Monday, May 26, 2014 | By: Drotuno

Masen Manor Chapter 21 & Pics

Chapter 21
March 2002
EDWARD
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.

It had taken us over an hour to not only track, but catch up to Carlisle as he trailed Victoria. We were well into the Adirondack Mountains, deep in the trees, with barely any humans. We were damned lucky; I wasn’t sure what this woman would do.
My phone was a useless lump in my pocket. I was tired of the rain, the mud, of chasing this foul vampire. I missed my Bella, but I couldn’t bear to face her without knowing something about Alice. And I damn sure couldn’t face my brother without finding out what this creature had done with his mate.
Carlisle’s mind became sharper and sharper, and I grinned, knowing we were about to box this woman in. I signaled to Jasper and Jacob, who was flanking my right-hand side. As Carlisle appeared, Victoria shot to the treetops, and Jasper followed suit on her tail. Using everything he had, he sent out fear, self-doubt, and trepidation, and it worked. She lost her footing just as Jacob and I jumped over a fallen tree.
We landed in fur, mud, pine needles, and grunts. Curses flew from the woman’s mouth as we tore up the forest floor. Using everything I had, I grabbed her legs, smiling wickedly when I heard the snap of immortal bone. She screamed, but she was pushing against Jacob’s thick fur, her mind panicking over what he was. His teeth met her throat, a long, weary, snarl erupting from behind bright, sharp teeth. It was a warning. One move, and he’d snap his mouth closed.
“He won’t just remove your head, Victoria,” I warned her, shaking my head. “His bite ends you. I’d stop fighting if I were you.”
She sounded like a trapped animal. She continued to push at him until Carlisle and Jasper landed swiftly on either side of us.
“That’s enough, Jacob,” Carlisle instructed calmly, sounding much more civilized than the rest of us, though he was just as soaked and muddy as we were. He nodded once to Jasper, and they snatched Victoria up by her arms, pressing her into the side of a moss-covered boulder.
Her thoughts were rapid, nervous. She wasn’t quite sure what we would do to her. And she really wanted as far away from Jacob as she could get, but he sat down on his haunches right in front of her, panting heavily. He was tired, thirsty, and very hungry.
“Soon, brother,” I told him, patting his shoulder. He huffed a heavy breath, but his thoughts were on the task at hand.
“Where’s the girl, Victoria?” Carlisle asked, his voice falsely mellow.
Her eyes widened, her mind flickering from what James had told her to do, to what had actually happened. And she didn’t know how we’d known her name.
I had no patience for games. My fear for Alice had me on edge, as did Jasper’s level of worry. He couldn’t help but push everything he was feeling out around him.
“James told us all about you,” I sang, smiling her way. “He gave up your plan just before we ripped him apart and burned the pieces.”
“No!” she screamed, and Jasper grinned my way.
You broke her heart, Edward. How could you? he thought to me sarcastically.
Snorting his way, I shook my head and looked back at her. “We know all about it. We know he told you to take the girl, that he wanted her. Her blood sang to him, but…” My voice trailed off, my eyes narrowing on her. “Not just him… So tell us where you hid her.”
“Hid her,” Victoria scoffed, rolling her eyes, but she flinched when Jacob snapped his teeth near her face. “I didn’t hide her…she’s gone.”
She’s lying…hiding something, Jasper thought, watching her carefully as she struggled against us all, but Carlisle and Jasper held fast.
Frowning, I kept a close eye on her mind. She wasn’t lying, but her thoughts were not lining up with what she was saying. I saw her with James, watched her memory of them waiting just outside Hunter’s Lake, and then I saw James leave her.
Her worry that she’d never see him again wasn’t as powerful as her fear of not doing as he’d told her. It seemed James was cruel to her in more ways than he’d shown me, yet she was crying out in tearless sobs for him.
“He wasn’t your mate,” I told her softly, tilting my head at her. “No, he let you think that, but he wasn’t. Think… Deep down, you know it’s true. No mate would threaten you like he did. No mate would…laugh at your pain. Never. It’s impossible.”
