|A Change of Heart
Author: Bratanimus PM
Alternative to Breaking Dawn. E/B. "Our wedding night wasn't supposed to be like this. They'd decided that Bella was too great a risk, and they were prepared to kill all of us if we fought them. Destroy the few to preserve the many." COMPLETE.Rated: Fiction M - English - Drama/Romance - Edward & Bella - Chapters: 9 - Words: 57,259 - Reviews: 223 - Favs: 227 - Follows: 218 - Updated: 01-18-11 - Published: 06-24-08 - Status: Complete - id: 4345997
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Title: A Change of Heart
Chapter 1 Summary: Our wedding night wasn't supposed to be like this. They'd decided that Bella was too great a risk, and they were prepared to kill all of us if we fought them. Destroy the few to preserve the many. Edward/Bella, all other canon pairings.
Rating: R for some chapters
Warnings: Sexual content, blood.
Author's Note: Set after Eclipse. This multi-chaptered story is my take on how certain events may come to pass. I hope you like it. ;)
"And now I present to you … Mr. and Mrs. Edward Cullen!"
Emmett shoved us unceremoniously in the direction of our small group of witnesses. My hand held onto Bella's, and I silently vowed that nothing would make me let go of it ever again. I kissed her – my wife – once more, this time on her cheek, and watched her shining face as she smiled at Charlie and Renée.
Happiness. This was what it was like, this moment, and all the other remnants of my strange existence into which Bella had had suddenly breathed life. I was buffeted by the emotion like a tiny crab caught in an eddy, and it was a surreal and exhilarating feeling. I gave myself over to the sensation, holding giddily onto the lace of my life preserver's wedding gown.
In a daze, I orbited Bella as she hugged her parents and Phil, hovered while she chattered animatedly with her handful of friends from school. I have no idea what I said to anyone, but I'm certain I was grinning when I said it.
My family kept a respectful distance, waiting for me to approach them with my bride. Across the lawn Carlisle met my eye, and his proud smile made a lump form in my throat. I realized that Esme's hand resting in the crook of Carlisle's elbow was an exact mirror image of Bella's in mine.
I lowered my eyes and smiled.
Jasper had picked up his guitar again and played softly on the front steps as our guests milled around us. A couple of Bella's friends – Angela and Ben – wandered over to my – our – family. They knew Alice by now, but they still felt rather shy around Emmett, Rosalie, and Jasper, who had "graduated" the year before. Alice babbled on with them and managed to get them talking to Emmett. Rosalie held onto Emmett's arm and smiled coldly, put out that she wasn't the center of attention in white today. At least she was behaving, more or less; I knew I couldn't expect miracles.
I turned my attention back to Charlie and Renée. To their credit, they managed to look happy for Bella. I tried not to concentrate on their doubtful and disparaging thoughts; they still didn't – couldn't – understand. Charlie didn't trust me. Renée didn't trust Bella.
And a few months from now, after it became apparent that Bella wasn't coming home to visit, they would both wonder what on earth they'd done wrong to warrant their daughter's utter absence from their lives. If we were lucky, they'd both blame me.
I couldn't dwell on that today, of course; and Bella wouldn't, not yet.
A peal of Alice's laughter tore my gaze from Bella's parents. I followed Alice's eyes and watched Jasper walking down the front steps. He had put his guitar back in its case and was signaling Jessica and Mike over to the hors d'oeuvres table, doing a very odd pantomime of eating with a fork as he did so. When they arrived, he spoke in low tones to them. I watched as Bella's friends relaxed in Jasper's presence; it pleased me that he wanted our guests to enjoy themselves, so much so that he would turn his talents in their direction.
Alice excused herself for a moment, leaving Angela and Ben with Rosalie and Emmett. Alice had arranged everything today, including the music for the reception; and now she went to switch on the sound system in our living room. Emmett had insisted on wiring up outside speakers on the porch so that we could enjoy the music outdoors. Bella, wanting to limit our guests' impulse to dance – and any inclination to force her to dance – had somehow convinced Alice to rein in her musical tastes for us. Though Alice wasn't pleased about the constraints, she had created an elegant, old-fashioned mix of popular ballads from my teenage years, some French art songs, and classical piano concertos.
