The Twilight Saga

 

This is my fan fiction I wrote in 2009 - Dark Moon [Edward's New Moon], and I am re-posting it finally all together and in the right order. 

 

The fan fiction is named Dark Moon to express the darkness and empty Edward's life was after he left Bella.

 

Thank you for reading my fan fic, and for the lovely comments.

 

Since finishing Dark Moon, the story has been translated into Russian and Portuguese, and has it's own website Here where it can be translated by Google into many languages.

 

PDF file has been attached below.

 

Also, there are some minor errors within the text that have yet to be corrected.

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Quick Thanks:

 

I am eternally grateful to my editors; Nina Oxley-Pegg, Liandel Wouters and Jasmine Patterson, who gave up their own time to read and edit my work. Thank you so much girls!

 

A special thanks to Sandy Meirelles and Nisia Andrade Silva for translating the entire story into Portuguese.

And another special thanks to Yulia Alex Rogacheva for translating the entire story into Russian.

 

To all my readers and the fans of Dark Moon from all the fan fiction websites – Thank you for loving my words, waiting anxiously for each chapter and for the endless pages of lovely comments, especially Tami and Alias

 

Most importantly, a HUGE thank you to Stephanie Meyer for creating the Twilight Saga. Twilight has opened up a whole new fantasy in my life which changed my life and encouraged me to purse my aspirations, so Stephanie, I thank you immensely.

 

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A Note about the Story

 

 

The Twilight Saga’s: New Moon by Stephanie Meyer is written in the character Bella’s perspective.

 

Dark Moon [Edward’s New Moon] is a fan fiction story written by myself (Sophie Kellett-Beament) is my interpretation of New Moon from Edward’s Perspective.

 


Disclaimer: All the Characters belong to Stephanie Meyer. I am not Stephanie Meyer, and I do not own any of The Twilight Saga’s characters or plotlines. I have used some of Stephanie’s dialogue and storyline from New Moon; however the rest of the story is my own from Edward’s perspective.

 

 

 

 

Also, please note that the writing in italics are thoughts.

 

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Synopsis:

'Dark Moon [Edward's New Moon]' is an intimate glimpse into the mind of Edward Cullen during the darkest days of his existence.It is as inspiring as it is haunting and takes us on a journey of pain and sacrifice; made only more poignant as the reader understands the futility of his efforts. It is an insightful and poetic creation that plunges us into the depths of the love Edward Cullen feels for Isabella Swan. And the depravity he thrusts upon himself in his misguided effort to protect her from the dangers his world has created for her; not realizing that he was in fact the protection she needed from such dangers, not the cause.Synopsis written by Tami Flournoy.

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DARK MOON 

[Edward's New Moon]

 

 

Preface



I had to leave.

I loved her too deeply to put her in such danger any longer; the consequences were too appalling to consider.

 

Even as I fled my dead heart screamed at me to return.

If I had listened, would I have been able to prevent the terrible tragedy?

How could an act meant to save her cause so much anguish and suffering?

 

The image in my mind was astoundingly beautiful; filled with a perfect all consuming love.

A love I had lost forever.

I had to decide, should I endure a hellish life of torment and remorse or trust in the cold and final embrace of death.

I needed to be with her.

Forever.

To live or to die?

I chose death.


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Chapter 12

Black Hole


My eyes clouded and everything went black.

The end had come.

Too quickly.

How could this have happened?

Bella was dead.

 

Nothingness surrounded me.

My world felt empty.

My life was over.

My existence was nugatory

My purpose had ceased to exist.

I had nothing left to live for.

 

I truly believed that the pain, the torture and the suffering that I had felt on leaving Bella was the worst thing imaginable.

I had been devastatingly wrong.

It was nothing compared to this.

It was excruciatingly and overwhelmingly severe. There were no other words to describe it.

The confirmation that my love no longer inhabited this world sent shots of pain to places within me that I had never felt before.

Agony scorched through my body – tearing me apart.

I felt my heart shatter into a thousand pieces and hoped that wherever the pieces ended up, they would be with my Bella.

 

I wanted to weep.

I felt extraordinarily numb and completely drained.

I was so absolutely paralyzed from the pain that I didn’t even have the energy to sob tearlessly.

 

My world had stopped rotating.

Time ceased to tick by.

My universe disappeared.

I had crawled into a dark hole where nothing but guilt and pain resided.

 

I was submerged in immense grief.

How could this of happened? I asked myself again and again.

Bella…dead.

It aggrieved me to think of those two words in the same sentence.

Did she commit suicide?

Rosalie said she had jumped off a cliff.

It was obvious that she had deliberately tried to eliminate herself.

Did she do this because of me?

I had a strong guilty feeling it was indeed down to my actions.

I wondered how much I had truly hurt her by leaving her.

Was the force of her suffering enough to make her take her own life?

Oh god, what had I done to her?

I had left Forks to protect Bella’s fragile life, but instead I had hurt her beyond belief. I had broken her so completely that she had fallen over the edge, literally.

 

Bella.

Dead.

Gone forever.

Deceased.

Never coming back.

My sweet, uncoordinated, breakable Bella.

The bitter sweet memories overpowered me.

Me and her together.

Her face, her touch.

 

I would never have the opportunity to see her beautiful face again.

When it lit up with an astonishing smile – it filled me with joy.

When it flushed with a blush – it made my breath stop seeing her sweet blood underneath her skin.

Her soft touch sent tingles of warmth through my body.

When she declared her love for me, I felt my frozen heart beat.

All of that was now lost forever; extinct.

 

I now understood how it felt to have loved and lost.

The pain-filled longing and overwhelming grief was indescribable.

I had loved and lost the day I had left Bella; I just hadn’t realised it then. 

 

Was this pain I suffered how Bella felt when I departed?

Was it like I had died?

I couldn’t bear the thought of her enduring the torture and agony I was now feeling. But end her life…how could she have done this? – To me, to her mother and father? It made me want to howl in distress.

 

I found a strange energy in my heartache and I was instantaneously besieged by fury.

My hand clenched into tight fists as I jumped to my feet, liberating myself from my stance.

All I had desired for my Bella was that she was safe and happy, instead I had destroyed her.

This was my fault.

I had destroyed her; Charlie and Renee as well – I was the reason for their daughter’s death.

I was a vicious monster.

A repulsive, iniquitous, murderous creature.

 

I wanted to bleed.

I wanted to die.

I began scratching my skin, digging my nails in, trying to penetrate it. It didn’t work. It didn’t even hurt.

I gazed around at my surroundings searching for something else to attempt to hurt myself with.

The abandoned warehouse I had inhabited for the past several weeks was devoid of furniture. All I could see were the mouldy crumbling brick walls that confined me. I walked over to the west facing wall and swiftly smashed my fist into it. The wall buckled under the impact and my arm went straight through to the outside. Adrenaline pulsed through my body and I kept on thrashing and demolishing the wall, until there was a colossal whole in the side of the building.

I feel to my knees as despair took over my destructive episode. I buried my face into my hands and let out a sob of anguish.

 

I wanted to die.

I deserved to depart this life.

I wanted to burn in the fiery pits of hell.

 

Bella’s life had been stolen from her.

Death had taken her from me because of my own actions.

The time had come to compensate for my transgressions.

I was going to atone for my sins.

I was going to Italy.

Chapter 13

The Volturi


My mind was made up.

I was going to the Volturi to be killed.

The final act of my miserable protracted existence was to ensure I was destroyed.

There was no possibility of me living out endless days of emptiness without Bella’s presence on this planet.

If Bella was leaving this world – I was too.

I would follow her and attempt to access the pearly gates of heaven.

I doubted my chances entirely, because I wasn’t entirely convinced I had a soul; but still I hoped.

I had thought about going to the Volturi before this occasion – the spring when James stole Bella from me.

I recollected the conversation I had with Bella on her 18th birthday before the fateful party.

Last spring, when you were… nearly killed…Of course I was trying to find you alive, but part of my mind was making contingency plans. Like I said it’s not as easy for me as it is for a human.”

She shook her head at me and asked, “Contingency plans?”

“Well I wasn’t going to live without you, but I wasn’t sure how to do it – I knew Emmett and Jasper would never help…so I was thinking I would go to Italy and provoke the Volturi.”

 

I pulled myself out of the memory.

How many times had Bella almost been killed because of me?

And this time I hadn’t been there to save her. It was entirely my fault that Bella was dead now. If I’d just gone back to check on her; to ensure that she was at least safe if not yet entirely happy…

The crushing pain of my loss seared through my body, but it did not weaken me this time; I knew that before long it would all be over.

 

The Volturi were an ancient vampire family that resided in Volterra, in the Tuscan region of Italy.

I had never encountered them myself but I’d heard of my father’s brief experience with them many times, and in conjunction with the memories I’d heard him replaying in his head, I knew everything that I needed to know for my purpose.

The Volturi consisted of the three elders; Aro, Caius and Marcus – the night time patron of the arts as I had once told Bella. Additionally, there were the elder’s wives, and their guard, making them the largest coven of vampires that existed together. Their unity gave them power, but wasn’t the only attribute that made them superior.

Members of the guard were selected specifically for their vampire ability; each had a unique power that that would contribute to and enhance their already formidable force.

They were an elite coven and they thought of themselves as law enforcers and acted to keep the existence of our kind secluded.

Any of our kind who exposed us would be severely punished, as the consequences were instant death.

 

It was essential that I moved with great haste.

I wanted it to be over; I didn’t want time to think about the consequences of my actions. I didn’t want to think of my loyal and loving family and the effect that my death would have on them.

 

I departed the old abandoned warehouse and sprinted into the nearby forest. I was only vaguely aware of the astoundingly picturesque surroundings. I believed that Bella would like Brazil. She would like the beauty; the endless shades of green in the Amazon, and she would love to see the sun shine brightly and feel the heat on her skin. It would have been a perfect location for us to have come together.

My body shuddered slightly as I ran – I didn’t desire to think of what could have been.

 

I raced in the direction of the nearest city.

I didn’t even think about where I was going – my body was impetuous. I let my subconscious guide me forward to my destination.

My final destination.

 

Somewhere along my journey I vanished in my own thoughts and retained memories.

Every inch of my mind was consumed; reminiscing about every moment I had ever spent with Bella, every feature of her body that I had memorised before I left, every time our skin touched, every time our lips met…every little thing.

I heard nothing except Bella’s sweet voice and the gentle pounding of her heart.

I felt nothing except Bella’s warm soft arms wrapped tightly round my torso, embracing me.

I saw nothing except Bella’s striking face with her welcoming chocolate brown eyes gazing into mine.

I smelt nothing except Bella’s fragrant scent.

I thought about everything…everything except Bella being gone. I refused to think of that.

My hand was in my pocket clutching the only connection I had left to Bella – the lemonade bottle lid. If it was possible it made my memories clearer.

 

A sudden jerked movement brought me out of my delusion and back into reality. My eyes flashed open and I took a quick intake of breath as I gazed around me.

I was unaware of where I was and how much time had passed.

I was on a plane.

I gazed out of the small rectangle window into the darkness and recognised the bright lights of Florence.

I was in Italy.

 

How did I get here? I wondered, but I had no recollection of the events that had brought me here, but I knew the reason why.

Bella was dead.

Gone forever.

And soon, I would be too.

 

Luck was on my side as I exited the airport. The sun was beginning to rise over the horizon, slowly starting to break through casting shadows over the ancient city.

 

I decided to run to allow myself time to prepare for the meeting ahead of me.

My plan was to just be direct and ask the Volturi for death. This way no harm could be caused to others, and accidents could be avoided. It was the simplest and easiest solution.

Would they grant my request willingly?

What if they denied me the right to die, or whatever it was my kind did?

How would I be able to convince them to rid the world of me?

Maybe I could use their thoughts to my advantage by attempting to provoke them.

However I did not intend to disrespect anybody, mostly because of the trust that Carlisle had gained with the Volturi before he had discovered me or the rest of family. I wouldn’t want to make things difficult for him.

I just wanted my life to end.

 

The historic city of Volterra rose into view as I ran speedily towards it. It was breathtakingly scenic. It was a shame that I couldn’t fully appreciate it, but I wasn’t there to see the sites.

I pushed myself forward, eager to make my demands to the vampires residing there.

I reached the wall encircling the city. I scanned my surroundings to ensure I was not being watched, before I scaled the side of the large stone fortification and leapt down. I had reached my final destination. 

 

There were not many people around so I was able to inconspicuously stalk round the perimeter of the walls and find a space in the shadows out of the brightly shining sun.

 

I searched for the entrance into the Volturi’s lair by looking into people’s thoughts for directions.

I turned a corner down a narrow darkened cobbled street when I came across a distinct scent.

Vampires.

Two forms stood at the end of the street facing out onto a large midtown square.

I approached them carefully, not wanting to surprise them and cause a disturbance.

I saw from their thoughts, they were two members of the guard. Felix and Demetri were their names.

I had heard about Demetri before, he was the skilled tracker that Carlisle had informed me of before I left of my hunt for Victoria.

 

“Excuse me, Gentlemen.” I spoke as I drew near to them. It felt strange hearing my own voice after hardly using it for so many months. But I had to be courteous even though I just wanted to scream at them to kill me. My numb body cried out to be filled with pain instead of being hopelessly empty.

 

Demetri and Felix turned their brawny bodies to face me. They watched me intently as I halted in front of them.

“Who are you?” Demetri grunted.

“My name is Edward Cullen. I am here for an audience with your masters. Would you be so kind as to take me to them?” I replied politely.

“Cullen?” Demetri asked. He must be one of Carlisle’s boys. He thought.

“Yes, my surname is Cullen, and yes I am one of Carlisle’s son’s.”

“I didn’t ask that –“

“But you thought it though.” I interrupted him.

Demetri gaped at me, trying to understand how I knew that.

 

“He can obviously read minds.” Felix said as he nudged Demetri out of his stare. “What is the nature of your business here, Mr Cullen?”

“It is a confidential matter.”

“Very well, come on. We will show you the way.”

Felix gestured for me to follow them as they walked back down the street I had come from. We turned down a constricted alleyway hidden from view. I could just see the bright sun at the other end when Felix and Demetri stopped in front me. The alleyway slanted downwards slightly towards a dead end. I wondered where they were taking me. Their thoughts showed no sign of aggression or planned attack.

 

Then I saw an opening in the cobbled pavement. Felix dropped effortlessly down, and Demetri signalled me to follow. I landed onto an underground street, with Demetri suddenly appearing behind me. The tension grew, and my numb form ached to get the meeting over with. I was glad when Demetri and Felix took off in a run. I pursued them effortlessly and soon enough we were arrived at an elevator that ascended to a reception area.

I let out a silent sigh.

We were here.

 

Seeing as you can hear my thoughts anyway, wait here. Demetri ordered in his head.

I stiffed a nod as he and Felix disappeared down a corridor.

 

I smelled a scent, a human scent before I heard the person enter the room.

My throat burned furiously.

I hadn’t hunted in a considerable amount of time.

I had not realised before, that I was incredibly thirsty. The numbness and the pain I had encountered previously overpowered my thirst. But now, being alone in the small area with this fragile human…I wondered if the Volturi would be angry if I drained their dainty slave.

 

“Hello, there, I’m Gianna.” She spoke. “Please take a seat while you wait.”

“Thanks.” I mumbled.

Oh, another beautiful one. He looks sad; maybe I should ask him if he is okay. Gianna thought to herself.

“I’m fine thank you.” I replied without thinking.

She realised instantly what my vampire ability was, and blushed slightly. Her blush reminded me of how Bella used to blush in embarrassment so often. I would soon be with her. I would soon be able to see her blush again. I hoped.

 

Several minutes later, a small brown haired girl appeared.

“Well Hello Edward, It is very nice to meet you. I am Jane. If you would please follow me, Aro, Caius and Marcus would like to greet you.”

As I followed her, I started to feel anxious.

I kept thoughts of Bella in my mind, they calmed me, and gave me courage and enhanced the sheer determination I had for what I was about to do.

 

We walked into an old stone room. No windows for sunlight to enter. It was a throne room by its appearance.

I recognised Aro, Caius and Marcus, the Volturi leaders standing in the middle of the room from the canvas in my father’s office.

 

“Edward!” Aro called, as he made his way towards me. “I’m very pleased to finally make your acquaintance. Brother’s, this is our old friend, Carlisle’s son. How is dear Carlisle?”

“He is well thank you.” I replied.

“Why have you come here, Edward?”

I glanced around to Felix, Jane and Demetri all standing at the doors, as if they were blocking my exit.

 

“Felix, Demetri, Jane, please leave us if you will.” Caius ordered.

All three stalked out of the room.

“Now Edward, what is it you want?”

“I have come to request to die.”

Chapter 14

Judgement day

 

A multitude of thoughts ran through each of their heads, it was difficult to keep track of them all.

Aro was bewildered by my request. Never had he heard of a Vampire wanting to be killed. It has come as quite an unexpected shock.


Caius was equally as stunned, however he appeared content to oblige to my request. I saw in his mind this was mostly due to the fact that he knew of my family; my large family.
He considered large families or covens like mine to be a threat to the Volturi as we were a diverse group of talented vampires. Carlisle had many acquaintances and his family was quite well known. The chance to eliminate one of the famous Cullen family members seemed to gratify him.

Marcus, on the other hand did not react at all like his brothers. He did not appear surprised; in fact he had a particularly apathetic demeanour. He seemed more astonished by my direct approach and candid request. In his thoughts he was reminiscing about a time when he had considered suicide.

After a brief moment they recovered from their shock. Aro was filled with curiosity; I waited for the barrage of questions, however I did not want to elaborate.

            “I beg your pardon?” Caius asked incredulously.
            “You heard me clearly enough.” I replied.
            “Why would you desire such an unusual thing Edward?” Aro asked inquisitively.
I felt reluctant to answer.
Would they understand my predicament and the depth of my pain?
I presumed they would never comprehend my reasons due to the way they viewed our existence.

            “If you do not provide us with reasons, how do you expect us to grant your curious request?”
Again I didn’t answer.
Of course I didn’t expect them to kill me instantly when I asked, except maybe Caius. Aro however wanted answers. They wanted an explanation as to why I no longer wished to live. The Volturi considered vampires to be superior beings; they marvelled at our very existence. Our frozen forms never aging, our strength and potential power and the endless eternity of our lives. They couldn’t understand why any one of us would willingly relinquish such an existence for something as mundane and human as death.

How could I begin to explain my pain, my loss, my tortured being?
Maybe I should have engaged in my second plan of action first. That would surely have forced them to kill me without the interrogations.

Caius was becoming impatient with my silence.
            “Perhaps there is another way of retrieving the information you require.” I suggested.
Aro had a vampire gift similar to my own, only it was significantly more powerful in one aspect. With a simple touch he could access every thought that had ever penetrated a person’s mind.

I held out my hand signalling my cooperation.
            “Hold on a moment.” Caius spoke. “How will that help us understand?” He gestured to himself and Marcus, who did not appear interested, however his thoughts were curious.
            “I’m sure Aro can inform you himself.” I replied.
Caius grunted in annoyance.
            “Very well, Edward.” Aro said as he reached to touch his hand to my own and closed his eyes.

A rush of thoughts ran through my mind as I witnessed my own thoughts and memories in Aro’s head.
My life flashed before both of our eyes.
My family.
My actions.
My Bella.

Every thought and memory I possessed was now Aro’s too.
They were no longer only mine, which infuriated me.
They were my haven and the only proof I had that Bella ever existed.

The memories lingered on Bella as she was such a significant part of my existence.
The bad ones made me wince involuntarily.
The ballet studio and James.
Jasper’s attack.
My departure from Forks.
Tracking Victoria.
My heart wrenching suffering.
The pain I witnessed seemed endless.

The pleasant recollections I saw brought me no joy. Seeing Bella only reminded me that she was dead, that I hadn’t protected her, that I failed in my sole purpose and that I was the reason for her premature demise.

Several minutes passed until Aro finished sifting through my mind and finally released my hand.
            “Remarkable.” Aro beamed.
            “What is it?” Caius demanded.
Aro quickly rearranged his expression as he turned to his brother. His thoughts hadn’t actually been concerning me or Bella. He had seen something in my mind that he found captivating and which made me feel like growling.

            “Edward has a fascinating mind and it seems he has acquired himself a companion.”
I grimaced at Aro’s statement. He spoke as if Bella was alive and as if she was mine – neither of which were true.
            “How is that remarkable?” Caius said impatiently.
            “The girl is mortal.”
Suddenly I had Marcus’s attention.
            “Mortal?” He spoke for the first time.
So far, Marcus had hardly shown any interest in my presence. He had been somewhat shocked by my blunt request, but recovered almost instantly. Even his thoughts had been discreet.
I nodded.
            Is it possible?
I nodded again, in response to his thoughts.
            “But how?”
            Aro answered for me. “It seems Edward exerts astounding self-control in Miss Bella’s presence, or rather he did.”
Hearing Bella’s name being spoken pinched painfully in my empty chest.

            “Did she know what you were? Did she know of our kind?” Marcus questioned.
            “Yes.” I replied truthfully. I wanted them to know I had disobeyed the rule. I could hope that they would take that into consideration.
            “What?” Caius exploded. “You exposed yourself to a human!”
            “Peace, brother.” Aro said soothingly.
            “This changes things, Aro. The girl for instance –“
            “The girl is not an issue, Caius.” Aro interrupted.
I swallowed back a growl at his use of the word ‘girl’.
Bella was not just a girl.
She was an amazing being – the very reason for my existence.
The proprietor of my heart.

