bella glanced between us, asking, “What? Is it bad?”
“No, love,” I assured her, kissing her fingers. “Leah will explain.”
Leah smiled warmly at Bella, sipping her tea. “Sweet one, has Edward told you about my grandmother’s original prediction?”
“Yes, ma’am,” she replied honestly. “She saw his parents, his change, and…me.”
Leah beamed, making me chuckle. “Exactly.” She tapped the Death card. “This card, when it comes down to it, could mean actual death…or like in Edward’s case, his change into immortality. It’s hard to narrow down for me, but the crystal ball can clarify. I use more than one source to access the future. Are you finished with your tea?”
Bella nodded, handing her cup over.
Leah swirled the dregs around a few times, frowning at the cup, but she set it aside. Her thoughts were adding everything up.
“Okay,” she sighed, smiling and setting her elbows on the table. “You two…” She chuckled, shaking her head. “I see a very long life between you. There’s strength, which you have in abundance, Bella,” she noted, tapping that card, “but there’s justice in your future. Retribution will be yours, but I see you acquiring it…together. That’s important.” She pushed the Love card toward Bella. “Together, you two are…unbreakable.”
Bella’s eyes widened. “I’ve…I’ve had dreams like that. I was…me, but not. Edward was there, but so were the…”
“The men who hurt you,” Leah finished for her, nodding a little when Bella did. “Yes, I can imagine that connecting to your soul mate would change everything. Fear is no longer necessary, and you no longer fight alone. These things are important. You must believe in it.”
“I do,” Bella vowed, looking to me. “Completely.”
I kissed her forehead, humming in agreement, but wished it was her lips. I wanted to leave them kiss-bruised and hungry with how this reading had turned out. Though, I knew from Leah’s thoughts it wasn’t over just yet.
Leah sat up straight, her face sobering up a little. “I see the two of you the same, not right away, but together as one. I see all past debts are settled for you, Bella.” She looked to the tea leaves in the bottom of Bella’s cup. “But I see…loss. Not permanent, but loss all the same. I can’t tell if it’s death or simply someone leaving you for a bit of time. I don’t think it’s Edward, though I’ve seen him traveling a bit in past readings. This is the missing of something. Edward is a steadfast presence.” She tapped the love card again.
Bella’s shoulders sagged a little, and my head spun to gape at her.
“You thought—”
“No!” she quickly stopped me. “It’s just…a fear, Edward. It’s always there. Especially when you leave the castle.”
I cupped her face. “I will always come for you. Don’t you ever doubt it. Okay?” I begged her, sighing in relief when she nodded vehemently.
Leah chuckled at us, but smiled when we glanced her way. Bella leaned into me, laughing nervously.
“Leah,” I said, wrapping my arm around my girl’s shoulders. “The ruby eyes…can you tell this time who they belong to?”
Bella stiffened beneath my touch, but I continued to watch Leah, rubbing a soothing hand up and down Bella’s arm.
“No, I can’t. I’m sorry, Edward.”
Frowning, I shook my head. It was that vision that worried me the most. I wasn’t sure whose red eyes those were. In my mind, I guessed at the possibilities – James, Bella, even my own. The latter scared me. I couldn’t see myself losing that much of my control. I’d been fighting my instincts for decades upon decades. I’d grown accustomed to who I’d become, to how I lived.
“Now,” Leah said, gathering all her cards and stacking them to the side. “The reason I saw you coming was that I was reading Jacob’s future.” She grinned at me, wrinkles crinkling the corners of her eyes. “I’m his mother. He’s not too old to check on.” Her smile fell quickly, though. “I see conflict in his future. I see a hunt and a fight. Edward, I think your mysterious visitor may return.”
I nodded, assuming that was the case. “I’ll keep watch over him, Leah. You have my word.”
“Well, make sure you watch over everyone. Hmm?”
“I’ll do my best,” I promised her, standing up from the table. I leaned over and kissed her cheek.
“Thank you, Leah.” Bella stood up, but held out her hand to shake the older woman’s.
Leah had other things in mind; she pulled Bella into a motherly hug, causing Bella to smile sweetly.
“You are…most welcome, Bella. And you come see me anytime you wish, even without Mr. Impatient,” she rambled, giving me a wink.
“Leah, for now, I’d rather Bella not come alone,” I hedged, shrugging a shoulder.
She paused, but nodded. “Perhaps you’re right.” She turned back to Bella. “Well, the offer still stands.”
Bella smiled. “Thank you.”
