|The Devil You Know
Author: Gingerandgreen PM
A creepy little Halloween tale, just for fun.Rated: Fiction M - English - Horror - Bella - Words: 7,194 - Reviews: 30 - Favs: 16 - Follows: 12 - Published: 10-30-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8656181
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
This is a creepy little Halloween tale to take my mind off darker evenings and horrible weather – I hope it does this for you, too. Thank you, lovely Cared, for your very cool banner and your bang-on beta/pre-reader skills.
Twisting your Twilight and darkening it, Ms Meyer. Thank you for the privilege.
The devil you know
The first thing Bella noticed when she woke from her dream was her fear. It crept along her spine, invaded her stomach, unsettled her bowels and finally reached her heart with a thump and a missed beat.
She was wet. With growing horror, she realised that her back rested upon damp grass, not the soft mattress in James' large, clean bedroom.
She sat up with a gasp that left her dry lips involuntarily. It was very dark. It wasn't quite raining, but the air was so damp it may as well have been. No moon or stars penetrated the heavy cloud cover that ordinarily blanketed the sky in Forks.
She couldn't see more than a couple of feet beyond her knees, now huddled to her damp chest. She could sense a wide space around her, which only added to her disoriented panic. The air smelt of forest and rain, but she couldn't see the trees, no matter how she strained her eyes.
The pyjamas Bella fell asleep in were thin cotton. The material clung to her cold flesh, and she shivered. A whimper escaped her, unbidden, and frightening in itself. Bella never liked to draw attention to herself; but in this unknown, unwanted space, she was terrified of monsters in the darkness.
Her back tingled with the feeling of eyes boring into her, and she wanted to flatten it against something sturdy – a tree, a wall, her boyfriend. Where the fuck was James, and how could he allow her to be out here – wherever here was – alone, in the middle of the night?
The last thing Bella recalled was being tucked into bed. James was concerned that she wasn't sleeping well, hadn't been eating properly. He suggested the sleepover even though he had to work, and she was so touched by his concern, she had readily agreed. He'd even given her the last of his sleeping tablets – said he didn't need them any more, he was long-since over the nightmares that had troubled him for a while. He'd stroked her hair back as she settled drowsily into the covers, bending to kiss her forehead before creeping out of the door.
Something flew inches in front of Bella's face, provoking a startled scream. Something larger chased it, and before the terrified girl understood it was a bat, she leaped to her feet. The creature must have become curious, as it flew directly towards her long, tangled hair.
Arms held out in front of her like a bad imitation of Frankenstein's monster, she charged away from the bat in tiny, tripping steps, noticing for the first time that her feet were bare. They telegraphed the existence of every sharp twig, every twisted root and every unidentifiable slimy thing to her panic-ridden brain, too late to avoid their impact.
If the two vampires watching from the shadows had not been so concerned for her welfare, they might have laughed at her pathetic flight.
***The devil you know***
She sensed the relative warmth of the forest before she saw the trees. The damp bark smelled strong in the late night air – or was it early morning? Bella had no idea. She knew the forest was a dangerous place, but at least among the trees and foliage she would feel less exposed.
Creeping carefully through the undergrowth, the darkness thickening around her, she felt for the largest tree she could find, and pressed her spine against it with relief.
The forest wasn't quiet – the night sounds that she had listened to every summer throughout her childhood almost overwhelmed her.
When a wolf howled in the distance, Bella felt the pressing urge to pee. There was no way she was removing herself from the protection of the trunk at her back, so she pulled her pyjama bottoms down and squatted where she stood, feet wide apart to avoid the spray. The acrid ammonia of her fear filled the air about her, and she frantically wracked her memory for lessons in forest survival skills – would the smell attract predators? Should she move, despite herself?
An echoing howl, closer to her left, made her mind up for her. Frantically pulling her inadequate clothing back into position, she hastened as fast as she dared in the opposite direction.
An enticing smell began to penetrate her nostrils. Something like sunshine and some kind of night blossom, she couldn't identify it – but whatever it was, it smelled like comfort and safety. Unthinkingly, she followed its strongest smelling trail.