            “Not a problem?” Marcus repeated.
            “I’m sorry to say that Bella passed away.”
Someone else speaking those words out loud somehow made them more real.
I felt weak. I wanted to crumble to the ground and forget everything, but I maintained my stance.
This was the reason I was here.

I focused on Marcus. He has returned to his apathetic state, whilst trying to hide his thoughts from me. I realised then, he sympathised with me. He understood my request because he had the experience of losing a loved one. However he respected the life our kind lived and as a consequence he was suffering the future I was desperately trying to avoid.

            “Even so, he has broken the fundamental rule. He exposed us.” Caius said unsympathetically. He deserves to be punished; therefore we should grant his request. He finished his verdict in his head.
Caius would gleefully destroy me at this very moment but I could see that Aro would be more lenient.

            “Edward?” Aro called. “Would you please leave us to deliberate your request privately? You can wait in the reception area with Gianna, or maybe you would like to hunt? If you wish to do so, please refrain from doing so within the city. I will send a guard member to notify you when our decision has been made.” Demetri’s form appeared in his mind.

I gave him a stiff nod in agreement; however I was displeased. I did not want to wait. It was clear I would not get an answer as to the expected duration of their meeting if I asked. I left the throne room and made my way back to the reception area. I had nowhere else to wait, but I didn’t feel comfortable in close proximity of a human when I had not hunted for so long. Although, I couldn’t possibly put Gianna in any more danger than she already was. I fed off animals – living the vegetarian lifestyle, whereas her employers fed off fragile humans like herself.

I decided to wander the city of Volterra and try to find a place of solitude outside for the duration of my wait.
Gianna kindly directed me to the nearest exit.
I was positive that Aro would respect the privacy I could give them by not being in close enough proximity to hear the thoughts being generated within their discussion.

It was several hours before I encountered any disturbances.
I had located a quite place north of the city blocked from the sunlight and I had settled in the corner of a constricted cobbled street. The surrounding area was deserted – I could not even hear the thoughts of any persons nearby, meaning I was completely alone - the way I wanted it.

I rested my head on my knees and let myself fall into a dream-like state.
Where would I go when I left this world?
I knew I would always have my memories of Bella – I would not allow them to be lost.
But was there a chance I would be reunited with her?
Carlisle believed.
Bella believed.
I hoped.

Even if I had a soul, it was dark and tortured. Would they grant access to heaven to a dark-spirited monster? If there was any justice, the answer would be no.


When I closed my eyes I was transported to my love, my Bella. This was the reason I wanted to have my eyes permanently closed – so I could spend eternity with her.
Forever…with my true love.

I knew at that moment that if Bella was still alive, I would have gone back to Forks and back to her. I would have sought comfort in the rainy town and begged the forgiveness of my Bella, and promised to stay with her forever.

I heard Demetri’s thoughts before I heard his approach. He had been sent to find me. As a tracker – it only took him seconds to establish my whereabouts. Nothing like my pathetic attempt at tracking Victoria. The Volturi leaders had made a decision. Demetri had not been informed of the situation so I was unable to see the conclusion they had come to in his thoughts.

Demetri instructed me to return with him.
As we swiftly made our way back, I couldn’t help but wonder if this was the last time I would see the light of day. I took one last deep breath of fresh air before I entered the Volturi’s lair – hopefully for the last time.

Demetri led me to a different room, instead of the throne room in which we had met before. This room looked more welcoming, with a large stone fireplace and elegant décor.
            Wait here. Demetri ordered in his head.
Exactly one minute later a door at the opposite end of the room opened and in walked Aro followed by Caius, Marcus, Jane and another vampire I had never met, but he was known to me. His name was Alec.

Jane and Alec were brother and sister, both in possession of exceptional and sinister abilities. Jane was able to torment people at will by causing terrible pain with her mind, whereas Alec could disconnect people's senses, rendering them blind, deaf, and numb. Their ability’s made them extremely valuable to the guard. Aro was delighted to have them under his control.

I knew the leader’s decision instantly. They could not hide it in their thoughts
Caius was aggravated – he had been the one with the opposing vote, the one who was happily willing to grant my request, but it seemed Aro had other plans for me.
A proposition; an offer I would not accept…ever.

            “Welcome back, Edward.” Aro greeted me. “I hope your wait was not too inconvenient, however we had much to discuss.”
            “I understand, and I know your verdict.” I said with irritation in my voice. I had been relying on their decision. I didn’t want to waste anymore time. I had to think of a plot to ensure my exposure and force a rapid and fierce reaction that would bring about my immediate extermination. It was imperative for me to leave…right away.

            “Edward?” Aro interrupted my scattered thoughts. “This is an unprecedented situation; however we have decided to deny your request.”
            “I know.” I hissed.
            “However, we would like to offer you a place among the guard. Your talent would contribute significantly to our strength. We consider it to be wasteful to dispose of you and your ability. Additionally I do not wish to offend an old friend.” My father’s image entered his thoughts.
Caius grunted. His displeasure at the decision bothered me. If he desired to, he could eradicate me right now.
            He is offering him a place with the guard, with us? Jane thought panicky.
Aro obviously hadn’t informed any of his guard as to the reason I was here, as Alec was confused also.
            “Master?” She spoke in an anxious voice.
            “Don’t worry, dear one. Your place is secure. I will explain the circumstances later.” Aro turned his attention back to me. ”Why don’t you take some time to consider your options?” An image of his guard flashed into his mind, with one extra member; a mind-reader standing robed by his side.

            Why would he need to think about it? It is a great honour.
 Alec thought.
            “I only have one other alternative as you are aware Aro. Why waste precious time, when we can settle this now?”
Jane’s thought suddenly got protective over her master.
            “No” he replied vigorously. “If you wish to proceed with your previous plan we will be forced to act accordingly, but not until that time.”
I saw in his mind that if I did attempt to expose myself and our kind – the guard would be watching and waiting to overpower me at the last second.
I was reliant on that image.

I was not making progress here so it was time to leave.
Aro sensed my imminent departure.
            “Think carefully, Edward.” He said sternly before continuing in his head. You could be an integral part of what we have here.
I dashed out of the room without another word.

I noticed that darkness had blackened the sky as I exited the Volturi lair, so I didn’t have to avoid the sunlight. Not that I cared about being seen. I wanted to be exposed. Exposure would bring about my death.

I paced the city thinking of an opportune way to evoke the wrath of the ancient trio. There were limited people around due to the time of day. I required a substantial audience to ensure instant death.

The darkness gave me time to think. As soon as the sun rose I could act.
How could I infuriate the Volturi?
What would draw attention to myself?
My mind raced through the possibilities.
A demonstration of my excessive strength?
Attacking the guard?
Attacking humans?
Hunting?
I kept changing my mind. I believed the one that would cause the most uproar forcing an instant reaction from the guard was hunting within the city; hunting humans in a public place.

The sun began to rise as what I hoped would be my last dawn approached.
As I lingered in the shadowy streets, I saw people start to leave their homes to enjoy the day ahead of them, or so they thought. Maybe some of them would become one of my victims….my prey.
I sifted through the thoughts of passing people to find information on where I could get the best selection of people to witness my monstrous activity.
Luck was on my side once again.


Ironically it was St Marcus Day, and there was a festival to mark the occasion. There would be masses of humans to observe my deviant act.
The square in the middle of the city - Palazzo dei Priori, was where the festival was being held. That was to be the stage for my last performance.
I walked slowly in that direction.
The streets were already filled with people.
I inhaled deeply taking in the human scents around me letting them register with me. I felt my throat burn with thirst, but I had no desire to satiate that thirst. I reminded myself that I needed to feed on these people. This was what I had to do to be obliterated.

I began to get anxious as I drew nearer.
She’s dead. Rosalie’s words echoed in my head giving me the determination to proceed.
I noticed a gathering of people standing on the edge of the square, and within range of my deadly pounce.
Innocent people.
I decided that I would kill them all, the entire group first, almost instantly, before I drained their blood.
I forced myself to fall back into a hunting crouch as my vampire instincts refused to overcome me. I pushed all thoughts out of my mind with a huge amount of effort. The whole attack would be forced.

I gasped and collapsed onto my back as Bella’s face entered my mind.
Her human face.
It was smiling encouragingly at me.
I let out a sob.
I couldn’t go through with it.
Bella was human.
I couldn’t kill one of her kind.
Bella had halted me…again.
It reminded me of when I almost attacked that woman a few months ago.
Bella had rescued me then too.

I would have to carry out one of my alternative plans. This disgruntled me greatly as the end would not come as quick.

As I stood up I noticed a shimmer on my hand. The sunlight was shining on my palm making me sparkle.
            “Like a thousand tiny diamonds embedded into your skin.” Bella had once told me.
It was the reason vampires could not go out in the sunlight without being exposed -
My brain clicked.
Sunlight would expose me.
It was a glorious sunny day.
For my very last moments in the world…I would sparkle.

Chapter 15

Reconciliation



The more I deliberated over the details of my situation – the more confident I became about my current plan.

Nobody would get hurt with the exception of me, which is all I cared about.

Why should others suffer for me?

They shouldn’t.

I had already caused pain to enough people.

Bella.

Bella’s family and friends for having had a hand in her death; and now my own family too.

I felt extremely guilty for bringing agony to my family, but I simply could not go on living without Bella.

I would follow Bella wherever she went from now on.

 

The blazing sun was rising up into the sky.

I had made the decision to make my appearance into the sunlight when the sun was at its highest point in the sky – Noon.

That would coincide with the festival taking place in the Palazzo dei Priori – it would be at its busiest and overcrowded – giving me a large audience and creating a substantial disturbance for the Volturi.

 

I would step into the light precisely as the clock tower located on the edge of the square tolled twelve. For now I had to wait.

 

The wait was bearable compared to what I had endured in recent times. But still I felt tremendously impatient. The time until my reunion with Bella seemed like a century away. In comparison, the wait before I had left Forks had flown by, and now I wondered why time seemed to deny us our heart’s desire.

Maybe I was thinking too much.

Time didn’t slow or stop in reality.

It consistently ticked by. 

 

I didn’t want to prolong the remaining seconds of my existence. I sought solace.

I wanted my home; my Bella.

 

I spent my final hours imagining our reunion. When we were reunited, would she forgive me?

Even in death?

 

I watched from the shadows as the square became crowded; it was almost time. The alleyway where I had first encountered Demetri and Felix was located directly under the clock tower at the Palazzo dei Priori. That’s where I would wait out the last few minutes before eventually stepping out to my death.

I could see the clock from my current location. It showed me that I had a quarter of an hour left; fifteen long minutes.

 

I made my way inconspicuously through the cobbled streets of Volterra to the narrow alleyway.

 

The words echoed through my mind.

            ‘I wasn’t going to live without you.’ – My own words.

Spoken to Bella on her previous birthday.

I was infuriated that Bella’s life had ended so soon, but I was more furious about the fact I hadn’t been there to protect her.

I hated the thought of her being alone.

Alone and falling.

Thrashing and drowning.

Deathly cold in the churning sea.

Gasping for air as her last breath ebbed and she was taken prisoner by the water.

Stop it! I ordered myself.

I didn’t want to visualise her death, but my mind would not be controlled. It was determined to remind me of exactly what I had caused.

 

In my final minutes I thought it would be appropriate to reflect on what I would leave behind – my loved ones, my family.

I would miss them all in their own individual ways.

 

Carlisle, my creator, my father. How I admired his strength, courage and compassion. He was such a wonderful being.

 

Esme, my guardian, my mother. The most loving and caring being who ever lived. Oh, how I loved and admired her.

 

Emmett, my brother. His amusing attitude made me laugh and he gave me strength.

 

Jasper, my most recent brother. I felt a huge amount of gratitude towards him for showing me that my love was in need of protection. He was a comfort to me, in more ways than one.

 

Rosalie, a most selfish creature. But she gave me guidance and love like a true sister.

 

Alice, my favourite sister. How could I begin to explain how wonderful she was or how much I loved her? She made me smile and brought me joy. I would miss her tiny, annoying being the most.

 

The most important person was not part of my family, and now never would be.

The most amazing person.

My Bella.

The very reason for my existence.

We would be together again soon.

 

I knew I would hurt my family terribly by carrying out this suicide mission but they were better off without me.

There was no meaning to my life now it was devoid of my Bella. I loved her endlessly and could not possibly live without her.

I was sorry for not being a commendable companion, son, brother.

Sorry for the hurt.

I apologise for the pain.

I’m sorry for not being a worthy enough, not strong enough.

Truly apologetic and full of remorse, I would endure the guilt of my sins – even in death.

 

I rested my head on the stone building behind me waiting for the final seconds to pass.

Death was imminent.

 

The clock tolled for the first time marking the approach of high noon. The echoing sound was soothing and helped calm my anxious state.

I was able to hear the thoughts of the several Volturi guard members nearby waiting to attack instantly, ready for the impending exposure of our kind.

I closed my eyes and ignored the voices in my head and stepped to the edge of the shadows.

I was ready to sparkle for the world to see, so I removed my shirt at dropped it at my feet.

As the clock continued to chime, booming throughout the square, I heard Bella call my name in the distance.

I smiled.

I had craved for so long to hear her voice again.

It rang in my ears, and the sweet sound made me melt.

It sounded extraordinarily real.

I knew I was hallucinating but I welcomed the insanity.

I pictured Bella’s face behind my closed eyelids.

She beamed at me, her smile was brilliant.

            “Edward!” She called me into the light.

Patience my Bella, I thought, not wanting the sound of spoken words to destroy my glorious moment.

            “Edward, look at me.”

Her voice stunned me and I took an involuntary step forward towards the sound.

My terminal moment arrived as the eleventh toll rang I took my step into the light.

My final step.

 

Something collided with me as I made my movement forward. But I felt no pain.

I instinctively held my arms out in front of me – not to attack, just to block or catch whatever it was that had flung itself into me.

I slowly opened my eyes as the twelfth toll rang – doing what Bella had said, and to see where I now found myself.

All I saw was Bella in my arms.

I was astounded.

            “Amazing.” I whispered

I had a soul after all.

It was a general belief that vampires had no soul; I now knew that to be a myth. Because I had one…and it had taken me to heaven.

I was with my love, my Bella.

I was filled with love and wonder.

I could actually feel her in my arms.

My chest was no longer hollow.

My heart had been replaced.

I was whole again.

 

            “Carlisle was right.” I spoke in a voice radiating astonishment.

I lifted my hand to touch Bella’s cheek to ensure she would not disappear as quickly as she has arrived.

She didn’t.

Electric shocks ran through my body.

She was truly real.

It was like the past six months had not occurred and I was finally back where I belonged.

 

            “Edward.” Bella whispered my name again and my dead heart shuddered. This was beyond anything I could ever have imagined.

I inhaled deeply.

Her scent set my throat on fire, but there was a difference. With the burning, there came no desire to eradicate her by indulging her blood; only contentment and joy. Her scent had not changed – the sweet bouquet of freesia smelt more luxurious than ever.

 

I could hear her heart beating furiously in her chest – pumping the warm blood around her body. Her pulse was rapid - like it generally was when we were intimately close.

This was perfect.

 

As I embraced Bella, stroking her hair, I was marvelled.

My death occurred immediately.

The Volturi had acted instantaneously to prevent my exposure.

            “I can’t believe how quick it was.” I told my Bella. “I didn’t feel a thing – they’re very good.”

I gently kissed her hair and closed my eyes.

I experienced another recollection from Bella’s previous birthday where I told her I envied Romeo’s ease of suicide.

That jealously has been misconstrued. 

My own suicide had been simple – all it had taken was a step into the sunlight.

            “Death hath sucked the honey of thy breath, hath no power yet upon thy beauty.” I quoted Shakespeare’s character. “You smell exactly the same as always. So maybe this is hell. I don’t care. I’ll take it”

Although, I could never possibly envisage this being hell.

I was with Bella – and that was all that mattered.

Bella spoke agitatedly interrupting my thoughts.

            “I’m not dead. And neither are you! Please Edward, we have to move. They cannot be far away!”

I felt a struggling movement in my arms.

I was confused by her words and her belligerent movements. We were happy and safe – what was she talking about?

            “What was that?”

            “We’re not dead, yet! But we have to get out of here before the Volturi –“

 

My eyes flashed open as I heard nearby thoughts.

            He has a human with him.

            This will mean death surely…for them both. Maybe the master will allow me to devour the human at Edward’s expense.

 

Comprehension crashed down on me.

I was not dead.

Bella was not deceased either – she was here, in my arms.

Now it was too late.

I screamed profanities at myself as I realised I put Bella in danger…again.

The worst possible danger.

 

Bella may have been on the edge of death before because of my actions.

But now I may very well have killed her.

Chapter 16

Reason


They were coming to intercept us.

Me and Bella.

My Bella.

Bella was here.

I could hardly believe she was real.

But yet she was here – here in my arms.

I didn’t have time to think about how this had occurred let alone ask for an explanation from her.

We were both in grave danger.

I had almost made another disastrous mistake and left Bella here unprotected, if she had arrived one second later…

 

In one quick motion I pulled her further into the alleyway and pushed her as gently as possible against the wall before putting myself in a protective stance in front of her, spreading my arms wide.

At that very same moment, Felix and Demetri appeared at the end of the alleyway – both in dark cloaks that covered their pale skin, preventing it from sparkling in the sunlight. My chest was still bare and my shirt somewhere at my feet. I didn’t even dare look down to locate it.

I had more important things to attend to – like thinking of how I could get Bella out of this ominous situation.

I needed her to escape.

To stand and fight wasn’t an option; there wasn’t a chance I could take on two skilled vampires as well as protecting Bella.

The consequences would be dire.

 

Courtesy seemed like the best option to begin with. Perhaps if I did not anger them, they would be lenient.

All I wanted was the keep Bella safe.

To save her as she had saved me – once again.

 

            “Greetings gentlemen. I don’t think I will be requiring your services today after all. I would appreciate it very much, however, if you would send my thanks to your masters.” I said in a polite tone without showing any hint of the anger that effervesced in the pit of my stomach.

            “Shall we take this conversation to a more appropriate venue?” Felix suggested.

            “I don’t believe that will be necessary. I know your instructions, Felix. I haven’t broken any rules.” I replied curtly.

I hadn’t actually exposed my true self, but I had attempted to – would that be reason enough for them to exterminate me?

 

             “Felix merely meant to point out the proximity of the sun. Let us seek better cover.” Demetri said calmly.

 

I could see in their minds, they had no intention of allowing us to escape. They had been ordered to bring me back, and since Bella was clearly human – she could not be allowed to leave.

Even so, there was no harm in attempting to change their mind first instead of surrendering right away.

I could not allow Bella to be taken from me and I didn’t want to leave her side, but I would go with them if it meant Bella’s release.

            “I’ll be right behind you. Bella, why don’t you go back to the square and enjoy the festival?”

I couldn’t bear the thought of being apart from Bella after we had only just been reunited – but if it was the only possible solution to keep her free from harm then I had to follow it through.

            Definitely not. Demetri thought.

            “No, bring the girl.” Felix jeered.

            “I don’t think so!” I replied angrily. There was absolutely no way Bella was coming into the Volturi’s den.

 

            Very well. We will force you to come. Felix hissed in this mind.

I rearranged my stance to ensure Bella was fully protected by my form in case of a spontaneous attack.

 

            “No.” Bella mouthed to me noticing what I was doing.

            “Shh.” I hushed her.

Felix was about to initiate his attack which did not go unnoticed by Demetri.

            “Felix.” He cautioned. “Not here.”

Demetri turned his attention back to me once Felix appeared to have backed down.

“Aro would simply like to speak to you again, as you have decided not to force our hand after all.”

            “Certainly.” I agreed. “But the girl goes free.”

I didn’t use Bella’s name in an attempt to suggest she was not significant in the matter at hand, although she was the greatest importance to me.

            “I’m afraid that’s not possible. We do have rules to obey.” Demetri said with regret in his tone.

            “Then I’m afraid that I’ll be unable to accept Aro’s invitation, Demetri.”

            “That’s just fine.” Felix droned. We will still require your presence, along with your little girlfriend’s.

            “Aro will be disappointed.” Demetri sighed.

            “I’m sure he will survive the let down.” I replied.

That is beside the point, Edward. It is time to come, now.

Both Volturi guards moved to surround myself and Bella, determined to overpower us and follow their master’s instructions.

 

            Edward! What were you thinking? How could you be so irresponsible? Thank goodness we arrived on time. Well almost, at least. Alice’s rushed silent words swam through my head. My head whipped round to face the direction her thoughts came from.

Alice was here?

Of course she was. I had completely forgotten that she probably would have seen me come to Volterra in a vision.

It also explained how Bella got here.

I was slightly disgruntled by my sister’s action in bringing Bella here. How could she drag her into this? All the same though I was grateful for Alice’s involvement and presence.

 

Felix and Demetri became wary as they heard the faint approach of pixie feet.

            Who’s there? Felix thought as he and Demetri turned to face the same direction as me.

            “Let’s behave ourselves, shall we? They’re ladies present.” Alice spoke as she skipped to my side. Her manner appeared casual, but it was pretence. I could see the underlying annoyance in her mind.

Both Volturi members straightened up at her arrival.

            Felix’s expression was grim as he thought; we should have dealt with this immediately. Let’s do it now before anymore of their friends come and join them.

They obviously didn’t like not having the upper hand now the numbers were even.

Just as I was about to fall into a defensive crouch in preparation for attack, Alice spoke.

