The small figure in the clearing was me.
My—her—dress was covered in dirt and debris. Pieces of glass were tangled in her hair. One of her white shoes was missing. Back in her present, cars were colliding. Things were changing forever.
A sudden flash of pain went through my head. Different images were combining in my mind. The same scene was playing from both sides—the clouded, human version, and the sharpened vampire version. My first trip through time had been to this moment.
The moment in time where my future was the most uncertain. Where my very existence was threatened in two places.
For a moment, no one moved. No one breathed. Even Victoria, who had been shrieking only seconds ago, was completely silent. The only sound to be heard was the snow falling to the ground.
Then the entire clearing split into chaos.
Edward was the first to recognize the gravity of the situation. His mind moved faster than any I had ever encountered. He knew, just as I did, that the danger had increased tenfold. He flew past all three groups, sprinting with all his might. He snatched up the seven year old me an fled into the forest behind her.
"I don't remember much, honestly. I think I blocked it out . . . it was very traumatic. I remember that it was cold. There was snow on the ground. Black shapes were coming toward me. Now I think the shapes were shadows of the trees."
I heard my small self gasp. The high note of her voice jolted me to my senses. I had half a second to realize that Victoria was reaching for me in my peripheral vision. She had seen her chance and seized it. With everyone distracted, she had a window of opportunity to kill me.
I thought I should have been afraid, but I wasn't. Instead a wave of calm washed over me. I knew her number was up. I had the power to destroy her.
I turned smoothly and caught her around the neck. White light burst from my hands when our skin touched. I watched her eyes widen in shock. Her screams only urged me on.
It only took seconds.
I burned her to a crisp like her precious James. Something dark unfurled within me as I charred her skin and bones. She had just become another casualty in my fight for our future.
I was bloodthirsty as her ashes hit the snow.
I didn't wait for another opponent. I turned and raced after Edward. Determination propelled me forward. The calm I felt with Victoria quickly slipped away.
It was my old nightmare all over again. The dark shapes reached for me across the snow. I knew now it was the Volturi who reached for me, not the trees. This time, however, I was ready for them. I had trained for this. But still, I was afraid.
I threw a burst of white light over my shoulder, cursing when a member of the guard dodged it. Despite the snowfall, two trees beside them burst into flames.
Everyone had finally reached the same conclusion.
If the Volturi managed to get a hold of my past self, they could seize control of me. I—she—was only a human child. Fragile. One twist of her neck could kill her and have disastrous consequences for the future.
If she died, I would die. Not only would I be erased from existence, some of the Cullens would, too. Without my intervention at Mount Hood in 1956, James might have killed some or all of them.
A wormhole, I realized in desperation. A tear through time. Run, Edward . . .
It was a deadly race against time. Edward had a head start on everyone, but he had to be careful. If he ran too fast, he risked hurting me. It was my job to prevent his—and her—capture. Should the younger Bella enter Volturi hands and die, a paradox would be created. Everything that had happened to me would be thrown into question.
A guardsman caught up to me and grabbed my arm. I turned and burned his face, watching him sink to the ground. Over his howling, I saw Jasper take down another one. Alice was right behind him, wrestling a small guard into the snow.
My first trip back in time was as short one.
I caught up to Edward just as my past self vanished, arching through the air like a small bird. With a flash of brilliant white light, she was gone. In moments she'd be back in that intersection. Back to where it all began.
I felt my shoulders relax slightly. Edward was smiling broadly. It dimmed as two guards found us, but the defiant expression never left his face.
His tone was akin to water cooler conversation. As if he was asking about the weather. I wasn't sure if he was crazy or confident.
"That was something, Edward," the taller one offered, reaching out to clasp his shoulder. "I thought I'd seen everything."
Then he wrenched Edward back toward the clearing. My husband didn't resist, but I recognized the angry set of his shoulders. The other guard, Demetri, was more genteel. He held out an arm as if we were gentleman and lady en route to the opera. I took his arm, but turned my face away in revulsion. He chuckled at my disgust.
Guardsmen were interwoven with the other Cullens and Denalis. It look three men to keep Emmett still. All watched our re-entry to the clearing with stony expressions. The next few minutes would decide everything.
The old trio and Jane were right where we left them. In all the madness, none of them had moved. Marcus no longer looked bored; on the contrary, his eyes were wide with astonishment. Caius and Jane looked furious.
Aro, however, was ecstatic.
"Marvelous!" he sang, both hands clasped together. "That was fascinating!"
He didn't seem to care that Victoria was dead. Aro stepped over her smoking ashes and walked to meet me and Demetri. At the approach of his master, Demetri twisted one arm behind my back. Mentally, I decided he was next on my list.
"My dear, that was mesmerizing."
"I'm so glad you enjoyed it," I said through gritted teeth. "I'd be happy to demonstrate it on you."
The guard hissed in unison. They obviously didn't like threats directed toward Aro. But the venom in my voice didn't bother him. His eyes were lit up with a greedy expression. He tipped my chin and studied me like a work of art.
"Are you sure you do not wish to join our ranks, Bella?" he asked in a pleading tone. "This . . . half-life that your coven lives . . . it is not the life of a vampire. Your rage, your power . . . they could be so much stronger with human blood. The vampire world would kneel to you if you let them."
