Sunday, June 11, 2017 | By: Drotuno

Even In Death Chapter 17

Chapter 17 – Fooled the Devil
Sold my soul and signed my name in blood
Stole it back now praying in the dark
Fooled the devil
Begging for a fight
Count the dollars make your bet tonight

Feel strong like an oiled machine
All the anger boils within
Move it
Give it
The high rollers are in
“Seal the Deal” by Volbeat
“Christ!” I snarled, both fists collided with a large tree trunk. My shock at it completely shattering and splintering into a multitude of directions brought me up short, not to mention the snow raining down all around me. “Oops,” I muttered in amusement, but it was short-lived, because my frustration level was high.
Bella chuckled behind me, but her thoughts sank slowly down over me. I won’t let you mess up, Edward. Destroy all the trees you want, but I won’t let you hurt a human. You’d never forgive yourself, baby. Hippocratic oath or not. It’s not you.
Her mental voice was just as soothing as her real one, and with that shield of hers, the scent of the human that had driven me into a frenzy just mere seconds prior evaporated. I sat down hard on a small boulder, brushing leaves and snow from my hair.

“Thank you,” I said through heavy breathing. Every inhale brought her scent with it, not the sweet, sharp call of human blood. “It’s so damn tempting, even when…”
“Yeah, I know,” she soothed, stepping between my legs. “I’m lucky I can block it most of the time. But once or twice, I’ve caught it. It’s…rough.”
Grimacing, I lifted my eyes to hers. I cupped her gorgeous face. “How bad was it for you?”
“In the beginning?” she verified, and when I nodded, she did as well. “Bad. But I don’t know if it was all sorts of things with me. They were telling me I had to go, leave my husband behind, that hunting what we were made to hunt was bad. I fought them tooth and nail those first couple of weeks. Sometimes I was tempted to do it just to feel something.”
I brought her lips to mine. “And you were angry. I see it.” I tilted my head at her, and she nodded, glancing down between us in her usual embarrassed tell. “Well, sweetheart, I thank you for stopping me.”
She nodded and smiled, glancing over her shoulder. “I wonder if the park ranger knows just how many times his life has been threatened in the last few months.”
A laugh escaped me, and I shrugged. “He’s a lucky guy, for sure.” I patted the side of her thigh. “Lift that shield, sweetheart. Let me ease into it.”
She cupped my face, pressing kisses to my lips as her shield slowly lifted off me. That beautiful mind of hers evaporated, and I inhaled tentatively, listening for the minds of the Cullens, who were out here with us somewhere.
It was closing in on Christmas, and we’d just had another snowstorm come through, giving the entire wilderness a blaringly white cover. I’d been a vampire for a little over a week, and in that time, we’d begun to get ready to leave Washington. Carlisle and I had put in transfers to the hospital in Fairbanks. Mine was false; Carlisle’s was real. I’d even apologized to Roxy over the phone for not letting her know personally, but she was understanding about needing away from Seattle. She’d offered whatever help she could give, including taking care of Steve, but I’d told her he would be coming with me. Memories or not, fictional story about Bella or not, I couldn’t have left Steve behind; he was everything Bella’s and my love had raised together. Roxy understood that part, too. And he ruled us both with an iron paw, having grown impressively brave around a houseful of vampires. We’d obviously earned his trust.
That same week had brought very little activity from Alice’s visions concerning the Volturi. They were still showing up when snow was still on the ground, and since we’d just had a storm, we all thought they’d show soon enough. Even Jake was keeping watch along the beaches and the woods of the Olympic National Park, since Alice could only tell we’d meet up with them in a wooded area. There was a brief debate of stopping over in Forks at the Cullen home there before heading to Denali, but everyone feared Charlie would catch wind that Carlisle was in town. However, Emmett and Rosalie volunteered to work with Jake in the Olympic area. At first sight or scent or new vision, one group would let the other know.
I breathed deeply again, catching the scent of the park ranger one more time. He was moving away, most likely to his station. I stood up from my spot on the boulder and nodded once to Bella to let her know I was okay to keep going. I needed to hunt a bit more before we headed back to the house.