            “We’re not alone.”

I followed her gaze and realised what she was referring to.

I had not noticed the on lookers; a young family peering down the alleyway.

The family of four stood gazing at us intently, particularly at my protective posture in front of Bella.

The thoughts of the parents were of concern, and uncertainty about whether they should call for help or intervene.

I wanted to shout for them to move. They shouldn’t get involved; it could cost them their lives.

Felix was already contemplating what could be done about them.

The father decided it was time to make the human security aware of the situation in case anything happened.

            Demetri shook his head. Edward, you don’t want the innocents implicated do you?

I ignored his silent question.

            “Please, Edward, let’s be reasonable.” He said aloud.

            “Let’s, and we’ll leave quietly now, with no one the wiser.” I replied.

            I can’t let you do that. Demetri sighed in frustration.

He knew my decision could not be influenced when we were even numbered, not including Bella – my fragile human.

            “At least let us discuss this more privately.”

The security guard had called reinforcements and there were now several uniformed men gathered deciding if this was the right moment to intercede.

 

I heard light footstep not audible to human ears, coming deeper into the alleyway.

Jane.

            Edward! Stop this at once.

She had been sent to assist Felix and Demetri in bringing me in. She didn’t look remotely surprised by the company with us.

            “No.” I hissed through my teeth.

Felix smirked as he heard Jane’s approach, and both he and Demetri relaxed as they knew their mission would be completed easily following the arrival of the diminutive Jane.

I hadn’t looked at Bella during the confrontation, but I was certain she wore an anxious expression on her beautiful face.

            “Enough.” Jane said tersely. If you do not proceed with me to Aro, then I will be forced to impose my talent on your dear little friend.

She pictured it in her mind.

She was threatening to hurt my Bella.

How dare she?

I was furious and had the overpowering urge to dismember her on the spot.

I could not refuse her.

I had to go; we all had to.

 

With regret and dejection I dropped my arms in defeat and relaxed my protective posture. 

            “Jane.” I sighed with anger and resignation, but also as a sign of my cooperation.

Alice crossed her arms angrily across her chest but maintained an impassive expression.

            Who does she think she is? Alice snorted in her head.

            “Follow me.” Jane said as she turned and drifted back in the direction she had come.

Alice pranced after Jane whilst Felix gestured for me and Bella to follow. I wound my arm around Bella’s waist and pulled her along gently beside me.

 

As we walked down the familiar alleyway towards the discreet entrance of the Volturi’s lair, I realised this was my opportunity get some explanations.

I needed answers.

I wanted to know the reason why we – meaning myself, Bella and my sister were here.

How did we all end up here?

What caused this?

It was imperative that I understood before we encountered our impending doom.

 

Felix and Demetri were not relishing the fact that we had to walk at human pace due to Bella, but I disregarded their silent complaining and focused on obtaining the information I required from Alice.

Alice’s thoughts were with Jasper – missing him.

I needed to prompt her in someway so she would think specifically about recent events.

            “Well, Alice. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised to see you here.”

In an instant I saw her and Bella’s frantic journey from Forks to save me, and her telling my other family members not to follow in case a situation similar to the one we were in now ensued.

            “It was my mistake. It was my job to set it right.” She replied. I’m sorry Edward. I had no idea Rosalie would be so malevolent by telling you right away. I would have told you myself, but I thought I was doing the right thing by checking with Charlie first. She continued in her head.

            “What happened?” I asked casually, hoping she would give me a brief description for the sake of the Volturi vampires within earshot, and then elaborating in her mind for me to observe.

            “It’s a long story.” Alice shot a glance at Bella. As it usually is with our Bella Swan. “In summary, she did jump off a cliff, but she wasn’t trying to kill herself. Bella is all about extreme sports these days.”

 

I didn’t appreciate Alice’s sarcasm; I wanted to scream out in fury at what I saw in her head.

Bella.

Cliff diving.

The company of werewolves. Ferocious creatures.

I didn’t understand. She had promised not to be stupid or reckless, but this went beyond irresponsible.

It got worse.

Other vampires.

Laurent.

Victoria.

Victoria had gone back to Forks – for my Bella.

All because I couldn’t track her.

I should have been better.

I should have prevented Victoria’s attempts to gain access to Bella.

I should have gone back.

My departure was the cause of all these new wildly dangerous activities Bella had been participating in.

I was responsible.

Would I ever stop endangering my love?

 

I detested myself more than I thought possible.

Remembering and feeling that Bella was now in my arms kept me calm. However she wasn’t safe here with me now, although I vowed in my head to never hurt her again.

            “Hm.” I managed to choke out.

 

What had I done?

I had introduced Bella into a dangerous mythical world and left her to encounter it alone.

It seems like the werewolves had been attempting to protect Bella, and one in particular – Jacob Black, had formed quite an intense friendship with Bella in my absence. I couldn’t control the feeling of jealously that crept up my spine.

He was there when I should have been.

Friends with a werewolf?

I retained from snorting out in disgust.

Yes, Bella was truly a magnet for peril.

 

Unwillingly, I brought myself out of Alice’s head and back into reality.

Alice was controlling her thoughts well, but I had an inclination that she was preventing me from seeing something.

What and why?

I didn’t have time to question her but I was glad to understand the details of the recent events a little more clearly.

 

We reached the hole in the street that I had followed Felix and Demetri down the previous day.

Alice disappeared down after Jane.

Bella hesitated cautiously.

I thought about going ahead to catch her, but I didn’t want to leave her side for a second, especially with two blood-thirsty vampires behind us.

            “It’s all right, Bella. Alice will catch you.”

            “Alice?” she whispered to ensure she was there, prepared.

            “I’m right here, Bella.” It’s okay, Edward I will catch her. Drop her down.

Bella crouched down as I removed my arm from around her waist and grabbed her wrists softly and lowered her into the dark underground.

            “Ready?” I asked my sister, hoping she would catch Bella as gently as possible.

            “Drop her.” Alice called to me sensing my reluctance.

I held my breath, released my grip and let Bella fall into the blackness.

I felt my newly refilled chest pinch to lose her touch.

I heard Alice catch her and I jumped down straight after. I was instantly at her side pulling her back into an embrace.

Bella wrapped her arms around me, which sent warmth through my frozen form.

I reached up with my free hand to stroke her face, trying to soothe her as she staggered along.

Occasionally I would softly kiss her hair, breathing in her intoxicating scent and she clutched me tighter.

 

I longed to talk to Bella and soothe her mind.

Her mind must have been racing with endless questions about what was coming and where we going. But the silence was necessary, firstly because of the eavesdropping Volturi guard surrounding us; I didn’t want to show any vulnerability, and secondly because, I didn’t know what was looming ahead of us.

 

The atmosphere was tense and the complaining thoughts of Felix and Demetri at our slow pace was irritating, however I revelled in their annoyance.

 

I realised Bella was wet when she started shivering.

Why was she wet?

Her shaking became more violent – probably from the coldness and fear.

Her teeth started chattering and I realised that the temperature of my glacial skin wasn’t helping her.

I released my embrace; I couldn’t bear to lose our touch completely and I continued to hold her hand.

            “N-n-no.” She stuttered.

I chafed her arm continuously trying to cause some warm from the friction of our skin moving against each others.

 

She didn’t want me to let go?

I felt an overpowering feeling of love.

Did she still love me?

Did she forgive me?

Maybe I would never find out.

I heard the metal gate shut loudly marking the arrival at our final destination.

 

My anger increased with every step.

I clenched my teeth shut to prevent myself from snarling out a malicious growl.

My pathetic attempts at protecting her had almost cost my precious Bella her life before; and now I was walking her into another deadly situation.

Chapter 17

Deathly Circumstances


There was no exit.

No way out for us.

I never took my eyes off Bella as I concentrated on the thoughts of those opposing us for any signal of attack.

Jane’s thoughts remained content and smug. She was somewhat proud of herself for acquiring the suicidal vampire along with his unusual companions.

When we reached the reception area, after taking the identical route I had taken the previous day, I noticed that Bella was scrutinising Gianna – the receptionist, and understood immediately that she was aware that Gianna was in fact a human; living and working among these vile creatures.

Alice was focusing hard, attempting to see what awaited us, and what the verdict would be, but it seemed the Volturi leaders had not made a conclusive decision yet.

 

Jane acknowledged Gianna as we passed the reception desk and proceeded through set of old oak doors, where Alec awaited.

            “Jane.” he greeted.

            “Alec.” She responded, embracing him. After their brief salutation, they both then turned their attention to Alice, Bella and me.

            “They send you out for one, and you come back with two…and a half.” Alec said glancing at Bella. “Nice work.” Ah, the girl must be Edward’s little girlfriend. He thought to himself.

Jane gave a shrill laugh. She enjoyed the praise.

            “Welcome back, Edward. You seem in a better mood.”

            “Marginally.”  I replied to the young boy.

Alec chuckled at my blunt response, and then looked at Bella clinging onto me.

            “And this is the cause of all the trouble?”

I forced a smile onto my face, while gritting my teeth shut to hold back the growl that crept up my throat.

            I’ll have her. I’m thirsty and she smells appetizing.

I instantly stilled at the thoughts of a vampire behind me.

I wanted to grab Bella and run.

            “Dibs.” Felix called aloud.

I couldn’t control it.

I couldn’t hold it back.

I whipped round and let out a menacing snarl.

He would not touch my Bella.

I would never let him near her.

Never.

Felix raised his hand and motioned with his fingers encouraging me to come forward and challenge him.

            Come on, Edward. I will happily destroy you, before her.

I wanted to obliterate him.

I wanted to rip his head off with my bare hands.

I was just about to push Bella out the way and pounce, when something touched my arm and interrupted my impending attack.

Alice.

            “Patience.” She warned me. Calm down, Edward. Think of Bella.

She was right.

I couldn’t lose control around Bella.

She could get gravely injured, or worse.

Although I had already put Bella in this possibly deathly situation, an attack on a valuable member of the Volturi guard would certainly have dire consequences. It made me wonder, who would protect Bella if a fight broke out?

It was my responsibility.

My sole objective.

I took a deep breath and forced myself to calm down.

            Coward. Felix hissed in his mind.

I tried with extreme effort to ignore him and focus on the task at hand – getting out…alive.

 

            “Aro will be pleased to see you again.” Alec spoke as if the confrontation had never occurred. But I could see in his mind, he was disappointed that Alice had prevented me from attacking.

            “Let’s not keep him waiting.” Jane said.

I merely nodded.

 

Alec and Jane holding hands led the way.

As we walked, I discovered from their thoughts that where they were taking us was not a place of discussion or solace.

Some were already gathered there.

Waiting.

It was the vampire’s dining room.

And the vampire’s were gathered waiting for their meal to arrive.

This was not the place I should be allowing my Bella to go.

I did not want her beautiful soul to linger in this awful place.

One fragile human in the midst of so many thirsty vampires.

We would both be dead in seconds.

Bella for her sweet blood.

Me for protecting her.

I couldn’t bear to think about what could happen.

What might very well happen.

 

When we arrived at the room, I was extremely tense.

I relaxed slightly as I looked into their minds.

Aro had strictly ordered everyone not to attack without command, or without justifiable provocation, but he could not have anticipated that Bella would be present. Bella looked around, utterly astonished.

I watched her eyes land one particular vampire in the room.

Aro.

She must have recognised him from the canvas I once showed her, in my father’s office.

 

            “Jane, dear one, you’ve returned.” He spoke enthusiastically.

            “Yes, master. I brought him back alive just as you wished.” She replied adoringly. Her overwhelming desire to gratify him reminded me of how I longed to delight Bella.

            “Ah, Jane. You are such a comfort to me.” His enthusiasm mounted into wholesome excitement as he eyed Bella and Alice.

            The future seeker! The fortune teller! Aro exclaimed in his mind.

            “And Alice and Bella, too!” he rejoiced, whilst clapping, recognising them from my memories. “This is a surprise! Wonderful!!” I think it is time to get Caius and Marcus here. He quickly turned to Felix, “Felix, be a dear and tell my brothers about our company. I’m sure they wouldn’t want to miss this.”

            “Yes, master.” Felix replied before swiftly disappearing back through the doors we had just entered. Aro then diverted his attention to me. I could not understand his excitement, as he was attempting to block me from his thoughts.

Was he thrilled by our capture?

By the possibility of annihilating us?

 

            “You see, Edward? What did I tell you? Aren’t you glad that I didn’t give you what you wanted yesterday?”

            “Yes, Aro, I am.” I agreed.

I tightened my embrace of Bella – ensuring she was still safely beside me. I was petrified that any moment she would disappear. On the other hand, I wanted her to not be here, not to be involved. I wanted her to be safe, as I always have. But it had recently been proven that whatever I wanted for Bella was not sufficient to keep her safe, or with me.

 

            Bella is alive, after all. Alice must have been mistaken. Her gift seemed flawless, but perhaps it is not consistently accurate; all the same, a tremendous talent to have. Aro spoke the words in his head.

His concentration lapsed slightly allowing me access to his thoughts for a moment.

A moment was all I needed.

His excitement was due to the presence of my sister.

Alice.

He wanted her desperately.

Well, it was her talent he craved.

He wanted me too – but from that very instant witnessed her talent through my thoughts he had wanted her in his coven. And, now he could not believe his good fortune as she stood before him.

            “I love a happy ending.” Aro signed. I could see the image of his happy ending in his mind. It involved me and Alice standing imperiously by his side, two impressive new members of an already shockingly effective team of predators.

            “They are so rare. But I want the whole story. How did this happen? Alice?” Aro fixed his desirably on my sister as he spoke to her. “Your brother seemed to think you infallible but apparently there was some mistake.”

            “Oh, I’m far from infallible.” Alice smiled. What has Edward told him about me? She wondered as her hands balled up into little fists, as if to hold in the anxiety she was feeling. She felt uncomfortable with Aro’s knowledge of her and it made her apprehensive. “As you can see, I cause problems as often as I cure them.”

            “You are too modest,” Aro reproached. “I’ve seen some of your more amazing exploits, and I must admit, I’ve never seen observed anything like your talent. Wonderful!” It would be an astounding contribution to our guard. They both would. He continued in his thoughts, as images of me and Alice flashed in his mind.

 

            Edward?

Alice’s eyes flickered to me for a split second as words raced through her head. How does he know so much about me? Why is he acting like he knows me?

Alice’s wary glance at me did not go unnoticed by the observant Volturi leader.

            “I’m sorry; we haven’t been introduced properly at all, have we? It’s just that I feel like I know you already, and I tend to get ahead of myself. Your brother introduced us yesterday, in a peculiar way. You see, I share some of your brother’s talent, only I am limited in a way he is not.” Aro explained. His tone exhibited a hint of jealously at the fact that I could read minds from a distance.

            “And also exponentially more powerful.” I interjected.

            He can read minds too? Alice asked silently.

My sister was still slightly confused. She had heard Carlisle’s recollection of his time spent here in Volterra with the Volturi, but at the time he had not elaborated on the specific vampire talents of those here. I had been the one who had been particularly interested in every detail and asked endless questions on many different occasions. I would have to explain now, so she would understand.

            “Aro needs physical contact to hear your thoughts, but he hears much more then I do. You know I can only hear what’s passing through your mind in the moment. Aro hears every thought you ever had.”

            Alice raised her eyebrows in surprise. But he can’t hear my thoughts now? He can’t hear what I’m saying to you in my head right now?

I inclined my head as a response. She would know what I meant. We often immersed ourselves in these silent exchanges. Our family was used to it by now, and sometimes they weren’t aware of it at all. Bella, being her observant self, nearly always noticed, but other humans were oblivious.

Aro noticed it now, but he ignored it slightly irritated that he could not hear.

            “But to hear from a distance…” he paused, letting out a sigh before gesturing to me and Alice’s silent exchange. “That would be so convenient.”

 

            What is he doing back here? I heard Caius’s thoughts as he entered the room, followed by Marcus and Felix. I swiftly turned to face their direction. Alice mimicked my movement and recognized Aro’s brothers from the familiar canvas pictured in her mind.

            Who are the others? The girl is human. I thought she was dead. Caius scowled silently.

Marcus’s gaze was instantly drawn to my arm that was wrapped around Bella. He was scrutinizing our relationship – which somehow mystified him.

I was confused.

How could the potency of our relationship be strong enough to bewilder?

Bella and I were no longer together in that sense.

Of course, my feelings for her had not changed in the duration of our separation.

If anything, my love for her had intensified.

She was my savior, my angel.

But it was not possible that Bella still felt the same for me – I had hurt her too much.

 

Marcus’s attention moved onto the relationship I shared with my sister, and then onto the one between Alice and Bella. I could see his evaluations in his mind, and he was now dumbfounded, although he never showed any indication in his expression. He had never encountered such true and deep bonds of love and friendship between vampires, and defiantly not between vampires and a human.

 

            “Marcus, Caius, look! Bella is alive after all, and Alice is here with her! Isn’t it wonderful? Aro crooned.

Neither responded, or exhibited one ounce of the excitement displayed by their brother.  

            “Let us have the story.”

Marcus floated to Aro to inform him of his thoughts. At the brief contact, Aro raised his eyebrows as he saw the results of Marcus’s examination of our relationships.

            Extraordinary! Surely they cannot care for each other with such intensity. I suppose the verity that Bella is alive could prove Edward’s love for her. But Alice and Edward they are not strictly related. And Alice and Bella? It is not possible.

I snorted at Aro’s silent analysis.

Of course it was feasible.

His own brother had just shown him.

How could he doubt it?

I honestly and truly loved all my family unconditionally. Alice and Bella had developed a true friendship, and now they were like sisters.

I could not begin to explain the love I felt for Bella.

It was utterly awe-inspiring and even I did not understand it.

Bella kept reeling me in, no matter what I did to try and protect her and stay away, I could not resist her in that sense, her blood, on the other hand – I had to resist from.

 

            “Thank you, Marcus. That’s quite interesting.” Aro said shaking his head trying to comprehend.  “Amazing, absolutely amazing.”

            What is he talking about, Edward? Alice demanded silently, venting her frustration at the cryptic spoken comments and exchanges.

            “Marcus sees relationships and he is surprised by the intensity of ours. “I explained to Bella and Alice swiftly and quietly, even though every other vampire in the room could hear.

            “So convenient.” Aro said. To answer ones unspoken questions. He finished in his thoughts. “It takes quite a lot to surprise Marcus, I can assure you.” Aro focused on the arm I had wrapped around Bella’s waist, whilst wondering how I could be so close to her when her blood was what I yearned for so desperately. I would admit the situation was inexplicable, but it was almost effortless for me to be in Bella’s presence now.

Was it because of the deadly circumstances we found ourselves in?

It must be.

I had always had an overpowering desire to protect her rather than kill her.

Before I had departed Forks, it was a constant struggle to control myself.

Now there was something different.

Something I didn’t understand.

I don’t know what had changed.

Her scent was more intoxicating than ever.

It still burned my throat.

But the fire in my throat was not dreadful.

It was irritating, but not painful.

It was no longer Bella’s blood I craved…it was exclusively her soul that I coveted.

 

Aro would never understand.

He had never experienced the heartbreak I had suffered.

 

            “It’s just so difficult to understand even now. How can you stand so close to her like that?” Aro pondered.

            “It’s not without effort.”

            “But still - la tua cantante! What a waste!”

I chuckled at his statement.

It was true.

Bella was my singer.

Her blood sang to me.

 

            “I look at it more as a price.”

            “A very high price.” Aro said hesitantly.

            “Opportunity cost.”

            “If I hadn’t smelled her through your memories, I wouldn’t have believed the call of anyone’s blood could be so strong. I’ve never felt anything like it myself. Most of us would trade much for such a gift, and yet you….”

            “Waste it.” I interjected sarcastically, repeating his previous remark.

 

I was becoming impatient.

I was tired of the polite conversation.

I no longer wished to explain my love for Bella; frankly it was none of their business.

 

Aro laughed as he remembered my father’s determination and restraint. Carlisle had never killed a human, even during his time spent here in Volterra. The Volturi thought our way of life, living off animal blood was impractical. They thought we should truly embrace the creatures that we are. Instead, my family refrained from that part of the vampire existence.

 

            “Ah, how I miss my friend Carlisle! You remind me of him, only he was not so angry.”

            “Carlisle outshines me in many other ways as well.” I replied.

            “I certainly never thought to see Carlisle bested for self-control of all things, but you put him to shame,” he said.

            “Hardly,” I said intolerantly.

            “I am gratified by his success. Your memories of him are quite a gift for me, though they astonish me exceedingly. I am surprised at how it…pleases me, his success in this unorthodox path he’s chosen pleases me. I expected that he would waste, weaken with time. I’d scoffed at his plan to find others who would share his peculiar vision. Yet, somehow, I am happy to be wrong.”

I did not reply.

             “But your restraint! I did not know such strength was possible. To inure yourself against such a siren call, not just once but again and again. If had not felt it myself, I wouldn’t have believed.”

I did not dignify his oration with a response. My impatience was building. Why couldn’t he just deal with the matter at hand – our freedom?

 

            “Just remembering how much she appeals to you…It makes me thirsty,” he chortled.

I froze up with tension.

No. Bella would not be his meal. Ever.

Aro noticed my apprehension.

            “Don’t be disturbed.” He said reassuringly.

I searched in his mind thoroughly. There was no sign of an attack.

            “I mean her no harm. But I am curious, about one thing in particular. May I?” he asked gazing at Bella intently.

He was asking me if he could attempt to access her mind.

