A/N: I say it every time, but thank you guys so much for all the sweet words. I love the love you have for this story! Just a quick note: You have to remember that Alice hasn't met Bella. So until Bella does something to put herself on Alice's radar, the pixie won't see visions of her. At the end of the last chapter, she simply wanted to hide exactly why she was there: to talk about the family missing him. He hasn't been very receptive to that stuff, so she knew if she didn't keep it from him until she was inside, he wouldn't let her in. :) Okay, so...another small time jump here, but I think you guys will be happy with this chapter, so I'll let you get to it. :)
Two weeks after the Homecoming dance, Bella was on Jake's couch, reading through her history report assignment. Charlie was with Billy at Harry's house, watching football, and Bella had come with him to help Jake with his English and to grill him for her report. They'd been able to pick their own subjects from a list the teacher had given them, and Bella had chosen the history of the Quileute Tribe, which had settled in Washington in the middle of the 1800s.
"Tell me about the history of the tribe," she requested.
Jake smiled and puffed up his chest. "It all started with Kahelaha, the First Spirit Warrior," he began.
For fifteen minutes, Bella jotted down notes about the tribe and its history, including how it came to be in the present.
"You mentioned the bonfire..."
Jake nodded. "The elders love to gather the young tribe members and tell stories—the legends of our tribe."
He laughed, shaking his head. "Yeah, like the Quileutes survived the Great Flood by tying their canoes to the tops of the tallest trees on the mountains to survive."
"Oh, like Noah and the ark?" Bella grinned.
"Yeah," he agreed. "Another says we're descended from wolves. Even now, It's against tribal laws to kill them. Supposedly, our ancestors have been able to transform into giant wolves—like werewolves—the size of bears or horses or something...but no matter how hard I try, I've never been able to do it." He squeezed his eyes closed and tensed his muscles for a moment, sighing when nothing happened. "See? It sucks!"
Bella laughed. "Anything else?"
Jake looked around furtively and his voice was nearly a whisper as he said, "Well, there are the stories about the Cold Ones..."
Amused, Bella played along, hunching over and leaning in to speak as quietly and furtively as Jacob had. "Cold Ones? What are they? Zombies?"
He chuckled and sat back. "According to the legends, my great-grandfather, Ephraim Black, knew some of them. He was the one who first made the treaty with them." He rolled his eyes. "Again, according to the legends, the Cold Ones and the werewolves are natural enemies and had been for a thousand years. But the Cold Ones that came to this land and met my great-grandfather were supposedly different, so my great-grandfather made a pact—a treaty—with their leader, Carlisle."
Bella jolted at the name. Something was pinging in her subconscious, but she filed it away to look at later. "What was the treaty?" she asked, scribbling notes as fast as she could write.
Jake explained about how the tribe would keep the Cold Ones' secrets if they promised to stay off Quileute land.
"If they weren't dangerous, then why worry about them coming onto the land?"
He shrugged. "According to my great-grandfather, they're safe until they aren't. Even the civilized Cold Ones could be tempted."
Jake snorted. "According to their leader, they didn't hunt humans. They preyed on animals instead—which is easy, I guess, since they're apparently super strong or something."
Again, Bella's radar was pinging, but she kept her voice even as she asked, "How can you tell if a Cold One is 'civilized' or not?"
"I dunno." He shrugged. "Legend says their eyes are different or something. Not the freaky red ones like the others, but not like yours or mine."
Images of beautiful, warm, golden eyes flashed through Bella's mind. She pushed the memory aside and asked, "And what are they? The Cold Ones, I mean."
"Blood drinkers," Jake replied with a grin. "Your people call them vampires." He shook his head and picked up his soda, taking a big drink before setting the can back on the table in front of them. "But of course, none of it's true. They're just stories that get told around the campfire and shared down from generation to generation."
Bella nodded, chewing on her bottom lip as she made notes at the bottom of her notepad.
Cold Ones = cold skin?
After a moment, she added one last note:
For several days after her visit with Jacob, Bella thought about his story. She bought colored pencils at the store on her way home from school and, from memory, drew her doctor at the hospital in New York. She wasn't sure she'd gotten it all exact, but his eyes... His eyes were definitely different than hers or anyone else she'd ever met—except Edward.