Her hate-filled gaze landed on me. She now knew I could read her mind, and I shrugged a shoulder at her.
“It’s not too late for you,” Carlisle urged. “You can still live a long life, maybe find your true mate. Just tell us where the girl is…”
Victoria’s nostrils flared, and she screamed, kicking out hard. She caught Jacob in the muzzle with a hefty boot, causing his head to snap to the right, but he growled low, his teeth lightning fast as he latched onto her leg and snapped it off. He dropped it to the ground in front of her, standing up to his full height, his lips pulled back in a consistent snarl.
With Jacob standing eye to eye with her and Jasper pushing every bit of fear he could her way, her mind let go. I stumbled back two steps as I watched it, my chest constricting.
“No,” I barely breathed, shaking my head in denial. “No, you didn’t!”
I launched at her, pulling her off the rock and destroying several small saplings. All I could see was Alice’s frightened face in Victoria’s memories. She’d watched, waited for James to set the trap, and Alice had fallen for it. She’d seen something in the woods after she’d slipped down the embankment at the lake, thanks to Jessica. Instead of making her way back toward town, Alice had followed him, calling for Jasper. Only, it wasn’t James she came upon, it was Victoria.
She’d moved so fast that Alice couldn’t react, and by the time she’d started to struggle, she was already miles away from Hunter’s Lake. It was the struggle that Victoria couldn’t resist. It spiked Alice’s blood with adrenaline, making it sing sweeter than ever before.
I couldn’t get a fix on the location. Everything looked the same. Trees, mountains, rain. That’s all I could see. But when I felt, through Victoria’s mind, the sweet nectar flow down her throat, my own burned like wildfire.
“No!” I screamed, snatching her arms off in one swift yank and tossing them behind me.
Suddenly, Carlisle and Jasper were holding me back.
“What’d you see, son?” Carlisle breathed in my ear.
“She…” I growled again, fighting him, but the most I could do is kick at her. “I saw her…” I collapsed to my knees. “She…bit her…drank from her! She killed her!”
“No,” Jasper whimpered, shaking his head. His brow furrowed as he glanced from me to her. His hatred spiked, his heart shattered. “No, no, Edward… That’s not true, not true,” he chanted over and over. “She didn’t, she didn’t…no, no, no…”
He rubbed his chest, backing away a few steps. He tried to figure out if he what he was feeling was grief or her lies. It all started to blend, and his own emotions weren’t helping, especially combined with the feelings the rest of us were pushing.
“I know what I saw,” I told Carlisle, but my face pleaded with him. I wasn’t sure who I hurt for more – Jasper or Bella – but I suddenly felt like I’d failed them both.
Carlisle squeezed my shoulder, standing up. He walked to Victoria, who was struggling against Jacob. She had no arms and only one leg, so her fight was slowly leaving her.
He knelt beside her. “Where’d you leave her body, Victoria? She has friends, family. We need to give them closure.”
“She’s not dead!” Jasper snarled, rushing to Victoria and pointing in her face. “Tell them! Tell them Alice isn’t dead!”
Shaking my head, I curled over, my fingers gripping my hair. Jasper’s mind was one thing, but his emotions were starting to bloom out powerfully over all of us.
Victoria merely grinned. “A mate for a mate…”
I lifted my head to see them all waiting for me. “She thinks you’re even…mate for mate. Alice for James,” I rasped, swallowing thickly. “She’s thinking of the location, but it’s deep in the woods. Nothing stands out or marks the location. I can’t… It could be anywhere. I’m sorry.”
Her thoughts were gone in an instant. Between Jasper’s temper, Carlisle’s impatience, and Jacob’s weariness, they’d had enough. Her cry cut off with a growl from Jasper. The stink of smoke hit the air, and I couldn’t take it.
I stood up, taking it all out on the closest pine. “Dammit!” I snarled, punching with my right, then left, but even the thick, echoing crack in the trunk wasn’t satisfying. Neither was the rumble as it fell to the forest floor. “I’m sor—” I pleaded with Jasper, but he grabbed me by my shirt.