I couldn’t make Bella’s decisions for her.

            “Ask her.” I stated.

            “Of course, how rude of me! “Bella, I am fascinated that you are the one exception to Edwards’s impressive talent. So very interesting that such a thing should occur! And I was wondering, since our talents are similar in many ways, if you would be so kind as to allow me to try, to see if you are an exception for me as well.”

Bella’s eyes flashed to my face glowing with terror.

I nodded in encouragement. Although I didn’t want him touching her I knew he wouldn’t hurt her right now. The look in her eyes tore at me. I hated seeing her so scared.

 

Bella raised her hand to Aro’s, and the instant they touched I knew her mind would not grant him access. I felt slightly relieved that I was not the only one who was prohibited from reading her mind.

 

Aro was disgruntled by this revelation and was curious as to how Bella’s mind worked.

            “A first! I wonder if she is immune to our other talents…Jane, dear?”

            “No!” I snarled furiously.

Absolutely no way.

Alice grabbed my arm, but I shook her off.

            “Yes, master?” Jane smiled at Aro.

            “Jane, I was wondering, my dear one, if Bella is immune to you too.”

I was enraged.

My ferocious growls echoed around the room.

I needed to protect Bella.

Jane would hurt her grievously just for enjoyment.

I would have to obliterate her first. She was not allowed near Bella. Ever!

Jane turned to look at Bella with a devilishly malevolent expression.

            No! I screamed in my head.

I sprang forward toward her, to ambush her attack on my Bella.

            “Don’t!” Alice cried.

Midway through the air I was jolted, and fell instantly to the stone floor.

Thousands of electric shocks ran through my body making me shake vigorously.

This pain was excruciating.

Chapter 18

Premonition


My body made involuntary jerking movements as I writhed around on the stone floor.

My whole form was paralysed with pain.

I wanted to scream – but I couldn’t.

I couldn’t let Bella see in how much pain I was in, it would horrify her.

The searing pain that dominated me was not, however the worse pain I had ever experienced.

As every jolt scorched my heart it reminded me that there was a more wounding pain.

I had suffered pain much worse than this. What Jane was inflicting upon me now was nothing compared to losing my Bella.

Leaving her.

Trying to survive without her.

Believing she was dead.

I knew that any other pain I experienced would never be as horrendous as that.

 

I let the shocks take over my body.

I deserved the punishment.

I accepted that this was part of my chastisement for converting Bella’s life from safe and normal to disturbing and dangerous.

Conversely, no punishment ever inflicted upon me would come close to what I truly deserved, for being the monster that I despised so much.

Not Jane’s pain-inflicting power.

Not the Volturi.

Not even death itself.

 

Bella’s sweet voice touched my ears.

            “Stop!” she screeched.

I wanted her sight to be averted; she shouldn’t have to see Jane’s malicious power in action.

            “Jane.” Aro ordered her to stop and suddenly I was motionless and numb.

            “He’s fine.” I heard Alice tell Bella.

The shocking pain had vanished.

I sat up.

            That serves you right for trying to attack me, Edward. Jane thought. Next?

I sprang to my feet and stared at Bella horror-struck as Jane forced her power onto her.

I braced myself to pounce at Jane again, but I was distracted by Bella’s unchanging stance.

She didn’t fall.

She didn’t crumble in pain.

I promptly switched my gaze to Jane, who was extremely confused.

She had attacked.

She attempted to inflict the pain again.

I breathed a sigh of overwhelming relief.

Bella’s mind was shielded from Jane’s formidable power.

 

            How is that possible? How can it not work? Jane growled in her mind as she shook with fury.

 

At that moment I was vastly appreciative that Bella’s amazingly abnormal mind blocked such intrusions by Aro and Jane.

A beautifully special mind.

An inaccessible and intriguing mind.

 

In one swift movement I was by Alice’s side pulling Bella back safely into my arms.

Aro started to chuckle, obviously amused by the whole situation, whereas Jane was infuriated and hissed in frustration as she glared at Bella.

            “Don’t be put out, dear one. She confounds us all.” Aro said, comforting her. “Ha, ha, ha.” Aro chuckle gleefully.         “You’re very brave, Edward, to endure in silence. I asked Jane to do that to me once - just out of curiosity” He continued.

I shot him a look of disgust.

I was not brave.

The courage I had expressed was necessary in the circumstances.

It was for protection.

I had to appear strong as reassurance – for Bella.

I didn’t want her to be afraid, as I was.

 

            “So what do we do with you now?” Aro asked aloud but to himself.

My body froze at the same time as Alice stilled beside me.

The time has come for them to reach a verdict.

To decide our fate.

The tension in the chamber mounted.

 

            Kill them! Caius and Felix thought simultaneously.

I had a devastating feeling that this situation would end badly, whether we were allowed to continue living, or not. In Bella’s case it would be living, as for me and Alice, we would merely continue to exist.

Bella began to quiver, presumably out of fear. If I wasn’t able to maintain my posture then I would also be trembling.

I could not soothe the anxiety any of us were feeling.

 

            “I don’t suppose there’s any chance that you have changed your mind? Your talent would be an excellent addition to our little company.” Aro asked optimistically before continuing silently in his head for only me to hear. It goes without saying, Edward, if you accept, your life will be preserved.

Jane and Felix grimaced and their thoughts allowed me to observe their abhorrence of Aro’s request. 

 

Aro had issued me with an ultimatum.

I would rather perish than join their forces; however I had a more crucial objective – the guarantee of Bella’s safety and survival. Maybe I could use this as a bargaining device to ensure Bella kept her liberty.

If I had learnt anything from the previous six months, it was that I would never allow Bella to be subject to death due to my own actions.

I had already experienced losing her.

I honestly believed that I had made a significant contribution to her jumping off that cliff.

Now we had been reunited, I had undeservingly been given a second chance to be there for her – to protect her. I would do anything necessary to endeavor to maintain her living status, and hopefully I would still be present to see her released.

If I had no other choice than to join the Volturi in order to keep Bella alive, I would join without hesitation. However, this was not the right moment to commence negotiations so I stated my words clearly.

            “I’d…rather…not Aro.” I said enunciating my words distinctly, but not issuing a definite refusal.

 

            “Alice? Would you perhaps be interested in joining us?” Aro asked my sister.

            “No, thank you.” She replied politely. I would rather forgo shopping for a month than join these people. She informed me in her head. I respected my sister for trying to lighten my mood, but I was preoccupied with Aro’s next intended offer.

What!?

What the hell was he doing?

I could feel my anger rising.

He couldn’t.

Absolutely not.

 

            “And you, Bella?”

I saw an astounding beautiful vampire depicted in his head, and let out a low hiss.

I felt myself fill with anxiety.

Bella had previously desired to become a vampire – did she still want that?

Would she accept Aro’s offer?

 

It was Caius who echoed my first thought aloud.

            “What?” he demanded.

            “Caius, surely you see the potential. I haven’t seen a prospective talent so promising since we found Jane and Alec. Can you imagine the possibilities when she is one of us?” Aro explained.

Caius ignored him and turned away with an abrasive expression upon his face, whilst muttering profanities in his mind.

 

I was filled with fury, trying not to allow the growl building in my chest to escape my lips.

            Bella’s voice trembled as she whispered, “No, thank you.”

Her instant rejection pleased me. 

            “That’s unfortunate. Such a waste” Aro sighed in disappointment.

            “Join or die, is that it? I suspected as much when we were brought into this room. So much for your laws.” I demanded furiously

I did not intend to anger the Volturi, but I had to ask with hope of seeing Aro’s intentions in his head.

            “Of course not. We were already convened here, Edward, awaiting Heidi’s return. Not for you.” He replied.

He blocked his thoughts from me, I couldn’t see his plan of action, but surely the outcome could not be good.

            “Aro, the law claims them.” Caius jeered. The girl is human. At the very least the law claims her. 

            “How so?” I interjected, wanting Caius to voice his opinions aloud.

He pointed at Bella whilst his words were directed at me.

            “She knows too much. You have exposed our secrets.”

            “There are few humans in your charade here, as well.” I argued.

            “Yes, but when they are no longer useful to us, they will serve to sustain us. That is not our plan for this one. If she betrays our secrets, are you prepared to destroy her? I think not.” He ridiculed. 

            “I wouldn’t…” Bella started to speak, but was quickly silenced by Caius with a look, as he carried on with his speech.

            “Nor do you intent to make her one of us; therefore, she is a liability.  And for this, the penalty is her life. You may live if you wish.” But I doubt you will give her up that easily.

I bared my teeth, my mouth dripping with my own venom. Caius wasn’t of a dense nature, because he knew that I wouldn’t surrender Bella to them so they could destroy her, while I walked away liberated with my sister. 

            “That’s what I thought.” Let’s get this dealt with now, before Heidi arrives.

It seemed as if Felix had also heard Caius thoughts, as he leaned fervently towards Bella.

            “Unless…” Aro interrupted.

I could see into his mind now, like he was showing me himself – granting me access.

He did not desire to destroy Bella as his brother did. He wanted to remain in the good faith of my family in a desperate attempt to acquire Alice someday in the future. All the same, he sought to obey the rules they had created.

            “Unless you do intend to give her immortality?”

I thought about it for a split second.

Was I willing to take away Bella’s life later, for the purpose of saving it at this present moment?

Could I promise to do that? – Something I had spent all this time refusing to give Bella.

Aro would surely want corroboration via my thoughts, meaning it was not possible to be untruthful.

            “And if I do?” I asked curiously.

            “Why, then you would be free to go home and give my regards to my friend Carlisle. But I am afraid you would have to mean it.”

Just as I had suspected, Aro held out his hand towards me requesting my thoughts...my promise.

            Caius smirked. Now is the time we will discover his true intentions.

 

I looked at Bella, only to see her staring at me. I gazed deeply into her eyes – all the way into her soul.

It took my breath away.

Could I really annihilate that?

Could I destroy the very essence of Bella?

I knew in my frozen heart – I couldn’t.

 

            “Mean it, please.” Bella whispered to me.

I saw a strained tortured plea in her eyes.

I longed to grant her any request she made, but not this. I could not lie in my thoughts.

 

Before I could think of an alternative, my sister stepped forward towards the Volturi leader with her hand outstretched.

            Don’t be angry, Edward.

I ignored the scowling protests around me, and watched as Alice showed Aro every corner of her mind – specifically her vision of Bella becoming an immortal in the near future.

This puzzled me as I had steadfastly refused to change Bella, but then I saw Alice promise Bella that she would change her, herself.

I wanted to growl in annoyance at my sister.

How could Alice promise Bella that?

I didn’t have the time to think about it, or question Alice right now…but I most certainly would later… if we were ever able to leave and I got the chance.

I held my breath throughout the whole period of time Aro was scrutinizing Alice’s thoughts, hoping he would not want to examine mine also.

 

            “Ha, ha, ha. That was fascinating!” Aro chortled, amazed at being granted access into Alice’s intriguing mind.”

            “I’m glad you enjoyed it.” Alice replied.

            “To see the things you’ve seen – especially the ones that haven’t happened yet!”

            “But that will.” She reminded him.

            “Yes, yes, it’s quite determined. Certainly there is no problem.”

Internally I relaxed slightly.

Caius, Jane and Felix were displeased by this recent revelation, whereas Marcus and Alec remained quiet and impartial.

            “Aro,” Caius protested.

            “Dear Caius, do not fret. Think of the hope for the future. Imagine the joy young Alice alone would bring to our little household…Besides, I’m so terribly curious to see how Bella turns out!”

 

I could hear a distant parade of people shuffling in the direction of this room.

The feast of humans for the blood thirsty vampires was rapidly approaching, which was our cue to escape while we were able to.

            “Then we are free to go now?”

            “Yes, yes, but please visit again. It’s been absolutely enthralling!” Aro replied.

            “And we will visit you as well; to be sure that you follow through on your side. Were I you, I would not delay too long. We do not offer second chances.” Caius spoke with authority in his tone. Consider that a threat, Edward. He warned me in his head.

I gritted my teeth to prevent myself from speaking words I’d be likely to regret, and instead nodded at the threat of their imposing presence in our lives.

 

Felix groaned aloud, getting progressively more appetent. Bella’s scent was tempting him, increasing his thirst.

            “Ah Felix. Heidi will be here any moment. Patience.” Aro said amused.

Aro was right – Heidi would soon be herding like animals, a vast number of humans into this very room, therefore I had to get Bella out of here quickly. If she realised what was about to happen, it would surely upset her.

            “Hmm. In that case, perhaps we’d better leave sooner rather than later.” I suggested.

            “Yes. That’s a good idea. Accidents do happen. Please wait below until after dark, though, if you don’t mind.” Just to remain inconspicuous. Aro added in his head.

I mentally winced at the thought of the accident that Aro was referring to occurring.

            “Of course.” I agreed. I was not relishing the fact that we had to remain in Volterra, rather than leaving this god-awful place immediately, however I did not want to dispute Aro’s request as it would prolong our presence in this room.

            “And here,” Aro spoke whilst gesturing to Felix to come forward. He disrobed Felix and handed the cloak to me, as I was still shirtless. ”Take this. You’re a little conspicuous.”

I put on the cloak, whilst Aro watched me intently.

            “It suits you.” He sighed.

I chuckled at his comment, glad that the outcome of today’s events hadn’t concluded with the disastrous consequences I had expected. We were free and I was not part of his coven.

            “Thank you, Aro. We’ll wait below.”

            “Goodbye, young friends.” Aro said with slight disappointment, before his attention was otherwise distracted by the audience behind us.

“Let’s go.” I said urgently.

Chapter 19

Nightmare


            “Not fast enough.” Alice muttered as we made our exit from the room as quickly as humanly possible.

My sister and I tried to shield Bella as much as we could by tightly surrounding her.

The voices, both spoken and silent were deafening and distinct now, as the ill-fated parade came into view. Voices babbled in the flow of people; it was almost impossible to distinguish between them but I realized that some were curious whilst others were fearful.

Aro was welcoming the unfortunate crowd into the room we had left only moments ago.

It truly disgusted me. I knew I was a monster, I had killed many people in the past, but those people were ghastly humans who had committed terrible acts, still it didn’t make it right - but this charade that the Volturi hosted was barbaric.

I pulled Bella’s face into my chest as we moved to the side to let the crowd pass.

Demetri, who was leading us back to the reception area, greeted Heidi on his way past.

            “Welcome home, Heidi.”

            “Demetri.”

            “Nice fishing.” He complimented her while he also praised her flamboyant appearance in his head.

            “Thanks. Aren’t you coming?”

            “In a minute. Save me a few.”

Heidi nodded, and then glanced curiously at my Bella.

            What is the human girl doing here? She isn’t supposed to be part of my crowd, is she? She wondered silently.

I pulled Bella forward at a more rapid pace, but it wasn’t quick enough before the screaming erupted from the room behind us.

 

Demetri warned us again not to leave before night had fallen, and then left to claim his meal.

Bella was trembling vigorously.

            “Are you all right?” I whispered to her.

She didn’t respond.

Bella wore a horrified expression whilst appearing overawed and in a trance like state.

            “You better make her sit before she falls. She’s going to pieces.” Alice said.

Heart-wrenching sobs escaped Bella’s lips as I gently pulled her to the sofa farthest away from the reception desk, where the receptionist Gianna was standing, curious and startled by Bella’s hysterical condition. 

            “Shh, Bella, shh.” I tried to comfort her with words.

“I think she is having hysterics. Maybe you should slap her?” Alice suggested.

I threw Alice a disgusted look. Slapping Bella would certainly dislocate her head from her body with my vampire strength. I ignored her preposterous idea and focused on trying to calm Bella down.

            Sorry. Alice apologised silently.

I forgave her; after all, I would no longer exist if she hadn’t come to my rescue today.

Bella’s sobs became louder as she collapsed into my arms, surrendering her composure.

            “It’s all right, you’re safe, it’s all right.” I repeated several times, hoping she would listen and calm down slightly.

Although Bella was extremely upset, I couldn’t help but feel joy that she was in my arms, where I could feel the warmth of her smooth skin, and inhale her sweet scent.

My memories hadn’t done them justice.

I understood her anguish. She couldn’t bear to think of my kind, of me being anything but monsters after what she had just seen and heard.

            “All those people.” She cried.

            “I know.”

            “It’s so horrible.”

            “Yes, it is. I wish you hadn’t had to see that.”

Tears escaped her tired eyes and ran smoothly down her soft cheeks. I used the cloak I was now wearing to wipe the salty wetness from her face.

I straightened up slightly when I heard footsteps and concerned thoughts heading our direction.

Gianna.

            “Is there anything I can get for you?” She asked politely.

            “No.” I replied, wanting her to retreat back to her desk.

            Poor girl. Something must have really upset her. She thought.

Was she really that oblivious?

I didn’t waste my time wondering about Gianna’s denial, and turned my attention back to Bella.

 

Bella seemed to calm down gradually, taking in deep breaths.

            “Does she know what is going on here?” She asked me.

            “Yes, she knows everything.”

            “Does she know that they’re going to kill her someday?”

            “She’s hoping they’ll decide to keep her.”

Bella’s face went pale as the lovely colour vanished from her cheeks.

            “She wants to be one of them?” She whispered in confusion.

I nodded and watched her face intently, waiting for the revulsion to cross her expression.

It never came.

Instead her body shuddered forcefully.

            “How can she want that? How can she watch those people file through to that hideous room and want to be a part of that?”

I barely heard her second question as my mind was overpowered by the sudden sentiment of rejection and my heart plummeted in my chest.

She thought of me as a vile creature – like the ones contained here in Volterra.

She no longer wanted me in her life.

She despised vampires.

She was right – how could anybody want this life?

I should be pleased.

I should be happy that Bella didn’t want this life.

But it would also mean she didn’t want me.

She didn’t want to know me, or have anything to do with me.

No…she hadn’t actually said that…yet.

It was obvious that we had things to discuss, but now was neither the time nor the place – we hadn’t entirely escaped the danger yet. But whatever happened, I would do whatever she desired.

 

            “Oh, Edward.” Bella sobbed.

I was suddenly more anxious.

            Was she all right…truly?

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

She didn’t pull away from me when I rubbed her back gently, instead to my surprise, she wrapped her arms around my neck and so I hugged her closely.

            “Is it really sick of me to be happy right now?” Her voice quivered slightly with her words.

She was happy?

I felt happiness, but I knew the justification for that – Bella was here.

But why was Bella happy?

Was it just because we had not been dealt the card of death by the Volturi?

            “I know exactly what you mean.” I replied in a low voice.

Although I was positive Bella and I were both joyful for differing reasons. “But we have lots of reasons to be happy. For one, we’re alive.” I continued.

            “Yes. That’s a good one.”

            “And together.” I added in a sigh.

I was blissfully overjoyed that we were together again, but as Bella merely nodded as a response – I concluded that she didn’t share my happiness for that same reason.  “And, with any luck, we’ll still be alive tomorrow.”

            “Hopefully.” She mumbled. Her dimmed response made my heart sink even lower in my chest. Something felt disturbingly wrong.

            “The outlook is quite good.” Alice informed us. “I’ll see Jasper in less than twenty-four hours.”

All Alice’s anger had faded and her thoughts were entirely with Jasper. She missed him terribly.

I looked at Bella and I was slightly shocked by what I saw. I perceived things that I hadn’t noticed before – perhaps I was too aware of the danger to notice them.

Bella looked sad and wary, as well as extremely tired. The dark circles under her eyes reminded me of my own apparent circles – but mine weren’t due to lack of sleep. Her sadness seemed to go deeper, as if suffering had scarred her very being – something had damaged her soul.

She appeared broken.

I was desperate to know what had occurred to make Bella like this, but I had a gut-wrenching feeling that I was culpable.

 

            “You look tired.” I told her as I stroked the dark circles under her eyes.

            “And you look thirsty.” She replied looking at my black irises and the deep purple smudges under my own eyes.

I was thirsty, but I hadn’t thought about it at all. Now that Bella had reminded me of the vampire within, my craving for blood became more evident, but strangely enough I was in complete control. I had no urge to devour.

            “It’s nothing.” I shrugged, wondering what had revolutionized my system.

            “Are you sure? I could sit with Alice.”

Did she want me to hunt so I wasn’t tempted to kill her? After what she had just seen, it was no surprise that she would be afraid, but there was no possible way I was leaving her now.

            “Don’t be ridiculous. I’ve never been in better control of that side of my nature than right now.” I reassured her.

 

Bella fell silent then. I sensed there was something bubbling in her mind as she wore a very strained expression on her face, which wasn’t due to her tiredness.

She was distant and remote, yet she stared back at me whilst I discussed travelling plans with Alice swiftly and quietly. I’m not certain Bella even understood.

            Where will we be going, Edward? Alice asked in her thoughts.

            “To the airport in Florence.” I replied, not providing her with the answer she wanted.

            You know what I mean. Will we be returning to Forks?

I did not reply because I wasn’t sure where I would be residing now.

            Well, we have to return, even if only to take Bella back to Charlie.

I nodded.

I knew that I never wanted to leave Bella again. I wanted to remain forever by her side. The previous months had proved that I could barely survive without her.

But how did she feel?

Judging by her recent behaviour towards me; the physical closeness but the emotional distance – perhaps she had moved on, like I had originally meant for her to, when I had made the mistake of leaving her.

Whether my family and I would return to Forks depended on Bella, on what she wanted. It did not look promising.

If she wanted my family in her life, I would of course grant her that happily, whether she wanted me as a companion or not.

