Tuesday, May 23, 2017 | By: Drotuno

Even in Death Chapter 15

Chapter 15 – Come What May
Through the fire
To the limit, to the wall
For a chance to be with you
I'd gladly risk it all
Through the fire
Through whatever, come what may
For a chance at loving you
I'd take it all the way
Right down to the wire
Even through the fire

I know you're afraid of what you feel
You still need time to heal
And I can help if you'll only let me try
You touch me and something in me knew
What I could have with you
Well I'm not ready to kiss that dream goodbye

When it's this sweet, there's no saying no
I need you so, I'm ready to go
“Through the Fire” by Chaka Khan
EDWARD
“Sorry about that,” I mumbled against Bella’s skin while tracing a bite mark I’d left on her inner thigh with my finger.
“I’m not,” she said through a chuckle, her head falling back to my shoulder as I held her between my legs. She skimmed her hand flat down my arm and showed her wrist, where a small nip in her skin glowed in the moonlight. “Apparently, the only thing that can leave a scar on our skin is a bite from another vampire.”
I pulled her wrist to my lips, pressing a kiss there, and then turned to kiss the mark on her neck from James. I was drunk on my love for her at the moment. We’d been in that cave for almost twenty-four hours. We’d only left once so Bella and I could hunt, but we’d raced right back to stay hidden, to stay in the bubble we’d created since I’d woken up from my change.

“I need to control that,” I whispered against her cheek. “As much as I enjoyed it, I can’t keep marking you.”
Bella grinned, shrugging a shoulder. I couldn’t hear her thoughts, but I knew every single one of her mannerisms, and that particular one meant she didn’t care.
“Control,” she scoffed. “Edward, you’ve been awake for a whole day. Just one damn day. Relax. You’re in better control than you think. Those newborns who came to the house were probably weeks old, and you’re in better control than they were.”
Chuckling at her instant and never-ending defense, I kissed her cheek again. “Sweetheart, we’re in a cave, on a mountain, without a human for miles. The only trouble to be found is right here.” My hands started to travel, skimming, teasing, tickling, which resulted in the giggling, writhing nakedness in my arms I’d wanted.
There was a part of me that knew time was ticking, that there were things that needed to be done and discussed. Our future as we’d once known it was gone, so a new one needed to be planned, prepared for, and accepted.
The other part of me couldn’t get enough of my wife, my mate. I truly did feel drunk on her. Or maybe it was addicted. Obsessed? I didn’t care what label it had.
Bella turned in my arms, kneeling between my legs. She loomed over me as I leaned against the wall of the cave. Placing her hands flat on either side of my face, she smiled. It was heartbreakingly beautiful and sweet and loving. And a memory of seeing that smile for the first time came from nowhere. It was after we’d declared our love for the first time, after losing our virginities to each other. We’d been dating for a few months and lost ourselves on a rainy afternoon in my dorm room at UW. She’d looked at me then just like she was now, and I knew I’d never love another woman for the rest of my life. Suddenly, my rollercoaster mind blurted out that same nonsense.
“You think we were fated for this?” I asked against her lips.
She grinned, but it faltered a little as she shrugged. “I don’t know, baby. I try not to question it now that I’ve got you back.”
Nodding, I accepted that answer, because I felt the same. “Me, too.” The sound of the falling water was the only thing I heard as I gazed up at her. “What should we do, sweetheart?”
“Right this very second?” she said with a laugh. “That’s a very loaded question, Dr. Masen, when we’re this naked and alone.”
Grinning, I huffed a laugh as my head fell back to the stone wall behind me. I reached up, trailing my fingers along her face and beneath her chin. “I’m not sure doctor fits anymore.”
“You’re still a doctor, Edward,” she countered softly and patiently. “Carlisle still practices medicine. You will, too, eventually.” She kissed my lips when I started to argue that he was much older than us. “It’s your first damn day, baby,” she reminded me again with more kisses to my lips. “Now… What should we do about what?”
Snorting, I shook my head. “Everything?”