“She’s not gone, Edward!” Jasper argued, his eyes wild and black. “I’d feel it, right?” he asked, pounding on his chest, then mine. “Right?” He spun around to face Carlisle. “I’d feel different. I don’t. She’s not dead! My Alice can’t be dead!”
“Jasper, I’m so sorry…” I whispered, grunting when he pushed me, punched at me.
“No! I can’t! I won’t believe it,” he snarled, and then he was gone, racing off down the mountain.
I turned to Carlisle. “Please…”
“I got him,” he stated, gesturing to Jacob. “Get Jake back so he can rest.”
I swallowed, gripping my hair again. “How… How do I tell this to Esme…and oh my God, Bella. How do I tell them?”
His thoughts were blank, his face filling with emotions that hurt to watch. “I…I don’t know. I wish I did.” He grimaced. “We’ll have to…set up a bear attack or something. That’s the only way to call off the search. They’ll need something. I’ll handle it. You get back to the castle.”
I nodded, shoving my hands into the front pockets of my soaked jeans. I started a slow walk, and Jacob matched my pace, his head hanging down. Both of us were heartbroken for Jasper and Bella. I didn’t know what I’d say, but as we picked up speed, I knew I wouldn’t lie to her. I couldn’t. I’d vowed to always be honest, but I hoped that my strong girl could take it.
~oOo~
BELLA
I came around slowly, my head throbbing a little. A deep inhale caused my eyes to snap open. I was on the sofa in Edward’s room in the east wing. The sun was barely up, but it was hidden behind thick rain clouds that looked like they’d never end.
Sitting up a little, I wondered how I’d gotten up here. I remembered being in Esme’s living room, talking to Grandma Mary. I swung my feet to the floor, rubbing my face and my temples.
“How’s your head, Bella?” I heard from the big window.
“Edward?”
“Yes, love.”
His voice sounded distant, empty of emotion. I stood up slowly, seeking him out, and found him sitting on the floor and leaning against the window frame. I walked toward him, but something about his body language screamed for me to stay back.
“Your head… Esme said you fainted,” he elaborated, still not looking at me. His eyes were locked on whatever was in his hands. “She brought you up here last night.”
“Oh, it’s…okay.” Frowning, I took a few steps closer. “Edward…are you… Did you…”
He shook his head, a ragged breath leaving him in a rush. When his eyes finally met mine, he looked haunted. His usually warm, honey eyes were almost black, surrounded by dark circles. Despite the fact that he looked freshly showered and in clean jeans and a T-shirt, he looked completely defeated.
“We did…everything…everything we could,” he whispered, gazing up at me with fear. “I tried… All I wanted was to stop those…those…monsters from hunting around here, but…it was all for nothing!”
He was a blur of motion as he stood up suddenly. He swung his arm like a baseball pitcher, and something shattered into oblivion along the back stone wall. I jumped, stepping back again. He started to pace and ramble.
“Alice?” I squeaked, backing up just enough that I fell into his desk chair.
Edward shook his head, his fingers sliding into his hair and gripping harshly. His eyes squeezed closed.
“I’ve failed you. I’ve failed you and my brother. Two of the most important people in my life…and I’ve failed you both…”
“No,” I whispered, shaking my head. “No, Edward…you’re not… Tell me she’s okay…”
“I can’t,” he rasped, and I realized that he was crying. It was tearless and dry, and probably the saddest thing I’d ever heard, and my own tears welled up fat and hot, stinging my eyes before landing on my cheeks.
“You’re wrong!” I yelled, my panic surfacing. “You’re lying! You swore you’d never lie to me!”
I launched from the chair, but was suddenly trapped in steel-strong arms from behind.
“Oh, God, Bella…I wish upon every star that I was lying,” he breathed in my ear. “I’m so sorry. I know you may never forgive me, and I’m pretty sure my brother hates me. Please…please…listen. I tried, Bella. I swear to God. They planned it. They’d wanted you both, but they took advantage of Alice being in Hunter’s Lake. They drew her away and took her. They…they…”
I gasped, my sobs so heavy that I could barely breathe. “Edward…no,” I whimpered, feeling myself lifted off my feet. I was set gently back in his chair, but he knelt in front of me. “Why?!” I hiccuped.