Bella and I had taken down a couple of elk already, but we needed more, so we headed south toward Mt. Ranier National Park. As difficult as it was to acclimate to the constant burn of thirst, the draw to human blood, and the overwhelming buzzing in my head from minds everywhere, a few things had become rather enjoyable about my change into immortality.
Running had always been a stress reliever for me, and now the speed and agility that my new body contained made running a thrill. Hunting was also extremely stimulating. Not only did it help with concentration, sating the burn of venom at the back of my throat, but it allowed instincts to surface that made me feel powerful and alive. But the absolute breathtaking thing was being with Bella.
What could’ve been devastating and sad and terrible was now a learning experience with my wife, my mate – the latter word was taking more precedence these days. We were learning together, and while the Cullens were a great source of helpful information, making our way just the two of us was what we were used to doing. Everything from learning to dress and governing our strength, to making love. It was all on us, and despite the few difficulties we ran into, the days usually ended with laughter and the two of us wrapped around each other.
The scent of something potent and appealing met my nose, and I stopped us just downwind from a large rock formation. The heartbeat was heavy and strong, and the sound that met my ears was frightening.
“Whoa,” Bella barely said aloud behind me as she gazed over my shoulder. We both crouched low behind a boulder. “A mountain lion…”
I nodded, the scent making me lick my lips. Neither of us had hunted a carnivore, although Emmett swore that bears made for an exhilarating hunt. They were in hibernation, though, and we’d been unsuccessful in finding any. However, all the Cullens had told us that carnivores were the closest to human blood we’d find. Carlisle said it was due to their diet, that it was way different from the elk, mountain goats, moose, and deer, who feasted on grasses and other vegetation.
“He’s gonna put up a fight,” I stated softly, but I glanced to Bella, whose eyes had gone black. “Together, baby?”
She nodded vehemently, grinning at my chuckle.
We shifted away from each other to surround him. Bella hunted with that shield of hers, which kept her from losing her prey. This time, I was trapped within it, and I could hear her thoughts and directions.
Move slow. We’ll grab him at the same time. Ready?
I locked gazes with her briefly, giving her a nod. And when she mentally counted to three, we both moved, giving the large cat nowhere to go. The scent of adrenaline coursing through him was intense, causing a low growl to rumble out of me as I dodged his swiping claws, while Bella wrapped around his middle. Catching his next swiping paw, I pulled him to me, sinking teeth through thick fur.
The reward was like nothing I’d ever experienced. It was heavy, potent, and way more satisfying than any elk, moose, or deer…or hell, all of them combined. Bella’s thoughts were identical as she drank from his front arm. When our gazes met, I knew this was my new favorite thing to hunt. And hers, too.
I also could see this was something so alluring and erotic that I was rather glad we were alone when we’d discovered it. As we pulled away from him at the same time, we were both breathing heavily, licking our lips.
“Wow,” Bella whispered, tearing her gaze from mine to glance down at the cat. “Don’t tell Steve we did that.”
Grinning, I huffed out a laugh but pulled her to me so quickly, she squeaked in surprise. I kissed her like I needed it to live. Her response was to crawl to my lap, straddling me. There were grunts, heavy breathing pushed out against cheeks, and nipping of teeth. There were also gripping hands, grinding hips, and Bella’s amazing mind, which was still wide open to me.
Breaking from her lips, I kissed down her neck, reading every thought that was flickering through her mind.
“Oh, God, baby... You sure?” I verified against the soft spot behind her ear.
“Yes, yes…”
Pulling back, I held her face in my hands. “How? Tell me – show me.”
A wickedly sexy smirk crossed her beautiful face, but I saw how she wanted me. Gathering her up into my arms, I walked us away from our recent meal and just inside the woods. And this part of my new life was the very best part – above running, hunting, speed. The ability to hear my mate, cater to her every whim, and love her so thoroughly that I could see her mind completely shut down when she unraveled in my arms was leaps and bounds ahead of all the other fascinating things I’d learned in the first week of my newborn life.
Even though we were completely alone in those woods, I found a secluded spot behind a barrier of high rocks, low firs, and snow drifts. Setting her down on her feet for just a moment, I pressed her into the trunk of the large fir. Her needy gaze met mine, but I waited for her mind to settle on exactly what she wanted. I tilted my head when her hands reached for the hoodie I was wearing, dragging the zipper down slowly, but my gaze never left hers, and still, I waited. When she tugged at the button of my jeans, her eyes finally snapped up to meet mine. Her mental wish was my command.