We stepped outside the cottage where the afternoon had worn on. The sun was starting to sink low behind the thick clouds. Linking my fingers with Bella’s, I guided her toward the underground entrance.
“What did you see?” Bella asked. “You looked…shocked.”
Grinning, I looked at her. “I’ll draw it for you, love. It was…beautiful.”
Bella giggled, standing up on her toes to kiss me. “Then I can’t wait.”
February 2002
The snap of my teeth and the thump of my forehead to the tile wall echoed in my bathroom. My eyes squeezed closed as my hand wrapped around me.
It wouldn’t take long. It never did. I was completely on edge all the time, it seemed. The urge to claim my mate, to make her mine, was becoming unbearable to resist. If I’d thought the pull to Bella was strong when she first entered the castle, then I was truly a fool. She was warmth and passion and comfort all rolled into smiles and kisses and secretive giggles. I’d become obsessed with finding places that elicited the sexiest sounds, but then still maintain some sort of boundary.
It was all too much – for me, as well as Bella. Sometimes, we’d lose ourselves in kisses, in touches, causing the world around us to become unimportant. It was then that I’d catch someone’s thoughts, hear a student outside, or even feel Bella’s heartbeat speed up too fast, and I’d have to back away.
I wanted her to the point of madness.
Still, I needed to wait. It wasn’t time. There were too many possibilities involved, and it seemed so damned inappropriate to ravish my soul mate, the love of my life, on the leather sofa of my living room. So many things about that didn’t sit well with me.
My cock twitched at the thought of her spread out on dark leather, though. I shook my head at my deviant and errant thoughts, but my God, if she didn’t look amazing the last time I’d had her there. Valentine’s Day. She’d sneaked out of the dorms in the middle of the night, using the hidden passageway I’d taught her. Chocolate locks spread out against warm brown leather. Brown, upon brown, upon brown. Her eyes had gazed up at me with hunger and love, a heady combination on her.
My moan, my squeeze to my dick, and the memory of ruby-red kissed lips as she dragged her tongue over them, simply to taste me more, caused my eyes to roll back and my breathing to hitch. She’d been so very tempting with the scent of her want permeating every single inch of my living quarters. I wanted to devour it, bathe in it, and knowing I’d caused it made the call to claim her even more demanding.
That night had been the first time I’d touched her, though over her shirt. My brothers would have called it “second base,” but to me, it meant everything. My mouth fell open as my hand moved faster, squeezing harder. Bella’s nipples had been hard and tight, pressing against my chest. She’d placed my hand over her. It was the first time I’d ever touched a woman like that. It was soft, heavy in my hand, and so intimate, so arousing, that I’d almost shattered right there in my jeans, but it was her soft, sweet moan that would fill my fantasies for years, I was sure of it. Knowing it was a first for both of us made me practically feral with possessiveness.
Mine,” I rumbled in a long, low growl as my seed erupted out of me.
Stars exploded behind my eyes as I tried to get myself back together. I stayed braced against the wall, my breathing ragged, even though I didn’t need it. My legs felt weak, but I let the hot water flow over my head and down my back in order to come back to reality.
I rubbed the back of my neck, preparing for the rest of my day. It was the weekend, but I was unable to go into Hunter’s Lake, which meant the girls couldn’t go, either – something that made me feel slightly guilty, even though it was for their protection. However, the sun was out and would shine brightly most of the day, which meant that my day was a day of indoor activities.
The sound of my door and the television turning on made me think one of my brothers was out there, but I smiled when the thump-thump-thump of my favorite heartbeat thundered in my ears. Shutting off the water, I grabbed my towel, roughly running it over my wet hair and body. I snatched up my jeans and tugged them on.
When I stepped out of the bathroom, my chest ached at the beauty leaning in my window watching the world outside, but it was her sweet, happy smile that completed the picture. She was in sinfully fitting jeans and a dark brown thermal shirt that matched her eyes.
“I need better locks,” I teased her, grinning when she giggled. It was something we said when one appeared unannounced.
Watching her dark eyes rake over me, up my jeans and over my bare chest, was satisfying. Before Bella, I’d never cared how women saw me – I could hear their inane thoughts, see their fantasies play out vividly in their minds. It had always made me feel rather uncomfortable, but Bella was different. I wanted to hear her thoughts, her fantasies, though I was denied. The irony of that was not lost on me.
I reached for my shirt draped over the back of my desk chair. “Not that I’m complaining, love, but why are you here? I thought you and Alice…”
Bella pushed off the window, walking to me. “I’ve been discarded,” my girl said with a light laugh, reaching for my collar once I’d pulled my button-down on. “Somehow, Alice has been recruited to help paint one of the classrooms…by Jasper.”