A light, slightly maniacal, and humorless laugh left him as he bowed his head.
“Why?” he asked, finally meeting my gaze. His hands balled into fists. “Because that’s what my kind do, Bella. They hunt, they stalk, they kill…and it doesn’t matter how important the human is. They simply don’t care! We’re all capable of it!”
I jumped at his venomous declaration. At the moment, there was nothing human about the Edward before me. My heart rate picked up, and my vision blurred as I cried.
“Does that scare you?” he asked, and when I nodded, he smirked. “Good. It should scare you. It could’ve been you, Bella. He wanted you both. I saw it in his mind. Do you know… Do you have any idea what I would’ve f-f-f… What I’d have done?” he asked slowly, shaking his head a little. “Never – for one damn moment – forget what I am. Understand? This is the ugly side of this life. It’s the monsters, the fighting, the blood… It’s faking a bear attack so that Alice’s family will have closure without knowing the disgusting truth.”
My heart shattered at his blatant truthfulness. My best friend was gone. No more giggles in the middle of the night, no more passing notes, no more swooning over men she thought were “hot as sin.” No more laughs in the library… It was gone…all of it. She was the best friend I’d ever had, and the thought that she’d never smile my way again made my stomach churn.
I pushed out of the chair, running to the bathroom. I had nothing in my stomach, so only dry heaves echoed against the tile. My forehead fell to the seat, and I didn’t move when the sound of water ran in the sink. Cool hands pulled back my hair gently.
“Here, love,” he instructed in a quieter tone. “Drink.
I took the cup he was handing me, sipping the cool water as he wiped my face with a soft, wet cloth. Sitting back on my heels, I gazed unseeingly at the floor as tears started anew. My eyes met his, and he looked contrite, apologetic. His eyes were still haunted, but not as angry. The honey was back, but he looked scared to death…of me.
“That was out of line, Bella. I’m sorry. I just…” His voice trailed off, and he looked so damn lost for a moment.
“She’s really gone?” I asked in a whisper.
Edward tossed the cloth into the sink and took the cup from me, setting it on the vanity. “Yes, sweetheart. I’m so sorry,” he barely said loudly enough for me to hear it, but I read his lips.
It was unfair, and it was hard to wrap my head around. My whole body hurt, trying to absorb everything. But it was all too much. I couldn’t contain or process any of it, and it all finally spilled over.
“Edward,” I pleaded, reaching for him, and he accepted me gently with what sounded like a breath of relief escaping him.
He wrapped me around him, standing up and carrying me out of the bathroom. I felt him sit down, keeping me on his lap. His apologies never stopped; neither did his declarations of love. I wasn’t sure how long I cried, but he held me, talked to me the entire time. Some of it was meant for my ears, and some of it was too soft for me to understand. I cried until my head was pounding, until hiccups rattled my frame, and until I could only lie limply in his arms as fingers ran soothingly through my hair and down my back over and over. Kisses were dropped to my cheek, my forehead, my hair.
Poor Edward’s shirt was soaked with my tears, and I sat up a little, poking at it. He’d sat us down in his desk chair, and a glance at the clock shocked me. He’d been holding me for a couple of hours.
“If you apologize for a shirt, Bella…” he warned with a low voice, but I could feel his eyes assessing me.
My lips twitched, but I finally met his gaze. His long fingers swiped at my tears, the coolness of them soothing my hot skin.
“I’m sorry for losing it.”
“What a ridiculous thing to be sorry for,” he muttered, shaking his head. “You okay?”
I shook my head. “No. I can’t… It doesn’t feel real,” I told him, gripping his shirt in order to keep my panic down. “I just… She… Why didn’t she listen?!”
Edward flinched, but shook his head. “I don’t know, love. I don’t think anyone knows.”
“What happened? Tell me.”
“You really want to know, Bella?” he asked incredulously. When I nodded, he gave in.
