I'm so sorry for leaving this story for so long. Things have been out of control lately, and I feel as if I am just starting to get my life back in order, if only for a little while. For those of you faithful enough to stick with me — thank you.

I haven't been able to get in contact with my beta yet, so bear with me if there are any mistakes.

Previously (I cannot believe I am using one of these, it's been that long since the last chapter):

She untangled her hands from my hair, sliding them across my chest. The sensation was enough to distract me from noticing that she had removed my hands from her body and placed them in my lap. I wasn't entirely sure what she was doing, but she was still kissing me, her bright eyes dazzling me as they stared straight into my soul. I felt a devilish smirk grace her lips as they pressed one more time against mine and her small hands pushed against me, and then I was falling.

It happened so painfully slow to my vampire senses. I fell through the air backwards and hit the ground, hard enough to leave a shallow indentation in the damp soil. I could hear her melodious voice as it floated down to me, laughing at me, as she shut the window and the lock clicked into place.

I just closed my eyes, not bothering to move from my place on the ground, my back damp with moisture. She had played me, again.

And I had enjoyed every moment.

Chapter Thirteen:

A Family Divided

"So you enjoyed your humiliation, then, yes?"

As if she had to ask, I thought to myself. She just wanted to rub in the fact that she has such an influence over me, an influence that she shouldn't even have. It wasn't my fault that I couldn't resist her, and she took advantage of that fact.

She smirked, most likely because of my despair over my inability to manage my own emotions. I glanced away from her, refusing to be held captive by her entrancing features and knowing eyes, eyes that saw into my very soul with no difficulty whatsoever.

I had tried, at least. I had tried so hard to resist going to her after she had played me like one would play a violin, as any self-respecting person would not go to the one who had just pushed you out of a tree after tricking you into kissing them. However, apparently I was not a person with any sense of self-preservation or respect—quite a shock after all those years thinking I was a supercilious ass—for at this rate I would be putty in her hands by the end of the week. No, scratch that—I already was.

So, in newly typical Edward-is-a-Weenie fashion, I had given in—pathetically I might needlessly add—only a few hours after my plunge from the oak tree outside her window, going to her room to simply be in her intoxicating presence. She had laughed at my apparent weakness upon my entrance, having known all along that I would not be strong enough to follow through with my resolve to avoid her room—and through that avoidance, her.

I could just imagine the kids in Chicago who had always ridiculed me for being a stuffed shirt—only now I could hear them laughing at me through the time vortex for being such a pantywaste.

It was almost infuriating, how nauseatingly quiescent and irritatingly taciturn she was at the moment, just content to torture me with her biting remarks and sarcasm, not to mention the reminder of her other actions that, as of late, had caused a very particular reaction to arise in my more…lower regions. This she also knew about, of course, and had intended to cause the entire time of her plotting.

How could one person, so small in stature, be capable of causing such irritation to form in someone who was usually so tolerant and calm, such as me? Never before had I just bowed down to another person with next to no fight, yet here I was letting her treat me as she would treat a pawn on a chessboard—amusing and useful, but expendable.

I was Edward Anthony Masen Cullen. I was snide, sarcastic, eloquent, complacent, and disdainful, not to mention egotistical and mildly narcissistic on occasion. And here I was, reduced to a mumbling, bumbling excuse for a vampire, a star-struck puppy that was lapping at another's hand.

It wasn't quite fair, now that I thought about it.

"No, it isn't, is it? But then again, since when have I ever played fair? I distinctly remember cheating at jacks on playground, after all."

I managed not to choke this time, stopping myself from jumping at the sound of her voice as it interrupted my musings. I felt proud, if for a brief moment, that I had not shown my alarm at her use of her power in a way that would be recognizable to any normal person. However, it ended as soon as her cynical laugh reached my ears a second later, a clear reminder that she, despite her innocent appearance, was not the normal person everyone suspected of her.

Isabella's grin was that of the Cheshire cat, mischievous and knowing. Her crimson eyes narrowed slightly in a way that was seductive and the corner of her mouth lifted as she looked at me through her long lashes.