Now Bella took my hand and nodded toward Esme and Carlisle. Together we approached them, and Esme's arms immediately encircled Bella.
"Daughter," she said, beaming.
The look on Bella's face was one of such relief and joy that I thought my heart would burst. Carlisle shared a quiet smile with me. He shook my hand warmly, a gesture which quickly turned into an embrace.
I'm glad this day is here, he thought as we pulled apart.
I nodded, feeling emotional once more. Nothing could have prepared me for the delight I felt in this moment, and I ran my fingers down Bella's spine, enjoying the shiver I felt beneath their touch.
But my thoughts were broken by a voice calling my name.
It was Alice.
She was alone on the steps of our porch, and her face was horrified. She stared off into the middle distance, seeing something, and I impatiently waited for her to tell me.
Her panicked thoughts tumbled over each other.
They're coming. I didn't see them before. They had to have been here already, on other business, and changed their plans mid-stream. Or maybe they never left, after Victoria. Oh, it's too soon, too soon! Why didn't I know? Why didn't I see them?
I must have been squeezing Bella's hand, because she placed her other hand over my fingers to pry them gently loose. I felt her eyes on me as I stared at Alice, and Carlisle and Esme gathered near us, understanding at once that something was wrong.
"Who?" I whispered to Alice, yards away from me. The sickening hollow in the pit of my stomach told me I already knew the answer.
I looked at Bella as fear wrapped an icy hand around my heart.
"What is it?" she asked. "What did she see?" Her dark eyes searched mine.
"The Volturi are coming," I whispered.
For several moments, time slowed as Bella and I stared at each other, and I gripped her hand tightly. I shuddered at what this could mean. Why were they here? It was still several weeks until the thirteenth of August, the deadline to which they had agreed. Had they changed their minds about allowing Bella into our coven? Were they coming instead to –
Esme inhaled sharply. Carlisle crossed the lawn to Alice, who descended the stairs to meet him. The three of us followed as quickly as we could without alarming anyone, and soon Rosalie was by Alice's side as well, her face darkening as Alice whispered quickly in her ear. Fortunately, the humans hadn't noticed anything, and we were careful to keep our faces neutral. I saw Jasper glance at Emmett, but they remained with our human guests, holding their plates of untouched food and continuing their conversations. I was grateful.
"How long before they arrive?" I asked, already planning an escape. I had bought plane tickets to Europe for a honeymoon; I'd wanted Bella to enjoy her last weeks as a human in the most beautiful places I could take her, and I'd planned to surprise her because I knew she'd argue. Perhaps we could leave a few days early –
"They'll be here in fifteen minutes," said Alice. "They're getting edgy. They sense – they sense the humans."
This couldn't be happening. Not today. A low growl burned in my throat.
"What do they want?" asked Carlisle.
"I can't see everything," said Alice, shaking her head. "But I think" – she looked at Bella – "it's more than assurances they're after."
Carlisle pressed his lips together. "How many?"
Alice's eyes scanned something visible only to her and she replied, "Eleven – no, twelve."
Rosalie hissed slowly, and her eyes darted to Emmett's. He saw her, but he turned and kept talking to Ben; his smile didn't quite reach his eyes.
"I can take Bella away," I said, pulling her to me. "We can try to use our plane tickets tonight." My mind began to whir, spinning out every eventuality, the possible pitfalls and what I could do to avoid them.
"What plane tickets – " began Bella.
"No!" hissed Alice. Her hands shook as she reached for my arm. "Edward, they won't be happy. They'll think you're backing out of the agreement, trying to protect her. If you do that, we'll all be dead when you get back, I promise you." She and Bella shared a look. "Time's up," she added softly.
Bella nodded, and the blood left her cheeks. I felt rage simmering inside my chest. She wasn't some sacrificial lamb. We'd planned this, planned exactly how to do it our way, and that should have been two weeks from now, after our honeymoon.