Chuckling, I nodded. “Yes, it seems he’s unable to stop himself now. Though, I’m sorry you’ve been left behind.”
Ever since he’d had Alice in detention, Jasper had been unable to resist her. He’d put both her and Jessica to work in the greenhouse, but could only focus on Jessica’s ire, which opened his empathic abilities up to Alice. They started talking, and it was all over from there.
“I’m not,” Bella said with a smile, gripping both sides of my still-open shirt. “I’d rather hide up here with you.”
Warm fingers brushed against my skin, and I knew my eyes darkened at the feel. It felt like lightning and heat licking at my flesh, causing my body to react instantly, despite my shower activities. Moving slowly, Bella’s hand flattened over my sternum, her eyes flickering between what she was doing and my face. A feather-light touch grazed over my collarbone, along the slight chest hair I had, and finally up my neck to my hair. She pulled me to her, wanting a kiss, which I gave without question.
She tasted of mint and just…Bella, and I couldn’t help but lift her up and set her on the corner of my desk. We lost a touch of control. Long, strong legs wrapped around my thighs, fingers threaded into my hair and gripped my back beneath my shirt, and my low growl vibrated us both.
“Jesus,” I hissed, pulling back and dropping my forehead to hers. “Bella…” Her giggle made me smile and brush a light kiss on the tip of her nose. “Sweet girl, I’ve got some school work to do, but after that, I’m all yours.”
She beamed like I’d handed her the keys to the damn kingdom. “Yeah, okay. I’ll get out of your way. You want me to come back?”
“No!” I growled dramatically into her neck, grinning against her skin when she writhed in my arms. “Stay, love. Please. Keep me company. It’s just bills I have to pay. It won’t take long.”
She smiled and nodded, pushing me back in order to button up my shirt for me. It was such a domestic moment that I couldn’t help but lean in to drop a long, heavy kiss to her forehead, thanking her in a whisper.
“Oh, that was for me, Edward,” she chortled, rolling her eyes. “You’d have never gotten any work done.”
Winking her way, I grinned and sat down at the desk, happy that Bella stayed put perched on the edge. Ignoring school files and papers, she reached for my sketch book. She loved the vision I’d seen in Leah’s mind. She said I drew it beautifully, like the paintings of angels on the ceiling of a church. Where I thought the position we were in would offend her, it had done the opposite; she found it sexy and loving. She loved the sight of her protecting me. I’d offered to give it to her, or even draw another one, but she’d refused, saying for me to keep it safe, keep it just for us. Though, I vowed to myself to sketch one in our journal the next time we traded, which had slowed down considerably.
Bella stayed quiet as I ran numbers, checked accounts, and tried my damnedest not to reach out and touch. I gazed up at her as she slipped gracefully off the desk. She ran her fingers through my hair, only to drop a kiss to my temple before walking away. Seeing her so comfortable in my living quarters gave me a sense of home, of belonging. Whereas I used to consider my place a hiding space, now it was my safe haven, especially when she was there.
She curled up on my sofa, barely taking up any room, and flipped through the channels on the TV. I lost myself back in numbers, payroll, and accounting until the news report caught my ears.
The body of the missing New York woman was identified yesterday. Twenty-two-year-old Sharon Dees has been found approximately ten miles from her home after having gone missing twenty days ago. Authorities announced that her body was mauled by what they assume was a bear. However, another upstate resident has gone missing. Forty-nine-year-old Buck Taylor – a resident of the small town of Woodland – has authorities wondering if something else might be at work…
“Woodland,” I muttered, getting up from the desk. “That’s only thirty-five miles from here. And bears wouldn’t leave…” My voice trailed off as I saw the map of the state in my mind. There weren’t bears up there – I’d hunted them.
Bella looked back at me from the sofa, her sharp eyes on mine. “You don’t think it’s a bear?”
I shook my head, pulling my phone out of my pocket, but before I could call Carlisle, he was approaching my door, his thoughts announcing his presence.
“Come in,” I said, making Bella frown, but then she smiled when she saw my father enter the room.
“Bella,” he greeted, dropping a kiss to the top of her head.
“Hey, Carlisle.”
He smiled at her, giving her not only a doctor’s mental once-over, but a fatherly one, as well, though his smile fell quickly when he met my gaze.
“I think we have a problem,” he stated, pointing to the TV that Bella had now muted. “That looks like—”
“A vampire on the hunt. Yes, I see,” I sighed, sitting down next to Bella. “We can widen our search. I can go with Jasper and Jacob, maybe seek out their mind. If we can get close to where the victims went missing, perhaps we can catch a scent.”