I saw Jane's quiver of anger at his words. She would never bow to me. None of them would. I knew I could never live like the guard did—slavishly sworn to this maniac. Ruthlessly killing humans because they had the ability to do so. Murdering innocent girls and old men in a ruthless pursuit of power. Becoming the monsters vampires were always thought to be.
"Let me make myself clear," I growled, then burned Demetri's hand. His whimpers were loud, but I ignored him, eyes locked on Aro.
"I think I speak for everyone when I say we're not interested," I continued, snarling, both hands surging now with white light. "I'd hate for more people to get hurt . . . and you've seen what I can do."
His eyes widened as Demetri's skin began to disintegrate. Aro did not miss the implication this time. I studied him, wondering if he would burn faster than the others. His skin looked thin and papery. Judging from his uneasy expression, he was thinking the very same thing.
"If that is truly how you feel," Aro said in a disappointed voice. I couldn't tell if he was disappointed with our decision not to join or my insensitivity to polite conversation.
"We will go now. But know the offer is an eternal one."
Demetri stepped away from me immediately, cradling what remained of his right hand. At once the guard began its retreat. A few of them nursed burned hands and fingers. I had made more enemies today, but the most dangerous one was gone. Victoria was the wild card, but she was dead. The Volturi were a more covert threat. I was sure they wouldn't bother us for awhile.
When the whispers of their cloaks faded in the distance, I took a deep breath.
Then there was cheering.
Edward ran to me, wrapping his arms tightly around me. He spun the two of us through the snow, laughing. I coiled myself around him and peppered his face with kisses. The rest of the family converged on us and I found myself the center of a massive group hug.
"You fucking nailed them!" Emmett was yelling. "That was awesome!"
"All in a day's work," I grinned when everyone broke apart. "I wanted to toast Aro, though."
"I wanted you to," Edward agreed, hugging me close. "Jane would have gone mad with rage."
"They all would have," Alice piped up. She sat on Jasper's back, her arms tight around his neck.
"For all my predictions about your gift, that was truly remarkable," Eleazar shook his head. "They'll never bother us again."
"Well . . . " he paused. "I know them better than that. I shouldn't say never. Maybe in a hundred years. Aro's like a spoiled child when it comes to gifted vampires."
"Glad I'm not," Rosalie announced, slinging an arm through Emmett's. "It seems like so much work."
"You're gifted," her husband said at once, throwing her over his shoulder. "In so many ways."
Then he raced off with her through the trees, their laughter blending together. It was such a happy sound. Tanya stared after them and shook her head.
"Whadda say, Kate? Fancy a run into the village?"
"God, yes," her sister muttered, tossing her hair over her shoulder. "Now that this business is over, I'd like to find myself a mate."
Edward poked me in the ribs. "Come on, traveler. Race you home."
We dashed away toward our house, waving to the others. It only hit me then that we had won, and all the stress over the past few days—years, really, where Victoria was concerned—was over. I didn't even wait until we were inside the door to kiss him. If he had to take a breath anymore, I would have stolen every one of them.
Edward sped toward our room, depositing me on the end of the bed. He dropped to his knees and tore the jeans from my legs.
"He said the vampire world would kneel if you let them. Allow me to be the first."
I lay back, quaking with anticipation. I was putty in his hands and he knew that. He put his mouth on me with a hearty lick and I groaned. The pressure of today was leaving just as pleasure was charging forth, magnifying every moment. I didn't take long to get there, and I watched his satisfaction through hazy eyes.
He nipped at my neck as I rolled us to the ground, rolling until I was on top. He moaned at the sight of me sliding down his length, eyes blown wide with lust. His fingers dug into my back.
I forced his hands to the floor and kept them there, pinning him down. "Wait your turn."
He groaned deep in his throat, a helpless sound. I rocked my hips faster. Our climax came so hard I saw stars like the northern lights. For a moment, all we could do is shiver, coiled around each other like a tangled spiderweb. When his breathing slowed, I laughed.
"What is it?"
"I just . . . can't believe it. My first trip was always a mystery to me. But it was to here all along. To you."
He skimmed a hand along my spine. "Nature loves diversity."
"You," Edward told me, kissing my shoulder. "If everyone was the same, we never would have met. Genetics, fate, chance . . . whatever brought us together, I'm glad it did. We have an eternity for love."
"We do," I agreed.
And we did.
Time was a funny thing. It was circular. Bringing me to him and taking me away. Back and forth. A cycle. In a way it all began and ended with him.
We may never know how or why I landed in the clearing, but it was obvious there was a reason for it.
There was no longer a need to number our days. They stretched out before us, endless, infinite, full of love and joy.
And so she too rejoiced, her gaze upon her husband,
her white arms round him pressed as though forever.
- The Odyssey
A/N: And there you have it. I'm happy that so many of you stayed with me and Number Our Days. Your reviews kept me going and made me a better writer. I'm grateful for your readership and support.
I'm currently planning another story. It's still in the early stages, but I'm hoping to have it out by summer. If you liked Number Our Days, I'd love for you to check it out.
I have lots of work to do for the end of my semester, but my inbox is always open. Thank you so much, readers. Keep in touch.