Esme caught sight of my face and said, prudently, "Perhaps we should step inside for a moment." The merest gesture of her hand, palm down, told Jasper and Emmett to wait here with the humans.
Safely inside, varying degrees of panic, fear, and anger settled onto our expressions.
"There's not much we can do," Carlisle said. If it has to happen tonight, he thought, looking at me, do you still –
I nodded, jaw clenched. Bella had asked me to be the one, and I wouldn't refuse her.
"I'm sorry," said Bella, and anguish ravaged her features as she spoke. "It's my fault they're coming. We should have done this before – "
"Oh, come on, Bella," snapped Rosalie. "You're not the center of the universe, you know. It's as much Edward's fault as it is yours that the Volturi are here."
The silence echoed in the living room as I stared at Rosalie. She was right, of course, about it being my fault for wanting to wait. But that didn't mean I would let her speak to Bella that way.
"Go mingle," I growled.
We glared at each other and I said nothing more.
"I'll come with you," said Esme, taking Rosalie's elbow. "We'll send Jasper and Emmett inside. They need to know."
Esme's features were arranged again before she reached the door.
A few moments later my brothers joined us, and Alice told them what she had seen.
"Can we fight them?" asked Emmett, eyes flashing.
"No," said Carlisle quickly.
"No," agreed Jasper, pacing with his hands behind his back. "It's the Volturi. They're stronger, there are more of them. And even if we somehow managed to destroy these twelve, there'd be more after us before sundown tomorrow."
"And besides," interjected Bella, her eyes sweeping passionately over each of us, "they probably only want what I want. We shouldn't fight them."
"Of course," said Carlisle, touching her arm. "You're right, Bella. Let's just wait and see why they're here."
We were quiet again, all of us, watching each other. The others' thoughts stumbled and lurched around me. It was an impossible situation. The not knowing was maddening, and I still wanted to pull Bella by the arm and carry her away from here.
"We should get back outside," said Alice. "Your guests will be wondering where the stars of the show have gone."
"And our unexpected visitors will be here soon," I said.
I touched Alice's hand. "Thank you." There was nothing else to say.
She shrugged, once again the reluctant messenger. But would the foreknowledge help us at all?
Bella and I went back outside and found a private spot next to a hemlock. From the house, Alice's music continued to pipe outdoors from our sound system. The romantic melodies suddenly sounded out-of-place over Bella's thudding heart.
My bride smiled wryly, her cheeks now dappling pink again with anxiety. "Congratulations, Mr. Cullen. You've married a disaster."
"Stop that, Bella." I placed a cold hand on her cheek and she leaned into it, closing her eyes. "We don't know what's coming, but they're not separating us."
Bella's eyes opened and flickered back and forth between mine, as if she were trying to discern whether or not I actually believed what I was saying.
I sighed and went on. "Rosalie was right, though. I should have turned you as soon as we came back from Italy."
"No, Edward," she whispered. "I know why you wanted to wait. You wanted the best for me – "
"Yes – "
" – but you never realized that that was always you."
We looked into each other's eyes for several long seconds, and then I leaned down to kiss her. Despite my fear and anger at what was happening around us, I felt drunk, drowning in the feel of her warm, soft lips.
"How did I ever manage to get you?" I whispered in her ear.
Bella tilted her face upward and kissed me again. "I could ask the same."
"They're here," said Alice quietly, now beside us.
We looked down the drive and saw the vampires headed our way. Carlisle was already going to meet them, walking slowly, with confidence. I saw only two, but they were two of the Volturi's most valuable members: Demetri, the tracker; and Jane. I stiffened. The other ten would be nearby, ready to come if called, I had no doubt.
Demetri, his long, dark hair rustling in the light breeze, wore a stylish gray suit with a burgundy tie; and the diminutive Jane wore a flowing summer gown in ruby. Except for their red irises and their hard, pleasantly dangerous expressions, they almost blended in here.