“Mm,” Carlisle hummed, sitting on the edge of my chair. “Yes, I agree. I should go with you…”
I was shaking my head before he’d even said that last thought aloud. “No, you and Esme should stay here, guard the castle.”
Both of us looked to Bella, and Carlisle’s mind fell to Alice, whom had become just as important, if not secretively. The two girls needed to be protected. There was no choice in the matter. As much as the entire school needed to stay safe, nothing could happen to Alice or Bella. Jasper and I wouldn’t survive it.
Carlisle grimaced a little, but finally nodded in agreement. “Perhaps you’re right.” He looked to me, giving me a silent instruction that was not to be ignored. You teach her how to get from her room to Esme’s and my quarters through the hidden hallways. She needs to know how to stay safe, even if you’re not here. Should someone or something breech the castle, she can keep herself hidden, come find us.
“Sir,” I replied with a single nod.
What he didn’t add was that Bella was covered in an immortal’s scent. My scent. She’d be a target from the moment she was in range. Had my girl been immortal, it would’ve been a warning to my kind that she was mated, taken, but Bella’s humanity with the scent of a vampire all over her called out as prey.
“Um, guys? You’re kinda scaring me.” Bella’s voice was barely a whisper.
“My apologies, Bella,” Carlisle said, feeling chastised.
“Mine, too, love,” I said, smiling down at her. “Some habits are hard to break.”
She smiled a little, but it fell when she glanced between us. “You think… Do you think this is your friend? James?”
I grimaced, shaking my head. “I don’t know. Actually, sweetheart, it doesn’t matter who it is. We need to find them and make them either move on or…”
“Remove them. They’ll draw too much attention, otherwise,” Carlisle finished for me, but stood up. “I’m sorry for intruding. Let me know your plans, son.”
“Tonight, most likely. I’ll get with Jake and Jasper.”
“I’ll let Esme know,” he stated, smiling back at Bella. “Good to see you, sweetheart. He’s all yours again.”
Her giggle was undoubtedly the best sound, and Carlisle agreed with me mentally before leaving us alone.
I took the remote from Bella, setting it on the coffee table, only to tug her to me by her foot. Her squeal was adorable and high-pitched, making me laugh.
“Are you done, Mr. Cullen?” she asked, smirking up at me as she cupped either side of my face.
“Yup,” I whispered, dropping a kiss to her lips. “I’m all yours, beautiful…”
She smiled up at me, biting her bottom lip. I sighed in want and contentment, but also in regret. As much as I wanted to lose myself in her, drown in her kisses, Carlisle was right. I needed to teach her more of the hidden passageways.
“So…what are we doing?” she asked.
My head fell to her shoulder, but I turned to press a kiss to her neck. “Carlisle asked me to teach you how to move about the castle through the hidden passages. It’s for your safety, love.”
Bella nodded, and I saw a brief expression darken her eyes. I realized just how much that must’ve sounded like her father when he’d taught her his rules for staying safe. I grimaced, kissing her lips.
“I’m sorry. I really am, but you must understand how important it is that you’re protected, Bella. I don’t mean to remind you…” I sat back on my heels, and she sat up with me. Brushing her hair away from her face, I drank in her beauty. “It would kill me, literally. I can’t—”
“Shh,” she soothed me, placing two fingers over my lips. “I understand, Edward. Just show me.”
I let out a relieved sigh, smiling at my brave girl. No matter what she’d been through, she never failed to amaze me at how she just kept going. What would’ve destroyed someone weaker made Bella determined and forceful, and she didn’t even know it. Not for the first time did I wonder what she’d be like as an immortal. Not only would her beauty enhance to the point of a goddess, but she’d be powerful and brilliant.
I stood up, offering her my hand. “Okay, my love. Let’s go be ghosts…”
She giggled, shaking her head at me, but she took my hand without hesitation.
March 2002
“Please, please, please tell me those two are going home for spring break,” Angela Weber begged from the table next to mine and Alice’s in the library. “’Cause I’m stuck here. My parents are attending a conference in Denver…some IRS/accounting thing.”
Her pleading gaze fell to Alice, but it was Rose who had to hide her laugh behind her hand from the eagle-eyed librarian. We all glanced over to Mike and Jessica, who were bullying poor Brady and Eric out of the chairs in front of the fireplace.