"So predictable," she purred, voice deep and silky, "so, so predictable." I couldn't bring myself to feel insulted, so alluring her voice sounded to my ears. "See, there," she said casually, dismissing me by flicking her eyes back to the yard that lay beyond the glass pane of the window seat. "Your reluctance to leave me, your desire to be near me even though I insult you and make you feel inferior, is so utterly and sadly predictable. It is like I am a drug, and you are addicted to me. It is pathetic, really, as you said. Excuse me, though." She grinned at me again, the one visible eye fixed on me as she kept her face directed toward the window, only the right side of her face in view.

She was such a little minx. Willing to play with my heart now and rip it to shreds later. How charming.

"Ah," Isabella breathed wistfully, "but you adore me still." She turned her body so that her legs dangled from the window seat and she faced me, so small and petite that her toes did not even graze the carpet. She was cute, sort of. In that I'm-screwing-with-your-mind-and-I-like-it sort of way.

She toyed with the hem of her black dress; her white fingers in stark contrast with the black over-lace of the fabric that she was prodding. I watched her hands, noticing that her nails were painted a shiny black and wondering when she had the time to do it. But Isabella always found a way to do what she wanted, and if she needed time, she could probably make the earth stop spinning in order to get it.

Her fingers slowly picked at the lace as she spoke, smoothly plucking at the strands with a cold efficiency that was evident in her voice. "No matter," she sighed, shaking her head. "That always was, still is, and always will be. Trust me. Your attraction to me is odd, so unexplainable, hilarious, almost."

She gave a heartless laugh, one that showed she did not think it was funny at all. "You see," she began, and my eyes stayed trained on her fingers as the fabric disintegrated around her dark nails, picked apart so expertly with the help of her strong, vampire eyes. "You would jump to help me, despite how I treat you, maybe even because of it. You need me." Her voice took a slightly mad lilt to it as she said the last sentence, a devilish grin spreading across her face.

I watched in horror as, without warning, she dug her nail into her now bare thigh, a hideous screech splitting the air as her skin was parted and the deep cut welled with venom, no blood. I leaped from my customary seat next to her, grabbing her thin wrists with my hands and dragging them away from her body, screaming at her and pulling her to her feet.

"What are you doing?!" my voice called out, my orange eyes — a product of the animal and human blood still in my system — staring at her as I shook her. What was she thinking?! My mind screamed that she was a danger to herself — that I needed to protect her from herself. Why is she causing herself harm? "What are you doing?!"

A high keen sounded, but it was only her laugh, and how she laughed at me. It was loud, it was unrestrained, it was cruel. Her features morphed, sharp and devastating, her mouth open in a perfect oval, pink lips stretched wide, giving me a delicious peek at her tongue as it flicked out at her lips.

My alarm only grew at her behavior. Had she finally gone insane from the hatred and the games she tried to play?

And then she was yanking away from me, no longer laughing, hands now at her sides and leaving me with a strange empty feeling. Isabella's eyes blazed, hair dark and wild, her expression furious. "You see?!" she screamed, pointing an accusing finger at me. "You see?!"

I didn't understand, I couldn't see what she wanted me to see. I reached out, trying to take hold of her outstretched hand, but she ripped it away and twirled around, dress flaring and showing me her now healed thigh. Her long hair smacked me across the face, but she didn't seem to notice or care. Storming over to the window seat, she stood there blazing with anger.

My hand lifted to place itself on her shoulder against my wishes, seeking an answer to what had upset her, but before I could get a handle on myself she had whirled around to face me again, hair fanning out around her like she was in a tempest.

"DON'T TOUCH ME!" she screamed, stamping her feet and thrusting out her hands to push me away. "STOP LOOKING AT ME!"

I was flying through the air, my back crashing through her armoire, wood splintering beneath me, though I did not go through the wall. I simply sat there in her cabinet, clothes scattered around me, watching in shock as Isabella paced around, hands in the air as she howled in rage.

"HOW CAN YOU SEE ME LIKE THIS?!" She prowled toward me, still pacing. "I lie, I cheat, I manipulate. I do what I want, when I want, and no one can stop me. And you, you," her voice took on a low, dangerous tone and she stilled her movements, glaring at me, "with your 'caring' and your 'faith' in our sire and your god. How deceived you are! How can you think that your prayers and your wishing will serve you in the end? There is no god, there is no hope, and there certainly isn't anything that you can do to 'help' me!" she hissed, crouching down slightly. "You cannot care for me. I am dangerous, I am bad, and I will break you. You, and Carlisle, and everyone else in this pitiful 'family' of vampires, you all are no more worthy than the rest of us, no more deserving of anything! Your animals and your human pets do not redeem you in the eyes of anyone!"