Demetri's and Jane's thoughts were deliberately obtuse; I was positive they were clouding their intentions because of me. Their skill at dissembling was considerable, and I only got snatches of true thought now and then, something about traveling and talents. Over everything, I heard the language of supreme confidence in both their minds, as if they had no doubt we would agree to their demands under whatever terms they chose.
I felt my breathing quicken, but I had to let Carlisle greet the Volturi alone. The group knew him from long ago, and my experience in Italy revealed to me that Aro, at least, did still respect him, even if he didn't understand him. Carlisle would make them feel welcome in a way that I couldn't. Diplomacy, I knew, had never been my strong suit, and it most certainly wouldn't come naturally to me tonight. As Carlisle took Jane's hand and placed it over his arm, demonstrating a courtesy she couldn't possibly deserve, my arm instinctively tightened around Bella's waist; and she clung to me, shaking.
I heard the words stregoni benefici, almost as if Demetri's mind had spat them out by accident, an epithet he was powerless to control as he followed Jane and Carlisle up the path to our home. His dark, threatening eyes met mine for a split second as he smoothly passed by us, then they darted away from me to scan our group of guests. He looked as if he were disgusted by what he saw around him. Angela, seeing his furious gaze, shrank against Ben.
The Volturi must think it urgent to allow two of their most powerful envoys to be seen by so many humans. Fear sank its jaws into my heart again, and I felt icy terror dripping into my gut.
"They want … " Alice began.
"What?" Bella and I both asked.
"They want – they want to – oh, I can't see it! It's not clear yet, because their visit has more than one purpose. Perhaps even Jane and Demetri don't know everything yet. But they do want something … from all of us." Alice's hand found Bella's and held it.
"Not you," I whispered into Bella's hair. "Never you."
"They're going to wait until the humans are gone."
"Shouldn't be long," I observed. Now Jessica and Mike were staring at our new arrivals warily. So much for our reception.
Carlisle led Demetri and Jane straight into the house, and our guests watched their passing with uncertain curiosity. Carlisle, wisely, did not intend to introduce them to any human here. Esme, who had been speaking with Charlie, excused herself to follow him. Emmett trailed them nonchalantly and settled himself in the open doorway where he could see the goings on. I could see his biceps flex through his suit when he folded his arms. Inside, Carlisle turned on a lamp and crossed to the other side of the room, where Jane and Demetri were already seated on one of the sofas. Our daylight was waning, the sky turning a vivid purple underneath the blanket of clouds; and the yellow lamplight made the house look inviting, as if no strange conversations were taking place at this moment, as though no silent threats hovered in the air.
"Come on, you two," said Alice bravely, steering us toward the hors d'oeuvres table. "Go and socialize."
Last chance, she couldn't help thinking.
I shot her a look, but the worry in her eyes made me forgive her at once.
Bella and I made the rounds again, spending time with each of our guests, somehow contriving laughter when people told embarrassing stories about Bella, and managing to thank them sincerely when they offered their best wishes to us. We put on a good act, I thought grimly; but it was nearly more than I could do to force a smile. I tried to make Bella eat something, but she couldn't.
After a while, Esme and Carlisle returned and sent my brothers and sisters into the house. They knew that our wedding guests would want to thank them for their hospitality, so they had to make themselves available to receive that courtesy. Their eyes only shot toward the light streaming from our open front door a few times.
Slowly our guests said their goodbyes and started to trickle back to their cars, and Esme and Carlisle excused themselves a final time. Charlie and Renée remained with us for a few more minutes while Phil, unconsciously jingling the coins and the car keys in his pockets, hovered nearby.
Renée embraced Bella for a long time, tears streaming down her face and onto Bella's gown, and Bella clutched her tightly, her own tears barely contained. Bella soothed her mother as Renée chattered through an ongoing sob about how much she loved her daughter, how she wanted nothing but the best for us, how she'd always be there for her no matter what. I had to control my face not to let on that I knew she didn't believe our marriage would last six months. I focused on Bella, brave Bella, instead.
Charlie, the stoic, was almost worse than Renée. He shook my hand and, eyes on the ground, said, "Promise me you'll take care of my little girl."