It was amazing, really, how easy it was to navigate the pitch-dark, cluttered forest. Bella's feet seemed to have found a path. Perhaps it was a deer run, carved by hooves knifing through the closely packed trees; or a hiking trail – the idea of being closer to civilisation increased her confidence, and her pace.
She wished she could see the gorgeous scented blossoms that must have surrounded her as she almost ran along the trail. Her panic dulled to a quiet thrum of adrenaline in her blood, accompanied by a slightly elevated heart rate. She almost began to thrill in the adventure.
Bella sensed the trees beginning to thin, the air becoming lighter, and suddenly she was aware of a commotion in the near distance. A human commotion. Dogs whined and barked, foliage was broken; the beam of a flashlight broke through the blackness.
Voices. She could hear voices. Was that her father?
"Dad?" She meant to scream, but the word emerged as a whisper. She cleared her throat and tried again. "Charlie? Is that you?"
The commotion quieted for a moment, and Bella was vaguely aware that the night blossom smell had dissipated, leaving her feeling bereft and alone once more.
She tried her voice again, with more force this time. "Hello? Can you hear me? Help! Please help me."
This time her plea was met by the booming voice of the police chief. "Bella? Bella baby, is that you? Stand still, Honey. I'm coming. I'm coming for you."
"Daddy!" She felt like a small girl, hearing her father's big, strong, comforting voice.
Noise and flashlight beams crashed towards her, and before she knew it, she was in the embrace that had seen her through twenty-two years of night terrors, heartbreak, bruised ego and battered limbs.
"I've got you, Darling. It's alright now, Daddy's here. Sssh," he comforted her, rocking her backwards and forwards. His little girl. Once again, she'd frightened the fucking wits out of him.
James' voice penetrated their little bubble. "Have you found her? Have you got her, Charlie? Oh Bella, what happened, Sugar?" He reached the pair and tried to insinuate his way into their father-daughter world. He stroked the back of her head, buried in his boss's chest.
Bella was crying now, full-blown sobs that added to the moisture already soaking the familiar police uniform.
"She's alright, son. Let's get her home. Come on Baby Girl, can you walk?",
"Her feet are bare Charlie! Let me carry her."
"Do you want James to carry you, Sweetheart?"
Bella wasn't sure. Part of her felt suspicious of the man she'd been falling in love with; but he wouldn't hurt her, would he? He was Charlie's friend, his new protégé on the force – he cared for Bella; showed her how much every day, in so many ways. She nodded.
"Come on, Sugar. Up you come." He hoisted her clumsily into his arms, having passed his flashlight to Charlie. He followed the beam, stepping over rocks and roots, trying not to drop her.
"What happened to the path?" Bella felt jolted as her boyfriend shifted her higher. He smelled of night, and something foreign. He needed a shower. Her nose wrinkled slightly.
"What path, Sweetness? There ain't no path. I don't know how the hell you got where you did. What happened? Did somebody take you? Are you hurt?"
Bella was confused. She had no idea what had happened to her.
"I came home to find the back door wide open. The alarm was switched off, and you were gone. Your clothes were still there, your shoes – what the fuck happened, Bells? Did you sleepwalk?"
"I don't know, James. I just don't know."
Deep in the forest, far enough away not to excite the search and rescue dogs, but close enough to read James' mind, one vampire turned to the other with narrowed eyes.
"That man doesn't read right… We should get that beautiful girl away from him."
"Beautiful girl?" The other vampire raised an eyebrow.
"Didn't you notice, Carlisle? And she smelled so sweet. Her blood tastes sublime." The first vampire's tongue snaked out and licked at the twig Bella unknowingly scraped herself on. "Fucking sublime."
And his black eyes glazed over.
***The devil you know***
It surprised them all, how unscathed Bella was after her adventure. One small scrape marred her arm, but there was nothing else a good, hot shower wouldn't remove.
Emotionally, well, that was another matter. Bella was a quivering wreck. As the adrenaline drained from her blood, so did her bravery. She refused to sleep alone, so it was back to James' place, no questions asked.
Charlie wasn't sure how he felt about that.
He contemplated their relationship as he drove back to the Station. There was a search party to stand down, and a shit load of paperwork to get through, but he told James to take the next day off. He had a feeling his daughter would need a strong male presence to keep her calm, and if he couldn't be there for her, James was the next best thing.