I stood, brushing aside the clothing that clung to me from the armoire and marched to her, taking her forearms in my strong grip and refusing to let her pull them free. "Do you really think that?!" I yelled, staring down at her. "Do you?! Is this how you see yourself? Is this how you see me? You are not some charity case; you are not some horrible creature, despite what you believe! You know me, you can see into my mind and through my actions —"

She swore, cutting me off and turning away, this time I let her. Pacing across the room again, she hissed and growled and spat. "I am evil," she said once she had recovered control over her speech. "You are so entranced with the outside that you do not see what I truly am and have fooled yourself into thinking that I can be 'saved,' as you have put it. But I, I am different from what you believe me to be. Has it not crossed your mind that maybe, just maybe, I do not want to be saved?!" Her voice had risen about an octave in pitch, but I did not care. Let her get angry, let her roar. Possibly she would see, then, that it was not worth the fight to push me away.

"SHUT UP!" she screamed suddenly, clutching her head and falling to her knees, covering her ears as if that would help block the noise. "Shut up! Shut up, shut up, shut up! Stop thinking those things, stop saying them! I don't want them; I don't want to hear them! I don't want to know them! I DIDN'T WANT THIS!"

She lashed out at me as I tried to comfort her, nails raking at my cheek and creating long gashes in my shirt. She was sobbing, screaming unintelligibly and I couldn't take it; I couldn't stand her pain, which was also somehow mine. I hadn't wanted this life either – I had wanted to be human and die human, but I would not allow her to make the same mistakes I did when I had rebelled against Carlisle. No, I would help her through this; I would show her how to cope. Even if that meant Isabella screaming insults and trying to tear me limb from limb, I would do it.

"Just…just stop it. Just stop," she cried, doubling over on the floor and clenching her hands into fists. For the first time since I had met her, her voice broke and so many emotions showed through, not just the ones she wanted me to see and hear. She no longer let her strong façade control her face, and I saw genuine fear, and hate, and acceptance cross her prominent features.

"Just stop. Just stop." Her mantra continued and, for the first time since I had met her, I felt as if Isabella was finally breaking down and excepting that I cared for her, as did Carlisle and everyone else.

I knelt down next to her, placing one of my large hands on her shoulder in an attempt to comfort her. I didn't know how she would react to me touching her, as the last time she had attacked me, but I was willing to risk harm if it helped her.

"It's alright," I murmured, rubbing her back. "It's alright. Everything will be fine. Trust me."

She glanced up, eyes puffy looking, as if she had been crying though no tears stained her cheeks. "Really?" she asked. "Can I trust you?"

I nodded, "Of course."

Isabella smiled an unadulterated smile that reached her eyes and did not hold any of the usual sinister feelings or malevolence in it. Her bright eyes swam with tears that would never fall and suddenly she was close, so close that the tips of our noses were touching and I could practically taste her.

And then she was kissing me again, lips molding against mine and her tiny hands against my chest. I let her push me backwards into the soft carpet, amazed at how she had flipped on a dime, but mostly distracted by the feel of her lips on my skin and how wonderful it felt as her cool tongue slid up the side of my neck, going back to place hungry kisses along my neck and jaw.

A moan escaped me, and I felt her lips twitch upwards as she continued to kiss up and down my neck, laying across my chest with her thighs flush to mine. The things this girl did to me were incredible, drawing inexplicable reactions from me. I moaned again as she licked a trail up to my ear and blew softly on it, the cool stream of air causing a shiver to course through me. Her hands traced the muscles of my arms and chest, slowly sliding up my shirt. My back arched at the feeling and I closed my eyes, sighing in pleasure.

Her lips kissed the place where my neck and shoulder met, and I felt her breath on my skin. "And do you trust me?"

It took a moment for me to clear my head of the Isabella-induced fog that had clouded it so that I could form a semi-coherent answer. "Yes. Yes, Isabella, of course." I felt her grinning and a sense of foreboding suddenly weighed down on me. Something wasn't right, something was off. I wanted to push her off me, but found that I couldn't make my arms move.

