A/N: Oh boy, here we are again. Four months after my last update. I'm sure you're all ready to kill me, if you're still reading this story. I can't say that I have an adequate excuse for my failure to post updates side from another monstrous writer's block. I don't know why this is becoming harder and harder for me to write, but hopefully with the approach of 'Breaking Dawn', updates will be on their way on a much more regular basis - meaning you won't have to wait a ridiculous amount of time for a new one to be posted. I hope you enjoy the chapter, however prolonged its coming was!
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It didn't take long for me to react to Emmett's words. As soon as they left his lips, I launched myself at Jasper, enveloping him in a tight embrace before pushing away and hugging Emmett in the same fashion. Unlike Jasper, who hadn't had a chance to react to my hug, Emmett nearly squeezed me to death until he released me. My hand reached the silver doorknob before his did. I wrenched it open, nearly ripping the wooden door off its hinges.
I didn't waste a moment running full tilt into the parking lot, despite what had just occurred with the human. My hunger was completely forgotten.
Well, not totally forgotten: my desire to be in Edward's arms rekindled with a blinding heat as soon as I stepped outdoors. I smelt his delicious, enticing scent before I saw his seraphic features. If I were ignorant to Edward's true age, I would have sworn that his face was Michelangelo's inspiration for the Sistine Chapel.
The Volvo was parked on the opposite side of the parking lot, right next to the brilliant red Jeep. It took only moments for him to smoothly glide out of the car and set his feet on the pavement. A jolt of electricity not unlike the one we experienced in Mr. Banner's classroom ignited in my body at the sight of him. Desire and love flooded through my being, a heady mixture at best. When our eyes met across the parking lot, my heart all but melted in my chest and my knees became gooey.
Somehow, I managed to run toward him; we met in the middle of the lot. His arms were around me and lifting me up off the ground. His hand slipped behind my head, resting on the curve of my neck and our lips met. The kiss was gentle at first, but like all of our kisses, ignited as soon as our bodies melded against one another. His lips tasted incredibly sweet against mine as I contoured the line of my body to match his. My hands found their way into his auburn hair and my fingers tangled in his locks.
Finally, but with a note of reluctance, Edward pried his lips away from mine; he set me back on the ground, though I was hesitant to leave his comforting hold. His forehead came to rest against mine, his breath cold against my wet mouth.
Our chests brushed against one another's as we breathed in unison.
Reaching up, I tucked a loose strand of bronze hair behind his ear, fondly tracing the shell of his ear once I had completed my task. "Hi," I managed to mutter softly.
His hand slid around from the back of my neck until it was resting against my collarbone; his fingers burned a trail on my skin as he slowly followed the curve of my neck until he was cupping my cheek in his palm. He raised his other hand and settled it against the opposite side of my face so that he was holding my head in his hands. The hold was gentle, loving. His fingers stroked the planes of my face as he continued to stare at me, his eyes a bottomless, but beautiful pool of the darkest amber.
A slow, smouldering grin spread across his lips. "Hello," he breathed, closing the gap between our mouths and kissing me once more. It was a short kiss, almost a peck, like the kisses we used to share before I was Changed.
I dragged a hand through his floppy locks, making sure to rake my nails against his scalp gently, just as he liked me to. His eyes fluttered shut briefly and he made a noise of contentment in the back of his throat.
"I missed you," I said as my fingers found the stray tendrils of hair at the back of his neck. I played with them idly as I waited for his response.
"Likewise," he replied smoothly, removing his left hand from my face to grab my limb that hung limp at my side. He raised my left hand to his lips and placed a kiss on the back, then kissed each of my individual fingers before turning my hand over and pressing the lightest kiss into my palm. I shivered and another smile lit up his face. "It's hard, not seeing your face everyday."
It was my turn to smile. "You know what they say, don't you?"
He raised an eyebrow. "Enlighten me."
I was almost entirely certain that he already knew what I was going to say, given the fact it was a commonly used phrased. Almost too commonly used. "Absence makes the heart grow fonder," I finished, pushing up on my tiptoes to kiss the tip of his nose.
Edward laughed softly, a magical sound to my ears that made a pleasant chill roll down my spine and nestle somewhere very private. "I couldn't agree more."