He just didn't buy the sleepwalking scenario. James accepted the idea quickly, and nothing about the house pointed to breaking and entering; Bella was unharmed and no ransom note was received, so kidnapping seemed unlikely.
It was just – it didn't feel right. Something about this whole night was off.
***The devil you know***
"Did you get the laundry on?" James slid his hands around Bella's waist affectionately.
"Uh huh." She nodded into his chest. Recently showered, he smelled of soap and musk; not quite right, somehow. She pulled away.
"Okay, you go put your feet up, watch a movie or something; I'll be back with food before you know it. Do you need anything from the store?"
"No. Well, maybe some chocolate."
He smiled at her. "If my baby wants chocolate, chocolate is what she'll get. Go on. Lie down, relax. Policeman's orders." He slapped her gently on the bottom and pushed her towards the bedroom. She wiggled her ass at him provocatively as she walked away.
"Cocktease," he murmured under his breath. Then he slipped out of the back door, returning a few minutes later to put something away before climbing into his truck, all set on foraging for his woman.
***The devil you know***
Bella could hear James in the driveway as she hurried to move the wet laundry into the dryer. He would never say anything, but she could sense how meticulous he was about household chores. She'd been a burden today already – she didn't want to try his patience.
Between the soft, damp cotton, her hand encountered something solid and lumpy. Anxious that she had inadvertently washed the wrong thing, she yanked the handful of – something – quickly out of the washer.
Bella screamed and flung the dead animal in her hand away before her mind even registered what it was.
"Bells? Where are you, what's going on?" James' voice rang out in concern.
She ran. Making it to the bathroom just in time, Bella flung the seat up and barked into the toilet bowl. On her second attempt, the meagre contents of her stomach forced their way up through her throat, leaving her sweaty and shaking.
James peered through the bathroom door. "What's wrong, Sugar? Are you sick?"
She shook her head, tears welling in her eyes. "I'm so sorry, James – there's a baby squirrel in the laundry. It was...it's been through the wash. I don't know how it got there."
"What the fuck? Stay there, Babe, I'll bring you something."
She rested her head on the cool tile wall, slowing her heart rate as well as she could.
A few minutes passed before James returned with a glass and a pill. He filled the glass with water from the faucet and held it out to her shaking hand. "Open up, Babe."
"What is it?" she asked, even as she opened her mouth obediently.
He placed the pill on her little pink tongue. "It'll settle your stomach. That's it, Sugar. Now wash your face and come and tell me what you mean about a baby squirrel in my washing."
***The devil you know***
Warm water washed away the worst of her shock, and Bella felt a little foolish as she came back into the kitchen. James was sat at the table, beer in hand. She could hear the washer going again. He patted the seat next to him.
She sat, and he turned her face towards him, gently grasping her chin between his fingers. Her pupils were slightly – very slightly – dilated.
"Okay, Sugar; you gonna tell me what that was all about?"
"Did you not find it? I pulled all the wet laundry out of the washer, and my hand grabbed hold of something gross. When I looked, it was this tiny squirrel. It creeped me out, I guess. How the hell did it find its way into the washing machine, anyway?"
"Bells, you know I don't like you using strong language like that. It doesn't suit you, Sugar." He shook his head in disappointment.
Bella flushed. "Well, I'm sorry James, but I'm quite shaken up, you know?"
"I know Babe, which is why I'm gonna let it slide. Now, what did you do with this squirrel you're talking about?"
She felt flustered, but she couldn't quite put her finger on why. "I threw it away from me, did you not see it? It must be in the corner of the laundry room – maybe it's behind the door?"
James just shook his head.
"Well did you look?" She jumped up and flung the door to the laundry room open, scanning frantically for the pathetic creature. "It was right there!" She came back into the kitchen, hands on her hips. "Is this some kind of set up? Did you throw it out?" Her tone was tense and accusatory.
James stood up and walked menacingly towards her. "All right, Isabella, that's quite enough of that." He sounded just like Charlie on a bad day.
He picked up her wrist, gripping her with more force than was strictly necessary. She tried to shake her arm free, but if anything, his hold on her tightened.