He told me about his…friend, James, about the woman with him, Victoria. He explained how Alice’s blood had called to them. They’d planned and avoided and schemed to get to her…and me. That last bit of information caused Edward to shake, his eyes to darken. He cupped my face, bringing my forehead to his for a few minutes, and I could tell he was just trying to keep himself together. He finished by saying James had been destroyed.
He told me about Carlisle hunting Victoria, how they’d caught up to him…and her. It was then that Edward had finally seen what had happened to Alice.
“Oh, God…Jasper,” I whispered, tears welling up.
“He refuses to believe it,” Edward stated. “Not that I blame him. If the situation was reversed, I’d be…broken. I should’ve—”
I cupped his face. “Don’t.”
“How… How can you even look at me? I failed you both…”
“Because I love you,” I told him. “You tried your best. Even I know that. I’m sure Jasper knows it, too.”
He nodded, swallowing nervously. “You don’t blame me? Blame what we are?”
“No, I blame James…and Victoria,” I stated firmly, looking at him like he was insane.
Suddenly, his lips were on mine, and his whispers brushed against them. “God, I love you… I’m sorry. I’m so…sorry.”
I pushed him back and smiled when he looked a little heartbroken. “Edward, I’ve thrown up twice in the last twenty-four hours. Just…wait. I feel disgusting.”
He grinned, but it fell quickly. “Yes, ma’am,” he sighed, his head falling back to the headrest behind him. His fingers reached up and trailed down my cheek, leaving a trail of fire in its wake. Though I knew we both could feel it, neither of us acted upon it.
“What happens now?” I asked him, toying with his shirt.
Edward glanced out the window, his eyes far away. “The police have already located what looks like a bear attack. Carlisle set it up. He’ll have placed it not far from the water, where it’s been known that bears fish.” He smiled sadly.
“What about…her body?”
He shook his head. “We couldn’t find her. Victoria’s thoughts were jumbled, showing me only woods and trees. I couldn’t find a specific landmark to even begin looking.”
Frowning, I shook my head. “And Jasper?”
“He’s determined to find her.”
My eyes narrowed. “Her body? Or he thinks she’s still out there?” I asked, biting my lip when he nodded sadly. “That’s… I mean, wouldn’t he know? Like really know?”
“He’s in denial, love.”
“No,” I told him, shaking my head. “No… Edward, I know when you’re far away from me.” I pressed my hand to my chest. “I ache with it. Don’t you? Don’t you feel it?”
His eyes studied my face. “Yes. It’s painful, actually.” I waited for him to understand, but he frowned, saying, “Yes, but Bella, I know what I saw! I…I watched Victoria’s memory. She…She bit Alice, drained her.”
“But what if… What if she stopped? What if… Like what happened with you and Maria?”
“No, sweetheart,” he argued, shaking his head. “I wish that were true. I’d give anything to hand her back to you and Jasper, even if it meant she was immortal.”
He sounded so broken when he said that. I leaned in to kiss his forehead.
“I’m just… Maybe Jasper’s right, Edward.” I opened my mouth to speak, but closed it.
“What?”
“I… The reason I fainted,” I started, shaking my head. “I met Alice’s family. Did you know her grandmother, Mary…she’s a vision-seer, too. The last thing she said to me was that Alice was with the angels now.”
“Oh, Bella,” he sighed, hugging me closer.
“Wait! Edward, what if her visions were like Leah’s, like Giselle’s? What if she couldn’t quite figure out what she was seeing. You…” I poked his chest, and it hurt, which caused him to snort and kiss it. “You look like an angel, Edward. Pale, strong, fast…ermm…sparkly in the sun…”
He grinned. “Thank you…I think.” I sighed in frustration, but he cupped my face. “Bella, I get what you’re saying, but… I’m begging you not to hold on to false hope. Okay? As much as I wish it were different…”
I nodded, placing my fingers over his lips. “Yeah…”
I gazed out the window, not seeing past the beads of water chasing one another down the pane of glass. Next, I glanced over to where Edward had thrown something, wrinkling my nose at the busted pieces of his phone, which were still covered in mud.