He pulled my close to his frame again, nearly every inch of our bodies in contact. His stomach was oddly warm against mine; though I was sure it was just my imagination. I wanted to take his coat off his form and hitch up that ridiculous sweater he was wearing under it; I wanted to run my hands over his bare skin rake my nails of his flesh and watch him shiver in the same way he made me quiver.
Frustrated that I couldn't have my way with him right there, I settled of pressing my lips against his once more. The kiss quickly turned urgent and I found myself being backed up. It wasn't until the cool metal of the door handle brushed against my lower back that I realised we were so close to the Volvo. This meant that we were far enough away from the prying eyes of his family to do what we so wished.
I placed a hand against his chest for leverage and it was slowly making its way toward the buckle of his belt when he suddenly jerked away from me, tearing his lips from mine and making me feel as cold as the weather outside.
When he grabbed my wrist, I looked up at him, miffed.
"We can't do that now!" he protested, albeit weakly.
I frowned, a line forming between my brows. "And why not?"
"You're not serious, are you?" When he saw that I wasn't wavering in my look, his eyes grew wide for a second before an easy grin replaced the incredulity. "Right here in front of our family?"
I smirked in return. So, he was going to play along, was he? It was a rare for Edward to play along so willing in my game; he usually tried to ignore it for as long as possible for caving in and going with the flow.
"Yep," I replied. "Right here. Against the car."
"And what would we do about Jasper, eh?" His eyebrow twitched slightly as it raised itself a little further on the smooth plane of his forehead. "Or Alice?"
Chuckling softly, I grabbed him by the lapel of his coat and pulled him toward me so that our fronts were touching. Ah, much better. "I'm sure we could find a way around them."
"With their gifts? I don't think so, love."
"I thought you were supposed to be the evil genius here."
"I suppose I'll just have to be your co-conspirator," he said.
"Is that so?"
Our mouths brushed as he spoke his next words. "Yeah. Moreover, once we are caught, I'll just tell them you brainwashed me into doing it. It's not like they wouldn't believe me. What with this convincing face."
A loud laugh rumbled deep in my chest and was emitted through my throat before I could stop it; it effectively drew the attention of our family, much to my own dismay. Our game was spoiled, but it had been fun while it lasted. With a resolute sigh, I ducked under Edward's arm, my hand finding his and holing it tightly. His long fingers slide through mine as we reluctantly made our way back toward the hotel room.
As soon as I was within distance of my family, Alice launched herself at me, much like I had at both of my brothers. I released my grip on Edward's hand so I could return her eager embrace; she was incredibly small and frail in my arms, but I knew that she was much stronger than I could ever hope of being, both mentally and physically.
"I'm so glad you're all right," she said as she withdrew, her arms slowly sliding away from me.
At this remark, I furrowed my eyebrows. Why did she sound so relieved? Shouldn't she have known that I - that we - were perfectly all right here in Kamloops? An icy feeling rushed down my back and I tried my hardest to remain composed, to swallow my questions until it was time for the discussion in which we would tell each group what'd happened in their absence. I wasn't thrilled about that.
Esme, who held me close to her, swept me into a warm, loving hug. She stroked my hair in a comforting manner, muttering that she was so very glad to see me and don't ever stay away from Edward for that long, for he was absolutely miserable to be around. I found myself smiling at her, even though it was his decision to leave, not mine.
Carlisle didn't embrace me, but he smiled in such a warm way, I felt my toes curl in my shoes. It was very much appreciated and, I found, that I needed it. There was something about the way his golden eyes stared at me that made me believe he already knew what had transpired earlier in the day, about my encounter with the human. The thought made me both nervous and anxious to get everything out on the table. So much so, I began to fidget with my hands until Edward took one in his grasp, squeezing tightly. Though the feelings didn't leave, they certainly lessened.
"Why don't we go inside," suggested Carlisle after several more moments. "We probably look a little conspicuous standing out here in the lot."
There was a murmur of general agreement and Edward led me into the room. The room appeared to be even smaller than before with everyone crowded inside. I scanned the faces of my family, but immediately noticed that absence of Rosalie and Emmett. It didn't take a rocket scientist to venture where they'd gotten off to. Secretly, I wished that Edward and I would've stolen away when we had the chance.
I sat down on the edge of the bed and Edward quickly followed, sitting so close to me, our thighs continued to brush against each other's. I tried my hardest not to focus on even the briefest touch, but even then, it was extremely difficult. My eyes followed the quick movements of the rest of my family as they all made themselves as comfortable as possible in the cramped quarters.