"Now you listen to me, little girl. You should know by now, I don't take kindly to being spoken to in that tone – not in my own house, by my own girlfriend, that's for sure. I think you need a little time on your own to reflect on what's going on in that crazy head of yours. You're obviously tired and emotional, I get that." His tone softened somewhat, and he reached a finger up to trace the dark hollows under her eyes.
It was hard for Bella to keep up – feeling chastised one second; cared for the next. She began to feel a little dizzy.
"You can go use my bedroom again, if you like. Strip off, have a lie down, and I'll wake you in time to prepare dinner. Okay?"
"No, Bella. No buts. Unless we're talking this kind." He winked, and slapped her hard on the ass.
It made her jump. "Ow!" It shocked her how much it stung.
James just laughed. "Go on, or there'll be more of that." He waved his finger at her, gesturing towards the kitchen door.
She thought he was joking. But she wasn't entirely sure.
***The devil you know***
The next time consciousness forced Bella's eyes open, she ached all over. It was hard to separate the pounding in her head from the pounding on the door.
"Isabella Swan, will you fucking open this door already? That's it – I'm calling your father."
"Huh?" She crawled to the edge of the bed, only becoming aware of the fact that she was stark naked as her bare foot reached the floor. "James? Hang on, I'm coming."
She looked frantically around the room, but her clothes were nowhere to be seen. The duvet that ordinarily covered the king-sized bed was missing too. In her muddled, vulnerable state, all she could think to do was strip the sheet off the mattress and wrap it around herself.
She heard James make his phone call through the door.
"Charlie? It's James. Listen, I'm really worried about Bella. She's been behaving real odd, seeing things, telling me weird stories, and now she's gone and locked herself in my bedroom. She won't open the door – okay, cool. I'll see you soon. Thanks, Charlie."
Bella tripped over the large sheet she'd mummified herself in, falling against the dresser and banging her hip. Man, that was going to bruise.
"Thank the lord, Bella. Will you unlock this fucking door already? I've been having kittens out here."
"There's no key, James." Bella rattled the door handle. It was locked fast.
"What do you mean, there's no key?"
"There's no key in the door, James. Are you sure you don't have it?"
"Don't fuck with me, Bella." His voice was low and sinister. "Open the door like a good girl, and we'll let your dad handle your punishment."
Bella froze. "My dad isn't going to punish me, James. I'm a grown woman. Besides, what've I done wrong?"
"See, that there is half the fucking problem with you, isn't it? Are you that desperate for attention, little girl? I'm fucking worried about you, Charlie's worried, half the damn town was out looking for you last night, and now you pull a move like this and lock me out of the bedroom? Sorry to break it to you, but that's not how a grown woman behaves, Babe."
"I'm sorry James, but I don't know where the key is. Are you sure the door isn't just jammed? I did not lock this door, I swear it."
"Didn't your mama teach you never to swear, Isabella? I am so disappointed in you right now, Girl. Why are you doing this to me? I don't think you are the person I thought you were, Bells."
She heard the noise he made as he slumped to the floor. She felt sick.
"Don't you have a spare key, James? Couldn't you just find it and open the door from your side?"
"Oh right, because of course I'd be sitting outside this door like a fucking moron if I had a spare fucking key. Is that what you think? Do you think I'm a moron, Bella?" His voice rose to a yell, and then dropped to a whisper. "I really thought we had something good going here, you know? I thought you had feelings for me. I guess I'm just a big old chump." There was a pause, then, "I'm going to let your dad in now. Maybe he can talk some sense into you."
Bella scanned the floor, the furniture, the rug – there was no key in sight. No clothes, either. She knelt down to peer under the bed, and there was something there – a small bundle in the shadows.
She reached out her hand to grasp whatever it was just as she heard a loud kick against the door.
"Bella?" Even her dad sounded mad.
The door kicked again, and flew open. At the same time, Bella's fingers scrabbled for the bundle, and made contact. She grasped whatever it was with her fingertips and pulled. A mass of cold, damp fur emerged from under the bed, and before she could stop herself, Bella flung the same dead squirrel from the washer towards her terrified father, cautiously making his way past the shattered doorframe.
They both screamed.
Behind Charlie, James struggled to maintain his composure. "Where are your clothes, Isabella?" His voice was cold, barely controlled.