She couldn't get over the memory of his lifting the beam and concrete from her body, as if they'd weighed no more than a loaf of bread. Jake had told her the Cold Ones were strong enough to take down a bear or a giant wolf.
She didn't remember how cold Edward's touch had been—she'd been so cold already, given that she'd been in shock—but Dr. Cullen's had been shockingly cold the first few times he'd touched her when he'd checked on her injuries, until she'd gotten used to it.
Surely the tribe's legends couldn't be real, could they? Men who shifted into wolves the size of horses? Vampires? But somehow, Bella knew they had to be. It would explain so much about those days in the rubble and after, in the hospital.
If Dr. Cullen was the Carlisle in Jake's legends, then he had to be the same Carlisle that Edward had called his father. Their last names were different, but then, that wasn't totally unusual in today's world, and especially not if they were...vampires. It was that, or Edward had lied about his last name. Either way, Bella was determined to find them.
That night, Bella decided it was time to do some research. Her laptop was open as she dropped onto the mattress, settling in under the sheet and propping her laptop up on her knees as she leaned back against the headboard. Opening the browser, she typed in vampires. The first few pages of search results were a bust. The Lost Boys, Interview with a Vampire, Anne Rice, the new Charlaine Harris Southern Vampire Mysteries series, Dracula... Not what she was searching for. She pulled her lower lip in between her teeth as she thought for a minute about Jacob's stories. As soon as the idea came to her, she reached up and typed in "cold ones," in italics. The title of the first result gave her hope.
Quileute Tribe of the Northwest
She quickly clicked on the link and opened the web site. Scanning through, she saw many of the stories Jake had told her: Kahelaha, the First Spirit Warrior; Taha Aki and his three wives; canoes tied to trees. Nothing about being descended from wolves or about the Cold Ones.
Clicking back to the search results, she continued looking, gaining hope when she saw lots of references to words like "immortal," "blood drinker," "demon," "strong," and "beautiful." An image of Edward's face, then Dr. Cullen's, flashed through Bella's mind, and she smiled. That last one certainly fit them both. Neither of them had looked or acted like a demon, though she supposed if it were like Jake's stories, not all vampires were civilized, so maybe some of the uncivilized ones were more like demons than not.
Bella felt her heart skip a beat when she found a promising link buried in the middle of the tenth page of search results. It was another page for Quileute legends, but this one was nowhere near an official-looking page like the last one, and one of the phrases underneath the link was "descended from wolves." She quickly clicked on the link.
There it all was, in black and white. Every one of Jake's stories, including being descended from wolves and the Third Wife sacrificing herself to save her sons as they killed the Cold Woman. There was still no mention of the treaty Jake had told her about, and no mention of the name Carlisle, but there was a description of the Cold Ones: cold, pale skin of marble; red eyes; unnatural beauty; and a supernatural speed and strength.
Substitute gold eyes for red, and it was an almost perfect description for Edward.
Grabbing her notebook of sketches from the locked drawer of her bedside table, Bella quickly wrote down everything she'd learned. Then she turned back to the computer and continued to look around the web site. There wasn't a lot more information that she didn't already know, but there was a link to a group on Facebook. When she clicked on it, it took her to an open group called "Believers in the Supernatural." The description read: If you are a true believer in the supernatural—angels, demons, vampires, ghosts, witches, psychics, and more—feel free to join. We welcome everyone with an open mind to things of the unknown.
Bella quickly clicked the button to join the group. She wasn't sure she would learn anything new, but maybe someone else would have stories about vampires that would help lead her to Edward.
"Bells?" her dad called, knocking once on the door just as Bella was ready to start reading through the messages on the group's page.
"Yeah, Dad, come in." Bella closed the laptop and smiled when her dad opened the door and poked his head in. "What's up?"
"I'm heading to bed," he said, giving the clock a pointed glance. "Don't you have that biology test tomorrow?"
Startled, Bella glanced at her bedside clock, shocked to realize she'd spent two hours on the computer. "Yeah, I'm going to bed now. Thanks. I got caught up in what I was reading and didn't notice the time."
"G'night, Bella," her dad said, waiting until she'd echoed him before he reached up to flip the switch for the overhead light.