"You are so smart," she mocked, and then her teeth pierced my flesh, pain flashing through me from where her lips rested at my jugular. I groaned, agony lancing through my body, and it only got worse as Isabella dug her teeth deeper, seeking to cause me even more pain.

I grabbed her by the waist, trying to pull her off, but she had straddled my hips and was using her weight as leverage. I couldn't pull her off without hurting her and, though I would return the favor to anyone else, I would not do so to her.

A scream ripped from my throat as pain pulsed through my body again, becoming more intense with each time Isabella adjusted her bite. The venom from her teeth was burning me from the inside, and my fingers dug into the carpet, ripping at it as she bit down on my neck again.

I heard a bang somewhere in the distance, and then I felt Isabella being torn off me. I saw her as she was thrown to the corner of the room like a rag doll, growling lowly as Carlisle's blond hair and light eyes appeared above me. He pulled me to my feet, supporting me as I staggered and placed a hand on Isabella's bite mark, hissing as I did so. The pain was so hot it felt cold and I knew it would be several hours before her venom burned off, even if the wound was already sealing itself.

I glanced up at Isabella, who Emmett had restrained and was currently holding by the neck so that her feet could not touch the ground, though she was so short that it was not much of an accomplishment on his part. Her eyes met mine, grin still in place, and I could have hit myself as I realized that she had yet again played my emotions against me and had succeeded.

I heard Carlisle sigh heavily from beside me and broke my gaze to look at him. Frustrated, he ran a hand through his hair as he took in Isabella, trying to figure out what to do with her. His mind was going through several options, though none that he liked and because of that had discarded.

"Emmett," he sighed after a moment, still supporting my frame, "that is quite unnecessary."

He gave a meaningful look at Isabella, and Emmett reluctantly released his hold on her neck, only to pin her back to his chest with his strong arms. At Carlisle's sharp glare, he shrugged and replied, "Just in case." Carlisle nodded distractedly and turned to me.

"Are you alright, Edward? Did she do anything else to you?"

I was suddenly overwhelmed with embarrassment as I realized that everyone, including Rosalie, was in the room and staring at me. Had I really just been attacked by a smaller, weaker vampire and not been able to hold her off?

"That appears to be the case, my dear."

All heads swiveled from me to Isabella, confused thoughts assaulting me while I winced and brought a hand to my temple to rub it, the burning of her venom forgotton, as if that would stop the torrent of voices. I wasn't use to the constant banter being so close to me, as when I was still in my rebellious stage I either stayed outside the cities and went in briefly at night to hunt, or I was distracted or far enough away from the chatter that I could let it fade to the background.

And now, whenever I was with Isabella — which was more often than I would care to admit — I could simply put all the voices out of my mind because her silence deafened them. It was such a relief to not have to listen all the time to what others were thinking, though at the same time it was beyond irritating because, more than anything, I wanted to know what she was thinking.

Isabella's tinkling laugh filtered through the air at their confused looks, and also probably at my plight.

"What the hell is she laughing about?" asked Emmett, a perplexed look on his face that reflected his equally mystified thoughts.

"Wouldn't you like to know," she taunted him, cackling wickedly at Emmett's frustrated growl. She knew he didn't like it when people jibed him about things he didn't understand, and she was doing it just to spite him.

"Ignore her, Emmett," I snapped, picking up on his contemptuous thoughts.

"Aw, but Eddy," she trilled, face innocent, "I thought you liked me."

Rosalie snorted and I shot a glare at her, but either she didn't notice or didn't care. I kicked angrily at the torn carpet as I began to pace, breaking away from Carlisle's grip and tugging at my hair in frustration at both Isabella's antics and the burning in my veins.

"Carlisle," Esme started slowly, dreading the thought of his reaction to what she was about to say. "What are we going to do about her?" She nodded her head toward Isabella, causing everyone to look at her briefly, still trapped in Emmett's arms, and then turn their attention back to Carlisle.

"Well," I heard Isabella's voice drawl out; something wicked in her voice that immediately had me on guard for whatever devious thing she was planning. She paused, seeming to wait for everyone to glance over at her again. They didn't, apparently trying to ignore her as best they could as they waited for Carlisle to give them an answer. She continued anyway, "I don't know about the rest of you, but I know what Carlisle would like to do with me."