Bella was suddenly mortified. She pulled the sheet tighter around herself, mistakenly thinking she was guarding her modesty. It actually had the effect of outlining her trim figure almost obscenely.
Charlie averted his eyes. He had no wish to see his daughter's unclothed body. "What did you throw at me? Is that a squirrel? What were you doing in here?"
Bella burst into tears.
James strode into the room, and looked around. His eye fell on the closet door, still shut tight. He yanked it open and hit the interior light. "Well, would you look at that?"
There, in a very neat pile on the closet floor, was the king-sized duvet; Bella's folded clothes, her bra and panties prominent on top of them all; and nestled into the pink cotton of her underwear, the keys to the dresser, the bedroom door and the bathroom.
"Get dressed, Bella. We need to talk."
***The devil you know***
"I don't know, Charlie. I have to tell you, I'm real troubled over this. I mean, I know you were strict with her growing up, I've heard some stuff, but she seems highly disturbed right now. Is there something she's not telling me?"
Bella paused behind the door to the living room. She was mortified to hear Jacob, her father's other deputy, respond to James' strange accusation.
"What are you implying, James?"
"I don't know that I'm implying anything, Jake. But I have to ask. You know that, don't'cha? It's a small town, and small towns keep their secrets well hidden. Charlie here was in a position of power over his lonesome little girl, and now she's messed up in the head. I just wanna know that nothing untoward went on. I'm sorry, Charlie. I have to ask."
"I'm sorry you feel that way, James. Bella means everything to me, you know that. I'd never do anything to hurt her." Charlie sounded rough and emotional to Bella's eavesdropping ears.
"That's good to hear, Charlie. But are you quite sure about that? There were no punishments that got out of hand? No inappropriate behaviour? It was just the two of you in that house for years, am I right?"
"Jesus, James. This is Charlie we're talking about. He worships his little girl."
"I'd thank you not to take the Lord's name in vain, Jacob. I know it's not your religion, but I try to have respect for your traditions, so perhaps you could have some for mine."
"Sorry James. But those are serious allegations you are making there."
"I'm not making any allegations at all, Jake. I'm just trying to understand what's going on here. Forgive me for not being too happy about the fact that his little girl, who I'm not even engaged to yet, felt it was appropriate to strip herself naked and lock herself in my bedroom – not to mention, throw dead little animals around! I mean, what the fuck is going on here? It's just not the kind of behaviour I expect from a respectable girl, from a good family. I just want to get to the bottom of it all. I'm hoping there's a good explanation, is all."
A tense silence followed James' outburst. Tears pricked Bella's eyes, and she held her hand over her mouth and nose to prevent a sniff from alerting the men to her presence. Her boyfriend seemed to sense her distress, regardless.
"Bella, are you listening at the door?" His voice dripped with disapproval.
She swallowed, and pushed the door open. "I'm sorry, James. I was about to come in."
She stood outside their circle. Every piece of furniture in the room was occupied by one of the three large men, and Bella didn't know where to put herself.
James patted the seat on the sofa next to him. "Come and sit, Isabella. We just want to talk to you."
She did, cautiously putting as much distance between herself and James as she dared. She didn't want to upset him any more than she already had.
They all stared at her appraisingly. Bella felt as naked as she had when wrapped in a sheet in front of her boyfriend and father.
"Sugar, is there anything you want to tell us? You know you can say anything here, right? Nobody's gonna hurt you; I won't let them." James' hard glance, shifting towards Charlie, made it clear who he was referring to.
***The devil you know***
"It's late. We need to eat." James raised a hand to stroke Bella's tear-stained cheek. "Come on, Sugar, I'll take you to the diner, my treat. You can cook me the food I bought tomorrow."
"Okay. Thank you, James." She leaned her head in to his hand, desperate for his approval and kindness once more.
"I can't keep this up forever, you know that, don't you? A cop's salary don't stretch too far, not when his mama needs looking after back home."
Charlie flinched. As they all made to leave the house, he slipped his deputy fifty bucks. "Don't tell Bella, but dinner's on me, alright?"
"Thank you, Charlie. Your kindness is noted." James took the money, but he eyed his chief knowingly.