Fast, hard, face-to-face.
“Yes, ma’am.”
Kneeling in front of her, I picked up her right foot, tugged off the sneaker, and set it aside. It was a test in control to do it for the left, too, and then reach for her own jeans. Once she kicked out of them, along with her underwear, I stayed kneeling before her, gazing up at the woman who had once made me so nervous as a human that my palms would sweat, my words would come out jumbled, and made me want all things, all at the same time. Several things had changed since that time. So many things, I could barely count, but the look she was giving me at that moment was exactly the same.
Bella wore her love for me in that gaze, the look that only saw me and made me feel like the only person on the entire planet. She said I had tunnel vision, but I was damn sure we both did.
Rubbing her thighs, I pushed my hands beneath her sweater, wanting to feel all of her. I stood before her, skimming my hands flat over skin, cupping that sweet bottom of hers and lifting her effortlessly.
My forehead thumped to hers when she immediately reached into my jeans and wrapped her hands around my cock in order to pull me out. I let out a sound that was barely recognizable, something of a mix of a moan and a growl.
Your eyes are black, Edward, she pointed out as she slowly worked up and down my shaft.
“I just bet they are,” I ground out through gritted teeth, my eyes squeezing closed to maintain myself, but I lifted her slightly. “Ready?”
I knew she was, but I asked anyway. I could smell her want for me hit the air, taste it on my tongue sharper than any blood. Her lips met mine roughly as she positioned me at her entrance, and I pressed her back into the trunk of that fir tree as I gave her exactly what she’d wanted – hard, fast, and face-to-face.
She felt like heaven – strong, wet, loving heaven. I could’ve taken her against that tree all day, just to see her come over and over. I fought instincts to rip, shred, and tear away the rest of her clothes, because she needed something to cover her when we returned to the Cullen home. Her mind was filled with how hard I was, how good I felt, and how lucky she was, which made me grin against the side of her neck and nip at her skin. That caused a growl to escape her, that feline sound that I’d first heard when I’d run into Victoria during my workout at the park. I’d grown to love that sound, the new, edgier part of her that my human Bella never had.
“Not yet, baby,” I begged her, pulling back to see her face. “Wait for me.”
Her body shook in my arms, her head fell back to the tree trunk, and even her legs started to wrap tighter against me as she fought her orgasm. Her mind was everywhere and nowhere all at once, but when her eyes started to roll back, I knew she couldn’t stave it off any longer.
“Okay, okay…” I chanted against her lips, catching the sound she released with my kiss. When I could no longer hold back, one of my hands slammed against the tree trunk by her head, and my whole being quaked as I completely fell over the edge.
The forest was silent, sounds muted by snow and animals absent due to our presence. Even Bella’s mind was quiet, that short moment I lived to cause. A smile curled up my lips, and I nuzzled her nose with my own – up one side and down the other – until her honey eyes opened.
“Lucky?” I asked softly, kissing her mouth when a breathy laugh escaped her.
“God, yes,” she replied through a small giggle. “So very lucky.”
Chuckling, I pulled her away from the tree and turned so I could lean back against it and sit down. I kept her astride my lap. We needed to dispose of our kill and head back, or at the very least meet back up with the Cullens. But I couldn’t for the life of me move right that second.
The silent forest started to make me nervous. It was too quiet.
Patting Bella’s leg gently, I said, “Lift that shield, sweetheart.”
The silence continued for a beat or two. The scents I caught, however, were sharp, filled with an immortal sense of danger. They were coming from the south.
Tilting my head, I listened as far as my mind-reading would allow, finally catching a multitude of thoughts. Our phones alerted a text from Alice; she’d seen their arrival just as I’d caught the Volturi’s collective mind.
“They’re here,” I whispered, my mouth hanging open, and Bella gasped, leaping from my lap. “C’mon, we’ve got to get back to Carlisle.”
“Can we beat them back, Edward?”
Nodding, I tucked myself back into my jeans and zipped up my hoodie, raking my fingers through my hair as she pulled her own jeans back on, along with her sneakers. Just before leaving the area, I hid the lion under brush and fallen trees.