 

            “We will need transportation to the airport.” Alice said. I hope I can find another Porsche, it was truly amazing.

            “You can locate whichever you want when we leave.” I responded to my sister.

            “As soon as we leave I will collect our belongings from where I hid them, phone the airport to reserve seats on the next flight out and acquire a vehicle.”

            “You should probably call Carlisle and the family to notify them of our arrival. You can do that at the airport, I want to get out of this city as swiftly as possible.”

            “Yes, I will. I’ll call jasper.” I miss him, and want to hear his voice. Alice continued in her head.

            “I know you do. You will see him soon. Oh, and Alice?”

            Yes?

            “Thank you…for everything.”

            You’re welcome, Edward. I would do it again for you.

            “I know.” I smiled warmly.

            I wish we could go back to Forks permanently.

            “We’ll see.”

 

            “What was all that talk about singers?” Alice changed the subject, sensing it was not something I wanted to talk about, especially in front of Bella.

            “La tua cantante.” I recited.

            “Yes, that.” Why did they call Bella a singer?

            I shrugged. “They have a name for someone who smells the way Bella does to me. They call her my singer – because her blood sings to me.”

            I would love to hear Bella sing to you. Alice trilled in her mind.

 

For the remainder of our wait in the Volturi lair, I quizzed Alice on the events and activities of her and my other family members in my absence. Alice mostly replied in her thoughts.

            Not much has happened recently. We have been visiting Tanya, Kate, Eleazar and Carmen in Denali over spring break at Cornell. They were asking about you, wondering how you were. Of course, we didn’t know for sure. You never answered your phone when any of us called. You never contacted us. We knew you needed time and privacy.

            “How are Carlisle, Esme, Emmett and Jasper?” I asked, not including Rosalie. It seemed a lifetime ago since she had made that final call to me. I was justifiably livid with her – she had sent me to my death without a second thought.

            “They are all fine.” Including Rosalie. I know you are going to be angry at her, Edward, but I’m sure she regrets her actions. She was impulsive and selfish, but she misses you, we all do. Things were different without you, somewhat morbid. 

 

I couldn’t help but feel guilty – I had no idea what hardships I had put my family through by not including them in my life for the past six months. I hadn’t appreciated that most of them were upset about leaving Bella. I hadn’t considered their feelings whatsoever, like I hadn’t with Bella either. I had been utterly self-centred and the fact that they had respected my wishes and left me alone to suffer alone in solitude, whilst I had barely thought about any of them, made me feel even guiltier.

It was odd now that my mind seemed to be back to normal. I figured that since I was back in Bella’s presence, my mind was able to think of other things as well as Bella.

I had been wholly restored.

My heart.

My mind.

And it was all because I was here with Bella.

 

Every so often I would place a light kiss on Bella – just to feel her skin and to make sure she was still there, not imaginary.

I could feel her in my arms, but my gestures of affection seemed to have no affect on her whatsoever, not like they used to, and this forced a difficult question into my mind.

What was I doing?

I couldn’t expect to resume my previous position in Bella’s life – Could I?

My thoughts were interrupted by the sound of oncoming footsteps. I instinctively tightened my hold on Bella, as if someone was going to snatch her away from me.

 

            “You are free to leave now. We ask that you don’t linger in the city.” Alec told us as he entered the reception area, seemingly fully satisfied from his recent repast.

            “That won’t be a problem.” I replied, anxious to get Bella away from the monstrous place, she still wasn’t completely safe…as she was still in the presence of vampires…of monsters…of me.

Gianna lead us to the exit, which I was already aware of from my previous visit.

            Foolish woman. Alice thought of Gianna, as we proceeded to leave.

We exited into the midst of the festival in high spirits. Alice disappeared momentarily, but not before she informed me where to meet her. I’ll grab our belongings and meet you at the entrance with a car.

I barely interpreted her words as my attention was otherwise distracted.

 

The sky.

It was sparkling; alive with stars.

I had to blink twice to ensure I was not imagining the twinkling spots of light in the black night.

To the North was a bright crescent shaped moon.

Shining dazzlingly, bringing light and hope into my life once again.

It was strikingly beautiful.

I had spent months searching, hoping for them.

They lit up my life just as they illuminated the sky.

My nights were no longer dark.

The light elucidated my love for Bella.
It radiated through me.

How I had yearned for the sparkling stars to appear, but I couldn’t help but wonder – how long would they last?

 

We were surrounded by humans clothed as vampires with cloaks and plastic fangs. I didn’t agree with some of their thoughts that the attire was entertaining. I did not find it remotely humorous. Mythical creatures had become commercialised. They were dangerous beings, not innocuous figures to be thought of only for their comedic value. I thought it was ludicrous for a festival to be held diminishing the menace of such monstrous beasts.

            “Ridiculous.” I muttered to myself.

 

            “Where’s Alice?” Bella whispered warily.

            “She went to retrieve your bags from where she stashed them this morning.”

Bella seemed to relax a little at my reply – maybe she was worried about being alone with me.

            “She’s stealing a car, too, isn’t she?”

            “Not till we’re outside.” I smiled at Bella’s observant nature.

I supported her as we walked to meet Alice.

Bella could hardly walk due to exhaustion. I easily located Alice’s thoughts in a black vehicle that she disapproved of. She was irritated by not having the Porsche to drive back in.

 

I helped Bella into the backseat and slid in next to her, just before Alice drove away at full speed.

            “I’m sorry. There wasn’t much to choose from.” Alice said, as she gestured to the speedometer that didn’t rise to the unlawful speed that she desired to drive at.

            “It’s fine, Alice. They can’t all be 911 Turbos.” I said, amused by her annoyance.

            “I may have to acquire one of those legally. It was fabulous.”

            “I’ll get you one for Christmas.” I promised her. It would be a diminutive gesture, the least I could do to express my gratitude to her.

            Really? She turned to beam at me with a smile that lit up her face. “Yellow.” She stated aloud, reminding me.

 

            “You can sleep now, Bella. It’s over.” I said, wanting her to rest. She looked absolutely worn out.

            “I don’t want to sleep. I’m not tired.”

            “Try.” I breathed across her skin, as I kissed her lightly beneath her ear.

She shook her head.

            “You’re still just as stubborn.” I thought aloud.

            I managed to book us tickets on the next plane out to Rome. When we get there we will have to purchase tickets back to the U.S. Alice told me in her thoughts.

I nodded.

We were really going back, which I was pleased about; but why did I have the sinking feeling that everything was slipping away?

 

When we arrived at the airport, Alice handed me some clothes she had brought for me. She was always prepared – one of her many qualities.

I dumped the cloak I had been given in the trash. It was a good riddance.  Alice took Bella to the bathroom so they could both change and freshen up too. It pained me to be away from Bella for one moment. I ached to hold her in my arms again. We were reunited once more as we boarded our plane to Rome. The flight was quiet and short in duration. We were fortunate enough to get a flight as soon as we arrived in Rome. As we took our next plane to Atlanta, Bella surprised me by ordering a coke from the attendant. She disapproved of caffeine. I could feel the confused expression on my face. Was she that determined to stay awake?

            “Bella?” I said in a questioning tone.

            “I don’t want to sleep. If I close my eyes now, I’ll see things I don’t want to see. I’ll have nightmares.”

Her last statement stopped me from continuing to persuade her to rest.

I didn’t want her to have nightmares.

I would be included in them.

I assumed she would fall asleep on her own accord when her eyes would no longer be able to stay open. They would eventually fall.

We didn’t talk again throughout the duration of the flight. The majority of the other passengers were sleeping, whilst Alice was rapidly talking on the phone to Jasper – informing him of the details of the last few days.

 

The tranquillity gave me time to reflect on my own thoughts. I kept Bella close – always in my arms, kissing her bare skin, and hair, inhaling her scent each time. In the Volturi’s lair – I didn’t have time to think about what the recent events signified – my mind had been preoccupied by the purpose of keeping Bella safe. I was constantly listening and aware of the surrounding thoughts, waiting for an unexpected incident to occur.

Amazingly Bella managed to remain awake, but she stayed silent. It was unfair of me to put her under pressure to answer the one the main question that was spinning in my head and making me very uneasy.

Did she still love me?

 

Numerous other questions raced through my mind;

Why was Bella here?

Did the fact that she had come mean that she still had feelings for me?

How much damage had I really caused her? – Forcing her into the claws of werewolves and cliff diving.

There was one question in particular that pained me to think about – How much had I hurt her?

Bella did not appear to be like her normal self – the Bella I knew and left six months ago, and I could sense that Alice knew something about it which she was determined to hide from me for now.

 

The whole flight my mind searched for answers.

I had none.

All I concluded was that Bella wanted to feel safe and she knew that Alice and I would protect her – which is why she held onto me when I hugged her close and allowed me to kiss her, but emotionally she was keeping her distance because she no longer wanted me.

She had finally comprehended how dangerous I truly was.

She had moved on.

Chapter 20

Charlie

 

 

The flight duration seemed unbelievably short considering the endless amount of unanswered questions still flowing through my mind. When we landed at Atlanta airport, Bella became immediately alert despite fighting the exhaustion that was physically visible within her posture and appearance. Her expression transformed into anxiety as we exited the plane and proceeded into the airport. She often took swift glances at me as she stumbled alongside, but she looked away just as quickly.  I aided her by holding her up to prevent her from collapsing. Her quick stares bore right into me, and I realised she seemed to be checking to ensure my presence was maintained as if she was worried I was going to leave. Perhaps, she assumed that now we were back that I would just disappear again.

I would not.

I would stay until she told me to depart.

The thought of leaving her again was beyond painful.

I was determined not to lose the light that had re-entered my life.

The light that Bella brought.

I did not want to misplace the stars….again and return to the dark vacant loneliness.

 

Alice had informed me on the plane that our family would meet us at our destination. So I wasn’t surprised when I located my parent’s fretful thoughts the moment we had landed, or to see them waiting at the arrivals gate. Jasper made his way through the crowd to make his reunion with Alice. When they found each other, they just stared lovingly into each other’s eyes. I never fully understood the intense love and connection they shared – until I met Bella.

 

Carlisle and Esme were standing in a quiet corner, away from any suspicious looks. Suddenly, I was penitent for my recent behaviour; my self-absorbed state had almost cost my life as well as my sister’s and my love’s. If the outcome of the events that occurred in Italy had been different, then I would have been responsible for depriving my adoptive parents of two children and for that I was unreservedly remorseful. Esme, having already lost a child, would be devastated. I knew how she felt about all of us. We were her children. She had become a vampire whilst being on the verge of death. She had attempted suicide because she lost her first baby. I had almost put her through that terrible grief…again.

 

I heard their almost inaudible exchange as we made our way through the gate.

            “Thank goodness.” Esme breathed as we came into their view.

            “Alice informed us of their safety, dear.” Carlisle replied.

            “I know, but I had to see to believe.”

 

As we came to a halt in front of them, Esme almost snatched Bella out of my arms to give her a fierce hug, but I kept my arms tightly around her – not willing to let her go. I realised it could have been potentially three children lost because Esme thought of Bella as a daughter; she had been just as concerned for her safety as much as mine and Alice’s.

            “Thank you so much.” Esme said into Bella’s ear as she embraced her.

            Edward! What were you thinking? I couldn’t lose you! She thought as she threw her arms protectively around me.

“You will never put me through that again.” She reprimanded me deservingly.

I smiled tenderly at the woman who had been my mother for such a long time.

            “Sorry, Mom.” I said, filled with sincere remorse.

            Edward, you can’t believe how happy I am that you are all well. She is a remarkable girl. My father spoke to me in his thoughts. He then turned to Bella to thank her for her actions in coming to my rescue.

            “Thank you, Bella. We owe you.”

            “Hardly.” She mumbled tiredly.

            “She is dead on her feet. Let’s get her home.” Esme ordered.

She supported Bella’s other side as we walked out towards the cars, where Rosalie and Emmett waited. My vengeance towards my sister who was the cause of my trip to Italy became my dominant emotional expression as I stilled at the sight of her.

I knew a furious confrontation should be avoided at the present time, therefore to prevent it I wanted to evade her by any means. 

            “Don’t. She feels awful.” Esme whispered as she noticed my hesitation.

            “She should.” I replied.

I was mostly annoyed that she had almost killed my Bella.

            “It’s not her fault.” Bella stammered beside me.

            “Let her make amends. We’ll ride with Alice and Jasper.” Esme encouraged. I would like to know what happened from Alice anyway, and we will meet you at the house. She continued in her head.

She meant the house in Forks.

My true home.

My family would convene there to discuss future plans once I had reluctantly taken Bella home to Charlie. 

I glared at Rosalie with accusing eyes, about to refuse to travel in the same vehicle as her, but Bella managed to convince me. I could not refuse her.

            “Please, Edward.” She almost begged for the comfort of no longer standing.

I sighed and towed her towards the sedan. We silently got into the car and Bella instantly leaned into me, resting her head on my chest and closing her eyes, finally giving into the fatigue that possessed her. As the engine ignited, Rosalie began apologising profusely in her head to me.

            I’m so sorry, Edward. I’m terribly sorry. I didn’t think. I was dense. I am truly sorry. Please can you forgive me?

When I did not dignify her remark with a response, she spoke aloud.

            “Edward?” I’m sorry.

            “I know.” I said indifferently.

Once I had given her a sign of recognition of her apology she turned to Bella, which irritated me – I wanted Bella to rest. However, she rightly owed Bella at least a request for forgiveness.

            “Bella?”

Bella’s eyes fluttered open abruptly in what I presumed was astonishment since Rosalie had never gone out of her way to address Bella directly due to her envy of her.

            “Yes, Rosalie?” Bella asked warily.

            “I’m so very sorry, Bella. I feel wretched about every part of this, and so grateful that you were brave enough to go and save my brother after what I did. Please say you’ll forgive me.”

Rosalie began hoping that if Bella was able to forgive her misdemeanour then it would persuade me to absolve her also.

            “Of course, Rosalie. It’s not your fault at all. I’m the one who jumped off the damn cliff. Of course I forgive you.”

It was characteristic of Bella to take the blame for everything.

            “It doesn’t count until she is conscious, Rose.” Emmett chuckled.

            “I’m conscious.” Bella slurred.

            “Let her sleep.” I interjected.

The car became silent and Bella was soon sleeping soundly.

 

Emmett decided to interrupt the hushed silence, when his inquisitive mind provoked him to ask questions.

            “So, how’s everything been going, Edward? Well, before all of this happened? Did you find that tracker’s mate?”

I let out a low growl at the memory.

            “I will take that as a negative.” I should have gone with you, even though you didn’t want me to, I could have helped. He continued in his head.

 

            “How do you suppose Charlie will react when we arrive with his runaway daughter?”

            “I don’t suppose he will be pleased.” Rosalie answered for me, thankfully.

I didn’t want to answer questions.

I didn’t want to explain myself or describe the recent events that had occurred in my life.

I wanted to take pleasure in the moment.

To enjoy Bella sleeping peacefully in my arms.

Holding her close to me.

Feeling her body.

Inhaling her scent.

Watching her chest rise and fall as she breathed.

Listening to the thrum of her heartbeat.

Just being in her presence.

I would deal with Charlie’s inevitably furious reaction when the time came, which would be too soon. 

 

As Emmett speedily approached the small town of Forks, I became increasingly fearful that Bella would soon be taken away from me. I longed for Emmett to drive slower, just to prolong the seconds I had left holding my love in my arms. I never wanted my eyes to be averted from her ever again.

As we rounded the corner onto Bella’s street, I clutched her tighter against me, very reluctant to let her go. The car came to an abrupt halt outside Bella’s father’s house. I heard Charlie trot to the window curiously, and I saw the curtains twitch in my peripheral vision.

            What the -! Charlie thought.

I opened the door and stepped out, walking round to the other side to carry Bella out.

            What the hell is he doing here? Charlie yelled in his head as he rushed to the front door.

As I lifted Bella into my arms she began to wake.

            “Do you want me to wait, bro? Emmett asked in rapid words.

            “Yes, I think that will be for the best, judging from Charlie’s temper.” I replied before I shut the car door.

            Charlie bustled out of the house. Jesus, what has he done to her? He thought as he saw the worn out Bella in my arms.

            “Bella!” he shouted.

            “Charlie.” Bella mumbled as she stirred in my arms, still clearly exhausted.

            “Shh. It’s okay; you’re home and safe. Just sleep.” I whispered.

            “I can’t believe you have the nerve to show your face here.” Charlie bellowed at me. Why couldn’t you have just stayed away? Stayed away from my baby, and stayed away from Forks.

            “Stop it, Dad.” Bella slurred incoherently.

            “What’s wrong with her?” Charlie demanded. She looks half dead! What has he done to her?

            “She is just very tired. Please let her rest.”

            “Don’t you tell me what to do! Give her to me. Get your hands off her!”

I could understand Charlie’s anger. I was the reason for his daughter’s disappearance over the past several days. He had been concerned, and with good reason. I figured the easiest option would be to concede to Charlie’s demand and hand Bella over to him, if only to ease his mind slightly. I shifted Bella in my arms, ready to surrender her to the comfort of her father’s, safely away from the vampire. But Bella held onto me, tightly for a human, probably afraid that Charlie might drop her. My mighty strength allowed me to carry her effortlessly. Charlie tugged on her arm trying to unlock her grip on me. I did not want to unlock her fingers attached to the front of my shirt. It was exactly what I was terrified of – someone attempting to seize Bella away from me.

            “Cut it out, Dad. Be mad at me.” Bella said in a more coherent voice.

            “You bet I will be. Get inside.” Charlie ordered.

            “Kay, let me down.”

I carefully released Bella to set her feet on the ground. She tried to take a step forward, except her feet did not move and instead her body fell forwards toward the concrete. I swooped down to catch her as fast as humanly possible without Charlie becoming too suspicious. She couldn’t walk by herself because of the incredible tiredness, so I pulled her back into my arms, welcoming back the warmth against my body.

            “Just let me get her upstairs. Then I’ll leave.” I told Charlie.

            “No.” Bella cried.

Did she not want me to carry her? Now that she knew she was home, did she want me to leave?

Or did she not want me to leave?

I found myself even more perplexed now trying to interpret Bella’s behaviour since our reunion. I had already established that Bella didn’t want me, hadn’t I?

What did she truly want?

I would give her anything.

 

Then it hit me.

I had left her.

No explanations.

No reasoning.

My enigmatic and abrupt departure must have left her with so many unanswered questions of her own – why did I leave? Why didn’t I want her all of a sudden?

Quite understandably she wanted and deserved answers.

 

I would give her answers.

I would answer honestly.

I would tell her how dark my life was without her.

I would not leave Forks again until Bella told me herself that she didn’t want me around.

Until she ordered me away.

 

            “I won’t be far.” I reassured her quietly out of Charlie’s earshot. I headed toward the house before Charlie had the chance to stop me taking Bella inside. He ran after me, struggling to keep up.

            “No. What do you think you are doing?” he stuttered from behind me.

 

Bella drifted back off to sleep as I carried her up the stairs to her room. She was still clinging to my shirt as I laid her down on her bed. Unwillingly and unhappily I unclenched her fingers gently. It felt like my newly restored heart was being ripped from my chest again as I prepared to leave her. I placed her blankets over her as Charlie appeared at the doorway. He looked at his daughter with love. He was immensely relieved that she was home and safe. I could see in his thoughts how panicked and scared he had been when she had left and he had no idea of her whereabouts or her wellbeing. He had been frantic; going out of his mind with worry.

After satisfying himself that Bella was all right he turned to me.

            “Get out of my house.” He said between gritted teeth to prevent himself from shouting it and waking Bella up.

 

As he followed me downstairs, the volume of his voice increased.

            “I don’t want you in this house. I don’t want you anywhere near Bella.”

I spun around to face him and he stepped back in surprise at my swift movement.

            “I’m sorry, Charlie, but don’t you think it is up to Bella whether I see her or not?”

            “No, I don’t.” he barked. “I’m her father. I know what is best for her. You…” He pointed his finger directly at me, shaking slightly from the anger pulsating through him. “You have caused enough misery in her life. I will not tolerate it. You are never to set foot through my door again, do you hear me?”

I was about to reply but my words constricted in my throat as a disturbing image filled Charlie’s thoughts.

Bella.

She was being carried by a man I did not recognise.

She was suffering from what could only be described as terrible pain.

Or loss.

Like she was dying.

Had someone died?

Someone had hurt her.

Someone had killed her emotionally. Charlie’s memory shocked me to my core as I recognised the clothes Bella’ was wearing – the same as she had been wearing the day I left Forks.

The day I had left her.

She was mumbling something – “He’s gone. He’s gone.”

It was me.

My fault.

I had hurt her.

I had broken her.

I was appalled at what I had done.

I had hurt her so much more than I had ever imagined.

 

I gaped at Charlie for a long moment whilst my insides crumbled. How could I have done that to her?

No wonder she didn’t want me anymore.

No wonder Charlie was beyond furious and didn’t want me around her.

I had to leave…now.

 

I turned and swiftly exited the house, with a new stabbing pain in my chest as I left my re-shattered heart behind once again. I got back in the car completely flabbergasted by what I had just witnessed in Charlie’s thoughts.

            “How did it go, bro? Charlie looked pretty mad. “

I was too shell-shocked to reply.

            Edward, you okay? He thought.

            “Just drive.” I managed to choke out.

The car sped away from where I left my sleeping beauty.