It made Charlie feel uncomfortable – almost as though he'd paid for something slightly unsanitary.
He shrugged the feeling off and peeled away in Jacob's cruiser. He just needed a few hours straight to sleep, and he'd get back on top of things, he thought.
***The devil you know***
Everybody in the diner had something to say to James. Bella didn't know he'd become that popular in the few short months he'd lived in Forks. He had a joke, a kind word or a wink for all and sundry, and it made her conscious of her own shy demeanour.
"If you stuck to a nice dress, these bozos wouldn't spend so long staring at your ass." James pinched the flesh on her shoulder as he whispered in her ear when they reached their booth.
"Careful James, you'll bruise me."
"Toughen up, Sugar." He bent and kissed the sore spot, sending a wave of goose bumps down her arm. The feeling intensified as he turned the kiss into a nip, almost penetrating her skin with his sharp teeth.
Jessica was waiting tables. She simpered at James, pushing her boobs together so that her cleavage deepened into a thin crevasse. He leaned towards her until his nose was almost within nuzzling distance. "Alrighty, lil' Jess, my date here will have the spinach salad, and I'll have the steak with 'shrooms and fries. Go shuffle that cute lil' butt of yours, 'cause we're starving here, 'kay?"
Jessica actually turned and shook her wobbly backside at him, before prancing off to the kitchen.
James turned to Bella with a smirk. "What a slut, hey Babe? That skank would sleep with the devil if he asked her to."
Bella smiled weakly. She had been friends with Jess in high school, but they had grown apart as adults. Jess had slept with most of their Senior year, it was true, but that wasn't really why their friendship had waned.
Their evening progressed slowly. Bella picked desultorily at her salad, waiting for James to put his cutlery down at the end of his meal; he didn't like to talk while he ate. Finally he was done, and he turned to face the wary girl, toothpick in hand.
"Bells, I wanted to talk to you about your job."
"My job?" An uneasy feeling stirred the depths of Bella's stomach.
"Yeah, your job, Sugar. It's not making you very happy, is it?"
Bella grimaced. "Well, the job itself is fine. I really like going out to meet the customers, looking at the properties – I mean, estate agent was never my career of choice, but it's not so bad."
"It's not so safe, either."
"You know I never go anywhere potentially dangerous without Laurent, James."
"See, that's what I'm worried about, Babe. Do you know what the asshole was saying about you in the bar the other night?"
Bella's whole body stiffened. A worm of real fear ate its way through her heart. "What?" Her voice was an octave too high.
"Yeah, I didn't think you did. I'm not gonna disrespect you by repeating it, but I've got to ask you to keep your distance from him. Don't you get in a car with him, or go to see a property, just the two of you. You hear me?"
"Well, what will I say? He's my boss, James."
"You tell him your fiancé forbid it. Easy."
"But you're not..."
"Semantics, Babe. Anyway, that can soon be rectified." James turned to call out into the diner. "Yo, Jess? Check please, Sugar. Time waits for no man." And he slapped his hands over his taut belly, as though anticipating a feast.
***The devil you know***
Lying safely in her own bed that night, Bella came to the conclusion that she had to split up with James – or at least ask for a break, some time to take stock.
The relief she felt was immense as her decision rolled over her shoulders and into the ether. She snuggled into the blankets in her childhood bedroom and closed her eyes.
Very soon, the smell of sweet night blossom invaded her dreams, and the cool night air swirled around her as she stirred and smiled, muttering incoherently.
The vampire in her room ran a cold, hard fingernail gently across the sleeping woman's throat. She shivered in pleasure, before he tore himself away, quietly leaping through the open window and into the night beyond.
***The devil you know***
Bella decided it would be prudent to forewarn Charlie of her impending break up with his favourite Deputy, but he didn't join her at the breakfast table.
She went up to check on him, thinking he'd overslept or changed his work schedule, but his bed lay empty, the covers neatly made as though he hadn't slept there since she'd changed the sheets days ago.
Her first thought was that Charlie had finally got himself a girlfriend.
Deciding to call in at the station later on, she slipped her keys on to her finger, grabbed her worn purse and left the house, double locking the front door like she'd always been told.