“Yeah, we’ve got to go now,” I stated, pulling out my phone and calling Jake as I ran.
“We were just about to call you. We caught a scent heading east. There’s a shit-ton of them.”
“I heard them. They’re coming up from the south. Bella and I were hunting, but we’re ahead of them and downwind. They’ll catch our trail soon enough,” I explained to him.
“We’ll be there, Ed.”
Bella and I left the Mt. Ranier area and ran as quickly as we could back toward the Alpine Wilderness. It was there that we caught the scent of the Cullens. Their minds were worried. The four of them – Carlisle, Esme, Jasper, and Alice – were in a rather large clearing just beyond the lake and waterfall in which Bella and I had hidden the first two days after my change.
From what I could tell from Alice’s continuous looping visions, she’d picked this spot specifically for it’s walled-in feel. The mountain was behind them, rocks surrounded us on one side, and dense forest on the other. It was those thick trees from which Bella and I emerged.
“Jake’s on his way,” Alice and I said at the same time once we’d joined them, which made us smile when the others chuckled at what now seemed like a new development in how we communicated.
Alice’s mind met mine, giving me a glimpse of the Volturi’s arrival. They would, indeed, catch the scent of Bella’s and my trail, coming in behind us through the woods. However, she also showed me when Jake and the entire pack caused her visions to go awry.
“How many are coming?” Carlisle asked her.
Her eyes glazed over as she sorted through her visions, trying to get a count. I could see the three brothers dressed in deep red – Aro, Caius, and Marcus – but I also saw immortals who seemed to be dressed according to ranks. Seven of them were in black, hooded cloaks, with red and gold emblems embroidered on the front. Two female immortals seemed to stay to the back, and they were in no particular uniform. Those two, however, had four of what looked to be a different type of guard, who were in a charcoal gray.
“Sixteen,” I counted aloud, explaining what Alice was seeing.
Jasper frowned, thinking those odds were poor against us – not quite two to one, if the pack and Rose and Emmett didn’t show. “And they brought their mates?”
“It would seem so,” Carlisle surmised, shaking his head.
He paced in front of us for a few moments, his worry palpable, but his mind was centered on every step he’d taken, the path he’d led his family down. He couldn’t see where anything that had been done was wrong or had broken any of the Volturi’s laws. Even allowing me in on what they were was null and void, considering I was now one of them. However, the one thing that seemed to plague him was that he’d allowed the situation with James, Laurent, and Victoria to get so out of hand that it had brought everything else down upon them. It had sent Victoria into an unstable downward spiral and had condemned two innocent victims to an eternal life of damnation.
I snorted. “That’s a little dramatic, don’t you think?” I asked him, and he spun his gaze to meet mine. “I mean, now isn’t the time for a philosophical discussion, or even a debate on souls and the afterlife, but I just think you’re accepting way too much responsibility on this one.”
His gaze softened as he realized his thoughts were no longer private.
“Sorry,” I muttered, wrinkling my nose.
“Don’t apologize, Edward.” His voice was firm yet still kind. “You can’t help what you can do. No more than Jasper can stop feeling and Alice can stop seeing her visions.”
“Okay, but still…” I argued, gesturing between Bella and me. “This worked out, Carlisle. And I…I…I know I blamed you in the beginning, but we all pushed through it. I dunno. I just think you’ve fixed it the best way you knew how.”
Bella leaned into me, wrapping her arms around my waist. I dropped kisses to the top of her head, my eyes betraying me when I could hear a large group of minds grow closer. And it wasn’t Jake and the pack.
“They’re here,” Alice and I said at the same time. She grinned when I shot a raised eyebrow her way.
Jasper snorted, rolling his eyes and thinking that he’d have to get used to our strange talents quickly, but he was grateful someone could share his wife’s mental burden.
There was a touch of cheesy pomp and circumstance to how they filed into the clearing. Their minds were loud, the subjects ranging from getting back to Italy, to several wanting a fight after coming all this way. There was boredom and a sense of arrogance and hostility coming through Jasper, who caught my eye when he stepped up beside me.
What the hell? he thought to himself and to me.