She smirked but got up from my lap. Our clothes were every-damn-where, but she found my shirt and pajama bottoms, putting on the former and tossing the latter my way.
“Put those on, and we’ll try to sort out everything,” she teased with a smirk.
Dressing myself was a test in strength control, but with slowed movements, I was able to pull the pants on without shredding them to pieces. It was a miracle they’d lasted this long. And that thought only brought around the reality that we needed to get back to the Cullen home for clean clothes and a long discussion.
Bella leaned against the rock wall as I started to pace. I had more energy than I knew what to do with, but I wasn’t used to anything yet. And I was trying my damnedest not to notice just how adorably sexy she looked in that way-too-big shirt, especially knowing there was nothing underneath it.
“You…” I started, continuing to pace. “You said that we were moving to Alaska?”
“I said that’s what they’d discussed doing. The Denalis live in the middle of nowhere, and we’d be able to hunt when we need, come and go as we please, and get used to this.” She gestured between us, but I knew what she meant, even without hearing her thoughts.
Nodding, I stopped in front of her. “Bella, I told you before that I’m willing to concede some things to Carlisle, but there are a few decisions that I’d rather make just the two of us.”
“They just want to help us.”
“I know. Really, I do,” I acquiesced, stopping in front of her. “I get it. With all that we’ve been through because of them, I understand that they think they owe us…something. I just think there’s a difference between help and guidance and the pushing of ideas our way.”
“No, I get that.” She pushed away from the wall to walk to me. Cupping my face, she asked, “Are you talking about Alaska? Or living with them in general?”
“In general,” I answered truthfully. “I mean, I like them all, even Rosalie, but I… Bella, you and I had a life before all of this, and I know things have changed – we’ve changed, literally – but I don’t know if I can do what they do. That…that thing of living together, pretending to be something else. I don’t know.” I shook my head, folding my arms across my chest as I watched the water fall over the opening of our cave.
She nodded, pushing up on her toes to kiss my lips. “But you’re okay with Alaska,” she verified, locking those beautiful golden eyes on mine.
I let out a deep sigh, grimacing a little. “Actually, yeah. I’m okay with that part, because if hearing minds is as loud as it was that first moment, then I really have to get used to it, or we’re never leaving this cave.”
Bella giggled and groaned at the same time. “Oh, God, I can’t imagine.” She kissed my chin. “I told you I’d shield you.”
“I know, and I love you for it, but honestly, I don’t think I have much of a choice. I have to get used to it – how it works, how it sounds, the difference between voice and mind. It was difficult to determine that last part, even when it was just you and Carlisle I was hearing.” I pressed a kiss to her forehead and then paced a little more. “Alaska also gives the excuse I need for Charlie, I think.”
I rubbed my face, noting the fine growth of stubble. It was the length it usually was by the end of a long human day. And it would never change. However, most of the men in the Cullen family had smooth faces, and I knew no regular blade could touch it, so I’d have to ask them what to do about it, if anything.
When Bella went quiet, I turned to face her. The expression on that sweet face was so very sad.
“I’m sorry, sweetheart,” I stated in a subdued voice, feeling awful that this topic was affecting her this way.
“I miss my dad,” she whispered shakily. “I miss my mother, too.”
“I know you do, and I feel responsible for your dad. If the Cullens owe us, then I truly owe Charlie. Without him, the loss of you would’ve…”
I trailed off, because it was moot now. I had my girl back, my wife, my best friend, and all those titles culminated into one perfect term – mate. I now understood what Carlisle had tried to tell me the night he’d taken samples of my blood to draw Victoria in – my mate made all the things better. She was a crutch, the other half of me, and the light at the end of this strange new tunnel.
Charlie, though, was still in the dark. I may have gotten Bella back, but he was still living in the world where he’d lost his little girl on his watch. That simply didn’t sit well with me. A part of me wanted to give him hope or something he could hold on to, but rules and promises and treaties wouldn’t allow it – those same rules my sweet wife had broken to let me know she was still there, still alive.
I didn’t mention that; I kept it to myself for now.