***The devil you know***
"Hey Bella, good to see you, Honey. How's Charlie?" Cora had worked the front desk at the Station since Bella was knee high.
"Isn't he here? I came to talk to him."
Cora peered at her through her damp bangs. "No, he aint here. What's gotten into the man? Never a day off sick in twenty years, and now he does a disappearing act? That aint like him." She turned her heavy body on the wheeled chair that was almost affixed to her ass, for all the time she spent there. "Jacob? Would you get out here, Honey?"
Jake sauntered into the room. "There's no need to yell, Cora. Oh, hey Bella."
Cora rolled her eyes at their awkward encounter. "Jake, Bella says her old man aint at home, neither. I tol' you it weren't like him. Now you get your ass down to the new folk's property, what was their name again?"
Jake's voice was hard when he answered briefly: "Cullen."
"That's it – get your ass down to the Cullens and find out what happened after Charlie went over there yesterday."
"Didn't James go already?" The last place Jake wanted to be was at that creepy mansion, but a glance at Bella's worried face pulled his attitude up short. "I'll get straight on it, Cora. Have a seat in Charlie's office, Bells. I'll be back directly."
***The devil you know***
James found Bella in Charlie's office chair, swinging her heels and nose-deep in a book. He spoke softly to her.
"Bells? There's something I need to talk to you about. I think you'd better come with me." He offered her his hand, and looked at her with such kind sympathy, Bella was immediately terrified.
"What is it, James? Where's my dad?"
"Just come with me, and we'll talk, alright?"
The Station was strangely silent as they made their way out and to the cruiser in the front parking lot. James opened the passenger door like a real gentleman. Bella slipped into the seat and buckled her belt in silence.
When they reached his house, James gently led his girl, shaking with quiet dread, into his living room. He left her standing as he took her coat and hung it up, before carrying a kitchen chair into the room.
Stroking Bella's hair like he would a frightened pony, he softly squeezed her shoulders until she sat, bewildered, on the hard chair. He gathered her thin wrists in his large hands, pulling them behind her until the shock of cold metal handcuffs locked her in place.
"James!" Bella whimpered, although she had meant to put much more force behind the exclamation.
"Hush." He knelt down at her feet. "I'm glad to see you listened to me and put on a dress this morning." He grasped one of her ankles and pulled it to the back leg of the chair, locking her in place with another set of cuffs. The more Bella struggled against the bite of the metal, the more it hurt. By the time James secured the other ankle, Bella's legs were spread wide open, leaving her feeling more vulnerable and afraid than she ever had before.
James appraised his handiwork. Now that she was at his mercy, he decided he ought to get as much fun out of her as he could. He pushed her skirt right up her thighs until it lay bunched at her waist. Blue cotton panties looked pretty against her creamy flesh. "Wait right there, Sugar. Don't move a muscle."
When James returned from the kitchen with a pair of scissors, Bella clenched down on her kegels hard, terrified she would humiliate herself further by losing control of her bladder. It was almost a relief when she realised he only intended to cut away the bodice of her dress, exposing her Walmart blue bra, rather than hurting her.
Satisfied with his arrangement, James sat himself on the couch in front of his Bella, crossing one leg over the other and relaxing into the soft cushions.
"Well now, little lady, seems we have some talking to do." He sounded relaxed and happy – even gleeful.
"Why, James? What did I do to deserve this?"
"That's what we're gonna find out, Sugar. You confess all your sins now, and when we're married, I won't hold them against you. You've gotta be real honest though, Babe. I want to hear every single one in perfect detail, 'cause if you don't tell me right now, there'll be hell to pay after. You got me?"
Bella stared at James blankly. How the crap had she got herself into this mess? She decided that if she kept him talking long enough, someone would begin to worry about her. Surely her father would come and find her?
"Where's my dad?" Her voice was timid and quiet, she didn't want to antagonise him.
"You don't have to worry about him any more, Sugar. It's just you and me now. But since you brought him up, let's start there, shall we? What depraved things did you and your daddy get up to, huh? You can tell me all about it, I won't get mad. I promise."
Bella thought she might throw up. "No, James, he never would, never! Nothing ever happened, I promise..."
