A/N: Okay, I'm back. And I think the best way for me to keep this going is for me to not give myself deadlines. That's my new experiment. I hope it works. I'm sorry for the long wait I gave everyone. It has been a hectic couple of months, especially since my cousin was diagnosed with a degenerative muscle disease. I've been watching him and helping out when I can. Also, my workload at the moment is scary big. So, fingers crossed I'll be able to finish this story in a timely manner. Hope you like the new chapter!
Mike was missing.
We'd gotten back from Kansas and met chaos. Apparently he was last seen at his house with his mother. Tyler had shown up at his house and asked to see him. He left immediately after. The only miscalculation in the equation was Tyler. He claimed he never went to Mike's house and that he was actually talking to him on the phone at the time. However, with no one to support his story, he was the lead suspect.
Suspect. Geez. My whole life was turning upside down. I mean, first the thing with Leighton, and then with Mike, was nothing sacred? Yeah, I knew Mike was a sleazy guy, but I wouldn't wish ill on him. Not that much anyway.
An icy finger traced my furrowed brow. It relaxed instantly.
"Bella, are you still worrying over Newton?"
His velvety voice flowed over my mind. I sighed, drinking in his presence.
"You know he's a jerk, but he doesn't deserve something really bad to happen to him."
"You are simply too kind of a person."
I looked up at my personal savior. He was staring back at me just as strongly.
"He could be in trouble."
"He could have brought it upon himself."
I sighed in frustration.
"You've got superpowers, why can't you just use them to find him."
A shadow crossed over his eyes. "Bella, it doesn't work like that."
He was closing up on me. I could feel it. He was withdrawing.
I rushed with my words, trying to stop the mental retreat. "No, no, you can't just say that and leave it be. What do you mean? Why can't it work like that? You've got everything you could ever need to—"
"To what?" He cut in sharply, "To save the world? We can't be superheroes, we can't save everyone. If you wanted a hero, you looked in the wrong place," he finished bitterly, that repugnant look of self distaste visible in his expression.
I raised my hand to press it upon his chest and winced. I had forgotten about the shoulder.
"Yes, see," he continued on, "heroes don't let that happen. They save the damsels in distress."
I threw my head back roughly, not that it had much of an impact on the soft cushioning of Edward's new bed. His room had been transformed into my own personal medical room. At first, I had protested at the gross intrusion of his privacy and space, but he had waved it away with a smile. He liked the décor better with me in it, he had replied with a smile. He had been charming then, stunning. He was still stunning, just irritating as well now.
"Don't you dare start with that 'damsel' stuff again," I warned him with as much vitriol as I could muster. "I'm not weak; I'm just not strong against vampire villains. I can handle the regular guys okay."
He groaned and raked his hand through his hair, mussing it up adorably.
"Please do not say that. You've no idea how horrifying that is to imagine you fighting off anyone, human or not."
I threw him a dirty look.
"Trust me Bella," he said without apology. "It's not that I don't trust you, I wouldn't want to see you in a dangerous position even if you could come out on top."
Like I believed that.
"Your lack of faith is touching," I said dryly.
"Well, your complete faith in me is disturbing," he countered, gently tracing the blue vein running up the side of my neck. "I don't like how trustworthy you are. That worries me too."
I reached up with my good arm and stroked his perfect face. Every plane, every angle, every feature was absolute in its perfection. I still couldn't believe he wanted to be with me.
"What worries you?" I asked softly.
His eyelids fluttered closed at my touch and his breathing was slightly faster than normal. I reveled silently in the power of my touch.
"If . . . if you believe in me, then I might let my guard down and start believing in myself."
"And that's a problem?"
"Mmm, I can't let my guard down for one second, Bella."
I started to lean up and he automatically slipped a chilled hand underneath my spine to support me. I leaned in, a breath away from him.
"Maybe, just maybe you could let it down for a couple minutes?"
Tenderly, hesitantly, he closed the space between us and enveloped my mouth with his. I drank in his kiss, it was intoxicating. Somehow, all the other sounds in the room disappeared and we were entirely focused on each other. My breathing sounded much louder than usual which was a tad bit embarrassing. I got over it though. I had more important things going on.
I twitched my hand, getting ready to move it, to wrap it around his neck, when his cold hands were gently pushing me back down on his bed.
"What?" I had been so involved in Edward that it took me a moment to focus and figure out what had happened.
"Your arm," he replied flatly.
Blankly I stared down at my arm and then I realized I had been about to move my injured shoulder. Edward had stopped me before I had even felt any pain.
"Don't thank me," he cut me off harshly.
Something was wrong again.
"I'm so ignorant. Of all the insane things to do . . . injured . . . without the strength to say no . . ."
I poked him on the shoulder. His shoulder was just as marble-like as the rest of him.
"Hey, I didn't want to say no, Edward, I initiated the kiss, remember?"
"I was referring to myself," he said bitterly.
"So I'm guessing this means we can't pick up where we left off if I remember not to move my arm?"
"You suppose correctly."
