Author's Note: I use the word 'rip' in this chapter and it is diving terminology used to describe a good dive. The rip is when there is absolutely no splash when the diver hits the water, all you hear is a loud, clean sound.
Thank you to my betas MarcyJ and Midnight Walking.
Disclaimer: All the characters appearing in this work are copyright Stephenie Meyer and are not used with permission. No infringement of these copyrights is intended, and all original characters are the property of Stephenie Meyer. No financial gain is being made by this work.
I looked up at overcast sky, closed my eyes, allowed my arms to hang limply at my sides, and anticipated and longed for the relief I would feel as soon as I was beneath the scentless under world. It was a unique world down there with strange creatures and alien like landscapes.
My new vampire eyesight afforded me an otherwise clouded view of the beautiful, extraordinary creatures, the lush vegetation, and the flowing dips and curves of the sea floor. Of course I could go deeper, farther, and faster than any human or machine on the planet, and the sense of ease I felt was familiar – my feeling of awe and sense of belonging was similar to what I had felt as a child when I played make believe in my friend's tree house. We had imagined our very own kingdom where we were princesses, and I felt that exact same sense of amazement in that fantastic underwater realm – nothing could hurt me there and for once I was in control.
That watery playground relieved me of my greatest fear. Below the tumultuous raging currents of the terrestrial world, I would find temporary peace. My most deadly vampire sense simply didn't exist there. It was true that some mammals did have their olfactory sense underwater, fortunately for me, I didn't. Underwater I didn't have to fear the vicious and instinctual animal I could transform into at the scent of blood.
From my bird's eye view, I could see my lunch swimming unsuspectingly under the surface of the dark water. I rolled up on the balls of my feet and leapt gracefully, executing a flawless swan dive, something I had never experienced as a human. I luxuriated in every second of these rare carefree moments. The wind rippled my hair into a dark silken sail, and the biting wind streamed past my statuesque form. My fingertips sliced through the water, my body maintaining an Olympic perfect trajectory and creating a perfect "rip" into my dining arena. I instantly came upon the large gray animal that had precious few seconds to realize what was happening. My razor sharp teeth pierced into the soft rubbery flesh of the mammal's neck and my mouth formed a watertight seal against the slick skin of the animal. A pang of remembrance shot through me as I recalled my human life, and for a fleeting moment, I was disgusted at the very act of sustaining myself. I viciously murdered and drained animals in order to satisfy the hunger, the thirst that burned within me, and for a fraction of a second, my actions repulsed me. Then the warm – but bland – blood poured into my mouth, and it catapulted me from rational thought as the feeding frenzy took over. Of course, other predatorily animals made for tastier snacks, but the safety I felt here couldn't be duplicated elsewhere, and therefore it was worth the gallons of tasteless, flavorless blood. It was like soda that had lost its carbonation - all that remained was the sickly sweet liquid without the punch. Regardless, I made quick work of my otter giving new meaning to the term fast food. Otters were larger than many of the other life forms in the open sea near my home, and I found them filling, but because of their dwindling numbers, I only indulged myself occasionally. A sea otter would last me at least three weeks even with my heightened senses, but those same heightened senses constantly fooled me into thinking I was thirsty even when I wasn't.
I gracefully broke the surface of the water, smiling and content with a full circulatory system of warm blood. I turned on to my back and lackadaisically back stroked enjoying the weightlessness of my body in the water and the gentle pull and sway of the ocean as it rocked me to its own musical rhythm. I let myself go to the power of the ocean and rejoiced in my temporary freedom. Feeling safe in my watery cocoon, I drifted off into my dream world, a place where my desires and reality amalgamated. Of course, upon closing my eyes, the first image that accosted me was the image that I would always see first in my mind's eye; the ever-fading image of Edward's glorious angelic face. His heart stopping crooked smile and the tender golden eyes that I loved best were what looked back at me. In my escapist dreams the love we had once shared burned his eyes into molten gold and the beaming radiance of his smile was enough to warm the eternal cold of my body.
I held onto my human memories of Edward with ferocious determination. They were all I had left of him. As each day passed, the memories of my human life waned and faded a little more, like the photographs in my grandmother's wedding album. With every sunrise, more of the moments I cherished from my previous life disappeared. The image of Edward's vivid beauty seemed to pale in my mind. The vibrant copper of his silky hair became a dull burnished bronze with each passing day. The planes of his face no longer angular and exact – he was fading and that frightened me. I had lost him once and I couldn't endure another betrayal, especially not by my own mind this time. I had vowed that I would never forget, that I couldn't forget, and yet he was gradually slipping through my fingers – again.
These withering images created an anxious restlessness in me. The desire to hang on to him, to never forget, was what drove me with steely determination to find Edward and the rest of the Cullen's – the only family I had left, the only true family I could have now – that is, if they would have me. The moment Edward had discarded me for his "distractions" I knew the only way I could keep up with him - show him that he didn't need those "distractions" - was if I was like him. Now I was. I had the ability to chase him around the planet – to do the things he wanted to do without the need for him to rescue me at every turn. Yet, two months after my change, here I was hiding away like a frightened child.
"Why can't I just go?" I wondered aloud.