My stomach ached, most likely from hunger, but the thought of eating made me queasy. The thought of eating in the dining hall without Alice made my hands start to shake, my breathing start to pick up, and tears to start all over again.
“Bella?” Edward’s hands cupped my face, his brow furrowing in concern. “Talk to me…”
Shaking my head, I gripped his shoulders. “I don’t…I don’t know what to feel, what to think. I feel…wrong.”
“It’s okay. I promise you. That’s normal,” he soothed, gently wiping away my tears.
Nodding, I sniffled a little. “What now?”
Edward frowned, took a deep breath, and let it out. “Well, they’ll investigate the bear attack, tell her family, and then they’ll close the case. There won’t be much questioning, simply because most of the town has seen that bear once or twice. Esme will call everyone to the auditorium to break the news, and she’ll probably hold a service.”
“And life goes on,” I stated softly, but my bitterness couldn’t be hidden.
“Love, I…” Edward opened his mouth and closed it a couple of times, but finally, a harder look took over his beautiful face. “Yes, it does. That sounds really cold, Bella, but it has to go on. We don’t have a choice. We have to act just like everyone around us concerning Alice. It must be as if a bear got her. It’s imperative to…our survival. If for one second someone thought differently, then we’d be under suspicion.” He kissed my lips, but pulled back to look me in the eye. “You told me you were ready for this, for this life. Bella, this is the uglier aspect of it, but it’s a part of it all the same. I need… You must tell me if you aren’t ready or if you can’t do this.”
I took a deep breath, truly listening to him. He’d told me once that this life – his life – would bring me pain, trouble, and sacrifice. As I studied his face, I realized right then that he’d let me go. It would kill him – I could see it all over him in the way he gazed at me, held me closer, bit on his bottom lip – but he’d do it nonetheless. I also knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that we belonged together. My heart, body, and soul belonged to him, and his to me.
“I don’t talk, Edward,” I stated, smiling sadly, but it was a vow, a promise to him. “Especially to anyone outside of your family. So…I can’t imagine anyone will worry if I clam up for a few days until it’s all over.”
Something about that made him sad, but he nodded. “As much as I trust you, my love, that wasn’t what I was asking.”
“I know, Edward,” I sighed, feeling exhausted and hungry and drained. “I love you, and I know what that entails. I’m still not running.”
He grinned briefly, but it went away as quickly as it came. “I love you, too, and I’m just making sure.” He kissed my nose, only to pull away and shake his head. “This is…a harsh test, Bella. I can’t apologize to you enough. It’s difficult enough to keep up the pretenses. It’s ridiculously more difficult knowing that it’s someone you cared about, loved. I still feel…responsible for her, like I let you and Jasper down. I have no idea what he’ll do. He was so…chaotic, in both mind and emotion, when he ran off. I just… God, sweetheart, I’m so damn sorry.”
“I know. Me, too, Edward,” I sighed wearily, curling back to him and nuzzling into the crook of his neck. He smelled like comfort and shampoo and sandalwood. It soothed me to my bones. “I’m gonna miss her…so much.”
“I know you will,” he said, slipping down into the chair so I could settle against him. “Tell me what to do for you…” His voice broke on the last word, telling me he’d be crying again if he were able.
“Just…hold me.”
I closed my eyes at the feel of his fingers trailing up and down my spine, at kisses to my head. I sighed in relief, curling my fingers into a fistful of his shirt. I knew he always worried about his hard, cool skin being uncomfortable to me, but it never was. It gave me the feeling of perfect, utter protection and love. I nuzzled him closer, mumbling to stay right where he was.
“I can do that,” he said softly. “For as long as you wish…”
~oOo~
EDWARD
Sniffles and crying filled my ears. My hands gripped at my hair as I stood at the back of the dining hall. The seats were fairly empty. Most students had left a few days prior for spring break. Those that remained had been put through the ringer. They’d witnessed everything from the search for Alice, to the complete meltdown of the Brandon family, to the arrest of Mike and Jessica for assault.
The latter wouldn’t stick. It had merely been a prank gone wrong. The arrest was to scare them. However, their expulsion was firm and unwavering. The two spoiled, selfish, insufferable creatures were never going to cross the threshold of Masen Manor again. If they did, I wasn’t sure what I would do.