The buzz in my head, which had been minimal with Bella, started to pick up. Blurry and choppy pieces of conversation met my ears or mind, I wasn’t sure which.
Grimacing a little, I walked to the edge of the cave and tilted my head to listen closely.
“Edward, what is it?”
“You hear that?” I asked her.
She came to stand beside me. She inhaled deeply but shook her head. “I don’t hear anything, baby.”
We’ll find them, Leah.
We lost their trail, but dammit, Jake, maybe they don’t want to be found right about now.
Grinning, I looked to Bella. “It’s Jake and Leah. They’re looking for us in wolf form.” I laughed a little. “The…pack… They communicate so strangely. I…I can hear just the two of them, but I can also hear the rest of the pack in various places. It’s like a hive mind or something.”
Bella chuckled a little. “Can you tell where or how far?”
“Umm, no. But I could probably follow it.”
“You know, Jake’s probably the perfect one to test that mind-reading thing with.”
Sighing at the end of our time alone, I nodded. “Then I need my shirt, beautiful.”
With darkening eyes and a wicked smirk on her face, Bella reached down to slowly pull my shirt off over her body. I closed my eyes as I fought the instantaneous desire to lose myself in her again.
When I opened them, she was dressed back in her jeans and sweater, walking to me to hand me my shirt.
“C’mon, Edward. We’ll go talk to Jake.”
Bella talked me through putting my shirt back on without ripping the sleeves clean off. We slipped out the cave, avoiding the wall of falling water, and instead of climbing back up to the cliff above us, I led us down toward the small lake below. Just as we landed on the rocky shore, a scent slammed into me like a freight train. Unexpectedly, a growl escaped me without even thinking about it.
“Easy, Edward.” Bella’s calm demeanor helped me push the instinct to fight away. “Jake is our natural enemy, and your instincts tell you to prepare for him, but you know him.”
Nodding, I let out a cleansing breath. “Has he always smelled that strong?”
You know, Ed… You don’t exactly smell pleasant to me either, asshat.
I couldn’t stop the laugh that came out of me. And I turned toward the two enormous wolves stepping slowly out of the woods across the way.
“Fair enough, Jacob,” I said, still chuckling.
Wow! So the mind-reading thing really is true? he asked as he stepped closer. When I nodded, he shook his large head. How’s that work?
“I have no idea. But it’s noisy.”
He had a brief moment of pity but then turned his attention to Bella. She looks fucking blissful. Good for you guys!
He nuzzled her hand but decided he’d rather have a verbal conversation, so he took off back to the woods. Leah stayed in wolf form and on alert, but she was happy for us. Well, she was as happy as her instincts would allow her to be, since we were both now the enemy she was supposed to destroy. Knowing us first helped her keep her instincts under control.
When Jacob stepped back out of the woods, he was in his human form again, wearing his usual long khaki shorts. His mind, however, was complicated with different subjects he needed to address with Bella and me.
His first words aloud were unexpected. “You scared the shit outta me.”
Grinning, I nodded. “I know. I’m sorry.”
He sighed, rolled his eyes. “What the hell were you thinking, running into the woods?”
I could see through his mind, the memory of the fight with Victoria. From his perspective, they’d kept the fight fairly contained. Very few newborns had made it to the house; most had met their demise in the woods, thanks to the pack. The ones who did approach the Cullen home were met with very experienced vampires with more control. And two had discovered my wife’s temper and shield.
But a human stepping outside in the middle of it all threw everyone into a frenzy of worry and panic.
“You’re lucky it was me who’d been pushing that redheaded leech toward the house!” he stated with a finger pointed my way. “And now look…” He gestured up and down at me. “They’ve made you one of them. Not that I can say shit about it, because Bella would’ve kicked my ass had I invoked the treaty about turning you.”
Bella snorted, and it was her turn to roll her eyes. “Shut up, Jake.”
He narrowed his eyes at her, pursing his lips. “Fine. I’m sure it would’ve happened eventually anyway.”
“Probably,” Bella and I said at the same time, which made Leah bark into a rough laugh through a wolfish grin.