I shook my head. “Some of them don’t want to be here. Some are looking to fight,” I stated so very softly. “I can’t…distinguish which ones are which just yet, but—”
“Ah, Carlisle,” the smaller immortal in the front called to him. “It’s been too long.”
“Aro,” Carlisle greeted with a respective nod. “It’s good to see you. Caius, Marcus, you two as well.”
Those introductions were what I’d needed so I could get a read on the three brothers. The itch for a fight was coming from Caius, a small blond immortal with what looked to be a permanent scowl on his face. The disdain he carried for Carlisle and the diet he followed was rolling around in his mind as he hoped his brother called for the destruction of the strange coven. Caius hated what he didn’t understand and was too damned arrogant to learn anything new.
Marcus was the bored one. Nothing held his attention for very long. His emotionless gaze was on an expressionless face as he slowly took in his surroundings, wishing this was done and having zero opinion on the outcome. Although, I caught tangible thoughts from Marcus concerning Carlisle until he glanced up to greet us. Marcus’s talent was interesting. Carlisle said he could see the loyalties between people, and as I saw those connections through Marcus’s eyes, my eyebrows shot up.
Each cluster of immortals had their own ties. Jasper and Alice, while connected to each other, also had a tie to Carlisle and Esme. Bella and I were bound by a strong connection, but we, too, were also tied to Carlisle and Esme. It created a web. As I gazed out over the Volturi, the web effect was the same. Some ties were stronger than others, and most were loyal to the brothers.
However, it was Aro my mind locked on to, because he was the name that brought fear, and he was the leader that could essentially end us all or demand our service. My hope was that there was a third option.
Aro stepped closer, his hands held up, palms out, as if in a surrendering gesture. “My how your family has grown, Carlisle,” he sang in a falsely sweet tone.
Carlisle smiled, nodding once. “Yes, we’ve had some trouble as of late from some nomads, and it resulted in necessary changes.”
Aro tsked, smiling widely. “So I’ve heard.” He clasped his hands together. “Introduce me to your family.”
“Of course,” Carlisle agreed, turning to place a hand on Jasper’s shoulder. “Aro, meet Jasper. His mate, Alice. This is Edward, and his mate, Bella. And of course, you know Esme.”
“Yes, of course. Esme, it’s been decades. Good to see you.”
“You, too, Aro,” Esme replied politely.
Carlisle, however, decided to address the elephant in the room. “Aro, what brings all of you here, so far from Volterra? What makes you seek me out?”
He smiled eerily but paced in front of us. “I caught wind of a newborn army being created in these parts, and unlike the wars in the south with Maria—” he shot a look to Jasper before going on “—we decided to attend to it ourselves.”
Asshole, Jasper thought to himself, but his face never flinched. If he knows about Maria, then he knows what I can do. That can’t possibly be his only reason for coming here.
I kept my face stoic, but I caught his gaze, giving him a barely there shake of my head. Aro’s sole reason for bringing an entire troupe of immortals across the oceans was standing next to Jasper.
She shot me a warning look, her mind sorting through all the visions she could. Her decision making was rapid and intense. She was looking for the correct approach to all of it. And she had to work quickly, because she knew Jacob and the pack would arrive shortly, which would negate all her visions.
Carlisle smiled. “Well, Aro, we removed that threat a little over a week ago.”
“Just the six of you?” he countered, his eyebrows raising high, but he knew better.
“No, there were more, but the creator of that army and the army itself has been eradicated. Victoria was a rather unstable immortal, and I’m afraid her hatred was aimed our way. We’d asked her and her two friends to please leave our area to hunt, and they took offense.” He placed a hand on Bella’s shoulder. “They headed toward a small town a few hours from here. It has a small human population, but they attacked Bella here in their anger. I had no choice but to allow the change to continue once one of them bit her.”
“You could’ve ended her suffering.”
My lip twitched in hatred, but my beautiful mate spoke up gently. “Carlisle offered me the choice, sir. I’ve come to terms with it.”
Aro smiled her way. “Bella… Short for Isabella, I assume?” he queried, and she nodded. “A beautiful Italian name.” He stepped closer to her. “I’ve also heard that there was a possibility that you, Isabella, allowed a human to know what you were.”