 

            “Drop me off at the end of the driveway, Emmett. I want to walk.” I demanded, hoping my sudden change of mood wouldn’t cause any unwanted questions to be asked. Fortune seemed to be on my side for once, as Emmett pulled over without thinking or speaking another word. I jumped out of the car and walked into the forest with only my thoughts for company.

 

The memory that I had viewed in Charlie’s mind distressed and revolted me. I could not believe nor understand how I could have devastated Bella’s emotions so completely. Now I could comprehend the dramatic change in Bella’s physical state, and why she had been distant with me.

The guardedness.

The apprehension.

 

She had believed me instantly when I had told her that vicious lie; that I no longer loved her. I was the something that had damaged her soul. I had tarnished the most precious thing in the world.

 

I had been correct in my previous conclusion – I had hurt her so deeply that she would never forgive me.

Now all I could think of was how to rectify my wrong doings.

My departure had without doubt caused many more problems than it solved.

By leaving, I had hurt Bella heinously, and I had also put her in more extreme danger than ever.

 

The walk to the house at human pace seemed short as I processed all the information spiralling in my mind.

There was one person in the house who could provide me with some answers.

The creature that had spent time with Bella recently, since my family’s absence from Forks.

The pixie like vampire who had been hiding something from me since Volterra; Alice.

 

My sister waited for me outside the front door.

            “I don’t know everything, Edward. But I can tell you what I do know.”

We walked into the house where the rest of my family was gathered.

            “You knew why Bella was different. You knew what was wrong with her. You know it was because of me.” I accused Alice.

            “Yes, I saw it straight away in her appearance when I arrived in Forks. She didn’t tell me herself though, she couldn’t bear to think about you let alone talk about you. I got the information from a conversation with Charlie.”

            “And, yet you didn’t tell me. I sensed you were hiding something from me. You were very controlled with your thoughts.”

            “I didn’t think it was the appropriate time or place to tell you, considering the situation we were in.” Alice replied. You were exceptionally insecure, Edward. I could see that. We needed to focus on getting out alive, and protecting Bella. Alice continued in her head.

I couldn’t dispute that. If Alice had informed me in Volterra it would have affected me, clouded my mind. Alice was right, I had to keep Bella safe - that was my main priority. Nothing had changed, even if she could no longer love me, the reason for my existence was to ensure Bella’s happiness.  I was always putting Bella’s life in jeopardy in whatever action I took and now I feared she was in the worst possible danger.

The werewolves.

A sadistic vampire out for revenge.

And the Volturi who wanted to commit Bella to eternal damnation.

 

Bella was a force field attracting danger in all forms.

            “What has been going on? Laurent? Victoria? The werewolves? What did Bella tell you, Alice?” I questioned.

            “Laurent came back to the area as a favour for Victoria, to help her locate Bella. It seems that he discovered her alone whilst he was thirsty, but the werewolves arrived just in time and chased him away. They killed him. Victoria has been trying to get to Bella relentlessly, but the werewolves have been protecting her.”

            “Protecting her?” I echoed.

How could that be? She shouldn’t be near them, they are perilous. I reminisced back to the last time my family inhabited Forks, many years ago, before Alice and Jasper had found us. There were werewolves here then. I remembered them as angry and unstable creatures. It was only because of my father’s peaceful and diplomatic nature that we could establish a truce in the form of the Treaty.

            “What are the werewolves even doing back, Carlisle? Rosalie asked.

            “I’m not sure.” He replied.

            “Well, I certainly don’t want them around Bella. What if one phased around her? It would kill her, or at the very least severely injure her.”

            “Maybe they aren’t bad. They have been protecting her after all.” Esme suggested, showing her ever compassionate nature.

I scoffed. There was no such thing as a good werewolf.

            It might be Bella that you need to keep away from the wolves. Alice mumbled in her thoughts.

            “Why?” I asked. Surely Bella knew the danger – no, I dismissed that thought. Bella did not fully understand the hazards in her life. 

            “She seems quite attached to them.”

            “You are hiding something else from me.” I addressed my sister again.

She did not reply.

            “Alice?” I said, getting irritated.

            “Just tell him, Alice.” Jasper said, nodding at her in encouragement.

            “Her best friend is a werewolf. Jacob Black.”

            “Woo, seriously?” Emmett chuckled. “Typical Bella. Vampire boyfriend and a wolf for her best friend.”

Rosalie nudged him in the ribs to make him shut up.

            “There is something else you should know, Edward.” Alice said with concern and annoyance in her tone. “I can’t see the werewolves. That’s why I thought that Bella was dead. Jacob pulled her out of the water after she jumped off that cliff. He saved her. But I didn’t see that because whenever the werewolves are around everything goes black.”

 

I was speechless for a moment.

I was unsure what to say or how to react.

Except I knew I needed to be with Bella. I felt cold without her, lost somehow. I missed her and was anxious to be where I belonged – by her side.

 

            Are we staying? Rosalie asked in her head.

            “I don’t know.” I replied. “It depends on what Bella decides after I explain to her why we left. I am going to tell her the truth. Alice can fill you in on the events from Volterra. I am going back to Bella now.”

            “Edward…” Carlisle started.

“Let him go.” Esme interjected. I shot her a grateful smile and swiftly exited the house in the direction of my love.

Chapter 21

Imagination


I was staring out of the window I had climbed in many hours ago. As I gazed into the darkness I saw the familiar thick clouds that constantly overshadowed Forks.

Obstructing my view of the night sky.

Although…there were a few clear spaces allowing me to see the stars lighting up the heavens.

The stars that were present because of the remarkable being sleeping soundly in her bed behind me.

My Bella.

But even the stars held no beauty compared to her.

 

Before I had met Bella I had never admired the sky as I did now. I could only remember it being dim and uninteresting. Bella brought the light, which now shone right through me.

 

I could hear Charlie snoring reassuringly in the next room. He hadn’t been asleep long, and had come to check on Bella several times since her return. Each time I found myself having to duck quickly out of the window to prevent him from seeing me. His fury seemed to have abated now that his daughter was home safe and he believed I had gone. His ferocious mood would no doubt return if he knew of my actual whereabouts and that I had no intention of leaving.

 

I longed to bring back the nights where I held my Bella close.

Watching her sleep.

Listening to the gentle beating of her heart.

Hearing her sweet voice mumble.

Smelling her delicious scent.

 

Now that Charlie was asleep, I could be close to Bella. I needed to feel her in my arms; I knew I didn’t have permission to embrace her, but my need to do so was overwhelmingly desperate. The feeling it brought me was indescribable. It was an irresistible delightful warmth that flowed through my frozen form, clasping around my lifeless heart making it shiver with pleasure, almost as if it was beating.

 

I lay down on the bed to face her and wrapped my arms gently around her. In that moment I was unashamedly joyful, even though I was aware of all the terrible things I had done. I could feel the guilt feasting on me – but it was overpowered because of the presence of my Bella.

She wasn’t a memory.

This wasn’t my imagination.

Bella was real.

 

Bella had been sleeping for a considerable time, and I began to speculate what she was dreaming about.

My question was answered in the form of several incidents of distressed sleep talking from Bella.

Nightmares.

She never actually spoke my name, but I was certain that her comments were directed at me – meaning I was present in her frightening dreams.

            “Don’t go.”

            “It’s too late.”

She had previously screamed aloud, which made me extremely apprehensive but I had no time to act upon it as Charlie had come running in on full alert. I longed to comfort my Bella, and soothe away the bad dreams that I caused.

Being here beside her, I tried to pretend that the last six months hadn’t occurred and enjoy the moment while it lasted; but I could not block out the horrific memories.

The pain.

The suffering.

 

I feared that she would soon awake and instruct me to leave.

I would only depart if she wished me to.

Perhaps I had wounded her so deeply that she could never even consider forgiving me.

I didn’t deserve exoneration – but I was egoistic and going to request it.

I would contentedly get down on my knees and issue a heartfelt entreaty.

Plead for her to absolve my sins.

Beg for her to return my love.

 

I was more convinced than before that Bella had moved on – away from me. I could feel her slipping further from me; more and more with each passing minute. All because of the pain I caused and the danger I brought into her life.

 

Bella had not reciprocated any of my adoration since our reconciliation, although, she had allowed me to touch her, kiss her, embrace her – she hadn’t pushed me away.

She had held on to me in return, but no doubt out of fear; she was distant – there was no love there.

She had moved on, like I had intended her to do.

I had truly lost her.

The one and only thing I desperately loved, and wanted more than anything – I had lost.

 

My body constricted with sorrow and my eyes started to itch as the urge to cry overwhelmed me.

This was the end of life.

I was bonded to Bella in ways I couldn’t even begin to explain.

I belonged with her.

I was created for her.

The only way I could live – go on existing, was if I was with my Bella.

 

Bella’s new acquaintances were certainly a complicating factor. If she could actually consider werewolves as friends. She couldn’t really know them or the fierce unpredictability of their nature. I wondered how the werewolves had returned. My family had believed their breed had become extinct among the Quileute’s when we relocated back to Forks several years ago.

Why were they back now?

And more importantly – why did they have to invade Bella’s life?

I supposed I should be somewhat appreciative for their protective watch over my Bella, but it didn’t diminish the frustration their presence thrust upon me.

I guessed that this was a distinct tribe of werewolves, as Jacob Black was not alive the last time my family encountered the wolves here in Washington State. The information that Jacob Black was a werewolf was a new development which only gave me more reason to dislike the boy. I already held a grudge against him – he had informed Bella that my family were vampires, technically breaking his own tribe’s Treaty. He had also played a significant part in my decision to journey to Italy, and now to emphasize his presence further, he was Bella’s best friend.

 

At least I had a chance of protecting Bella from the werewolves.

However, the wolves were not the only danger looming menacingly over Bella’s life.

The Volturi.

One day in the near future they would come with the sole purpose of confirming Bella’s immortality. If they found her human, they would obliterate her without hesitation or explanation.

Could I accomplish the task Alice had promised to carry out?

As I stared at the face of my beloved, I could not imagine taking away the soft rose blush of her cheeks, her beautiful mahogany eyes, her beating heart, her life and the most precious thing of all – her soul.

I couldn’t do it.

How could this be avoided?

Bella’s horror-struck reaction to the vampires in Volterra proved that she did not want this. I would attempt to keep her safe if she allowed me to.

Vampirism or death?

Was there another option?

 

I was certain that the Volturi wouldn’t come for at least a few years. As their existence was potentially endless, they valued years in the same way as humans valued days and weeks. But they eventually would come, no doubt with Caius dictating the timing of the journey intent on capture or obliteration.  With Demetri by his side, able to track us effortlessly, we would be effectively helpless. I desperately wanted to discover another option to ensure Bella’s life was maintained as soon as Aro had offered us the alternative to death. This was the reason why I so hesitant to let him access my thoughts. If he knew that I planned to search for a way to break the promise, he would have had Bella killed then and there, causing anarchy. Alice had provided me with a get out clause…for now at least.

How could I prolong Bella’s human life?

If Demetri didn’t exist – it would be possible.

When he was sent to locate me in Volterra whilst I was waiting for the decision, he had found me instantly. His vampire talent of tracking was an inborn ability – something I had desired in my quest of tracking Victoria. I swallowed back a growl at the thought of that evil woman stalking my Bella, hell bent on delivering vengeance. She had been near Forks the whole time.

At that moment, I had a startling revelation. My mind raced with the plan that was beginning to form.

Bella’s mind was inaccessible.

Not only to me, but to Aro and Jane additionally.

Therefore, surely Demetri would not be able to track Bella; his ability would not be able to access her mind in order to locate her.

He would have to track myself or one of my family members to discover her location.

The more I thought about it, the more logical it seemed.

My hopes rose somewhat.

There was a possibility that Bella could be protected.

 

All my previous thoughts vanished when Bella breathed in deeply as she started to gain consciousness.

I gently placed my hand on her forehead, hoping she would not be overcome with shock as she realised that she was not alone in her room.

She did not react to my cold touch, but when she opened her eyes and caught sight of me, she gasped.

            “Oh.” She said before covering her face with her hands.

            “Did I frighten you?” I asked warily.

When she didn’t respond, I became anxious; I didn’t want her to be scared.

Did she not want me to be here?

She blinked several times as if she was trying to understand the situation more clearly. The silence was irritating, and only increased my anxiety.

If only I could read her mind.

I watched her intently, attempting to guess her thoughts.

Was she thinking of a way to get me to leave?

Was she reminiscing about her most recent near-death experience?

 

An aggravated expression of comprehension crossed her face.

            “Oh, crap.” Bella suddenly said in a dry voice, tinged with sleepiness.

            “What’s wrong, Bella?”

She scowled with frustration, which amplified my concern.

            “I’m dead, right? I did drown. Crap, crap, crap! This is going to kill Charlie.”

She thought she was dead?

Why?

Was it because I was here – did she think she was in hell?

            “You’re not dead.” I informed her, unable to stop the unhappiness showing on my face in the form of a frown.

            “Then why am I not waking up?”

            “You are awake, Bella.”

She shook her head at me.

            “Sure, sure. That’s what you want me to think. And then it will be worse when I do wake up. If I wake up, which I won’t, because I’m dead. This is awful. Poor Charlie. And Renee and Jake…”

Jealously washed over me as she spoke the last name.

She was worried about the werewolf.

Alice had been right.

 

With effort I forced a counterfeit smile on my face.

            “I can see how you might confuse me with a nightmare. But I can’t imagine what you could have done to wind up in hell. Did you commit many murders while I was away?” I said trying to lighten the overwrought atmosphere.

            “Obviously not. If I was in hell, you wouldn’t be with me.”

I wasn’t sure whether she grimaced at my comment or the fact I was here with her. I sighed at her ambiguous remark.

I was confused as the conversation turned inextricably cryptic. I wanted to be forthright and ask Bella what she wanted – just so she could put me out of my misery, and shatter my hopes.

Did she want me to leave?

Did she want me to stay?

But I couldn’t bring myself to ask her; I was afraid of what her answer might be.

 

It was silent again, whilst Bella collected her thoughts.

How could she believe she was dead?

If she had in fact drowned, then the subsequent turn of events would have been significantly different – I would no longer exist.

An ending similar to Romeo and Juliet.

Did Bella not realise that I could not live without her?

A warm flush of red appeared on her cheeks as her face lit up in a moment of clarity.  I loved to see the blood rush beneath her skin. The thought of blood made my throat burn slightly. I hadn’t hunted for some considerable time, but the fire was not strong enough to bother me at that moment.

 

            “Did all of that really happen, then?” Bella asked.

I longed to tell her that it had all been a dream; a horrible nightmare. That the past six months hadn’t actually occurred, let alone the past three days.

I had to be honest; she had a right to know after all. Her life was at stake.

            “That depends. If you’re referring to us nearly being massacred in Italy, then, yes.”

            “How strange. I really went to Italy. Did you know I’d never been farther east than Albuquerque?” she said seemingly talking mostly to herself.

I rolled my eyes.

She wasn’t terrified by the memory her of her ordeal.

Possibly, because she wasn’t fully awake and therefore not completely aware of the danger the Volturi posed.

            “Maybe you should go back to sleep. You’re not coherent.” I suggested. She still looked tired.

            “I’m not tired anymore. What time is it? How long have I been sleeping?”

            “It’s just after one in the morning. So, about fourteen hours.”

            “Charlie?”

            “Sleeping.” I frowned, as I remembered that I was defying his order to never return to this house. Theoretically, I was trespassing. “You should probably know that I’m breaking all the rules right now. Well, not technically, since he said I was never to walk through his door again, and I came in the window…But, still, the intent was clear.”

            “Charlie banned you from the house?” Bella asked in disbelief, appearing irritated by this information.

            “Did you expect anything else?”

I presumed not, when she did not reply to my question.

            “What’s the story?” She asked instead.

            “What do you mean?”

            “What am I telling Charlie? What’s my excuse for disappearing for…how long was I gone for, anyway?”

            “Just three days. Actually, I was hoping you might have a good explanation. I’ve got nothing.” I answered. Honestly I hadn’t even thought about that. My thoughts had been preoccupied with thoughts of her.

            “Fabulous.” She grunted.

            “Well, maybe Alice will come up with something.” I suggested.

 

            “So, what have you been doing, up until three days ago?”

Her question made me wary. I did not want to tell her how pathetic I had been over the long months of our separation, or explain how much pain I had suffered being away from her – the pain I was still feeling.

            “Nothing terribly exciting.”

            “Of course not.” She pulled a face in what I could only guess was disappointment.

            “Why are you making that face?”

She puckered her lips, speculating.

            “Well…If you are, after all, just a dream, that’s exactly the kind of thing you would say. My imagination must be all used up.”

She didn’t believe she was alive…or awake.

            “If I tell you, will you finally believe that you’re not having a nightmare?” I sighed.

            “Nightmare!” She scoffed scornfully, before continuing.      “Maybe. If you tell me.”

I hesitated. There was nothing that I could tell her without making myself appear somewhat deranged, except –

            “I was…hunting.” I replied regretfully. It had been the only activity that I participated in that wasn’t searching the heavens for those precious but elusive specks of light.

            “Is that the best you can do? That definitely doesn’t prove I’m awake.”

I paused, not wanting to mention Victoria, so I chose my words carefully before I spoke them.

            “I wasn’t hunting for food…I was actually trying my hand at…tracking. I’m not very good at it.”

            “What were you tracking?”

Bella had obviously recovered her powers of observation, and the predominantly inquisitive side of her nature became evident once more. What would she think if I told her who I was tracking?

            “Nothing of consequence.” I replied, trying to withhold my anger at the reminder of my failed attempt.

            “I don’t understand.”

 

Just thinking about the red-headed vampire was causing rage to build up inside me, increasing my tension. I didn’t want to have to admit to Bella that I couldn’t even protect her.

Now was the time to explain, to apologise.

            “I…” I hesitated, taking in a deep breath, forcing air into my body in an attempt to calm me slightly. Bella’s scent flowed through me giving me the courage to continue. Suddenly, the words were swiftly spilling out of my mouth. I was racing to get to my main point – to express my love to her. “I owe you an apology. No, of course I owe you much, much more than that. But you have to know that I had no idea. I didn’t realise the mess I was leaving behind. I thought it was safe for you here. So safe. I had no idea that Victoria…” I growled out her name “- would come back. I’ll admit, when I saw her that one time, I was paying much more attention to James’s thoughts. But I just didn’t see she had this kind of response in her, that she even had such a tie to him. I think I realise why now – she was so sure of him, the thought of him failing had never occurred to her. It was her overconfidence that clouded her feelings about him – that kept me from seeing the depth of them, the bond that was there.  Not that there’s any excuse for what I left you here to face. When I heard what you told Alice - what she saw herself – when I realised that you put yourself in the hands of werewolves, immature, volatile, the worst thing out there besides Victoria herself.” I slowed down slightly, requiring a quick intake of breath. As I said these words out loud to Bella, the guilt inside me became stronger, more distinct, a truly terrible feeling slowly creeping and taking over my body. “Please know that I had no idea of any of this. I feel sick, sick to my core, even now, when I can see and feel you safe in my arms. I am the most miserable excuse for –“

            “Stop.” Bella ordered.

I stared at her unblinking, full of anguish, waiting for her to erupt with fury.

Her face was expressionless, making it hard for me to understand the body language which to I was normally so attuned, since I didn’t have the easy option of being able to read her mind. I could however sense that Bella wanted to end this conversation, divert it into another direction. Had I been mistaken? Did she not want answers from me?

 

            “Edward.” Bella paused, her eyes exhibited nervous determination. The apprehension kept building deep within my chest, as I held my breath until she started speaking again.

            “This has to stop now…”

My heart plummeted.

Hope was lost.

She was going to tell me that she didn’t want me.

I had broken my promise.

I had deceived her.

My actions had torn us both asunder.

Was I stupid enough to believe that she would forgive me over time?

I had hurt her far more than I thought possible; created wounds that had left behind permanent and painful scars.

I just hoped she knew that in spite of everything this world had put us through, everything I had put her through – that I loved her.

And that the love would continuously intensify with each passing day.

This was the end, what I deserved.

A shattered un-beating heart.

I could feel the words coming as I could feel the pain of rejection scorching through my insides.

            “- you can’t think about things that way. You can’t let this…guilt…rule your life. You can’t take responsibility for the things that happen to me here. None of it is your fault; it’s just part of how life is for me.”

She didn’t want me to protect her either – she knew I was a failure.

            “So, if I trip in front of a bus or what ever it is next time, you have to realise that it’s not your job to take the blame. You can’t just go running off to Italy because you feel bad that you didn’t save me. Even if I had jumped off that cliff to die, that would have been my choice, and not your fault. I know it’s your…your nature to shoulder the blame for everything, but you really can’t let that make you go to such extremes! It’s very irresponsible – think of Esme and Carlisle and…” Bella paused to take a deep breath. She looked like she was going to explode, whilst I could not move out of bewilderment and relief.

Bella thought I wanted to die because I was unable to rescue her?

Because I felt guilty?

I knew I was blameworthy, the remorse was devouring me, but that wasn’t the reason why I had longed for death.

 

            “Isabella Marie Swan. Do you believe that I asked the Volturi to kill me because I felt guilty?” I whispered, asking for confirmation of what I understood from her speech.

            “Didn’t you?”

            “Feel guilty? Intensely so. More than you can comprehend.”

            “Then…what are you saying? I don’t understand.”

She was apparently deluded, not realising how much I cared for her, how much I loved her. True, it was my own fault that Bella didn’t believe it. I had to make her aware of that fact.