Alice gaze was sharp, angry as she said, “No. There’s some big political to-do in D.C. their parents have to attend, and they opted to stay here. They asked to go to Florida, but since they’re in so much trouble here, they were denied.” She turned to face us. “It’s about damn time, really, though it’s probably too late. The asshats are already too spoiled and damaged to fix now. They’ll just grow up to be adult asshats after college.”
Rose and I grinned at each other, chuckling softly.
“Can you imagine?” Angela scoffed, rolling her eyes behind her rather thick glasses. “Imagine working for those two in the future. Mike’s a sexual harassment suit waiting to happen. Jessica will—”
“Sleep her way to the top,” Rose and I whispered together, which caused the whole table to crack up much too loudly for the library.
Mrs. Graham sighed wearily, dropping a book heavily onto the counter in front of her. We rarely gave her trouble, so she merely put a finger to her lips to hush us.
“Sorry, Mrs. Graham,” Rose whispered, grimacing at us when she turned back around. “She’ll kill us dead.”
“Oops,” I barely said aloud, going back to my history paper.
The small group of us got back to work. We had several large projects due and more than a handful of tests to take by the end of the week. It seemed almost overwhelming, but we were all looking forward to a break next week. Some students would be going home for spring break, while a fair amount of us were staying at the school.
My mother had sent an email a few days prior, offering to bring me home. I’d declined, telling her I needed to stay and study, that I’d be home for the summer. She and Chelsea had been disappointed, but understood. I wasn’t quite ready to face Phil and all that Edward and his family had discovered about him, especially alone, because I also knew Edward was needed here to keep watch over the vampire that seemed to be hunting in upstate New York. In fact, the mere mention of it had sent Edward into almost a panic, trying to figure out how to follow me to Boston and hunt down this rogue vampire. I’d had to practically sit on him to get him to understand that I was staying, which wasn’t an easy feat, considering he was strong as hell.
That thought made me glance across the table at Alice. She was now officially over the moon for Jasper. Once he’d allowed her to feel her own feelings freely, it almost hit her like a tidal wave of emotion. I wasn’t sure what she knew or had figured out about him, but they talked more and more. To the public eye, it looked like harmless flirting. And considering Alice was already eighteen, no one batted an eye.
However, the two were extremely private people. Alice never divulged much to me, and Edward told me that Jasper was guarding his thoughts around him. We both understood the need for not only privacy, but secrecy, as well, though we still teased them.
Once I finished my history notes, I packed up my things, nudging Alice. “I’m starving.”
She grinned and nodded, closing her French book. We waved to Rose and Angela, leaving to make our way through the castle to our dorm room. As I passed by the familiar stairwell that led up to the third floor, my heart ached to find Edward, though I knew I’d see him for our lesson on Friday.
He’d been in and out of the castle for the last couple of weeks. No more innocent people had gone missing, but when Jacob and Edward had found the spot that Buck Taylor had last been seen, they’d confirmed it was the same vampire who had approached the castle back in January. Edward and his family were getting rather frustrated at not being able to catch this guy.
I dropped my backpack onto my bed, smiling down at the bright blue notebook that was sitting on my pillow. Sticking out the top was a perfect white daisy, something Edward had to have stolen from Jasper’s greenhouse. Quickly, so that Alice wouldn’t see, I pressed the flower into my collection of Shakespeare, cracking open the notebook that was slowly filling up with our letters back and forth.
My sweet girl,
My heart is always with you. I just needed to tell you that. I know we’ve been busy, but I wanted you to know that I love you. Always.
I know staying inside the castle on the weekends is difficult, my love, but I want to thank you for doing it. I can’t explain to you what it means. I need you safe, even if it’s overdoing it. I promise, it won’t always be this way, and I vow to make it up to you.
My hope for the future is to be able to show you off, take you anywhere and everywhere, much like our New Year’s Eve. I hate hiding. I hate keeping you secret. I know it must be done for now, to keep up with pretenses, but even I sometimes tire of the lies and deception that comes with this life. I just want to love you, openly, nothing more, for the rest of our days. You were a gift that I’d been promised for so long, and now that I have you, hiding you away seems like a sin. It feels wrong.
I’ll be in and out of the castle for the next few days, but I’ll be back in time for our Friday session. If you need me, call me. You know the hidden passage to Carlisle and Esme’s place. Go there if you need anything, sweetheart. I mean it. They love you, Bella, so please go to them if you need to. Promise me.
I’ll see you soon, if not sooner.
All my love,
I closed the blue journal, tucking it away in my backpack. I looked up to see Alice step out of the bathroom. She leaned a shoulder against the door, her face almost too serious for her. She was usually so happy and easy-going.