Almost instantly all eyes were turned to her, shock and, in Esme's case, horror at the implication of what she had just said playing on their faces and throughout their minds. Esme whipped around to face Carlisle, who looked flabbergasted at what Isabella had just claimed.

"Tell me it's not true, Carlisle," she begged, although in her thoughts, she was remembering all those times he didn't want her to go hunting with Isabella and him, and how often he tried to keep Isabella away from them, "please say it isn't true."

Carlisle couldn't seem to speak, his mouth glued shut and his thoughts racing, so incoherent that I couldn't follow one train of thought to the next.

"Sorry to burst your bubble," Isabella sneered, not sounding sorry at all. "I guess he just couldn't stay interested in you, darling."

Esme spun away from her husband and started in on Isabella, fire lighting her eyes, though it didn't mask the hurt she felt at the idea of Carlisle betraying her. "You," she hissed, closing in on Isabella, who was still held back by Emmett, "you did this! You lie!" Just as she was about to pounce, I suddenly found myself between them, stopping Esme from attacking.

"Stay away!" I snarled, crouching down in front of Isabella's small form.

Esme leaned back, astonished. "You're protecting her? After what she did?!"

"She did nothing!" I countered, taking a menacing step toward her, ignoring the thoughts in the back of my mind that I didn't know for sure if what I was claiming was true, let alone that this was supposed to be my mother. "Can't you see what she is trying to do? She's trying to manipulate all of you, and she's succeeding! You're all like puppets that she can play with and do whatever she wishes!"

"Look who's calling the kettle black, Eddie-kins," I heard her hum from behind me, "my darling marionette. Maybe I am manipulating the lot of you, but there is always that possibility that I'm telling the truth. Maybe Carlisle and I fooled around a bit — if you know what I mean."

I could tell from her voice that she was grinning, but I didn't turn around. Instead, I looked to Carlisle, still standing in shock at the accusations. "Well, is it true?" I asked, not a bit of pleading in my voice. I just wanted to know if what Isabella said had any ground.

"Wait," I heard Rosalie butt in, and Jasper's thoughts echoed what she was about to say. "You can't tell from his thoughts that he didn't do anything?"

Now all eyes were on me, and my level of discomfort rose even higher. They always assumed I knew everything, that nothing could be hidden from me. Before I could speak, however, Isabella was talking.

"Oh no," she said mockingly, "that would be too easy. You see, dear Edward over here isn't as all knowing as he likes to appear. He can be fooled by such a talented mind as Carlisle's so even if he couldn't pick up on anything about Carlisle and I, there would always be that doubt in the back of his mind, that voice that nagged at him, wondering if he had the wool pulled over his eyes. That's the beauty of it all, really. You'll never really know."

She was laughing again, head thrown back and shaking from it as tremors racked her body. Emmett threw her down in disgust and turned away, leaving the room. Still, she howled in amusement, and Esme gave one last look at Carlisle before following Emmett out of this crazy room, doubt swirling through her mind, unsure what she should believe anymore. Jasper and Alice trailed behind her, Alice glancing at me in worry before she disappeared. She knew there was more to this than what everyone else was seeing, and she worried over what all of this meant.

Rosalie stayed, though why I couldn't tell you. She hated Isabella for starting this, but seemed to think that Carlisle was innocent of adultery. She patted a still stunned Carlisle on the shoulder, glanced at me with an indecipherable look in her eyes before turning to gaze upon Isabella in disgust.

By this time, Isabella had quieted and was now sitting up and looking up at us evenly from the floor. Rosalie finally left, pretending to crouch down and lunge at her as she left — childishly, I might add — in order to portray the idea that Isabella couldn't mess with her. The fake didn't fool her, though, and she just made a face at Rosalie before turning back to us.

It struck me, then, what Isabella was trying to do. Whatever her grand plan was, this was just a small part of the scheme, meant to split us apart. After all, a family divided was no family at all, and if we couldn't even trust each other, who did we have left? We had nothing and no one other than ourselves, and Isabella was driving us apart as surely as a predator did a herd of sheep.

And we were just as brainless as those sheep to let her do it.

Slang terms:

Pantywaste: A boy or man who is considered weak or effeminate.

Stuffed Shirt/Someone is a stuffed shirt: a man or woman whose behavior is very formal, or is very self-important