            “Bella, I went to the Volturi because I thought you were dead. Even if I’d had no hand in your death…” I shuddered at the thought. The pain it had caused me to believe that she was dead was apocalyptic. “Even if it wasn’t my fault, I would have gone to Italy. Obviously, I should have been more careful – I should have spoken to Alice directly, rather than accepting it second-hand from Rosalie. But, really, what was I supposed to think when the boy said Charlie was at the funeral? What are the odds?”

 

If only the boy Jacob hadn’t answered, if he hadn’t been present in Bella’s life, she would have answered the phone. I would have heard her sweet voice that would have undeniably tempted me into coming back.

I could have returned to my Bella.

            “The odds…The odds are always stacked against us. Mistake after mistake, I’ll never criticize Romeo again.” I added.

            “But I still don’t understand. That’s my whole point. So what?”

            “Excuse me?” I asked unsure as to what she was referring to. What did she mean?

            “So what if I was dead?” Bella replied.

I stared at her incredulous at what she was asking me.

            “Don’t you remember anything I told you before?”

            “I remember everything you told me.” She breathed.

I lightly touched her lower lip with my finger, feeling the smoothness of her skin, and trying to remember how her lips felt against mine.

I closed my eyes as I spoke, and wondered how much clearer I could make things.

            “Bella, you seem to be under a misapprehension. I thought I’d explained it clearly before. Bella, I can’t live in a world where you don’t exist.”

            “I am… confused”

            “I’m a good liar, Bella, I have to be.”

Bella’s body tensed rigidly with shock at my comment. I shook her gently, attempting to soothe her strain.

            “Let me finish.” I urged. “I’m a good liar, but still, for you to believe me so quickly. That was excruciating.” I winced as I remembered Bella’s shattered expression on the day of my departure; it had been indestructibly etched into my mind ever since. I continued speaking in a whisper. “When we were in the forest, when I was telling you goodbye – you weren’t letting go. I could see that. I didn’t want to do it – it felt like it would kill me to do it – but I knew that if I couldn’t convince you that I didn’t love you anymore, it would just take you that much longer to get on with your life. I hoped that, if you thought I’d moved on, so would you.”

            “A clean break.” Bella whispered, barely moving her lips, as she continued to stare at me, confounded by what I was saying. I really had diminished all trust she once had in me.

            “Exactly. But I never imagined it would be so easy to do! I thought it would be next to impossible – that you would be so sure of the truth that I would have to lie through my teeth for hours to even plant a seed of doubt in your head. I lied, and I’m so sorry – sorry because I hurt you, sorry because it was a worthless effort. Sorry that I couldn’t protect you from what I am. I lied to save you, and it didn’t work. I’m sorry. But how could you believe me? After the thousands of times I’ve told you I love you, how could you let one word break your faith in me?”

I paused allowing Bella time to respond.

Whether she was angry or just astonished, I couldn’t tell.

My heart was pouring out every emotion Bella had brought to my existence, and bluntly exposing the depth of my love for her. Each sentiment I felt for her, I expressed in speech, hoping she would finally understand. From the very first moment I realised that I was insanely in love with her…I had never felt so much emotion in all my 108 years. And if I had to do it all over again, I would, just to see her face.

When Bella didn’t reply, I continued.

            “I could see it in your eyes, that you honestly believed that I didn’t want you anymore. The most absurd, ridiculous concept – as if there were any way that I could exist without you!”

 

Bella remained still and unresponsive. My anxiety grew, as did my aggravation at not knowing what she was thinking.

I sighed in frustration.

Was she listening to me?

Did she now comprehend how much she meant to me?

            “Bella? Really, what were you thinking!”

She trembled slightly as tears started to flow down her cheeks.

Sadness began to well up in my body; I watched helplessly as each drop slid smoothly down her face. I felt like sobbing with her.

 

            “I knew it. I knew I was dreaming.” Bella cried.

I let out a humourless laugh.

            “You’re impossible. How can I put this so you will believe me? You’re not asleep, and you’re not dead. I’m here and I love you. I have always loved you, and I will always love you. I was thinking of you, seeing your face in my mind, every second I was away. When I told you that I didn’t want you, it was the very blackest kind of blasphemy.”

Bella shook her head, unbelieving as the tears continued to spill from her eyes.

            “You don’t believe me, do you? Why can you believe the lie, but not the truth?”

            “It never made sense for you to love me. I always knew that.” She sniffled.

I had to prove my love to her.

I would show her that she was awake.

I would prove to her that I loved her.

Pleasure flowed through me as I prepared to demonstrate a gesture of my adoration to my Bella.

            “I’ll prove you’re awake.” I said as I took her face in my hands.

Chapter 22

Reassurance


As I inched my face closer to Bella’s, her heartbeat began to quicken. The sound was familiar and amazingly comforting. I could also feel her body squirming slightly in my embrace as I got nearer, which I assumed was out of excitement. 

            “Please don’t.” She whispered.

            “Why not?” I demanded.

Were her movements actually struggles to free herself from my grasp?

Was it too late for us to be intimate again?

“When I wake up – “

I opened my mouth to dispute, but noticing the initiation of my protest she swiftly interjected before I could speak.

            “- Okay, forget that one – when you leave again, it’s going to be hard enough without this, too.” I pulled back to gaze at her beautiful face, into her stunning eyes – trying to see how much I had damaged her soul.

 

I had been gazing at Bella the majority of the time she had slept, but her appearance never failed to shock me. The changes in her were physical were as well as emotional. Her body was frail with distress, exhibiting weight loss and fatigue – all due to my abandonment.

I had explained how I felt – she now knew of my deceit and betrayal, of the terrible blasphemy and the disrespect I’d shown the love that existed between us. She knew it was all a lie, however she seemed unfazed. Did she not believe what I had told her?

I had been self-centred once more – I hadn’t yet considered Bella’s feelings!

How did she feel?

Did she want me?

Did she still love me?

All these questions ricocheted around my head.

Now was undoubtedly the time for answers.

At first I could not find the words I necessary to express my desperate need for her love, to see if there was even a shimmer of hope.

The fear of her rejection held me back.

How could I ever survive if she abandoned me like I had abandoned her?

 

            “Yesterday, when I touched you, you were so hesitant, so careful, and yet still the same. I need to know why. Is it because I’m too late; because I’ve hurt you too much? Because you have moved on, as I meant for you to? That would be…” Heart shattering, my mind wept silently, at the thought. I could not find the right words to say without making her feel pressurised or without being dishonest, consequently I settled for what was reasonable.  “…quite fair. I won’t contest your decision. So don’t try and spare my feelings, please – just tell me now whether or not you can still love me, after everything I’ve done to you.”

My speech had gradually decreased in volume, and with the remaining bit of air I had left in my lungs I whispered the last two critical words –

             “Can you?”

 

            “What kind of idiotic question is that?”

            “Just answer it… Please.” I practically begged.

Bella stared at me for what felt like an eternity.

My insides cringed, waiting for the words of rejection to hit me.

All the while I was holding my breath and mentally hoping, longing, praying that her answer would be positive and fulfil my desires.

 

            “The way I feel about you will never change. Of course I love you – and there’s nothing you can do about it!” Bella said.

 

Her words….the words I had been yearning to hear sparked an unbreakable force field within me. Her declaration had restored all hope into my life. Suddenly, I needed her more than ever.

I needed her touch.

I had to feel her against me.

I craved to caress her lips with mine.

            “That’s all I needed to hear.” I said, as I thrust my lips onto hers.

 

The kiss was intense, urgent and edged with the immense fervour that was pulsating through my body.

It reminded me of the last time I had kissed Bella – on her ill fated 18th birthday.

It was forceful, untamed and acutely passionate.

However, this time, the urgency wasn’t because of the overpowering obsessive protectiveness I had felt then.

Now it was due to an accumulation of pure lust and longing.

I pushed my body up against hers as she ran her hands over my face delicately touching my granite features.

My body throbbed, aroused with intoxicating pleasure.

Bella enticed me with the movement of her soft lips, making me crave more and more. Her exhilarating scent only increased the pleasure - driving me wild.

I felt myself cross my own boundaries as all the painful, suffering and joyful emotions flooded out of me through my lips.

 

I gently touched her face with my fingertips, feeling the smoothness of her skin.

She tasted irresistibly delicious.

I traced the outline of her mouth with the tip of my tongue, before she parted her lips and her tongue met mine. A thrill of ecstasy ran though my veins igniting my whole body and setting my world on fire.

My threshold was breached, I knew I should stop; but I didn’t.

I refused to allow our lips to part.

Never wanting to lose the feeling.

Never wanting to leave Bella’s side.

Sensing that Bella required air, I pulled away slightly.

Only a minuscule amount so my lips were still lingering on Bella’s. We were both breathless. But that didn’t prevent me from continuing the kiss.

            “Bella.” I breathed her name, before I pushed my lips against her once more and our exquisite embrace intensified as our passion increased.

Just a few more seconds – I told myself.

I could feel myself starting to lose control as I held Bella tighter to me, and moved my lips with more force. With all the effort and strength that I possessed, I managed to break apart our kiss, leaving us both gasping for air.

 

The only thing that was strong enough to overpower my longing to continue our intimate embrace was my desire for Bella’s safety.

I never wanted to cause her pain again.

My insides were still pulsating rapidly as was Bella’s heartbeat.

I was able to speak once I managed to control my irregular breathing, and calm myself slightly.

 

            “By the way, I’m not leaving you.”

Bella didn’t respond, her breathing still ragged from our kiss, composure came more quickly to me than her.

However, she did not seem convinced by my statement.

            “I’m not going anywhere. Not without you. I only left in the first place because I wanted you to have a chance at a normal, happy, human life. I could see what I was doing to you – keeping you constantly on the edge of danger, taking you away from the world you belonged in, risking your life every moment I was with you. So I had to try. I had to do something, and it seemed like leaving was the only way. If I hadn’t thought you were better off, I could have never made myself leave. I’m much too selfish. Only you could be more important than what I wanted…what I needed. What I want and need is to be with you, and I know I’ll never be strong enough to leave again. I have too many excuses to stay – thank heaven for that! It seems you can’t be safe, no matter how many miles I put between us.”

            “Don’t promise me anything.” Bella pleaded in a whisper.

            “You think I’m lying now?”

I was infuriated with myself.

Enraged – because I had destroyed every last ounce of trust Bella once had in me.

All with one scandalous lie.

One wicked lie had annihilated all of her hope and faith.

 One dreadful lie had caused so much pain, that it forced Bella to question my intentions and every word that I had ever spoken.

One nefarious lie that had the power to destroy her spirit and tear us both apart; permanently.

 

Bella had brought the light and joy back into my life, just with her presence, and she had sustained that bliss by loving me.  I realised that the wounds I had created within Bella could not be healed as straightforwardly.

 

            Bella shook her head. “No – not lying. You could mean it…now. But what about tomorrow, when you remember all the reasons why you left in the first place? Or next month, when Jasper takes another snap at me? – “

I flinched at the memory that involuntarily replayed in my head. I had witnessed it countless times since the incident had occurred, but it still never failed to horrify me.

“– It isn’t as if you thought the first decision through, is it? You’ll end up doing what you think is right.”

 

Bella had guaranteed that I would remain in Forks, by the admission of her love. I knew that I did not have the strength to leave again, even if Bella did not return my love. I couldn’t bring myself to think of the consequences, if she had discarded me – it would surely be futile for me to continue to exist.

Now I knew that Bella still loved me, the thought of leaving was agonising and unbearable. As I had previously thought, I would forever remain by her side; forever pleading for forgiveness and trust, if that’s what it took.

It was strangely ironic how it seemed that both mine and Bella’s judgement were clouded by each other – making us both unwilling to believe.

Nevertheless, I was deeply hurt that Bella did not have any faith in what I was saying. It wasn’t as hurtful as her believing my lie in the forest, but now I was telling the absolute truth.

 

            “I’m not as strong as you give me credit for. Right and wrong have ceased to mean much to me; I was coming back anyway. Before Rosalie told me the news, I was already past trying to live through one week at a time, or even one day. I was fighting to make it through a single hour. It was only a matter of time – and not much of it – before I showed up and your window and begged you to take me back. I’d be happy to beg now, if you’d like that.”

            “Be serious, please.” Bella frowned.

I could understand her hesitation and her reluctance to believe, but all the same it was exasperating.

I wanted Bella to comprehend exactly how I felt about her.

How extraordinarily important she was.

Why I craved her so much.

Why I needed her.

 

            “Oh, I am, will you please try and hear what I am telling you? Will you let me attempt to explain what you mean to me?” I stared at Bella intently for several long moments. When she did not respond, I took it as a sign she was listening, so I continued. “Before you, Bella, my life was like a moonless night. Very dark, but there were stars – points of lights and reason…And then you shot across my sky like a meteor. Suddenly everything was on fire; there was brilliance, there was beauty. When you were gone, when the meteor had fallen over the horizon, everything went black. Nothing had changed, but my eyes were blinded by the light. I couldn’t even see the stars anymore. And there was no more reason for anything.”

I think I used a good analogy to try and describe the darkest nights I’d experienced, in our separation.

            “Your eyes will adjust.” Bella mumbled.

            “That’s the problem – they can’t.”

They wouldn’t – I had searched long and hard enough, willing the stars to reappear.

The stars and moon, the light and reason – were only present in my life whenever Bella was. Without any of them my existence was dark and worthless.

 

            “What about your distractions?” Bella asked.

I chucked without humour – as if anything could have diverted my attention from Bella.

If only they could have.

She was in my every thought.

Everything revolved around Bella.

            “Just part of the lie, love. There was no distraction from the…agony. My heart hasn’t beat in almost ninety years, but this was different. It was like my heart was gone – like I was hollow; like I’d left everything that was inside me here with you.” I replied.

            “That’s funny.”

            “Funny?” I questioned, slightly confused.

How was it amusing?

How could she find me expressing my deepest feelings remotely humorous? I thought to myself with a twinge of hurt.

            “I meant strange – I thought it was just me. Lots of pieces of me went missing too. I haven’t been able to really breathe in so long.” She paused to inhale deeply. 

I remembered the feeling of not being able to breathe.

But I hadn’t actually wanted to exhale, too scared to lose my only connection to Bella – her scent.

Too afraid to inhale air that was fresh, unfamiliar and desolate.

            “And my heart. That was definitely lost.” Bella continued.

The waves of guilt kept breaking over me as I closed my eyes and laid my head lightly on her chest to hear the sound of her thumping heart more clearly.

It was there…and beating harmoniously.

 

Maybe now Bella believed me.

Perhaps not.

But Bella loved me.

And I loved her.

She was truly my Bella again.

I was overjoyed by this and would do anything to preserve our love.

I had to protect her.

Protect the love we shared.

Protect it from the impending dangers.

And that meant eradicating certain problems.

Victoria was the main priority.

Now I knew her target, her potential whereabouts – I would find her.

And this time I would not fail.

 

Bella rested her cheek on the top of my head.

            “Tracking wasn’t a distraction then?”

            “No. That was never a distraction. It was an obligation.”

            “What does that mean?”

I faltered, questioning whether to tell Bella the whole truth about my tracking operation therefore confessing another act of deception. When I departed Forks, I had promised her that I wouldn’t interfere with her life again. Although Bella wasn’t involved or even present in the activity, the root cause was to eliminate the callous creature that had threatened Bella’s life.

I decided that I was going to be honest with Bella – she needed to know the truth, even though I was embarrassed by my failure.

            “It means that, even though I never expected any danger from Victoria, I wasn’t going to let her get away with it…Well, like I said, I was horrible at it. I traced her as far as Texas, but then I followed a false trail down to Brazil – and really she came here. I wasn’t even on the right continent. And all the while, worse than my worst fears –“

            “You were hunting, Victoria?” Bella screeched interrupting me. The volume of her voice made Charlie stir in his sleep in the next room. Fortunately, it did not wake him.

            “Not well.” I admitted regretfully. “But I’ll do better this time. She won’t be tainting perfectly good air by breathing in and out for much longer.”

            “That is… out of the question.” Bella said sternly.

I did not understand her anger,

It was obvious that Victoria could not be allowed to continue existing.

The thought of what she could, or rather what she would do if she got the chance, sent a chilling feeling of disgust up my spine.

            “It’s too late for her.  I might have let the other time slide, but now, not after – “

            “Didn’t you just promise that you weren’t going to leave?” Bella interrupted. “That isn’t exactly compatible with an extended tracking expedition, is it?” She asked. I detected the wariness in her tone.

            “I will keep my promise, Bella. But Victoria is going to die. Soon.” I snarled out her name with pure revulsion. My anger rose, building up to a growl at the back of my throat, as I thought of the red headed vampire roaming around with the sole intent of assassinating my Bella.

            “Let’s not be hasty. Maybe she’s not coming back. Jake’s pack probably scared her off. There’s really no reason to go looking for her. Besides, I’ve got bigger problems than Victoria.”

 

I admired Bella attempt at reassurance, but could see the fear beneath her façade, however I was pleasantly surprised that Bella had identified that the werewolves were dangerous. Perhaps it wouldn’t be too difficult to eliminate their presence in Bella’s life, after all.

            “That’s true. The werewolves are a problem.”

            Bella snorted. “I wasn’t talking about Jacob. My problems are a lot worse than a handful of adolescent wolves getting themselves into trouble.”

Obviously, my previous thought had been wrong. I was about to disagree with her, and argue that the wolves were in fact a major problem, but I thought better of it. I didn’t want to upset Bella by speaking unkindly about her vile newfound friends.

 

            “Really? Then what would make Victoria’s returning for you seem like such an inconsequential matter in comparison?”

            “How about the second greatest?”

            “All right.” I agreed slightly apprehensive as to what other dangers loomed that I had not yet been informed of.

            “There are others who are coming to look for me.” Bella whispered.

I sighed in a wave of slight relief, and recognition.

The relief was because there weren’t any additional dangers, and the recognition of the principal hazard; the one that wouldn’t pose as a significant threat for a few years at least.

            “The Volturi are only the second greatest?” I asked, wondering what could possibly be so bad as to constitute her first.

            “You don’t seem very upset about it.”

            “Well, we have plenty of time to think it through. Time means something different to them than it does to you, or even me. They count years the way you count days. I wouldn’t be surprised if you were thirty before you crossed their minds again.”

 

Bella turned pale as the colour drained from her face leaving behind a horrified expression. Her eyes, once again began a build up with moisture before the tears of fear began to spill down her cheeks.

            “You don’t have to be afraid. I won’t let them hurt you.” I reassured her.

            “While you’re here.” She sobbed.

I wished she could believe me; just trust me enough to know I would never have the willpower to leave her side again.

I took her face in my hands and gazed unblinking into her tear-filled eyes.

            “I will never leave you again.”

            “But you said thirty. What? You’re going to stay, but let me get old anyway? Right.”

            “That’s exactly what I’m going to do. What choice do have I? I cannot be without you, but I will not destroy your soul.”

            “Is this really…”

Bella’s voice broke before she finished speaking.

            “Yes?” I prompted.

She hesitated for a moment, and then began speaking again. But I thought she had altered what she was previously going to say.

            “But what about when I get so old that people would think I’m your mother? Your grandmother?”

I could see the sadness in her eyes.

It wasn’t that I didn’t want her to become part of my family.

I wanted that more than anything – to be equal creatures, so we could really be together, like a proper couple.

But I could not destroy her human life.

I refused to change her into the monster she was so desperate to become.

I would not decimate her soul – it was too precious.

 

The tears were flowing down Bella’s cheeks and I leaned in and kissed each one away.

            “That doesn’t mean anything to me. You will always be the most beautiful thing in my world. Of course…” I paused, trying to form the words from the painful thought in my mind – Bella growing older, and wanting more from her human life, meeting another human perhaps and leaving me behind in my frozen form. I winced at the thought, but if that’s what Bella wanted. It would destroy me to do so, but I would let her go.

            “If you outgrew me - if you wanted something more – I would understand that, Bella. I promise I wouldn’t stand in your way if you wanted to leave me.”

            “You do realise that I’ll die eventually, right?”

I did comprehend that we would eventually be parted by her mortality, and I knew wherever and whenever that happened I would join her in death; I would be unable to continue existing without my Bella. My recent trip to Italy proved that.

            “I’ll follow after as soon as I can.”

            “That is seriously…sick.” Bella said in an appalled voice.

            “Bella, it’s the only right way left…” I tried to reason, before she interjected in a clearer voice, edged with anger.

            “Let’s just back up for a minute. You do remember the Volturi, right? I can’t stay human forever. They’ll kill me. Even if they don’t think of me till I’m thirty, do you really think they’ll forget?”

            I shook my head solemnly. “No they won’t forget. But…”

            “But?”

            “I have a few plans.” I smiled, thinking back to the revelation I had whilst Bella was sleeping.

 

Demetri was the one to avoid, and I may have concocted a plan to do just that.

            “And these plans. These plans all centre around me staying human.”

Bella practically hissed the word ‘human’ as if she was sickened by it.

            “Naturally.” I concurred.

Bella glared at me.

Why did she crave to be a monster?

She had me for as long as forever lasted in her human life.

I stared at her, ensuring that my stern expression made her realise that my decision could not be influenced.

Bella inhaled deeply, and I wondered what her thoughts were.

She suddenly surprised me by sitting up, with a determined and firm expression on her face.

 

            “Do you want me to leave?” I asked, trying not to let my hurt show. I couldn’t stand it if she told me to go away.

            “No, I’m leaving.”

            “May I ask where you are going?” I said apprehensively, as I watched her search her room – probably for her shoes, as she was already dressed in the same clothes that she had returned in from Italy.