Once everyone was settled, there was a prolonged silence. It didn't take me long to figure out that Edward was holding a silent conversation with Jasper and, judging by the emotions that sparked to life on his painfully perfect features, he had found out about the would-be attack. Great. I wanted to tell him about it myself instead of having to relay the information second hand. However, things just didn't work that way in the Cullen household. I resisted the urge to repeat Rosalie's favourite line: "Isn't there any privacy in this house?"
Just as Edward's finger began to idly circle the golden band that surrounded my ring finger, Carlisle cleared his throat, though it obviously wasn't necessary. Edward broke his eyes away from Jasper's face. An expression of relief floated over Jasper's pale face, but was quickly replaced by the stoic mask that was usually in place. However, I wasn't the only one who noticed that the tension, however small it was, seemed to dissipate in the room as soon as Jasper found relief from Edward's intense scrutiny.
Though Carlisle was addressing the room at large, his eyes trained themselves on me and I found that I was a little uncomfortable under his intense gaze. "You have probably been informed of the meeting I held with Tanya," he began, his voice calm and soothing as always. "And while I would like to say that it went in our favour-,"
Something heavy settled in the pit of my stomach as I finished for them, "It didn't."
Carlisle opened his mouth to speak, but closed it suddenly and settled on shaking his head.
From his position by the window, Jasper spoke up. "I don't understand, Carlisle. I would've thought that Tanya and the rest of the Denali clan would've jumped at the chance to fight the werewolves." His brow puckered as he continued, "I mean, wasn't Kate rather found of that one vampire that the pack killed?"
My ears perked up suddenly. "Laurent," I supplied.
Jasper nodded in thanks. "Yes, Laurent. I thought she would've been more upset over his death at their hands. Upset enough to join us in our fight against them."
I held back the cringe that threatened to escape the holds of my body. Though I was not happy with the behaviour the Lapush pack was expressing, I knew that they had their reasons. The treaty had been broken and it was their right to attack the Cullens. I just thought that Jake would've attempted to put a stop to it. I thought that's what friends did for one another.
I didn't want to fight Jake and the rest of the Lapush pack. I didn't want any of my family members to fight them, either. There was a chance that people I loved on both sides of the line had a chance of getting hurt. Or perhaps even more. I didn't want to dwell on that particular thought, the edges of my heart having begun to ache once again.
I hated this. I absolutely positively hated it.
Carlisle sighed softly. "It would seem that it would give them the inspiration to help us," he said, his voice strained with emotion. It was obvious that Carlisle was disappointed that the Denali clan didn't offer us their assistance; I would have thought they would've, too, from the singular time I had met them. "But Tanya clearly stated that she didn't want anything to do with this mess." Esme's delicate hands rested on his shoulders and she began to massage the muscles under her strong hands. He seemed to relax a bit under the pressure her hands provided.
Another pregnant silence filled the room as we each contemplated over what their reject meant for us. The odds had obviously been stacked against us since square one. The werewolves had Victoria on her side along with her small coven of newborns that she had created in order to get revenge. It wasn't looking good from the start, but now that we didn't have the Denali clan, whom else could we turn to?
Would we be able to seek help elsewhere? Would we need help at all? Or would we stand against the werewolves, Victoria and her coven of newborns when the time came?
There were so many questions swirling around in my head that I could hardly think straight. Placing a hand on the side of my temple, I massaged it gently, hoping to ease the stress that was beginning to build in my mind. A soft wave of relief floated in my direction and bathed over my skin; I glanced at Jasper and he winked half-heartedly at me. It was apparent that our thoughts were very similar.
Suddenly, the oddly silent Alice spoke. She disentangled her lean limbs from Jasper's arms so that she could move about the room, pacing as she talked.
"It doesn't make sense," she murmured, more to herself than anyone else. "They were supposed to agree." She turned her ocher eyes to Carlisle and added, almost beseechingly, "I saw it, Carlisle. I saw Tanya saying yes."
"Oh, Alice," Esme said. "You of all people know that the future isn't set into stone. How many times have you predicted something horrific, yet we've gained something wonderful." She threw a fond look in my direction and smiled a very warm, maternal grin.
Jasper came up behind her, wrapping his arms around her slim waist. His chin came to rest on her small, rounded shoulder and he spoke softly to her, though we could all hear him clearly. "I'm sure once Carlisle told her the odds, she decided against it."