She smirked, pointing to me. “My husband and mate…and no longer human.”
Aro grinned, calling for his brothers over his shoulder. “My dear brothers, have you ever seen this? Mates as humans and as immortals?”
Caius scoffed, rolling his eyes; he had no interest in the direction of the conversation. But Marcus’s reaction was interesting. He forced his bored gaze from the scenery around us and looked between Bella and me. His thoughts were truly intrigued, but Jasper was picking up a sadness that was almost crushing.
“I have, Aro. And so have you,” was all he replied.
For the first time, Aro flinched. It was a blink of uncertainty, a blip in his confidence. A woman’s face came to both Marcus’s mind and Aro’s. She was beautiful, with olive-toned skin, but she was clearly immortal with her deep-red eyes that seemed to look upon Marcus like he was the only thing in the room. He’d had a mate, but she was gone. How he pushed on without her was beyond me, but it may have explained his lack of interest in most everything around him. And his mate had been Aro’s sister.
Aro, however, briefly allowed a touch of guilt to come over him but quickly pushed it away, setting his eyes on Bella. He debated on reading her mind but paced in front of us instead.
“How many in your family, Carlisle?” he asked suddenly.
“With Edward and Bella, I have eight.”
Aro glimpsed toward me but went back to Carlisle. “Those numbers are unnerving to me. It seems rather large. A coven of immortals that large usually tear each other apart eventually.”
Carlisle sighed deeply. “I’ve given you my explanations for why we don’t, Aro. It wasn’t so long ago I was presenting you with my hypothesis in your study. Diet has everything to do with it.”
Aro wrinkled his nose, waving that away. “Still, I feel like this family of yours is growing larger in a threatening way.”
“We are no threat, I assure you. We simply wish to live as a family, choosing a different diet than the norm,” Carlisle calmly explained.
Caius’s patience completely unraveled at this point. “Just end them, brother, and be done with this ridiculous propriety.” I never understood his leniency for Carlisle Cullen.
That thought made me frown, but I waited for Aro’s decision.
“On what charges, Caius?” Marcus asked him, gesturing our way. “We came here…or we were brought here under the guise that there was a newborn army, which is no more. We also were to see about the human who knew of us, but he is now one of us. There are no charges. They’ve done no wrong. No rules are broken.”
“The sheer size of this coven is an army on its own,” Caius spat, glaring at Aro. “And just how many carry talents? How many could be used against us?”
Aro smirked, nodding a few times. His mind was grateful for his brothers. They were hot and cold, black and white. Marcus and Caius were opposites, and they always seemed to bring a new outlook to each situation.
“That would be a very good question,” he sang, rubbing his hands together. “What say you, Carlisle? Who among you carries an extra talent?” He asked this rhetorically, because he already partially knew the answer. “Alice,” he said, stepping in front of her. “My dear Alice. What I wouldn’t give to have your talent. Have you seen the outcome of this meeting already?”
Alice smiled sweetly. “I’ve seen several outcomes.”
“Excellent!” he praised, clapping his hands and then holding one out. “May I?”
We all tensed, because if Alice touched him, then he’d see everything. He’d see my mind-reading, Bella’s shield, and it would confirm whatever he’d heard about Jasper. But it would also show him Jacob’s pack, and we weren’t quite sure how the Volturi would take to the shape-shifting Native Americans.
Alice’s mind hit me softly before she moved to touch Aro. This may end ugly. The wolves are close, because my visions are blurring. I see them panic.
Shifting a little, I linked my fingers with Bella’s and gave her hand a squeeze to let her know to brace herself.
As soon as Aro’s fingers wrapped around Alice’s hand, his eyes widened, and his mouth fell open. “That’s impossible!” he snarled, glaring at her and then around to his guards. “Werewolves! They associate with our natural enemies!” he told them. “They were destroyed centuries ago. We hunted them all down!”
Before Carlisle could correct him, movement from the trees around us and the long, low howl of one of the wolves echoed in that clearing.
Aro’s temper snapped. “You’re trying to destroy us!” He spun on his heel. “Kill them all!”


Anonymous said...

Dam Aro!! Jump to false conclusions much??
I do love that Edward and Bella depend and rely on each other and not so mush the rest of them.

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