“Why are you out here, Jake?” Bella asked through a very long, very patient sigh.
“Alice said to leave you alone, that you’d head back soon enough. But I thought you’d rather hear a few things from me rather than them.”
Leah’s thoughts centered around one thing. Charlie.
My head spun to the only wolf in the pack that was more white than red. “What about him?”
“Charlie’s safe,” Jacob stated. “He’s actually with Leah’s mother.”
“Sue?” Bella asked, her eyebrows rising up. “He’s on the res?”
“Yeah.” Jake nodded, smirking a bit, but he caught my eye. Can you see why?
I tilted my head, reading his mind, and a slow smile spread across my face. “He likes her. Charlie’s dating?”
Jacob laughed at Bella’s gasp as she glanced between us.
“Seriously?” she asked incredulously.
“Since when?” I asked, because in all the times I’d been over to Charlie’s house – before and after Bella’s accident – he’d never once mentioned Sue Clearwater.
“Well, he didn’t want to say anything to you, Edward. It kind of, sort of started as a comfort thing?” he said, but it sounded like a question. “It began after Bella’s memorial service.”
“Oh,” Bella and I both muttered.
It was Leah who answered my biggest question, which was why hide it from me?
He didn’t say anything because he thought it was… Well, you know how he is. He’s not one to wear his emotions on his sleeve, but he said it was wrong to smash it in your face when you’d lost so much.
“So why say something now?” I asked the two of them, but it was Jake who answered.
“Well, here’s the cool part that I wanted to discuss without the head bloodsucker around.”
“Would you stop that shit?!” Bella snapped. “Just spit it out!”
I wrapped an arm around Bella’s shoulders and brought her to my front, kissing the back of her head.
“Sure, sure,” he surrendered. “Having Charlie on the res means having Charlie hear the legends.”
He raised an eyebrow at me, and he seemed to be waiting for me to put the pieces together.
“And having Charlie hear the legends means that he’ll figure out that they aren’t just old scary stories,” I surmised, a smirk curling the corner of my mouth, but it fell quickly. “Shit, Jake, what does he know?”
“Just the old scary stories, at this point.”
The hope that bloomed across my wife’s beautiful face was almost too much to look at when she turned to me. I cupped her cheek, brushing my thumb beneath her eye as I listened to Jacob’s and Leah’s thoughts. As much as I wanted to leave Charlie some sort of hope, there was one thing that worried me.
Pressing a kiss to Bella’s forehead, I mulled it over. Finally, I locked gazes back with Jake. “What about the Volturi?”
That’s the other reason we were out here looking for you.
I shot a look to Leah and then back to Jake. “What is it?”
Jake’s face darkened with hatred, and he shook his head. “They’re here. In Washington. Apparently, Victoria caused a big enough stink makin’ that army of hers to draw them over from Italy. Carlisle says normally they send just a few of them to check out those types of things, but not this time. It’s a bunch of them – including the creepy brothers.”
“Shit,” Bella hissed. “Aro’s here?”
“Yeah, and they want to see Carlisle.”
“Edward, we should head back,” she said softly, looking to me. “If they’re here, then—”
“Hold that thought, Bells,” Jake interrupted, grimacing a little. “I overheard Eleazar and Carlisle talking. You two… Well, you’ve got abilities that these Italian fuckers are gonna want. Man, I’ll lose my shit should they try anything.”
I was confused for just a moment, and I glanced Bella’s way, but Jake was remembering the conversation.
“Aro reads minds,” I confirmed, and everyone nodded. “And he likes talented vampires.”
They all nodded again.
“Edward, the Volturi collects talented immortals,” Bella explained gently, now seemingly worried as she reached up to touch my face, my hair, my chest. “Aro reads minds by touching the person, where you don’t have to. And you can see what the person is thinking right at the moment, but Aro? He sees every thought you’ve ever had. He’ll envy your ability, simply for its ease.”