Carlisle nodded his head in agreement. "He's right, Alice." He smoothed a hand over his hair in an almost nervous gesture. "When I told her it was just the werewolves, she was ready to agree, but when I threw in the information about Victoria and her newborns, she turned me down."
Her frail form sagged in defeat. "I gave you a flicker of false hope, Carlisle." Her voice was oddly weak, not like Alice at all.
"It's all right, Alice," he assured her in his most soothing, convincing voice. "Things don't always go the way we plan, yet we Cullens make it out on top. Don't we?" He looked at each of us in turn, but his eyes lingered the longest on Edward. His brow creased slightly as he sent his son a thought. The look on Edward's face froze into place. However, just as quickly as the expression appeared, it faded and Edward was pulling me dangerously close to him, planting a kiss in the hollow behind my ear.
Jasper opened his mouth to say something, but at that moment, the door to our room opened and a very dishevelled Rosalie and a considerably happy Emmett came stumbling into the room. Emmett was wearing a grin as wide as the Atlantic Ocean as the entire family, myself included, stared at the pair. I felt my eyebrows rising when Rosalie quickly shoved was looked suspiciously like a bra into the huge designer bag that hung off her arm.
"Sorry we're late," Emmett began. "We were just-,"
"A little preoccupied?" Edward finished for him, a wicked grin spreading across his face. "I would've been shocked, had Alice not told me to expect you guys too late. However, I'm going to have to ask you again to please refrain from broadcasting your thoughts so vocally."
"I second that," Jasper said gruffly.
Rosalie rolled her eyes at her husband and her brothers before slinking into the room in the most graceful way possible. She found a seat on the edge of the dresser and boosted herself up on the lip of it, her long legs hanging off the bureau. Her toes even skimmed the carpet. Emmett stood beside her and she turned her eyes, which were considerably darker than usual, toward us.
"What'd we miss?" she asked.
Carlisle spent the next few minutes explaining to the still flustered couple what had happened while he was in Denali. He gave a more detailed accountant that I was expecting, though I supposed that Edward was going to tell me later, once everything was out on the table.
Once he was finished, a look of rage flickered across Emmett's face.
"You can't be serious? After all of the times we've helped them, they're simply not going to help us?" he shouted loudly. Emmett looked as though he wanted to overturn every piece of the furniture in the room, whether someone was sitting on it or not. Rosalie placed a hand on his arm and his hand curled into a thick fist; I could hear his knuckles cracking as he performed the action.
His nostrils flared as he struggled to reign in his temper. It wasn't until Edward was loosening my fingers from around his palm that I realised I had been clutching his hand so tightly. I was scared. Honest to goodness scared of the absurd amount of strength that Emmett possessed and the temper flaring to life that I had never seen before. He had yelled after the CNN stint, but it was nothing like this. Then, I had felt protected. Now, I was frightened.
Emmett was still breathing deeply through his nose when his beautiful wife spoke, "If they're not going to help us, then we don't stand a chance against the wolves and Victoria."
She had voiced everyone's doubt. No one said a single word and she scoffed.
"Oh, come on, you know I'm right." Rosalie's narrowed gaze landed on Edward. "You of all people know that I'm right, Edward. We're strong, but we're not that strong. We need more help!"
Edward, who had been quiet and still the entire time, suddenly sprang into action. "What do you suppose we do, Rose? We don't know anyone else that can help us. Jasper's already asked for the assistance of some of his former companions, but they declined, saying it was much too dangerous. Carlisle could ask for the help of some rogue vampires, but we all know how perilous they can be; it would probably be worse for everyone involved if we enlisted the help of rogue vampires. And if you think for some minute that we're going to-,"
"Edward," Esme cut in gently, catching the appalled look on Rosalie's face. The beautiful blonde was curling and uncurling her fists, much like her brawny husband had been doing moments ago. If it were at all possible, I'm sure her face would've been coloured a brilliant shade of scarlet; her entire body was shaking with suppressed rage. Rosalie never did like being attacked, but then who did?
Edward looked ready to plough onward, but I tugged his hand and forced him to look at me. "Don't, Edward," I said quietly. "Please."
Something flickered in his eyes, but he nodded his head softly and sank back down on the bed beside me. His arm enveloped my waist and I leaned against him.