“I get the strangest feeling everything’s about to change,” she muttered, frowning at me.
“You can’t see?” I asked her, getting up from my bed.
She was shaking her head even before I finished the question. “Some things, yes. But there are so many blurry patches in my visions that I can’t make heads or tails of it.”
My brow furrowed, thinking perhaps Jasper was messing with her visions. She couldn’t see him or the rest of them. Keeping that secret was imperative, but it wasn’t easy.
“I think…think,” she said, holding up a finger. “I think Jasper’s in my future, but…I don’t know. He’s not clear. I wish he was. It would make things easier. He’s been so nice lately…” Her voice trailed off. “I’ve been thinking about Leah’s tarot cards, trying to force a vision, but every time, it all goes black.”
“Then don’t force it,” I suggested. “Just let it come to you.”
“I’m trying,” she sighed, smiling a little. “And some things don’t make sense. I see myself in Hunter’s Lake…” When my eyes widened and I shook my head, she held up her hand. “I know, I promised you…and Jasper…that I’d stay here, but no matter what decision I make, I still see myself going.”
As much as I was glad Jasper had made her stay, I didn’t like the sound of these visions. Alice was usually a go-with-the-flow type of person, so to see her anxious and frustrated was a touch unnerving.
“Meh, fuck it!” she finally chirped, grinning at me. “Let’s go eat. We’ll deal with whatever later.”
I wasn’t quite convinced she was okay, but I let her guide me out of our room, giving her a slight side-eyed glance as we walked through the hallways. She stopped me on the landing of one of the stairwells, glancing all around us.
Once she made sure we were completely alone, she whispered, “I know you can’t tell me anything. I see it.” She tapped her temple. “Just tell me one thing. They’re…different, aren’t they? Edward and Jasper. Like something special.”
I wanted to hug her, so I did, smiling at her. I nodded, saying the only thing I could.
“They are…amazingly special, Alice.”
“You know, I just came here to borrow a book…” My breathing stopped momentarily, as did all conscious thought.
“Mmhm,” was all he hummed against the spot behind my ear that made my eyes roll into the back of my head.
My mouth fell open, my fingers gripped the back of his T-shirt like a lifeline, and my whole body arched up trying to get closer. I needed…wanted… I didn’t know what I needed, but my entire being was seeking it out.
Cool lips left a trail of fire up my throat, along my scar, and finally across my jaw, only to meet my mouth with softness and hunger. But it was the long, deep, slow moan that erupted from Edward that made my stomach coil tighter. It was such an honest and wanting sound, far beyond the purrs and growls I’d grown used to. This was more. It was a needy sound, one I tried to elicit from him over and over. It pushed his breath out over my cheek, made me reach up to twine my fingers into his hair as tongues slipped together, dancing and tasting and claiming.
“Bella,” he barely said aloud, pressing his forehead to mine, but left his lips so that they brushed against my own. I could still taste him on my tongue, the sweetest flavor. “I just needed…”
Smiling up at him, I raked my fingers through his hair. “Me, too. It’s been a long week only seeing you a few minutes here and there. And you canceled our lesson.”
He smiled back, his long, dark eyelashes sweeping up to reveal even darker eyes. He’d just hunted, so I knew that the blackness that was staring back at me with awe and love was not hunger – at least, it wasn’t hunger for blood.
“I know, sweetheart. I’m sorry about that. Since you don’t have classes for a week, I’ll make it up to you, I promise.”
“You’re doing just fine right now,” I said with a giggle.
His deep, sexy laugh shook us both as we lay tangled on his sofa. “Bella…book. Focus…”
Laughing, I kissed him roughly, pushing him back so that I could sit up. It looked like it pained him to do so, until I realized exactly what hurt.
“Oh,” I gasped, grimacing and kissing his lips again. “I’m sorry.”
“I’m not,” he said with a chuckle, but he looked away from me for a moment and then down to the floor. I’d learned it was a gesture that meant he was slightly embarrassed. Had he been capable, he’d have been blushing, I was sure of it. “I love you. You’re beautiful and feel…amazing. I’m not sure I’m sorry for that.”
My cheeks heated with that sweet compliment. “Thank you, but…it can’t possibly be…”
“It’s fine, love.” He grinned, standing up when I did. “It certainly won’t kill me.”
Giggling at his vampire joke, I nodded, turning to peruse his bookshelf. I’d seen some titles a few days back that I’d wanted to borrow. Edward had told me what was his was mine to take, so I was taking him up on his offer. As I gazed up at what seemed like endless shelves, strong arms wrapped around my waist from behind, and I smiled over my shoulder at him.