When he'd closed the door, Bella set the computer down on the floor, leaning it up against the bedside table, and then turned on her alarm before turning off the small lamp next to her bed. Her mind was a whirlwind of information as she closed her eyes and burrowed under the covers.
The day after Bella's discovery of the Quileute legends web site and the Facebook group, she was sitting at lunch with Angela and Jessica, and she couldn't help but bring up the topic of the supernatural.
"Do either of you believe in ghosts and angels and...and vampires and stuff?"
"My grandma's house is haunted," Jess gushed, reaching up to open her milk. "Like...seriously creepy—noises in the attic and walls, and I swear I've seen a shadow at the end of the hall when I visit."
Bella looked at Angela, who grinned and shook her head before turning back to face Bella.
"I'm...not sure," Angela said with a shrug. "Ghosts and angels, maybe. Vampires?" She made a face. "I dunno, Bella. That's kind of...Hollywood, isn't it?"
"Yeah," Jessica interjected. "The Lost Boys..." She sighed dreamily. "Michael..."
Bella forced a laugh into her voice. "Yeah, you're right."
Angela raised an eyebrow. "Why?"
Trying to sound casual and uninterested, Bella said, "Just something my friend Jake was telling me about the other day." Deciding it best to change the subject, she said, "You guys wanna come over and study for the math test after school?"
The Facebook page saved on her laptop would have to wait.
Edward, we have to talk.
Alice's voice echoed in his head, but Edward ignored her, as he had the last three times she'd showed up at his cabin.
"Is someone dead?" he asked without glancing up from the piano keys as he played.
"Then I don't wanna hear it."
He waited, and moments later, Alice growled and left.
Two days later, Edward finished burying the bear he'd drained and began the long run back to his cabin. He must've been distracted, because until she stepped into his path, he hadn't heard Alice coming—literally or in his head.
He sighed. "Alice," he groaned, spinning and scrubbing his hand over his face.
He loved his sister, he really did, but he needed to be alone. His voice alone was all he could stand to hear in his head. In a way, the silence made him feel closer to Bella.
"I'm sorry," she finally said, stepping in front of him so he was forced to look into her eyes. "I tried to tell you before, but you wouldn't listen."
Edward shook his head. "And I don't want to listen now. I love you...I love the others, but I need time."
He flinched at the sound of her name. "Don't," he growled. "I don't want to hear again that I'm doing the wrong thing, that I deserve to have her in my life. I can't—"
"Bella left New York, Edward."
Edward froze. After a moment, he said, "Where?"
Alice shook her head. "I don't know. I didn't see that. I only saw that she'd left New York and was looking up information on vampires, which leads her to trying to find Carlisle."
Fisting his hands in his hair, Edward sighed. "Show me..."
At the sight of Bella—looking infinitely more mature and even more beautiful than he remembered—Edward's dead heart cracked wide open, and the pain he'd been holding in came spilling out as he fell to his knees.
He had no idea how long he was down on the floor. He vaguely remembered Alice leaving the cabin. His heart felt battered and his mind was numb when he finally became aware enough to hear a knock on the door and then Esme's voice as she opened the door without waiting for him to answer.
"Oh, Edward," she sighed, rushing to him. Before he could protest, she pulled him up and into a hug, nearly crushing in its intensity. "Come, son. Sit down. It's time we talked."
He raked a hand through his hair, but followed her dutifully back to the couch, where he took a seat next to her. No matter how bad he was feeling, he couldn't take it out on Esme, who'd been a source of motherly concern and love for over eighty years. He could tell from the sadness in her eyes just how much his absence from the family had hurt, and he hated it, but he wasn't sure she'd be able to get the answers she so obviously wanted.
"Esme, I don't want to talk—"
"Good," she interrupted. "I don't want you to. I want you to listen." When Edward shifted, she said softly, "Please, son. For me."
Edward swallowed the protest he'd been about to give and nodded, trying not to flinch at the relief that slumped Esme's shoulders.
"I love you, Edward. You're my son, just as much as if I'd given birth to you myself."
She got a faraway look in her eyes for a moment, but in her mind, she was thinking of what she and Carlisle were going to do on his next day off, so he couldn't tell what she was hiding from him.