"See, that's not what he said, Bells, so I know you're lying. That's one. Don't do it again." His cold, hard words rained like hailstones on Bella's frantic ears.
"Where is he? Please James, I want my dad. Where's my dad?"
"Oh Baby, that's two. He's not coming, and as long as Jacob's out talking to those rich fuckers, the Cullens, he's not coming for you either. We got all the time in the world, Sugar, but if you keep making it difficult, you're going to learn a lesson or three." He leaned forward and whispered the next words menacingly: "Make it three, Isabella. Try me."
Right then, Bella knew she was not going to escape unscathed. James was mad, and was going to hurt her, one way or another.
She could play along, trying to minimise the threat he posed by submitting to his disgusting little game; or she could fight.
As helpless as she was, trussed up like a turkey and exposed on a kitchen chair, Bella knew that to be true to herself, she had to fight. No matter what the outcome, she would die resisting if she had to. There were worse things.
She closed her eyes, sucked in a deep breath, and began to scream.
James was shocked. He hadn't expected her to stand up to him, no one ever had before. It took a few seconds before he leapt to his feet, rushing to push his hand over her mouth. That may have been a mistake, because no one could hear her out here, and the first thing she did was bite down so hard on the flesh of his palm, she drew blood.
"Ah, you bitch!" He pulled his hand back as far as it would go with the intention of slapping it out of her, but some force grabbed hold of his wrist, and held it mid air.
Bella's eyes were still clenched closed, but when she drew breath to continue her scream, the scent of night blossom almost overwhelmed her.
When her eyes flew open, she was struck dumb by the sight she encountered.
James dangled like a rag doll from the hand of the most beautiful man she had ever seen.
When the man spoke, his voice reverberated like church music, and Bella couldn't focus on his meaning.
He tried again. "Ma'am? What would you like me to do with the mad man?"
The incongruency of his polite tone made Bella want to laugh. She thought perhaps she was on the verge of hysteria.
"Who are you?"
"I bed your pardon, Ma'am, I haven't had a chance to introduce myself. My name is Edward Cullen. Shall I kill him, maim him or cause sufficient brain damage to confuse him for life? I should tell you that your decision is not final. I may have to choose another outcome, depending on what you decide for yourself, but we can't dawdle."
Dawdle? How quaint. "I don't honestly care what you do to him, could you just get me out of here?"
Edward realised she must be uncomfortable, displayed as she was, but he had rather been enjoying the sight. Still, she had given him permission to do as he wished, so he snapped James' neck with an easy shake of his hand, and discarded the body on the couch.
"I guess we won't be settling in Forks after all. Pity – seemed like it had great potential." As he muttered, be busied himself in snapping Bella's restraints, rubbing her limbs with his cold hands as he did so. When she was free, he cocked his head to one side and smiled at her crookedly. "Better?"
She attempted to pull her tattered dress around herself as she nodded.
"Oh, please, allow me." Edward pulled his own shirt from his torso, leaving himself bare and delectable. He pulled the still fastened button-down over her head.
Bella inhaled the delicious scent it contained, and smoothed it over herself. "Thank you."
"You're welcome. Now you have another choice to make, I'm afraid."
"You can come away with me, or remain and join your friend here."
Bella's mouth dropped open with shock. She regarded James, crumpled and foul on his own pristine furniture, and very, very dead.
Then she looked up at the extraordinary man – no, that wasn't right, he was an angel, or a devil perhaps; no man was as beautiful as that, nor smelled so desirable. She regarded him with wide-open eyes, but felt no fear. Perhaps she was beyond fear by now.
"I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to push you for a decision. People are coming."
"Oh! Then I choose you."
No sooner were the words out of her mouth than Bella felt the air whoosh beneath her as she was whisked into a willing pair of cold, hard arms. They were deep into the forest before she realised they had left the house.
"Better the devil you don't know?" Her saviour smiled down at her.
"Much better." And she rested her weary head in the crook of his protective arm, gazing into a pair of warm, ruby-red eyes. "So much better."
***The devil you know***
Can I ask you a couple of questions?
First person narrative or third, what do you prefer?
Do you hate being left in the dark, or do you enjoy a bit of mystery to puzzle out on your own?
Happy Halloween! Stay safe and take care, you're important.