“Take whatever you want, love. Is it for school or personal?” he asked, nuzzling my cheek.
“Just something to read before bed,” I told him, reaching up and taking a few books down. “These’ll work.”
He smiled at me, kissing my cheek. “Then…go ahead…”
His voice trailed off, his brow furrowing as he quickly turned toward his door. He was across the room and opening it before I could register he was gone from my side, but Jasper strode through like the fires of hell were chasing him.
“Where’s Alice?” he asked me.
“She was…in our room when I left,” I told him, pointing toward the door.
“Well, she’s not there now!” Jasper practically yelled, which caused Edward to growl at him.
“Watch yourself, brother,” he warned in a deep voice.
“Okay, okay,” I soothed them both. “I told her I was going to the library, but I came up here when I couldn’t find anything. She probably went looking for me. That’s all.”
“I don’t…I don’t think she’s in the castle,” he whispered, looking to Edward, but at the same time, he rubbed his chest.
“Oh,” Edward and I mumbled at the same time.
Edward reacted swiftly, pulling his phone from his pocket. He dialed a number, putting it to his ear. “Jacob, did you drive the van this morning?” he asked, listening to the answer. “Okay. Was Alice on it?” He seemed to sag a bit, but when Jasper’s nostrils flared, Edward shook his head slowly. “Do me a favor, Jake. Keep both eyes on her. Don’t let her out of your sight.”
Glancing out the window, I frowned. Today would’ve been a good day for all of us to have gone into Hunter’s Lake. The storm clouds were rolling in; the sun was shining in random patches all over the courtyard.
“Maybe she thought it was okay,” I said when Edward put his phone back into his pocket. Both boys turned to me. “I mean, she’s not dumb, guys. She may have figured out that we stayed here on sunny weekends. The rain coming in may have given her the okay.”
“Wouldn’t she have said something to you, love?” Edward asked.
I opened my mouth and closed it. “Usually, yes. Like I said, she may have tried to find me in the library, but…missed me.”
Jasper growled low, leaning back against the wall. “I need to follow her…”
“You can’t, Jasper,” Edward stated, pointing to the window. “You can’t take the chance until that storm is completely over us.”
Jasper’s eyes were black fire as he glared at his brother, but he couldn’t argue. He knew Edward was right.
“Hey,” I sighed, stepping between them, but looking to Jasper. “Would you feel better if I called her cell phone?” When he nodded gratefully, I said, “Then I need mine from my room. C’mon…we’ll go the back way.”
Edward snorted, shooting me a wink. “I’ve spoiled you to these back passageways.”
“Yup.” I grinned up at him, leaning into the kiss to my temple.
The boys followed me in silence, probably hating my slow human pace, but neither complained. I peeked out into my room from the closet, seeing it completely empty. I made sure the door was locked before waving the boys inside. Picking up my phone, I dialed Alice’s phone number, but groaned when I heard it ring from her bed on the other side of the room.
“Damn it,” I hissed, tossing my phone down. “She never leaves that thing anywhere.”
Edward walked to my window to gaze up at the sky. “Jasper, you’ll have about an hour to wait,” he instructed. “Or you can just wait until Jacob brings the van back at three.”
Jasper looked like he was about to peel out of his own skin, he was so nervous, but he said nothing to Edward, only nodded.
I glanced around the dorm room, looking for a note or something, but found nothing. I gazed up at Edward. “She said…something felt off a few days ago. She said she got a feeling that things were about to change. She saw herself going into Hunter’s Lake, even though she knew not to go.”
“What’s that mean, sweetheart?” Edward asked, kneeling in front of me when I sat on the edge of Alice’s bed.
“I don’t know,” I whispered, suddenly feeling nervous, anxious, but I looked back to Jasper. He was pushing that out into the room.
“He can’t help it, love,” Edward explained softly, smiling small, sad smile. When I nodded, he stood up, dropping a kiss to the top of my head. “Bella, please wait for Alice here. Don’t leave the castle. I’m begging you.”
“I won’t. I promise,” I vowed, frowning when Edward placed a hand on Jasper’s shoulder.
They seemed to communicate with each other in silence, but finally, Edward said, “Fine. We’ll stick to the tree line until the cloud cover rolls in, Jasper.”
Edward walked back to me, kissed my lips, and whispered, “Love you.”
“You, too. Be careful,” I said back, and he smiled my favorite crooked smile as he shot me a wink.