Another silence seeped into the room, filling in the dark spaces in the corners and working its way toward the heart of the space. I tried to ignore it, to all the threatening thoughts that loomed in my mind to the back of my conscience, where they wouldn't and couldn't bother me until I called them forth. I clung to Edward's hand like a lifeline. The sudden urge to weep past over me as I realised just how happy I was to have him back at my side. My bottom lip began to tremble and I quickly took it between my teeth, gnawing on it so that it would escape the notice of my family.
I found my gaze travelling from face to exquisite face. Carlisle and Esme were calm, though not entirely collected. They, too, had obviously been riled by the words Edward had spoke because they were the blatant truth. Alice and Jasper were embracing one another, though they were both gazing in opposite directions, lost in their own thoughts about what would happen to us. If anything would happen to us at all. Rosalie was still fuming, her dark amber eyes narrowed at the back of Edward's bowed head. Emmett was, like his wife, still trying to regain control of his temper. His large hands were currently clenched tightly into balled fists.
What would I do without them, my family? They loved me so much and I loved them; it almost hurt too much to describe what I would do, should anything happen to them. I know they would tell me that it wasn't my fault, but it really was. If I hadn't argued with Charlie in the car and distracted him from the road, he wouldn't have hit the deer. The car wouldn't have flipped over and he was still be alive. I would still be human and friends with Jake, no matter how hard it was to keep up with him while I was with Edward. Our lives wouldn't be in danger like they had been ever since I joined the family.
But I know if I even so much as uttered a single sentence of my thoughts, they would've attacked me with reassurances. Edward would have told me that none of it was my fault, but his. Regardless of the fact, he'd saved me opposed to damn me like he believed he did. It would be like any other time we found ourselves in a rut. However, this time, the danger was real. Not that it hadn't been before, but now, it was even more of a threat than ever. The werewolves had a teammate now; they had a vindictive vampiress by the name of Victoria and her merry band of newborns. The odds had been somewhat even then, but now, we were in over our heads.
A soft sigh fluttered past my lips as I struggled to come up with a solution. This was my doing, my fault, so it had to be me who came up with the answer to our problem. But what could we do? We'd contacted all of our allies, but none of them answered our call. What else was there to do aside from battle the werewolves and Victoria's vampires? Like Esme had said, the future wasn't set into stone and who's to say that we would lose anyway? However, if we did face the wolves, the odds of all of us surviving were slim.
I shuddered just thinking about it.
The only problem, aside from the obvious one, was that Alice couldn't see the future when the pack was involved. And it looked like they would be involved in our future for the rest of our lives. A pang ran through my chest as I thought, this is my entire fault. I had to do something about it; I couldn't just sit here like a useless piece of waste! That wasn't a very vampire thing to do; if I was in the Volturi, I would never-.
A loud gasp escaped me as I subconsciously sprang to my feet.
Every eye in the room was turned to me, brightly burning with curiosity. Edward was quick to rise to his feet beside me, taking my hands in his.
"What? What is it?" he asked, searching my face earnestly.
I stared at Edward. Stared into his angelic features as I swallowed the lump in my throat. "There is one place we can go."
We continued to gaze into each other's eyes, stepping closer to each other until we were touching like we had been in the parking lot. There was nothing sexual about this contact, though. I needed him to speak the words for me so I wouldn't have to make them endure them. They probably didn't have the best memories of the Italian vampires, but they were our last shot.
I was painfully aware of the probing eyes of our family as they watched us curiously. Watched him place his forehead against mine and his eyes flutter shut. Mine shut on their own accord. I'm sure they had absolutely no idea what was going on, but it was something Edward and I had been trying for several months now: we were trying to see if we could read each other's thoughts. He'd picked up on a few of my own messages and was sure that it would work, though I wasn't entirely positive that it would.
Like a mantra, I silently repeated the Volturi. . .the Volturi. . .the Volturi. . . in my head until, after what seemed like hours, Edward sucked in a shock breath of air and stepped away from me.
Recognition flickered in his eyes as he turned toward the rest of our family. They seemed to be on the edge of their seats, though Alice was wearing a faintly smug, albeit surprised expression that made me think that she already knew what her telepathic brother was going to say.
"Where!" Emmett pressed immediately, unable to hold himself back any longer.
With a sigh, Edward said, "The Volturi."