"I was young when I first met Carlisle." He opened his mouth to speak, but she shook her head. "I know you know the story, but give me some leeway, please." When he didn't say anything, she continued. "I was only sixteen when I came in to the hospital with a broken leg. I was...crushing hard, as teenagers might call it nowadays, on my doctor by the time I was discharged. He was handsome, an older man—much too old for me. He was so very kind, so very gentle as he tended to my leg.
"He left a month after I was discharged from the hospital—I learned later that he'd wanted me to have a normal life, and I was still a child in his eyes, so he walked away, even though he knew I was his mate. I didn't see him again until years later, of course. By the time he found me after I jumped off the cliff, I was so near death, he wasn't sure I'd make it, but his venom healed my body as his love healed my soul."
"Esme..." Edward started, shaking his head. "I know all this. What—"
"Patience, Edward," she huffed. "I'm talking about fate. Fate brought me back to Carlisle—or rather, fate brought me to Ashland, and fate brought Carlisle to the bottom of that cliff to find me.
"Look at what your siblings all had to go through to find their way to each other. Poor little Alice... Her parents put her in a mental hospital, and she was changed and left all alone to find her way as a newborn by herself. Jasper fought so hard, it left him physically and emotionally scarred. Emmett was mauled so bad by a bear that he was barely alive when Rose found him. And Rose... Rose had not only her heart and spirit broken, but her body, as well, by the man she loved."
A deep sadness came into Esme's eyes then, and Edward wanted to look away at the pain that flashed through her mind.
"My son...he was an innocent little boy, and he deserved a long, happy life, but he died. I was so distraught, I threw myself from the cliff." She shook her head slowly, and when she looked at him again, her eyes were clear, her thoughts strong. "But in each and every instance—with Alice and Jasper, Emmett and Rose, and Carlisle and myself—fate intervened and brought us to the person that would love us with their whole heart, cherish them, and make them whole again."
She reached over and took his hand. "As much as you want to stay away from Bella, to give her a full, long, human life, you can't control fate."
"I can," Edward said firmly. "I'll stay out of Bella's life."
"I understand, son. I truly do. But you need to realize that fate may not give you that choice. Just look at what happened two years ago. Fate brought you to that moment in time, at that exact place, to find a young woman who needed you. Even then, fate was intervening."
Edward frowned. "Maybe," he agreed, "but I don't have to make it easier on fate by voluntarily putting Bella's life in danger by being part of her world."
Come out, come out, wherever you are, Edward.
Edward heard Emmett's voice in his head moments before he heard him and Jasper walk up to the cabin.
Come join us for a hunt, Ed, Jasper thought quietly.
"Regardless of fate, Edward, you can't hide from the world." She smiled sadly. "We love you, and we miss you."
Edward chuckled along with her as Emmett and Jasper echoed her from outside.
"Yeah, dude, we miss you!" Emmett called.
"What they said," Jasper said with a laugh.
Esme got serious again when she turned back to him. "Can you at least try to spend a little more time with everyone? Go for a hunt with the boys. Carlisle's planning on meeting them out there when he gets home from the hospital."
Please, Edward. It would mean so much to all of us, and I truly believe it will do you a world of good.
At the hopeful look and the silent pleading in her thoughts, Edward nodded. The smile and sheen of unshed tears made Edward realize he needed—and wanted, if he were honest—to spend more time with his family. He needed his own space still—those reasons hadn't changed—but he'd missed them all.
When Esme stood, Edward stood as well, and he pulled her in for a tight hug, whispering, "Thanks, Mom."
Esme smiled, cupping his face for a moment, and then gestured to the door with her head. "Go on. I'm going to go back to the girls while you boys hunt."
Edward smiled back at her and then turned for the door.
A/N: Eek. We're getting there... Bella has a plan of action, sort of, and Edward is slowly returning to the land of the...well, not living, but close enough. ;)
And yes, I know Facebook wasn't around back then. Call it...creative license. ;D
Show me some love and let me know what you thought of Jake & the legends, Bella's plan for Facebook, and Esme's talk with Edward.
I'll see you next Wednesday! Mwah! – Jen