They disappeared into the back of my closet, the hidden door thumping shut. I paced the room a bit and looked at Alice’s phone again, seeing she’d missed a call from her grandmother. I fell down onto my bed, giving the clock a scathing glare. A couple of hours. She’d be back in just a couple of hours, I wanted to believe, but somehow, my gut was telling me something was way off. And it had nothing to do with the residual effects of Jasper’s talent.
I picked up one of the books I’d borrowed from Edward, cracking it open to the first page. The best way to make time fly was to read, so I did. I got lost in another world.
Thunder rolled menacingly, causing me to sit up quickly. I had to have fallen asleep at some point. A glance at the clock told me the van from Hunter’s Lake should have returned by now, so I stepped out my door and into the corridor. Rose was down at the end by her room, and I walked to her.
“Where’s everyone?” I asked her softly, looking around.
“We just got back about ten minutes ago, but the van had to go back to town. A couple of people didn’t show up for pick-up,” she explained, gesturing to her clothes, which had big, fat raindrops dotting them. “Jacob was pissed. He went back to find them.”
“Who?” I asked, grasping her wrist. “Who didn’t show back up?”
“Alice was one. The other ones were Mike, Jessica, and that freshman kid…Brady, I think.”
My heart plummeted as I made my way back to my room, but my temper flared when Jessica rounded the corner. Her eyes were shifty, her clothes practically soaked, and her shoes were completely covered in mud. I glanced behind her, looking for Alice, only to come up empty.
Jessica sneered, bumping my shoulder on the way passed us. “Maybe next time, psycho will keep her mouth shut about someone else’s business. If you’re not careful, you’ll get the same, freak.”
My eyes narrowed on her, but I shut my dorm room door, picking up my phone. I dialed Edward, but it went to voice mail. Unable to sit still, I darted into the closet, taking the passageway toward Edward’s parents’ living quarters. Before I reached the end, the doorway opened, revealing Esme.
“Bella, what’s wrong?”
“Alice,” I panted, sitting down when she guided me to the dining room chair. “Did they find her? Edward and Jasper…did they find her?”
“No, they’re still looking, sweetheart, but they ran into a problem.”
“What problem?” I squeaked.
She looked nervous, but sat down next to me. “They were going to watch for her, but they got sidetracked. The vampire whose scent we’ve been tracking, they ran across it on their way into Hunter’s Lake.”
“But…Alice, I think someone did something,” I told him. “Jessica threatened me. Her…her shoes…they were all muddy. Esme, you have to tell them!”
Esme’s nostrils flared, her brow furrowed, but she nodded solemnly. We both glanced up when there was a pounding knock on the door.
Emmett was standing there, holding one side of Mike Newton’s shirt, while Jacob gripped the other. The latter looked like he was about to shake the boy to death right there.
“Tell her! You were the last one seen with her!” Jacob snapped.
It was then that I saw Mike’s clothes…and shoes. He was in the same state that Jessica had been – muddy and wet.
Mike muttered something under his breath, groaning and whining when the large guys holding him gripped his shoulders that much harder.
“Okay, Alice Brandon slipped down the embankment of the lake behind town.” He groaned again, almost doubling over when Jake gripped harder. “When she didn’t come back up, Jessica left, but I heard Brandon scream from down below. I went to look for her, but she was gone. I couldn’t see her.”
My mouth fell open, and I looked to Esme, whose temper was barely under control, as she turned to Emmett. “Put him in my office, put Jessica Stanley in there with him, and don’t let them out of your sight.” She turned to Jacob. “Go help the boys. Now! Use whatever means necessary.”
“Yes, ma’am,” he said with a frown. “Little assholes got to Alice when I was busy with that Brady kid. Carlisle’s in town checking his arm.”
“I’ll deal with those two, but I need you with Jasper and Edward.” She slammed the door before he spun away, picking up her phone. “Carlisle, we have a problem.”
I tried Edward’s cell again, and this time, he picked up, though foregoing the usual hello. “I know, love,” he growled, sounding like he was in a wind tunnel. “Just stay with Esme, and we’ll keep you posted.”
With that said, he ended the call, but I met Esme’s furious, yet worried gaze. She knew something I didn’t.
“What’d Carlisle say?” I asked in a whisper.
She shook her head, sitting down on the edge of the sofa. “There are two,” she whispered, her mouth hanging open. “And one? One was all around Hunter’s Lake.” Her eyes met mine. “Someone…was hunting.”
I fell down next to Esme, leaning into her when she wrapped an arm around me, and whispered the only thing I could.


aelita48 said...

My God, I wonder that happened to Alice.
Thank you for this good chapter.

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