“I’d like to take a moment,” Esme addressed the students and staff. “Please bow your heads and close your eyes for a moment of silence…”
The room went deathly quiet, save for a few sniffles and soft cries here and there. My chest literally ached to go to my Bella. Having to witness several almost panic attacks, watch more tears than I could count, and hearing her heart practically shatter when Alice’s side of their room was packed up was more than I could take. I couldn’t hold my suffering girl. I couldn’t kiss her, tell her everything would be okay. I had to keep up the pretenses, only comforting her when she’d run to the east wing.
As much as I adored tutoring Bella, I detested that role now. Technically, I wasn’t a paid teacher, merely a volunteer, but I still couldn’t act on my feelings, no matter how badly they wanted to surface.
Any word? Carlisle’s soft thoughts met my mind.
I glanced over at him as he slipped quietly into the dining hall. I shook my head and frowned.
Jasper was still missing. I’d tried to track him down, but he would evade me, closing his mind to his thoughts so I couldn’t hear his plan. He wouldn’t speak to Jacob or Carlisle, either. The only thing I knew was that he was scouring just about every inch of the mountains and surrounding forests for any sign of Alice – dead or…otherwise.
That thought made me frown. Between his steel determination and Bella’s theories, I wasn’t sure what to think. Both wanted so badly to find Alice, and both were so filled with hope, I was afraid the letdown would destroy them. I thought I’d been damn sure of what I’d seen in Victoria’s mind, but my love for Bella and Jasper was making me second-guess my ability…or at least what her thoughts had shown me.
Bella had wanted to believe Alice’s grandmother simply hadn’t known what she was seeing. For my girl, who at one point didn’t put much stock into reading the future, now I was afraid she was depending on it too much, simply to survive the loss of her best friend. Though, I’m not sure I blamed her one damn bit.
What I needed was to go see Leah, but I couldn’t seem to tear myself away from the castle, away from being at Bella’s beck and call. I just couldn’t do it. She needed me too badly, and I needed her in ways I almost couldn’t control. I had been so afraid that this whole thing would be the end of us that I could barely give her a moment’s peace. I’d been sure that she’d run from this incident, from this life, from me. I’d had to take solace in the fact that it was me she ran to for comfort when the nightmares exploded, when she couldn’t find it in herself to even sleep in her dorm room.
The only heartbeat in the room that mattered sputtered a little, only to fill my head with soft sobs. I rubbed my chest with one hand while shoving the other into the front pocket of my pants. The instinct to go to her was too much.
Easy, son, Carlisle soothed silently, placing a firm hand on my shoulder. When I glanced over to him with a pleading gaze, he could only smile sadly. I know. Believe me, Edward. I understand completely. I can’t imagine how difficult it would be not to simply…steal her away from all of this hurt.
Nodding vehemently, I leaned back against the wall. “It’s killing me,” I murmured only loud enough that he could hear it.
Yes. When your mate is in pain, you are, too. He rubbed my shoulder. It won’t be much longer. Soon, the school year will be over. You’ll be able to change things…publicly.
I nodded, but I couldn’t quite think that far ahead. Bella still had finals and last projects, not to mention her piano recital in a few weeks. After that, she’d be home to Boston, where I’d follow. As her eighteenth birthday grew closer, I couldn’t get it out of my mind that her stepfather might attempt something when it came to Bella’s trust fund. I hadn’t forgotten any of it. In fact, Jenks and Harry Clearwater were still monitoring Bella’s house for me.
Esme dismissed the students, and my eyes locked with Bella’s when she was guided out through the door by Rosalie, who had canceled her plans of going home for spring break. She was just as heartbroken as Bella.
My girl’s face was a mix of emotions. Her hands twitched at her sides with how much she wanted to come to me, but I had to look away. It hurt too much to see her need me and be unable to act on it.