I scoffed, rolling my eyes at that, because even with just Jake and Leah, it was a lot to take in and a din of noise in my head. It was easier than before, though. Jake was in human form, so I could tell the difference between thought and speech. Leah was all thoughts, with her being in her wolf form. Bella was silent to me. Two minds were somewhat doable. However, the reality was that I would rather hear Bella’s mind and no one else. The other reality was that it wasn’t always going to be simply two minds. There would come a point when it would be cities, schools, hospitals, and an endless sea of people and minds and disturbing things, and I had to brace for it.
Despite Bella’s reassurance that it was my first day, I worried about this new ability and what it would mean. Just from the little thoughts I’d caught from people I knew, I could tell there were things in someone’s head not meant for anyone to hear. This was eavesdropping on a massive scale. Suddenly, I wanted to know what Alice knew.
“Maybe we should get back,” I muttered, glancing around at everyone. “I’d… I’d like to see what Alice knows.”
Bella’s smile quirked up on her lips. “Someone’s going to fit in just fine.”
Grinning, I shrugged. “I dunno, sweetheart. I have to get used to this.” I tapped my temple, my brow furrowing a little. “If this is…me, then I need to adjust. I need to adapt to what we are now.” When Jake shook his head a little, I turned to him. “Before anyone panics over the Volturi, I’d like to get all the information I can, and with Carlisle’s knowledge of them and Alice’s visions, we might be able to either avoid Aro or brace ourselves for him. But I need to know.”
“First day, Edward,” she reiterated in a sing-song manner, but she nodded and kissed my lips.
“So you keep telling me, but Bella, this is me. I’m not sure the part of me that needs all the information has evaporated with my humanity,” I explained, which made everyone chuckle a little at me.
My wife studied my face, and I wished I could hear her thoughts, but she finally nodded. “Okay, let’s head back.”
Jake nodded and jogged off to change back into his wolf form, stepping back out to the lakeside to wait for us. Race you? he taunted, and he and Leah started to run.
I laughed, looking to Bella. “He wants a race.”
“Oh?” she asked with a laugh. “Okay, then.” She shoved me playfully and took off after him.
It was unlike any race I’d ever experienced. As a human, I’d run for exercise just about every day in college and after graduation. I’d signed up for marathons and races for charity or for college functions. No race or workout involved the type of competition I was running at that moment.
It was over forty miles of leaping over small lakes and streams. Two wolves versus two vampires – the latter with more strength than the average immortal, due to being newborns – navigated the Alpine Lakes Wilderness as if it were a child’s playground. Bella took the lead at one point through a thick patch of trees, but I leaped over Leah to scale the trunks, jumping from tree to tree until I was able to take the lead. I grinned at Bella’s growl behind me, but the last few miles back to the Cullen home were an easy stretch. I ran so fast, I lost the ability to hear Jake and Leah, and Bella’s footsteps fell behind me.
When the Cullen rooftop was visible through the trees, I ran even faster, coming to a stop at the table in the backyard. I heard the back doors open to the house, and the minds hit me all at once. Bracing my hands on the snow-covered table, I shook my head and squeezed my eyes closed. It was chaos for the first few moments.
Glancing up when I smelled her approach, I met Bella’s worried gaze.
“Too much?” she asked.
“No… Well, yes, but I’ve got to acclimate, Bella,” I answered her softly.
“Edward?” Carlisle called, rushing to me. His thoughts seemed clearer than the rest, but his worry was all over his face. Hearing someone’s mind must be overwhelming. Hearing everyone has to be…
“Nonsense,” I answered his train of thought, smirking at his snorting laugh. “Just…give me a second, please.”
“You’ve hunted?” he asked, and I nodded. “Okay, then talk it out. Focus on each mind.”
Raising an eyebrow at him, I didn’t look away when I took a deep breath. “You’re worried this is too much. Jake and Leah are pissed I won the race. Jasper is feeding off your worry. Emmett wants his own race. Eleazar is trying to remember the last mind reader he knew, aside from Aro. Rose wants out of Washington. Esme wants to hug me. Kate and Irina want to know when they can go home. Tanya is jealous of my wife, but not really jealous… Maybe congratulatory? Whatever that means… And Alice…” My head spun to face the shortest member of the group.