Bella huffed next to me, pretending that her patience, after Renée's tirade, was wearing thin. But I could see her emotions bubbling too closely to the surface. Our little charade was likely to fall apart at any second. She must have realized by now, as I had, that her goodbyes to her parents would no longer take place in a few weeks, as we had originally planned. If I had to change her tonight, their goodbyes were now.
"I'll never leave her side," I promised, pulling Bella closer, feeling like a cad far worse than any father's nightmare.
"Okay," said Charlie, nodding briskly. "Okay. Well. See you, Bells."
Bella's lip quivered, but Charlie had already turned. He sauntered back in the direction of his police cruiser, Renée with her handkerchief and Phil with the keys to their rental car following close behind.
"I love you, Mom, Dad," Bella called after them, waving. Her voice only wobbled a little bit, and I held onto her waist tightly.
"Love you, too," they echoed, turning to wave.
The car doors shut and we listened as the sound of their engines disappeared.
I looked down at Bella next to me. Her face crumpled and she sobbed, just once. I put my arms around her and held her trembling body close, watched as gooseflesh rose on her neck under the evening breeze, felt her silent tears wetting my shirt.
She would never see them again.
We stood hand-in-hand in the doorway, Bella's reddened eyes blinking in the lamplight. Our family dotted the room, their casual positions belying their anxious thoughts.
I glanced at Alice.
Nothing's changed yet, she thought.
I squeezed Bella's hand to try to tell her we were safe, for the moment. Until we found out otherwise, I couldn't believe that they were here to try to take her from me. My thoughts raced, but I couldn't plan for what I couldn't see.
Jane rose languidly from the sofa, her red irises glinting as she neared the light. Demetri looked at me and raised his chin infinitesimally, but that was the extent of his greeting. With Jane present, there was no need for him to speak.
"Congratulations," Jane said, appraising us like we were slabs of meat. "Apparently Marcus was right about you two after all." She sounded as though she still didn't believe him, even though we faced her in our wedding garments with rings on our fingers.
Bella's voice surprised me. "Thank you." She was polite, trying to appease them. This time she squeezed my hand, possibly to calm me.
Now that we were all here, Jane spoke rapidly, ignoring Bella. "We found out about your wedding and saw that several humans would be here. We thought you could use some … supervision."
"Your prudence, as always, is exceptional," said Carlisle diplomatically, "but as you know we've been living among humans for years. They know us, and we know them."
"Yes, I understand," said Jane, amused. She still didn't trust us, and she wasn't letting me into her thoughts. "Your unconventional ways do fascinate Aro. He speaks of you often."
"We are honored to be a subject of discussion in his household," said Carlisle, inclining his head slightly. He didn't feel that way, but he said it anyhow. Carlisle was feeling cornered, and my anger escalated.
I watched Demetri on the sofa, lazily tracing a pattern on the knee of his trousers, seemingly not paying any attention to the tactful pleasantries being exchanged. Jane had brought him specifically, I was sure, to remind us that running would be futile. He'd locate us as easily as he had found me in Volterra.
Gradually I became aware of other thoughts, a blur of voices outside the house. The other vampires were drawing near, now that the humans were gone.
"Aro was disappointed that he did not receive an invitation to your wedding," said Jane. She seemed to be laughing at us, though she did not smile.
"Our apologies." Esme stepped forward. "We thought it best not to overwhelm our neighbors with unfamiliar faces. They are used to us, but our kind is still strange to them."
"A visit to Italy would be sensible," suggested Jane, "to make amends."
Carlisle spoke, his voice even. "We would be happy to attend Aro, Caius, and Marcus at their convenience."
"We are pleased to hear you say that," smiled Jane, satisfied. Her expression was cold, predatory. "We shall expect you all in Volterra in a week's time. After certain matters are taken care of."
She turned her deadly gaze on Bella.
Bella recoiled involuntarily, and I shifted my body in front of hers, still holding her hand behind me.
"With all due respect," I began, even though I could see Alice's head shaking minutely behind Jasper's shoulder, "we had hoped to take a short honeymoon as – as man and wife, before her transition."