I exhaled in frustration.
"I really, really don't want to do that."
I crossed my arms and pursed my lips.
He lasted a minute, staring at me, and then he broke down his façade, laughing audibly.
My mouth twitched when I heard his bell-like laughter, but I tried to keep my upset composure. "What?"
"I love you."
A brilliant smile broke out over my face.
"And you, Edward Anthony Cullen, are my one and only. I love you too."
"More than Mike Newton?"
"Ahh," I turned my face into my pillow. "Are you serious? I'm worried about him, alright? That doesn't mean I love him."
"Why are you worried then?"
"How about because he's human."
"Weren't Vlad the Impaler, Genghis Khan, and Ivan the Terrible all human?" He questioned darkly.
"It's been a few days; Newton's fate is already decided."
I shuddered. "His fate? I hope it won't come to that."
He turned to me. "Do you feel how worried you are? Multiply that feeling by a million and you'll still not come close to feeling the anxiety I feel about you every second of every day."
I stared at him.
"All the trails are probably cold anyway," he protested hopelessly.
"I suppose we could look into his disappearance for you, but no guarantees, alright?"
I started to get up, and he was lifting me in an instant.
"Where do you want to go?"
"Uh, I was just going to go get some orange juice."
We zipped into the kitchen. I hadn't moved at all and somehow, I was the one breathless.
"Here you go Bella." Alice handed me the glass she had waiting.
"Edward, how do you want to go about this?"
He turned to her, still cradling me in his arms.
"What do you suggest Alice, I'm open to alternatives."
Her eyes clouded over and went to the ceiling as she mentally went through decisions.
He nodded and made decisive sounds as she continued with her thoughts.
"You know Alice, we can't rely on you one hundred percent. I'm sorry, but this is a huge problem. You can't see Leighton."
"I know, trust me, I know," she growled.
"Hey Bella, how are you today?" Emmett appeared. He was his jolly self again after a brief stint of shame and hesitancy over his failure to protect me. "What's the problem?"
My cheeks flamed scarlet as I was aware of my current position.
"Hmm?" He was still conversing with Alice as I was talking to him.
"Edward, you can put me down now?"
"Why would I want to do that?" He was still listening to her thoughts, I could tell.
"Seriously, I'm not a baby."
He broke their connection and glanced down at me.
"I know you're not an infant. However, I like having you in my arms."
I liked that too, but it was embarrassing to be seen in such an intimate position with him around his family.
"We'll finish this later Alice, Emmett."
Without waiting for their response, he ran up to his room.
"What was that about? Are you angry with me?"
He looked peaceful as he lay down on the bed, gingerly placing me beside him and holding on to me loosely. He kissed my forehead.
"I'm never angry with you Bella."
"Never," he promised.
"I came up here because you gave me an ultimatum: Talk with Alice and Emmett about our plans, or hold you. I chose the option I could live with."
Immediately, I felt bad. "Edward, I don't want you to put me above your family."
"Bella, you are above anything else in the world. And all I wish to do right now is to hold you in my arms. Is that so bad?"
I couldn't help but snuggle into his embrace, the cold didn't bother me. "I frequently reciprocate the gesture."
He chuckled. "You want to hold me in your arms?"
I rolled my eyes. "Very funny."
He smiled at the far wall of the room, his eyes absent. He stroked my hair.
"What's wrong with the plans?"
He sighed and continued to stare at the wall. He was obviously planning as well as talking. "We all have jobs to do to try to catch Leighton."
"My sole responsibility is to watch over you."
I fell silent.
"I'll have to be the one to try to track down Mike, since it's so important to you. No one else can be spared to do it right now. I really don't like leaving you in anyone else's hands but mine, especially after what happened the last time. No one can protect you to my satisfaction. Leaving you, above all when you're hurt and the vampire is a shifter, well, it makes me upset, uncomfortable, worried."
I smoothed out his frown with my hand.
"Sorry enough to forget about Newton?" He quirked an eyebrow toward me.
I laughed. "Not that sorry. We have a moral obligation to him."
He rolled his eyes skyward. "Heaven save me from kindhearted souls."
"You know it's my charming personality you like," I teased.
He smiled crookedly. "I don't deny it."
Then he started covering my face with butterfly kisses and I forgot everything else.
"I've got it," I muttered for the millionth time. This guy was a stickler for details.
He eyed me. "Hmm." He tapped one pale finger against his cheek. "I don't believe you do yet."
This guy was creepy. Okay, so he hated the Cullens, too. It was human nature to hate the Cullens, but he just seemed a little off. And wasn't he a little too old to be messing around with kids?
He seemed to sense my hesitancy.
"Do you want to best Edward Cullen once and for all?" He asked me, his purple eyes glittering sinisterly.
I swallowed. Did I really want to do this, was it really worth it?
I made eye contact. "I'll do it."
A smile slid across his face that made a shiver run down my spine.
A/N: I hope you liked it. Thanks for all the reviews and kind words of encouragement you've given me. I appreciate it all!