Bella’s hand slipped into mine, our fingers linking together naturally, and we faced Alice, who was walking closer to me.
Finally, someone else can… Alice smiled, and it was a little sad and weary. Another freak in the family.
I chuckled a little, shaking my head. “Is that how you see it?” I asked, tilting my head at her, and I found that my brain was able to shift and push away the curious minds around us and focus solely on one person.
Alice wrinkled her nose and shrugged. It was a very human thing to do, considering how long she’d been immortal, but her mind was excited and grateful to now know someone else with a mental ability. The fact that I could see what she was seeing was like a weight being lifted from her small shoulders.
Of all the members of the Cullen family, Alice had wanted Bella and me to join them. She’d seen it coming not long after Bella’s change. She hadn’t seen Bella’s attack, since James’s decision to bite her had been a spur-of-the-moment thing, but once the change was underway, she’d seen everything – Bella, me, and Victoria. All of it had come to pass. And now visions were assaulting her with every possibility.
She saw a wide-open future, where everyone could stay somewhere longer, if the two of us monitored the humans around us. Alaska was a strong, almost concrete outcome. I saw Bella and me with golden eyes and happy smiles and a place of our own somewhere I didn’t recognize. However, all of her visions continuously changed, because nothing was certain. In her mind, I could see it was because everyone was making decisions that caused the future to shift. It was driving her crazy, and she was hoping my mind-reading ability could help sort some of it out.
Lastly, she saw Aro, along with a large group of immortals in red coats, but it was Alice’s thoughts directly to me that had me worried.
He’ll ask for me, you, Bella, and Jasper. He’ll want our abilities as compensation for Victoria’s mess, despite the fact that we stopped it and cleaned up after it. She shifted on her feet a little, her eyes drifting to her mate. You know his history, Edward. He won’t survive it. He won’t survive the hate and coldness. He won’t be able to resist the diet, and as new as the two of you are, you won’t resist it either.
“What do we do?” I asked her softly, yet it seemed loud out there in the snow-covered backyard.
“If just the four of us leave, then he reads Carlisle’s mind and sees there are more of us. If we all leave, then he’ll look for us. If we stay, he’ll ask us to join him.”
“And by asking, you’re saying he’ll demand it,” I surmised, pulling Bella closer to me. I looked to Carlisle. “She sees Aro coming. He’ll want something in return for the mess that Victoria made. He’ll want the four of us.” I gestured between Bella and myself to Alice and Jasper.
“Well, he can’t have you,” Esme stated firmly, and as much as she was upset, it made me smile at how protective she was of her whole family.
Carlisle soothed her but focused on Alice and me. “As much as Aro wants something, he’s also aware that to demand someone to come with him will not always bring loyalty, which Marcus would be able to see. If he wants retribution for Victoria’s mess, then he’s too late. We eradicated the entire lot.”
Eleazar stepped forward, his mind filled with possibilities. “We broke no laws here. And we did them a favor by removing Victoria and her newborn army. Running isn’t the answer; it shows guilt or that we’re hiding something. Facing him is the only answer. How long until he arrives, Alice?”
“There’s still snow on the ground,” she answered, pointing to what was all around us.
Carlisle paced a few steps back and forth, rubbing his face and pinching the bridge of his nose. “My family should be the ones to face him. Eleazar, you should take yours back to Denali.”
I flinched when minds started to get louder, more frightened. Carlisle, however, held up his hand when some began to argue aloud.
“Everyone inside, please.” He looked over his shoulder. “You, too, Jacob. We need to discuss the next steps we all need to take.” He glanced to me. My family is bigger now, and as much as Aro may see that as a threat, I will fight for them. All of them.
I wasn’t sure if he’d aimed that my way, or if I was simply eavesdropping, but as we followed him inside the house, his thoughts weren’t the only ones centered around the preparation for a fight. I pulled Bella closer to me once we were in the living room, bracing myself for whatever this meeting would decide.

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