I opened one eyelid and looked up at the cliff. I righted myself and treaded water as I saw the familiar russet shape perched at the precipice watching me with keen warm eyes. The same brown eyes that had held so much anguish and pain all those months ago. It was Jacob, my lone friend and confidant. I laughed as I realized what the dark piece of fabric caught in his muzzle was. I raised my hand in a half wave and then Jacob backed away out of sight. When I saw him again, he was in his relatively furless smooth brown skin and the only article of clothing that covered his otherwise nude figure was a pair of black swim shorts. He ran toward the edge of the cliff and leapt with a loud boisterous whoop. I watched as his large frame tumbled and somersaulted through the air before landing in the cool dark water with a splash.
He resurfaced and swam towards me grinning from ear to ear. I watched the muscles of his arms ripple and bulge as they propelled him in my direction. He was quick of course, his animal disposition helped in his human skin, but he would never be as quick as I was in my vampire body. I disappeared under the water and swam 200 yards out in the blink of an eye just as Jacob reached out for me. My head broke the surface and I shook my dark hair from my eyes, now a good distance away from where I had been just a moment ago. Jacob looked startled, as if he needed a moment to remind himself that I was indeed a vampire, and then his smile slowly broke into a grin just before he headed toward me again. Playing hard-to-get held a completely new meaning and I grinned back at Jacob, "Try again wolf-boy!"
We played like this for a while, Jacob chasing after me as I slowed my pace and waited only until he was a few feet away before I darted off again. I easily floated on my back feeling as if I had been relaxing by a pool somewhere tropical all day long. Jacob sighed deeply and seemed as if he'd had enough cat and mouse.
"What's wrong Jakey? You giving up already?" I teased.
"Bella please! I could do this all day!" He replied quickly.
"Well then I'll race you to the cliffs – on three. One. Two. Three." I exploded on my count and shot off like a dart in the direction of the cliffs. With ten yards left to go I looked to my left to see Jake moving exceptionally fast with strong powerful strokes of his arms. It was a good thing the area was secluded and no one was present to witness the unnatural strength and speed of my half-wolf friend, or mine for that matter. I leisurely backstroked the remaining distance and let Jake touch the rocky surface first.
"Thanks for letting me beat you at something," He smiled and rolled his eyes at me.
"Anytime Jake, anytime!" I laughed.
We both pulled ourselves up onto the rocky ledge just above the crashing surf. I let my feet dangle off the edge and dipped my toes into the water drawing Jake's name into the foamy sea. I looked over at Jake who was starring out at the water, a serious expression carved into the golden brown skin of his face.
"Okay, so just spit it out. I'd rather just hear this straight," I knew what was coming. Jake only took on this serious expression when the pack had a message from me. And although he was my friend, had protected me, and always would, he was the one to bring the uncomfortable messages from his wolf brothers. They always demanded and never asked; I understood their logic, but it hurt to be treated with so little respect –to them I was only a liability that needed to be guarded and watched very carefully. In essence, I was nothing more than a prisoner, someone who had to answer to those above her and live by their rules. Regardless of the deep friendship I had with Jacob and the camaraderie that had grown between the others and me, save for Paul, the pack upheld their duty to protect humans from monsters such as myself. It was the reason for the near constant supervision. The fact that most of them had come to accept me had nothing to do with whether they trusted me, because they didn't. What they knew of vampires was completely different from what I had learned of the Cullen's and what I had learned upon becoming one. They couldn't comprehend that a part of my humanity remained and that I could care; I could feel compassion for a human and would stop myself from murdering one. The few times I had hunted in the woods, the pack accompanied me, and although it was the pack who had made the stipulation, I welcomed the protection from myself that they provided because I was just as afraid, if not more, of what would happen if I was around a human in these early months as a vampire. I was thankful for the purpose of their presence, but things had not gone as planned on both occasion, and I was left with bitter memories and a few scars from where Paul's teeth had sliced into my otherwise granite skin.
No matter how much Jake loved and cared for me, a deep animosity existed between our two species –the anger and loathing subsisted at a cellular level – something that couldn't be easily put aside. Our kinds truly didn't belong together and it was something that I knew Jake fought intellectually. He couldn't always control his instinctual response and it was the one reason that we kept a certain distance from each other, even though I knew he wanted more, he wanted to get closer, but a part of him couldn't reconcile the turmoil he felt inside himself. Of course, it was something that we never talked about, but in his eyes, I saw the war that raged within him. His compassion for what I was as a human though allowed him to take a softer approach with me, and it was easier to hear the packs message from him.
"It's not what you think Bella. Well it's that too, but there's something else." He looked at me with an intensity that made my stomach somersault.
"Well what is it? Another supervised hunting party and what else?" The sarcasm that I tried to keep at bay surfaced as I remembered how Paul had let his disgust at what I was get the best of him, or more accurately – me. I cleared my throat hoping to relieve the unsettling feeling inside me.
"We think the red head is back."
My stomach dropped at his words and my mouth suddenly felt dry. The very thought of the wild fiery hair and the feral eyes sent shivers down my spine. Vampire or not, the memory of her frightened me. After my change, the pack had tried to hunt her but in the end, succeeded only in scaring her away. The last time they had seen her had been almost six weeks ago, our only guess being that because my scent was no longer present in the town, she had hopefully concluded that I was dead; of course, I should have realized my luck had never been that good.
(AN: Some food for thought – where's Alice? Why hasn't she seen any of this? Does it have anything to do with Bella's gift? What is Bella's gift? I'll let you guys ponder those questions while I work on the next chapter and I promise all will be revealed soon!)