            “I’m going to your house.”

I grabbed her shoes from the end of her bed, trying not to seem suspicious as to why she was going to my family’s house in the middle of the night. I had a sneaky feeling that her unplanned visit was for her to somehow find a way round my decision to keep her human.

            “Here are your shoes. How do you plan to get there?”

            “My truck.” Bella replied.

            “That will probably wake Charlie.” I informed her, hoping she would reconsider her trip and stay here in my arms. She could see my family tomorrow – in just a few more hours.

            She sighed. “I know. But honestly, I’ll be grounded for weeks as it is. How much more trouble can I really get into?”

            “None. He’ll blame me, not you.”

            “If you have a better idea, I’m all ears.”

            “Stay here.” I urged.

            “No dice. But you go ahead and make yourself at home.” She said as she started towards her bedroom door. I span around in one quick movement, and flashed to the door, blocking her exit.

Bella grimaced at me, and stubbornly turned and headed towards the window instead.

What on earth was she thinking?

She would kill herself!

            I sighed in defeat. “Okay, I will give you a ride.”

            “Either way. But you should probably be there, too.”

            “And why is that?” I questioned.

            “Because you’re extraordinarily opinionated, and I’m sure you’ll want a chance to air your views.”

            “My views on which subject?” I said between gritted teeth, as I realised my inkling was correct.

            “This isn’t just about you anymore. You’re not the centre of the universe, you know. If you’re going to bring the Volturi down on us over something as stupid as leaving me human, then your family ought to have a say.”

            “A say in what?” I said slowly, not necessarily wanting to hear the answer.

            “My mortality. I’m putting it to a vote.”

I gulped, swallowing back a snarl of complete anguish. 

Chapter 23

Request


I wasn’t angry at Bella.

I was furious at what she was doing.

Furious because in my heart I both knew and dreaded the outcome of my family's vote. My family, with the exception of Rosalie, already considered Bella as part of the family, and were willing for her to truly become one of us.

A monster.

 

However, I did not refuse to take Bella to see my family, as much as I longed to keep her from going; we had argued enough since she had woken up. Additionally, Bella would only go alone if I refused to take her – being the stubborn, beautiful creature she is.

But, whatever occurred, whatever the outcome – I was adamant that Bella would remain human and unchanged.

 

I pulled Bella into my arms and lightly sprang out of the window, trying not to jostle her too much.

            “All right then, up you go.” I said in a stern voice; attempting to withhold my anger as I helped her up onto my back.

When Bella was secure, I sprinted at full speed into the trees.

I could once again enjoy the exhilarating speed, now that Bella was with me…making me whole.

Rays of light from the moon beamed down, making the leaves shine silver. The beautiful night engulfed us as we flew through the peaceful surroundings of the forest, the moonlight dancing softly among the trees.

The only sounds were the whistle of air swirling around us as I ran, and the faint patter of nocturnal animals roaming unseen in the dark undergrowth.

I let all the anger drain from my body and concentrated on enjoying the blissful moment with Bella.

 

Bella turned her head and kissed my cheek. The smoothness of her lips sent warmth pulsating through my body.

            “Thank you. Does that mean you’ve decided you’re awake?” I asked.

The sweet sound of her laughter echoed through the night.

            “Not really. More that, either way, I’m not trying to wake up. Not tonight.”

            “I’ll earn your trust back somehow. If it’s my final act.” I promised myself aloud.

            “I trust you. It’s me I don’t trust.”

            “Explain that, please.” I said, suddenly feeling compelled to slow down and prolong the time with Bella in the idyllic surroundings, taking the opportunity to continue our discussion and hear her sweet voice. We were nearing my house, and I wasn’t ready to discuss her plans for fatality and immortality, so I slowed to a walk.

            “Well, I don’t trust myself to be…enough. To deserve you. There’s nothing about me that could hold you.” Bella said softly. 

Her statement bought me to an abrupt halt.

She thought I was too good for her?

When would she ever see me clearly?

What would make her realise that I was the fortunate one, who didn’t deserve her?

The one who was deeply and unconditionally in love with her.

The one who was bound to her in indescribable and unknowable ways.

The one who would never leave her again.

 

I reached to pull Bella off my back and cradled her in my arms for a moment, holding her close to my heart, before setting her on her feet.

            “Your hold is permanent and unbreakable. Never doubt that.” I whispered with reassurance.

An expression of uncertainty crossed her face, but she did not respond.

 

            “You never did tell me…” I wondered aloud, before pausing, unsure whether I actually wanted to hear the answer to the question I was going to ask.

            “What?” Bella questioned.

I decided to go ahead and ask nevertheless.

            “What your greatest problem is.”

            ”I’ll give you one guess.” She signed as she touched the tip of my nose.

Well, at least she comprehended that I was a danger but I couldn’t help feel a little disheartened, and surprised.

            “I’m worse than the Volturi. I guess I’ve earned that.”

Bella rolled her eyes at my misunderstanding.

            “The worst the Volturi can do is kill me.”

What was more fearful than death?

Bella considered that I was worse than a death sentence?

 

I did not reply; prompting her for an explanation.

            “You can leave me. The Volturi, Victoria…they’re nothing compared to that.”

My frozen heart constricted in pain as I remembered the image of a distraught Bella in Charlie’s mind.

I would always deeply regret leaving.

Regret what it had done to her; what it had done to me too.

            “Don’t. Don’t be sad.” Bella whispered as she caressed my face.

I attempted to smile, but failed.

            “If there was only some way to make you see that I can’t leave you. Time, I suppose, will be the only way to convince you.”

Bella brightened slightly.

            “Okay.” She agreed.

It was silent for a few moments, while I wondered how I could erase the heartache I had caused.

 

            “So – since you are staying. Can I have my stuff back?” Bella asked as we continued to walk.

I stiffed a chuckle at Bella’s feeble attempt to distract my anguish.

            “Your things were never gone. I knew it was wrong, since I promised you peace without reminders. It was stupid and childish, but I wanted to leave something of myself with you. The CD, the pictures, the tickets – they’re under your floorboards.”

            “Really?”

I nodded in confirmation.

            “I think. I’m not sure, but I wonder…I think maybe I knew the whole time.” Bella said slowly.

            “What did you know” I wondered.

            “Some part of me, my subconscious maybe, never stopped believing that you still cared whether I lived or died. That’s probably why I was hearing the voices.”

I was bewildered.

Bella had been experiencing hallucinations?

What else didn’t I know?

            “Voices?” I asked sceptically.

            “Well, just one voice. Yours. It’s a long story.” Bella said warily, as if she wished she hadn’t introduced the subject. Perhaps she thought that I would think she was crazy. I must admit that the situation did seem farfetched; however with the tortured ordeal I had encountered in the months I was away I could not make judgements.

 

Bella had been hearing my voice subconsciously?

Was this in her nightmares, making it seem realistic?

And more importantly – what did these voices say?

            “I’ve got time.” I said, encouraging her to elaborate.

            “It’s pretty pathetic.”

I waited, without response.

Bella hesitated, like she was afraid of what to say.

I was afraid of what I would hear.

            “Do you remember what Alice said about extreme sports?”

I could remember Alice’s exact words in Volterra – In summary, she did jump off a cliff, but she wasn’t trying to kill herself. Bella’s all about extreme sports these days. I had been furious about Bella’s recklessness, especially since she had promised me that she would keep herself safe. I felt a slight twinge of betrayal at her broken promise, but I was hypocritical to think that way – how many promises had a broken?

Too many! I chastised myself.

 

            “You jumped off a cliff for fun?” I said, keeping my voice even without showing any hint of rage beneath.

            “Er, right. And before that, with the motorcycle…”

            “Motorcycle?” I echoed. My voice sounded calm, but the rage increased inside.

            “I guess I didn’t tell Alice about that part.”

            “No.” I replied bluntly. Alice should have informed me, or I should have at least seen it in her mind. Was there anything else she was keeping from me?

            “Well, about that…see, I found that…when I was doing something dangerous or stupid…I could remember you more clearly. I could remember how your voice sounded when you were angry; I could hear it, like you were standing right next to me. Mostly I tried not to think about you, but this didn’t hurt so much – it was like you were protecting me again. Like you didn’t want me to be hurt. And, well, I wonder if the reason I could hear you so clearly was because, underneath it all, I always knew that you hadn’t stopped loving me.”

I listened to each word intently without interruption, as the immense rage built up in my chest.

I couldn’t believe what Bella was telling me.

All her recent dangerous endeavours were conducted for the sole purpose of inducing an auditory hallucination.

I was more culpable than I originally assumed.

I felt like my air circulation had been cut off and I barely choked out my words.

            “You…were…risking your life…to hear –“

            “Shh. Hold on a second. I think I’m having an epiphany here.” Bella interjected.

 

For the few minutes Bella was thinking, I waited impatiently, but silently. All the while my anger began to subside, replaced quickly by anxiety.

The minutes ticked by slowly whilst my mind raced with images of Bella partaking in various perilous activities. Each thought pushed me further towards insanity as the silence wore on.

What was Bella’s epiphany?

I detested not having access into her mind, but I respected her right to privacy; still my curiosity overwhelmed me.

 

My main concern was for her safety.

Surely, now that I was back; her life-threatening behaviour would cease.

I did not believe that my Bella was insane, but my departure had caused her to sink into a depressive state that was slowly driving her towards madness.

It was my fault.

I had once again jeopardised her life.

I was concerned about the effect I had on her.

I was worried about the hazardous activities she had been participating in.

I was anxious about her thoughts.

I was scared to think about what would have happened to Bella if I had never come back.

Would her irresponsible behaviour have continued?

Would she slowly have developed an obsession that bordered on insanity with her need to provoke these worrying hallucinations?

Would she really have killed herself?

 

I was thankful that Bella interrupted my thoughts, as I couldn’t bear to be in my own head anymore with all the unanswered questions.

            “Oh!”

            “Bella?” I asked anxiously.

            “Oh. Okay. I see.”

            “You’re epiphany?” I questioned nervously.

            “You love me.”

The words made my heart swell.

She believed me.

The smile that flashed across my face was both genuine and effortless.

            “Truly, I do.”

I heard Bella catch her breath.

As I took her face in my hands, I felt her heartbeat increase.

I kissed her lovingly until my head became intoxicated by the feeling of her soft lips moving against mine. I leant my forehead against hers, both of us breathing harder than usual.

 

In comparison to my behaviour, Bella’s seemed saintly.

She had attempted to survive – she had made the effort, by living her everyday life.

Whereas I had just laid in desolation and let the pain engulf me.

            “You were better at it than I was, you know.” I informed Bella.

            “Better at what?”

            “Surviving. You, at least made an effort. You got up in the morning, tried to be normal for Charlie; followed the pattern of your life. When I wasn’t actively tracking, I was...totally useless. I couldn’t be around my family – I couldn’t be around anyone. I’m embarrassed to admit that I more or less curled up into a ball and let misery have me. It was much more pathetic than hearing voices. And, of course, you know I do that too.”

Although I felt guilty for abandoning Bella and causing so much pain, I felt a little comfort in the fact that I was not alone in my feelings; she hadn’t moved on. I thought back to my months of depressive solitude without my Bella.

I was constantly wondering how she was, if she was okay.

How was she living her life and had she moved on?

She was always in my mind.

Bella had always been with me, just like I was subconsciously with her.

Perhaps those small parts of our subliminal memories had enabled us to hold on – to survive.

            “I only heard one voice.” Bella reminded me, reclaiming my attention from my thoughts.

I chuckled as I pulled her against my side; wrapping my arm around her I lead her forward through the trees to the open space where my house was situated.

 

            “I’m just humouring you with this. It doesn’t matter in the slightest what they say.” I told Bella as I gestured towards the house.

            “This affects them now, too.”

I shrugged apathetically, without replying, in case my voice showed the increasing anger of my sudden change of mood now that we had arrived.

Bella would not be changed...ever.

I would not allow it.

I was incensed at the thought of my family going against my wishes and wanting Bella to become a vampire.

I would do whatever it took to stop whoever tried to change my Bella...even Alice. I didn’t need to read her mind to know that she would vote in Bella’s favour. She had promised in Italy, but more importantly she wanted Bella to be a part of the family, as a true sister.

Before the vote could take place, I hoped I could sway some of my family member’s decisions by convincing them that, if my recent theory proved correct we could diminish the threat of the Volturi with minimal effort.

Demetri would not be able to track Bella, and therefore would not be able to locate her if I hid her in a remote location when the Volturi decided to visit. Alice’s premonitions would be useful for timing.

 

As we approached the house, I could hear the thoughts of my family members from different rooms. Alice was expecting us, and was filled with excitement, which only increased my resentment.

I led Bella through the front door and switched the lights on for the purpose of allowing her to see; lack of light did not affect vampire sight.

Being here again brought comfort and a sense of homecoming, and despite my current feelings of anger; I was happy to be back in the place I thought of as home.

I called my family to come and greet us, although they already heard us arrive.

            “Carlisle, Esme? Rosalie, Emmett? Jasper, Alice?”

I saw Carlisle flash to Bella’s side, but she didn’t flinch at his swift appearance.

            Welcome home, Edward. He greeted me silently.

            “Welcome back, Bella.” Carlisle smiled. “What can we do for you this morning, I imagine, due to the hour, that this is not purely a social visit?”

            Bella nodded. “I would like to speak to everyone at once, if that’s okay. About something important.”

 

Carlisle looked at me with questions running through his mind, and when I made no effort to respond he turned his attention back to Bella.

            “Of course. Why don’t we talk in the other room?”

Carlisle led us to the dining room, which was used only for family discussions. I sensed the rest of my family members following us.

Carlisle politely held out the chair at the head of the table for Bella; she took her seat looking slightly nervous as she noticed the other vampires enter the room. No one spoke while my family members took their own seats around the table, each contemplating varied thoughts in their own minds. I occupied the chair next to Bella’s; opposite Carlisle.

            “The floor is yours.” Carlisle nodded to Bella in encouragement.

I took Bella’s hand underneath the table, as a wary expression appeared on her face. I could feel how anxious she was as I glanced around the table at my family.

 

Emmett was silently speculating about our gathering. His impatient curiosity was shown in his physical expression.

            It better be something fun, I’m bored. He thought.

Rosalie smiled warmly at both Bella and I. She had a newfound respect for her after she came to be my saviour in Italy.

Esme was revelling in her joy at having her entire family together again, including Bella.

 

I could feel the tension in Jasper’s thoughts. Being in Bella’s presence made him feel extremely nervous; he still felt immensely guilty about the incident that led to our departure from Forks. He was trying to keep himself restrained by replaying the memory in his head. Hurting his brother’s love, and his wife’s best friend. The reminder was too painful to watch; hence I did not linger in his mind.

Leaving had been the wrong decision on my part, and even though I used Jasper’s actions as an excuse to depart, I felt no animosity towards him for prompting my bad choice.

 

Alice’s body twitched slightly. It would have been presumed by the rest of my family to be excitement, as she wore a huge grin. However, it was only apparent to me that she was having a vision. It happened so fast that the others were completely unaware.

Alice’s vision caused a stir of anger in the pit of my stomach.

She was standing next to a stunningly beautiful vampire.

An immortal.

I had seen this vision before, but now it was stronger; more definite

I had the sudden urge to grab Bella and flee.

 

My attention was then claimed by my love, erasing the vision from my mind.

            “Well...I’m assuming Alice has already told you everything that happened in Volterra?” Bella asked.

            “Everything.” Alice responded.

            “And, on the way?”

My insides trembled slightly from the anger. My sister and Bella’s journey had consisted of Alice promising Bella that she would change her. Therefore, Alice had technically provided Bella with two death threats. Although, Alice’s promise had ensured our survival in Volterra, for which I was grateful as I got be reunited with my Bella.

            “That, too.” Alice nodded.

            Bella sighed. “Good. Then we’re all on the same page.”

Bella paused, evidently preparing her speech to cover everything she wanted to say.

Everyone was silent. I tried with great effort to block out the minds of my family, to avoid the frustration their thoughts would bring me. However, strangely enough, they were now all silent and waiting intently for Bella to continue.

I sat mutely, waiting for an opening in Bella’s speech so I could introduce my contingency plan.

Bella was unaware that I would attempt to thwart her plans.

Alice’s premonition would change when I informed my family of my own plan.

Well, I hoped it would.

 

Bella inhaled deeply and began talking, as I kept my eyes focused on the table, unblinking.

            “So, I have a problem. Alice promised the Volturi that I would become one of you. They’re going to send someone to check, and I’m sure that’s a bad thing – something to avoid. And, so now, this involves all of you. I’m sorry about that.” She paused for a minute, and I allowed myself to take a quick glance at her. She was interacting with her audience, looking at each occupant at the table, gazing into their eyes just for a split second before moving on. She finally rested her eyes upon me, and my breath caught in my throat. She was divine; why would she want to change that?

            “But, if you don’t want me, then I’m not going to force myself on you, whether Alice is willing or not.”

Esme opened her mouth to tell Bella that she was already a part of the family, but Bella silenced her by holding up her finger.

            “Please, let me finish. You all know what I want. And I’m sure you know what Edward thinks, too. I think the only fair way to decide is for everyone to have a vote. If you decide you don’t want me, then... I guess I’ll go back to Italy alone. I can’t have them coming here.”

Frown lines appeared on Bella’s forehead as she let that thought register.

My chest purred with the sound of a building growl.

There was absolutely no way that Bella would ever go to Italy again, let alone on her own. Her threat was a form of emotional blackmail to ensure my family would vote in her favour.

Her obstinacy would succeed.

 

            “Taking into account, then, that I won’t put any of you in danger either way, I want you to vote yes or no on the issue of me becoming a vampire.”

I saw the corners of Bella’s mouth crease into a small smile as she spoke the last word.

Vampire.

I was still incredulous at her eagerness to lose her soul – to become a monster.

Maybe Bella’s obsession with becoming an immortal was not just about becoming my equal and being the same as me and my family. I hadn’t thought much about it in the past; I had generally assumed that Bella wanted to be changed so we could have the same unending life.

Was she sacrificing her soul entirely for my benefit?

Or was there more contributing factors?

She was deemed to lose far more than she would gain.

 

Bella gestured to Carlisle to cast his vote, which was my cue to intercede; the moment I would attempt to sway any undecided voters.

            “Just a minute.” I interjected.

I gazed at Bella, who raised her eyebrows scrutinising my stony face, as she glared at me. I gave her hand a gentle squeeze and continued.

            “I have something to add before we vote.”

I heard Bella let out a sigh. I didn’t need access to her mind to know that she was irritated by my disruption; my attempt to eliminate the need to vote and any reason for her to be changed.

            “About the danger Bella’s referring to. I don’t think we need to be overly anxious. You see, there was more than one reason why I didn’t want to shake Aro’s hand there at the end. There’s something they didn’t think of, and I didn’t want to clue them in.” I looked round the table as I spoke. My anger began to subside slightly, as the words flowing from my mouth brought with them a sense of confidence.

             “Which was?” Alice prompted me to carry on. What haven’t you told me, Edward? She continued in her head.

I leaned forward, ensuring I had everyone’s attention, before continuing with my explanation.

            “The Volturi are overconfident, and with good reason. When they decide to find someone, it’s not really a problem.”

I glanced at Bella and asked, “Do you remember Demetri?”

She trembled, which I presumed was a yes.

            “He finds people – that’s his talent, why they keep him. Now, the whole time we were with any of them, I was picking their brains for anything that might save us, getting as much information as possible.” This wasn’t strictly true. I was mainly trying to find any way to escape; to protect my Bella. “So I saw how Demetri’s talent works. He’s a tracker – a tracker a thousand times more gifted than James was. His ability is loosely related to what I do, or what Aro does. He catches the...flavour? I don’t know how to describe it...the tenor...of someone’s mind, and then he follows that. It works over immense distances. But after Aro’s little experiments, well...” I paused, shrugging my shoulders, hoping that they would determine themselves, what I was suggesting.

            “You think he won’t be able to find me.” Bella said plainly.

            “I’m sure of it. He relies totally on that other sense. When it doesn’t work with you, they’ll all be blind.” I said, feeling rather self satisfied.

            “And how does that solve anything?”

            “Quite obviously, Alice will be able to tell when they’re planning a visit, and I’ll hide you. They’ll be helpless. It will be like looking for a piece of straw in a haystack!”

            I grinned at Emmett, as he chuckled in his thoughts. This sounds fun, bro.

            “But, they can find you.” Bella said sternly.

            “And I can take care of myself.” I assured her.

Emmett laughed aloud, and reached across the table with his fist.

            “Excellent plan, my brother.”

I smacked my own fist against his.

I knew Emmett could be convinced by the idea of a confrontation.

            “No.” Rosalie hissed. No, no, no way!

            “Absolutely not!” Bella conceded.

            “Nice.” Jasper contributed, before continuing in his head. It might just work.

            “Idiots.” Alice murmured, clearly irritated. Testosterone fuelled, idiots. She silently directed at me, which I ignored.

            Edward? My mother called me in her head. I looked at her to see her glaring at me. That is not a suitable solution. The Volturi aren’t likely to give up. We can’t live in fear forever, just as Bella can’t hide away for the rest of her human life. I can’t agree to your plan when there is a possibility that you or the others could get hurt.

Esme was right, but what other choice did I have?

Bella was about to remind me of that.

She straightened up in her chair, ready to talk again.

“All right, then. Edward has offered an alternative for you to consider. Let’s vote.”

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