"With equal respect," said Jane – and her tone let me know just how much good regard she was willing to afford me – "we cannot trust that your little wife will not try to escape once you are away from your family."
"I would never leave Edward!" cried Bella, beside me once more.
I held her hand tightly, trying to tell her through my grip to stop talking. Some instinct told me that the less Jane knew of Bella's headstrong ways, the better.
"Sorry, dear, but we cannot trust you." Jane smiled condescendingly at Bella. "Aro was unable to penetrate your mind, as you recall – in fact, no one can" – she shot a look at me – "so we cannot be sure you won't have a last-minute change of heart. Otherwise Aro might have come himself tonight and sent you on your honeymoon with his blessings. He loves weddings," she gushed.
"But I can see," said Alice, crossing the room to stand next to Bella. "It will happen, whether it be tonight or two weeks from now. It will happen. And Edward will be the one to turn her."
"But people cling to life so fiercely, at the end. A change of heart can happen so quickly," insisted Jane. "They're so predictable. Another frailty of the human condition." She spat the last word as if it were an unspeakable disease. "It would happen in an instant, and she would run away. And I don't think your Edward would stop her." Jane paused, letting her words sink in. "We've reconsidered and think you are mistaken, Alice."
Alice was silent. Angry, fearful thoughts screamed through her mind, but she spoke not a word.
"We will wait," said Jane. And she went back to sit on the sofa.
We all stood in silence, the air rippling with tension.
Demetri cracked his knuckles and yawned affectedly.
The other ten vampires waited outside the house, in the woods. I heard whispers of their boredom, their irritation, their yearning for a battle.
"Go on," said Jane conversationally.
She stared at me as if she expected me to bite Bella right here and now, in front of everyone. Alice wrapped her arms around Bella immediately, shaking her head.
Then several things happened at once. I felt myself growl, my body lowering into a crouch, and I prepared myself for the torture Jane would hurl at me when I lunged at her. Carlisle moved toward me, one hand outstretched, his thoughts speaking softly to me as they had done so many times when I was distraught in the early years. I saw Emmett tensing, preparing to spring, next to an alarmed-looking Rosalie. Jasper edged closer to Demetri.
And Bella rushed in front of me, standing between me and Jane, whispering, "No, Edward!"
But Esme left Carlisle's side and swiftly knelt in front of Jane. "Please," she said softly. "Please. Give them until morning."
Bella whirled to face them, and I froze. What was Esme doing?
Jane, who hadn't even flinched at the movement around her, smiled at Esme's lowered head. Her eyes flickered over Esme's long, white neck. It pained and angered me to see Esme prostrating herself this way.
"Until morning? Why?" Jane asked.
Esme raised her eyes and blinked into Jane's hard, impenetrable face. "It's their wedding night."
Esme's eyes then looked at me, and the love in them stopped the growl in my throat. Bella returned to me, wrapping a hand around my forearm. I slowly straightened and sensed Emmett and Jasper relax.
Jane surveyed us for several seconds, her eyes roving over us lazily. What a romantic story that would be, she allowed me to hear. Aro will be thrilled. Then she tilted her head and said, lightly, "All right. Until morning. You won't leave the house."
"Thank you," said Esme.
Jane waved her up. Esme backed away again, toward Carlisle, her eyes on us.
"I'm feeling generous," said Jane. "Go and enjoy your wedding night. I'll see you at dawn. And you will change the girl before then." She paused. "We will kill her if you haven't turned her yet, obviously. And you, too, if you try to protect her." Her glance passed over all of us, but it lingered on me, Emmett, and Jasper in particular.
Jane settled back on the sofa again – making it clear to me that she wasn't leaving tonight – and smiled at Demetri, who rolled his eyes.
Every inch of me wanted to attack her, to rip her and Demetri limb from limb. But as my breath rasped in and out, I knew it would be useless. There were ten more of them waiting in the forest. Our family would die. Bella would die. The Volturi had made up their minds before Jane and Demetri had arrived, and there would be no changing them. They'd decided that Bella was too great a risk to wait any longer, and they were prepared to kill all of us if we fought them. Destroy the few to preserve the many.