Once most of the students were gone, I shoved my hands into my pockets, making my way toward the west wing. I could hear Carlisle’s and Esme’s minds. They were worried…about all of us. They worried about Jasper and his refusal to accept things. They worried about Bella and what Alice’s death may do to her own healing process. And they worried about me, about how I still felt responsible for Alice. They’d tried to tell me otherwise, but it had been my old friend that had started all of this. It had been me who Jasper and Bella had depended on, had begged to bring Alice back. It sickened me that I’d failed.
I took the old abandoned hallway, emerging into my old piano room. The sight of my destruction, which had once grounded me, now made me sad. I’d told Bella once that I’d left it to ground myself, to remind me of where I’d come from. I wasn’t sure that was completely true. Maybe part of it, but I wondered if I’d left it to show how messed up I’d felt on the inside for so long.
Turning around, I waited. I could hear her heartbeat coming down the hallway. The secret door behind the tapestry softly opened, allowing my girl to slip in undetected.
She looked up, gasping, a hand on her chest. “Oh, Edward, you scared me.”
Grinning, I couldn’t help but tease her. I needed a smile from her so badly. “You wound me, love. I thought you said I wasn’t scary.”
It was soft and short-lived, but the giggle that met the room was music to my ears.
“Yes, horribly frightening.” She rolled her eyes, but walked straight into my arms, like she needed it in order to breathe. “I just didn’t expect you right there.”
I hummed that I heard her, dropping a kiss to her head. “You okay?”
She nodded, but stayed buried in my chest. “I just want all of this to be a dream, Edward.”
Squeezing my eyes closed against the onslaught of emotions, I held her closer. “How I wish that were true, sweetheart. You have no idea…”
“I need…a break from this…” she admitted, pulling back and swiping at her tears.
Cupping her face, I did the job for her. “A walk, perhaps? I was thinking of going to visit Leah. Would you like to come with me?” I tilted her head and kissed her lips, tasting the salty-sweetness that I lived for. “No palm-reading or tarot cards, love. Just a visit. I hear – from Jacob – that she makes the best peach cobbler. Like ever.”
Bella grinned at my dramatics, but nodded. “Yeah.”
I let out a deep breath. To see smiles – though tentative as they were – was ever so much better than the tears, which were killing me.
Jerking a thumb behind me, I said, “Hop up, my little backpack.”
She hugged me close as I ran through the hidden passageways, taking the long, dark one out to the far reaches of the castle grounds. I slowed us down just before the exit, coming to a stop just before the door. I could hear Jacob in his wolf form, and I could hear Jasper, but something else hit my mind like a vividly colorful nightmare. I couldn’t place who or what it was.
“Bella,” I growled, slipping her to the tunnel floor. “Love, I need you to stay…right here. Am I clear?”
“What’s wrong?”
“I’m not…sure?” I said, unable to really understand it myself. “Will you please wait for me?”
She nodded, looking nervous, but stepped back so that she could feel the tunnel wall behind her. Giving her one last look, I stepped up out of the tunnel to see Jacob first. He was the epitome of tense and alert, a howl hitting the air, most likely to alert Carlisle and Esme. All his fur was puffed up, his teeth gleaming with the growl he was barely containing.
Holy shit, Edward…who now!? he thought to me, but he caught the scent of Bella. Oh, damn… Okay, I’ve got the tunnel entrance. No one will get past me to her. I swear it.
I nodded, smiling a little as I walked toward the old back gate. It was the place Jacob had originally caught James’s scent back in January. Now there was another scent. However, the mind was new. Before I could step to the gate to see, the sound of ripping, twisting metal resounded through the air.
Something heavy, yet small hit my chest like a bullet, and I slid through the wet grass and mud. The immortal was strong and smelled slightly familiar, but my mouth fell open at who was sitting atop my chest.
Gone were the bright, happy blue-green eyes, and in their place were deep, angry, hate-filled red. Her dark hair and clothes were caked with mud, stained with blood, and ripped in several places. I could barely speak in my shock; Jasper and Bella had been right.
“Oh my God…Alice!”




1 comments:

aelita48 said...

It is a very good chapter!
Alice is a vampire, I adore that.
Thank you.

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