Jane and Demetri made no effort to hide their surface thoughts now, and the words I heard now were mocking and heartless. They only sought the solution of Bella's transformation; and until she was one of us she was little more than a calf stupidly awaiting slaughter. But I still didn't know why they wanted all of us in Italy afterwards. The Volturi couldn't still want us for our talents, after Alice and I both had refused them … could they? Would they force us to join them?
I was so livid, still staring at Jane, that it took me several seconds to realize that everyone's eyes were on me. It took Bella's crossing in front of me, her hands on my chest, to coax me out of my fury.
"Come on," she whispered, her eyes wide and vulnerable, her voice quavering. "I'm ready."
I felt my face twist. "I'm not," I insisted stubbornly.
Though her voice still trembled, her tone became hard. "You have to be."
"It shouldn't be like this." I knew it was hopeless, and I hated myself for saying it in front of Jane and Demetri; but the words tumbled out in spite of me. "It wasn't supposed to be like this."
"But it is," said Bella simply.
Her hands tugged on the lapels of my jacket, trying to pull me toward the stairs; but my body wouldn't move. Her heart was pounding as hard as I'd ever heard it; I knew everyone in the room could sense it. Again I was seized by the desire to throw her across my back and run, just run, as fast and as hard as I could.
Edward, I'll be here, thought Carlisle, interrupting my suicidal fantasy, just as we planned. But you won't need me.
My eyes found his and he tried to smile at me. I flinched, hating myself for the danger our family was in now because of me and my selfishness.
And then, suddenly, Jasper was beside me, doing something he'd never done to me before, something I never should have allowed under the circumstances. Yet, somehow, though I could have stopped him, I … didn't.
He placed a hand over my heart and leaned into me, his cheek next to mine, his other hand on my back, a strange touch that seemed to send warmth straight into me.
Things will look better in the morning, he thought, infusing a sense of reason and calm through my furious body, my whirring mind. I knew he was lying, but I couldn't argue. You'll see. I'll stay close to you.
I exhaled, dazed, when Jasper released me, too comforted to be angry with him.
When I turned he was already carefully embracing Bella, his right arm around her waist, bringing her heart closer to his, with her right hand balanced in his left, almost as if they were waltzing. With his back to me I couldn't tell if his lips were on her cheek or in her ear, but I heard what he murmured: "I'll see you again when dawn breaks."
She, too, exhaled, swaying, when he stepped away and took his place beside Alice. Jasper's and Alice's hands clasped each other at once, though their eyes remained on us.
An echo of dread – not strong enough to disturb my calm – crept into my stomach as I realized that Jane and Demetri had watched the whole peculiar exchange with curiosity. They were taking excited mental notes even now, unmindful of the fact that I could hear their fascination, their eagerness to report back to the Volturi the extent of Jasper's power, which they'd now witnessed with their own eyes. They were intrigued by our sudden change in mood while in such a dismal situation, and I wished now I had not let Jasper touch us at all; but it was too late.
Jasper had known he was putting himself on display, and now he told me, Go on, Edward.
I looked at him and he tilted his head with a raised eyebrow – his version of a shrug. There was nothing to be done for it. For now, we were all trapped.
But when I finally looked at Bella, I read so much trust in her eyes that I thought my heart would crack. I knew things had gone wrong, terribly wrong; but Jasper's peace had already inoculated me and I knew that we had to make of tonight what we could.
Bella's fingertips met mine, then our hands entwined, and we somehow made our way toward the winding staircase.
I felt Emmett and Rosalie watching us from their position beside the window, and they were joined quietly by Esme and Carlisle. Their fretful faces told me that Jasper was focusing all his attention on Bella and me. A wave of blunted sorrow rolled through me; but I had my wife to think of now. I saw her watching the others fearfully as we climbed the stairs, so I placed a finger on her jaw and gently turned her face toward mine.
"They'll be all right," I whispered. Tonight, at least.
A/N: I hope you liked chapter one. Feedback would simply dazzle me, you know. ;)